New Democrats launch Northern plan ahead of federal election

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The New Democrats have launched their plan for Northern Canada.

Speaking in Yellowknife Tuesday, NWT candidate Dennis Bevington said an NDP government would improve existing programs and make new investments across all three territories.

The strategy was revealed exactly two weeks after NDP Leader Tom Mulcair wrote to NWT Premier Bob McLeod outlining how his party will consider the North if elected.

In full: Tom Mulcair’s response to Bob McLeod (pdf)

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Unsurprisingly, the strategy that Bevington launched Tuesday mirrored much of what can be found in Mulcair’s response – with a particular focus on food security, affordability, climate change, housing and childcare.

Food security

If elected on October 19, the NDP is promising $32-million over four years to improve and expand the Nutrition North food subsidy program.

“We have a plan to increase the program for the communities that are not in that program right now or not benefitting from that program,” said Bevington.

The NWT candidate says 50 isolated communities that are currently excluded from the program will be included with the help of new funding. Communities like Łutselk’e and Wekweeti would benefit from such an inclusion.

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“We’re also going to do a comprehensive review of the program,” he said. “And see how it fits in with what Northerners are experiencing.

“It’s not been an effective program so we need to fix it, but we also need to include the communities that aren’t included now and that’s where the $32-million comes in.”

Affordability

Bevington says an NDP government will also ensure that the Northern Residents Tax Deduction rises to keep pace with the rate of inflation.

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Currently, the deduction— which is aimed at alleviating the high cost of living in Canada’s North —does not increase with inflation.

The Northern Residents Tax Deduction was increased by 10% in 2007, but Bevington says that’s the only time it’s budged since 1989.

“We need to make sure that increases happen in a good, regular fashion and that they match the inflation rate in northern jurisdictions and not the inflation rate in Canada.

“The rate in Northern regions is 5% to 10% and in southern Canada it’s much lower.”

Climate change

The New Democrats are promising $100-million over four years for renewable energy projects throughout the North.

Per capita, Bevington says it’s a massive commitment when compared to much smaller investments made by the Conservatives over the past nine years.

He believes there’s great potential for solar and biomass projects in particular.

“That will bring innovation and opportunities to the forefront in the renewable energy field,” he said.

“We are going to encourage the use of community-based forestry initiatives so that in the future not only will we be burning biomass to heat our homes at a reasonable price, we’ll be using our forests to produce that biomass.”

Housing and childcare

An NDP government says it will invest $2.7-billion over four years to increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness throughout Canada.

“We all know that, in order to reduce the cost of living, we need to fix our housing stock but we also need to add housing stock,” said Bevington.

“We need to add more public housing and housing that’s directed towards the needs of Northerners.”

According to Bevington, that means raising the guaranteed income supplement by $400-million to benefit some of the territory’s older residents.

The New Democrats also plan to roll out a $15-a-day childcare subsidy, which Bevington says will fit in well with the North.

“In Yellowknife where people pay between $1,000 and $1,300 [a month] for childcare, this program can make immediate benefits to every working family that takes advantage of those facilities.

“It will also open up the possibility of expanding facilities with the additional funding that’s being presented.”

Other NDP promises

  • To invest $200-million in northern roads, bridges and ports (for respective territorial governments to prioritize)
  • New investments in rural and remote broadband development
  • Begin a new era of real nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis

Conservative commitments

  •  Roughly $421-million in dedicated federal funding for the NWT over the next ten years, including the $72 million they committed to NWT highway repairs in late July.
  • Investing $100-million over five years into in the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) program, starting in 2016.
  • To spend $14 million chip-sealing a stretch of Highway 5 running through Wood Buffalo Park
  • A review of the Northern Resident’s Tax Deduction.

Liberal commitments

  • Increase the residential component of the Northern Resident Tax Deduction by 33 percent percent and index it to keep with inflation
  • Make investments in Northern communities from its $125-billion infrastructure plan
  • Partner with the territorial government to fund the construction of the new hospital in Yellowknife
  • Create new affordable housing and childcare spaces in Yellowknife.
  • Provide a middle class tax cut, which reduces the personal income tax rate on income between$44,701 and $89,401 per year to 20.5% to 22%.
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