The NWT’s minister for Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) says his department has no additional funds to offer Behchokǫ̀ to resolve the community’s chronic plumbing issues.
Monday’s sitting of the Legislative Assembly was the site of a heated exchange between Minister Shane Thompson and Monfwi MLA Jane Weyallon Armstrong, who represents the community, over what Weyallon Armstrong saw as the department’s failure to properly address Behchokǫ̀’s infrastructure problems.
“As we speak, Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School is closed because of a frozen water pipe,” said Weyallon Armstrong in her opening remarks on Feb. 21. “Education outcomes in the Tłı̨chǫ region are poor; disruption with water is not helping.”
Among other issues, she said that in January, workers at the Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home had to use buckets of water to manually flush toilets due to plumbing issues.
“By not helping the community resolve this problem, I feel the GNWT is making a decision that will impact essential community services,” said Weyallon Armstrong.
During question period, she asked if Thompson would commit to providing additional funding to fix the community’s aging plumbing.
The minister responded that MACA already allocates money for infrastructure to the community through the gas tax and other sources.
“We don’t have any other money. There’s no slush fund out there,” he said.
Thompson said it’s up to the community to decide what to do with the funds it receives from the GNWT.
Weyallon Armstrong accused Thompson of “trying to discredit the community government, and playing blame games. I don’t have time for that if that’s what he’s trying to do,” she said.
Minister R.J. Simpson then intervened, asserting that Armstrong was “impugning (the) motives” of the minister.
Speaker of the Assembly Frederick Blake Jr. asked Armstrong to rescind her comments and apologize, which she did.