Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland (left) met with Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai in Ottawa on Feb. 8. (Chrystia Freeland/Twitter)

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland (left) met with Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai in Ottawa on Feb. 8. (Chrystia Freeland/Twitter)

Premier Pillai meets with premiers from across political stripes, flags Yukon priorities to federal ministers in Ottawa

The Yukon’s premier met with federal ministers, premiers and Yukon leaders in the capital

Premier Ranj Pillai has been attending high-level talks in Ottawa this week.

Canada’s premiers met Feb. 7 to discuss Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s $196-billion, 10-year health-care proposal. Manitoba’s Conservative Premier Heather Stefanson indicated the premiers were “disappointed” while Pillai said it was a “good start” but “never enough” money. A decision is expected to come from the premiers on the pitch next week.

READ MORE: Premier Pillai appeased by PM Trudeau’s $196-billion, 10-year health-care pitch

In a tweet, Deputy Prime Minister and federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Feb. 8 she spoke with Pillai about investing in critical minerals and creating “good” jobs.

In a Feb. 10 interview, Pillai said they talked about the importance of infrastructure for the North. He posed things his Liberal government wants to see on the legislative agenda, such as a more streamlined process for environmental assessment. Pillai said Freeland was “open” to his priorities for the Yukon and he expects a “strong working relationship” moving forward.

On the health-care front, Pillai said Freeland understood the extra costs in the Yukon and making sure funding models for the territories are sustainable regarding the Territorial Health Investment Fund.

“I wanted to make sure there was a commitment for that funding to continue on with the same length of the agreement as the Canadian Health Transfer,” he said.

Pillai has been exchanging information with leaders about different priorities in provinces and territories.

Pillai tweeted about meeting with Alberta’s United Conservative Party Premier Danielle Smith on infrastructure development, economic corridors and collaborating to respond to substance use and mental health challenges. He said improved electrical transmission and the potential along the Alaska Highway across jurisdictions were discussed.

“It was a great meeting,” he said.

“There seems to be a lot of innovation that’s happening as well, in Alberta, to deal with the opioid crisis and so, we talked a bit about where we could have some collaboration.”

Pillai said he spoke with Smith about how important it is to support the health-care system in Alberta given the direct impact on Yukoners who get medevacked out of the territory for care. He said they also talked about the importance of a resource economy and a well thought-out Arctic policy.

“My commitment was to work with individuals and leaders, both in the Yukon and across the country, from all political backgrounds,” he said.

“It was very comfortable meeting with Premier Smith. You know, the common ground for us is, I believe, that our country needs to focus on the private sector … especially with austerity measures being signalled from the federal government when it comes to transfer agreements and federal spending. So, the only place that I see our economy having room to grow will be in the private sector.”

Pillai also met with Yukon MP Brendan Hanley and federal Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal about critical mineral “opportunities” — specifically copper — in the Yukon, as well as potential future projects such as the Casino mine and Fireweed Metals Corp.’s acquisition of the tungsten project. He said they talked about supporting First Nations in their ability to interact with the private sector and ensuring projects are built on a “proper foundation of respect”.

Arctic security and the need to equip and support the Canadian Rangers topped the agenda in Pillai’s meeting with Bryan May, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of National Defence. Pillai invited May or Minister of National Defence Anita Anand to visit with Yukon First Nations leaders to get their view on building defence infrastructure concerning Arctic policy.

READ MORE: Northern Yukon First Nations demand federal, territorial governments rectify their exclusion on Arctic security

Pillai also had meetings with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, in which he flagged potential significant infrastructure projects down the line, as well as with Yukon First Nation leaders, Senator Pat Duncan, Mayor Laura Cabott and others from the Yukon who were in the nation’s capital.

Contact Dana Hatherly at