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Premier likes NDP vision for the North

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 28/04) - Premier Joe Handley didn't say which way he intends to vote today, but he did give the federal NDP party the nod for having the greatest grasp of issues concerning the North.

His verdict comes on the heels of his request for vision statements on the North and resource revenue sharing from the four main political parties.

The Conservatives and the New Democratic Party responded.

Neither the Liberals nor Bloc Quebecois submitted responses to the premier on their visions for the North, although he said the Liberal party promised they would get around to it.

He said the Conservative Party's response wasn't bad, but Handley said he was more pleased with what he saw from the NDP.

"(The NDP's) was by far the best," said Handley. "It showed that they looked at the issues carefully, and came back with a thoughtful response that does give us some idea of their vision of the North."

He said the NDP's vision statement included positive views on the need for aboriginal groups to be included in devolution talks, and supported the NWT's aim to collect resource revenues while ensuring the territory's funding for health and social programs weren't cut loose after devolution.

He said while the Conservative Party had little to say on their vision of the NWT, it did offer some interesting proposals on federal funding to the provinces.

Instead of determining equalization payments to the provinces based on the average Gross Domestic Product of five provinces -- excluding wealthy Alberta and poorer Atlantic Canada -- the Conservatives would factor in all 10.

"There's no indication in the letter that they realize that we're not on the equalization formula," said Handley.

Handley said he sent out his request to the four parties because it appeared that none of today's political leaders even considered the North heading into today's election.

"We weren't hearing much from anyone," he said.