MLA apologizes after Dempster hunting trip provokes highway closure confusion

On Friday, Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake Jr. said he was sorry if he upset anyone after a trip to hunt caribou left some constituents thinking he'd been given special treatment. 

On Oct. 28, the territory's Department of Infrastructure tweeted the Dempster highway was closed between Fort McPherson and Eagle Plains "due to high winds and blowing snow." But some travellers, including Blake, were still able to get through.

Blake acknowledged he came under criticism on Facebook because he was apparently able to drive the highway while it was closed to others. But he said favouritism had nothing to do with it. The confusion, he said, stemmed from miscommunication.

"I apologize to my constituents if I upset them, that wasn't my intention," Blake later told the CBC. "You know I'm treated just like anybody else. I don't abuse my authority. I haven't done that and I don't intend to."

Blake made his apology on his public Facebook page on Friday. 

Courtesy closure in N.W.T. not strictly enforced

On Monday Greg Hanna, a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, confirmed in an email that the highway was closed on Oct. 28 between the N.W.T. border and Eagle Plains, Yukon.

Hanna said that when the highway is closed on the Yukon side, the department, as a courtesy, "often closes the gate at the road access point in James Creek [N.W.T.] to ensure travellers are aware of the closure on the Yukon side of the border."

James Creek is past Fort McPherson toward the Yukon/N.W.T. border.

He said the department had learned some travellers were allowed to pass the closed gate.

"We recently learned that an employee of our maintenance contractor did allow some vehicles to pass through, as the travellers advised that they did not plan on travelling through the closed Yukon portion of the road."

Blake's version of events reflects the department's statement. He said once his group got to James Creek, they waited 15 minutes before someone opened the gates for them.

Hanna said that since then, the contractor involved has reminded employees not to open the gate when the Yukon side is closed.