The NWT Association of Communities has identified five big election issues for territorial communities and is now surveying MLA candidates for their solutions, critiques and responses.
Affordable housing, drug and alcohol treatment centres, an anti-poverty strategy, climate change impact mitigation, and health care services were identified as the highest priority needs for the association’s member base, which includes communities and municipalities across the NWT.
Questions based on these issues are being circulated to all MLA candidates, whose responses will then be circulated throughout the communities.
“We want to assist people in making informed decisions,” NWTAC president Gordon Van Tighem told The Journal.
Van Tighem said strengthening health care in communities with more nurses and ground ambulance services is integral for the health of communities and balancing spending.
“Some communities don’t have access to medical facilities, so that increases the number of medivacs, which leaves less money for other things,” he said. “It’s all sort of a balancing act; the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone. More nurses and ambulances on the ground frees up more money for things like infrastructure.”
Questions on the territory’s aging infrastructure will also be included in the survey for candidates. Van Tighem said many issues surrounding roads and buildings in the North are directly related to climate change, such as weather impacts on old, flat-roof construction.
“It was fine when the snow used to evaporate, but now with the thawing and freezing it’s heavy,” he said, which puts buildings at risk for collapsing. He said road heaving is also a problem.
Aging infrastructure also impacts affordable housing. The NWT Housing Corporation is the primary owner of housing in the territory and its stock is expensive to maintain, mostly due to the need for ongoing government subsidization of the actual cost of operating the housing unit.
“The anti-poverty strategy and affordable housing are tied together as significant Northern issues,” said Van Tighem. “Housing is at in the front of the mind all across the North. It’s something talked about in all my meetings in Yukon, Nunavut and throughout the Northwest Territories.”
Van Tighem said he hopes MLA candidates will respond to questions communities have identified as being crucial to their well-being. Responses to the survey will be posted on NWTAC’s website for voters to evaluate.