A problem is brewing in Fort Simpson, one that might prove more difficult to eradicate than the bedbugs that keep creeping into public housing units in Fort Simpson.
The problem escalated to potential PR disaster with the NWT Housing Corporation's insistence that a bedbug problem at Fort Simpson's "nine-plex" public housing complex and the seniors "clusters" had been rectified, only to admit a few days later that the bedbugs persist.
This came on the heels of news that the housing corp had turfed the two remaining board members of the Fort Simpson Housing Authority and its manager and replaced them with a single administrator. Talk about bad timing.
Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian likened the disbanding of the local board and the bedbug issue to a continued pattern of "overreaching" by the territorial government into local matters. The grand chief issued a statement on July 29 calling for a full independent review of the situation.
It's doubtful such a review will occur in an election year – if ever – but Norwegian is right about a continued pattern: an ugly but otherwise manageable problem emerges, then the territorial government tries to quietly squelch it – only for it to blow up in its face.
Residents, meanwhile, left to wonder what's going on, grow even more skeptical that the government is operating with their best interests in mind.
It's well-documented that bedbugs can be incredibly difficult to get rid of, and it's certainly not the GNWT's fault when they show up in public housing units. Bed bugs typically won't venture three to six feet from where they feed, but they can work their way through crevices of walls or through electrical systems to move from dwelling to dwelling.
They can also hitch a ride in people's luggage or in furniture, which is why they have become a worldwide problem, including in the NWT.
As for housing corp.'s decision to scrap the local housing authority and its manager, it obviously felt it had good reason to do so. Tom Williams, president and CEO of housing corp., told News/North, the housing authority was dismissed after some "inefficiencies" showed up in the board's audited statements that were not dealt with to housing corp.'s satisfaction.
Fair enough, but news travels fast in Fort Simpson, especially when one of the rejected board members is a sitting village councillor.
It's strange the agency didn't simply issue a news release stating what it had done, right after doing it, and when it expected the local housing authority could be restored while also addressing the bedbug issue.
Instead, it waited for angry residents to light the fuse and go public with their complaints. Meanwhile, its minister, Alfred Moses, is nowhere to be seen.
Government is often criticized for being slow to respond but they're made up of people.
These people should have realized this wasn't a problem that could be hid under the furniture until the press comes calling.