Decision on NWT’s $1bn borrowing increase ‘imminent’

Stephen Harper and Bob McLeod in 2013
The Prime Minister and the Premier of the NWT look on in 2013 as the devolution agreement is signed.
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We’ll soon find out whether the Government of the Northwest Territories can lift its borrowing limit by a billion dollars.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister told NWT Premier Bob McLeod the federal government is “very close” to a decision on approving the increase, which would take the territory’s borrowing limit from $800 million to $1.8 billion.

Ottawa last raised the territory’s borrowing limit in 2012, before devolution took place.

The territorial finance minister, Michael Miltenberger, has called the desired billion-dollar increase “the most critical issue” facing the NWT.

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Miltenberger believes the territory is uncomfortably close to hitting its current debt ceiling, in part due to the unexpected cost of fighting last summer’s forest fires.

Ministers argue more borrowing capacity will allow more investment in infrastructure and grow the territorial economy.

“We have devolution and I think with increased authority, we need to have some flexibility to make some investments – to not only diversify our economy but provide for increased development and more jobs,” McLeod told Moose FM following his meeting with Stephen Harper.

“[The Prime Minister] said they’re very close to giving us a response. They’re still working on it,” he added.

“We have elections coming up and a budget that’s coming up soon. He understands where we’re coming from.”

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Other topics raised by McLeod during the meeting include:

“I talked to him about the interest in investment in Canada – that the Chinese are interested in being able to get involved in building infrastructure, being able to bid on jobs and bring in Chinese workers,” said McLeod.

Read: NWT seeks federal help over China investment

“I added some of the concerns that were raised by the Chinese and Japanese with regard to the issuing of visas. I told him about our interest in increasing our population, and how we felt one of the ways to do that is through increased immigration.”

McLeod said Harper ‘understands’ the issue, but also took time to explain Canada’s current strategy regarding visas.

The Premier added: “He said these things take time. If we do have immigration, they should have some substantial jobs to go to.”

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