The City of Yellowknife has developed a Territorial Election Platform much like the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and asked all candidates running within Yellowknife four (4) questions ranging from community underfunding to social support to economic development. Below you will find the questions, some background information and my responses. I welcome any comments or questions you might have regarding these four topic maters. I can be reached anytime through my contact page. You can also see all my responses to election questionnaires on the updates page of this website.
Community Government Underfunding
Community Government Underfunding Background
In 2014, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) and the Northwest Territories Association of Communities (NWTAC) completed a review of community funding policies with the participation of a stakeholders group of community leaders and administrators representing a cross-section of Northwest Territories (NWT) communities. The Funding review process was completed in a transparent, inclusive and comprehensive manner.
As the Minister of MACA noted in his Minister’s statement on February 27, 2019: “It started us on the path towards more accurate and detailed information for both the department and community governments, and a clear and defendable approach to calculating community government funding needs. The review also identified a large difference between current funding levels and full needs-based funding.”
The review found that communities in the NWT were underfunded by $40 million annually. Since the review, there have been small increases but no implementation plan to close the underfunding gap. This shortfall makes it difficult for communities to effectively deliver essential services, maintain infrastructure and assets, and be resilient for future challenges. In addition, as the Conference Board of Canada’s 2015 report (Economic Impacts of Community Spending on the Territorial Economy) calculated, by closing the community funding gap, 220 additional permanent jobs across the Northwest Territories would be created.
The formula financing for municipalities needs to be equitable. It is not. It needs to be changed. I will work towards ensuring Yellowknife and other municipalities get the level of funding needed as MACA has already acknowledged. Government has created a huge gap that continues to grow annually throughout the North, with Yellowknife taking the biggest hit. GNWT should use some of the projected $60 million operating surplus to reduce this under funding. ( See MACA report, “Focus on the Future August 2019 page 14 “”the 2019-2020 operating surplus is projected at $60 million representing an increase in revenues greater than the increase in expenditures.” MACA admits government is failing to provide adequate funding but is not making the changes. This can’t continue. I have no problem to calling on government to “fix” this.
Transfer of Commissioner’s Land to Community Governments
Commissioner’s Land Transfer Background
City Council recently established Goals and Objectives for 2019-2022 and specifically prioritized strategic land development and increased growth of development opportunities. Specifically, the City will focus on diversity of development options and promotion of development across the City. It is difficult for the City to achieve these objectives without fee simple tenure to public lands within municipal boundaries. Under the current regime, the City must apply to the GNWT for public lands within the municipal boundary and is often not granted the lands as requested.
The City of Yellowknife is home to close to half the population of the NWT, but has tenure to a very small portion of the land that is used to provide services for residents, businesses, industry, and visitors. While the City of Yellowknife is responsible for administering by-laws within the municipal boundary, the City only has ownership of approximately 9% of the land within the municipal boundary: 1% of land within the municipal boundary is vacant and available for development. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the City to be able to responsibly plan for and invest in future community development without fee simple title to lands within our boundary.
In addition, developers want certainty, consistency and reasonable timeframes to proceed with development and business opportunity initiatives. When most of the land within the municipal boundary requires a land application, consultation, survey and then transfer, the City is not in a position to facilitate timely development and therefore economic development is hindered.
I am not convinced a total transfer of commissioners lands to the Municipality is necessary at this time. For example work must be done on identifying a campus location for a Polytechnic Institute. Different potential sites need to be identified. The Yellowknife Dene have not completed their claims negotiations. If real reconciliation is to occur in this community then, in my view, land transfer decisions can only be completed with the involvement and support of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. The three governments must work together to identify and transfer lands that are needed to address city growth.
Social Support Background
The impacts of homelessness, addictions and mental health have always been present in Yellowknife, but recently, the impacts have become increasingly visible within the community. While significant work has been done to address homelessness, addictions and mental health issues in Yellowknife, individuals and families continue to struggle with these complex and often intertwined problems:
– There were 338 people counted as experiencing homelessness during the 2018 Yellowknife Point-inTime (PiT) Homeless Count. Only 16% reported being from Yellowknife; about a third (36%) of survey participants had arrived in the past 5 years. The top reasons people reported for migrating is connecting with families and employment.
– As identified in the GNWT’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Framework, alcohol and drug use is very costly to our system. Between 2008/09 and 2010/11, on an annual average basis, 429 NWT patients were hospitalized 615 times with one or more alcohol or drug related issue, resulting in 3,250 bed days at an estimated cost of $7.5 million to the territorial health system.
City Council recently established Goals and Objectives for 2019-2022, and specifically prioritized working with partners to address pressing social issues. In particular, our Objective 3.3 identifies:
– Work with partners to address public disturbances.
– Focus on bringing partners and funding to support the implementation of the City’s 10‐year plan to end homelessness.
On page of the 10-year Homeless action it states: Homelessness in Yellowknife and the North is a legacy of Canada’s colonial past, intimately tied to the ongoing impacts of residential schooling and intergenerational trauma. As such, homelessness is much more than someone’s lack of housing or shelter – it is a manifestation of dispossession, displacement, and disruption for people, families, and entire Indigenous communities at a spiritual, social, and material level. Finding a way forward to end homelessness is therefore more than providing housing and shelter – as much as these remain essential. True wellness places importance on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of people, families, and communities, and their interconnectedness with one another and the land. [Christensen, J. (2017) No Home in a Homeland – Indigenous peoples and Homelessness in the Canadian North. UBC Press]
I agree with that analysis. I will work as closely as possible with the City’s “Call to Action.,” by providing resource I will have access to and by advocating for the building of appropriate homes. In part, the homeless crisis has continued because most clients are placed in existing apartment building and are left with few supports. Their lifestyle and often their preferences are not conducive to those living spaces. Homeless housing needs, I believe, will be most effectively addressed when the homeless people have an equitable voice in what is developed. We cannot set priorities in isolation from the clients. Engaging them with other support workers would enable the development of an effective action plan. Timelines must be defined so there is ongoing accountability. In speaking with some of those stuck on the street, they indicated their interest in tiny home clusters. Any housing must also be coupled with a both addictions rehab and mental health support programs. Job mentoring and placement needs to be developed to help bring them when they are able, of unemployment and dependency. Some may do better in their home communities at the appropriate point in their recovery. Better community services and a relocation program may encourage some to return to their families.
City of Yellowknife Economic Development
Economic Development Background
Diversity is the key to a strong, sustainable and resilient economy. The sustainability and growth of the NWT economy requires strategic investment and diversification.
Mining and exploration has been a core part of our economy but diamond production has reached its peak and will decline in the next decade. In the Conference Board of Canada’s annual economic forecast (Summer 2019), economic growth in the NWT will be modest in the near term, hovering in the 2% range, but will subsequently ease sharply over the long term due primarily to weaker investment in the mining sector.
Earlier this year, Council identified growing and diversifying our local economy as one of the four goals that we’d like to achieve during our time in office. Actions to be taken to fulfill this goal include implementing a governance structure for a destination marketing organization that will maximize the economic benefits of tourism; working with partners to maximize the community and economic development benefits from an expanded post-secondary presence in Yellowknife; and updating the City’s economic development strategy.
I want to see need more green initiatives. This should include renewable energy developments. Resource extraction projects must continue to work collaboratively with Indigenous governments and business. Continuing to focus on Northern employment through training, education and mentoring are all part of the economic renewal cycle. Means must be found to have workers living in the NWT regardless of where they come from. This will require managing the cost of living better through utility cost reduction, and developing more efficient, less costly transportation of goods.
Stimulating housing construction and refitting through a rebate or subsidy on the transportation of building materials.
I want to see the knowledge economy become a stable contributor to our development through Post secondary Education programs and E-commerce developments. Improvements in internet infrastructure and costs would make e-commerce more viable.
I want to see better infrastructure and improved local services so tourisms continues to grow. Small businesses need some breaks! Equalizing domestic and commercial rates would provide a direct benefit to the small business community.
The “arts” thrive in the North but get minimal support – that must change. Research shows $1.00 spent in the arts generates $7.00 of economic activity. We must diversify our economy!
As we design a replacement for the visitors centre we could incorporate a visual arts centre and possibly a new library. Making it a multipurpose which included a visual centre would provide opportunities for local artists to produce and sell their work. Adding a new library would draw more people to use the space, giving a more aseptic gathering place for community members not just tourists.
The development of a University in Yellowknife will not only be an economic stimulus, it will provide stability that the boom and bust cycle of resource extraction doesn’t provide. The University must be independent from the GNWT. This would facilitate corporate and foundation contributions to the development and operation of the University.
Government could help homeowners and business bring down their operational costs through better subsidies on renewable energy initiatives. The develop of wind farms, solar farms like the ones in Fort Simpson and Coville Lake would provide long term stable energy costs.
Realizing that there is a lot of information here to read about the City of Yellowknife Territorial election questions and answers, if you would rather talk about any of these issues in person I welcome your emails and calls, or in-person conversations.