Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 26, 2016 - 2:30 pm

Premiers meeting highlights Nunavut’s energy needs

“We have a region in Canada that’s underdeveloped and that’s Nunavut"

SARAH ROGERS
Canada's premiers met in Whitehorse, Yukon July 20-22 for the annual summer meeting of the Council of the Federation. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GN)
Canada's premiers met in Whitehorse, Yukon July 20-22 for the annual summer meeting of the Council of the Federation. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GN)

Canadian premiers left a three-day meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon last week citing progress on responsible energy development and policy.

But Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna knows the territory has its work cut out for it and can’t do it alone.

During the annual summer meeting of the Council of the Federation, held July 20 to July 22, premiers said they advanced discussions around the Canadian Energy Strategy, approved in 2015 to pave the way for better cross-country cooperation on sustainable energy development and usage.

This year, premiers committed to focus on the development of new energy technologies and improving access to diesel alternatives for remote communities not attached to electricity grids, such as Nunavut, a July 22 release said.

But Nunavut needs help innovating new technology and replacing its aging diesel generating units, Taptuna said.

“We need major assistance for our federal partners to do that,” Taptuna said in a phone interview with Nunatsiaq News July 25. “We’re so far behind we’re just trying to get to the table.”

“It’s difficult to establish alternative energy production when we’re just trying to keep our communities running.”

While the Liberal government provides aid to developing countries, Taptuna said, “we have a region in Canada that’s underdeveloped and that’s Nunavut.”

At the same time, Taptuna said the Government of Nunavut is not yet involved in a national task force with a mandate to reduce the use of diesel fuel in northern communities.

As the meetings kicked off July 20, Taptuna and his territorial counterparts used the Whitehorse meetings to voice their opposition to a carbon tax in Canada’s North.

The three territorial governments say they want help adapting to climate change, but they believe that raising the price of greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon tax will only hurt the northern economy.

The Trudeau government has suggested that a national carbon pricing plan could be in place by the end of the year, but hasn’t indicated if that pricing will be imposed on every province and territory.

“We want to have a say on how we best serve the people we represent,” Taptuna said.
“Nunavut is one of the most expensive places to live and do business. And it’s hard to justify a really high tax grab.”

But Taptuna said the meeting’s location in Whitehorse was an important “eye-opener” for other premiers to see the high cost of living in northern Canada.

Premiers at the Council of the Federation meetings also called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit down with the group later this year to re-negotiate the federal-provincial health accord that expires in early 2017.

Premiers want increased funding under a new agreement, a promise the Liberals campaigned on ahead of the last federal election.

Taptuna said the new accord must be distributed equitably, based on the needs of the territory — despite its small population.

“It’s one of our biggest expenses and we want to ensure we’re not getting cut,” Taptuna said.

“It has to be a viable accord for the territories.”

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