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Open letter to premier from former Sahtu MLA Danny McNeely

Dear Premier Cochrane,
Tulita Northwest Territories May 24, 2007 from a Buffalo Airplane.The community played host to a public engagement session on the Bear River Bridge Project at the start of June. Infrastructure investment will be critical to the economic recovery of the Sahtu and the NWT, writes former Sahtu MLA Danny McNeely. NNSL file photo

Dear Premier Cochrane,

It is indeed with profound interest that I read your detailed economic recovery plan for the Northwest territories as it relates to the havoc associated with the ongoing Covid pandemic. Emerging Stronger/Executive and Indigenous Affairs offers optimism and engagement as we all cope in particular, with the economic fallout of the pandemic’s ongoing assault.

The proposed direct engagement with Indigenous government(s) to establish greater and more meaningful collaboration is welcomed. It is of single and paramount importance that our Indigenous Governments take a cooperative and united role in assuaging the impacts of the pandemic. We applaud your commitment in this regard.

Similarly, specific policy initiatives such as reforming procurement protocols will have significant and positive impacts on timely infrastructure development and enhancement critical to our recovery, Delays in project commencement through procurement inefficiencies is a developmental hurdle that can readily be resolved through a renewed procurement policy.

The concept of inviting the various Indigenous Governments to be involved as equity partners is bold and overdue. We are cognitively aware of infrastructure shortfalls specific to respective communities and recognize financial constraints on the GNWT’s capacity to address these mounting infrastructure needs. Community involvement and equity participation is an expeditious route in establishing strategies to address the economic rehabilitation. Community involvement can provide a vital role in establishing project priority and funding relief.

A number of approved capital projects of significance also will provide a meaningful amelioration of economic recovery. The Mackenzie Valley Highway is in large part a catalyst to our NWT recovery plan. In light of pre-financial commitments of 26 per cent of capital cost, submission of work permits, the anticipated environmental assessment, etc., will reflect work opportunities this winter. Notwithstanding inherent Indigenous participation as prescribed in various Land Claim Agreements, the GNWT’s commitment to direct engagement and collaboration is fundamental to sustained and accelerated economic recovery.

With respect to project advancement, it was comforting to participate with the GNWT’s Department of Infrastructure’s recent Tulita June 01, 2021 Community Engagement in regards to the Bear River Bridge Project. This infrastructure enhancement is vital to our region’s economic recovery and future benefits to accrue subsequent to project completion.

We recognize the road to economic recovery is a precarious journey as the pandemic continues. The hope to effectively meeting these difficult challenges is contained in your Emerging Strong manifesto.

Thank you for your assistance in renewed Indigenous Engagement. we look forward to working in a collaborative manner for the returned wellness of our community and the Northwest Territories as a whole.