Good morning, colleagues. My name is Michael Nadli, Member for Deh Cho. I am from Fort Providence where I was raised and continue to make it my home. I am the father of two children and soon to be a grandfather for the first time.
As the Deh Cho MLA, I represent the communities of the Hay River Reserve, Enterprise, Kakisa and Fort Providence. I was first elected in 2011 and this is my second term. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents for their support. I can only state that I will do my best to serve you in the 18th Assembly.
I would like to take a few moments to speak in my language and then in English to highlight what I’ve heard during this recent campaign and what I believe are the priorities for the Deh Cho riding for the upcoming four years, providing some reflection upon the 17th Assembly and then offer some closing remarks.
What I heard during the campaign, in no particular order, was elderly care. Elders need to be respected and taken care of. Housing maintenance is a concern. People need assistance and service in their heating and electrical systems in their homes to run in an energy-efficient manner. Land tenure and taxes, the First Nations people are paying land taxes in spite of promises made in treaties. Working relationships between community health centres and district offices need to be improved in delivering health care. Decentralization should not be limited to district centres only, but small communities as well. The need for infrastructure, new schools for primary grades and high schools, improved telecommunications for public safety and convenience, water treatment facilities, youth centres, trade centres, Slavey immersion schools, the need to maintain winter roads and make improvements to those existing roads.
The Deh Cho riding residents – some of them are qualified workers – cannot get work in the mines. Forestry is cutting back on forestry towers. Wild morel mushrooms should be categorized like harvesting assistance programs. Experienced forest fire workers are being forced out of work because of territorial and national physical exams. Regional land claims are taking too long. There is a need for economic development to create jobs and business opportunities. There are concerns about fracking and its potential negative impacts to the environment. There are concerns about water and its quality. More needs to be done for youth. We need to work with them for them to learn traditional skills. There is concern about Aboriginal languages, their status and efforts to enhance and revitalize them.
Obviously, this is not a complete list of concerns and issues of the Deh Cho. I will work over the next four years to ensure the concerns and issues of our constituents are raised, given opportunities in the House.
I want to congratulate all my fellow MLAs who were elected. I look forward to working with all of you, as colleagues and friends, to make the NWT the best place to live. I also want to thank all of the candidates who put their names forward, making it a key public democratic progress of public discussion and debate and providing choices for residents in selecting their representatives.
I also acknowledge the commitment of past MLAs who were not elected or chose not to run. To them I say you left us big shoes to fill and that your trails are still blazing. Choosing to work as an MLA, sometimes you are chosen and you need to commit yourself to be the public face and voice of your people. We want to make a difference in the lives of our people, families, communities and the NWT.
I recall thinking of a leader’s position when I was told to sit down on the spruce boughs and listen. As leaders, we will be reminded if we get too far ahead of our people, we have to listen, not only with our ears but with our hearts. A humbling experience it was when I was told to listen. I remain deeply honoured to have worked with many elders, some of them who have passed on and some who remain.
Looking back to the 17th Legislative Assembly, I feel the heavy lifting was commendable and accomplishments were made. Devolution is one example. I voted against devolution, and despite that, it has gone forward. We have also developed legislation for the following: the Wildlife Act; the Northern Employee Benefits System; the Liquor Act for the Sahtu; the Mental Health Act, to name a few of our achievements made through public consultations in the principles of the consensus process.
We listen to everyone and we consider all sides. Being hard on the issues and soft on the people is our challenge and we must continue that path.
In terms of constituent matters from the 17th Assembly, most particularly in my riding, relate to the concerns of the quality and effectiveness of health care, the lack of services and support for disabled persons, income support programs in relation to public relations treating people with respect, concerns of housing and the public housing rental system, the care of the elderly, child care services to ensure all children are loved and cared for, and the need to enhance public communications for public safety and information.
In looking forward to the 18th Assembly, I put forth the following priorities for the Deh Cho riding. I want to work to address those priorities with the rest of the people of the NWT.
The completion of the outstanding land claims. Treaty 8 and 11 of 1899 and 1921 remain as historic and contentious agreements, depending on what side you are on. For Dene, it is about honouring the words of our forefathers, to uphold peace and friendship as long as the river flows and the grass grows. There are about a dozen negotiating tables that need to be concluded to final agreements. We can focus on the negotiating process itself or the parties involved. Through the increased responsibilities for public lands and resources, my hope is that the increased authority will not entrench power and wield a big stick in order for progress to be made.
I would like the 18th Assembly, Regular MLAs and Cabinet, to revisit the negotiations mandate that we give GNWT negotiators to ensure fair and amicable agreements are reached. I firmly believe that focusing on the big picture serves a purpose and that we all need to reaffirm the common interests we have.
In the environment and areas of renewable and non-renewable resource development, we need to ensure we have objective criteria, such as land use plans, and consider thresholds in terms of aging footprints that sometimes could be at an industrial scale or none at all.
The people. Our greatest resource is our people, individuals and families who make up the NWT. The basic needs of food, shelter and a sense of belonging are in some cases a matter of survival. We must ensure that the quality of life of our people is our biggest priority. We need to respect and take care of our elders and youth, so that the teachings of the past can help the hope of our future.
We need to keep focusing on improving the housing system; create jobs and business opportunities; provide assistance for homelessness; admit, not deny, the need for addiction centres and programs that run culturally appropriate teachings for healing and wellness, including on-the-land programs; address the crime and unemployment rate; examine closely the home care programs in light of the increasing senior-aged population; and improve facilities and programs for the disabled.
The economy. Our reliance on the mining industry is good, but as we recently learned of the closure of Snap Lake Mine, we can’t put all of our eggs in one basket. We need to diversify the economy so that sectors such as tourism and a traditional economy are supported. Equally, we must consider alternative energy sources, including the continuation of the biomass initiatives.
The environment. It is essential that we balance the need for economic development while maintaining the integrity of the environment for future generations. The picture is clear; there needs to be an integration of land use plans across the NWT so that values are considered when considering development on the land and on the water.
Communities. Coming from a small community, it is essential that local governments have proper resources to manage programs and services such as recreation and municipal services, to list a few. The lack of economic activities and infrastructure projects such as building of roads and bridges or facilities provide badly needed jobs and business opportunities for small communities. Therefore, it is essential that our communities are in a position to participate in the capital planning process effectively. Working within fiscal constraints, more planning and working together would be essential in determining whether communities construct new buildings or operate existing ones. We need to not forget the promise of devolution, and also promised decentralization of jobs to not only district centres but communities.
The high cost of living. The price of goods is higher because of the remoteness of the NWT and the communities. The GNWT must continue insisting federal initiatives continue in supplementing cost of transportation of bringing goods into remote communities, as one example. Further, that this government puts stronger efforts in the expansion of traditional harvesting such as trapping and fishing. The simple solution in terms of the high costs of living is addressing the domestic production of food. Therefore, it is imperative that the establishment in support of agricultural development is continued.
Finally, I look forward to the ongoing work in the following areas: the establishment of an ombudsman, the updating of the Forest Management Act, the move towards ground ambulance for communities and highways, the Path to Wellness approach, the Education Renewal, Junior Kindergarten, Agricultural Strategy, Tourism 2020, and expanding the single-window service centres.
In closing, I will commit myself to working with all four communities that I represent and their leaders. To that end, I plan to meet with leaders annually to ensure communication and cooperation. I look forward to the new Liberal government’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation report in addressing the generations of residential schools and the impact it’s had on the indigenous peoples. My hope is that the GNWT will actively continue its role in implementing change with the TRC, such as the work on the missing and murdered women inquiry.
On a personal note, I acknowledge that I had an incident that caused pain and hurt to my family. I have taken full responsibility for my actions. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I am taking steps to ensure that such an incident does not happen again and I’m taking steps to better myself. I am going forward on a path to healing and wellness. I am not ignoring the incident. The NWT has the highest rate of domestic violence in Canada. Domestic violence has to stop. Men must stop hurting their families. As our elders would say…[English translation not provided]…slow down and listen. Mahsi.