The issue: territorial politicians
We say: away too long

There’s still much to sort out when it comes to Covid impacts Covid-19 turned our lives upside down.

Our legislators were in the midst of a sitting of the territorial assembly when the coronavirus struck. It brought a halt to the proceedings, at least temporarily, the same way it shut down almost everything else. Cabinet and the regular MLAs agreed to call a recess in mid-March and resumed sessions on May 26.

Upon resumption, many will remember the time wasted on an empty-threat of a motion to remove Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Katrina Nokleby, but some good, and necessary, work wound up being done. The Emerging Wisely plan, debated online during the hiatus from the legislative assembly, was put into effect. It set out a road map – perhaps still lacking a few clear directional signs – to lead the NWT into recovery.

Cabinet and the regular MLAs agreed to invest an additional $65 million in the 2020-2021 budget to counter some of the harsh effects from Covid-19: items like wage top-ups, airline funding and other economic stimuli were part of that additional spending. The move drove territorial expenditures to an overall $1.96 billion for the year, but priming the economy during this burdensome and unprecedented time has been accepted as the best strategy around much of the world. 

Then on June 12, our cabinet ministers and MLAs took their leave. They won’t be back until Oct. 15.

That’s a long time to be gone during an extraordinary pandemic period. 

While we’ve entered phase two of the Emerging Wisely plan, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty for many small business owners, some of whom have reopened for limited business and are trying to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, other entrepreneurs are still watching uneasily from the sidelines, unsure whether they’ll be able to turn a profit under the remaining restrictions, or if a second wave of the virus is just around the corner. 

Elsewhere in the city, legions of public servants continue to work from home. There’s been no indication when they’ll be cleared to return to their workplaces. What will that plan look like? Will it occur in stages? If so, over how long a period? How many, if any, GNWT employees will be given permission to continue working from home long-term? Has government productivity suffered significantly over the past couple of months?

Of course, many parents and educators are wondering whether late summer will bring a return to school for students. Much could change between now and then. Will facilities welcome back all pupils, or will there be a combination of classroom lessons and home-based learning? What sort of precautions will be in place to ensure that education standards aren’t compromised?

These are just some of the many questions that Yellowknife residents are asking.

Under normal circumstances having our territorial politicians disappear from public view for four months wouldn’t create much of a fuss. But these are as far from normal circumstances as any period in recent memory.

Cabinet and the regular MLAs won’t be in the legislative assembly to guide the return to school – they’ll be reconvening several weeks later. Nobody will stand up in the House to insist that more be done to aid small businesses. Plans for bureaucrats returning to their offices will hang in the balance. 

This summer, of all summers, the silence from the legislative assembly will be resounding. 

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  1. If GNWT staff were deemed essential, then why aren’t they back in offices in some regard? Half days, or every second day. I’ve been working more than usual this summer because we can’t bring up people from the south to fill in without them doing a 2 week isolation. I’m good with that. I’m working my butt off and GNWT employees are out in drives, on weekdays, at the golf course or on pub patios in the middle of the day. How essential are your services if you can take three months off and there is no change in public service? Clearly there are way too many GNWT staff. I hope they all enjoy their $2/hr raises, they certainly have not earned it.