Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

PM recommits to revenue sharing

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 17/04) - The Prime Minister once again reaffirmed his commitment to establish a revenue-sharing agreement with the NWT.

Martin made the comments during a teleconference from Ottawa to announce the creation of the Northern Strategy -- a wide-ranging federal plan for economic development, health care, education, border security and environmental management in the territories.

Prime Minister Paul Martin prepares to dip his feet into the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk last summer. Martin said on Tuesday that economic development in the North should be balanced with environmental protection.

Martin spent part of the media event extolling the virtues of the North, calling it "a land of mythic grandeur."

In response to Martin's comments about resource revenue sharing, Premier Joe Handley said he hopes to have a preliminary agreement in place this spring and a final agreement some time in 2006.

"We just want to wake up in the morning with the same rights as other Canadians," Handley said.

While any agreement on resource royalties would be accompanied by a decrease in operating grants from the federal government, Handley said a 60 per cent share of revenues -- the GNWT's target -- would transform the territory into "a have jurisdiction."

"(NWT residents) must see a real benefit coming to them from development," Handley told Martin.

In the meantime, economic development in the North should not proceed at the expense of an environment already suffering from the effects of global warming, Martin also said on Tuesday.

"The Arctic is an early warning system," Martin said. "We have a responsibility to protect the environment and the people of the North."

Martin also said the federal government intended to "exercise sovereignty" in Canada's North, but would not interfere with the increasing number of international ships using the Northwest Passage.

Handley said Canada's desire to exercise control over the vast array of Arctic islands could lead to an increased military presence in the Beaufort-Delta region.

The premier also discussed the possibility of building naval bases in Inuvik or Tuktoyaktuk to keep a close watch on shipping lanes.

"There is very little monitoring going on now," said Handley, adding the majority of patrols in the region are conducted by Canadian Rangers.

Territorial officials have also discussed the U.S.'s controversial ballistic missile defence system with their federal counterparts, Handley said.

When asked whether he would support the construction of U.S. missile silos in the NWT, Handley told Yellowknifer the government has not established an official position on the issue.

"We don't know yet," said the premier, who added the topic would likely come up in cabinet meetings sometime in the new year.