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Fewer goals should prevent Ptarmigan effect in new NWT Assembly

Even though I didn’t run for MLA and didn’t win a seat in the assembly (congrats to those who ran and those who won), I did vote which entitles me to an opinion of how the government should move forward.

Bruce Valpy, Publisher, NNSL Media, Northern News Services Ltd.As our new MLAs sit down in their gilded hall, there will be ideas floated that will have to be set down into marching orders for the 4,000 plus civil servants at their command.

The last assembly set out 230 commitments staff were called upon to carry out, which would only have the effect of a flock of ptarmigan trying to cross a road. We've all seen that. Try to pick out the smartest ptarmigan. You can't. They all seem to have a similar destination but take a different route to get there, alarmed by everything, often ending up wide-eyed back in the willow branches where they started.

There may have been a lot accomplished on paper but what tangible results? Our former education minister is on record saying our education system is failing. All the dismal numbers representing the stunted futures of our community youth support what she said. There is a plan in place – NWT Education Renewal. It now requires funding and action in that order.

The economy is melting like the permafrost in Tuktoyaktuk with a staggering rate of unemployment in communities outside Yellowknife. There is not one Indigenous leader who would not support the goal of jobs for their people. There is not one MLA who would deny the merit of that goal. This common purpose has power that should not be frittered away by traditional differences of governance.

The high rate of addictions is a symptom of poor mental health in our communities. Mental health is a problem in every Canadian town and city but we can be confident the extremely high rates in the North are directly related to the failure of both our education system and our economy. The efforts we have put into our hospitals and nursing stations has to be extended to treating the people suffering now as we correct the historic failures of the past.

If MLAs want success they should avoid sending GNWT bureaucrats scurrying in different directions like ptarmigan trying to cross the road. NNSL file photo

Political partnership means aligning the goals of our central government – the GNWT – with the goals of the Indigenous governments whose creation and success will not only determine the future of the NWT but will define us as people. Can we do something different as we know we need to do?

Housing is the most important goal of all and here is where the whole GNWT should turn its attention. Families cannot be healthy, children cannot learn, addictions feed on despair in crowded homes. The poverty we are perpetuating due to the failure of our education system and economy casts a gloom over all of us in the territory, Indigenous or not, although the Indigenous population is singled out for the harshest consequence of our failures.

No one in government lacks a home. Yet, at election time, that rare instance where community people are given a voice, housing tops the list.

If our MLAs set their sights on this target, they will prevent the Ptarmigan effect, helping us all move forward together to fulfill the promise of what new blood, new purpose can bring with new and experienced leaders holding our future in their hands. 

In the GNWT, the Canadian people have given us what must be the best resourced bureaucracy per capita in the world. MLAs must challenge each and every worker, department and minister to show results that will make everyone sit up and take notice.