Territories could get millions in top-up transfers for health care, infrastructure

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The Watson Lake Community Hospital pictured in a file photo. If a new federal bill passes, the territories would each receive millions for additional health care and pandemic-related costs. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)
The Watson Lake Community Hospital pictured in a file photo. If a new federal bill passes, the territories would each receive millions for additional health care and pandemic-related costs. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

A federal bill making its way through parliament could provide more pandemic support for northern governments.

It's part of Bill C-25, a proposed $7.2 billion nation-wide package for 'urgent health care needs' across Canada.

The bill, introduced last week, would also see funds allocated for COVID-19-related costs, like vaccine roll out and local health infrastructure, according to a news released issued Monday.

If passed, Yukon would get $4.4 million in additional Canada Health Transfer funding, as well as $1.1 million as part of Canada's COVID-19 Immunization plan.

Meanwhile, the Northwest Territories would get $4.8 million in additional Canada Health Transfer funding, and Nunavut would see $4.1 million.

As part of Canada's COVID-19 Immunization plan, the N.W.T. would receive $1.2 million, and Nunavut just over $1 million.

The funds would help support territorial, municipal and First Nation governments, the release says.

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland in a November 2020 file photo. Freeland introduced Bill C-25 last week in the House of Commons.
Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland in a November 2020 file photo. Freeland introduced Bill C-25 last week in the House of Commons. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

"The COVID-19 pandemic has added stress to the Yukon health care system," said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell in a statement.

"This bill will provide additional support to the Government of Yukon to mitigate the burden of the pandemic and support the cost of the vaccine roll-out strategy."

As well, Bill C-25 would provide for a "one-time doubling" of the federal Gas Tax Fund (under the bill, it would be renamed to the Canada Community-Building Fund), which would see Yukon receive an additional $16.5 million from the fund for a total of $33 million for fiscal year 2020 and 2021.

The Gas Tax Fund is twice-yearly funding for provinces and territories. It includes 18 different project categories from transit and roads to wastewater and sport infrastructure.

Communities can use the funds for projects, bank them for later use, or pool the money with other communities for shared infrastructure projects. It has been doubled before, including in 2019.