Editor’s note: Mayor Rebecca Alty, in consultation with city council, is writing a weekly column during the territorial election exploring the needs and issues facing the City of Yellowknife. This is the first of four columns to appear in each Wednesday Yellowknifer through September.
With the nomination period now officially open, Yellowknife city council is reaching out to all of the Yellowknife MLA candidates to get their positions on some pressing issues in our community and how they will work to address them during their term as decision-makers for the territory. The city’s questions fall under four topics:
1. Community government under-funding
2. Transfer of Commissioner’s Land to community governments
3. Addressing social issues
4. The economy
Some of the issues above are no brainers and clearly every candidate is going to have a plan or position. Others you may be wondering how does it impact you and why is it important? Leading up to the election, we’ll have a weekly op-ed to explain the issue, and you can also find out more on our website (where we will be posting the candidates’ answers and we hope you will read them before heading to the polls).
To kick off this week, we’ll be talking about the value of funding community governments appropriately.
In 2014, the GNWT initiated a review of community funding policies, involving elected leaders and senior administrative staff representatives from NWT community governments. The funding review process was evidence-based and completed in a transparent, inclusive and comprehensive manner.
As the minister of MACA noted in his Minister’s statement in February 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 collectively by $40 million annually – with the City of Yellowknife being underfunded by $11.5 million. Since the review, there have been small increases but no implementation plan to close the under-funding gap. This shortfall makes it difficult for communities to effectively deliver essential services, maintain infrastructure and assets, and be resilient for future challenges.
Community finances are similar to personal finances. If you work hard but bring in less money than you need to feed your family and keep a roof over your head – you’re heading for a disaster. You may cut back on unnecessary items, and consider borrowing, but you can only stay afloat for so long before things become unsustainable.
With the City of Yellowknife underfunded by $11.5 million per year, it will become harder and harder to ensure residents have safe roads, clean drinking water, well-managed garbage and sewage disposal, recreation facilities, fire and ambulance services, and more without making some tough choices.
If you care about ensuring your city has these core services, make sure you ask candidates: What is your position on the current funding formula for community governments? What steps will you take to ensure that communities are funded fairly?