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Miltenberger: If I were premier

Steps to take for upcoming politicians

As a preface to this column let me end the rumours about the upcoming territorial election; I will not be running. I say this so the focus is on those who are interested in running. We need the next generation of leaders to step forward now.

However, if I was premier, here are the things that would be on my priority list for the 1460 days of my term:

I would initiate several expedited three-month processes, with clear mandates and outcomes, to focus on planning within GNWT departments. The 20th Assembly comes into office with the NWT in a state of decline, with no plan in place on how to turn things around. By working together with the other governments and sectors across the NWT, a plan to create the conditions to get things back on track can be ready within six months.

I would convene a meeting of the Intergovernmental Council to strike a blue chip committee of Northerners to identify the immediate steps needed to revitalize and rebalance our economy. We have an inefficient, oversized, top-heavy territorial government that smothers our shrinking private sector and economy, struggling regions and NGOs.

I would create an internal team tasked with the job of laying out how we can reduce by at least 30 per cent, the regulatory and administrative burden (red tape) the GNWT currently has in place. This red tape causes internal inefficiency, impairs the economy, drives up costs and disadvantages our constituents.

I would institute a short-term freeze on the creation of any new positions while we get our thinking clear.

I would commit to the full electrification of our communities using the surplus power from the Taltson in the south and using microgrid technology for all the other diesel-dependent communities. This can start right away and create an industry in the NWT. The cost of energy is crippling us. We can’t wait ten years hoping that the billions needed for the Taltson expansion and the transmission line to Yellowknife will magically appear while our communities suffer.

We need a territorial conversation on the role of the GNWT and what it should be doing. It is trying to be all things to all people, controlled from the centre and look where we are today. That conversation can start right away and is critical in helping us get our thinking clear in the longer term.

I would commit to creating the conditions that would allow the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link (MVFL) to do what was intended, specifically, connecting the communities up the valley and making Inuvik the preeminent remote sensing site in the circumpolar world. The political ball on this has been seriously dropped.

I would commit to rethinking our approach to housing across the NWT. It is too bureaucratic, with limited creativity that ignores the opportunities for collaboration among governments, individuals and the private sector. Every community, and the economy, is suffering because of this. The answers lie outside of government.

I would initiate a restructuring of our healthcare system. Our people are not currently well-served by the healthcare system and it is not just a question of more money. To improve services to our people we need a new, collaborative arrangement among the public system, the private system and most importantly the user. Too often the user is the loser in this political battle. That new arrangement is out there waiting to be forged.

It comes down to leadership and political will. 1460 days is not long, there is so much to do and so little time. The need is great, the opportunities many, and these are the priorities I think will have the greatest impact on Northern lives. The clock starts ticking the minute the polls close.

(Michael Miltenberger is a former longtime MLA and cabinet minister residing in Fort Smith.)