Even Spock-ified money doesn’t go as far as it should in the NWT these days | Illustration courtesy the Internet
Last-minute declines in gasoline and fuel oil prices helped the Northwest Territories show a cost of living increase of just under the one percent national average for 2014, but if potential immigrants look more closely, they might not be impressed.
After weeks of angry complaints from Yellowknifers who could see falling world oil prices reflected at the pumps in other cities but not theirs, retailers dropped gasoline prices, a change recorded as an 18.8 percent decline by Statistics Canada number crunchers.
A 15.4 percent drop in heating oil prices took some of the bite from the bitterly cold weather, but it was offset by a 7.9 percent increase in electricity bills that are not likely to shrink, given the ongoing problems at the Snare hydro station.
By the end of January, Yellowknife’s consumer price index stood at 128.1, a year-over-year increase of 1.7 percent, not terrible but not nearly as rosy a picture as Whitehorse, where the index reached 121.8, up just 1.1 percent from January 2014.
Persuading – or coercing – immigrants
Reducing energy bills is one way Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger hopes to lower living costs across the territories, while persuading 2,000 people to move here over the next five years, and boosting those all-important federal transfer payments.
One target the government has its eye on is the NWT’s estimated 3,000 fly-in commuters. If they could be persuaded – or coerced – into uprooting their families and relocating to the Northwest Territories, the government’s revenue picture would instantly brighten.
Dominion Diamonds is interested in the immigrant nominee program, Miltenberger told the legislature earlier in the current session. Including nominees’ families, the program could bring as many as 800 new faces a year to the territory, he calculated, and easily exceed the government’s target.
Dominion signaled its intentions last fall when it announced an end to commuter flights from Edmonton as of June, but before it could respond to questions about how many jobs might be involved, the Union of Northern Workers jumped in.
The UNW represents 450 workers at Ekati, and union president Todd Parsons said the flights would be a major sticking point in the contract talks that got underway last month. Neither side is talking publicly about negotiations or the future of the fly-in jobs.
That probably explains why Yellowknife realtors haven’t felt the sort of tremor that the demand for 100 or 200 housing units would cause in the Yellowknife housing market.