Changes to municipal services may be coming for residents of Fort Resolution as the GNWT prepares to place the hamlet under administration.
Earlier this week, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) announced it intends to place the hamlet under administration, citing “financial and operational difficulties.” In doing, so, the department will replace the mayor and all six hamlet councilors with one administrator chosen by the department. That administrator will take over on June 5, according to a handout intended for residents provided to CKLB by the Department of MACA.
“This is not a decision that is taken lightly by the Minister or the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs,” the handout reads. “It is typically done when there is a large deficit that is not being addressed by council and/or if council is not willing to make key decisions to address financial and operational difficulties.”
Upon the release of the news, Mayor Patrick Simon announced his immediate resignation. In his resignation letter, Simon cited “lack of support and broken protocols by the 19th Legislative Assembly and MLAs.”
Simon later told CKLB he blamed a lack of funding and support from MACA for the hamlet’s financial woes. “I think the whole community, whether it’s leadership past [or] present, whether it’s residents trying to contribute, are victims here,” he said. “And when they brought us into the communities from the marshes, and created the government, and said, ‘Well, you’re in charge,’ that’s not true. We were never in charge. We never ran nothing. So it’s hard to survive in the Colonialist structure.”
Simon denied that he or council had any role to play in the hamlet’s financial situation.
Service cuts, price increases a possibility
Following news of the administration, CBC reported that documents presented at a meeting between MACA and the hamlet’s administration suggested reducing services or increasing their cost to alleviate the hamlet’s financial difficulties.
Laney Beaulieu was born and raised in Fort Resolution, and although she is currently studying away from home, she says she has every intention of returning to the community, where her mother and grandmother still live. “I feel like we’re being treated like children being disciplined,” she says.
She worries about the impact service cuts and price increases would have on residents of her home community. “People are going to have to start rationing water even more than they already are,” she says.
Boast said essential services like water delivery and sewage will not be reduced. “While there is the potential for changes to occur to some services based on the results of the review, the Minister will need to approve any changes and residents will be notified in advance,” he said.
Whether or not costs will increase, he said, is also up in the air.
Questions surround hamlet’s financial situation
Even the Department of MACA is unclear how much debt the hamlet is in. “We don’t have the detail on that yet,” says Sonya Saunders, an assistant deputy minister with the Department of MACA. She says it will be up to the administrator to determine the hamlet’s financial situation.
The hamlet’s financial difficulties are years in the making: Both Saunders and Boast said the hamlet was placed under co-management in 2019. Both said the hamlet’s financial situation showed signs of positive progress during that time. “Subsequent to that time, the last audit we received was a couple of years ago, and we did begin to see some additional financial difficulties,” says Saunders.
CKLB has requested the hamlet’s financial audits from 2010-2011 to the present from the Department of MACA.