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Kakfwi pleased with premiers' talks

Says provinces on side with NWT's concerns

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 08/01) - Premier Stephen Kakfwi has joined a chorus of calls from his territorial and provincial counterparts, asking Ottawa to chip in more money for health care and equalization payments.

The premiers left last week's first minister's conference in Victoria demanding the federal government increase funding to the provinces to $7 billion a year.

Kakfwi would not disclose how much of that amount he thinks should go to the NWT, but did say that the territory needs more than $330 million to build and improve roads and develop the territory's oil and gas industry.

"There's not a particular slice of the pie that we want," Kakfwi said while in Victoria last Friday.

"Mostly we came here to hopefully get a message of support to engage the federal government to partner in ensuring Canadians that they continue to get the best medical service in the world."

The premiers teamed up in their plea to Ottawa to increase its share of health care payments to 18 per cent, up from the 14 per cent it now pays.

A big item on Kakfwi's agenda at the conference was to shore up support for building the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

Kakfwi was eager to convince other premiers that putting the pipeline through the territory, as opposed to following the Alaska Highway, is the best option for all Canadians.

"The premiers will support a construction of pipeline projects that provide significant benefits to Northern people and Canadians," Kakfwi said. "It's a statement of support, I think, for taking Canadian gas to the market first before American gas."

Kakfwi also said he was happy that other premiers were lending a sympathetic ear to his call to the federal government to shelve population-based funding.

The premier has been critical of Ottawa in the past for continuing to make transfer payments based on population, which he said is unfair considering the high cost of doing business in the North.

"The premiers made a statement that supports that position," Kakfwi said.