Kenora, ON – Conservative Northern Affairs Shadow Minister Eric Melillo questioned Minister Dan Vandal on internet, housing, and economic development in Northern Canada at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee last Thursday.
Melillo touted the Conservative Party’s plan to provide internet access to all Canadians in the immediate term, long before the Liberals’ planned date of 2030. “We believe that these suggestions could help accelerate that timeline – and they’re public, they’re out there,” Melillo said, asking why the government hasn’t taken steps to implement any of these proposals.
Minister Vandal didn’t address any of the Conservative internet proposals, instead replying, “Well, I think our government’s very clear that we think suggestions are useful, but we need some actual dollars to come forward.”
Melillo also expressed concern that northern communities were not prioritized for the first stream of the government’s rapid housing funding, despite the well-known housing crisis in many Northern and Indigenous communities. “A specific northern stream of funding to ensure that northern communities…aren’t in any way left behind would be beneficial,” Melillo stated, adding: “Can you speak to why the government didn’t really seem to consider that?”
The Kenora MP says that “Minister Vandal insisted that housing is a priority for his government, but acknowledged there are significant “gaps” in housing for the North”.
Melillo also asked about the proposed A2A Rail Line connecting Alaska to Alberta, which he said would “generate billions of dollars in economic activity across Northern Canada.”
Noting that the rail line has already received a Presidential Border Crossing Permit from the United States, Melillo asked the Minister to “confirm whether your government is supportive of the project, or if the Prime Minister intends to block it a similar way that he has with other similar development projects?”
Minister Vandal called the project “intriguing,” adding that: “Connectivity, whether it’s physical or virtual, is something we need more of in the North.”
After the meeting, Melillo said that the responses were typical of this government’s “all-talk, no action” approach.
“As always, the Liberal government talks a big game but is short on concrete work and actual commitments,” Melillo stated.