If I were the Premier,
Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum…
Jokes aside, the thought experiment begun by Michael Miltenberger’s guest comment in the Feb. 24 Yellowknifer and continued by our former publisher Bruce Valpy is a good one to undertake as we approach election season.
So I’ll fiddle on the roof and describe what I would change were I to somehow overcome our toxic election politics, which sadly discourages most people from seeking office.
Tenders — Governments short change their citizens by going for the lowest bidder. This has created a culture where jobs are routinely underestimated and cost overruns are inevitable, frequently resulting in a sub-standard product. Contracts should be awarded based on the quality and longevity of the work the contractor can guarantee, not how it looks on a balance sheet this election cycle. As Inuvik’s swimming pool experience shows, it ultimately costs more to fix shoestring construction errors than it does to build it right the first time.
Housing — Over half the dwellings in the NWT are 30 years old or worse. These are massive energy sinks costing their tenants thousands in heating bills. Meanwhile, Parks Canada has blueprints for a cost-effective Netzero duplex designed for life in Inuvik and has made two attempts to build it already. In partnership, we could prioritize a widespread social-housing replacement effort, aiming to replace deteriorating homes with energy efficient buildings, particularly in remote communities.
Homeowners would have access to home-efficiency grants to upgrade their own aging properties, cutting down their carbon tax. Expanding on the solar panel program spearheaded by Nihtat Gwich’in Council here in Inuvik could allow homeowners to produce power in the 24-hour days of summer to sell to the grid, offsetting fuel costs in winter. Potentially a game changer for many families.
All arrears owed to Housing NWT would be forgiven immediately.
Addictions — In-community addictions recovery is the only way the North is going to overcome its current situation. We’ve known since at least the Vietnam war people can have wildly different substance habits in different settings. Scientific research does not support sending people south for treatment, then expecting them to come back and ignore all the stimulus that drove them into addictions in the first place. People need to create new relationships with the communities they live in to overcome their addictions in those communities.
Permanently operating emergency shelters would become part of Housing NWT’s mandate.
Education — All work transforming Aurora College into a polytechnic university would pause and resources would be focused into outreach such as the award-winning program operated by the Aurora Research Institute. The priority should be helping Indigenous students earn their diplomas and be post-secondary ready to maximize opportunities throughout life. Distance learning teaching STEM and demystifying the digital economy can guide Northerners to successful careers while accommodating traditional lifestyles. Instead of the southern September-June school schedule, a Freeze-Thaw-oriented academic calendar may allow better work-life balance for kids.
Energy — Power bills in Yukon territory are a fraction of ours because of hydroelectricity. A few dams could reduce our electricity costs dramatically.
Transport — An all-season highway connecting Inuvik to Yellowknife, ensuring Yukon’s side of the Dempster is properly and routinely maintained, replacing key ferry crossings with bridges and a modern railway network could move people and supplies across the territory cheaper than ice roads, barges or airlines.
What would you do if you woke up as Premier?
Send us your guest comment of where you think the GNWT should be putting its priorities. Yellowknife obviously needs suggestions.
Oh my you are brave. I would want lots of time to figure out all the “mess” you’d be walking into because until you know what all is really going on there is not much you can get accomplished.