Transcript of meeting #1 for Caucus Round Table in the 18th Assembly. (The original version is on the Legislative Assembly's site.) The winning word was need.

The winning word was need.

On the agenda

MLAs speaking

Ms. Caroline Cochrane’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Thank you, Ms. Cochrane. Next and probably the last that we will do today before we break for lunch is Mr. Danny McNeely, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Sahtu. Mr. McNeely. Mr. Daniel McNeely’s Speech

Mr. Daniel McNeely’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is a great privilege to sit here today and participate in the developments of the four-year plan for this 18th Assembly, making it a healthy, effective and transparent government.

We have sat here for the last several weeks now, a couple of weeks, and we have heard our priorities during our election campaign, which I will speak to, and I kind of view it as a collective approach in gathering the priorities over the last couple of weeks into a consolidated approach. This is what we are doing to collectively put our list together.

Some of the things that I have heard in my riding, as you know and I have mentioned it earlier, it is probably the most isolated area. Within two years, as mentioned, the other regions will see one or more communities connected by an all-weather road connection and I am glad to hear a lot of Members speaking towards the pursuance of our Mackenzie Valley Highway, a project that has a long history and goes back to the John Diefenbaker days and the creation of the Hire North Program.

Some of the issues and priorities for the Sahtu region include a new school that is needed in the small community of Colville Lake. We have talked on the importance of education and post-secondary education and furthering our youths to gain knowledge prior to entering the workforce, so that is a priority of mine.

Also, another building needed is the health centre in Tulita. It is getting old and the health delivery of services to a healthy community only makes for a productive one. So, that is another priority there, as well as the highway.

Some of the other challenges facing us here is the conclusion of devolution. As you heard from our SSI chair the other day, that was brought to everybody’s attention, and building on government-to-government relationships. One thing is to conclude your land claim. The next thing is to make sure it’s functioning properly with the appropriate management systems, resource systems. Another thing facing this government, and it’s going to be a model for future governments, is the community self-government in Deline. It’s going to be active within this government term, so that will be a role model for other community-based self-government projects or initiatives coming into place, so we’ve got to do it right, we’ve got to do it fair and honourably. Our agreements are only as good as how it’s carried out. That’s another one there.

Caribou management, as other Members mentioned, is a high priority for some of the communities in the eastern side of our Sahtu region. They rely greatly on the management of the herd and the health of the herd, to provide future generations and current generations for food at our dinner table.

Employment is another that’s very common. Most of these issues are all very common in this House here and within all 33 communities. We are also looking at the Sahtu region and having a trades centre. I’m hearing from one of the employees here that it’s a costly one, but let’s have a look at it. If it’s effective, let’s do it. If it’s needed, that much more reason for doing it.

The social housing, the whole issue of housing, these are programs and projects that are carried out by this government in conjunction with the federal government.

Health travel. In the whole area of program delivery, as one of my previous colleagues said, is that we have to see how effective these programs are. If they’re really not effective, how can we make them more effective than their current state, or maybe they are just played out and there’s no need for that program and the funds and resources could be allocated to a more priority point.

Home care and daycare facilities is another one that I heard in my visits, and we’ll be addressing that as we move along. Being a self-sufficient region. The Sahtu region is isolated, as I mentioned earlier. It’s also isolated to the point where it’s reporting and having to report to other areas. Why do we even call it the Sahtu region? I just don’t know. Just to give you an example, our probation officers have to report to Inuvik .Why do they have to report to Inuvik? I don’t know; so I’ll be pursuing that as another priority of independence for our Sahtu region.

Accountability, transparency, prudent spending, effective spending by this government was another hot issue presented to me during my community visits, so I think we can all come to the conclusion that it’s a very needed drive for this 19 Member Assembly to send that message out there that we’re going to be accountable to the people who we represent and to the North and to our riding as well. We’re going to be transparent with the open decision-making process. We’re going to have government-to-government relations and we’re going to execute that by going to the communities. As one of the previous leaders mentioned, within the next 12 months we’re going to have ministerial Cabinet meetings in the regions, so that is evidence to show that we’re trying to be transparent and prudent in watching our tight, tight fiscal position.

Other management skills that are a priority and will be developed are not only the government-to-government relationships there but the internal House of this Assembly to work collectively between our Executive Council and the other Members and moving towards effectiveness doing a mid-term review to see how you are doing. Are you living up to the expectations as promised? As well, that mid-term review should include are we meeting the goals and objectives as set out in our priority transition now? Are we fulfilling the mandate?

Education delivery, gender equality, these are all programs, housing, social issues, child welfare, to me these are all priorities of the programs that will be set. Effective management will say how do you deliver that, as one of my previous colleagues mentioned. I will probably continue to say “previous colleagues,” because we are all very similar in terms of setting our priorities. I have economic initiatives, just like the other speakers. We should do an action plan, a strategic plan to see what the plan is over the next four years. Monitor as we go along, and if we are achieving 10 out of the 20 goals set, let’s take those off the list and move on to the other 10 that aren’t finished.

Investor confidence to support our economy, there are things this government could do to support the economy. Initiation of the Mackenzie Valley Highway is a priority for myself, for my region and for the chair who spoke to it here on Saturday. I look forward to sharing some of my financial options provided to me on the underwriting of this project, so we can see if that financial model is going to work in conjunction with our current government’s fiscal situation.

Investor confidence and certainty taken into account the regulatory reform, there are things that were made to this government by the Neil McCrank report in 2008. Have those recommendations to provide investor confidence been completed? If not, are there parts of that report that we can carry on to this 18th Assembly that will provide investor confidence and carry on to a more prosperous economy now that you’ve got investment coming in?

Money coming into our territory, exploiting our strengths and exercising our potential. Building highways is one. Regulatory certainty is one. There is a wide range of certainties that we can share out there as priorities to build a stronger economy base there from the private sector.

I also know there has been a number of work that was undertaken by the 17th Assembly. Devolution, we are hearing about that. It’s really not concluded. There is some unfinished business there. Let’s finish that and move on. There is the issue of fracking that has high potential for resource development, but that’s an ongoing discussion issue. I look forward to that being a priority so we can all come to an accommodation.

I would like to say in closing, I know we are faced with many challenges under tight, tight fiscal and financial restraints. I think the democratic process of November 23rd has spoken in favour of a good, diverse group that we have here. I think we all have a great wealth of contribution to bring to the driving force and direction that we are going to set for the next four years. I really look forward to working with everybody through a consensus government on implementation. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Daniel McNeely’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Thank you, Mr. McNeely. We will now break for one hour and reconvene at 1:00 p.m.


Mr. Daniel McNeely’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Welcome back, Members. We will resume the priority-setting round table discussion that was commenced this morning. I will turn the floor over to Mr. Lou Sebert, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Thebacha. Mr. Sebert. Mr. Louis Sebert’s Speech

Mr. Louis Sebert’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Chair. First of all I would like to thank the voters of Thebacha for the faith they’ve put in me by electing me to this Assembly, and I congratulate all other MLAs for their election, or acclamation in one case.

I have listened carefully to the speakers this morning who have raised many important issues for us to consider as we set our priorities for the 18th Assembly. We also heard from and must consider the issues and concerns raised at our meeting with northern leaders on Saturday.

For the last two weeks and prior to that as I went door to door in my riding during the election campaign, certain themes emerged which should, in my view, guide us to set those priorities.

One of the themes we all heard a good deal about and have discussed extensively since we arrived here two weeks ago is the issue of transparency and accountability. I was very pleased to hear that during their speeches, both candidates for Premier addressed this important issue and are committed to change. We have already started down the path to greater transparency and accountability by opening up the selection of Premier and Cabinet, and in fact, meeting today is part of that.

More should and will be done. I would suggest we adopt the concept of a mid-term review, which was done in several Assemblies in the past. A review of both the mandate and performance of Ministers.

The GNWT is an important employer, contractor and the deliverer of services in all of our communities. Another way of ensuring accountability, in my view, is the creation of the office of ombudsman, hardly a new concept, originating centuries ago in Scandinavia and now existing in nine of the 10 provinces and in the Yukon territory. This idea is not new in the Territories, either, having been discussed for more than 20 years and favourably reviewed by a standing committee chaired by Mr. Nadli in the last Assembly where the position was described as a single point of contact for NWT residents who are concerned they are unfairly treated. Our powers and responsibilities have grown since devolution, and the creation of this office would act as a constraint and counterweight to the sometimes overwhelming power of government.

Economic issues I would like to address. We have heard a good deal about economic issues and disparities in the last two weeks. Certainly during the campaign I heard a good deal about the issue of available and affordable child care. As we heard on Saturday from Ms. Wawzonek, this is some of the main issues of concern for the YWCA. We like to think of ourselves as a progressive jurisdiction, yet we have fallen behind other jurisdictions both outside and inside Canada in this regard.

A recent study filed with this House in June should not be ignored. The study revealed that child care was not widely available and very expensive, between $39 and $62 a day. The study noted that Quebec, a large but not particularly wealthy province, was providing child care for its citizens for approximately $7 a day. Child care costs fall disproportionately on those with lower incomes. A child care program on the Quebec model would allow parents, particularly mothers, to join the workforce, if they choose. There are costs involved, but these would be offset to some extent by the entry of more women into the workforce and the resulting increase in tax arrears.

Minimum wage. Another way of dealing with income disparities in our society is the minimum wage. I am aware, of course, that we have recently raised the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour. I understand that Alberta is contemplating a minimum wage of approximately $15 an hour. Studies have shown that in 2014 there were approximately 1,000 people in the Northwest Territories, 400 in Yellowknife and 600 outside, who were receiving $10 and $13 an hour. We should not think of these people as teenagers looking for extra money for weekends, as they are often heads of families, often immigrants. Can they really live on $12.50 an hour, which is approximately half of what we pay to starting government workers? These people need a hand-up, not a handout, and I suggest we should readdress this issue.

Last Assembly, the 17th, made considerable progress in their relations with Aboriginal governments, our partners. Many of the Aboriginal partners have signed under devolution. Finalizing the remaining land claims will have several good effects, providing greater certainty of land ownership. It will clarify the issue of land access and make more land available for regional development. All of these things will provide more certainty to government and to industry.

In our meetings on Saturday, I sensed the desire from all parties to get on with this process. We should not miss this opportunity.

We heard last week about the large number of people, our fellow citizens, involved in the justice system, far more than in southern jurisdictions. We have an incarceration rate approaching that of the Americans. This is not a model we wish to follow. We must attempt to reduce the crime rate and those appearing before court by addressing the root causes with anti-drug programs, employment and housing initiatives. We should also have a treatment centre within the Northwest Territories.

When people appear before the courts, the courts have started with several new options, including domestic violence treatment options, so-called DVTO court, and Wellness Court. These programs are working successfully in Yellowknife and Hay River. I understand that DVTO court is to be expanded shortly to Fort Smith. That option should be made available to other residents of the Northwest Territories where there are resources.

The NWT Association of Municipalities, in their presentation on Saturday, identified a $40 million funding shortfall. In a report prepared by the Conference Board of Canada, included with their submission, it was stated that the gap in funding, or closing the gap in funding, rather, would create more than 200 jobs a year and would have a positive impact on the gross domestic product of the Northwest Territories. Finding funding for this may be difficult, but we must not underfund the level of government that is closest to the people in our communities.

The studies we looked at in the last couple of weeks have revealed an education gap between ourselves in the Northwest Territories and the rest of Canada. We must attempt to close this gap. We should enhance the programs we already have. We should also think, in my view, about a university in the North. Location may be an issue, but I think we should remember that one of our communities already has extensive infrastructure, teachers and room for expansion.

So, for all of us, both new and returning MLAs, we have set out many hopes and aspirations for the 18th Assembly. Doubtless, many of these will be constrained by the economic and other issues, but I sense a spirit in this Assembly to proceed with some of these ambitious programs we have set out today. I look forward to working with you to achieve those goals. Thank you.

Mr. Louis Sebert’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Thank you, Mr. Sebert. Next we have Mr. Tom Beaulieu, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Mr. Tom Beaulieu’s Speech

Mr. Tom Beaulieu’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi, Mr. Chair. [English translation not provided.]

I realize there is no translation, just quickly addressing some of the elders. [English translation not provided.]

Mr. Chair, I would like to discuss my priorities at this point. I would like to first of all thank the people of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh for re-electing me on November 23rd. I would also like to congratulate the other Members of the Assembly here today. I know how hard you have to work in order to be elected and I am sure that the people have made full efforts and work harder sitting in the room today as all candidates have worked hard.

The number one issue that we face, not only in my riding but in the small communities across the Northwest Territories, is employment. I find that if we increase employment and people have their incomes, they would be able to address their issues on their own. Right now the highest number of complaints come from people wanting assistance from the government. Whether it be income or whether it be assistance to repair their homes, it is always something they need because they don’t have the money or the income. Many people live on income support, and I have said many times in the House and many times during my campaign that we are dealing in small communities where employment rates are 35 percent. In some cases, lower.

I and another Member in the House here who represents small communities, at the beginning of last term had no communities that had an employment rate of 40 percent. When you think about that and when you think about the employment rates across the country, it is about 70 percent, so seven out of every 10 individuals in a household, or four in Yellowknife, and it gets as high as 80 percent, which is good, and that is a positive thing. That is four out of every five members of a household have jobs. In our small communities that is just a dream. We have aspired for employment rates of 60 percent or even 50 percent so that at least half of the people in households have jobs. Anytime you get a job, it is always better than income assistance. We all know there is a direct correlation between income and addictions, income and education levels, income and health outcomes of our people. It is a proven fact that the lower your income, the less healthy you are. So that makes income so, so important. It will also lower the costs to government.

Another priority for me is early childhood development. This has to be a priority of this government. Early childhood development spending has tremendous returns, the highest returns anywhere, including on the markets. The returns of early childhood development is tenfold. The government must invest in prenatal work, Healthy Family programs, and work on developing the communities. Investments must be made into daycare, into child care in order that we benefit, that the communities benefit from this.

Infrastructure spending must be done close to the people who need it most. We need to spend our money out there so that people have jobs, so that people become less dependent on government. That’s what we need to see.

We need to continue to work with Infrastructure Canada to get the Mackenzie Valley Highway approved, to get the highway to Whati built, to get the road built in the Slave Geologic Province so that it makes it more efficient for the resource industry to get the resources out onto the land and start paying resource revenues but, more importantly, to extend their lives so that people have work. Because at some point when the margins aren’t there they are going to shut down, and that’s going to be more people unemployed.

Health and social services is now spending $1.12 million per day. However, there is not enough being spent on prevention. We need to spend money on prevention. We know that there is a lot of spending that can be done in addictions, mental health, and all of the various issues that people are faced with like alcoholism and smoking. We must do everything we can to provide people the tools they need to prevent diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That’s where we’re spending our money, on those diseases and the addictions. We must develop a strategy to lower the hospital stays in our territory by promoting healthy lifestyles. I think we all know how much it costs to keep a person in the hospital.

Land claims, on another topic, is very important. Akaitcho and Dehcho must be brought to the agreement-in-principle as quickly as possible. The GNWT must look at changing the way we do business with Aboriginal governments so that we can get to an AIP. We have the tools and we have the Aboriginal governments to work with and we have the federal government to work with. All we need to do is move forward on that. We have made progress, but more has to be made.

I am going to briefly touch on the seniors. I consider that to be very important and a very important way of saving money. I’ve always promoted what we call aging in place. If we look at other jurisdictions, some jurisdictions have a real good program, Aging in Place. Aging in place saves a lot of money to the government. To put one senior in long-term care is a minimum of $100,000. When I was the Minister of Health, I asked for those statistics, and the low end was $98,000 and the high end was $124,000 per senior per year. I’ve always said, we should fix up their homes, we should provide nursing care, home care right in their homes. We would spend way less than that, way less. Right now, we’re faced with a huge, huge infrastructure cost of having to build more seniors homes, more long-term care for seniors.

For the most part, that can be avoided. As is, only 20 percent of seniors end up in long-term care anyway. If we could cut that number in half… I mean, if in one place we could, say, have 10 less seniors in a home for one year, that we’re able to extend their life in their own homes for one year, 10 people, that’s a million dollars, and imagine that’s $2 million if they’re all couples that we’re deferring. We’re actually not spending. It’s not really a savings, but it’s preventing us from spending that money.

I think that’s a very important initiative that we have to look at, and that’s work between the Housing Corporation and Health and Social Services. A collaborative work between other departments, as well, and then we would be able to prevent individuals, seniors from going into these homes and saving the government money.

Caribou is probably the single greatest food source for Aboriginal people across the Northwest Territories, and they should have a greater say in how that resource is managed. I know that our government has talked to the Aboriginal groups, have met with the Aboriginal groups and the Aboriginal governments when they’re talking about the herds that are in their area, but still, they’re not 100 percent comfortable with it. People recognize it’s a long ways to travel in some of the regions in order to access caribou because the heathier herds are a long ways away. We need to be able to manage it, work with the Aboriginal governments and allow people to get the caribou closer to home without having the herd diminish any further. There are ways that we can do that, and I think that’s something that we would need to do a lot of work with the traditional knowledge that people have been living with the caribou for thousands of years.

I can’t address all of our priorities in detail with the amount of time I have, so I’m just going to just briefly touch on a couple of other priorities that I think are important.

I think that we have to develop a youth strategy. As important as early childhood development is, youth are also important for different reasons, and that the youth being put in the right track is very important to the North and very important to the people across the territory.

We must work with the Association of Persons with Disabilities. I believe that’s over 5 percent of our population. We have to ensure that those individuals are there, that they have employment, that they’re taking care of their own, that they’re taking care of themselves. I think that’s very, very important.

I believe that we have to develop housing plans, housing development plans in every community. I think that we have to ensure that we are maximizing the use of the inventory that’s on the ground. Whether it be social housing, market housing, or private housing, the development of markets in communities is so valuable that it’s unbelievable. When you have a community moving from a nonmarket community to a market community and when the individual that owns a house is putting his own money into a home and he’s seeing a return because that house is marketable, that makes all the difference in the world. When we’re unable to develop community markets, then people lose pride in putting money into their homes and making their homes look beautiful so that they’re able to live in it and live in it with pride, and then at the end of the day, if they decide to move to another community, they’re actually able to sell their unit.

What I talked about will help people in many areas. It will decrease the cost of living; it will increase education levels; it will reduce costs to government; and it will increase our health indicators across the Territories. It will make our citizens healthier. Our government needs to spend strategically in those areas and our government will become more efficient, and it will be the government that the people who voted us in want. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Tom Beaulieu’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. Next we have Ms. Julie Green, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Yellowknife Centre. Ms. Green. Ms. Julie Green’s Speech

Ms. Julie Green’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thank you for the opportunity today to talk about my priorities, and I thank the voters of Yellowknife Centre who decided I was the best choice for this job.

I want to start by repeating a sentence from Joseph Judas who addressed us on Saturday on behalf of the Tlicho government. He acknowledged the number of people who are homeless in Yellowknife, and he said, “Why are they on the street? What is the issue? If you can’t have a roof over your head, you can’t have a good life, a good sleep. That is a fact.”

What I heard about most when I was campaigning was about homelessness downtown. It is not a Yellowknife issue, it is a territorial issue. This is the territorial capital. It is the first place that people come usually when they fly into the North and what they see is that we have a severe problem with homelessness downtown. What I can tell you is that it takes many different forms and I’m going to talk a little bit about each one of them.

To start with I’ll talk about public housing. According to the 2014 NWT Housing Survey, 44 percent of households in non-market communities have a housing problem. That means that the House is in core need of repairs where systems are compromised, or it is unsuitable or isn’t large enough for the people who are living in it or it is inadequate in other ways. So the bad news is that this problem has only changed by 10 percent since 2009. The non-market communities are a little better off, but still 44 percent of the housing they have is not adequate for their needs. Meanwhile in Yellowknife, the amount of core housing need has gone up by 9 percent in all of those same areas, the need for repairs, suitability and adequacy.

The other thing that Yellowknife has that is unique to Yellowknife as a market community is an affordability problem. According to that same survey, 16 percent of households say they are paying more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing, which means they are overspending on housing. It means that their other expenses are going to be in jeopardy or not paid. They will be short of even the most basic things such as food and clothing.

There is a need for investment in housing that many Assemblies have spoken about, but this Assembly needs to be the Assembly that makes major investments in partnership with the federal government, with business, with NGOs, with the homeless people themselves. We need to make a major investment in housing all across the Northwest Territories. We need to take up the idea that there are different kinds of housing needed at different times in life. For example, we know seniors are also in desperate need of housing as the population continues to age. There is a greater demand for people to not only age in place, as Tom was talking about, but also to strengthen the continuum of housing so that people who need extra help because they have dementia, Alzheimer’s and other cognitive problems have access to that. It may not be possible to serve those needs in every small community, but we need to serve those needs. We can’t allow seniors to drift off on their own. I met too many people when I was campaigning who are seniors who are inadequately housed because they are not housed in safe situations. That is a need that we really need to take seriously.

We also need to look at the needs of people who are homeless. According to the City of Yellowknife who did a point in time count in May, there are 150 homeless people in Yellowknife. I personally think that number is very low. I think that the number is higher if you would include the invisible homeless population. Those are the people who are couch surfing, staying in relationships of convenience and so on in places that are unsuitable and unsafe for themselves and their families. So we need to look at what we can do for people who are homeless.

The most promising solution seems to be Housing First, which brings all the players to the table together to provide the home that Joseph Judas talked about, to have a roof over their heads, as a starting point to the rest of their lives. It’s not reasonable to expect people who are homeless to succeed in treatment, retraining, employment, or any other productive choice if they don’t actually have a place to live. So we need to start with that point.

The other point we need to start with is that a number of homeless people in Yellowknife are palliative addicts. That is to say they are addicts of drugs and alcohol and they are dying of their addictions, some more slowly than others. We would not allow people who were dying of cancer or diabetes or any other chronic disease to die in a stairwell, but that’s what is happening here in Yellowknife. People are dying on the streets, sometimes literally, like Raymond Simpson did in the spring. Other times they are dying in places where they are inappropriately housed without adequate supports. So we need to take care of their needs. This is an investment. This group of people costs the government a tremendous amount of money. Ambulance rides up and down Franklin Avenue to the hospital, time in the hospital itself in the emergency department as in-patients, time in jails, time in the court system. If we invested in homes for people who were homeless, I truly believe that our overall spending in those other areas would go down. As a result of that, I strongly encourage it.

The other area where there needs to be a greater investment in housing is for families, for poor families. The YWCA provides transitional and emergency housing at Rockhill and they could fill that building at least twice over on any given day of the week. That’s how great the demand for that housing is.

This program, which has security in the building and family support workers to support residents, is a kind of Housing First. According to an evaluation done on that program this year, it’s tremendously effective. People are able to stabilize there, regain custody of their children and learn new skills that will help them be successful when they are able to move into public housing or market housing. So, we need to invest more in housing for low-income families.

The next area I want to talk about is poverty. Seventeen percent of all NWT families live in poverty, meaning that they have less than have the median income, and 22 percent of children live in this situation. It’s easy to see that we are not keeping up with their needs, by looking at statistics produced by the Breakfast for Learning Program as an example. They served, NWT-wide, 1.7 million meals in 2014. So, children are hungry. We heard that on the radio this morning when the caller phoned in from Tuktoyaktuk and talked about hunger. Hunger is a reality and we have not been able to figure out systematic solutions to this. The growth in the gardening movement is very helpful, but it’s not enough year-round to keep people from being hungry and especially to keep these children from being hungry. Until we have children who are adequately housed where they can rest, and adequately fed so they don’t have the stress of wondering where their next meal is, I feel that investment in other forms of promoting their education is not going to be as successful as it could be, because they need to have that foundation to grow from.

I also want to reiterate the points I have heard here today to invest in the zero to three-year-old population in order to have the best start possible in life. We know from research that by the time children are three years old, many of their major development functions are in place, so we need to support that as much as we are able to.

I am going to talk a little bit about family violence. Between December 2011 and December 2012, six women were murdered in the Northwest Territories and five of them were murdered by men who were known to them. This is just the worst end of the spectrum of family violence that plagues this territory at nine times the national average.

I know that people care about reducing family violence, but we need to invest in that. We can’t put all our investment into one week of awareness a year and expect that we are really going to make a change in the rates of family violence in the NWT. This has to be a year-round priority so that family violence becomes as unacceptable as drinking and driving and smoking in a restaurant, that people understand this behaviour is wrong and it is not publically tolerated.

Just briefly, I realize that I haven’t touched on economic issues. It is not that they don’t exist in my platform but rather they have been very thoroughly canvassed here. I am very interested in seeing good planning for diversification of our economy following on the decline of the diamond mines and to invest in those areas which have already shown promising returns, which include manufacturing, fishing, trapping, gardening on a commercial scale. I think that we should look very closely at what more we can do to support those ventures, because they create employment and they create options for people to stay in their community and do meaningful work even though those jobs do not create the same wealth that mining does.

Lastly, I just want to talk a little bit about governance. That was certainly an issue when I was canvassing. People felt, for better or worse, that the last Assembly had become a very partisan place and they really want to see better communication between the Regular MLAs and Cabinet and to see that we are all getting along to the best extent that we can. As Ethel said on Saturday, fighting divides you and prevents you from reaching your objects. So, while that is a rather bold statement and we are certainly all getting along now, I would like to think that we are all going to get along into the future, as well, so that we can work on behalf of the people of the Northwest Territories. I want to say that I support the mid-term review of the performance of the Executive Council and Premier against the priorities set by the Assembly as a way for us to report on our progress, or the lack of it. I think people have shown a real appetite for new transparency and inclusion of them in our governance and we need to honour that.

Finally, and of course very importantly, I want to see women at the table whenever possible. The only way we are going to have more women elected to this Legislature is to have more women in public life in leadership roles who are role models to young women who are thinking about how they can serve the Northwest Territories. I am hopeful that we will always consider that when we are planning public events, that we will include women as leaders whenever possible to encourage the next generation of women leaders. Thank you.

Ms. Julie Green’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Thank you, Ms. Green. I will now turn to Mr. Cory Vanthuyne, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Yellowknife North. Mr. Vanthuyne. Mr. Cory Vanthuyne’s Speech

Mr. Cory Vanthuyne’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

December 14th, 2015

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Members. First and foremost I need to take this opportunity to say thank you to the residents of Yellowknife North for putting their trust in me and electing me as the representative to the 18th Assembly. I look forward to being their voice and protecting their interests and the interests of the greater territory as we move forward in advancing the mandate of this government.

Mr. Chair, I would like to start my comments on our government’s priorities today with health and well-being. I believe that Northerners rank health care and protection of their family as their number one priority. We need to know that when we get sick, or when our children, our parent, our loved ones get sick, that our health care system will be there for us.

I recognize that Northerners believe our government has a role to play in helping individuals to help themselves, their families and communities, through effective systems of support while ensuring that all Northerners have the opportunity to build and live meaningful lives in support of environments in vital communities.

We need to work to support those individuals with disabilities by moving forward on the NWT Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities and action the five building blocks which have been identified within the plan.

We need to work to reduce and eliminate poverty through strong support and action on the five pillars identified in the Anti-Poverty Action Plan.

We need to support and take action on the new Cancer Strategy. Healthy living is critical for prevention, but better support has to be in place for those fighting cancer and those providing care for them.

As we all heard over the course of the election and from recent meetings with leaders, we must ensure that those people with mental health and addictions concerns have access to a full range of programs and services to address physical, social, cultural and spiritual health.

Smoking is the single largest health hazard in the North. Forty-six percent of Northerners smoke. This is well above the national average. Our government has to work hard to increase the awareness of the hazards of tobacco use and support bringing educational programs into our schools to educate the next generation on the benefits of healthy living and choosing not to use tobacco.

I would like to talk about economic growth and fiscal responsibility as a priority for this government. I recognize that we are primarily a resource-based economy and we need to continue making the right investments in infrastructure that will allow responsible exploration to advance and make mining more inviting so that we can share our vast resources with the world market. However, I am also committed to diversifying the NWT’s economy to help mitigate the impact of fluctuations in our natural resource sector and increase job security for all Northerners.

I believe through responsible fiscal management we can protect priority programs and services while also reducing the cost of living for all residents and lowering the costs of doing business.

We need to work to establish certainty for the economy by identifying the top priority projects that need investment over the next Assembly and beyond, that will bring a return on investment for the economy and for the people of the territory. An example of one of those projects is the often referred to as the Road to Resources into the Slave Geological Province.

As we heard recently from the NWT Association of Communities, we need to work to ensure recommendations of the GNWT’s Community Funding Formula Review are implemented and meet the funding needs of underfunded communities.

We need to continue to work on developing and implementing a Population Growth Strategy that is inclusive of an immigration policy for the territory, so that we can grow and diversify the labour force as well as grow our tax base, rather than having to consider tax increases to those who currently live here, driving up their cost of living.

We need to work toward improving service delivery to residents and businesses. That means minimizing red tape and establishing one-stop shopping services to reduce duplication and improve efficiency of those services.

Mr. Chair, I would like to talk about governance as a priority for this government. The territorial government must work hand in hand with residents, businesses and other stakeholders to define needs, define workable solutions and determine the direction of government. We need to make it easier for individuals and organizations to engage with government if we are to collaborate in the development of programs and policies that help produce a strong, vibrant and economically successful territory now and well into the future. We must all work toward a cohesive and collaborative method of achieving the priorities of this Assembly, and our government must commit to being inclusive and cooperative in working with communities and Aboriginal governments.

We need to work to develop an open and public process for the selection and appointment of members to boards, committees and agencies.

I would like to talk about arts and culture as a priority for this government. Celebrating the arts and cultural heritage improves our quality of life and adds to our sense of community and belonging. Arts and culture also have the potential to generate significant economic diversification. As a territory, we need to see more people comfortably and confidently pursuing careers in the arts. We need to examine tax credits, incentives and interest-free and forgivable loans that promote arts and culture. We need to identify adequate funding and support for core operational requirements to sustain community arts facilities, music festivals, jamborees, assemblies and special events.

I would like to talk about the cost of living as a priority for this government. I know that life in the remote north has its challenges on many fronts, but foremost is the ability to afford living here. Due to a lack of transportation infrastructure; harsh, cold environment; limited resources and vast geography, our ability to acquire and build the necessary components to sustain life in the North can be very costly. I believe all levels of government have an important role in reducing the cost of living in the North.

We need to work with the City of Yellowknife and other communities that have a willingness to provide the Loans for Heat program that provides low interest loans, grants, or rebates for home energy efficiency upgrades. This supports reducing the cost of living and protects the environment through less use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

We need to support on-the-job education, professional development and training programs that promote increased earning potential. We must work to support northern agriculture and food security through the development of the Agriculture Strategy and promotion of community gardens.

We need to work with our federal MP and the new Government of Canada to ensure Northerners receive the increase in the northern residency tax deduction and work toward having that deduction set to a positive index for future years.

Mr. Chair, I would like to talk about education as a priority for this government. I believe strengthening our education system is the key to a healthy and prosperous future. It is important that learning opportunities be accessible, affordable and sustainable for all Northerners. Education that leads to employment will propel our people and territory to prosperity.

We should seek to teach the way children learn. Not all kids learn the same way, so we need a system that allows each child to focus on their strengths and support them to do so. We should be encouraging our students to choose fields of study that lead to employment, and we should be providing incentives through Student Financial Assistance to make this happen. Not every child will be an academic. We should support trades and technology and the arts as excellent career choices.

As children move through the school system, we need to measure what we value as a society and incorporate mechanisms that will encourage students to support those values as they become closer to being contributors to society.

Teachers work in challenging environments where many of the children in their classes are at different stages of learning. We need to be providing them with tools they require to support each and every student no matter what their level of learning might be. The classroom needs to be a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all students at all times.

We need to support the idea of expanding post-secondary education in the North through all means, whether it’s arts, academia, trades, or science and technology. This discussion starts with a review and potential change of the Education Act.

Our education system needs to be adequately funded, and that includes junior kindergarten. There are preschool programs already going on that parents pay out of pocket for, but I believe, like most, that those programs should be free of charge, and support for junior kindergarten helps achieve that.

I would like to talk about the environment and energy as a priority for this government. I believe sustaining the quality of our air, water, and land and wildlife is important to all Northerners, and that comes with the responsibility of properly protecting, sensibly utilizing and respectfully appreciating our territory’s natural heritage.

We need to set investment criteria and energy priorities for the territory so we can reduce and eliminate subsidy for diesel-powered generation. This is a subsidy that neither our residents nor the government can afford to maintain for much longer.

We will soon see the outcomes of the recent Paris COP21 Conference, and with that we will need to be leaders in lessening our dependency on diesel-fired electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase generation reliability, and expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind, solar, hydro turbine, and more co-generation within industry and GNWT-owned facilities, all of which will improve the environment and the health of Northerners.

I would like to talk about seniors as a priority for this government. I believe seniors have a pivotal place in shaping our future. Seniors are engaged in their communities like never before, yet too often their voices are not heard when it comes to shaping government policy. I believe that government must tap into the wisdom, experience and know-how of our territory’s elder citizens. I am committed to supporting seniors and encouraging them to contribute to the energy and spirit of the vibrancy of our territory.

We need to ensure that the extended health care benefits remain and that appropriate reviews are made so inflationary costs for medical services are adjusted for accordingly. We need to prioritize development of quality, affordable long-term care facilities which will allow couples to stay together when they require a higher level of care. We need to work to provide seniors activity centres with stable, long-term funding and help address rising operating maintenance costs. We need to develop a senior-specific home renovation and financing program that will allow seniors to live longer in their own homes, putting less burden on the need for more independent living units and long-term care living facilities.

I would like to talk about Aboriginal partnerships and relations as a priority for this government. I believe the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people has a way to go before true reconcilement for both sides can be had. Trust and honesty are there but have to be reaffirmed through new partnerships, open communication, dedication and commitment to restoring Aboriginal pride, dignity, art and culture, language and, of course, land. We must be steadfast and work collectively toward advancement in completion of the remaining land claims and self-government agreements.

We need to support the territorial government’s position to take action on the recommendations outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation final report. We must work to advance Aboriginal employment through support of Aboriginal investment and business ownership opportunities. We need to support the federal government’s recent commitment for the inquiry on murdered and missing indigenous women. As we heard most recently from Aboriginal leaders from all the First Nations within the territory, there needs to be a high priority on the provision of adequate and suitable housing, early childhood and family support, healthy living, and diversified education programs, including on-the-land programs.

These are the priorities that residents of Yellowknife North and Northerners alike have shared with me over the past number of weeks and months. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to share these comments today, and I look forward to working with all Members of the Assembly and using the words that we have heard here today in developing our forthcoming mandate and making our already great territory even greater. Thank you, Members, and thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Cory Vanthuyne’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Thank you, Mr. Vanthuyne. Last, but by no means least, Mr. Bob McLeod, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Yellowknife South. Mr. McLeod. Mr. Bob McLeod’s Speech

Mr. Bob Mcleod’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Chair. What we have heard here today is that the challenges and issues facing the Northwest Territories and its residents are plentiful. However, there are five key areas that I believe we need to focus on as a government over the next four years: growing and diversifying the economy, keeping money in residents’ pockets, dealing with social issues, addressing climate change, getting northern governance right.

The one theme these priorities have in common is health; healthy economy, healthy residents and a healthy environment. These priorities focus on a number of areas that require our attention as we move forward as the 18th Assembly, and if addressed can have impacts immediately in the short term and for the long-term future of our people.

Growing and diversifying the economy. The Northwest Territories’ economy was severely affected by the global economic and financial crisis in 2008, and not all aspects have returned to pre-recession levels. The Northwest Territories economic outlook over the next five years is mixed at best. Although some regions are benefitting from resource projects, economic activity in other areas has either slowed considerably or declined. Over the next five to 15 years, the data suggests a protracted decline in resource production. Existing diamond mines are maturing and identified potential mining operations will not replace the economic activity of current operations. Resource exploration, which is necessary for further development, is also slowing down. We need to move forward in a bold fashion.

Growing the Northwest Territories economy requires transformational investments such as the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Optic Link, the Mackenzie Valley Highway, and addressing our energy costs and supply challenges. These strategic investments and other initiatives to lower costs for residents and businesses are vital for the long-term growth and sustainability of the Northwest Territories economy. Whether it is big projects like the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway or small-scale projects, communities will benefit from these investments through jobs and contracts for local businesses. It is important we remember that while small projects in larger communities may not have a significant impact on the local economy, smaller communities will see great benefit.

The 18th Legislative Assembly must invest in infrastructure needed to open our territory to exploration and transport our vast resources to the market that, in turn, will provide jobs and attract new residents to live in our communities. For this reason, we must pursue new infrastructure investment through closed partnerships with Aboriginal governments and the Government of Canada. Access to the Northwest Territories vast resource wealth and resulting economic development is hampered by the lack of all-weather roads connecting the territory, the Mackenzie Valley Highway, Tlicho all-weather road or the Slave Geologic Province overland route. These projects will help open up all of the territory for business and allow for more cost-effective exploration and development.

Our efforts must be focused responsibly on those investments most likely to yield positive results for our economy and sustainable jobs for our residents. We need to reduce the risk of putting all our eggs in one basket. Skill development, diversification and improving conditions for entrepreneurship and capital investment must continue if we are to meet our goal of increasing the Northwest Territories population, which both builds our economy and improves the Government of the Northwest Territories’ revenue.

The Government of the Northwest Territories needs to look at its own procurement and contracting practices to make sure we are supporting the use of made-in-the-Northwest Territories products and a development of a strong, northern manufacturing sector. Population growth benefits the economy, leading to more demand for goods and services and, therefore, supporting overall business activity. Increased economic activity means more employment opportunities. People have said they want a more accountable government and how government spends public money is one of the most important measures of accountability there is. It is important to the future health of the Northwest Territories to spend within our means and maximize the spending we do by prioritizing where we make strategic investments, but we have to make sure that this is done in the context of the fiscal reality that we face.

We have heard that the Government of the Northwest Territories’ revenue outlook for the next few years is flat. It would not be responsible for us to spend money that we do not have, and we will have to work together collectively to make decisions about how we bring government expenditures in line with our revenues and each take responsibility for explaining our decisions to the people of the Northwest Territories. Keeping money in residents’ pockets, the high and increased cost of living is a threat to our individual and collective well-being. Whether it is the price of a litre of milk in Colville Lake, an entry-level home in Yellowknife, or a kilowatt hour of electricity in Hay River, every resident, business and community is impacted by the cost of living in the Northwest Territories. It is also an impediment to attracting new residents to the Northwest Territories and is a significant factor for those who leave. We need to pursue opportunities to lower the cost of electricity generation and distribution in all our communities.

For the electricity system, value-added improvements would enhance the environmental performance and reliability of the system. However, these improvements usually require government subsidies if the goal is to maintain or reduce existing electricity rates. For example, improvements include renewable energy projects, hydro development and transformative projects such as long-distance transmission infrastructure. We must work closely with the federal government to develop a new funding partnership for public housing and improve the effectiveness of existing programs to lower the cost of basic food items in our smallest and most remote communities. Although the Northwest Territories has an electricity system that meets the needs of residents, opportunities are available that would make the system more resilient, accessible and environmentally friendly. It is time we stop studying the possibilities and start acting on the work that the previous government has done on the Northwest Territories electricity system.

Improvements to the cost of power would not be viable without government intervention and subsidies. It is critical for this government to make strategic investments to help bring new options of power generation to our residents at the territorial and community levels and empower them to improve their personal situations.

With a new federal government in power for the first time in a decade and a renewed focus on infrastructure and energy spending, the Government of the Northwest Territories is well positioned to lobby access to funds to pursue infrastructure and energy projects that will not only benefit the economic prosperity of the territory but also improve the quality of life for residents.

Social issues and the future of the Northwest Territories. The social issues that have plagued the Northwest Territories for too long – suicide, addictions, family violence and incarceration – are significantly higher in the Northwest Territories than in most other jurisdictions in Canada. The devastating results are suffered disproportionately by Aboriginal people but felt in the homes and on the streets of every one of our communities.

The consequences for our society include low school attendance and graduation rates, unemployment, poor health and ultimately a quality of life below Canadian standards. This persistent and devastating cycle drives up the costs of social programs and law enforcement, causes a drag on our economy, lowers revenues and, thus, lessens resources available to meet other priorities. We need targeted policies and programs that will, over time, improve early childhood development, school attendance rates and education attainment, improve mental health and lower rates of addictions.

We also need to do more for our seniors in the areas of care and housing. Through the Government of the Northwest Territories’ response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that recently announced an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, and the many other efforts already in place to improve the lives of our residents, we can truly bring about the necessary changes for those who need it most. This should be done, in part, through improved system governance, program improvements and efficiencies, actions to reduce poverty, and investments in technologies for health and education. The future of the territory depends on a vibrant and empowered population. We can make this a reality.

As Northerners, we are on the front lines of climate change and it is not a comfortable place to be. Over the weekend, world leaders endorsed an ambitious agreement on climate change in Paris. This is good news, and the Northwest Territories will continue to mitigate the effects of climate change with the global community.

It was interesting to note that challenges facing emergency economies were recognized. One hundred billion dollars a year between 2025 and 2030 was committed to help developing nations transition to cleaner energy. It is important to note that for the Northwest Territories, our reality is that we are dependent on fossil fuels. We can and have begun transitioning to cleaner fuels and alternative energy. This will not happen overnight and we will have to balance our residents’ ability to pay for renewable and alternative energy with a need to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Climate change is a serious concern. It is disrupting the global environment, affecting everyone, including, and very specifically, Northerners. Thawing permafrost and coastal erosion have become common problems affecting transportation infrastructure, water quality and causing the draining of our lakes. Such impacts bring heavy costs both directly and indirectly, many of which are only partially reflected in annual budgets. The impacts of climate change are more likely to increase than subside. The people of the Northwest Territories are expecting leadership from all of us and making sure the Government of the Northwest Territories does its part to implement the Paris Accord. Working together, I believe we can take up that challenge, and I believe it should be one of our priorities.

Getting northern governance right, we need to be committed to finalizing and implementing land and resource agreements across the Northwest Territories. Negotiations on land claims, self-government and land use plans have dragged on for too many years I believe that a clear political statement from this Assembly supported by a renewed approach to outstanding negotiations including the Joint Oversight Committee of Cabinet and Regular MLAs will send a message that we are committed to creating a strong territory in collaboration with our Aboriginal government partners.

I believe that the style of negotiations needs to be changed. The old way was far too adversarial, has taken far too long and is costing far too much in time, energy and money. That is why interest-based negotiations would benefit all parties. Mandates need to be flexible and respect that each of the Aboriginal governments are faced with different circumstances, and in many cases, the challenges they face are unique to their people and their region. It is time to focus more on collaboration and partnerships, and that means changing the way we interact with our Aboriginal government partners.

I will wrap up by saying settling land and resource agreements, completing self-government agreements and land use plans are necessary and the right thing to do. We have a great task ahead of us. Setting priorities for the next four years is a challenging task. However, with a collective and collaborative approach, I truly believe we will accomplish great things for the Northwest Territories and the people we represent. Thank you very much.

Mr. Bob Mcleod’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. I want to thank all Members for taking the time to put a lot of thought into your statements and for delivering them within the time limits you had established for yourselves.

I want to thank all Members in the public gallery who are here today to observe the proceedings, as well as those who are watching at home

We will reconvene in this room next at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning for the Territorial Leadership Committee meetings where we will select the Premier, Speaker and Members of the Executive Council.

Members, we are adjourned.