Education Minister Alfred Moses needs a time out to think about what he has done. Or more specifically, what he hasn’t done — yet.

When Premier Bob McLeod handed him his ministerial mandate letter on March 1, 2016 it contained very specific instructions: “Develop an action plan for universal daycare within the next two years, including a timeline for implementation.”

The letter also ordered him to improve the affordability of daycare. So far, he has failed to deliver on both. If anything, the cost of daycare has increased under his watch. The up to 100 hours less class time his government negotiated with teachers last year means more days parents must take off from work or pay for childcare.

No one raising in children in Yellowknife needs to be reminded how extremely expensive childcare is. Two kids under four? That’s a second monthly mortgage payment right there.

Alas on Oct. 18, McLeod tabled the latest, shiniest edition of the assembly’s revised mandate: and it included some literal gymnastics. Gone was the commitment to “implementing universal and affordable childcare.” In its place residents are told the government is now only committing to “making childcare available and affordable” — however that works.

If anything, the number of daycare spaces in Yellowknife has shrunk over the years, especially for that critical age group of between one and three years when parents return to work but before children are old enough to enter other programs, such as Montessori.

There are a multitude of dayhomes in the city but many are unlicensed and a flash in the pan, remaining open for only a year or two.

Jack Bourassa of the PSAC North asks what exactly “affordable” means.

“What the government thinks is affordable and what is really the case for those people who are living in the NWT may not be one and the same,” he said.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly took it one step further last September, when he showed the education minister the money– specifically, a study tabled in 2015 that showed childcare could be offered across the NWT for about $20 million a year, while increasing women’s participation in the workforce and boosting the GDP.

With our perennially cash-strapped government, perhaps universal daycare in the territory is too much to hope for at present. But it shouldn’t dream up lofty goals if it can’t follow through.

It hurts the credibility of the government and reminds voters that mandates – i.e., political platforms – in the Northwest Territories aren’t developed until after the election. There is no way to punish the government for failing to live up to its promises. Voters simply don’t have a mandate for that in consensus government.

Inquiry needs to get its act together

Do government institutions really care about Indigenous issues?

There are all those speeches and promises — but is it all just hot air? The delays surrounding the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls seem to indicate the next, great disappointment.

Hearings were meant to be held in Yellowknife this month but have now – without explanation — been delayed and won’t take place until sometime in January 2018. For those people being encouraged by the inquiry to come forward and tell their personal stories, this must sting.

And this isn’t the first time the inquiry has failed to live up to expectations. Disorganization, rumours of in-fighting and commissioners stepping down do not bode well for the success of such an important initiative. Good intentions count for little in this space.

The inquiry was established to examine systemic violence against Indigenous women and girls and provide recommendations on how to affect change — but so far, it’s been less than successful.

In an interim report released Wednesday, the inquiry blamed federal government red tape for the delays it has faced. But bureaucracy is a reality institutions must live with, so get your act together, inquiry, and make it work. Your success will go a long way to prove Indigenous issues are important to the country as a whole and that they are taken seriously. Find a way to work within the system to give families the chance to share their stories.

Get to the bottom of the systemic issues that lead to missing women and girls. If people can’t even get a successful, organized inquiry, how on Earth can they expect actual change?

 

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