I am responding to Michael Miltenberger’s call in Yellowknifer and News/North asking: “Who of those that want to lead can tell us where is the NWT going and how are we going to get there, because no one I know likes where we are.”
Read more: Miltenberger: Where is the NWT going and how do we get there?
People should note Mr. Miltenberger’s impressive track record as an MLA. He was in the NWT Legislative Assembly for 20 years, from 1995 to 2015. During those 20 years, he was minister of Health and Social Services before becoming deputy-premier and minister for environment and natural resources and finance minister.
Mr. Miltenberger is critical of the present direction of the territorial government, describing it as “centralization of authority and decision-making into Yellowknife.” This is surprising from the main architect of that very centralizations as finance minister.
Mr. Miltenberger, as finance minister, attempted to move on the tax-based Yellowknife school boards until their defenders took him to the woodshed for a talk and he backed down. He did oversee the takeover of the health, social services and all other education boards. The precedent likely gave the GNWT the idea to take over the boards of Northwest Territories Power Commission and Aurora College, as Mr. Miltenberger mentions.
Mr. Miltenberger is also proud of the 2013 devolution agreement he and his cabinet colleagues worked on so hard, praising it as the tool to free the GNWT from the yoke of the federal government. Did the regional centres and smaller communities see the benefit?
Is it possible that the devolution deal was behind the growth since 2015 where, in his words, the “number of GNWT employees has ballooned up to 6,249, plus casuals,” a 25 per cent increase? The majority of those positions went to Yellowknife.
This history doesn’t make Mr. Miltenberger’s criticisms and observations of the recent direction of the GNWT any less valid but he should consider his role in the centralization of spending in Yellowknife at the expense of the regional centres like Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells. That’s the misguided mindset acquired when people enter cabinet.
And who could disagree with his view? “No one seems to be in charge and our consensus-based system of government has taken a beating as a result.”
We need more knowledgeable Northerners like Mr. Miltenberger coming forward to focus on the upcoming election.
In answer to Mr. Miltenberger’s call to action for aspiring MLAs, I want to put forth a simple platform: Support the communities — healing, housing, education. See http://nwt2023.ca/
Had we been working on these three foundational requirements for a healthy, fiscally responsible territory since 1995, we would not be in the tattered shape in which we find ourselves outside of Yellowknife.
It’s time to form a strong consensus for the new government before the election in October, not after. This is an opportunity for unity of purpose, an invitation to all to act in the best interests of the NWT for the next four years and beyond.
Bruce Valpy is a longtime Northerner living in Yellowknife and former publisher/CEO of NNSL Media. He has declared his candidacy to run for MLA in the Oct. 3, 2023 territorial election. His platform can be found at NWT2023.ca.
Housing, education and healing would have been better served if the terrified government of Bob ‘red alert’ McLeod and his government(s) had raised royalty rates on the mining companies. Will Mr. Valpy challenge the mining companies to pay their fair share? Or will he settle for a rub and a tickle?