Territorial premiers meet to discuss science, carbon pricing

The premiers of all three territories have committed to promoting northern science and traditional knowledge, and have confirmed their opposition to a carbon tax in the North.

The premiers of all three territories have committed to promoting northern science and traditional knowledge, and have confirmed their opposition to a carbon tax in the North.

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod and Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna met in Old Crow on Friday for the Northern Premiers’ Forum.

At the end of the day, they unveiled a new Pan-Northern Approach to Science, which they hope will help build more science capacity in the territories.

“This is a vision document and it’s going to help us create a broader understanding of the North,” Pasloski said. “So this will help improve stronger community engagement and create more opportunities for research investment in the North.”

However, the “vision document” is a little light on detail. It lists a number of principles, including the importance of traditional and local knowledge in scientific research and the need for partnerships across jurisdictions.

“We recognize that it is not sufficient to study the North from afar,” it reads. “Northerners have long advocated for the right to be actively involved in research, not just as subjects or passive observers.”

But it’s not clear exactly how the premiers plan to make that happen.

McLeod said he’d like to see more northerners doing northern research, particularly related to the effects of climate change on wildlife and infrastructure.

“We realize that, because we don’t have universities, we’re missing out on the ability to access significant research dollars that are only available to universities,” he said.

Pasloski said he hopes the Yukon government’s plan to convert Yukon College into Yukon University will help to build a northern research hub.

“This could be a university located in the Yukon, but a university that’s in fact for the world,” he said.

Pasloski said the governments’ next step in implementing the pan-northern approach will be to develop a research strategy.

The three premiers also spoke out against a carbon tax for the territories, following up on a joint news release they put out in early March that opposed a price on carbon.

Taptuna said that Nunavut effectively already pays a price on carbon, since many of its goods and services come from Quebec, which already has a cap-and-trade system in place.

“With our very delicate economy, it’ll put a lot of strain on wellness and our economic outlook for our small communities,” he said. “If that ever happens to Nunavut, we’ll see a price increase of living overnight.”

Pasloski said carbon taxes are designed to change people’s habits, but that’s not easy to do in the North, when there aren’t always a lot of alternatives to burning fossil fuels.

“You can’t just decide to leave your car at home and get on a subway,” he said.

However, McLeod sounded a little more ambivalent on the issue. He said his government plans to consult the public to see if there’s any interest in creating a carbon price in certain communities or for specific sectors.

“I kind of like that aspect where communities that have no economic development would be exempt, but other communities that want carbon pricing and (where) there’s a strong economy, we could institute a carbon price on certain sectors,” he said.

The premiers also discussed the need for federal infrastructure funding in the North. They stressed that infrastructure dollars should be allocated on a base-plus basis, meaning the territories would get more than they would on a per-capita basis.

“That’s very important when you have jurisdictions such as the territories with very small populations,” Pasloski said.

The premiers also discussed health, housing, tourism and transportation during the forum. But beyond agreeing to urge the federal government to continue funding those sectors, they made no specific commitments.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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