Frequently, this space is used to cite a major shortcoming or failure from the GNWT and lambaste it.
Not this time. With the cold weight of winter pressing down on the town, the GNWT appears to have put nitrous oxide in their gasoline to respond to the Nov. 26 fire that destroyed the lone safe-haven for many people living on the streets of Inuvik.
It wasn’t even two weeks before the NWT Housing Corporation was able to broker a deal with the NWT Health and Social Services Authority to make use of a group home that was sitting empty in town. Compared to the speed in which government normally moves, that’s practically warp drive. All that needs to happen now is for safety officials to sign off that the building is fit for use.
It is assuring our tortoise of a government can burst into rabbit-like speeds in the event of an emergency, which this clearly was.
Because this could have been serious. People were fortunate the old building on Berger St. was at least heat-able, though was largely unfit to house 20 or more people overnight. But at least it gave a temporary reprieve from temperatures that haven’t gotten much warmer than -20 C overnight, apart from a brief balmy period of -12 C highs, which is still cold enough to kill someone.
Granted, the new building raises a few questions — namely how many of these buildings does the GNWT have sitting empty, and could they be put to better use? Are there more in Inuvik? What about the surrounding communities? Or elsewhere in the territory — the GNWT put a lot of effort into showcasing the new Yellowknife warming shelter, which they had to overrule Yellowknife city council’s “not in my back yard” stance to establish. But it’s clear supporting the homeless is a priority for this government.
Another priority for the government, which our Education Minister RJ Simpson assured us would see the yardsticks move by the end of the year, is Early Childcare Education. Simpson was correct an announcement would be made before the end of the year.
Simpson told Inuvik Drum the two major hold-ups in negotiations were the lack of a training program for Early Childhood Educators and a lack of facilities to house the programs. Astute readers were quick to point out that there is in fact an Early Childhood Education diploma program at Yellowknife’s North Slave campus. So it will be interesting to see if the GNWT discovers more empty buildings in its inventory in time for a holiday announcement.
This week, Premier Caroline Cochrane is in Ottawa speaking with relevant ministers about the needs and priorities of the NWT. Certainly the financial hurdles that prevent the GNWT from effectively tackling the issues of the north will come up. Hopefully the premier’s trip is fruitful for us all.
But as we get back to a normal government speed, let’s take one more moment to be thankful the GNWT moved fast when called upon for those in need.
Kudos to the GNWT for greasing the wheel on this one.