Direction given
Council hosts meeting with MLAs

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Feb 11/00) - Inuvik council covered 17 agenda items with the town's two MLAs on Wednesday and came away with a better understanding of the issues.

Boot Lake MLA Floyd Roland and Twin Lakes newcomer Roger Allen paid their first visit to council chambers since being elected to the legislature. Their visit resulted from an invitation extended by council to discuss town concerns.

"The territory is facing a $62-million debt and we have to deal with that," said Allen. "Hopefully we can be influenced in our decisions by community groups, and I've already met with several."

Coun. Derek Lindsay asked about rumours that say the territorial budget might not in fact be passed until June, well after the start of the fiscal year.

Roland replied that the lateness of the December territorial election has indeed "put us behind the 8-ball" and that it's likely an interim budget will be enacted to fund the territory until a new one can be drafted and passed.

Perhaps the three most pressing issues raised by council at Wednesday's meeting were those of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway and a Mackenzie Valley Highway, as well as the status of proposals to build a new Aurora College campus and hospital in Inuvik.

Allen, who sits in cabinet as housing minister, said there is talk of constructing a Mackenzie Valley highway alongside and simultaneously with the proposed valley pipeline project.

"We'll be involved with the aboriginal groups in the next four to six weeks and maybe meeting with the feds in May," he said.

Town senior administrative officer Don Howden said he hoped the territory would be able to access recently-announced federal funding for infrastructure development that might include the Tuk highway.

Roland replied that the trouble might occur in having to match Ottawa's contribution at the territorial level but added, "We'll definitely try to take advantage of any federal money that's out there."

Deputy mayor Peter Clarkson described the economic benefits a completed highway would bring. Roland said the government estimates the Tuk leg would cost some $100 million, while a Mackenzie Valley route might be as high as $700 million.

Council also expressed its concern about the new college campus -- planned for the former Grollier Hall site -- because construction was backed by the former government until financial problems and the election put it on the backburner.

"Because of the looming debt all departments were asked to review and see what projects they could delay and all capital projects were the first ones to be held," said Roland. "But we have to make sure that what commitments have been made are held by the (new) assembly."

Roland, the former health and social services minister, said that because of a government agreement signed back in 1988, the proposal to replace Inuvik Regional Hospital is actually ahead of that for the college.

"One million dollars was transferred to the government every year for the hospital," he said, "and land was transferred during the last assembly and the majority of the construction cost is to be funded by the federal government."

Clarkson said it's likely more than $100,000 has been spent by the town on architectural designs for both buildings.

"It would be a waste and a blow to the community if they didn't go ahead," he said.

The meeting went smoothly and wound up in an atmosphere of congeniality and understanding. Council and the MLAs agreed to remain in communication.