Recently this space was used to implore our federal leaders to hold off on any election ambitions until the framework for Universal Child Care could be secured.
As it currently stands, the federal Liberal party insists they do not plan to call an election this fall in spite of media speculation. The good workers at the rumour mill, however, note the Liberal party has also triggered an “electoral emergency” clause to speed up the vetting and swearing-in of candidates. This is usually used by a party in the face of a snap-election. Since the prime minister is the one who calls the election, there would be little reason to do so unless a fall election-win is at least being considered a possibility.
It remains my position we really don’t need to shake up Parliament just yet. The situation in Ottawa seems remarkably stable for a minority government.
However, since elections seem to be on everyone’s minds and we’re guaranteed to have municipal ones this fall, let’s re-examine another idea previously pitched in this space — the need for provincial status.
There seem to be two major structural problems with the current GNWT — our ministers are required to handle multiple complicated portfolios, and the fact the territory has an upper limit on what it can borrow for big projects. Both of these prevent the government from making any major changes. There isn’t enough inertia to work with. If the standard of development is “build it and they will come” it seems up here the logic is “get people to come up here and build it.”
Unfortunately, the remoteness and very different environmental conditions make construction difficult. As previously reported in the Inuvik Drum, to build a house can cost up to $5,000 per square metre. Expecting a profit-minded real estate mogul to come up here and start building projects is completely unrealistic. There’s simply no money in it. Any progress is going to have to be driven by the public sector, which can operate at a loss. But even then, the problem of a severely understaffed cabinet needing to get approval from Ottawa for their big ideas remains.
A North West Province, for lack of a better name, could leverage the grants and funding announcements currently raining down from Ottawa with all the bonds it needs to get projects started. It would not be reliant on Ottawa to cover the costs of new infrastructure and the territory could establish the roads, power lines and communication towers needed to attract new mining and forestry projects.
It could devote its budget to a more robust elected legislature with enough MLAs to fill a proper cabinet. Instead of a Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Justice who is also responsible for the Public Utilities Board, we could have a Minister of ECE, a Minister of Justice and so on. Able to focus on a single department, our ministers would be able to respond to inquiries faster, establish and commit to effective strategies and bring about positive change for Northerners.
Lack of funding is holding back far too many solutions to Northern problems. This is not malice on the GNWT’s part, their wings are clipped by the budgets they have. It’s time for Ottawa to let the North spread those wings.