With a pricetag of $87 million, we assumed the GNWT’s COVID-19 Secretariat would have a plan for just about anything.

Anything but plans, it seems: 2,600 self-isolation plans (SIPs) were waiting to be processed last week. That’s when Health and Social Services (HSS) Minister Julie Green took to the department’s de facto media room, her Facebook feed, to announce HSS was not prepared for the rush of filings from would-be travellers that the lifting of isolation restrictions produced. She said her department received more than 850 of the SIPs in just a few days.

Ask for $87 million up front and you create expectations. Of a certain scope and complexity, for example: how did this department designed to counter COVID-19 get so broadsided by a rush of visitors or returning travellers just as public health restrictions were lifting along with the mercury in the thermostat? Did nobody see this coming?

The best case scenario now probably would be that the secretariat, which has overseen precisely 172 cases of the novel coronavirus in the NWT and zero deaths, hasn’t spent nearly that much yet (it was a three-year budget, after all) and the hiring of staff and approving of overtime that GNWT spokespersons assured us is taking place in response to the SIP backlog will be accounted for within that number.

Actually, the best case scenario would end with the secretariat running its course well before that three-year imagined pandemic response and costing not nearly that much. With the improving state of vaccination in Canada, that is a more and more attainable goal.

Any reasonable Yellowknifer would be justified in feeling some frustration here. Parents, perhaps most so. Our own sports stalwart, James McCarthy, will soon be back to hammering away on the keyboard from home like the good old days since his wife and under-12-year-old-and-therefore-not-vaccinated daughter return from a trip to the East Coast at the end of this week. Heaven forbid someone should spend part of the summer with family across the country after 16 months of keeping calm and Zooming on.

Yukon parents aren’t wringing their hands over this. Nunavut parents, either. Or Alberta caregivers and legal guardians for that matter — whatever your opinion on their race to open up.

They just held the Calgary Stampede and called it a success with 71 COVID-19 infections linked to the event, a rate of about one for every 10,000 patrons. Three in four adults in the NWT have at least one shot, and more than 70 per cent have both. Does it still make sense to force every human being that wants to leave the territory or host a visitor check in with Big Brother like they’re trying to cross into East Berlin?

Talk about another make-work project. Government imposes rules that require paperwork. Population files paperwork. Government is surprised by paperwork. Government decides more government is the answer.

The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and its president, Tim Syer, have been right about this all along. The GNWT’s pandemic response has been reactive and behind the play from the start, burning through cash all the while. No overtime would be required and no hiring blitz called for if the patronizing and unwarranted – or at least no longer warranted – tracking of our comings and goings were to cease.

It’s time for the NWT to catch up to its neighbours. It’s time to let common sense take over.

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  1. Catch up to our neighbours? 8 deaths in the Yukon. 580 in Saskatchewan. 1200 in Manitoba. 1770 in BC. 2300+ deaths in Alberta.

    If an outbreak occurs in a small NWT community, or an unvaccinated child dies, the first thing out of your mouth with be “why didn’t government do something??” Or will you be writing an editorial about how a few deaths are justified so we can all get back to vacationing? No didn’t think so.

    NWT residents have had some of the fewest restrictions on their lives of any Canadian jurisdiction, evident to anyone who has visited other places during one of the provincial lockdowns – this is a result of the travel restrictions and SIPs, to a great degree. You don’t even know how good you’ve had it not living through the lockdown-ease-lockdown cycle of other places. Or the jammed emergency rooms.

    Yes, restrictions need to ease, but needs to be done in a sensible manner. There were some missteps and room for improvement, and not sure about the the COVID SEcretary, but I think the GNWT has done a decent job of responding, given the circumstances – look at our situation compared to Alberta, Yukon or Saskatchewan. You armchair public health experts, more concerned about personal inconvenience than the public good, need to give it a rest.

  2. Yes!!! Finally a story in the media not flouting the government propaganda and calling them out. Well said

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your article.

    Your comment, “It’s time for the NWT to catch up to its neighbours. It’s time to let common sense take over.”, is spot on, but considering the players, will likely never happen.