State of housing impossible to repair until the North controls its own destiny

Almost two years ago I covered a story where the city council initially denied a request from EGT-Northwind to reduce the price of dumping 250 trucks of steel from the island rehabilitation project of Tuk, then after hearing the concerns of EGT-Northwind employees, reversed the decision and allowed the company to drop off the waste at $500 a load, half the usual price.

At the time, Northwind Industries Vice President Fred Bailey explained that the plan was a workaround for ExxonMobil’s internal environmental remediation rules – by involving the city, contractors could operate under local environmental regulations, which were much less complicated than those of the oil company. international standards.

What made the decision so urgent was that the steel was found unexpectedly and the construction season was coming to an end. Bailey told the council, “If it doesn’t happen like this, the job just won’t get done. They’ll just say, “Well, we’ll leave it all here and it can stay for another 30 years.” They’re just trying to facilitate how to get the most work possible with the budget they’ve been given. If we go to (ExxonMobil) and say we don’t have enough money to do this, they’ll just say don’t do it.

In other words, ExxonMobil was unwilling to pay the additional $125,000 to clean up its own mess and returned it to the taxpayer. Not wanting to be the ones left with the “you lost jobs because of us” hat, the city council did the only thing they could.

Thanks to Covid-19, ExxonMobil’s gross profit for 2020 was just $30.9 billion, down 42.47% from a year earlier. They’ve since rebounded to a windfall of $64.2 billion in 2021 and $91 billion this year, so hopefully leaders will remember the sacrifice we made here in Inuvik to save the oil industry world.

This sarcastic anecdote and just-released housing figures from Statistics Canada showing that more than half of the houses in the NWT were built in the 1990s or earlier show how the North is hampered in its economic development by its territorial status. Without the ability to raise capital, there are far too many logistical cracks to make things as simple as fixing your home worth trying, let alone starting a business.

A simple example: You are a producer in Inuvik. You have a client in Yellowknife. How does your product achieve this? Your only option is airfreight, which means deferring additional shipping costs to the final product. It doesn’t matter how often you flaunt “Buy Local” in front of someone next to an important bottom line – they go for the right deal every time.

It’s not rocket science why the Beaufort Delta has stronger economic ties to Whitehorse – a road is in service at least half the time. Before we even start talking about sustainable economic development in the NWT, we need a logical and reliable road network.

How do we pay for this? The Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway — which is not even paved — cost close to $300 million. We’re looking at billions just to start. The example of ExxonMobil shows that we cannot rely on the resource industry and that no federal government will run nine-figure deficits on our behalf. That would be electoral suicide.

It’s time for Ottawa to liberate the North.

James V. Hayes