MACA taking bigger role in EnterpriseCouncil reaches co-management agreement with territorial government
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 17, 2014
The GNWT is now more deeply involved in trying to straighten out the dysfunctional community government of the Hamlet of Enterprise.
A co-management agreement has been announced between the hamlet and the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).
The announcement came after an in-camera session during a Feb. 12 special meeting attended by a high-level delegation from MACA, and was officially confirmed when council unanimously passed a motion agreeing to co-management.
"We asked them for options and, when they described each to us and what it meant, this was the most favourable," said Mayor John Leskiw II of the meeting with MACA.
"We know that, as we have a few new councillors and a new mayor, we may not be doing everything the way it should be done. We're hoping to improve on that."
The agreement, which is for three months with the possibility of extension, comes just days after the hamlet and its now-former senior administrative officer (SAO), Terry Testart, parted ways.
Under the co-management agreement, MACA and the council will work together to find an interim SAO to ensure the orderly management of the community, and eventually hire a full-time SAO.
"We have some names that we're looking at and that we'll bring forward to council for their approval," said MACA Deputy Minister Tom Williams, who explained getting an interim SAO in place is a high priority which will probably take a couple of weeks.
Leskiw said MACA's assistance will hopefully mean a good relationship between the council and a new SAO.
"We know we were having problems. If you look at our record, we've gone through two SAOs in the last two years," he said, adding council looks forward to getting input on preventing problems in the future.
Williams explained co-management is an interim step, especially in communities that lose an SAO.
"We want to make sure that the business of the community continues."
The deputy minister pointed out another important aspect of getting an interim SAO is the hamlet is about to start preparing a budget for the new fiscal year, which begins on April 1.
However, Leskiw said budget time didn't factor into the decision to accept co-management.
"It's something I believe most, if not all, councillors felt would be beneficial to us," he said.
"And to establish a stable council and better interactions between the future SAO and council is a priority for us, and this is the only way to do it."
Leskiw said the previous SAO is no longer working with the hamlet by mutual agreement, but noted the terms, conditions and decisions leading to his departure are confidential.
Williams explained that, under co-management, council will retain its full powers and its decisions do not have to be approved by MACA.
"The council still functions as a council," he said. "We're just supporting them to move forward."
That support will also involve helping the hamlet review policies and obtain training from the department on how a hamlet government should operate.
"I think there's a willingness to work together in the best interest of the residents of Enterprise," said Williams.
This is the first time Enterprise has entered into a co-management agreement with MACA.
However, in 1998, the territorial cabinet dismissed Enterprise's then settlement council and SAO, and appointed a public administrator to run the community.
"We want to work with MACA to prevent that from having to happen again," said Leskiw, adding he has enough faith in the current council to believe that step will be unnecessary.
However, the mayor said dissolving council and appointing an administrator was one of the options discussed at the Feb. 12 in-camera session.
Another option was to let council try to handle the problems without help from MACA, he said. "I kind of shied away from that one because, if we're having problems now, not addressing them or not knowing how to solve them would just leave us in the same condition, and that's not going to help anybody."
Leskiw is a strong supporter of the training aspect of the co-management agreement.
"If you're doing something out of habit and it's wrong, it's wrong no matter how many times you do it," he said. "So we want to stop all of this and really address the issues that we are having, and find ways of solving them rather than letting them go on
MACA representatives have been attending council meetings in Enterprise since October to offer guidance on how the council can function better and overcome disagreements among members.