The Conservative government is injecting $1.5 billion for climate-change programs into Canada’s provinces and territories.
Of that, $350 million is earmarked for Quebec.
The announcement was made on Monday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a campaign-style stop in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
It still isn’t clear how much the Yukon and other jurisdictions will receive.
Some fear the territory will receive very little, pointing to comments made by officials in the Prime Minister’s Office that the remaining money will likely be doled out according to population.
“What’s most disturbing is that it will be on a per capita basis,” said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell from Ottawa on Tuesday, following discussions with the PMO. “On a per capita basis, that will not mean very much for the Yukon.”
Bagnell, who was recently named as the Liberal party’s critic for Northern Affairs, is pushing for a “fair share” of the money to be sent to the North, and recognition that climate change is affecting the region more than anywhere else in the country, he said.
“The North needs a significant amount of funds, and that’s the case I’ll be trying to make in Parliament,” he said.
Monday’s announcement sparked many to question Harper’s motives.
Pundits noted that Quebec is receiving what appears to be more than a quarter of the money, and that Harper needs votes in the province to form a majority government.
The province has a population of about 7.6 million. If the $350 million given to Quebec is based on its population, it would work out to about $4.30 per person.
Using the same formula, the Yukon’s population of about 31,600 people would see the territory receive only $135,880 from the $1.5-billion pot.
“Per capita, in a number of cases, has not worked in the North,” said Bagnell. “They have to look at the unique challenges we have. Look at our windmills. They’re more costly, being few in number up on a mountain compared to a whole field of windmills in Alberta.
“It’s much harder to make them viable. So when they’re looking at the North, they should look at our circumstances where they’re more difficult to create clean energy and there should be provisions for that and a higher level of funding.”
While Bagnell refused to be dragged into the thorny debate about Quebec, he reported that many in Ottawa share a cynical view of Harper’s announcement for the province.
Officials with the PMO did not return phone calls before press time.
Premier Dennis Fentie was in Ottawa last week to discuss climate change with Environment Minister John Baird.
He pushed Baird and the feds to recognize the North will struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing climate, he said in an interview Monday.
“It’s incumbent upon the national government to recognize, as they deal with climate change nationally, that they include the issue of adaptation for Northerners,” said Fentie. “We are experiencing the stark realities of global warming.”
Discussions were also held to discuss the Yukon government’s plans for a climate-change centre at Yukon College, said Fentie.
Quebec has a clear plan for its climate-change money, and recently asked for about $340 million from the feds to get it on the rails.
On Tuesday, British Columbia announced a groundbreaking new strategy to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 per cent.
The goals are even loftier than those set in California, which has led North America in its innovative responses to climate change.
In comparison, by 2012, Canada has committed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to six per cent of 1990 levels under the Kyoto Accord. But Harper’s government has a long history of contempt for that treaty.
With the public focused on the environment, the Conservatives are more interested in the issue.
However, they are simply re-instating Liberal programs that were cut when they came to power, said Bagnell.
“It’s basically a re-institution of our $3-billion partnership fund,” said Bagnell of Harper’s $1.5 billion announcement.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s obviously not near big enough,” he said. “It’s half the size.”