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Over the past 2 weeks, the situation with COVID-19 has evolved at a pace that none of us could have predicted, and each day brings with it new challenges.
We all know that COVID-19 has very quickly had a significant impact on the Northwest Territories economy, and our government is committed to continuing to put supports in place to help businesses and individuals through this difficult time.
Just over a week ago, Minister Wawzonek and I announced $13.2 Million dollars in Government of the Northwest Territories supports for our residents.
Today we’re back to announce an additional $8.259 million, bringing the total value to $21.459 million in Government of the Northwest Territories COVID-19 support announced to date.
As Minister Wawzonek outlined, supports included in the announcement today range from Income Assistance increases, to Emergency Housing funds.
Aviation is another area touched on in this wave of supports. This sector, a critical piece of our territorial supply chain, has been especially impacted by COVID-19.
That is why, including the aircraft landing fees already waived, almost $1 million in GNWT financial relief will also be provided to help support critical aviation businesses that our communities and economy rely upon.
Ministers have been meeting regularly, and continue to work with our departments to ensure there is a plan that includes using COVID relief efforts to keep northern and indigenous businesses afloat. Examples such as utilizing northern companies to ensure the supply chain remains intact or to provide Personal Protective equipment, services for decontamination, or safety training.
We are also looking at ways to utilize key infrastructure projects to ensure the construction and consulting sectors are sustained, and that projects critical to our territory, such as long term care facilities, continue to advance.
Departments have been working extremely hard to make sure that project execution remains a focus, while also doing their part to ensure that the precautionary health measures put in place to protect the spread of COVID-19 across our territory are adhered to.
As the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, it is part of my job to safeguard our economy, and I want to reassure each resident that I am focused during this time on ensuring minimal impacts to the economy.
I know residents are worried and I continue to hear concerns from people who have lost business revenue, or employment because of COVID-19.
Concerns over mine closures are another big discussion right now.
Our mines and other resource project operators, like all Northwest Territories’ business, are making tough decisions in the interest of the health and wellbeing of their employees, clients, and residents of the NWT. They are also being forced to make difficult decisions about their futures.
All major resource projects are different: in their ownership structures, their operations, and their workforces. These differences directly affect how they go about implementing COVID-19 response plans.
We are supportive of the mines and operations that are prepared to operate safely as long as they can. I can assure the public that the mines are working directly with the Worker’s Safety and Compensation Commission and the Chief Public Health Office to identify a way for them to continue to operate that protects the safety of our residents.
We’re going to see economic impacts of Covid-19 over a range of sectors, but how we react, and the proactive measures we put in place as we face these challenges, will ultimately determine how we are impacted by them.
The supports announced today will help, but are only part of the equation.
In the days and weeks that follow, the GNWT will continue to find other ways to support our residents and communities.
We will also continue to work with the Government of Canada and our federal ministerial counterparts to draw their attention to the unique needs of the north and northern businesses. Over the last several weeks I, and my colleagues, have participated in numerous national level calls where we continue to be a strong voice, ensuring that federal relief and recovery programs are relevant and applicable to our unique northern environment.
Together, we will get through this and demonstrate to the world that strong northern resiliency that will help us to come out of this time even stronger.