This letter was submitted on behalf of the NWT Chamber of Commerce
Last week the NWT Chamber of Commerce, with supporting signatures from the Yellowknife, Thebacha and Fort Simpson Chambers of Commerce, issued a letter to Premier Cochrane outlining our concerns about the newly created Covid-19 Secretariat.
Monday’s News/North editorial indicated that the hiring of 150 new GNWT employees is a reasonable form of economic stimulus in light of the current state of the NWT economy. The editorial also stated; “the thing about being in unprecedented times is that you can’t expect things to go the same way.”
What the editorial seems to miss is that in the midst of unprecedented times the GNWT is doing things in precisely the same way they have for years; bloat the bureaucracy and hope for the best.
We feel that any major new GNWT spend should be viewed through the lens of economic return.
The 19th Legislative Assembly’s mandate was chock-full of items that would provide the NWT a return on their investment either through the support of projects that provide long term economic benefit or programs that reduce territorial operating costs into the future.
Many of the 19th Assembly’s mandate items have long-term value as they would stimulate the private sector through job creation in all communities. Businesses would then be paying payroll taxes, WSCC premiums, and small business taxes. In addition, businesses will be spending money in each community on operating costs such as accommodations, food, fuel, materials, utilities, etc. Every dollar spent at a local business is turned over in that community seven times; thus, if the GNWT chose to spend $62.6m on the private sector by initiating any one of their mandate items, it would result in $438.2m in economic value.
A prime example of a mandate that creates value over the long term:
“Make strategic infrastructure investments that connect communities, expand the economy, or reduce the cost of living, including the Mackenzie Valley Highway, the Slave Geological Province Corridor, and the Taltson Hydro Project.”
$62.6m would get all of these projects shovel ready and, if appropriately tendered, would create long term, local jobs. The Mackenzie Valley Highway alone would create “7,785 one-time jobs; 78 long term jobs; and 128 long term maintenance jobs just in the NT.”
When you compare value for dollar spent on creating a new level bureaucracy vs. supporting projects designed to build infrastructure and capacity, it becomes apparent how much further $62.6 million would go when invested in our communities. Our revenues would grow, and most importantly, job creation outside of Yellowknife would grow expeditiously, creating a more prosperous NWT for all.
Ultimately, in a few years, we will look back and either curse the short-sightedness of the 19th Assembly or we will applaud the decisions that were made that positioned our territory for success for years to come.