Ottawa shakes piggybank to fund Yukon projects

When Indian and Northern Affairs minister Chuck Strahl stopped in Whitehorse, he came bearing cash. Five projects and the Whitehorse Chamber of…

When Indian and Northern Affairs minister Chuck Strahl stopped in Whitehorse, he came bearing cash.

Five projects and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce received more than $3.9 million when Strahl was in the Yukon earlier this week.

A project that will teach people in First Nations communities how to build log homes is moving ahead thanks to the announcement.

“We’ve been working for two or three years on this and it’s only recently that we’ve received enough funding to get going,” said Timothy Cant, project co-ordinator.

Ottawa doled out $654,000 for the project that will take 14 First Nation people from different communities and teach them how to notch and scribe and build a log home.

Students will come away from the two-month course with the skills to build homes on their own, qualifying them for jobs in their communities, said Cant.

“Instead of First Nations hiring from Whitehorse, now they can also hire right from their community,” he said.

Ten log homes will be built in the bush in the new year and then dismantled and rebuilt in town.

Four will remain in the communities serving as a home base for the project, including Dawson City, Carcross, Carmacks and Haines Junction.

The other six homes will be given to other communities, which will decide how to use them.

The homes could raffled or auctioned off for a fundraiser, said Cant.

Other funding announcements include $1.2 million to the territory for the Windy-McKinley mapping to improve mineral exploration and $1.1 million for safety equipment at the Whitehorse airport, including a aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicle and an upgrade to the fire hall.

The Yukon bureau of statistics received $750,000 to conduct two economic and community surveys and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce got about $193,000 to improve client service and business development.

While the funding is going towards worthwhile projects, it was disappointing not see any money for environmental initiatives, said NDP leader Todd Hardy.

“There wasn’t a drop of money for the environment,” he said. “It’s a grab bag of announcements with no real plan.

“It’s like (Strahl) had to come up with a few million dollars in projects before he came and we’re supposed to scramble and appreciate the crumbs like mice.”

The funding is in line with Ottawa’s increased focus on Arctic sovereignty, which officials believe can be strengthened with more economic and social development in the North.

“To strengthen our sovereignty in the North, we must be committed to improving northern prosperity and exploring the North’s vast opportunities,” said Strahl.