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Next NWT poverty reduction plan likely to have ‘tangible goals’


Clearer targets should be an element of the next Northwest Territories poverty reduction plan, the minister in charge of producing that plan says.

The existing plan was published in 2019 and expires this year. Julie Green, a regular MLA in 2019, is now the health and social services minister tasked with overseeing action to eradicate poverty.

During anti-poverty meetings held in Yellowknife this week, Green told reporters there would be “some advantage” to producing targets that would allow progress to be directly measured.

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No such measurable targets are provided in the current plan, though it does quote the nationwide target of reducing poverty by 50 percent before 2030. At the time of publishing the plan, the territorial government argued a lack of reliable poverty data in the NWT made specific goals harder to set.

However, in the intervening three years, both Statistics Canada and Alternatives North have made advances in the measurement of northern poverty.

The NWT Bureau of Statistics currently carries two reports and 25 related data sets on a webpage dedicated to territorial poverty indicators.

“We haven’t ever integrated those into the plan,” Green said on Wednesday, referring to the poverty indicators.

“But I think there’s some advantage to doing that because it does give you a tangible goal to strive for. That’s something we’re going to want to consider.”

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Green pointed to the use of data by Campaign 2000, a nationwide campaign to end child poverty that produces annual statistics-driven report cards. Those report cards include the Northwest Territories.

“Having a tangible goal of bringing up income and reducing need, I think, would sharpen the plan quite a bit,” she said of the territory’s poverty reduction plan.

Green made similar remarks as a regular MLA in 2019 when Glen Abernethy, then the territory’s health minister, introduced the current plan.

In February 2019, she called for the plan to include “well-defined goals” and “robust evaluation.”

Abernethy, in response, did not directly tackle the question of evaluation but said he hoped for “some good to-and-fro on that document,” then at a draft stage, “to make sure that we are getting it as strong as can be, incorporating the types of discussions that the member has identified here.”

Asked this week why the plan did not ultimately include measurable targets, Green said she could not answer that question as the plan had not been her responsibility at the time.

“I think it would sharpen the plan to have something to strive for,” she reiterated.

“Government is generally risk-averse and concerned about setting targets that they can’t meet. So maybe that factored into it. I’m not really sure.”

Emily Blake contributed reporting.

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