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NDP says it’s pushing for more NWT disaster mitigation funding

Chief April Martel with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Photo: NDP
Chief April Martel with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Photo: NDP

The leader of the federal New Democrats says his party is pushing for more disaster mitigation funding to be directed toward communities.

Jagmeet Singh travelled to the Northwest Territories in July, visiting the Kátł’odeeche First Nation and Hay River. After earlier floods and wildfires, both communities were evacuated for a third time in 15 months in August as another wildfire approached.

“One of the things that we heard from people was just the devastating impacts of these extreme weather patterns on their lives and particularly their homes,” Singh told Cabin Radio on Wednesday. “They wanted to know that steps are being taken to give them a chance to be able to live with more safety and security, and more predictability.”

Singh said since his visit north, his party has been fighting for more federal support so municipalities in the territory and across Canada can better prepare for the impacts of climate change.

He described the response from the Liberal minority government so far as “lukewarm.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited wildfire-hit Enterprise, Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation earlier this month. The Town of Hay River has called for that visit to result in additional federal and territorial support.

Liberal NWT MP Michael McLeod has said conversations at the federal and territorial level are now focused on fast-tracking assistance and finding more funding.

Singh said New Democrats are also advocating for solutions to address the high cost of food, an issue he noted is particularly acute in the North. Last month, he introduced a private member’s bill that aims to lower grocery prices across Canada.

Singh said his party’s other major project is a push to address the housing crisis.

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“People in our country just can’t get homes. People in the North are particularly impacted,” he said. “I heard from so many people in Yellowknife that just couldn’t find housing that was adequate, or decent or affordable. And we’ve got to change that.”

Outgoing Premier Caroline Cochrane has accused the federal government of failing to adequately invest in the North, particularly in infrastructure. Singh says whoever is elected in the upcoming territorial election must focus on people and, to secure federal backing for projects, be persistent.

“Don’t let up. Keep on pushing, keep on fighting,” he said. “You’ve got to be constantly persistent like we are, just keep fighting and get results that way.”

The Northwest Territories hasn’t had an NDP MP since 2015, when McLeod ended Dennis Bevington’s nine years in the seat. The territory’s last Conservative MP was Dave Nickerson, who held the position from 1979 to 1988.

The NDP has already chosen a candidate for the next federal election, whenever that may be – Kelvin Kotchilea, who finished second behind McLeod in 2021.