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Assembly Briefs
Transportation minister on defensive

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 11, 2012

After announcing the Deh Cho Bridge needed more money in order to be completed on time, Transportation Minister David Ramsay went into defensive mode as MLAs from across the NWT hammered him with questions.

On June 6, Ramsay announced up to a $10-million addition to the Deh Cho Bridge budget, bringing the total construction costs to just over $200 million.

"It's painfully obvious that this government is setting a pattern of concern in how it deals with cost overruns for large-scale projects and negotiated contracts," said Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny.

"I feel that we've been in this position a number of times before and now we're over a barrel again," said Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro.

Bisaro wanted to know how the GNWT keeps on having to provide more money for the project. She said it was "BOHICA" - bend over, here it comes again.

Other concerns raised had to do with the longevity of the project. MLA for Inuvik Boot Lake Alfred Moses said other communities are suffering from delays in projects and funding because of the ongoing investments in the Deh Cho Bridge Project.

"I just read on the news that Colville Lake's airport runway just got washed out again," said Moses.

"However, we are going to have to tell these communities that we are going to have to put these back on the back burner. Why? Because of the continuing saga of the Deh Cho Bridge."

Ramsay said he couldn't say how the bridge was going to impact other capital projects in the NWT at this time.

Rent increases for seniors delayed

Seniors living in public housing without other adults will not have to pay rent until Sept. 1.

Under the new public housing rent scale, scheduled to start July 1, seniors who were previously paying zero rent were to start paying a minimum of $70 to $80.

Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, Robert C. McLeod, said after concerns from other members of the house and residents, seniors won't start paying rent until Sept. 1. He added they won't be paying the full amount until July 1, 2013.

"We listened to what some of the concerns were for seniors out there," said McLeod. "We thought this would be an easier adjustment to graduate up to the higher rent."

McLeod said the new public housing rent scale is designed to be fairer and more sustainable.

"I understand this is a major change and that not everyone is going to be supportive," said McLeod.

"The reality is that the number of seniors residing in public housing is increasing as the population ages."

Diabetes a growing issue

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya says there's been an increase of people with diabetes in his region.

Health Minister Tom Beaulieu said diabetes is increasing in the NWT by around 200 people a year.

Yakeleya said it's hard for people to access education programs, especially now that the NWT Diabetes Clinic in Yellowknife isn't open anymore.

Beaulieu said his department is reviewing the reasons the Yellowknife clinic isn't open, and also said there are plans for a diabetes clinic to be included in the new Sahtu health centre.

The minister said a big key is prevention, and there are education programs in schools about healthy eating and other habits.

One of the initiatives the health department is looking into is carefully expanding home care so more attention is paid to patients' feet.

"With diabetes there's a lot of preventable amputations that do occur in the in the health system," said Beaulieu.

"Each amputation costs about $80,000 and there are numbers out there indicating that 80 per cent of those are preventable."

Poster honoured

At a ceremony in the hall of the legislative assembly, Katrina Deneron, 14, was presented with a $500 pre-paid credit card.

The Trout Lake teen's poster was chosen out of hundreds of entries from the Deh Cho region.

"I'm really excited," she said.

The poster, depicting the importance of life jackets, will be displayed on paths leading to waterways.

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