Broadening the vision
Hay River mayor seeks better distribution of economic wealth

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Hay River ( Jun 12/00) - The mayor of Hay River wants the territorial government to devote more attention to economic development efforts in the South Slave region.

Jack Rowe believes the GNWT's vision for stimulating the economy has been too centred around the capital and it's time to broaden that vision so other communities can grow.

One example he cites is the government's plan to go north with the Slave Geological Road. Rowe doesn't understand why the government wants to construct the road out of Yellowknife and down the Ingraham Trail.

He said once the traffic flow on that road increases, cottage owners will eventually start complaining about it.

"Who will it really benefit from it? Industry benefits because you've got a road going north, but not one other soul other than the City of Yellowknife will have some traffic through there.

"If you put that road through Rae, you cut the overall cost of servicing those smaller communities. You could take those dollars that you were going to spend normally on winter road construction and on air travel and redistribute that and spend it on providing services instead of just one-shot costs," said Rowe.

Then, Rowe said, smaller communities in the North will be able to benefit more from the wealth of the North.

Shift the focus

"The focus of this government ... has been to try to retain Yellowknife as a strong capital centre, when in actual fact the problem with the way they're going about it is they're trying to use the administrative jobs that are there as economic tools.

"You're always going to get yourself in trouble when you're trying to be the be-all, end-all with government. Provide services that are required," he said.

As an overall policy, Rowe said the government has to look at what is good for regions such as the Sahtu, Deh Cho and South Slave areas.

"The sad part about a place like Fort Smith is they've developed the Aurora College. They no sooner did that, then they turn around and set up a big campus in Yellowknife and a big campus in Inuvik, so it takes away from utilizing Fort Smith as the main centre.

"If you're going to have that, develop it and create it as a university-type setting. Make sure that you put your resources in there and you could bring more expertise to that one location. How do you develop expertise over three sites with the amount of population that we've got?" said Rowe.

Jobs for young people

The mayor said he would like to know how the government is planning to develop the North and provide jobs for young people entering the workforce for the first time.

"How can people be assured they are going to be able to stay in their own communities?" he said.

Rowe wants the GNWT to ensure that all regions of the Northwest Territories are considered when mapping out a strategy for economic development in the North.

"The wealth should be distributed outside of the centre core. When there's good growth outside of the centre core, you'll see the centre core grow," he said.

If not, Rowe warns the NWT will end up with a "Yukon syndrome" where only one sustainable community will exist in the Northwest Territories.

"That's the challenge we have," Rowe said.