While there was no shortage of official business during the four-day annual general meeting of the NWT Association of Communities (NWTAC), one key activity was networking during the May 9-12 gathering in Hay River.
“We’ve seen and heard lots of the talks before,” said Hay River Mayor Andrew Cassidy. “The biggest value is the networking potential, especially now. We’re at a pivotal time with devolution closer than it has ever been and we need to work together to find a way to take on those greater responsibilities, along with the big opportunities that come with them.”
The annual general meeting brought together around 100 delegates and about 100 more observers and exhibitors for a weekend of talks focused on fostering economic opportunities in communities across the NWT.
According to Sara Brown, the association’s chief executive officer, it was also intended to create and maintain strong partnerships, not only for communities themselves, but also among local governments, the territorial and federal governments, and even service providers in the North.
“Sometimes the people working in local government in the communities can feel like they’re working in isolation,” she said. “This conference gives them a chance to get together, talk, and see that, while there are certain things that are unique to their situation, they are not the only ones dealing with the big issues.”
Among the concerns brought up at the conference this year were municipalities’ responsibilities for highway emergency response, the use of local improvement charges to fund energy efficient or renewable energy projects, and the impact and scope of Northwestel’s $233-million modernization plan.
“There are always some differences,” said Brown. “But community governments here all face similar challenges and it’s good for them to be able to get together to find solutions collectively.”
Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard told The Hub he believed the conference was a good platform for the communities to voice their concerns and needs to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) and its minister, Robert C. McLeod, who was on hand May 10 to welcome the participants.
“It’s a good opportunity for MACA to hear what’s going on collectively,” said Bouchard. “It helps give them some direction.”
Last year’s annual general meeting of the NWTAC was held in Norman Wells, while Inuvik is slotted to receive leaders from all over the territory in 2014. Organizers make a special point to try to alternate locations between the northern and southern regions of the territory each year in order to encourage as many people as possible to participate.
“It’s a place to find a common ground that works for everyone,” said Bouchard. “Sometimes the needs of smaller communities are different than those of larger centres, but the NWTAC is a strong advocate group that can find common ground.”
Hay River did not propose any resolutions at this year’s annual general meeting.
— Sarah Ladik