Through the program, the territorial government can cover up to 75 percent of the total cost of equipment like vehicles, hoses, pumps and communications technology, as well as repairs and training. In practice, the money is likely to help the territory purchase specialized wildfire equipment, contract external services such as helicopters, and extend staffing beyond the end of the typical wildfire season, the press release stated.
So far, similar agreements have been signed with Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Yukon, according to Friday’s press release. The agreements signed to date involve $65 million in federal funding.
“Throughout Canada’s worst wildfire season, the federal government has been determined to support Canadians and at-risk communities,” federal energy and natural resources minister Jonathan Wilkinson was quoted as saying.
He said the newly announced funding “means more resources and more boots on the ground in our fight against these intense and dangerous wildfires.”
Ottawa says the NWT is accessing the maximum funding available to the territory under the program, which is $28.8 million over five years.
At a Thursday territorial press conference, NWT environment and communities minister Shane Thompson said: “We’re very happy with the number.”
Thompson said he believed Wilkinson had also committed to fast-tracking the funding to the territory.
According to Friday’s press release, Thompson said the NWT government was humbled by the support it had received from the federal government and other jurisdictions this season.
“This generous support has increased our capacity to respond to and prepare for wildfires during the most challenging season in our territory’s history,” he was quoted as saying.
In addition, federal Indigenous services minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government would be with First Nations every step of the way.
“We will continue to work with leaders and cover 100 percent of eligible costs for transportation, accommodation, food and mental wellness supports for evacuees,” she said. “As the hard work of rebuilding begins, we will be there to support that, too.”
Last month, NWT MLAs unanimously voted to allocate an additional $75 million to wildfire suppression for this financial year, adding to a budget that originally contained roughly $21.8 million.
At the time, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said the new budget, sitting at around $100 million, should be enough to address this year’s wildfire season – but that further funding may be needed.
In Friday’s press release, McLeod said the fire season had been incredibly challenging for NWT residents.
“As many evacuated residents are beginning to return to their homes, it is critical that all levels of government work together to help the Northwest Territories rebuild and recover,” he said.