The NWT government has cancelled a request for proposals to upgrade North Arm Territorial Park. The immediate future of the project is unclear.
The move comes days after some residents enthusiastically welcomed the news that 15 campsites were to be constructed in a new campground at the park, south of Behchokǫ̀ on Highway 3.
However, the tender requesting that contractors bid for the work was cancelled late on Friday last week.
That doesn’t mean the project itself is being scrapped, but the territorial government wasn’t able to clarify what the tender cancellation meant for its future or timeline.
“The Government of the Northwest Territories has cancelled a tender issued for the construction of a campground at North Arm Park,” a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure confirmed by email.
“This decision was made to allow for a review of the procurement method for this project.
“The GNWT is committed to transparent, competitive, cost-effective and efficient public sector procurement, and supporting the involvement of northern and local workers and businesses.”
The territorial government did not explain what had triggered the decision to review how the project was being offered.
However, Cabin Radio understands it is related to broader concerns expressed by the Tłı̨chǫ Government regarding the tender process.
‘Nothing but talk’
Earlier this week, the Tłı̨chǫ Government issued a statement demanding the cancellation of a separate tender – the Rae access road reconstruction project.
Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie said the territorial government had shown “complete disrespect” by publicly tendering the access road contract without offering a direct negotiated contract with the Tłı̨chǫ.
“The tender provides for no Tłı̨chǫ employment and no Tłı̨chǫ subcontracting commitments,” read the Tłı̨chǫ Government statement. “It is flawed and ignores the pressing needs of our community to support itself.
“The contract to rebuild [the access road] is the biggest economic opportunity in Behchokǫ̀. It is our chance to provide good jobs for our local citizens, so that they can work in their own community. Giving the contract to an outsider means that GNWT is denying our people, who have been hurt by the pandemic, the best opportunity to rebuild their economic lives.”
Mackenzie said publicly tendering that contract meant the “words of change” spoken by Premier Caroline Cochrane and Katrina Nokleby, the infrastructure minister, were “nothing but talk.”
The territorial government has not issued a response.
Public records suggest the tender for the Rae access road work closed on June 18. Four bidders are listed: CJ Contracting, RTL, NWT Construction, and Tłı̨chǫ Engineering & Environmental Services.
Sudden cancellation of the North Arm Park tender suggests the territorial government is, at least privately, committing to an urgent review of the way its procurement works under pressure from the Tłı̨chǫ.
Speaking in the legislature in May, Nokleby told Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty she would pursue changes so the GNWT’s procurement system stopped “letting people game the system, which is what’s happening.”
The NWT government’s four-year mandate made improving procurement and contracting a priority, but not a swiftly achievable one – the territory’s timeline for the work suggests it will last until the fall of 2022.
Asked about the future of the North Arm Park tender, the Department of Infrastructure said this week: “A review of the procurement method is under way with details to come at a later date.”