A file photo of the community of Fort Resolution. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The NWT government will hold a public meeting with Fort Resolution residents after replacing the hamlet’s council with an administrator.
The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs dismissed councillors in June, sending in administrator Shawn Stuckey to look into “financial and operational challenges.”
The territory now says Fort Resolution is at least $2.5 million in debt – “and we’re still looking into things,” communities minister Shane Thompson said in the legislature on Wednesday.
Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Richard Edjericon said placing Fort Resolution into administration was having a negative, rather than positive impact on the community.
“Instead of stable community government with local leaders chosen by local people, the community has been totally uninformed about this decision and is awash with rumours, instability and serious concerns about the future,” Edjericon said.
Noting that hamlet councils ordinarily have to carry out almost all business in public, Edjericon told Thompson the new administrator should be doing the same. In the absence of that, he said, residents were living under a “shroud of secrecy, with a community unaware of even basic decisions that have been made on their behalf.”
While not agreeing with that observation, Thompson said: “I can make a commitment that once we’re able to, we will get our staff in there to have a public meeting and meet with the residents there.”
When that meeting will take place was not clear. Nor is it obvious how long the GNWT intends for Fort Resolution to remain without an elected council.
Thompson’s assertion that the department is still uncovering the scale of the problem suggests a return to normal is not imminent. He also said work had been delayed by the reassignment of staff during the summer wildfire crisis.
The minister told Edjericon work to reinstate an elected council would begin “as soon as we can address this deficit.”
“We want to be able to have an elected council that is actually on a clean slate,” Thompson said on Wednesday.
“Once we’re able to do that, we will make sure we have an elected council representing the people.”
Meanwhile, Thompson said the “biggest challenge” in the hamlet is finding people prepared to take municipal jobs.
He said the administrator was “just trying to provide the basic services,” in response to a request from Edjericon to open the arena and provide more programming for youth – a request that must, for the time being, be directed at the territory and its administrator.
“I’ve got numerous phone calls about water delivery and stuff like that, and I’m pretty sure the member’s received those phone calls as well,” said Thompson.