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Community leaders focus on economy
Organizers and participants agree weekend mostly dedicated to networking

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 20, 2013

While there was no shortage of official business to attend to in nearly four days of meetings and presentations both delegates to, and officials of, the Northwest Territories Association of Communities (NWTAC) said the main event was the opportunity to network.

"Sometimes the people working in local government in the communities can feel like they're working in isolation," said NWTAC's chief executive officer Sara Brown. "This conference gives them a chance to get together, talk, and see that while there are certain things that are unique to their situations, they are not the only ones dealing with the big issues."

The AGM brought together around 100 delegates, May 9 through 12, and about 100 more observers and exhibitors for a weekend of talks focused on fostering economic opportunities in communities across the territory. According to Brown, it was also intended to create and maintain strong partnerships, not only between communities themselves, but also between community governments, the territorial and federal administrations, and even service providers in the North.

"There are always some differences," said Brown. "But community governments here all face similar challenges and it's good for them to be able to get together to find solutions collectively."

Among the concerns brought up at the conference this year were municipalities' responsibilities for highway emergency response, the use of local improvement charges to fund energy efficient or renewable energy projects in communities, and the impact and scope of Northwestel's $233-million modernization plan.

Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard told News/North he believed the conference was a good platform for the communities to voice their concerns and needs to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).

"It's a good opportunity for MACA to hear what's going on collectively," said Bouchard. "It helps give them some direction."

Last year's NWTAC AGM was held in Norman Wells, with Inuvik slotted to receive leaders from all over the territory in 2014.

"It's a place to find a common ground that works for everyone," said Bouchard.

"Sometimes the needs of smaller communities are different than those of larger centers but the NWTAC is a strong advocate group that can find common grounds."

Hay River Mayor Andrew Cassidy was more than happy to welcome people from around the NWT to the town and agreed that in many ways, the presentations and meetings take second place to the networking function of the conference.

"The biggest value is the networking potential, especially now. We're at a pivotal time with devolution closer than it has ever been and we need to work together to find a way to take on those greater responsibilities, along with the big opportunities that come with them," said Cassidy.

Fact file

2013 NWTAC resolutions

* The NWTAC will urge the territorial government to consider the regulation of massage therapy as part of the Department of Health and Social Services professions legislation.

* The NWTAC will urge the territorial government to consider amending the Property Assessment and Taxation Act and the Grants-In-Lieu of Property policy to allow municipal governments to request a payment in lieu of taxes if all reasonable attempts to collect taxes fail.

* The NWTAC will urge the GNWT to consider amending various acts in order to allow community governments to use local improvement charges to assist residents and businesses in implementing energy efficient retrofits or new energy efficient technologies.

* The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) will review the fairness of the current water and sewer funding formula to ensure fairness in tax-base and non-tax-base municipalities.

* The GNWT will develop a strategic plan for highway rescue and ground ambulance with adequate funding and that the NWTAC will take part in the dialogue.

* MACA will form a working group to review the level of funding currently provided to communities and make recommendations for future funding levels.

* The NWTAC supports Northwestel's modernization plan and will say so at upcoming CRTC hearings.

Source: NWT Association of Communities

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