Wally Schumann on Mr. Wally Schumann’s Speech
On December 14th, 2015. See this statement in context.
Mr. Wally Schumann’s Speech
Round Table Speeches by Members
December 14th, 2015
Wally Schumann Hay River South
Thank you, Mr. Clerk. On election day, residents of the Northwest Territories spoke loud and clear. It’s time for change. It’s time to create a brighter future for all NWT residents, and I want to congratulate everyone here.
We have all been entrusted with a huge responsibility. Creating meaningful progress in the Northwest Territories isn’t going to be easy. The days of the status quo are over. It’s going to take courage, collaboration, innovation. The priorities we put forward here today are critical first steps in that direction. Let’s be honest; our families, businesses and communities are struggling to get ahead, and for most it’s not getting any better. It’s something I’ve seen and heard not just in my community but across the territory. The time has come to ensure our communities and its residents can get back on the road to prosperity. The priorities I bring here today will help us reach this goal.
It’s no surprise that some of our biggest challenges are the result of the economic downturn. It’s something that has been raised in the recommendations of the 17th Legislative Assembly and it’s something that will be critical to address the mandate of the 18th Assembly. Frankly, our economic outlook is grim. The closing dates of several mines are rapidly approaching and there are no new resource development projects lined up. It’s time to get the Northwest Territories back in business. There are a lot of low-hanging fruits that could give our economy the boost it desperately needs. We need to help support our small and local business prosper with investment and growth opportunities.
Tourism provides an excellent opportunity for our territory. The more visitors to the NWT, the more money is spent here and the more attractive it is for investors. At the same time, we can encourage even more outside investment by getting some big obstacles out of the way.
Completing land claims will free up land for development and provide future certainty for business and investment. There are also regulatory processes related to land use that need to be revisited and streamlined. This will facilitate and expedite growth. By supporting our businesses and removing obstacles to outside investment, we’re not only jump starting our economy, we’re also creating new jobs, new training opportunities for NWT residents.
I don’t need to tell anyone in this room that our high cost of living hurts every single person and business in the Northwest Territories. Every day it contributes to the economic downturn we are experiencing. It’s time for us to realize that band-aid fixes simply do not work. We need to invest in long-term solutions.
One of the most important things we can do is address the high cost of energy. Alternative energy sources such as solar, biomass and wind may be part of the solution and they should be investigated, but we need to think long term.
We also have to look at immediate ways to help keep more hard-earned dollars in the pockets of our residents. Refunding the 2 percent payroll tax to every employee is one way we can do this. Addressing food security, which is one of the most vital issues facing our communities, is absolutely critical. Creating an all-season Mackenzie Highway would be a big step in that direction. This road would help ensure our communities have a reliable and affordable access to food and essential supplies. It would also benefit local businesses and open up even more opportunities for resource development. Again, we need more than band-aid solutions to lower the cost of living. The solutions we need to find to help not just the residents of the NWT today but their children and their grandchildren.
One of the hard realities of both economic downturn and high cost of living is their impact on health and social programs available to our residents. When our businesses are hurting, so are our families, our seniors, our youth and our most vulnerable. Our most important services are constantly being challenged to do more with less money. In my opinion, that simply doesn’t make sense. We need to look at the health and social programs in place to see what’s working and what’s not. How can we better invest our dollars to get the biggest bang for our buck, the only feasible way we can increase support for programs that have real impact on the health and well-being of our residents and free up cash to address the gaps.
The need for a drug and alcohol treatment facility within the Northwest Territories, for instance, would require this type of approach. We need to examine the current system, find out why previous ones have failed, and decide what is the best way to move forward that will have the best health outcome for lasting rehabilitation. After all, a healthy workforce is an attractive workforce for investment.
We also need to ensure our programs are relevant. Seniors are one of the fastest growing segments to our population and some of the biggest clients of our health and social programs. Having a seniors advocate would help ensure we are appropriately addressing not only their needs but those of the families who assist their care. By taking a hard look at our health and social service programs to see what’s working and what’s not and whether they are relevant, we can start to make better use of their limited dollars to improve the health and well-being of all residents of the Northwest Territories.
Finally, one of the most important priorities we need to address is education. Education is an investment in the future that will pay out dividends. It affects our economy; it affects the health of our communities; and it affects the future of the Northwest Territories. Our youth will be taking the reins of our communities and we need to set them up for success. We need to improve the attendance, graduation rates and academic success levels to better prepare our youth for post-secondary education and careers. At the same time, we need to respect and support our diverse cultural needs and promote education in all our official languages.
We also need to increase support for inclusive classrooms, to make sure every single student in the Northwest Territories gets the best education possible. But we can’t just invest in the Foundations for Success. We need to follow through with those investments by promoting apprenticeships, career training, internship and opportunities within our communities. By giving our future leaders the best possible education and training that include cultural and language diversity, we’re creating a valuable workforce who will be inspired to grow their careers and families right here in the Northwest Territories.
There’s been a lot of talk about transparency here in the last few weeks, and I think this is very important. As MLAs, we have been held more accountable to what our residents have voted for. But we need to take this a step further. The key to addressing all our priorities in a quick and effective manner will be collaboration. Every single one of us needs to find a way to better collaborate with federal, municipal and Aboriginal governments, organizations and stakeholders within our communities. By doing this, we can work faster and smarter to build a more robust economy, to find sustainable solutions that lower the cost of living, to improve the health and social services of all communities and give the best possible education to every single student in the Northwest Territories. Collaboration in these priorities is the only way we can address the urgent need to get the Northwest Territories and all the residents back on the road to prosperity. Thank you, Mr. Clerk.
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