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.)
Great ideas Micheal, we need more individuals coming up with great ideas. The current assembly is filled with Ministers who have created so many problems just by their lack of knowledge. One thing that should change is not giving Minister appointments to uneducated individuals just based on sex or ethnicity. It should go to educated individuals who have experience. A perfect example is millions of dollars in taxpayer money to rebrand Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to NT Housing. Very sad good money being wasted on rebranding rather than building more houses. Lining pockets of friends to oversee projects and lots of sole source under the table contracts. The Territories need a lot more transparency from the elected officials.
Very good ideas, Michael.
I could not agree more with you Mr.Miltenberger. My Background allows me to assess these kind of situations, especially with very small economies such as the NWT.
I have moved my Family out of the NWT because of the exact reasons you have outlined in this column and previous ones. There is a uncertainty that I do not like. I am aware that small economies trajectories are like sinus curves, however, this one, in the NWT especially does look more grim than just to brush it off as a downwards sinus. The Government has failed in its highest degree, the responsibility to its tax base to provide a stable, responsible functioning economy with natural resources extraction as the only economic foot that is sensible. Selling t-shirts and a night under the aurora is not going to rescue the dwindling NWT economy.
It needs a group of folks who research what technologies are coming to the fore front in the world that can be used here in the north. This includes but not limited to Geothermal, LNG trucking, LNG power Plants, hydro on Mackenzie river, crucial mines that are stalled ( Fortune minerals, Osisko, North American Tungsten, Norzince) . The training of northern students to take park in the above developments. It covers A wide range of trades and technical jobs.