The Northwest Territories Association of Communities (NWTAC) will be holding its annual general meeting in Hay River this week.
Sara Brown, CEO of the association, said typically 120 people attend the meeting, which this year is set from Feb. 15 to Feb. 18.
“It’s actually one of the biggest political meetings in the territory every year,” she noted.
Among the highlights of the AGM is an appearance by the territorial cabinet.
“They come almost every year,” said Brown. “The premier and all of cabinet but for one will be there, and we’re always excited to have them join us.”
Most of the cabinet are scheduled to be at the AGM on Feb. 17 to appear as a panel in front of the delegates to answer their questions.
“It’s affectionately called the bear pit,” said Brown. “We don’t call it that on the agenda.”
She said Caroline Cochrane, the minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, is expected to attend most of the AGM, while Finance Minister and Environment and Natural Resources Minister Robert C. McLeod is unable to attend.
Brown expects a wide variety of issues will be discussed at the AGM, including the coming legalization of cannabis, protecting communities from wildfires, funding to deal with climate change, the proposed 911 system for emergency calls, the GNWT’s agricultural strategy, and much more.
“It’s pretty broad subject matter,” she said.
The NWTAC represents all 33 communities in the territory, but not all are expected to be represented at the annual meeting.
“We typically get between 27 or 28 of the 33,” said Brown, adding that a good turnout is expected this year.
The AGM will include the election of a new president and four of seven directors.
In addition, there will be training for elected officials, and presentations by Arctic Energy Alliance and the NWT Recreation and Parks Association.
The AGM was last held in Hay River three years ago.
Mayor Brad Mapes is happy to see the meeting return.
“I think it’s great for the town,” he said. “It’s great to have all of our peers and our other community leaders that are going to be in town.”
Mapes said the AGM allows for discussion of common issues facing communities in the North.
“It’s a way to generate ideas for working together, and getting ideas going forward is the way to move the territories forward,” he said.
Mapes said Hay River will again bring up the issue of underfunding by the GNWT through its formula funding, which leaves the town $5 million short each year.
The AGM had originally been planned for the new recreation centre, but the meeting has been relocated since the rec centre is still not open.
“So we’re now in the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre and also in the lower level of the Ptarmigan Inn,” noted Brown.
She said she was looking forward to seeing the new rec centre.
“I’ve been hearing about it for a while, but we understand that this happens,” she said. “And we had a Plan B in mind the whole time.”
Mapes said it is disappointing the new recreation centre is not yet open so it could have been showcased to the visitors for the AGM.