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Council Briefs
Climate change headaches

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 4, 2012

Transportation Minister David Ramsay says climate change is wreaking havoc on the NWT's infrastructure.

"The Dempster Highway is settling more as permafrost thaws. The opening of the Tlicho winter road has been delayed due to warmer weather," Ramsay said in the legislative assembly Thursday.

"Water levels are increasingly unpredictable, making it more difficult to maintain ferry landings and coastal community resupply is hampered by changing ice conditions and sustained high winds."

Ramsay said the Department of Transportation is researching what the future impacts of climate change may be and developing strategies to deal with it.

"Climate change adds a new level of uncertainty," said Ramsay.

"What happened in the past is no longer necessarily the case in the future, and there are gaps in our knowledge."

Through the Building Canada Plan, run by the federal government, $1.85 million was spent on research and development.

A climate change adaptation plan will be completed by the end of the summer, he said.

New strategies will improve public housing: minister

Robert McLeod, minister of NWT Housing Corporation, listed eight strategies in the legislative assembly Wednesday that are expected to address long term housing issues.

McLeod said the new strategies, combined with the revised rent scale and rent supplement program for private rentals, will help create sustainable housing and help all residents in the NWT.

McLeod's eight priorities are: implementing a new rent scale that includes collecting rent from seniors; improving home ownership supports; increasing housing options in non-market communities; improving housing services; getting the homeless into transitional housing; addressing housing challenges for the working poor; developing infrastructure solutions based on individual and community needs; and addressing declining federal funding.

"We're introducing a new emergency repair program called SAFE for situations like freeze-ups and furnace failures. The program will target low and modest income homeowners, including seniors on fixed incomes and will be available any time during the year," said McLeod.

The minister also raised the issue of those trying to transition out of public housing.

"This new program will support low and modest-income residents that are unable to get into public housing but are in core need because of high market rents," said McLeod.

"This program will help students, lone-parent families and those ready to move from transition housing to market rentals."

The program is expected to launch Sept. 1 of this year, and has $1.2 million in funding available.

McLeod said the biggest problem facing housing is declining federal funding for public housing.

"This is a major challenge facing our government and by 2037-38 the remaining $17 million in annual federal funding will be eliminated," he said.

"We continue to work on this with the federal government, but we can't wait for Canada to change its approach. We have made investments to address the declines so far but we have to do more."

Water plans with Alberta

Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger says a bilateral agreement with Alberta to protect water resources is close to reality.

Fifteen years ago the GNWT signed the Mackenzie River Transboundary Waters Master Agreement with Yukon, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

At the same time, the provinces and territories agreed to work with each other signing bilateral agreements between each of them.

Alberta and the NWT signed the Bilateral Water Management Agreement Negotiations Memorandum of Understanding in 2007. It's a framework for what needs to be done before signing the final bilateral agreement.

The bilateral agreement will define objectives for water quality, water quantity, and groundwater to maintain the integrity of the aquatic ecosystem of the Mackenzie River Basin. They will also address notification requirements in the event of an emergency, protocols for information exchange, and dispute resolution processes.

"It took us longer than we planned but we are making progress on the bilateral agreements," said Miltenberger.

The next meeting between the NWT and Alberta is scheduled for late June.

"We are hopeful that we can conclude this bilateral agreement in early 2013," said Miltenberger.

"After that, we will begin discussions with British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon."

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