Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod said he was pleased overall with the 2019 federal budget.
“I think it was a good budget for us,” McLeod told Yellowknifer on Wednesday.
“I was quite impressed that the budget had a section dedicated to the North.”
The budget promises a range of investments in Canada’s North over the next several years including infrastructure projects, broadband internet connections, education and economic development.
“It’s covered a lot of ground and I was quite happy to see some of my fingerprints on investments that came forward,” said McLeod.
One of the major infrastructure investments is $18 million to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) over the next three years to support planning for the GNWT’s proposed Taltson hydroelectricity expansion project.
McLeod wouldn’t say if future federal investment would be needed beyond the planning phase of the project.
“If all goes well and things are positive, then we’ve got to look at next steps,” he said.
McLeod said he was “quite excited” about $400 million – over the next eight years starting in 2020 – going to the National Trade Corridors fund to Arctic and Northern regions, which the federal government says will help connect Northern communities.
“Even though we got $400 million additional to top it up to a total of $800 million, it still falls short of where we’re going to need to be if we’re going to do all the transportation infrastructure in the North,” said McLeod.
“We have a huge deficit on that front.”
The infrastructure needs of the North are very different from those of southern provinces, and McLeod said he spends a lot of time making sure federal ministers understand that.
“It’s always a challenge for myself as the member of parliament to make sure that everybody understands that the North is a very important part of Canada that can’t be overlooked,” he said.
“I spend a lot of time talking to staff and making sure they understand where we are in terms of growing our economy, in terms of having infrastructure that will lower our costs for our residents but also for industry.”
To those worrying about the federal Liberals’ $19.8 billion deficit, McLeod said to consider the alternative.
“I would ask everybody that’s talking about the numbers to consider where the NWT would be if the conservative government got in and toed the line at not investing,” he said.
“We would really have a troubled economy.”