Wally Schumann is not impressed with the idea of providing government money to the owner of Mackenzie Place highrise to help repair damage from a March 15 fire that has displaced about 130 residents.
The owner, Harry Satdeo, did not have insurance on the 16-storey apartment building.
At a meeting of some of the displaced people on March 27, Schumann, the MLA for Hay River South and a territorial cabinet minister, was asked about Satdeo’s government funding suggestion made in an interview with The Hub.
Schumann said he would be “brutally honest” in his answer.
“Do you think that we would probably go out of our way to help Harry rebuild a building when I’m sitting here answering questions that he should be sitting here answering?” the MLA said.
It is a crisis situation, Schumann added. “But this is a very weird situation when we’re sitting up here answering questions that should be clearly set on the owner’s shoulders.”
Satdeo, who lives in Florida, has not visited Hay River since the fire occurred.
As quoted in The Hub of March 27, he said he plans to reopen Mackenzie Place in a couple of months and on coming to Hay River, probably in a couple of weeks.
Schumann refers to Satdeo as an absentee owner.
“I made that quite clear since last week to everybody in this room that the Government of the Northwest Territories is stepping in to fill a void where the owner should be,” the MLA said at the March 27 meeting. “He’s the one that should be here dealing with every individual, along with himself. If they had insurance on this building, they would be dealing with you guys on an individual basis. He clearly has not done that. That’s why we are here as part of the Emergency Measures Act and doing all we can to help everybody. And I’m sure everybody would have a lot of questions for Harry if he was here.”
There are about 130 apartments in the now-vacant Mackenzie Place, and 83 of them were rented at the time of the fire.
It occurred on the 11th floor, and water damage extends downwards, mainly on the north side of the building.
At the March 27 meeting, only Schumann and Mayor Kandis Jameson appeared before the displaced people, a striking contrast with meetings the week before when there were several other government officials.
“It’s pretty apparent that things are slowing down and hopefully getting better,” said Jameson. “I hear some of you have houses assigned.”
As of last week, some of the displaced people were still being accommodated in the Dene Wellness and Development Centre on the Hay River Reserve, while others were in hotels, staying with friends or family, or had found other accommodations.
At the March 27 meeting, Schumann read an update from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs on its efforts to meet the emergency housing requirements.
Among the highlights of the update were:
- The NWT Housing Corporation has secured seven single units and four houses for families. Housing assessments are underway and the units will be assigned once that work is concluded.
- Additional units have been identified, but it will take time to prepare for their occupancy, ranging from a few days to two or three months.
- The GNWT has signed leases for seven one-bedroom furnished units at Hay River Suites. Tenant allocations are underway with a priority to impacted income support clients.
- An additional four three-bedroom unfurnished units are being leased from the federal government and were to be ready for occupancy on April 1.
- The NWT Housing Corporation has finalized arrangements with K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) to expedite the repair of six family-sized units on the reserve for allocation within two or three weeks.
- An additional eight two-bedroom housing units on the reserve will be brought on stream over the next four months as they are repaired.
- The NWT Housing Corporation has yet to have discussions with KFN on short-term housing arrangements at the Dene Wellness and Development Centre beyond April 15.
- Individuals who are not GNWT clients and had their own rental agreements prior to the fire are expected to find their own housing.
- The NWT Housing Corporation has compiled a list of available rental units available for people to re-enter the rental market.