If Tom Beaulieu used the #DearMeTenYearsAgo handle that was popular on Twitter last week, he might have been more reflective on his own high level involvement with government decisions that continue to reverberate today.
The Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA announced earlier this month that he won’t seek a fourth term in the coming territorial election. It’s easy to point to the perks of the job but we must concede that territorial politics isn’t easy and quite often isn’t fun.
Beaulieu deserves thanks for his service, as well as for giving other potential candidates ample time to decide whether to run in what will be an open seat come Tuesday, Oct. 1.
He should also be thanked for some of his parting observations, in particular, his statement to News/North on the territorial government’s inability “to spend strategically so the results 10 years down the road produce good outcomes in all areas.”
Governments should always aspire to be prepared and spend strategically. We have heard similar remarks when it comes to the GNWT’s respond to climate change, highway infrastructure, aging diamond mines, remorseless increases to the cost of living, and the territory’s aging (and declining) population.
But surely, if we’re looking at previous governments, for instance, when Beaulieu was serving in cabinet (2011-2015), one would think some of that responsibility would fall on his shoulders.
Beaulieu held several portfolios that term that were critical to the charges he is now laying on his colleagues in government. At various times, he was minister of Health and Social Services, Transportation, Human Resources, Public Works, and minister responsible for seniors and persons with disabilities.
For starters, it was under his watch as health minister that the last remaining addictions treatment centre in the territory was shut down, the Natse’jee K’eh Treatment Centre on the Hay River Reserve. He blamed the closure on a lack of qualified counsellors.
We must also point to the first disastrous Auditor General’s report on child and family services, which came a year after he was shuffled out of health in 2014. A different minister was there to accept it – Glen Abernethy, who still holds the job today – but surely Beaulieu, who was health minister from 2011 to 2013, bears some responsibility for the report’s damning conclusions.
Beaulieu was also at the centre of another curious controversy in 2014 when longtime GNWT bureaucrat Sheila Bassi-Kellett – now SAO of Yellowknife — was fired as deputy minister of Human Resources. Beaulieu was the minister at the time.
Her firing, which the GNWT acknowledged was without cause, came amid reports that Beaulieu insisted he would resign if the premier didn’t fire her. We don’t know how much it cost the government to cut Bassi-Kellett loose but it certainly wouldn’t have been cheap.
It should also be pointed out, while Beaulieu was only in cabinet for a single term during his 12 years in the legislative assembly, he was still an MLA. That’s far more influence over the GNWT than the average Northerner has.
Entering politics and running for one’s communities is not for the faint of heart and it is always important to hear veteran MLAs give their insights as they leave office. But if Beaulieu is expressing frustrations with GNWT spending and priorities, he should take a look in the mirror.
He’s as much a part of the problem as anybody else.