The federal gravy train stopped in Yellowknife last week with the promise of $1.1 million this year for skills training and $163 million in gas tax funds over the next decade for the territory’s roads, bridges and water plants.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt made a one-day visit to the territorial legislature to sign the two agreements with Education, Culture and Employment Minister Jackson Lafferty.
Deputy mayor Cory Vanthuyne watched as Valcourt and Lafferty shook hands over the new agreement on gas tax fund transfers and wondered if the territorial government would pass on a fair share to Yellowknife.
The territorial government’s failure to apportion federal cash according to population has been a sore point with city administrators who say it contributes to rising property taxes in the capital.
“We’re not being critical at this point, and we appreciate what we have received,” Vanthuyne said. “But we are certainly looking for a larger share. We’ve done our due diligence in presenting the city’s case for what is needed to replace aging water and sewer systems.”
Yellowknife has a $70-million infrastructure deficit and will need up to $15 million to pay for a new water intake, Vanthuyne said, “and knowing that we have sustainable funding is encouraging.
“There have been meetings with municipalities and the territorial government to determine what transfer payments will look like under devolution, but we have yet to see the outcome,” Vanthuyne said.
There was no new money offered during Valcourt’s visit, but he stressed that the federal government is committed to extending the gas tax program that was initially planned to run for five years, and that it would also be growing it by two per cent a year.
Reading from a prepared statement, Valcourt said the renewed gas tax agreement commits $53 billion over the next decade to support infrastructure projects across Canada.
Valcourt said the job training agreement will help develop a skilled workforce for “hundreds of major resource projects that are scheduled to come on stream over the next decade.”
Lafferty said the Northwest Territories “is in the midst of exciting change” through devolution.
“This is Canada’s land of opportunity with a hard-working population. The job fund goes a long way to supporting their success,” he said.