Hydro lines seen on a snowy day in Whitehorse on April 9, 2022. The 2022-23 federal budget has a line item for the Atlin hydro expansion project in British Columbia which, when complete, will provide electricity to the Yukon. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Hydro lines seen on a snowy day in Whitehorse on April 9, 2022. The 2022-23 federal budget has a line item for the Atlin hydro expansion project in British Columbia which, when complete, will provide electricity to the Yukon. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Federal budget seeks to power up Yukon as Arctic security straggles

Power to the Yukon? Territory’s MP calls it a ‘rare’ line item in the federal budget released April 7

Yukon MP Brendan Hanley said the latest federal budget is “really good” for Yukoners as it comes with a “rare” line item on the energy front.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland released the 2022-23 budgetary document on April 7.

Hanley said April 8 during a phone interview the budget is “exciting” for the North, while paying attention to “fiscal responsibility.”

“I’m really pleased that a number of the Yukon priorities has been addressed,” he said, pointing to the focus on housing also as a “key national priority.”

A line in the budget specifically earmarks $32.2 million over two years from the low carbon economy fund for the Atlin hydro expansion project in British Columbia — which will provide electricity to the Yukon — in addition to the $83.9 million the federal government previously committed to the project.

The Yukon Energy Corporation has said the project is expected to add eight megawatts of dependable renewable electricity to Yukon’s grid. The project will expand the infrastructure and power production capacity on Pine Creek, increasing the size of the territory’s electrical system by about eight per cent, starting in late 2024.

In February 2022, the Crown corporation signed an electricity purchase agreement with Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership. When complete, Yukon Energy Corporation will purchase power from the project being built, owned and operated by a Taku River Tlingit First Nation citizen-owned company.

“This ambitious initiative will expand our renewable energy capacity in partnership with the Taku River Tlingit First Nation while reducing the territory’s emissions and ensuring energy remains affordable for Yukoners,” Premier Sandy Silver said in a statement on April 8.

The territorial government’s 2022-23 budget includes $15 million for the hydro expansion project, for a total of $50 million over three years, according to the statement.

READ MORE: Atlin hydro project progresses

In a statement from the territory’s conservatives on the 280-page federal budget, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon noted “the Yukon was only mentioned ten times, and two of those were simply re-announcing the child care agreement” reached in 2021.

Dixon’s statement criticized the budget’s ability to address defence and military capabilities, with no specific mention of security investments and supports for the Yukon.

“In light of Russian aggression and their illegal invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that the Canadian government needs to take Arctic security more seriously. We hope the importance of a fully built-out Canadian Armed Forces base in the North, preferably in the Yukon, is acknowledged in the announced comprehensive review of Canada’s defence policy.”

Dixon called the plan “disappointing” in that it leaves Canada “far short of its NATO commitment regarding defence spending totaling at least 2 percent of GDP.”

“The lack of a serious approach to support for the military and vague or underfunded supports for the Yukon once again shows that the federal government thinks of the territory as an afterthought.”

Hanley said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and National Defence Minister Anita Anand recently expressed their commitment to northern security issues during an April 4 meeting with the three territorial premiers, despite the lack of a line item in the budget.

“I think it’s clear that there’s a commitment there [in support of North American Aerospace Defence Command modernization], and to support Arctic sovereignty and everything that is Arctic sovereignty,” he said.

READ MORE: Canada looking closely at Arctic as part of defence spending increase

In a statement, Yukon NDP Leader Kate White applauded Liberal support for NDP policies in the budget, thanks to the two federal parties agreeing to the supply and confidence agreement in place for four budgets, from March 22 until Parliament rises in June 2025.

White’s statement notes similarities to her party’s platform when it comes to taking action on housing affordability, publicly funded dental care and pharmacare, and ten days of paid sick leave.

“This budget shows how much more we can accomplish when we work together for the good of Yukoners and Canadians,” reads the statement.

“I’m proud of the work done by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to achieve this historic budget and I’m relieved for Canadians who will benefit from this agreement right away.”

A media release from Hanley’s office provides some highlights from the budget for the Yukon including:

— a $10-billion boost to increase the number of housing units and renovate and retrofit existing housing stock

— $300 million over five years for an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy

— $565 million over five years to support housing in self-governing and modern treaty holders

— $26.2 million over four years to increase the maximum amount of forgivable Canada student loans by 50 per cent for doctors and nurses in rural and remote communities

— $100 million over three years for the substance use and addictions program

— introducing a new 30 per cent critical mineral exploration tax credit

— $29.6 million over three years for the co-development of an Indigenous climate leadership agenda

— $4.8 million over two years to the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com