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Advocacy Update
Submitted to Northern News Services July 8, 2021

To the Editor:

As the rest of Canada continues to emerge from their COVID-19 restrictions, the Northwest Territories is laboring under a plan that is already out of date. Although only 3 weeks old, Emerging Wisely 2021, for all its data-driven benchmarks and progressive steps to the new normal, needs to be binned.

Even as Canada sits at around a 31% vaccination rate, case counts have plummeted. From a peak of over 8,000 per day in April, we’ll soon be seeing fewer than 500 cases per day across Canada. That’s amazing. And that’s only with 31% of the population fully vaccinated.

Emerging Wisely 2021 will only see all restrictions lifted when 66% to 75% of Canadians have been fully vaccinated. We will also need to see 75% of NWT residents 12 and over fully vaccinated. The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce is doing its part with our Crush Covid Incentive Program and Draw – 458 fully vaccinated NWT residents have entered so far. However, seeing the current rate of vaccinations flat line, these targets seem simply unachievable. Indeed, the rest of Canada has determined to move on without us.

As of July 5, fully vaccinated international travelers returning to Canada with an unvaccinated child no longer need to self-isolate. Emerging Wisely 2021 won’t see that restriction lifted until mid- to late fall (if we can reach those 75% targets by then). The federal government has decided that this restriction on families travelling is no longer supportable.

It is only a matter of time before the OCPHO sees its decision to keep this restriction challenged in the courts. It is no longer a reasonable and demonstrably justified restriction on our Charter mobility rights. And it’s could be found to be discrimination based on family status under human rights legislation. If the OCPHO isn’t getting legal advice on this, it should be. If it is and it’s ignoring it, that gives rise to unnecessary litigation risk and hardships. Hardships which fall disproportionately on essential workers who cannot work from home. Just ask the hardworking owners of Savannah’s Family Restaurant who had to cut their hours twice due to their daughter’s medical travel. The Premier must know this. What terrible and regressive policy.

The first clue that Emerging Wisely 2021 would need to be binned was when we stumbled up the first two steps. The restrictions on indoor gatherings were set to be eased before the easing of self-isolation requirements. Turns out, the Canadian case counts dropped so quickly, it happened the other way around. That’s fine. But it shows that this plan was being overtaken by events from the outset. There is no shame in redoing the plan in the face of new circumstances.

The Premier and her Minister of Health need to take the reins back here and get the Northwest Territories back to normal like the rest of Canada.

Tim Syer
President
Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce

Resources:

View our Letter To The Editor as a PDF here.

View the Letter To The Editor, published by NNSL (July 8, 2021) here.

Submitted to Northern News Services June 16, 2021

To the Editor,

The release of Emerging Wisely 2021 on June 9th came closely on the heels of the Premier’s release of Emerging Stronger. Both of these documents emerged later than hoped for. And both of the Emergings have disappointed and missed real opportunities.

On the pandemic front, we were given a gift. We were given early and abundant access to vaccines which stop the most serious effects of COVID 19 in their tracks. Yellowknifers recognized the gift and got vaccinated. As of June 16, 70% of us have been at least partially vaccinated. We have now protected our most vulnerable. We should be celebrating that. While the recent Yellowknife outbreaks may have been setbacks, their limited spread and the lack of hospitalizations shows us that the vaccines work.

And yet we’re left with Emerging Wisely 2021 that sees restrictions and limitations on fully vaccinated people in place far longer than the territory to the left of us and even to the right of us. After the announcements from the Yukon and Nunavut on their re-opening plans, it boggles the mind how Emerging Wisely 2021 ever made it through the Premier’s office.

Before vaccines, COVID 19 posed an existential threat to our health care system and our most vulnerable. Extraordinary measures were warranted, and they worked. We made it. Now, as the threat to our vulnerable populations has receded, extraordinary measures are no longer supportable. The new plan mentions personal responsibility and risk management, and yet there is none of that.

Most Yellowknifers have made a choice - to get vaccinated and avoid the worst of COVID. Some have chosen to roll the dice. Woe betide those who roll the dice. I wish them well. But for those of us who have chosen to follow the CPHO and the Premier’s advice, it’s time to return to normal. Keeping restrictions on the fully vaccinated is a missed opportunity to show that the CPHO is not just all stick and no carrot. When stacked up against our neighbours, Emerging Wisely 2021 will erode the trust and confidence that the government needs in order to deal with the next emergency.

Unfortunately, Emerging Stronger is a return to business as usual for our political leadership. Rebranded mandates, vague commitments to build big things and keep northerners and northern dollars up north and no real plan. So we pick up right where we left off. What Emerging Strongly really represents is a missed opportunity. With money apparently growing on trees in Ottawa, now is the time for the Premier to seize the moment and do something big. Be a nation builder – build that highway up the Mackenzie Valley, expand Taltson, turn the Slave Geological Province into Canada’s post-oil economic engine.

Despite the disappointments wrought by the two Emergings, Yellowknife businesses continue to adapt and lead. Air Tindi and Det’on Cho Management LP deserve special mention for taking the lead with their vaccination incentive programs. The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce has begun to roll out its members’ vaccination incentive program, Crush Covid Yellowknife. If only we saw such leadership and problem-solving initiative from the Premier’s office.

Tim Syer
President
Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce

Resources:

View our Letter To The Editor as a PDF here.

View the Letter To The Editor, published by NNSL (June 16, 2021) here.

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