Jackson Lafferty, MLA for Monfwi, says revenues from alcohol and cannabis sales should go towards an addictions treatment centre in the NWT.
Last year, the Government of the Northwest Territories made $38.7 million in gross profit from the sales of liquor and cannabis.
Lafferty said by letting all this money go to general revenues, that the GNWT was “misusing” it to fund things like ministerial travel, the COVID-19 secretariat, and other expenses unrelated to treatment.
“We fuel substance abuse through liquor and cannabis sales, then we take the money and run, abandoning the victims of those with dependency on the substance,” said Lafferty.
Lafferty suggested earmarking “one or two per cent” of those revenues to fund a northern addictions treatment centre.
Caroline Wawzonek, minister of Finance, defended the current process of the sales revenue going to a general pot as it gives the GNWT maximum flexibility in how it spends the money.
“It’s not misuse,” said Wawzonek. “That is really the money that we all, then, come together and decide what we want to do and where we want to allocate it through the budgeting process.”
She said putting the money from alcohol and cannabis sales directly towards treatment would mean less spending flexibility.
Lafferty said the NWT government should think outside the box when it comes to funding treatment and that sending people to southern centres was not good enough.
“I certainly do appreciate the attempt to solve what is obviously a huge problem for the Northwest Territories,” said Wawzonek.
She added there is an upcoming review of the Liquor Act and ongoing work to develop an alcohol strategy within the Department of Health and Social Services.
She said she would also review her department’s efforts around alcohol abuse prevention.