We were pleased to see the GNWT help the Town of Hay River cover the expenses of the recent evacuation of Vale Island.

It was the right thing to do.

The town is expecting $40,000 in assistance after submitting a bill to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).

It appears that funding is a formality, as there has been agreement between the two sides that the GNWT should cover most of the cost based on its guidelines. That’s because of the extraordinary circumstances for the evacuation caused by the Covid-19 crisis and the fact that each household needed separate accommodations, including some hotel rooms in Yellowknife.

It is encouraging to see the two levels of government work together somewhat seamlessly on that issue. We don’t know what discussions took place behind the scenes, but publicly at least it seemed the funding arrangement went fairly smoothly.

We are left wondering why some of the other funding issues – let’s call them irritants – between the town and the GNWT cannot be settled in such a logical and prompt manner.

Take, for instance, the still-pending request for disaster assistance that the town submitted to the GNWT last year.

It is well known that the town spent a bushel of money on a month-long fire at the landfill in March of last year. The last estimates we heard were that the town spent about a cool $1 million on the fire, most of it on environmental testing. However, the town’s insurance would only cover $100,000 for direct firefighting.

Hence, the GNWT was asked for disaster assistance.

Publicly, there has been the sound of crickets from the GNWT since last year on the request.

A couple of weeks ago, The Hub asked MACA about the request and we were told that the submission is currently “under consideration” and the department expects to be able to communicate with the town in the “near future.”

Of course, that does not mean anything, really. What does the “near future” mean?

Still, we are going to be hopeful and think that the GNWT will do the right thing and help the town with the expenses for the landfill fire.

But that is only one of the financial problems between the town and the GNWT.

Perhaps the longest running has been the town providing and paying for highway rescue outside of its boundaries, a job that should obviously be done or fully paid for by the GNWT.

The issue was recently mentioned once again when town council approved buying a new ambulance. The municipality needs to maintain two ambulances partly because it provides highway rescue.

That funding problem has been around for years and there are no obvious signs that it will ever be corrected by the GNWT.

That may also be the case with the continuing underfunding of Hay River and some other communities.

We hope that the GNWT will soon set about solving all those issues.

In the meantime, we will celebrate the financial support for the evacuation as a positive step.

The GNWT can keep heading in the right direction by approving disaster assistance to help pay for the landfill fire.

We hope “near future” means weeks or a couple of months for a positive response.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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