Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod said last week an increase to the tax break for Northern Canadian residents is still in the cards.
McLeod was at the territorial legislature Wednesday to see his brother re-elected as premier. He spoke to the Journal via cellphone during a break in the proceedings before it was announced MLAs had for a second term made Bob McLeod first among equals.
He said the 33 per cent one-time increase to the Northern Residents Tax Deduction was still on the table in Ottawa.
“I’ve had discussions with the finance minister, we’ve had discussions as (national) caucus, it’s still on the radar,” he said. “The finance minister wants to do some more cross-Canada visits to talk to Canadians about what they’d like to see in terms of investment. We know the northern residentcy deduction is coming forward, absolutely, (but) in terms of an absolute time frame, I don’t have it firmed up yet. But the NWT is pushing for it, Yukon is pushing for it, Nunavut is pushing for it and we’re comforted that the minister stated everything that was mentioned in our platform is still on the list to get done.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed in a statement congratulating the new NWT premier that addressing the high cost of living here would be a priority as he and McLeod work with a “spirit of openness and collaboration to address the unique challenges and opportunities of the Northwest Territories.
Affordable housing, improving health services, investing in climate change preparedness and “additional means to support economic development” including infrastructure dollars will form some of the priorities moving forward, Trudeau wrote.
“The people of the North and the strength of their communities are our country’s best guarantee of Canadian sovereignty,” he said. “I look forward to meeting again with Premier McLeod, and working in partnership to make a positive difference in the lives of all Canadians in the Northwest Territories.”
Leading on reconciliation
Speaking also in the wake of the final Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) event, MP McLeod said the NWT could lead Canada in terms of implementing its 94 calls to action in areas including, but far from limited to, education. In Nunavut and the NWT, students have been learning about the residential school legacy for three years, which the TRC recommended take place in all Canadian schools.
“I think we already lead Canada on a number of fronts, the consensus government is always something I think could work in other parts of Canada,” he said. “It requires a lot of cooperation, but if we have all the ingredients, consensus-style could help us move forward.”
McLeod said it is “very satisfying” to be a part of a government now responding to issues (MMIW and residential schools) voiced for many years.
“(Indigenous people) are a majority of the population in two of the three northern territories so the per capita impact is higher than anywhere else in Canada,” he said. “Because of the residential school history, it’s still so recent, not only are there still many living survivors, there are also many parents of survivors, for these reasons, both intergenerational impacts and the legacy of the schools, the good and the bad are particularly strong and still felt in the Northwest Territories.”
McLeod said he personally knows men and women from his home of Fort Providence and surrounding communities who are missing.
“It’s a huge concern,” he said. “I think the fact the inquiry has been launched will bring some relief to people to know that the government cares, that there are people out there that are concerned just as much as them. It’s traumatic for the families to try to move on when they don’t know where their loved one is. (Now that) we’ve gone this far with the inquiry for the women, I think we’ve got to start looking at what can we do for the men. Do we do the same thing? How do we embark on that front?”
The first-time MP and former MLA is not concerned about the affordability of his government’s pledge to take action on all 94 TRC priorities. He said they may not all be addressed immediately, and there is a cost to inaction.
“It is already costing our society a lot of money,” he said. “We have many, many issues with homelessness, addiction to alcohol and drugs, and the root cause has been trauma. The sooner we start dealing with it, the better. We need to improve education for people across the North, people that are struggling to find their way forward. It was the education system that brought us to this point, with residential schools, and it’s going to be education that brings us forward.”