Unclean highway toilets on politician’s radar

A sign at the entrance to the 60th Parallel Territorial Park and visitor information centre. Emelie Peacock photo
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The discussion of the state of highway toilets is one which comes up in the legislative assembly each year around this time says Wally Schumann.

The Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment says a contractor is sent out once a month during the winter to keep the facilities clean, and is also dispatched when issues arise.

“This is a perennial issue, it goes on and on for years and it’s particularly at the border. When the ice roads are in and all the big trucks start coming from the South, and it’s where the truckers stop,” says MLA for Hay River North R.J. Simpson about the issue, to laughter from members of the legislative assembly. “They don’t take it easy on that bathroom, Mr. Speaker, and it’s not a great way to introduce visitors to the Northwest Territories.”

“It sounds like there’s a review happening, there’ll probably be a report that comes out of it, maybe an action plan, maybe a framework, who knows. This has been ongoing for years and years and years,” Simpson says, pressing the minister on a long-term plan to keep these toilets clean.

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The minister says the department is working on a winter strategy – including how to deal with the highway bathrooms – before next winter.

“This is a difficult situation for us, these places are isolated and remote, there’s no power at these locations and we spend a significant amount of money on this.”

The department spends roughly $50,000 annually to clean the facilities in the off-season Schumann says. The cost of a regular outhouse is $70,000 to construct, and likely double that for a heated facility.

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