N.W.T. COVID-19 economic recovery plan coming next week, premier says

A long-awaited plan for the N.W.T’s COVID-19 economic recovery is coming sometime before the end of next week. 

The N.W.T. launched a bare-bones recovery plan last April

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane stands out front of the Legislative Assembly building in Yellowknife on April 30, 2020. (Walter Strong/CBC)

A long-awaited plan for the N.W.T's COVID-19 economic recovery is coming sometime before the end of next week. 

In the legislature Thursday, Premier Caroline Cochrane detailed the work that's gone into the plan to date, including several rounds of consultations with Indigenous groups, MLAs and advisory councils. 

She said the plan is almost ready to be released to the public, and will be done before the current legislative session ends on June 4th.

It will stay a "living document," she said, so changes can be made as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

"We don't know when [the pandemic] is coming [to an end], so this will always be changed," Cochrane said. 

The announcement comes almost a year after the territory released a bare-bones plan looking into how the N.W.T.'s economy would bounce back in a post-pandemic world. 

Cochrane said the plan could have been finished sooner if she was able to "take 100 per cent control," but instead emphasized the need for partnerships and consultation to get the job done. 

The plan will likely build on the three-point "Emerging Strongly" plan, released last April, that was supposed to set the territory on track to adjust to their new normal. 

It promised to look to potential stimulus spending and tax changes to get the N.W.T. back on track. There would also be reviews into healthcare legislation, accelerating "digital government" and diversifying the economy. 

At the time of the "Emerging Strongly" announcement, the territory said they would put together advisory committees to solidify the details of this plan. Three councils were formed soon after: one dedicated to the business community, another to the health and social sector, and a third on Indigenous communities. 

By November, the business advisory council issued 10 pages of recommendations for the N.W.T.'s eventual economic recovery plan, with measures for short and long-term recovery. 

Among the recommendations was for the N.W.T. to prioritize local businesses in procurement, provide more support to small businesses and invest in "concrete" mental health programs. 

The report also identified specific ways of helping the industries most at-risk during the pandemic, like offering a rebate to N.W.T. residents who booked staycations to alleviate some of the pressure for tourism operators. 

The business council voted to suspend its work in January. In a press release, they explained that the executive council, meaning cabinet, did not have economic recovery as a focus.

Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, said in the legislature Thursday that none of these suggestions had been adopted by the territory. 

"It's been six months since the ... council disbanded, and here we are ... without our economic recovery plan," he said. "It's hard to have faith." 

"As far as I can tell, [the recommendations are] not in a plan, and we don't have a plan," he said.