Port and rail take priority

John McFadden/NNSL photo NWT Commissioner George Tuccaro addresses the 18th legislative assembly as MLAs sat for the first time this year. Tuccaro outlined the government's mandate for the next four years including the fact that the territory's struggling economy must be addressed.

John McFadden/NNSL photo
NWT Commissioner George Tuccaro addresses the 18th legislative assembly as MLAs sat for the first time this year. Tuccaro outlined the government’s mandate for the next four years including the fact that the territory’s struggling economy must be addressed.

Encouraging CN Rail to improve the rail line through Hay River and dredging the port were among several of the items laid out last week when the government unveiled its proposed mandate for the next four years.

Those tasks, assigned to Transportation Minister Wally Schumann, who is also the Hay River North MLA, are among many in a 50-page document tabled last week in the legislative assembly.

The list, still to be approved formally by regular MLAs, can be used to evaluate the cabinet by regular MLAs and public on its progress.

Schumann, who is also minister of Environment and Natural Resources, has several tasks to carry out in his political backyard.

In an interview, Schumann said he thinks the rail issue is a big one for the town.

Asked if there’s a specific matter that needs to be addressed, he said not particularly.

“There’s a lot of fuel that goes through there – it’s like a symphony, it’s got to be well co-ordinated,” he said.

He called the port and dredging issue “pretty important,” adding he’s met with the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo.

Schumann said the federal minister is familiar with the river and port.

A workshop is planned for April to bring together various groups involved in the port issue, Schumann said.

“We’re going to try and develop a plan to maintain the channel and the port around Hay River for the beginning of the next shipping season,” he said. “We’re trying to make some moves on this thing. It’s been talked about for a long time and hopefully we’re going to get something done there.”

It’s a topic Mayor Brad Mapes hopes to see addressed soon.

“We need to figure out what they’re doing in terms of dredging,” he said last week after reviewing the proposed mandate. “My feeling is that without barging, there’s a lot of communities that don’t have options other than fly-in.”

Breaker: Speech painted bleak picture: mayor

Overall he called a speech by NWT Commissioner George Tuccaro on Feb. 18 giving a broad overview of the government’s mandate “bleak.”

The mayor acknowledged the community has been facing economic downturn, saying that businesses are cutting back.

That was something Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson pointed out last week in a speech. Simpson said he’s heard from businesses that are seeing sales off by 30 to 40 per cent compared to last year.

“Major employers in town are scaling back hours, cutting shifts, and sending employees home early on a regular basis,” Simpson said Feb. 18.

However, Mapes said things won’t turn around by focusing on negatives.

“We need to get a little more positive going forward,” Mapes said.

The mandate must go to a committee of MLAs in the assembly for discussion before it is formally approved.

– Shane Magee