The Northwest Territories says without hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding, it can't meet emissions reduction goals set by Ottawa.
Strategies published this week aim to reduce the NWT's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels in the next 12 years.
However, almost half of that emissions target can only be reached, according to the territory, by completing a hydro expansion project that would cost more than $1 billion and has no funding.
Asked if that effectively meant an ultimatum to the federal government – hand over money or emissions targets won't be met – the NWT's infrastructure minister, Wally Schumann, told Cabin Radio: "That’s pretty much what’s going to happen."
Schumann said the territory received a new emissions reduction target in February, adding "it's quite clear we're not going to meet this number" with the NWT's current federal funding allocation – which already runs to more than half a billion dollars for infrastructure over the next decade.
"We need some federal assistance here to help us develop our economy, but also to help them meet the national and international commitments they and we have signed on to," said Schumann.
"I don’t think we’re in a position, financially, where we can meet these commitments without federal assistance."
In releasing a 2030 energy strategy and a climate change strategic framework this week, territorial government staff members admitted some of the goals in those documents – like completing the Taltson hydro expansion – were 'aspirational' in nature.
Expanding Taltson, which would connect the NWT's grid to the south for the first time, has been talked about for years but its prohibitive price tag means no serious development has taken place.
'Front of the conversation'
Another big-ticket infrastructure project, a road north from Yellowknife to Nunavut dubbed the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor, was denied funding in a first round of federal handouts last week.
"They said, basically, not at this time and we can apply when the second round [of funding] comes up," said Schumann.
"I think we’re going to have a call for a second round of funding before the life of this assembly is up. I have made the case continually that this road is not just good for the NWT, it’s good for all of Canada, and the infrastructure builds that take place up there will benefit all other provinces in this country too.
"The government clearly wants to go to a greener economy and, to do that, you have to have mines. And to have mines, you have to have infrastructure. It’s not just for us, it’s for the betterment of this whole country."
The Premier of the Northwest Territories, Bob McLeod, is in Ottawa this week. Schumann said the case for funding the Taltson hydro expansion "will definitely be at the front of the conversation" as McLeod meets federal representatives.
"If we were to get some funding around the Taltson and Slave Geological projects, that’s going to totally change the forecast for the NWT for the next 20, 30 years," Schumann concluded.