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Politics

Highway toilet problems resurface in NWT legislature


It’s that time of year again – MLAs are voicing concerns about the cleanliness of toilets along Northwest Territories highways.

Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South, was the latest in a long line of politicians to raise the perennial problem in the legislature on Thursday.

“This comes up year after year,” he said. 

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“I hope that every time the minister walks by a washroom, she thinks about it.”

Kevin O’Reilly, MLA for Frame Lake, said he “had the displeasure” of using some of those facilities in January.

“I don’t want to get into all the dirty details here,” he said, evoking an audible response from other members. 

Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Caroline Wawzonek responded by promising that the territory was working on a plan to ensure the toilets are cleaned regularly.

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“I also don’t want to have to answer questions about outhouses for the rest of our tenure here,” she said.

“I’m going to solve this problem.”

The departments of industry and infrastructure share responsibility for the facilities. Infrastructure oversees roadside pullouts while industry provides support for parks.

Wawzonek said the outhouses are cleaned every two weeks but O’Reilly did not believe that was enough, given the level of reported vehicle traffic. He called on the minister to double the cleaning regimen.

The MLA added that in March 2019 – following a “very distressing” photo of an overflowing toilet at the 60th Parallel Visitor Information Centre, near the NWT-Alberta border – the minister at the time had also promised a solution to the problem. O’Reilly last raised the issue during committee of the whole in June 2020.

Simpson said he believes the territory’s roadside toilet facilities are “inadequate.” He wants the territory to “show some respect” to truck drivers and other travellers by providing heated facilities, cleaned daily, to “make it a little bit more comfortable for the people using them.”

Wawzonek said installing those kinds of facilities could cost around $1.5 million, which was “not insignificant.” She pledged to look into other options. 

“I do recognize, and not to make light of the whole situation, these are people working in our supply chain, they are providing an essential service,” she said.

“I certainly do take seriously that they need to have a dignified way of doing this essential work we’re asking them to do.”

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