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NWT Premier stands by population increase target

The Premier of the Northwest Territories believes a population increase of 2,000 by 2019 is still achievable, despite a succession of economic setbacks.

Bob McLeod met executives from the De Beers mining company on Thursday to receive a briefing on plans to mothball operations at the Snap Lake diamond mine, which is no longer economically viable to run.

The suspension of mining at Snap Lake is eliminating more than 400 jobs, while De Beers also elaborated to McLeod on plans to move more positions south to a new headquarters in Calgary.

In depth: 10 things coming next for the dormant Snap Lake mine

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Those developments stand in stark contrast to the territory’s stated ambition, since 2014, of adding 2,000 residents to its population in a five-year span.

However, speaking after Thursday’s meeting, McLeod said his personal view is the target remains achievable.

“It’s a pretty conservative target. I don’t see why we couldn’t work to achieve that,” he told Moose FM.

“We still are working to increase our population and, as we develop our mandate and business plans, we’ll see if we have recommitted to that or not.”

Newly installed members of McLeod’s cabinet are currently working on that mandate, which is set to form a document reflecting how the territorial government’s ambitions and priorities over the next four years will be achieved.

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McLeod said he could not comment on a related briefing earlier this week – in which MLAs were invited to consider a range of tax increases totalling some $250 million per year, as a means of helping to balance the books – as he had not seen the report in question.

Meanwhile, Robert C McLeod, the minister of finance, told Moose FM he remains hopeful that the territory will see $34 million in lost annual federal funding reinstated.

The money was taken away last month as the result of Statistics Canada revising the means by which it processes some government data.

Related: Feds say ‘best people’ working on territorial funding crisis

The federal government has already promised to work with the three affected territories in a bid to resolve the issue, pledging to return with an update by March.

“At the end of the day you would hope to get all of it [back],” said Robert C McLeod.

“We made our case to them and the decision is with them.”

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He also spoke in support of a National Aboriginal Economic Development Board (NAEDB) report issued on Wednesday, which urged the federal government to change the means by which infrastructure funding is allotted to each territory.

The NAEDB wants Ottawa to abandon per-capita funding on the grounds that it short-changes the thinly-populated but vast North.

McLeod said that echoed a view he put to parliamentary secretary Francois-Philippe Champagne during the latter’s visit to Yellowknife last weekend.

“We told them that if they allocate it on a per-capita basis, that’s not beneficial to us,” said McLeod.

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