Northern Canadians, including those in the Northwest Territories, are getting significant new investments in housing and climate change as part of the latest federal budget.
The budget was tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday, April 7. Even before it was presented, housing was widely touted as being a significant theme.
The three Northern Territories will be allotted a combined $150 million over two years to support afforable housing and “related infrastructure” in the North. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut will be getting $60 million each, while Yukon will get $30 million.
This is part of a general increase in federal housing investments over the next four years, including more than $12 billion for 2022-23.
Indigenous communities will receive their own new funding injections: this includes $2.4 billion over five years for housing on reserves, of which there are only two in the NWT; $565 million over five years for housing in “First Nations self-governing and modern treaty holders communities”; and $190 million over seven years to support housing in Métis communities.
On the healthcare front, the budget earmarks $268 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year to “continue to provide high-quality health care in remote and isolated First Nations communities on-reserve.” In the 2021-22 budget, Ottawa allocated $1.4 billion over five years to “maintain and transform” essential healthcare services for Inuit and First Nations, which includes funding to support reliable access to clean water for First Nations communities.
The budget also earmarks $227.6 million over two years to maintain “trauma-informed, culturally-appropriate, Indigenous-led services to improve mental wellness, and to support efforts initiated through Budget 2021 to co-develop distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategies.”
The federal government is providing $209.8 million over five years to increase support provided to communities to “document, locate and memorialize burial sites at former residential schools; to support the operations of and a new building for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; and to ensure the complete disclosure of federal documents related to residential schools.”
As gold exploration appears set to make a comeback in the Northwest Territories, the budget also includes new investments of $40 million in Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to “support the Northern regulatory processes” for the minerals industry. Also on the economic front, the budget has earmarked $15 million over the next five years “to support Indigenous economic development in the North.”
Turning to the environment, Ottawa’s latest financial plan contains $29.6 million over three years to support the co-development of an Indigenous Climate Leadership Agenda to “support self-determined action in addressing Indigenous peoples’ climate priorities.” The climate funding will also support the phased implementation of distinctions-based climate strategies.
In regards to defence, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked renewed concerns about Arctic sovereignty and security. NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane recently met with Prime Minister Trudeau, Defence Minister Anita Anand and various military and intelligence officials to discuss the issue.
The federal budget includes significant new investments in domestic defence, to the tune of $8 billion. However, it wasn’t immediately clear how these funds would be used to strengthen Arctic security.
Overall, the budget sets aside $31.2 billion in new spending over the next five years and projects a deficit of $52.8 billion.
The full budget is now available on the Government of Canada’s website.