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GNWT failing in reducing poverty: Alternatives North report

The GNWT needs to restructure the economy to be less dependent on the mining sector and government employment, implement a guaranteed basic income and a living wage.

That’s according to Alternatives North, a local social justice coalition, Poverty Report Card for NWT, which found a number of the GNWT’s policies fail to reduce poverty in the territory.

Income inequality, food security, lack of repairs for housing and negative impacts on mental wellness were also problems worsened by the territory’s poverty issues.

“The NWT has deep colonial roots, a long history of marginalizing Indigenous people, and generations of people trapped in poverty,” read the report.

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This is a bigger problem outside the population hubs of Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik, where people tend to have unequal access to services.

Difficulty earning a living wage impacts a number of people in the territory.

The NWT’s economy is dominated by the mining sector and the government, who between them employ more than half the territory’s workers, according to the report. These jobs are concentrated in population hubs like Yellowknife, which leads to a lack of opportunities for people elsewhere in the territory.

The service sector is the next biggest employer, which has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One in five households cannot afford a decent quality of living.

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One-quarter of all NWT children and half of children in lone parent families in smaller communities live in poverty.

One in four households in small communities and a rising number in Yellowknife worry about being able to afford food. 

The median after tax income of the territory is $44,520, which is less than the wage someone would need to earn to provide a decent standard of living, according to the report. 

To provide a decent standard of living, someone would have to work for 37.5 hours, earning $23.95 in Yellowknife, $24.75 if they lived in Hay River and $23.78 in Inuvik.

Minimum wage is currently $13.46 an hour. But during the pandemic, the GNWT has been offering a wage top-up to businesses employing minimum wage workers, who earn less than $18 an hour.

The Northwest Territories government extended its wage top-up program until February 28., back in October.

Back in October, employment minister R.J. Simpson said there was no way to make the increase to an $18 an hour minimum wage permanent.

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