June 14, 2006

A good idea that went horribly wrong...

Sometimes, the people who develop programs (government and otherwise)just don't have a good understanding of the North. You just can't deliver a program in Trout Lake, NWT (pop. 100, access by snow road in the winter or by small aircraft year-round, weather depending) the same way you would in, say, Vancouver (pop. approx. 2 million, access just about any way you can imagine).

It's not for wont of good intentions; it's just that living in a territorial capital or in a big city doesn't give you an appreciation of what the needs of a small, remote community really are. Unless you've lived in a small community yourself, you can only imagine and assume.

There are 33/34 communities in the NWT, many of which are small and inaccessable by road so travel can be quite expensive. With limited human and financial resources commited to many programs, this often means no service delivery to anywhere but the "major" centres.

So, why the rant?

About three years ago, I responded to a big territory-wide marketing campaign from the Arctic Energy Alliance. They were calling on people to sign-up for an energy audit on their homes.

I wanted an energy audit on my house in Fort Liard. There was a fee for this service, but that was alright with me. I believe in minimizing waste. Besides, depending on the results of their assessment, I might have been eligible for federal energy efficiency home renovation programs. Their assessment was a requirement for applying to these programs.

They added me to the list.

A few months later, I called to check on the status of my request. I was informed that they would come when there were enough people in the community interested in getting the assessment.

So someone else in town who had requested the assessment got a few others to sign-up.

About a year later, I called again, wondering when they were coming to do the assessment. I received an answer about not having someone at the AEA who was qualified to do the assessment at that time.

I figured, quite correctly, that I should not be holding my breath.

It's been three years since I made my initial request and almost a year since I moved from Fort Liard to Whitehorse. A few days ago, I received a letter, forwarded from my old address in Fort Liard. It was from the Arctic Energy Alliance.

I have included the letter here. The content (right down to the punctuation) is the same, though I've changed the names and the font slightly.

Dear Meandering Michael,

Due to circumstances beyond our control (the new federal budget) we regret to inform you that we are unable to provide the Energuide for Houses evaluation that you requested. Friday May 12, 2006 was the cutoff date for any new evaluations.

we are investigating new avenues of funding to resume this service as soon as possible. If you are disappointed by this cancellation, we envourage you to contact your local MLA to voice your concerns.

P. Outlet
Residential Energy Management Specialist

My first response to the letter was, "That darned federal budget!"

Ok, not really. My first response to the letter was, "Three years! I asked for that energy audit three years ago, and now you're trying to blame it on the new federal budget!? As if!!! Let's face it, I was never getting that energy assessment anyways."

Kind reader, if you are a person who develops programs for a living, please consider who you are developing the program for, what it's like where they live (go ahead and ask them!) and ensure there are enough financial and human resources to actually deliver the program. Spending your budget on marketing and leaving nothing for delivery helps nobody but the communications firms.

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