Waking Up As Premier Of The NWT – Yikes!

Premiere of NWT Caroline Cochrane

If I woke up one morning as premier, to play Mr. Miltenberger’s Election 2023 game, I would ask who put the gummy in my caribou stew? Then I would go for it.

First, we would have a ceremonial burning of the GNWT budget spending pie chart. That spending pie has changed little over 20 years, if not 60 years, except the finance department has jumped in staff for whatever reason.

Look at the chart below and see how GNWT spending has or has not changed. Over the past 23 years. Most of the changes have to do with departmental restructuring but there has been a significant drop in spending in Education, Culture and Employment.

Comparison of spending of the Government of the Northwest Territories 2001-02 and 2022-23.
Comparison of spending of the Government of the Northwest Territories 2001-02 and 2022-23.

With MLAs in a room, we would design a budget based on the needs of the people. First priority is meeting payroll. If our staff is not happy, engaged and secure in their jobs, we’ll not get anything done. Next, we look at what bills we have to pay, what bills we shouldn’t be paying

There will be three main priorities of the next government – Healing, Housing and Education.

Education is most important but that can’t happen without healing. Healing is not just about doctors, nurses and operating rooms, it’s also acknowledging, identifying, and treating trauma brought on by the loss of land, culture and control of lives. Healing is best understood by people who have experienced the trauma, namely half the population of the NWT – Dene, Metis, Inuvialuit. They must be our consultants and staff.

Healing can’t happen without proper housing. There are 2,900 public housing units (345 in Yellowknife) the majority of which is in a state of disrepair. There are 900 people on the waiting list, and 487 who owe back rent that can’t get on the waiting list. That’s over 5,000 families in housing distress, mainly people outside of Yellowknife. We must focus on fixing the crisis just as we did during the covid pandemic.

On education, who can judge how well our schools are working when the two essential elements – healing, housing – required for stable, self-sufficient families are lacking?

But we must get Aurora College back on track for the communities, focussing on upgrading, college-level courses and trades training, producing homegrown teachers, social workers and nurses as we did in the 70s, a Northern Board and no interference from the GNWT.

We will withdraw from lawsuits against our own people, like the one trying to prevent the Inuvialuit from taking responsibility for their children after the GNWT failed so miserably.  We will get behind the proposed Saliqmiut: Tuktuuyaqtuuq Centre for Arts and Culture in Tuktoyaktok to make it a world class cultural repository, substituting for a world class natural gas field shut down by the federal government to enhance its standing on the climate change stage.

We could engage Mr. Miltenberger to help us restructure the Northern Power Corporation, putting the people and climate change first and the corporation second.

In the spirit of Woman Warrior Cece McCauley, we will unceasingly pester the feds to continue the Canadian practice of developing economies with roads, like one that should be connecting the Sahtu, South and North Slave to Ft. Macpherson, Inuvik and the Beaufort Delta

Finally, we would settle outstanding land claims to the satisfaction of the original land owners and re-examine past settlements for improvements. Their success makes NWT successful.

For those wondering about the economic development file, take note: Healing, housing, education and settled land claims will spur building. New salaried positions in small communities will provide much needed economic stimulus. A young trained workforce of 6,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 24 is worth investing in.

We would all get busy building a New NWT2023.


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