Every time we hear there is not enough GNWT funding for highway rescue provided to the Town of Hay River, we think about Groundhog Day.

You know Groundhog Day. The movie.

It’s the tedious and occasionally funny film about a man who keeps reliving the same day over and over.

There are unmistakeable parallels to the many years that the town has argued for more GNWT funding to help with the operation and maintenance of the ground ambulance and highway rescue it provides outside municipal boundaries – about 800 km of highway.

That saga is also tedious, occasionally funny (in the sense of how long government can talk without doing anything) and it definitely keeps repeating itself.

We have heard town council complain about the situation for what seems like forever.

The latest was on April 10 when Coun. Vince McKay proposed the town seek negotiations with the GNWT on how much it should be paying for the service on highways, which are a territorial asset.

The motion passed, but forgive us if we are not that confident that anything will change.

We believe the GNWT is quite happy with the status quo and really does not want it to change. After all, it gets a vital service at an extreme discount. Not only does it not have to directly pay for the equipment, buildings and employees, the amount that it provides to the town to help pay for the service is just a fraction of what the town is spending.

Talk about a deal.

There is absolutely no incentive on behalf of the GNWT to change the situation.

The territorial government says it wants to deal with the problem, but we simply don’t believe that. It appears it doesn’t have any intention of changing the situation in any significant way.

What the GNWT does is delay and keep talking, which is obviously a strategy that has worked for years.

It seemed like the matter had come to a head in November of 2016 when town council called a public meeting to warn it would consider withdrawing the highway rescue service if there was not sufficient funding from the GNWT.

The GNWT responded in April of last year with a plan to hire a consultant to review funding for highway rescue and ground ambulance services.

And guess what? The review is still not finished.

Can anyone really be surprised? It seems it was just another classic delaying tactic.

We hope we are wrong, and we’d be happy if the GNWT issues a report with concrete solutions in the near future. But let’s just say that, if history offers any lessons, that’s not going to happen.

As much as we hate to say this, we believe that the only way that the Town of Hay River will get action towards sufficient funding is to threaten to withdraw services, and follow through on that threat.

However, we don’t believe the town would ever do that, and we think the GNWT knows it.

It seems the town cares more about highway safety than the GNWT does.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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