Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau believes the environmental measures his party advocates will not have an adverse impact on the North.
Speaking live on Moose FM, Trudeau did not agree that a potential carbon tax necessarily meant imposing an additional financial burden on northern residents, many of whom live in isolated communities dependent upon diesel fuel.
“What will help the North is if we can actually start developing our northern resources in a responsible way,” said Trudeau, who has previously called for “a policy that puts a price on carbon pollution”.
He added: “If there had been some sort of price on carbon, we would already have passed at least Keystone XL and perhaps some other pipelines. That failure to understand that our lack of environmental responsibility is hurting our economy is affecting us.
“Everyone has said we need a price on carbon – the kind of support we give to remote communities in terms of their energy needs to be separate from that, and needs to continue.”
Trudeau acknowledged that changing the way northern communities are powered and industries operated, to bring down the cost of living and meet new environmental standards, would require considerable financial support.
“It’ll require investment but it will also require a different way of doing things,” he said. “Figuring out how to build not just for the next quarter, but the next 10 years, next 30 years, next 50 years. That kind of perspective is what’s lacking right now.”
Under a Liberal government, Trudeau said the federal government would become “a more active partner” with the North, “ready to make the infrastructure investments, but also ready to understand that sovereignty in the North is more than just military and resource development, it’s about supporting the people up here”.
Trudeau reaffirmed his support for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, while suggesting he would introduce “checks and balances” to the federal government’s Nutrition North program – without giving specifics as to how a new-look Nutrition North might work.
If this year’s federal election results in a Liberal government, Trudeau also pledged to maintain the current prime minister’s policy of annual northern visits, even allowing for their considerable cost.
“I guarantee it,” he said.
Dennis Bevington, the incumbent New Democrat MP for the Northwest Territories, criticized the cost of Stephen Harper’s six-day northern trip last year, which reportedly came in at $786,000.
“We have people that are going hungry in the North, because there’s not enough money in the Nutrition North program. This is a very large amount of money,” said Bevington during Harper’s visit in August.
Trudeau, who spent time on Saturday snowmobiling with seven-year-old son Xavier, said: “The big message I’m pushing to my friends and everyone in the south is, you don’t just have to come up here in the summertime. Come up in the winter. It’s a little brisk, but you get a beautiful experience as well.”
Je pense que Xav n’oubliera jamais cette expérience! / Don’t think Xav will be forgetting this anytime soon! #NWT pic.twitter.com/X2NboQko1J
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 11, 2015