Taxpayers in the Northwest Territories have every right to be upset about last week’s announcement about a new 150 person Covid-19 response secretariat which will add another healthy dose of civil servants to an already top-heavy bureaucracy.
The last thing we need is more salaries to pay when economic recovery looks dubious at best and when the needs of the private sector are too often forgotten. It’s no small wonder that there is a ground swell of resentment against the size of the civil service in the NWT already.
Now it seems, it’s getting worse.
We are being told that those who birthed the idea hope some of the funding will come from the federal government. Either way, it’s money that could be spent on other urgently needed services such as housing, mental health, addictions treatment, small and medium business aid and environmental protection and we will be requesting it at a time when all governments everywhere are almost tapped out.
It seems as though we’ve forgotten that there are other critical issues needing our immediate attention. This single-minded focus on preparing for a second wave of Covid-19 more than five months in while the first wave fortunately missed us can only make a frustrated public even angrier while inciting more fear when calm is required. This dramatic increase of a Covid-19 team now will do little to allay that.
Though Covid-19 does of course need our special attention, it cannot be our sole focus as we try to move ahead in the best way we can.
Students have just returned to school and across this country all eyes are watching to see how they do and the effect on Covid-19 numbers. We know that teachers are concerned about exposure and class sizes. In creating this secretariat, did we consider how we can best support our teachers, children and parents?
Do they have all the supplies they need and support staff ready in the wings? They will be needed. Does the “secretariat” include these boots on the ground or is it just more cumbersome administrative personnel?
Have the number of mental health professionals been increased to respond to the growing demands of those suffering from domestic or child abuse or even stationed in schools for the kids and teachers?
Has money been allocated to deal with the housing crisis in a more permanent way? We remember too well the frightened look of the homeless stuck on the streets of Yellowknife last April.
What about environmental issues and looking for green ways to meet our energy needs? Let’s not forget that climate change was our number one issue before Covid-19 hasn’t gone away. People in California are being reminded of that daily as they attempt to deal with wildfires raging out of control.
Let’s not forget too, that it was only recently that Alberta said it would be dropping its environmental protection regulations thus threatening water coming into the territories directly affecting our people, land and animals. Will the secretariat be addressing that?
At no time during my recent travel through B.C. did I see or hear the same kind of single focus attention which is happening in the NWT. As some say, it takes on the appearance of fear mongering here rather than problem solving. True, there has been a slight increase in Covid-19 numbers in B.C. but people are being respectful of social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.
People are aware. People want to do the right thing. Most know we are in this together. And they want to see some level of careful movement forward. No more fear, please. We need that for our mental health.
Adding to an already unwieldy and top heavy bureaucracy is not the way to go. Instituting holistic programming for a broad range of essential needs is.