Western premiers are calling on the federal government to pin down new money to address security and sovereignty in Canada’s North.
“There was a missing line item in the most recent federal budget with respect to finance, the Arctic sovereignty and its military presence,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who chaired the meeting, said during a news conference after the meeting.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver led talks on the Arctic when his counterparts from the West united in Regina to discuss their common priorities related to federal health care funding; labour market needs; supply chains; internal trade and energy; food security and sustainable development over two days last week.
Premiers from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories met on May 26 and 27. Silver participated virtually and Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok was unable to attend.
“We need to take action right now to strengthen our presence in the North,” Silver told the News in a May 27 interview after the conference.
“My goal today was to get the premiers to agree that Arctic sovereignty and security are enhanced by strengthening the resilience of our people and our communities across the North, and we discussed the need for coordinated federal investment that’s informed by the interest and the needs of Yukoners.”
The issue has been thrust to the forefront given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Silver said has “changed the global security order” and has opened up questions on what this means for the “future cooperation” of the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting coordination and interaction among the eight Arctic states: Canada, United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Russian Federation.
The group of territorial and provincial leaders also discussed the production and supply of critical minerals by Western Canada to North America and beyond.
On the topic of health-care systems, the premiers highlighted the unanimous demand for Ottawa to increase its share of funding through the Canada health transfer to 35 per cent.
Silver said the Yukon has been “less vocal” in what that split looks like since “that’s only a few million dollars difference” for the territory based on its relatively large size and unique makeup.
“It’s important to have that unity,” he said.
“All voices are saying we’re standing united about an ask when it comes down to a percentage, even though that percentage isn’t necessarily the be all and end all for Yukon.”
When it comes to building sovereignty of the North, Silver said he believes he got the required level of commitment from the Western premiers.
Despite raising the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during their May 13 meeting, and being told that Minister of National Defence Anita Anand has committed to coming up and having conversations, Silver said there is still no money for Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.
“There needs to be, so federal government, that’s where you should be putting your money,” he said.
In a May 31 statement regarding his keynote address to the Arctic Security Working Group, Silver poised the framework as a “mechanism to advance the national dialogue and to guide federal investments toward the vision of a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable Arctic.”
Silver was unable to put a number on what that missing line item might be. He said the feds are being tasked with coming up with a dollar amount and delivering on financing Arctic security and sovereignty.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org