Kakfwi wins road support
Premiers agree federal funding formula misses the mark

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 29/00) - Western premiers are backing their territorial counterparts' call for a fair share of $600 million the federal government has set aside for road construction.

"The indication was that the federal government was interested in allocating that across Canada on a per capita basis," said Premier Stephen Kakfwi following the May 23-25 Western Premiers Conference.

"That really means there's no money for the North again ... On a per capita basis we won't even get enough money to construct a kilometre of road. So they (the western premiers) understood that and they support us."

A communique outlining the positions the premiers took on a variety of issues noted, "(The premiers) agreed the federal infrastructure funding should provide an adequate base level of support to all the provinces and territories."

If a base level is used, each jurisdiction would get a basic amount of the money the federal government identified in its 2000-2001 budget, with the rest to be distributed according to another formula.

"We're suggesting a percentage, maybe five per cent to each territory would be a good start," said Kakfwi.

During visits to Alberta, Kakfwi has emphasized how much the province benefits from Northern resource development. The territorial government has no plans to ask Alberta to support road development in the North.

"We think that's properly a federal responsibility," said Kakfwi. "I mean, if the feds won't do it -- isn't it the United States that built the highway through the Yukon? The Canol Road. The federal government didn't provide any money to build an Alaska Highway through the Yukon. That's embarrassing, you know.

"If the feds won't help build a highway down the Mackenzie Valley, should we ask Alberta? Should we ask private industry? I don't want to go there right now."

Kakfwi said he got a vivid illustration of how important roads are to non-renewable resource development from Alberta Energy, an oil and gas company doing work in the Sahtu.

"Alberta Energy said it costs them $60,000 to drill a well in Alberta. It costs them about $1 million per well in the Sahtu. And they had to do it in less than a month. It was tight."