March 31, 2023


Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, left, speaks at the start of a meeting Thursday morning with business and civic leaders in Yellowknife. At right, Mayor Rebecca Alty listens, as beside her, NWT Chamber President Yanik D'Aigle goes over his notes preparing his response. Photo by James O'Connor

"Is the government finally going to get the message that it's not going to work for us to have this Carbon Tax in the North? There is no way for us to not burn fossil fuels here."

— NWT Chamber President Yanik D’Aigle to Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal.

In Yellowknife this week to sell his government’s latest proposed budget, Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal sat down with business and civic leaders who pressed him on the hardships the incoming carbon tax will inflict on the region.

Vandal appeared unaware of the financial burdens of the upwardly revised Carbon Tax as expressed by representatives from the NWT Chamber of Commerce, Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and city Mayor Rebecca Alty. He asked if Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault had ever visited the city. He has not.

"We're all on board to be able to reduce our emissions … but there is no way for us to not burn fossil fuels here," said NWT Chamber President Yanik D’Aigle.

"We already have the highest cost of living, we are already incentivized to reduce operational costs for businesses and for people. We’re trying to grow our population, to grow our industry to incentivize mines to come up here, to incentivize industry to come up. But they're not."

D’Aigle, an area bank manager, noted transportation costs can be four times the amount found in the south and the harsher Carbon Tax coming into effect tomorrow is just going to aggravate that situation. He said heating costs doubled through the pandemic and the restructured rebates offered under the new tax regime will have little real benefit for businesses and residents.

Vandal interjected: "So the rebate that you receive from the price on pollution is not working?"

The consensus was 'no' to a shrugged 'we don’t know' around the table, with heating fuel being taxed for the first time — rebates are extended, but will not be proportional to usage — and community governments now losing tax-exempt status.

"The spin-off effect is horrible. It really is. It's just horrible. And we talked about this last year, I remember … we had the same conversation. I've had this conversation for many, many years. But it hasn't changed. Nobody was listening," said D’Aigle.

"And so now you’re going to impose this, the federal government is really incentivizing people to not come to the North, to not do business in the North to not move to the North."

Replied Vandal, motioning to his staff: "Okay, well listen, we've heard you loud and clear. I’ll bring this back to the minister or other ministers like natural resource and environment, to make sure that you can rest assured they will receive your message."

D’Aigle: "I’ve heard, 'We’re going to hear back, but we don't hear back.' So for me, it would be more of a when and how and who … we need to have an answer."

Vandal promised to have a response by late April. The NWT Chamber will follow-up with the minister at that time.

Other issues mentioned in the hour-long early Thursday morning session in the YK Chamber’s boardroom were housing (private housing, work camp housing, public housing, new units coming online in Yellowknife), workforce challenges, immigration needs, mental health and addictions, critical minerals, the Giant Mine remediation project, the city’s submarine water line replacement project and Taltson hydro expansion. 

Vandal hinted strongly that there will be a positive announcement about that key green energy project that will see the existing Taltson generating station beefed up to connect the NWT’s hydroelectric systems to provide clean energy, including to the mineral-rich Slave Geological Province. In fact, he was set to tour the facility during his multi-day visit here.

Notably, additional funding for Aurora College’s transformation into a polytechnic university was absent from the proposed budget.

Vandal is also Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), and officials were in attendance around the boardroom table, along with reps from Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered the 2023 Federal Budget, which proposes a $40B+ deficit for the coming year with no plan to bring Canada’s finances back into balance. The document includes billions in new tax incentives for low-carbon-emission energy projects — all requiring the country’s grid to be supercharged.

Perhaps that explains the interest in the Taltson expansion.

“Such a significant expansion of clean, secure, and affordable electricity will require massive new investments in power generation and transmission,” states the budget. “Canada needs to move quickly to avoid the consequences of underinvestment.”

You can read Premier Caroline Cochrane’s reaction to the budget here

Minister Vandal also spoke to Cabin Radio later Thursday morning about the Carbon Tax, insisting: "are “not going to cost any families, anywhere in Canada, any more.”


If you plan to attend, please join others who have already dropped a quick note to ED O'Connor.

Two Vital Metals workers witnessed US President Joe Biden’s historic address to the Canadian Parliament on March 24. Laurie George, Finance and Payroll Analyst of Vital Metals’ Saskatoon Rare Earth Processing Facility, said in a statement issued by the company she was, “very honoured to be part of this amazing historic event.” George was joined by Cruze Jerome, 21, is in his third year of employment at Vital Metal’s Nechalacho Rare Earth Mine. Yellowknife born, the 21-year old Inuvialuit has family roots in the Western Arctic cultures of the Mackenzie Delta. David Connelly, Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Affairs for NWT Chamber member Vital Metals, stated that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued the invitations to attend the President’s address to Parliament. Trudeau visited the company’s Saskatoon facility in January. Photo submitted.


Topic: Cometh the tougher Carbon Tax

Tomorrow, the new federal Carbon Tax regime is implemented. A bill that amends the Northwest Territories’ Carbon Tax to align with new federal requirements passed this week by the narrowest of margins in a 9-8 vote.

The NWT Chamber of Commerce has significant concerns that the new Carbon Tax regime will gravely impact the private business sector and the overall territorial economy.  

Question: Why did the federal government not listen to Carbon Tax concerns from Northerners?
Our dire predicament was not properly explained to policymakers in Ottawa.
They heard us, but the zeal to go green has overtaken common sense around the cabinet table.
The Trudeau government will likely react only after it sees the harm done.


"We've asked, other governments have asked, a number of ministers have asked, it hasn't gotten us very far in terms of being exempted from the carbon tax."

— NWT Finance Minister Minister Caroline Wawzonek during question period Thursday in the NWT Legislative Assembly. She continued:

"So the minister here (Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal was in the gallery) has heard it himself. What I'd like to do, though, moving forward, let's get ourselves off fossil fuel, let's have more reliable energy, let's have energy alternatives. We can't do that alone. We're working off of old infrastructure. We're working in communities that don't have road access.  

"These are things that are going to take serious dollars; they're going to take federal dollars. And if that's a commitment of the federal government, we've heard it again in this budget, they need to come to the North, they need to see the realities of the North.  

"We are more than prepared to work with them. We're more than prepared to help communities with the federal government. And we can then be leaders in Canada and stand up and say that we've got these communities off fossil fuels. It's time to make that change. We're here to help out."



Friday Futures:

The NWT Chamber's in-person/online AGM is April 13 at the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife. Any members interested in joining the Board of Directors can still contact President Yanik D'Aigle, at [email protected]. As part of our 50th Anniversary year, the NWT Chamber is looking to expand its membership base. If you know of someone who might be interested in our organization, ask them to have a look at our (brand spanking new) website to find out more about us.

After an absence of two years, the NWT Chamber's golf tournament returns Friday, August 18 at the Yellowknife Golf Club. After 18 holes, participants will be treated to a reception with a silent auction and a delicious meal. More details will follow, but please save that date and start thinking of teams to enter.

To celebrate the NWT Chamber's 50th anniversary this year, a major one-day conference and evening reception is being planned for Sept. 29. Stay tuned for information.

The next NWT Chamber Board Meeting is April 15 at 11am in-person or Zoom



Inquire with the NWT Chamber's Executive Director about sponsorship and newsletter advertising opportunities. We also offer limited numbers of EBlasts to members each month and promoted social media posts can be arranged.

Follow your NWT Chamber on social media

Twitter  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube