Whati residents face the risk of freezing in the middle of winter due to insufficient infrastructure in the community, said Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty. 

Speaking in the legislative assembly on Wednesday, Lafferty described a 20-hour rotating power outage that hit the Tlicho community on Jan. 13-14 after two of its three generators failed.

“When power goes out, maybe it’s an accident, but if two go out, it’s neglect,” he told MLAs. “They are maybe one diesel generator away from freezing in the dark. That’s because they don’t have a hydro transmission line for a backup. In fact, if a generator goes, there is no backup at all. 

“That’s a level three emergency alert, the power corporation’s highest state of emergency. Imagine if it was -50 C or -60 C. Good thing it was only around -10 C, -15 C. Imagine the danger to Whati’s Elders, the most vulnerable citizens. It could have been a lot worse.”

Diane Archie, minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC), apologized to residents of Whati for the outage and acknowledged that the territory’s power generating infrastructure is aging. 

She explained that the recent outages in Whati were related to generators and “issues” with the transmission line, where sections slapped together in high winds. 

Although she said the power plant in Whati isn’t scheduled to be replaced in the next five years, a new generator is set to be installed within the year, which is expected to improve reliability. 

Measures are also planned to prevent the affected power lines from slapping together. That work could be done in the next few weeks – “as soon as we can get the bucket truck in and the crew into the community,” Archie said. 

The minister added that the GNWT would try to seek federal funding for a transmission line into Whati.

But Lafferty criticized efforts to apply for federal funding as something that would take years. 

“The community of Whati doesn’t have the patience for that. They already lost patience when they had 20 hours of power outage. We need to take action now. Will the minister commit to a comprehensive infrastructure audit to search out maintenance problems, issues and recommend priority repairs, where necessary?” 

Archie responded that the government would look into ways of prioritizing federal funding towards improving infrastructure in Whati. 

NTPC customers experience three times more power outages than the Canadian average, with severe weather events a key contributing factor, Archie said in her initial remarks. 

Lafferty spoke just one day after a blackout lasting about 15 minutes hit most parts of Yellowknife during the evening of Feb. 2.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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