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Northern issues not Ottawa issues, says MP

Jessica Gray
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 07/06) - Northern issues were not a priority in Tuesday's throne speech, a problem MP Dennis Bevington said has to change.

"The North wasn't mentioned and that's problematic considering the Conservative government's pledge to Northern sovereignty," said the Western Arctic MP.

He said aboriginal issues, the cost of living and money for Northern infrastructure are major concerns for Northerners.

The $500 million promised as part of an impact benefit agreement doesn't address all of the construction that will take place when the Mackenzie Gas Project gets underway, said Bevington.

The Western Arctic MP said he would voice his concerns in parliament this week.

The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce had similar concerns about the speech.

"Stephen Harper said during his election campaign there would be a deep sea port in Iqaluit," said executive director Marino Casebeer.

"We were hoping for some attention to Northern infrastructure," he said.

Premier Joe Handley isn't surprised by the speech, saying it represented Harper's main campaign promises.

Handley wants a promise from the federal government to give the NWT tax revenues on Northern resources.

"In 2004 the federal government took in $274 million in revenue from diamond mines, and we got practically nothing," said Handley.

Bill Erasmus, vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he was disappointed with a lack of acknowledgement of important issues within First Nations communities.

"There was no specific mention of the Kelowna or Residential School Accords," said Erasmus.

The Assembly of First Nations will be lobbying the opposition parties to amend the speech.

The speech covered some key election promises from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, such as the Child Care Tax Credit, government accountability, and reducing the GST tax.

The throne speech was presented by Canada's Governor General Michaelle Jean.

Debate to accept the speech was held this week in parliament.