The extreme chutzpah of Harry Satdeo


No matter what you think of Harry Satdeo – the owner of the Mackenzie Place highrise – there’s no denying that he has chutzpah.

When contacted by The Hub about the March 15 fire that damaged the highrise and emptied it of tenants for an as-yet-to-be-determined amount of time, Satdeo confirmed the open secret that his company, Satdeo Inc., had no insurance on the building.

More than that, he also expressed confidence that Mackenzie Place will be reopened in a couple of months, and said he hoped government will help him pay to fix up the building in the absence of insurance.

Those statements came from an owner who has not yet seen fit to travel to Hay River after the fire, leaving the response to the crisis in the hands of the GNWT, a multitude of community organizations and the goodwill of residents.

In such a situation, asking for help from government to fix up the highrise is chutzpah in the extreme.

In an odd way, you have to admire Satdeo for that – admire in the sense that it is amazing that he would even suggest that government bail him out.

Chutzpah is a wonderful Yiddish word that doesn’t have an exact English equivalent. In fact, a number of English words are required to define chutzpah – audacity, self-confidence, gall, shamelessness, boldness and cheekiness. None of those English words by itself can really describe Satdeo’s behaviour in this situation. Chutzpah comes the closest.

Imagine Satdeo’s thought process that resulted in him suggesting government help him out of this mess when he didn’t have insurance on his property. It would appear that government was the insurance policy, when real insurance proved to be too expensive.

When we first heard Satdeo say he would like government help, we honestly didn’t know if he was serious or just messing with our heads.

If he is serious, you would think he’d be in Hay River as soon as possible, and dealing with the crisis to make some friends in high places. However, he is still nowhere to be seen, while the GNWT and others deal with the aftermath of the fire, including finding accommodations for an estimated 135 displaced people.

Like we said, chutzpah.

We also find it curious that it is the law that a driver must have a vehicle insured in case you dent another vehicle or injure someone else, while insurance is apparently not a legal requirement for apartment buildings. In the case of the highrise fire, lives have been upended, although luckily there were no injuries. We would argue that a fire in an apartment building is more serious than a dented bumper. But what do we know?

As for what happens now with the highrise, it’s anybody’s guess.

Perhaps Satdeo will find the money to repair and reopen the structure, perhaps government will help out financially, perhaps the building will never reopen.

Satdeo – as the owner of the property – will obviously have the most say in what happens.

And while chutzpah is a good thing to have, it is not going to solve this problem.