North·NWT Votes 2019

Yellowknife chamber calls on candidates to back university in city, build fibre line

'Vote for Growth' spells out a five-point platform for territorial election candidates.

Chamber of Commerce is tracking candidates’ responses to five-point platform

The platform asks candidates to support the findings of the Aurora College Foundational Review, which recommended the creation of a polytechnic university with its headquarters in Yellowknife. (Walter Strong/CBC)

The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce has released a five-point platform for candidates, recommending candidates reduce the price of alcohol, back a university headquartered in Yellowknife, and build a new fibre optic line in four years.

The plan, called "Vote for Growth," identifies the five most pressing issues identified by its members. Their website also includes a tracker indicating which Yellowknife candidates have signed on to the pledge.

"We believe that the key to Yellowknife's prosperity is growth," reads the platform, "increasing our population and attracting more business and investment to Yellowknife."

The platform asks candidates to support the findings of the controversial Aurora College Foundational Review, which called for the creation of a polytechnic university headquartered in the territorial capital.

On its release, the report prompted outrage from residents of Fort Smith, where the college is currently headquartered. 

The platform says a 2019 survey of Chamber of Commerce members found 74.5 per cent supported the idea of moving the college to Yellowknife.

"We believe that there are opportunities for the Fort Smith and Inuvik campuses to offer specialized programming," the platform adds.

A temporary emergency fibre optic cable lies on the ground along Highway #3 in the N.W.T. following a cut in the permanent cable in August. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Fibre op, funding gap identified as issues

The platform also asks candidates to commit $1.5 million towards the construction of a second fibre optic line south from Yellowknife "by December 31, 2021."

The fibre line, on which many residents depend for internet service, was severed several times this summer, including one notable instance that paralyzed business in the city for a day.

Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod, who's not seeking re-election, said he would "have discussions" with Northwestel about building a redundancy at the time.

In addition, the platform asks candidates to eliminate a municipal funding gap estimated at $11 million in Yellowknife within their four-year term.

The liquor commission came under fire from businesses for its 'subjective' licensing process, the platform says. (CBC)

Liquor commission 'subjective' in rejecting licenses

Also in the crosshairs is the N.W.T. Liquor Commission, which came under fire in April for closing Yellowknife's government liquor warehouse and managing distribution through the privately-owned Liquor Shop.

"The uptown liquor shop, where businesses are required to purchase their product, is often unable to fill orders and cannot guarantee product availability for businesses," the platform reads.

It also says the commission has been "subjective" and unclear in refusing liquor licenses.

As a solution, it calls on candidates to push the government to establish an appeal process for rejected vendors. It also asks they change licensing rules to allow minors in liquor-serving family restaurants, and use savings in distribution costs to reduce the cost of alcoholic beverages.

Commissioner's lands 'incredibly slow and inefficient'

As its final recommendation, the platform asks candidates to commit to transferring all "commissioner's land" within municipal boundaries to the control of the City of Yellowknife.

Commissioner's land is land throughout the territory administrated by the territorial government under an act dating back to the 1950s. A large parcel of commissioner's land surrounds Yellowknife, and the City of Yellowknife must apply for permission to develop parts of it.

"The current system…  is incredibly slow and inefficient and is preventing investment, business growth, job creation and access to affordable housing in Yellowknife," says the platform.

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