In this season of giving, we have to recognize that the Town of Hay River is in the giving spirit all year round.

It’s sort of admirable for the community, but it makes no financial sense.

For years now, the town has provided highway rescue outside of its municipal boundaries, an emergency service that no one disputes is the responsibility of the GNWT. We have seen it with our own eyes – emergency personnel and equipment responding to accidents on Highway 1 north and south of Enterprise. One accident scene was at the NWT/Alberta border, over an hour’s drive from Hay River.

And that has been going on for years.

We and many others have previously objected to this unfair treatment of the town by the GNWT, which has promised to look into the issue, begun studies and nothing

has ever happened. And we don’t see anything being done to correct the situation anytime soon.

If that was the only funding problem with the GWNT it would be bad enough, but it’s not.

For years, the town has objected to being underfunded about $5 million annually under the territorial government’s own formula funding.

At least Hay River is not alone with that problem. The last time it came up at council, there were six other underfunded communities. Misery loves company, as they say.

Like the highway rescue lack of funding, there has been a lot of talk about general underfunding, but as expected nothing ever seems to be done about it.

The GNWT is an excellent illustration of Isaac Newton’s first law of motion – every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.

There is no doubt that the GNWT is completely at rest when it comes to moving to pay what it rightly owes, and will remain so until it is made to change by some external force.

The problem is we see no sufficient external force being placed on the GNWT.

We should also have another good indication of how Hay River is viewed in the eyes of the GNWT when the new cabinet decides on the town’s application for disaster assistance to help pay for the dump fire in March.

As often reported in The Hub, the town’s insurance covered just $100,000 for direct firefighting. Much of the remaining cost of $900,000 or so went to environmental monitoring, particularly water monitoring and testing.

We have absolutely no idea what the GNWT will do with the town’s request for help in such an extraordinary situation.

It may do the right thing and help out a town which has followed all the rules to prevent an environmental incident – rules that are imposed by higher levels of government.

On the other hand, we would not be surprised if the GNWT stays true to itself and lets Hay River deal with the severe financial fallout from the dump fire on its own.

After all, if history is any indication, what’s Hay River going to do about it?

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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