The Liberal government made 12 separate funding announcements related to the Northwest Territories in the past week.
The announcements were wide-ranging, touching on areas like infrastructure, homelessness, climate change, and impaired driving. Some involved new money, while others re-announced older commitments or provided more detail about how funding previously announced will be spent.
There were so many announcements that Cabin Radio effectively gave up halfway through the week, with resources required to report on news elsewhere.
Here’s a summary of what you (more accurately, we) missed as the Liberals published news releases about a total of $124.5 million in funding related to the NWT:
- Money for power plants
Ottawa says it’s spending $38 million on three NWT power plants.
Of that, $18 million is going on upgrades for the Taltson hydro facility in the South Slave. The federal government says this money isn’t connected to the NWT’s grander plan to expand Taltson and provide greener, cheaper fuel for the North Slave and the diamond mines. Instead, this will pay for upgrades to various parts of the existing power plant that are reaching the end of their useful life.
Next, just over $11 million will help to pay for a new liquefied natural gas (or LNG) plant in Fort Simpson. Ottawa says that’ll mean more efficient, reliable, and clean energy for the community compared to diesel.
Lastly, there’s almost $9 million to replace Łutselkʼe’s diesel power plant.
Note that, technically, this funding has been announced before. The money is part of a broader agreement signed between the NWT and Canada last year, making use of the federal Investing in Canada plan. The detail of where certain funding chunks are going, however, is new.
- Money for better equipment at NWT airfields
Nav Canada is getting $7.4 million to provide equipment that makes it easier for pilots to land at northern airfields in rough weather.
That’s reasonably important as northern operators lose a lot of money to flights that get turned around when they’re unable to land, never mind the obvious benefits of improved safety.
The Northern Air Transport Association told us it’s “delighted” to hear this funding was approved, and expects Nav Canada to conduct formal risk assessments to prioritize which airports get the improvements first.
It’s not clear how many NWT airfields are included in the 61 northern airfields this funding covers. Nav Canada did not respond to our requests for comment.
- Money to fight homelessness in Yellowknife
We got to this one. The federal government is promising $6 million over five years to help Yellowknife’s 10-year plan to end homelessness. Here’s our report and you can hear the Mayor of Yellowknife, Rebecca Alty, provide an update on that plan during Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News on Tuesday, September 3 from 12pm. (Listen live here or get the show’s podcast.)
- Money for wellness and waste
Ottawa will provide around $3.5 million to renovate the Kátł’odeeche First Nation’s Dene wellness centre, extend the Hay River dump’s lifespan to 2028, and expand the Yellowknife dump to divert more waste from landfill.
The news release says Yellowknife can expect “more publicly available recycling and composting options,” although it’s not clear how that squares with the city’s current, well-documented, considerable lack of actual recycling.
Like the money for power plants above, this is money from the federal Investing in Canada fund and, as such, is part of a broader agreement signed between the NWT and Canada last year.
- More money from the Gas Tax Fund
This one is old news repackaged. Ottawa reminded us it is doubling what the NWT (and everyone else) gets from the Gas Tax Fund this year.
The Gas Tax Fund is money given out to communities for infrastructure projects each year. Ordinarily, the NWT gets just over $15 million split between its communities. (Originally this money came from the federal gas excise tax, but now it comes from a much more general fund and the amount paid out is controlled by legislation.)
As already promised in Budget 2019, the Gas Tax Fund is being doubled across Canada this year. So the NWT is getting $33 million where it would have received $16.5 million ordinarily.
Of all this week’s announcements, this one appears the most election-on-the-horizonny. Nothing has recently changed, and this amounts to re-announcing what Ottawa already said it would do in the budget.
Still, if you’re interested, here’s how much money each NWT community will get.
- Money to learn how climate change impacts the Inuvik-Tuk highway
The Royal Military College of Canada is receiving $4.7 million “to study the effects and impacts of climate change on transportation corridors and infrastructure in the Northwest Territories.”
One of those projects will “assess the overall performance of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway at key locations.” The highway exists on land highly susceptible to shifts in permafrost.
Together, the two projects will create 70 jobs for their duration and “future transportation design best practices,” a federal news release stated.
- Money to stop barge services having another bad season
Ottawa is spending almost $22 million to help the NWT add more than 13 million litres of fuel capacity (which is apparently quite a lot, as difficult as that number is to envisage).
The additional fuel storage will be built mostly in Hay River and Tuktoyaktuk, which are at either end of the fuel resupply system. There will also be increased fuel capacity in Sachs Harbour, Ulukhaktok, and Paulatuk.
Meanwhile, National Research Council of Canada is getting $900,000 for a project that will, according to Ottawa, “create a safer, more efficient, and resilient marine transportation system in the Northwest Territories.”
The project will amass data to make it easier for shipping operators to factor in climate change while making plans.
Last year’s barge season came to an abrupt and icy end without several communities having received their deliveries. Here’s our update on how this season is going so far.
The additional fuel capacity will “increase the resilience for more than 5,600 people; ensure that residents have continued access to fuel to heat their homes, businesses, and community centres year-round; and greatly reduce the impacts of an interruption in the fuel supply chain,” Ottawa said.
The money comes from the federal disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, which was tapped by Yellowknife to the tune of $26 million earlier this year to help pay for its new drinking water pipeline.
- Money for Yellowknife health and wellness
In a news release oddly published at 7:25pm MT on Friday, the Liberal government said it was spending $5.2 million “to support the construction of a new healthcare and wellness facility in Yellowknife.”
“Once completed, vulnerable populations will benefit from better healthcare and temporary shelter,” Ottawa wrote. “These services will also provide culturally sensitive and traditional approaches to Indigenous healing and wellness.”
Strangely, that is all the detail the news release gives. While it’s assumed this money relates to the building of a permanent home for the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation’s Yellowknife operations, that couldn’t be immediately confirmed.
Again, this is money from the federal Investing in Canada fund and, as such, is part of a broader agreement signed between the NWT and Canada last year. This announcement provides detail about how some of the already-announced broader funding package will be used.
- Money for seniors
Ottawa gave $1.8 million to the NWT Seniors’ Society for a project that “will help increase social inclusion and address the challenges facing older adults [aged 55 or above] in 10 NWT communities.” The news release provided no further detail about what the project would entail.
- Money to fight drug-impaired driving
We got to this one. Police in the NWT will receive almost $1.5 million over five years to improve testing for drug-impaired driving, which basically means more training for officers.
- Money to fight gangs
For some reason a separate announcement from the same department on the same day as the drug-impaired driving announcement, the territory will get $2.2 million over five years to tackle gun and gang violence in the NWT. We covered this in brief here – there was little actual detail regarding how this will change RCMP operations in the territory.
Correction: September 2, 2019 – 11:47 MT. Somewhat proving our point about the mild ridiculousness of this many separate announcements in such a confined period, we missed one. A twelfth announcement, relating to NWT seniors, has been added above.