The Honourable Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P., Minister of Environment and Climate Change

December 14, 2016

Alternative Fuel Options—Nunavut

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Minister, I represent Nunavut in the Senate. Nunavut has signed your government’s Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which will result on a price or tax on carbon in 2018.

I know carbon pricing is designed to push us away from fossil fuel. Nunavut is probably —”poster boy” may not be the best term — the worst offender for carbon pollution in Canada, I’m sure, because all 25 of our communities rely on diesel 100 per cent — dirty, black diesel — for heat and power, and 17 of our 25 plants are aged, beyond their designed service life. A couple of weeks ago, Rankin Inlet went on rotating power because three of their five Gensets went out.

Frankly, our residents fear that the cost of everything in this region, which has the highest cost of living in Canada, will go up even more with carbon pricing.

I did look at the annex for the collaboration that Canada has promised to do, but could you outline, please, how will Canada help Nunavut, with its small, scattered population? We can’t afford to build a hydro dam or sustain it. We can’t afford even to buy more efficient diesel Gensets. We can’t carry the burden of funding a transmission line that we dream of linking with Churchill.

How will Canada help Nunavut, with its small, scattered population, to develop alternatives to the diesel fuel that we must, sadly, rely on for power and heat?

Hon. Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P., Minister of Environment and Climate Change: Thank you, honourable senator. Thank you for raising a very important point. We need to be very mindful of the situation in the North, in particular in Nunavut. I know economic insecurity and acute poverty are major concerns, and the North is disproportionately impacted by climate change. The rise is more than double of that in the rest of the world.

We’re absolutely committed to working with the government and the territories moving forward. I was also very pleased to be with Natan Obed, the head of ITK. It’s really important that we find solutions that work for the people of Nunavut. Getting off diesel is a huge priority. We made a commitment in our budget to do that. The Prime Minister made a personal commitment as well. We recognize that we have an opportunity here. We have an opportunity to work with the people of Nunavut to ensure that they have a proper supply of energy, but much cleaner energy.

We will be looking at renewables and what opportunities are there, including what opportunities are there for jobs. We’ve made a commitment when it comes to pricing pollution that we absolutely need to be mindful of the effects. We cannot be asking people who have very little money, and who are feeling huge impacts of climate change already, to pay more.

In the case of the territories, we recognize the situation, and we will be working extraordinarily closely with the premier. I will be working with my counterpart. We will be working with ITK, with the people of Nunavut and with other organizations to find a path forward. Clean power also ensures that we move forward in a way that will create greater opportunities. I’ve heard about the transmission line. We’re also committed to looking across the country with regard to how we can get clean power. This is a vision for our country. It’s a real opportunity. We’ve committed to historic investments through our Green Infrastructure Fund and also the Canada infrastructure bank. I think there may be opportunities there. We will look at what makes sense. I’m committed personally, as is the Prime Minister, to working with the Government of Nunavut and the people of Nunavut.

QP – Alternative Fuel Options – Nunavut