The idea of building a temporary work camp in Yellowknife may not be as dead as City Council’s surprising ‘No’ vote two weeks ago suggested. This coming Monday, construction company Clark Builders, half of the consortium building the new hospital, is scheduled to give a presentation "regarding a Temporary Work Camp” to council in a special meeting of the Municipal Services Committee.
The very fact the presentation is happening foreshadows a potential showdown between the City and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation
It’s not clear yet whether this presentation will include new proposals on using the empty lot in Kam Lake by the North Slave Correctional Centre — the site of a proposed 150 to 250 person work camp which was summarily rejected by council. Dave Brothers, vice-president of northern operations for Clark, refused to comment when reached by EDGE. Several councillors we spoke with confirmed that the meeting was happening, but none had received the agenda or any accompanying materials yet.
The very fact the presentation is happening foreshadows a potential showdown between the City and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, which jumped on the idea of hosting a work camp on land by Dettah Road right after the Kam Lake proposal was shut down. Just this morning, CBC reported that “the business arm of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation says it's confident there will soon be a deal to house out-of-town workers building the new Stanton Territorial Hospital in a temporary camp on the First Nation's land."
According to the article, Det'on Cho president and CEO Bob Murphy says “they have worked out an agreement but that the idea still needs to be approved by the First Nation's Lands Department and the Northwest Territories' Department of Lands.”
If the City is back in the mix, as Monday’s meeting suggests, Clark could find itself in a buyer’s market.
The three city councillors EDGE spoke with on Wednesday say they’ll approach any new proposal with an open mind, despite the previous vote.
“I’m happy that it’s coming back. To dismiss it that early on was a bit premature,” says Coun. Steve Payne, one of three councillors — along with Couns. Linda Bussey and Rebecca Alty — on the losing side of the vote to move the camp proposal through first reading. “I think that everybody deserves their day in court.”
He did say, however, that for any new proposal to be successful it would likely have to be “a compromise of a smaller camp, maybe half the size, and some local apartments being used."
“I’d also like to see how many local people would be employed,” he adds. “And what I’d really like to see is Clark offer up some allowance for workers who want to move here, so instead of putting them in a camp, if they decide they want to buy here, they’d put a certain amount towards the down-payment.”
Coun. Niels Konge was away on the day of the original vote, but says the decision to stop the proposal in its tracks was the wrong one.
“Obviously any project of this magnitude requires a whole bunch of housing and I don’t think Yellowknife has the hotel capacity. We found that out when we looked into the Canada Winter Games,” he says. “I think that leaves us with a camp. And if the councillors don’t think it’s good idea, then good for the Yellowknives Dene for jumping on that business opportunity.”
Even Coun. Julian Morse, who voted against the proposal, says he’s “open to whatever they bring forward.”
“The last proposal came to us at the very last minute, and we had to vote on it within hours of it being presented to us,” he says, explaining his opposition to the original proposal. “I wanted to see there was a full effort to utilize the local resources as much as possible, so I don’t regret voting against the proposal. But just because I didn’t like the last plan, doesn’t mean I’m set against it. If the new plan is different I’ll consider it differently.”
As to the potential competition with YKDFN, Steve Payne sums it up this way: “I think YKDFN is jumping on an opportunity and if they get it, all the best to them. They stood up and made an offer when the City turned them down, and good on them.”