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Communities lack infrastructure to fulfill Canada's Northern strategy

Canada has failed to make ongoing investments to sustain northern development while its northern neighbours have steadily strengthened their northern presence.

Places like Iqaluit have infrastructrue needs that must be met before they can fulfill any strategy.IQALUIT, NU, August 31, 2010: Northern communities lack the infrastructure needed to achieve the objectives of Canada's Northern Strategy, says a report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

"The Northern Strategy promises a better future, but to get there we need a plan to build affordable housing and fix crumbling roads, bridges, and water systems," said FCM President Hans Cunningham. "Municipalities don't have the tools to meet a challenge that big on their own - not in the North, not anywhere."

The report, entitled On the Front Lines of Canada's Northern Strategy, was written by Dr. Ken Coates and Dr. Greg Poelzer of the University of Saskatchewan's International Centre for Northern Governance and Development.

It finds that Canada has failed for decades to make the ongoing investments needed to sustain northern development while its northern neighbours - Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the United States - steadily strengthened their northern presence. Due to the lack of a long-term plan, today the North lacks the infrastructure to support its families, its businesses, and Canada's national interests.

The situation is growing more urgent as a warming climate melts the ground beneath Northern communities. In the Northwest Territories alone, it is expected to cost at least $230 million to protect vulnerable buildings, more than $5,000 for every man, woman and child.

Recent federal investments in affordable housing and infrastructure are helping, but in the long run, municipalities do not have the funding tools to build and maintain local infrastructure while meeting growing responsibilities, including many downloaded by other governments. The challenge will be even greater in the North, where communities face higher infrastructure costs due to their small size and remote location.

"Canada has fallen short in the North because of short-term thinking," said Cunningham. "Now we have a chance to change that - we need to make the most of it."

FCM is calling on the federal government to commit to a long-term plan to improve northern infrastructure, make the North a global leader in adapting to climate change, and coordinate military and municipal investments wherever possible.

Posted: September 13, 2010

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