A common thread has been working through our coverage of the Beaufort Delta in the past weeks.

We’ve spoken to outgoing Gwich’in Tribal Council deputy Grand Chief Jordan Peterson about how the GTC re-organized its funding model to make sure its designated Gwich’in organizations had enough to fulfill their mandates.

NORAD recently used Mike Zubko Airport for conducting exercises in the Arctic Ocean to deter other powers that might have an eye on resource rich area, but needs a longer runway to keep tabs on the area.

And in future editions we will speak with Industry Minister Katrina Nokleby on the state of the region’s highways.

Behind pretty much every issue facing the NWT, but I also suspect Nunavut and the Yukon, is a constant struggle of trying to deliver first-class services with third-world funding. Ottawa recently increased the NWT’s borrowing limit to $1.8 billion, which barely fills the gap needed to cover the GNWT’s current expenses.

It’s a sad fact that whenever the GNWT wants to repair infrastructure 50 years past its expiry date, it has to go to Ottawa to get the money. Of course, Ottawa is a busy place, where the troubles of some 45,000 people spread out over an area the size of Eastern Europe are competing with the wants of the millions who live closer to the U.S. border.

The GNWT simply doesn’t have the resources to help its businesses, citizens and partners all out at the same time.

It’s time to let the North take control of its own destiny.

It’s time Ottawa made the northern territories full-blown provinces.

As a province, the NWT would be able to issue its own bonds — i.e. not have to waste time in Ottawa trying to cover the costs of basic projects.

Clear economic winners that are currently anticipated to take 30 years, such as the twinning of the Dempster Highway, could be done in a tenth of the time. Better infrastructure would improve access to resources, which could help the GNWT establish new mining and forestry projects.

Green energy projects could also be accelerated, allowing for a much faster transition away from diesel power. Inuvik’s $80 million utilidor problem would actually be solvable instead of the current “fix what we can” approach. An infrastructure construction blitz could help employ people who have lost their livelihoods and give them the foundation to get their lives back on track.

Most important, the GNWT would be able to expand funding to Indigenous governments, allowing them to uphold their own mandates and improve their membership’s quality of life.

Certainly the new provinces would have a deficit in doing all this, but that’s merely a reflection of the financial neglect the system has received over the years. Much of the government’s staff have at least five to 10 years or more experience dealing with these issues.

Imagine what they could do with the budgets they want?

Globally, Canada would send a clear signal that it is serious about prospering in the North and its intentions to protect its Northern borders and oceans. Northern provinces would be able to respond to emerging situations far more assertively.

I highly doubt Justin Trudeau reads my column, but if the Liberal Party is looking for a project that will have a lasting impact on the country, this is it.

The time has come.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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