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Municipal and Community Affairs will provide $2.6 million towards closing the funding gap for municipalities in the NWT, MACA Minister Paulie Chinna announced on Oct. 20.

Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson, however, slammed it as a drop in the bucket compared to the ongoing $40-million municipal funding gap.

The move is in line with MACA’s commitment to close the municipal funding gap by $5 million, while the gap currently sits at $40 million, according to the NWT Association of Communities (NWTAC). It has been at that level for more than a year, as NWTAC executive director Sara Brown said in August 2019.

Paulie Chinna, minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, announced $2.6 million in funding towards closing the funding gap with NWT municipalities, in the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 20. GNWT image

As Chinna explained, $2.6 million will go into community funding. Another $4.7 million – to be matched with federal investment through the Safe Restart Agreement – will help communities “put in place appropriate precautions to manage public spaces and critical services,” which would be allocated this winter.

“Since its beginning, MACA has worked with the NWTAC and its members on the funding strategy. As part of that ongoing engagement, we are determining how best to allocate the $2.6 million,” Chinna said.

Johnson said he’s happy to hear about the new funding but it doesn’t go far enough in closing the gap

“Municipal roads, sewers and basic infrastructure are degrading from a lack of maintenance and unstable footings,” he said. “We defund our municipalities (by) $9.6 million in operations and maintenance, $6.5 million in environmental, $24.3 million in capital for a total of $40.4 million every single year.

“As we’re about to approve one of the largest capital budgets in NWT history, largely due to carry-overs because we can’t get the money out the door, it’s insulting to our communities. They can get their money out the door, and better than us they will make sure it is spent in our communities and employs local Northerners.

“We in this House don’t deserve to build multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects when our communities can’t make sure their roads and sewers are funded.”

Johnson then asked if MACA could increase the budget in capital funding for municipalities by $5 million.

“If we can’t find a quarter of a percent in our $2-billion budget then we’re truly not in charge of our budget,” he said.

Chinna responded that for now $2.6 million is all that is available.

The Yellowknife MLA doubled down with criticism of the way municipalities are funded, saying the process lacks certainty, unlike with education authorities where funding goes through set parameters.

He also pointed out MACA’s commitment to work with NWTAC to update policies and options, but he’s not convinced it would be completed by 2023. He asked if that work could be sped up.

He then noted that the previous legislative assembly made “a concerted effort” to close the funding gap but that it didn’t keep up with inflation.

“There needs to be more certainty and I believe legislation is a tool to do that,” said Johnson. “Can the minister speak on her plan to make sure that the gap doesn’t re-emerge for any progress this assembly does make on it?”

Chinna responded that Covid has presented unusual circumstances and burdened MACA’s processes.

“Making a commitment to work with this is quite complex,” she said, adding that she would follow up with Johnson and discuss the issues with her department.

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Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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  1. The initial estimate of 40M was estimated in 2014. 7 years later that number has probably increased and the accumulated total over seven years is 280M in missed investments in the 33 communities. Add in that most of the communities have a lot of hand me down, from the GNWT, 40+ year old infrastructure and with todays material, building, services costs and the hole gets deeper. Massive projects where the capacity is not in the NWT sees the dollars and economic multipliers head south (bridge, hospital, Talston, etc), smaller projects within our capacity see the dollars spent in the communities, business grows, employment grows, knowledge grows. We are only 45K people so maybe we should try to invest in us before we try to invest in dream projects. The only dream project should be the Mackenzie Valley highway and the economic opportunities that would open to all the NWT.