Fentie back to work

Premier Dennis Fentie has ended his two-month convalescence. He is scheduled to have dinner with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian premiers…

Premier Dennis Fentie has ended his two-month convalescence.

He is scheduled to have dinner with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian premiers in Ottawa this week.

In October, Fentie underwent surgery in Vancouver to remove a tumour from his bladder, but complications from the operation and subsequent recovery took him away from his job.

He’s returned to work just in time for a first ministers conference to be held over dinner at 24 Sussex Drive on Friday.

Provinces are already pushing for the economy — and the cash they expect from Ottawa to bail out sectors hit hard by the surging loonie — and climate change to top the discussion list.

Harper has also put Senate reform and federal spending powers on the agenda.

Fentie will also meet with other northern premiers and the Council of the Federation — a group of all 13 premiers — while in Ottawa.

The premier’s office refused comment for this story.

Fentie will answer questions after the four-hour dinner meeting, said officials.

“The environment and climate change should be a high priority for the premier,” said Liberal MLA Darius Elias.

“The Yukon should be lobbying to have the promised Arctic research station located here, and this would also fulfill the government’s promise to build a climate change research centre of excellence.”

With only four hours to be divided between 13 premiers, Fentie doesn’t have much time to push for Yukon issues, said Elias.

He should spend it pushing for a federal financial transfer agreement for land claims, he added.

“We need a new federal mandate to negotiate new implementation funding,” said Elias.

“The auditor general herself said land claim implantation is underfunded. This has far reaching social and economic ramifications for all Yukoners, not just First Nations.”

After a nine-year implementation review, which laid out 85 recommendations for improving implementation, there’s clearly a need for more funding, said Elias.

“The prime minister’s office has to pay more attention to our constitutionally protected agreements,” said Elias.

“The next transfer agreement is very important to the Yukon because it has to fund the land claims. This has to be on the premier’s agenda when he sits down at 24 Sussex.”

A Calgary-based pipeline company’s application to build a natural gas pipeline that would run down the Alaska Highway through the Yukon is being reviewed by Alaska.

The premier should confirm the TransCanada’s right-of-way, which allows the company to build a pipeline down the Alaska Highway, is still legitimate, said Elias.

“The company has held that right since the ‘70s — it’s old, but is it still valid?” said Elias.