Yellowknife Centre Newsletter
Budget Holds Program Spending Steady 
Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek released the 2021-22 budget on February 4.

Some highlights:

  • Total spending of $2.124 billion is projected, up 6.2 % from the 2020 budget. The 2021-22 surplus is forecasted at $69 million
  • There are no cuts to programs or services
  • Program spending will increase $117 million over Budget 2020. There is $41 million dedicated to COVID-19 priorities
  • There are no new taxes. As previously announced, the carbon tax will increase to 2.4 cents per litre of gas, equivalent to $40 per tonne of CO2. This revenue goes back to families and businesses in a rebate called the Cost of Living Offset. Adults will receive $208 each and children $240 each.
  • Borrowing will increase $254 million, to $1.585 billion in total debt at the end of 2021-22. The past three years of operating deficits have increased borrowing, although the level remains “affordable” and interest rates remain low.

The Finance Minister warns that current spending is “unsustainable” unless increased revenues are found.  The impact of COVID-19 on the economy is mainly responsible for revenue declines.

You can see complete budget documents on the Finance Department website.

The detail of the departmental budgets is being debated in the House in Committee of the Whole. Proceedings are livestreamed on the Legislative Assembly website and Facebook page.

Vaccination available to Yellowknife residents

I got my first shot from nurse Dana Ross on January 25.
The best source of information about the vaccine schedule and how priority groups are defined is the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority COVID-19 Updates page. It is updated often.

For the week of Feb. 22, there are appointments available for first doses of priority populations and second doses for anyone who got their first dose between January 18-22.
People who got their first dose later than January 22 are NOT eligible for a second dose this week and will be turned away. If you are eligible for the second dose but can’t go this week, please book at your earliest convenience. Here is the link to the online booking tool, or call Public Health at 767-9120.

The NTHSSA is planning to open vaccination appointments for the general population over 18 years in March.
Seniors Week 2021 
The annual Seniors Week has come and gone, but every day is a good time to recognize and honour our respected elders and consider how we can make their lives better.

As the Minister Responsible for Seniors, I’m following up from my work as a Regular MLA to work with the Department of Health and Social Services on an Elders Strategy, to be completed during this Assembly. This strategy responds to a key mandate priority to enable seniors to age in place with dignity.

How to improve aging in place supports will be a major element of the strategy, along with the coordination of the delivery of programs and services for seniors.  Work with partners, including other government departments and the NWT Seniors Society, is just the beginning. A preliminary task is to identify gaps in service, some of which are already well-known, such as the need for more affordable housing for seniors and expanded homecare.
The Fort Good Hope nine-unit Seniors' Centre opened on Feb. 16th. Elder Gabe Kochon did the ribbon cutting honours with me and Sahtu MLA and Housing Minister Paulie Chinna alongside. This centre provides for independent living with home care supports.
In the meantime, departments and agencies across government offer a variety of programs and services for seniors, from property tax and home heating rebate programs, to homecare and medical programs eligible only for seniors.

The Seniors Information Handbook remains the best guide to programs. An updated version is due out this year. If you would like a hard copy of the handbook please contact the Communications Unit of Department of Health & Social Services at (867) 767-9052, ext. 49034 or email hsscommunications@gov.nt.ca.

For quick answers to questions, contact the Seniors Information Line at 920 7444 or 1 800 661 0878.
Addictions Recovery Survey Open for Input 
The Department of Health and Social Services has launched an Addictions Recovery Survey.

The Survey asks for input from people and families who have lived with, or are living with addictions. People who have used addictions recovery services provided by the GNWT are being asked to take part.

The survey asks what supports and/or services are working, what needs to be strengthened, and what  barriers or challenges people have had getting services. The feedback will give the Department a better understanding of addictions treatment in the NWT, and will be used for program evaluation, including the need for an NWT treatment facility and to inform development of a Territorial Alcohol Strategy.

Click this link to take the survey: Addictions Recovery Survey

If you can’t access the survey online, call you can get a hard copy at the Community Mental Health and Adult Services office in the Jan Stirling Building, 4702 Franklin Avenue. Deadline for feedback is March 31, 2021.
Thanks to the Yellowknife Chinese Association for sharing their Lunar New Year celebration with us by hanging lanterns in Somba K'e park. 
What to do if you are feeling blue
The light and the warmth of the sun are returning but seasonal doldrums are common at this time of year, and made worse by the necessary restrictions of COVID-19.

I am grateful that the Baker Centre is open even though it is operating at reduced capacity. It’s an important social hub for all the seniors who live in my riding and beyond.

The NWT Help Line is available 24/7 for anyone who is looking for immediate help. The number is 1-800-661-0844. Help is also available from the Community Counseling Program. Access to the counseling program has been improved; there are no waiting lists for appointments and I’m told it’s possible to get a same day appointment. The number to call in Yellowknife is 767-9110.

Never underestimate the benefits of taking a walk, if you are able, especially if you can go with a friend or family member. Walking outside also provides a boost to Vitamin D if the sun is out. If you are worried about slipping outside, consider taking a walk at the Fieldhouse. The City offers a special rate for seniors.