A file photo of Fort Resolution in December 2018. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Fort Resolution councillors say they won’t resign of their own accord and will need to be forced from office if the NWT government takes over running the hamlet.
The territory has said it intends to place the hamlet into the hands of a government-appointed administrator in the first week of June over “financial and operational difficulties.”
The two parties are entering the last week of a 30-day period that has to elapse between the hamlet being informed of that move and administration being formally ordered.
While Fort Resolution’s mayor said this month he would resign over what he called “colonialism interfering with our community,” councillors said in a news release last week that they “will not be resigning their positions voluntarily as they were elected by residents and do not support administration.”
In their statement, councillors said they believed the NWT’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs – or Maca, which handles the process of sending communities into administration – had not properly communicated with or consulted the hamlet’s residents and councillors about the issues involved.
Fort Resolution’s council said municipal and community affairs minister Shane Thompson needed to “come to Fort Resolution to address Issues raised by residents and be properly consulted.”
The CBC has previously reported that some of the concerns triggering administration include a municipal debt worth millions of dollars, the absence of a 2023-24 budget, and a long-expired collective agreement.
Fort Resolution had at one point entered into a co-management plan with Maca, a plan that expired in 2020 when the hamlet’s finances appeared to the territory to be improving.
The hamlet’s council says Maca did not provide “full disclosure of the financial position of the Hamlet of Fort Resolution” – though the territorial government told the CBC it doesn’t fully know what that financial position is, either – and the council states “there are a number of serious questions raised on Maca’s decision to step away from co-management despite a $640,000 accumulated deficit to March 31, 2021.”
Thompson has been formally invited to appear in the community, the council said.
Mike Gibbins, a senior cabinet communications advisor for the NWT government, said Thompson would “consider a meeting as his schedule allows.”
Gibbins said Maca officials had “already met with mayor and council several times.” (The hamlet’s council acknowledged those meetings had happened but said, even accounting for them, there had been a lack of communication from Maca.)
According to Gibbins, the end of what he termed a “30-day consultation period” to examine options or alternatives to administration is June 4.
If Fort Resolution enters administration at that time – so far, there has been no suggestion that Maca will choose any other course – Gibbins said an order will be issued and, quoting the territorial legislation in place, said “all council members are deemed to have resigned from office and council is to remain vacant until after a new election is held.”
That election would take place whenever the administrator considers the problems to have been rectified.
In other recent instances of communities entering administration, such as Norman Wells in 2017, that process has taken a year or more.