Sahtu economy ‘faces collapse’ without barge re-supply, says MLA Daniel McNeely

Norman Wells and other communities face possible recession; GNWT says 'all-of-government' help is in the works

A notice posted by the Town of Norman Wells.

Historically low water levels on the Mackenzie River forced the territorial government to cancel its Marine Transportation Services (MTS) barges to Norman Wells and Tulita for the 2024 sailing season.

Daniel McNeely is MLA for the Sahtu riding.

“Right now, businesses in the Sahtu region are in a crisis situation. We are already seeing employees being laid off. We are on the slippery slope. Businesses are scrambling to bring in supplies at outrageous prices.

“They are struggling to stay open. Projects are being delayed or cancelled altogether. Without swift intervention. The support to support the business sector at this point in time the local economy faces risk of collapse altogether.”

McNeely told the NWT Assembly on Friday that residents will “inevitably bear the burden” of air shipping costs, with groceries expected to increase five times in coming weeks.

A case of diesel exhaust fuel – required for stationary and vehicle engines – which normally sells for $75 a case is now $400 a case.

Sahtu MLA Daniel McNeely on June 7. (Image courtesy of Assembly Livestream.)

McNeely told Industry Tourism and Investment (ITI) Minister Caitlin Cleveland the Sahtu’s business community is in dire need of support.

“I look to the Minister … to find ways to support Sahtu businesses to keep the region from economic recession and to protect residents from absorbing the financial shock.”

Through Prosper NWT (formerly BDIC), there is a possibility of interest-free loans; and that organization is already working with existing clients to discuss interest-only payments.

Said Cleveland : “I want to assure the member that we are hearing the urgency of this. I appreciate the member making a member statement today on this, and that we are working on an all-of-government approach to responding to this situation.”

Some other topics of note today include:

Robert Hawkins, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, wanted more information on the scope of the new downtown wellness and recovery centre in Downtown Yellowknife.

While stressing he had no issue with the ‘principles’ of having a new shelter, to replace the existing sobering centre on 50th Street and the sobering centre in portables near the Explorer Hotel.

“It’s the size, the monolithic structure,” said the MLA.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins on June 7. (Image courtesy of Assembly Livestream.)

“We’ve seen what happened with the last downtown shelter just around the corner. The moment it was established, it had impacts on neighbours, it caused further problems. And businesses felt the decline. People felt uncomfortable walking near it. It wasn’t supported in the right way.”

Hawkins also suggested there needs to be more facilities in regional centres to relieve the strain placed on Yellowknife.

Kate Reid, the MLA for Great Slave, along with Shauna Morgan were speaking about diverting more plastics from the landfill. Under the new Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery Act, it could be possible to shift responsibility from governments to recycle plastics back to the manufacturers who create plastic waste in the first place.

Said Reid: “I would like to see clear direction from this cabinet on how we can help lead the change in this country to push back the endless waves of plastic packaging from going into our community landfills. I am keen to see what action this government will take on plastic waste and how we will help support the Government of Canada’s zero plastic waste agenda.”


Proposed wellness and recovery centre on 51st Street Downtown Yellowknife. (Photo courtesy of GNWT.)

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: