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Premiers discuss climate change, E.I. benefits

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Friday, Aug. 14, 2009

NWT - The NWT needs to be involved in the development of a national policy on climate change, Premier Floyd Roland affirmed while meeting with other premiers from across the country earlier this month.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Premier Floyd Roland: NWT needs to be at the table for a national policy on climate change. - NNSL file photo

Premiers from every Canadian province and territory gathered in Regina Aug. 5 to 7 for their annual Council of the Federation meeting, during which they discussed climate change along with several other issues, including pandemic preparations, employment insurance reforms, internal trade within Canada and Canada-U.S. trade agreements.

Roland said all the premiers agreed that climate change is "an important factor" and that each province and territory is doing its part for the environment, albeit in different ways.

"Some jurisdictions are focusing on cap and trade, others are on sequestration and others are investing in new technologies to look at alternative forms of energy, like ourselves in the Northwest Territories," he said.

"We're actually taking concrete steps to deal with our footprint here in our own jurisdictions and we would hope that the federal government would recognize that and work with us as we progress forward on this."

Roland added work on the territory's vision for a national climate change policy is ongoing and that he would have to get an update to find out how much progress has been made.

"My job as I've taken it at this level is to make sure that we have an opening at the table and of course many of the premiers feel the same way when it comes to coming up with a Canadian position that may have an impact on us as we look to the future," he said.

During the meeting, premiers also called for reforms to modernize Canada's Employment Insurance Act and simplify it across the country without reducing current standards of access to employment insurance benefits. For a reformed EI system to function properly in the North, Roland said, all three territories have to work together to ensure that all regions' varied industries, such as mining, oil and gas, or fishing, are considered when pushing the federal government for new EI legislation.

"There needs to be attention paid to jurisdictions like ourselves, where our economies are just emerging and we have quite a diverse set of conditions from areas in our territory," Roland said.

While many of the premiers at the meeting focused on Canada-U.S. relations and the Buy American trade policy as a detriment to Canadian exporters, Roland said the NWT is not a "big trader" under Buy American policies, but that the territory could potentially have some clout in future trade discussions.

"There are times when we realize that much of the discussion and most of the focus will be paid on larger jurisdictions like Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta, but there are times when our voice is heard."

As for the NWT's Northern strategy, Roland said he and the premiers of the Yukon and Nunavut will work together on a pan-territorial plan at an upcoming Northern premiers' conference, though he would like to discuss the NWT's partnership role in Arctic sovereignty with Stephen Harper when the Prime Minister visits the North later this month. Harper will visit all three territories from Aug. 17 to 21, starting in Iqaluit.