Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard says he supports the decision by Mayor Andrew Cassidy and town council to send a letter to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) to jumpstart negotiations regarding block funding for the municipality.
“I think it’s progressive for the mayor and council to send this letter,” Bouchard told The Hub. “(The MLAs) have talked to the minister before, but the problems haven’t been fixed. I think it should have been looked at harder.”
The Sept. 6 letter outlined the town’s position as a regional centre on providing emergency services and water and sewage treatment services to the surrounding communities of Kakisa, Enterprise and the Hay River Reserve.
It set a deadline 180 days from Aug. 31 for significant and effective progress to be made on the return of $300,000 in funding from MACA or those services would be pulled.
“Pressure is going to come from those communities,” said Bouchard. “They’re going to turn to MACA looking for answers. My concern is, when that timeline comes to fruition, what are those communities going to do for water and other services?”
Beyond the necessary improvements to Hay River’s water and sewage treatment facilities and the upkeep of the emergency services vehicles and infrastructure, Bouchard noted the town acts as a regional centre for health and transport without seeing any benefits from the territorial government.
“Even our health care system bears the cost,” he said. “People naturally come in to their regional centre to see doctors and nurses. Those services cost money and we’re not recouping any of those costs because we don’t differentiate between residents of the territory in that situation.”
David Maguire, a communications adviser with MACA, said the department is aware of the situation and MACA Minister Robert C. McLeod would be writing to town hall.
“The department appreciates the Town of Hay River’s concerns,” he said. “The minister will be responding directly to Mayor Cassidy and town council.”
While Bouchard said he approves of council’s step forward in seeking to force a resolution to the situation, he also noted the issue is hardly anything new.
“This issue has been around for 15 or 20 years,” he said. “It’s just that extra $300,000 that has been taken away and not returned when all the other communities saw their funding restored that has forced mayor and council to take steps.”
— Sarak Ladik