What lower fuel prices could mean for the North

What lower fuel prices could mean for the North

Editor, These past six months have seen a rapid reduction in the price of a barrel of oil, dropping by almost half in the short period of time. This is a remarkable occurrence, once again demonstrating the volatility of this energy source.

While international politics can be blamed for part of the decline, one cannot ignore the fact that world demand for the product has fallen below the growth of the supply of conventional and non-conventional oil. We are likely in a period of lower oil prices, one which has great benefits to Northern consumers.

Unlike southern Canada, we use oil products for heating our buildings and producing some of our electricity. That should mean over the medium term an energy dividend of some real importance.

Our diamond mines, utilising hundreds of millions of litres of diesel, will see a great saving. As well, the GNWT, municipal governments, housing authorities and others that have large fixed budgets based on the cost of diesel and fuel oil should see a major cost saving.

How should this benefit play out? Should we tax the mines a little more for their fuel use and share their dividend with the rest of Northerners in better public services? Should we encourage the GNWT to redouble its efforts to save us from this fossil fuel hang up through better conversion programs? Or should we utilize a little of this saving to help NWT workers who have seen cost of living increases based on southern Canadian inflation rather than the higher conditions in the North? With a declining population in the NWT, we need to encourage people to live and work here. It has been a difficult time for Northerners over the last decade, something the recent Auditor General’s report on our food costs bears out. But for those who live in the North, we don’t need anyone to tell us that our cost of living has gone way up.

Dennis Bevington
MP, Northwest Territories

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