Feds say ‘best people’ working on territorial funding crisis

Michael McLeod, left, and Francois-Philippe Champagne
Michael McLeod, left, and Francois-Philippe Champagne meet reporters.
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The federal government says it’s doing all it can to find a solution to a large gap in territorial funding created by changes at Statistics Canada.

Statistical alterations revealed in December mean the territory is set to lose out on $33 million annually – money the NWT expected to receive and for which it had already budgeted.

At the time, Premier Bob McLeod said the funding cut was an “unintended consequence” of changes to the way Statistics Canada prepares data on government expenditure.

Background: NWT appeals to Ottawa as federal transfer payments drop

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Now, the federal government says top officials are working hard to find a way of putting some money back.

François-Philippe Champagne, parliamentary secretary to federal finance minister Bill Morneau, visited Yellowknife over the weekend for pre-budget consultations.

“We recognize there was a change and there is an issue. We’ve put the best people we have together to talk and we look forward to crafting a solution together,” Champagne told Moose FM.

“We know it had an impact on the Northwest Territories, as much as it had on Nunavut and the Yukon. We’re looking into that.”

Nunavut expects its annual cut to amount to $34 million; the Yukon estimates it’ll lose $23 million a year as a result.

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“We have to really ensure that the impact of the cuts is something we can work with,” Michael McLeod, the NWT’s Liberal MP, told Moose FM.

“Is there a way to prop this up? Is there a way to find a solution to having changes like this made in a Stats Canada review? Is there a way to honour their agreement as it was signed?

“There are some questions that have to be discussed and I think we’re going to have some good discussions in the next couple of weeks.”

McLeod and other northern MPs are set to meet Morneau to continue pressing for a solution.

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The territory will still receive around $1.26 billion in federal funding for the coming financial year if the change is not reversed. The cut amounts to a drop of just under $1,000 in funding per NWT resident.

Northern concerns

Champagne spoke to reporters after meeting with NWT community and business leaders, alongside representatives from local non-profits, to seek input ahead of the next federal budget.

“We heard a lot about housing and infrastructure – also digital infrastructure,” said Champagne. “Not just about building roads, airports and highways but also connectivity. Making sure people are engaged in the new economy.

“Also, we heard about understanding that what’s happening in the North is different and realizing the difference of living up north. I can relate to that because my own riding goes quite far up north, as well, in Quebec.

“We’re pleased to come here to make sure we could hear northern concerns and northern opportunities.”

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