‘Do we have the money?’ NWT reviews four-year mandate after Covid-19
The NWT government is reviewing whether it can still deliver on all of the commitments in its four-year mandate, just three months after releasing it.
Premier Caroline Cochrane said the Covid-19 pandemic had triggered an examination of the mandate, particularly as the territory sought ways to financially support residents and businesses.
“I started to wonder: do we have the money?” Cochrane told MLAs on Tuesday, responding to a question from Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly.
“I gave direction for departments to start looking at the mandate and what they can do.”
Cochrane said departments reported “a lot of the mandate can still be done,” but the mandate would now be taken to a committee of MLAs to see “if we need any changes.”
“It’s not as bad as we thought,” she said of the pandemic’s impact on spending priorities the territory has set out between 2019 and 2023.
The mandate is a document that identifies what the NWT government hopes to achieve before the next territorial election.
First published in February this year, the current mandate includes commitments to increase home ownership, draw up an implementation plan for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, give more money to communities, increase healthcare staffing, and reduce hospitalizations for alcohol, among other priorities.
The mandate – developed following input from all MLAs – also instructs the territory to pursue the Taltson hydro expansion project and increase mining incentives.
Meanwhile, Cochrane said mandate letters had yet to be delivered to her ministers as they, too, were being reviewed following the pandemic’s onset.
Again responding to O’Reilly, Cochrane said the letters were drafted months ago but Covid-19 meant she had “stepped back [to see whether] we need to add anything.”
“We’re ready, now, to give out our mandate letters as they were before, with the inclusion of Covid-19,” said Cochrane.
Those letters will go to regular MLAs for feedback before being issued to ministers within the next two weeks, she said.
The NWT’s politicians sat in the legislature on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic curtailed their last session in mid-March.
MLAs sat two metres apart in a specially reconfigured chamber. O’Reilly, Speaker Frederick Blake Jr, and education minister RJ Simpson were among those who could be seen wearing face masks at times.
Meanwhile, the territorial government on Tuesday extended both its public health emergency and territorial state of emergency related to Covid-19.
The two declarations give the NWT and its chief public health officer the powers needed to enforce measures like restrictions at the border and mandatory self-isolation.
The declarations must be renewed or extended every two weeks, an act expected to be required for months to come.