Premier Caroline Cochrane had a prime opportunity at her first Council of the Federation, a meeting of all of Canada’s premiers, held most recently last month in Toronto.
But when the post-conference press conference was aired, Cochrane got not a word in edgewise. She explained to News/North later that she was being diplomatic, and there is more than one way to communicate.
Well, someone should tell the other premiers. They didn’t have any trouble getting their points across the old-fashioned way, with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, to name three, all getting a relatively out-sized share of the airtime. There is something to be said for the difference between closed-door discussions and a bit of a show for the cameras.
It’s unlikely that Northerners living in overcrowded, substandard – even dangerous – housing, are still in the diplomacy phase. It’s far more likely they would have appreciated a little table-banging, and even a raised voice, from their new premier while she was on the national stage.
A suicide rate and incidence of domestic violence second only to Nunavut, chronically poor educational outcomes, and rampant substance abuse can all be tied back to our shockingly substandard housing stock.
Data released recently indicates around half of all housing units in the NWT have some sort of problem. How is this acceptable? What would Doug Ford say if this were the case in Ontario?
Premiers did come up with a list that includes a two-word action item called “Northern priorities.” They intend to discuss their list with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at some point in 2020. But we’re left to guess what those priorities are and we shouldn’t have to.
That said, there’s no reason why Trudeau should have to be told that housing in the North is a national embarrassment.
Not unlike the black mould that plagues so many homes here, the hypocrisy of a man who purports to be among the most progressive, woke leaders in the developed world while many Northerners live in Third World conditions is eye-watering.
Whether Cochrane missed the chance at a made-in-the-North soundbite or not, 2020 must bring some relief to the citizens of the NWT, and federal support has to be the cornerstone of how that is accomplished.
This is the message NWT MP Michael McLeod must bring to his leader, and he could do worse than banging the table a bit himself.