The GNWT is pledging to wipe up a messy issue with the dozens of outhouses along NWT highways.
The “inadequate” rest stops on highways 1 and 3 are a problem that comes up year after year, Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson said in the legislature Feb. 25.
“It just seems to be in January, February, and March, when the trucking season and material and fuel is going into the mines,” he said.
He said truckers should have access to heated rest stops that are cleaned daily.
The smelly issue also spurs complaints from tourists in the summer, Simpson said.
He asked Industry Minister Caroline Wawzonek what options there are for making the facilities more comfortable for their users.
“I can assure the member they are being cleaned every two weeks,” Wawzonek said. “We are looking at whether or not that needs to be increased.”
Longstanding issue has seven-figure price tag
The Industry minister explained that to install permanent, heated facilities in the 10 pullouts from the border to Yellowknife would cost $150,000 each, or $1.5 million in total, a “not insignificant” amount. She said she would look into what could be done.
Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly said he has first-hand experience that he would spare the House the “dirty details” of.
“Look, I raised this five years ago in the House,” he said. “Photographs were shared from other members of the public, and it was very distressing to see this.”
He cited a Covid-19 Statistics report from the Covid Secretariat that shows more than 2,260 vehicles made cross-border trips from late December until the end of January.
“Having these facilities cleaned out once every two weeks is just not going to cut it,” O’Reilly said.
He went on to quote from Hansard on June 2, 2020, when he told former ITI Minister Katrina Nokleby about the complaints over the 60th parallel outhouse, and that her predecessor in the 18th assembly was alerted to the problem.
In that exchange, Nokleby said her department had a “$74,000 increase for funding to clean our washrooms in our parks,” part of an almost $4.4 million allocation for parks infrastructure and tourism development she announced that month.
O’Reilly then asked Wawzonek if she can see to the bathrooms being cleaned at least once a week from now on.
Wawzonek said she couldn’t immediately commit to doubling the cleaning schedule, but did say she would come up with a solution that could involve increasing cleaning regimes or monitoring of the facilities.
“If it’s just the 60th parallel, that’s easier. Those are the kinds of things that I need to have information about, so we can make a targeted and quick assessment and solve the problem immediately,” she said.
The minister also agreed to develop a plan with the Department of Infrastructure so the problem doesn’t raise a stink again next year.