Transcript of meeting #1 for Caucus Round Table in the 19th Assembly. (The original version is on the Legislative Assembly's site.)

The winning word was need.

A recording is available from the Legislative Assembly.

Members Present

Mr. Blake, Mr Bonnetrouge, Ms. Cleveland, Ms. Cochrane, Ms Green, Mr Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Mr. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Ms. Thom, Mr. Thompson, Ms. Wawzonek

Call To Order
Call To Order

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Good morning, Members-elect. We will begin our proceedings today with a prayer, and I will call upon Mr. Blake, please, to lead us in prayer.


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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer


Opening Remarks By Theclerk Of The Legislative Assembly
Opening Remarks By Theclerk Of The Legislative Assembly

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Good morning, Members-elect. My name is Tim Mercer. I am the Clerk of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, and until such time as you have elected a speaker it falls upon me to preside over your deliberations today and until the 25th of October.

I am joined at the table today by Deputy Clerk Glen Rutland, to my right, and Deputy Clerk Kim Wickens, to my left. On behalf of the staff of the Legislative Assembly, I want to take this opportunity to formally congratulate each of you on your recent election to the 19th Legislative Assembly.

This is an historic gathering. For the first time in the history of the Northwest Territories, and indeed the history of our country, the residents of the Northwest Territories have elected a gender-balanced Legislative Assembly.

The United Nations have identified 30 percent as the critical threshold of representation for women to have a significant and lasting impact on the policy decisions and outcomes of government. The 18th Legislative Assembly set a goal of achieving this 30 percent threshold by 2027. As a result of your efforts, we have broken through and surpassed that threshold eight years ahead of schedule.


One of the fundamental aspects of consensus government is that all 19 Members, regardless of the positions they eventually hold in this place, have a meaningful and active role to play in setting

the priorities for an incoming Legislative Assembly. Of course, this doesn't mean that all of your individual priorities will ultimately form part of the overall priorities of the 19th Assembly. After all, priorities are about making tough choices, but each of you has an equal role to play in determining what those priorities will ultimately be.

Today is the second step in the priority-setting process. The first step, of course, was the election campaign that each of you has successfully come through. Today is the time to speak not only to your future constituents, but also to your new colleagues in the Legislative Assembly and, indeed, all of the people of the Northwest Territories.

The next step in the priority-setting process will be a public meeting of northern Indigenous and community government leaders, to be held at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre in Yellowknife on October 17th.

According to the schedule you adopted yesterday, your priorities will be released to the public on your first formal sitting day, October 25, 2019. Once established, it will fall to the newly appointed Cabinet to build a mandate or an action plan to implement these priorities over the next four years and beyond.

Members-elect, the questions that you have been asked to speak to today are as follows: where would you like to see the Northwest Territories at the end of your four-year term? Where would you like to see it in 10 years? What specific actions do you feel the 19th Legislative Assembly should take to achieve this vision?

Today's meeting is open to the public and is being broadcast on the Legislative Assembly television network, as well as on various social media outlets. Your proceedings will be interpreted into the following languages:

  • On channel 2, the Tlicho language;
  • On channel 3, Chipewyan;
  • On channel 4, South Slavey;
  • On channel 5, North Slavey;
  • On Channel 6, Inuvialuktun;
  • On channel 7, Inuktitut; and
  • On channel 8, French.

To listen in English, please leave your headsets set to channel 1.

You have agreed to limit your speeches today to 15 minutes. There is no need to use all of this time, and I will not interrupt you if you go beyond the 15 minutes. However, I do ask that you be mindful of the number of Members who wish to speak today and the limited time available to us.

I would ask that, when you deliver your speeches, you please stand.

We will take a break at about 10:30 a.m. this morning and break again for lunch at noon, resuming at 1:00 p.m. I expect we will be finished by no later than 4:00 p.m. today.

Members, we have Pages in the Chamber today to assist you with delivering messages to one another, transferring documents, and, if you need your water glasses refilled, they will assist you with that, as well.

You have agreed to make your presentations today in alphabetical order by constituency name. This means that we will commence with the Member-elect for Deh Cho, Mr. Bonnetrouge. Following Mr. Bonnetrouge, we will go in alphabetical order by constituency name, but we may need to jump around a little bit, as certain Members need to be away from the Chamber today to attend a judicial recount that is taking place off-site.

Thank you, Members-elect. We are now ready to proceed. Mr. Bonnetrouge, the floor is yours.

Mr. Ronald Bonnetrouge's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Good morning to all my fellow Members and to the legislative staff and to the Pages also. Let me first congratulate all MLA-elect Members of this Assembly, and I look forward to a unified and collaborative approach to governing the Northwest Territories for the next four years.

To my Deh Cho riding constituents, a huge mahsi cho for instilling your trust in me to be your Member of the Legislative Assembly for the next four years. A big mahsi cho to my partner and family for your unwavering support during the campaign period. It was a tough road, and I am forever grateful to set a course for the future of my grandchildren and future generations.

Regarding the GNWT-Indigenous relationships, I want to share with you a vision, a vision of meaningful dialogue and continuous collaboration with all the Indigenous groups of the Northwest Territories to chart the future of the territory for economic prosperity. Only with these partnerships will we realize the prosperity required to build a strong workforce that creates self-esteem and self-sufficiency for all the people of the Northwest Territories. One of the ways is to settle any and all outstanding land claims in the Northwest Territories and not make this task unachievable and unrealistic. We have to remember we are on Indigenous territory. The new government of the 19th Legislative Assembly can create this path by harnessing and developing this vision. All governments in Canada and around the world will be watching with envy this precedent-setting vision. This is the vision I have, and I encourage my colleagues to make steps to this goal within the life of this Assembly. Mahsi.

Regarding education reform, reform is introducing a better method or course of action. As leaders, we have always stated that education is important so we can have the good education and skills to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and such. That has always been the dream of our small communities. Sadly, for a majority of those students, that is unachievable. It is so disheartening to see the sad look on the faces of the students who cannot aspire to meet their goals and dreams for higher education. Even for the basic trades entrance exams, our students cannot meet the basic requirements. I believe as leaders, parents, teachers, and the government as a whole, we are failing to discuss the educational requirements that are required of our students to attain higher education and to at least meet some of their expectations to advance to post-secondary institutions.

How is this reform achievable? We need to review how the three R's are being delivered at the early ages. This may require going into the small communities to discuss with the educators, students, district education authorities, and the community. I would also like this to be completed during the life of this Assembly.

Healthcare. During my door-to-door interactions with Indigenous people, I am constantly being reminded of the second-class treatment they receive at the hands of healthcare professionals, whether they be doctors or nurses. Perhaps it is not only the Indigenous people, but they are the most prevalent group, as most of our people are submissive and passive and do not question authority. This may stem from the residential school era and syndrome. Far too often, they hear comments such as, "You are treaty, so you get your medication and care for free." Those are the comments that people are getting, and this is a highly inappropriate statement to be made by a healthcare professional.

Also, the constant misdiagnosis of patients is also prevalent in our small communities. Patients have been going to the health centres for the same ailment at least three to four times and are sent home with pills to ease the pain. People have had near-death experiences because of this situation and are medevaced when their diagnosis becomes unbearably painful. What should be happening is, if a diagnosis is not known, then they should be sent out to see a specialist, and most times this is in Edmonton. I would like to see us as the 19th Legislative Assembly fix this situation before more of our people become casualties of continued misdiagnosis.

Housing. The NWT Housing Corporation's mandate is to administer and provide affordable housing to First Nations of the Northwest Territories, including rental housing. The federal government had a fiduciary responsibility to First Nations to provide free housing. I believe the onus is now on the GNWT to provide that free housing to First Nations, as this responsibility has now been devolved to the GNWT. I would like this to be on the agenda for upcoming leadership meetings with Indigenous governments for discussion and possible solutions. Mahsi.

I also note that the NWT Housing Corporation's current rent scale is set and determined from a tenant's last year's tax return amount. Tenants are now being coerced into signing over their Canada Revenue Agency tax return to the NWT Housing Corporation, and you have to do that in order to get into a unit. Isn't this barbaric and against a person's basic human rights, not to mention the loss of dignity and self-esteem? How do we allow this as a government in this day and age? Surely, a corporation such as the NWT Housing Corporation can set basic rent scales without the intrusion of people's basic human rights to privacy of tax returns. Let's have a review to set that right. Mahsi.

Traditional economy initiatives. Northern-grown produce to combat the high cost of living and supplementing traditional foods. The GNWT needs to look at traditional economies to increase employment and produce northern products and foods. I believe the federal and territorial governments give tax exemptions to mining companies until the amount of their investment is forgiven. They are also given a low tax rate; I believe it could be as low as 5 percent. They say mines create employment, but most mine employees are not Northerners. Why can't the GNWT put some of those exemptions into non-renewable resources like food production?

The federal government has the Nutrition North subsidy program to subsidize retailers to bring healthy, nutritious foods at a high cost of transporting into the communities, thanks to the carbon tax. We are hearing that the program isn't working as it should. Why can't the GNWT develop a plan to have northern-harvested food products sold in the northern stores? This will create jobs, cut transportation costs, and provide healthy northern foods. The GNWT can look into developing a subsidy program to subsidize harvesters to produce northern foods. This will help all Northerners, and maybe we can even export the northern-produced foods. Mahsi.

In closing, I again congratulate all the Members and look forward to our collaborative approach to governing the Northwest Territories for the next four years. Mahsi cho.

Mr. Ronald Bonnetrouge's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Mr. Bonnetrouge. I will next call upon the Member-elect for Great Slave, Ms. Nokleby.

Ms. Katrina Nokleby's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you. Thank you very much for having me here today. I would like to thank the residents of Great Slave for electing me and putting their faith in me for the next four years.

I first wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the efforts of several groups and several individuals who have made it possible for myself to be here today, particularly the Status of Women, my predecessors who have gone ahead of me, who made sure that there was encouragement and workshops and words of advice so that those of us who were considering this as an option pulled the trigger and made the decision to run. I wouldn't be here without any of them, and they need to know that this just didn't happen overnight. It was the culmination of years and years of efforts and hard work by many individuals. I also want to thank the allies, the males who supported us in getting us here.

There is nothing like putting us on the spot, day two, to be televised for my first-ever speech to be made in the House, so I will say I am a little bit nervous. You will have to forgive me for that.

Obviously, while I ran, one of the major planks of my platform was the economy. That is not to say that I don't believe that social issues and other issues that are facing the GNWT are important. However, that being said, if we don't have any money to pay for anything, we aren't going to be going anywhere as a territory.

We all know the diamond mines are set to close within the next decade, and we need to work our best to expand the life of those mines to ensure that we continue to have an economy to work on while we build our sustainable diverse economy parallel to the diamond mining or the resource extraction industry. We need to stimulate our exploration sector by the completion of key infrastructure projects. For me, that includes the Slave Geologic corridor, the Taltson hydro expansion, the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

As we see climate change and climate uncertainty going forward, we are going to leave our communities stranded. If we don't start to build our all-weather road system and increase the reliability of our transportation system, we are going to be in trouble. I know there is a huge amount of security that comes from the ability to decide that you are allowed to leave. When that cost of leaving is $2,000 to fly out, you are going to be in trouble.

I understand that roads can create issues. There is definitely an environmental impact for things like these infrastructure projects that I would like to be done. However, that being said, we can do work and we can build infrastructure in a sustainable manner, and we can do it with the best and highest of environmental standards and regulations. We have a great environmental regulatory system in Canada and in the Northwest Territories, so it is not realistic to say that we are not going to build anything going forward.

Our economy has been based on mining in the past, and it is what is continuing to feed our families at the moment. I would love to see more of an expansion of tourism. However, tourism jobs don't pay the same as mining jobs. At the end of the day, nobody wants to come back from a service job at the mine where they are making $30 to $40 an hour to work at a hotel in Yellowknife for $14. This is a reality. I think this is something we have to face.

Another area where I think we need to be looking, as our mining sector is declining, is we need to be looking at our remediation reclamation sector. We need to be lobbying the federal government to ensure that the jobs that were recreated by the Giant Mine Remediation Project are staying in the Northwest Territories. Most of that work is being done by southern companies. As the construction management contractor said, no one up here has the capability of doing it. Well, my understanding was, five years ago, that job or that project was to create northern capacity and capabilities. To throw our hands up now and say that is not possible, I don't think it is fair. It is a billion-dollar cleanup. Why aren't we getting more of that pie?

Another area I would really like to see expansion or see development in the next four to 10 years is the Polytechnic University. I am not going to sit here and say it should be a revamping of Aurora College. I have no idea in that area, and I would definitely want to become more informed in that. However, I do think that we have amazing permafrost scientists. We have amazing engineers. We have amazing geologists in the North. We should be utilizing those people, that talent, and leading the way in climate change research and permafrost science.

Yukon College is already in the process of transitioning to a university, so we need to be in the forefront of that education sector. We also need to be creating this northern infrastructure, so we are a player in the Arctic economy. Both Nunavut and the Yukon are booming. Both of them are set to have population increases. I believe Iqaluit is going to double in the next 10 years. They are building roads. They are building mines. They are building a road down into (inaudible). We need to build our roads to connect to that, because eventually there are going to be ports in the Arctic Ocean. If we can access those ports, that is going to help grow our economy a lot better.

One of the things that is also affecting our economy in the North is the uncertainty of the Northwest Territories. A huge factor in that is the unsettled land claims. It has also been the conduct of our government, as well. We are not seen to be a stable, reliable place to invest money. If they can go elsewhere where they don't have the cost of doing business like they do here, plus the uncertainty of not knowing where we are going to be in the next five years, we would have more investment in the North.

To do so, we do need to offer better infrastructure so that the mines can do business at a cheaper rate. I am not sure about the taxation issues that my colleague brought up, and I definitely need to think that we need to ensure that the mines are paying their fair share as they extract our resources and ensuring that those jobs do stay in the North for Northerners. However, I don't think it is realistic to say we aren't going to be mining in the next 10 to 20 years. We just need to ensure we are doing it right.

I have worked a lot in contaminated sites. I have worked at Giant Mine. I believe I have had some health issues as a result of working at Giant Mine. If there is anybody who does see the impacts of mining gone wrong, it is myself, and that is one of the reasons I am happy to be here, is because I do feel like I can offer that lens on what needs to be done so that we are doing it in the right manner.

As I went door-to-door, one of the key huge things for me, and it is not an area I was super exposed to in my profession, was the social issues facing Yellowknife, obviously, and as in the north as a Yellowknife-centric. Obviously, as I travelled around to different communities, I see the poverty. We are a very, very "have" and "have not" territory, and this is really disturbing to me.

One of the things that I did hear at the door a lot of times, and not to diss the residents of Great Slave, however, there is a sense of disconnect, I think, between people in Yellowknife and what is actually happening in the rest of the territory. I would like to work hard to be a bridge towards showing the communities that we are not going to be a Yellowknife-centric government, that we are going to take care of everybody, because we are only as strong as our weakest community, and if we are having the issues that we are having in places outside of Yellowknife, then that hurts Yellowknife, as well. It is all a drain on our system, so we need to ensure that every person within the territory is healthy, that every person has the same opportunity to move forward.

Education is a big one. As engineers, we often talk: how do we get more northern and Aboriginal students to take engineering? The answer is: we don't know. We look at the education system, and I can't even fathom how a child from a community would make it into an engineering program somewhere in the south. That is another reason why I do think the polytechnic is a good way for us to go and continuing along with the trades programs that we already have and keeping those strong.

However, if we can have a program or something within the North that allows northern students to have that bridge where it makes it a lot easier for them to go to school where they are not all of a sudden -- I found myself as a child going and seeing Vancouver to go to university overwhelming, and I came from a city of about 130,000 people in the south. So for me to go to a big city was overwhelming. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be a child from a community trying to go to Calgary or Vancouver for the first time at the age of 18. We are setting them up for failure. We have a two-tier system there, it appears to me. Again, it is not something that I would profess to have huge amounts of knowledge on; however, I think it is something that really does need to be addressed. We are failing a lot of people in our territory.

That being said, I think we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. As I went door-to-door, I recognized how little I actually know and how much I have to learn in order to do this job better. I am grateful for my colleagues here because I feel like already, even in one day, they have taught me a lot, and I know that I am going to continue to learn from all of you and grow. I already can feel that we have a collaborative group of people here. I truly believe we are all here for the right reasons. We all want to see things move forward in this territory. We have been spinning our wheels, and I think that it is time for that to stop, and I am looking forward to being part of the solution. Thank you very much.

Ms. Katrina Nokleby's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Ms. Nokleby. We are two speeches in, and we have left some time on the clock, so that is unusual for newly elected politicians and returning politicians. Maybe that is a sign of things to come. Again, I think it is just fair if you are not using the entire time.

One of the themes of transition this time around was to get started with the politics very, very early, so I do apologize to those who are feeling the pressure from making their first speech here today and only their second or, in some cases, their first day in the Legislature, but so far you are doing fantastic, and try not to be too nervous. In a few months, this will seem very comfortable and very old hat, so congratulations to both newly elected Members so far.

Next, I am going to call up the Member-elect for Yellowknife South, Mr. Rocky Simpson. Hay River South. My apologies. It is not the first time I have made that mistake, but hopefully the last.

Mr. Rocky Simpson's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you. I am very pleased to be here today and would like to thank the residents of Hay River South for allowing me to represent them in this 19th Legislative Assembly. I also look forward to working with all the elected Members both respectfully and cooperatively.

I think that we could maybe change things if we all get along and work to a common goal, which is to do the best for the people of the NWT. Prior to starting, I would just, I guess, like to bring attention to an accident that happened on Great Slave Lake, where there were four fishers lost, and I would just like to mention their names: Stacy Linington, Daniel Courtoreille, Michael Courtoreille, and Jason Fulton.

There have been ongoing searches over the last week and a half for the men, and I haven't talked to anybody today so I'm not sure where they are at with that, but I would just like to let them know and their families know that our prayers and our thoughts are with them. It is tragic, it happens, and the fishing industry is a tough industry.

As I went door-to-door, I think I knocked on about 400 doors and talked to many of the residents about issues that matter to them. A common theme appeared with respect to those issues.

The most common issue raised was access to healthcare in the community. Residents want that issue addressed immediately. Residents are concerned with the routine absence or shortage of doctors. This has resulted in long wait times, and in some cases, to the detriment of the patients. It has resulted in patients being forced to travel south to seek timely medical services.

This shortage limits appointment opportunities, diagnosis of illnesses, and emergency care. Although this is a common issue throughout Canada, it should not prevent us from finding workable and long-term solutions to address it in both Hay River and the Northwest Territories. How we address it has more than likely been reviewed and discussed many times in this House. Therefore, what we now need is action. The Hay River Health Authority staff are second to none, but, without doctors, they are limited in services they can provide.

One option that was thrown out there is to amalgamate the Hay River Health Authority with the Territorial Health Authority, but there again, the Territorial Health Authority have their own set of issues, as well. Whatever the solution is, the staff of the Hay River Health Authority and the residents of Hay River must be engaged and have a say in the direction we need to take to address this issue.

Another item that came was up the economy. It is very important for South Slave, and I think the smaller communities down the valley. Yellowknife has the luxury of diamond mines and government infrastructure and bureaucracy to provide the long-term employment and business opportunities it needs. What Hay River needs, what the South Slave needs, and what the communities along the Mackenzie need is some form of economic diversification and some major infrastructure projects to ensure that there are employment and business opportunities to keep people employed.

Hay River is situated on the fringe of the opportunities enjoyed by Yellowknife. We have seen jobs moved to Yellowknife. We have seen contracts for infrastructure work go to southern firms while our local contractors sit on the sidelines and watch. Our northern workforce sits on the side-line unemployed. Our local suppliers watch as truckloads of material are brought from the south. Our suppliers of accommodations watch as numerous RV trailers roll in to job sites to avoid paying the local accommodations.

We need to look for opportunities in our community. We need to identify resources that we have immediate access to. In the 18th Assembly, a number of strategies were developed; a fishing strategy, an agricultural strategy, and a manufacturing strategy were developed. We have to seriously look at those strategies in collaboration with the producers and identify how we can action them to the benefit of the people not only in Hay River, but for the NWT as a whole.

Another area that is in our backyard is forestry. Due to land claims being unsettled, access to that industry is limited. However, during the 18th Assembly, they did something positive in the purchase of the assets of NTCL. It was a good decision. MTS has provided continued employment in Hay River while providing a very essential service to the communities in the Northwest Territories. With the future development of resources along the Mackenzie Valley corridor, we could see a spike in employment and revenue with MTS.

This government, however, must look at MTS's position within the Department of Infrastructure and consider the option of making it a Crown corporation in order to properly track revenue and expenses and streamline its operations.

To address issues of employment, contracting, and procurement in Hay River, we need to focus on infrastructure projects in the South Slave. One such project I would like to see happen, starting at least within the next four years, is the reconstruction of Highway No. 1 from the border to Enterprise. This highway has had minimal work over the past several years and is in fairly poor condition. It is the highway that, I guess, welcomes tourists to the Northwest Territories. This work could be accomplished over several years, thus allowing opportunities for local and northern contractors, employment for local and northern residents, and supply of goods and services by local and northern retailers and contractors.

Tying into the fishing and marine industries is a matter of dredging. Dredging has been discussed numerous times over the last few Assemblies; however, there has been no action. It is time to sit down with the federal government, the First Nations, the fishers, and MTS to discuss how we will start this important project. This matter has to be addressed and completed at the earliest as possible.

Further to this, the 19th Legislative Assembly, in cooperation with the federal government, must take action with respect to the building and completion of an all-weather highway along the Mackenzie Corridor. This would help to alleviate the current economic situation by way of business, employment, and training opportunities for Northerners. It has a potential for lowering the cost of goods, as well.

The GNWT itself is a consumer of goods and services. We must ensure that the BIP program remains in place and that it is monitored and applied fairly across the North. It needs to be reviewed to ensure that larger projects capture the benefits of the BIP incentives, as well.

Another issue in Hay River, a very important one, is housing. Hay River is experiencing a shortage of market and subsidized rental units. Fire damage to the high-rise building in Hay River resulted in a loss of 122 rental apartments. Due to this loss, people have been forced to relocate to outside of the NWT or find accommodation with friends and/or relatives. This is not an acceptable situation. To compound this problem, there is limited land available on which to construct buildings to offset the loss of rental units. We are looking at one to two years before land would be ready for said development. I will be requesting that this government work with these residents to find solutions to ensure they are looked after sooner than later, as winter is upon us.

Education. Education is close to everyone's heart. Residents in Hay River are concerned about access to education. They are concerned about class size. They are concerned about limited classroom assistants. They are concerned about recruitment of educators. They are concerned about budgets. Mostly, they are concerned about the students, the ones who are impacted by all of those issues.

The NWT has a relatively small population, which should work to our benefit when it comes to providing quality education. We talk about a university, yet our children are struggling with access and getting to school. We need to focus on the youth and ensure they have every opportunity to graduate from high school with an education that does not require further upgrading to get them into the trades, college, or university. We should be expanding and strengthening the programs at Aurora College in Fort Smith. If we can educate Northerners in the North, we will experience superior retention rates in the areas of education.

Land claims. If we want a strong economy, we need to promote the timely settlement of land claims and self-government in the NWT. This will provide the certainty needed for development to occur and bolster our economy. The GNWT has to re-evaluate its role with respect to negotiations. Do we actually need to be at the table? Should we only be in a supporting role with the Indigenous governments? These are questions we must ask, if we are to resolve land claims and self-government agreements in a timely manner.

Being on the south shore of the Great Slave there, the water has come up on numerous occasions. People are concerned that industries in southern Canada will continue to negatively impact our access to quality, quantity, and flow of water. This government has to ensure we have a solid working relationship with Indigenous organizations if we are to protect our water and our lands.

These are some of the issues that arose there during my walk-around in Hay River. There are many other issues which I will be addressing in the near future. As we go along, this will probably increase. Again, I look forward to working with everybody here, and hopefully we will have a great four years. We probably only have three actual years to do the work in, so good luck. Thanks.

Mr. Rocky Simpson's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Mr. R. Simpson, the Member-elect for Hay River South.

Members, before we move on, I want to take this opportunity to recognize a number of visitors in the gallery. First of all, I would like to recognize Mr. Robert C. McLeod. Mr. McLeod is formerly the dean of the Legislative Assembly, having serving in the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th legislatures, and he continues to be the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, and the Minister responsible for the NWT Power Corporation. Welcome, Mr. McLeod.

I also want to recognize and welcome Mr. Alfred Moses, a former Member of the 17th and 18th Legislative Assembly and still the Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, the Minister of MACA, and the Minister responsible for the Worker and Safety Compensation Commission. Welcome to you both. I hope you are enjoying the view from that part of the building.

The attendance of our two former Members from Inuvik is a good segue to two Members from Inuvik, and I will turn the floor over to the Member-elect for Inuvik Boot Lake, Ms. Thom.

Ms. Diane Thom's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you. Good morning, colleagues. It is great to be here finally. A day late, but that is fine. I just want to start off by thanking my constituents of Inuvik Boot Lake for having me here. I am very honoured to be sitting here.

I am going to start off by talking about the Indigenous relations. I recognize the need for improved relations between the GNWT and Indigenous people. I am a witness to this. To address this issue in the short term, educational sessions should be mandatory for GNWT employees who are dealing with Indigenous people. The goal of these sessions should be to provide some knowledge on the history and culture of Indigenous people. This will provide an understanding which will foster respect and appreciation towards Indigenous people and allow for improved working relationships.

The other topic is land claims, and we are kind of talking about common themes here and self-determination. These agreements allow for the federal government to provide communities and Indigenous groups with core funding, tax sharing agreements, tax revenue agreements, and also direct and multi-year funding.

Upon ratification of these, either the constitutions or the agreement, there is no pressure for these Indigenous groups to draw down law-making authority except bill capacity. I think that is important. Most of these Indigenous groups have been ready for years. I know many groups have been negotiating for over 20 years, and I think that the GNWT needs to work closely with the Indigenous groups to get some of these agreements finalized.

Healthcare. The healthcare system is important to every family in the NWT. Therefore, as leaders, our goal should be to advocate for our constituents to receive a high quality of medical care and services. To achieve this, we need to keep up with the medical advancements and best practises by providing support and investment in our healthcare professionals, the equipment and infrastructure, and also to reduce the waiting lists for residents to see health specialists. You look at my community now in Inuvik, and the wait list is over a year for someone to come in ear, nose, and throat, so there is that pressure to get things moving a lot quicker.

Also, social support. I don't believe the problem is just about alcohol and drugs. It is about some of the root problems and the inability to address trauma from residential schools. A poor economy, lack of jobs, and not enough social housing is a system cycle that needs to be addressed.

The other thing I heard in doing my door-to-door, which, yes, your knuckles get sore from knocking at all of those doors, but the other thing is elder abuse. That is a big thing, and a lot of people are concerned that there is not enough support for them and it's just becoming so common that people allow it to happen.

The recruitment and retaining of nurses in the North is also essential. Currently, there is no incentive for nurses to come work in the North, where you look at some of them would rather fly in and fly out. That was a big concern that I was hearing from a lot of my constituents in the Boot Lake riding.

Also, heating source. We are all aware that Inuvik residents mostly rely on natural gas as their main heating source. The constituents are concerned with the lifespan of the natural gas, and it's quite worrisome because they are wondering if they are able to get through the winter, and I think that is very important for my constituents.

Climate change. Our elders have told us for years that something is not right in our seasonal patterns, which in my view is climate change. You look at it now, it's October, and we had snow on the ground; it went away. It's not normal. The 2030 Climate Change Strategic Framework was developed, and I think some of the feedback as part of that was categorized into nine themes, and I would like to ensure that the capacity and support is available to continue moving forward in this area, using the work contingent as a starting point.

Education is critical in improving our education system, which will have a positive impact in other areas like the spin-offs in employment, income support, housing, health, and crime rates. Some issues to address within our educational system include the ratio of students per teacher as well as improving the success rate of our high school graduates to get them directly into college and universities rather than using up their prep program. Another thing, it's great that residents are utilizing the Jordan's Principle funding, as it is a help to the schools, the parents, and the students, but they are afraid, as a result of this announcement, when will it end and will it continue, because this just cannot continue to be a Band-Aid solution.

Recreation priorities. The one thing I heard from my constituents in Boot Lake was the commitment that the GNWT made to the Town of Inuvik 15 years ago for the swap of the school land and replacing the ball and soccer field. My constituents want to have this deal done and completed.

What would I like to see in four or 10 years? We need economic stability, rather than a boom and bust. We have seen this in the Beaufort Delta oil and gas days. We have also seen it along with some of the mines that are happening in the Northwest Territories. I have heard and agreed that let's finally connect the Mackenzie Valley Highway. There are so many spin-offs as a result of making this happen. To ensure that our communities prosper, it is crucial to lay the foundation for a stable economic future. We need to invest in the well-being and set the stage for success for our next generation.

We, as elected officials, have to start thinking outside the box in order to make these happen. It's difficult, recognizing the different needs of each of the regions. I think that is what we will hear today as we start to talk about what we have heard. We have all heard different things. We need to ensure continued investment in building capacity, tourism, developing a new industry with a focus on economic development.

We also should be making a concerted effort to encourage resource development. The Prime Minister established a freeze on oil and gas exploration and development without proper consultation. We should also lobby for further investments from the Arctic and northern framework that was recently announced by the federal government. Yes, I am looking forward to the next four years working with all of you, and I am sure that, by the time we get around today, we will hear a lot of common themes, so thank you. Quyanainni.

Ms. Diane Thom's Speech
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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Ms. Thom, and certainly common themes are one of the things that we are keeping our ears open for when we start progressing towards setting priorities. Next, I will turn to the newly elected Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, Ms. Semmler.

Ms. Lesa Semmler's Speech
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Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Good morning, everyone. Uvlaami. First, I would like to say it is a great honour to be standing here as MLA-elect representing the riding of Inuvik Twin Lakes. I am truly grateful to the residents for selecting me to be their voice in this 19th Assembly, and I would also like thank Minister Robert C. McLeod for his numerous years representing the Inuvik Twin Lakes riding. To my colleagues here today, congratulations to you, as well. I look forward to working with you over the next four years, as we strive to work better for the lives of all of our residents.

Today, I want to share with you some of the important and repeated concerns in my riding that I heard about along the campaign period. As we go through our priority-setting process, these are important issues to the residents of the Inuvik Twin Lakes, and they are also serious concerns to me as an Inuvik Twin Lakes resident. I would like to start with the health of our residents.

Mental health and adductions. We have an increasing homeless population in our community that needs to be addressed. We need to support these residents in their healing, and sending residents who are mainly Indigenous out of the territory is not the answer. We need to have local, community, regional, and territorial programs where we involve our Indigenous partners to aid in this creation. Our residents want to be able to attend alone or as a family. Sending our family members away has not proven in past history to do any good, but to cause more harm and trauma. Let's not continue to repeat this history. We need to support these residents with basic needs when they are completing any type of treatment, as well as providing places to live and programs to continue to support them. Without these, they fall back into the cycle where they were before.

I heard a lot about medical travel on my door-to-door visits. Inuvik is a regional hub, but a lot of our residents get sent to Yellowknife and Edmonton. For many of those residents in Inuvik, a lot of them have never left Inuvik, and so, when we have residents who have to be sent to Yellowknife or Edmonton, it's very scary. They are already under stress from the illness or whatever they are being sent for, and then to have to do it alone is, in my opinion, inhumane to these residents because it causes a lot of stress on them. I have heard that because some elders can walk and can speak English that they do not qualify just because they are an elder. Well, what about fear and what about anxiety and all of those other things that this causes?

There is a lack of trust in our health system. With high turnover in staff, this lack of trust is continuing to build where residents do not want to access health services, as they are finding it difficult to trust the system and they feel like they are not being treated with respect. I feel that stabilizing the workforce will aid in building trust and connections with the residents and communities. It will also increase the cultural awareness and safety amongst the staff, instead of trying to teach them a four-hour course for a two-week period that they are going to spend in our community, and again and again and again. This type of training is not worth the manager's time, and it negatively impacts our community members.

Elders. We continue to hear that we have an aging population, and we know this to be true. We need to ensure that our elders can remain in their homes as long as they can. We need to support them by increasing after-hours and weekend home support for them so this can be a reality in all of our communities. Without this, families get burnt out, elders get neglected and eventually end up in our long-term cares before they need to.

Youth. We have heard a lot of things about mental health in our youth. We need to be working with our youth in our communities, especially in our small communities where they do not have a lot of services, they do not have a lot of recreational services, they lack a lot of support. With the recent suicides in our region, we have seen it; I have personally seen that our students, our teenagers, are suffering, and we need to work with them to find ways to make them feel like they are part of the community and achieve wellness.

Housing. Inuvik has a lack of affordable housing. Long wait lists; some have been waiting years. They are couch surfing on families' and wherever they can. Some live under buildings. Some live in tents. Some are staying in our shelters for years; permanently, it feels like.

I have heard that some of the policies are hindering or negatively impacting people who are in housing; for example, basing the rent on last year's income tax. This causes problems for some, as a lot of work is seasonal and there is no guarantee for income in the next year. An example, in our region, in our community is the Tuktoyaktuk Highway. We had a lot of people working on that project, but now it's done and people are expected to pay that higher rent this year based on their income last year, even though they may be unemployed.

Power bills are also an issue that I heard when I went door-to-door. In the past years, they have gone from having subsidized power in the housing units to having to pay full power. These buildings are the oldest buildings in our community, and are probably the least energy efficient, and these are our most vulnerable families who are living in these units and having to pay these high power bills. It is unacceptable. It takes away from their bottom dollar to feed their family. We need to find creative ways to deal with our housing issues right across the North.

Cost of living. The economy in Inuvik is down, and people are struggling to survive and pay their bills. At the same time that the economy is suffering, the cost of living in Inuvik continues to increase. Residents are concerned that they will no longer be able to live in Inuvik as a result of the high cost of living. In fact, I am aware of people who sell their homes altogether and leave the community. I am aware of people who are selling their homes to move into rentals or to go into low-cost housing because they just can't afford it. I heard from elders who took on programs in the previous governments who live in elder homes who no longer can afford to live in those homes and don't know how to manage their bills.

I have also heard that people are struggling with the price of natural gas. While a lot of our homes were converted to natural gas some time ago, the drastic increase to heat our homes is very concerning to the people of Inuvik. Our residents don't understand how we can have the infrastructure be surrounded by natural gas, yet still pay these high prices. We as a government need to find ways to make it affordable to live in all our communities.

Education. One of the terms that we hear over and over and over again, and I know the education system does not like to hear it, is social passing. It is a term that is used when our students move along through the system, but it is negatively impacting their ability to successfully move through the system. We have students who are very keen to know that they don't have to do the work to move along, and by the time they get to grade 10 we are seeing what we call, as my previous work in education as a board member, the "grade 10 bottleneck" where, by the time they move along to grade 9 and they move into grade 10, they are having difficulties advancing past this stage.

We need to look at how we are using that program in our system and ensuring that students who have the capability are not being social-passed. We need an education system that is equal to or better than the rest of Canada. This includes barrier-free childhood education, because if we have more of our early childhood kids from zero to five in programs that will enhance them, then by the time they get to kindergarten they will be ready. This is something that is near and dear to my heart, and I feel that this will help with all children having access to childcare and families that don't have to worry about how they're going to come up with paying that.

Attendance continues to be an issue that we face in the communities. We need to build bridges between families and the education system that will allow for better attendance. We still face an intergenerational trauma as a result of the residential school system and its effects, and we see this in all our outlying communities, and I'm sure we see it in Yellowknife, as well, that, once we have a family, and this is what I heard, is, "They are treating my child the way they treated me in school, and I'm not going to force them to be there." These are things that I have heard along the way.

We also need a strong regional college campus. We need to bring back programming that has been lost in our community. The Natural Resource Technology Program in our community provided jobs into our region. We know that there is a program in Fort Smith, but the people who took the program in our region got jobs in our region, trained in our region, and it was very successful.

We also lost the trades program in our region, and a lot of the members of our community need to have options in the region, because they do not want to pack up their families and go, and it's unrealistic for us to think that they should.

We know that we have an aging population, and yet we have sporadic health programs in our college. We had the home support worker. That is sporadic. We need to plan for future development that is going to be into our community. We need to provide those courses in our region so that people from our region are training and getting certified so that they can take care of our elders. We need to take care of own elders in our long-term care facilities.

I'll move on to jobs. As mentioned, in Inuvik, like all other communities, we all need jobs. We cannot lose any more jobs in our community due to centralization. We have lost some high-paying jobs in the justice and health field and our past leaders worked hard for decentralization. We need to review the BIP policy and create ways to ensure local contractors have a better chance of securing contracts, as opposed to outside contractors. An example might be including more points for a contractor who is local and even more points for hiring local, because that money stays in our community and it feeds our families and our communities. We need strong communities for a stronger NWT.

Working with our Indigenous people. We need to be working together with our Indigenous governments to achieve more for our residents. We need to remove unnecessary barriers that hinder this progress. We need to finalize land claims and self-government agreements, which will bring certainty to the NWT in terms of investments and creating true partnerships with our Indigenous governments.

Working with Canada. We also need Canada to play a bigger role in helping us achieve our goals. Canada can help us immensely to meet our objectives, to truly be the true North strong and free.

If we as the 19th Assembly can make progress on these issues over the next four years, they will have positive impacts on the NWT and our residents for years to come. Thank you. Quyanainni.

Ms. Lesa Semmler's Speech
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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Ms. Semmler. Next, we have the Member-elect for Kam Lake, Ms. Cleveland.

Ms. Caitlin Cleveland's speech
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Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Bonjour. [English translation not provided.] Hello, and good morning. My name is Caitlin Cleveland, and I am here proudly as MLA-elect for Kam Lake. I am honoured and thankful to have been entrusted this role by my family, friends, and neighbours.

I start today by congratulating every single one of you because, man or woman, as we sit here today, together we have made history. In one election, we have gone from the lowest gender-balanced House in Canada to the highest. Together, we have an opportunity to do things differently. This is not only a turning point for the history of the NWT, but also the world. People are moving beyond borders. The climate is changing. Our expectations are evolving, and the world is watching.

What does it look like, when we work together? How can we shape the 19th Legislative Assembly to reflect the values and strengths of every single one of us, and how can we do things differently?

Throughout my campaign, I used the tagline "I believe in our North, " and it resonated with many of the people of Kam Lake. I truly believe that the only way forward is together, and that, to truly succeed, we must work collaboratively with the success of the entire NWT at heart.

We need to be able to trust not only in our own resolve to do good work for our constituents, but also trust that our colleagues recognize the importance of supporting the success of every Northerner, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identification, race, culture, religion, place of birth, or home community. We need to move forward together by empowering our North to overcome challenges that are pushing at us from our past and see the opportunities pulling us into our future.

My platform was divided into three key areas; people, land, and prosperity. It was important to me to identify what links each of these three elements and how I saw them working together. I reflected on how our territory operates, our strengths, and what I want to see evolve. For me, it all came back to connection.

People are truly our greatest resource in the Northwest Territories. People make our houses into homes and our lands into communities. People also make up 75 percent of our territorial income through federal transfer payments. We need people. We need to support and grow the people who do live here. We need to work with our public servants to promote and market the NWT as a great place to live and work, and we need to ensure that we have the appropriate supports for people who choose to make the North home. We need to connect people to the North and then connect them to the right supports when they arrive.

As much as we prefer people to come and stay, sometimes they came for a short visit to see the aurora, catch some fish, visit some friends and family. Last year, British Columbia welcomed over $700 million in cultural-experience tourism. This is a great opportunity for our North, and we need to capture it. However, for our people who already live here and for people who choose to make the North home, we need to focus on growing our infrastructure to better support the ability of Northerners to thrive. I want to take you through the top concerns I heard at the doors of Kam Lake constituents.

Affordable, healthy housing was the number one discussion at doors in Kam Lake. Our housing infrastructure, not only in Kam Lake but across the North, needs to be assessed. Housing has an incredible ability to build communities, and we need to keep this in mind, along with affordability, multi-generational, and accessible housing. Housing should connect and build people, not isolate them.

The second-most discussed topic at doors was our energy infrastructure and the fact that not one solution will work for every single community. We need to expand our energy infrastructure to smaller-scale mixed-energy systems to reduce our dependency on imported fuels across the Northwest Territories. These smaller systems pay back faster, are more resilient, and therefore reduce the cost of living for all Northerners.

Both the first and second primary concerns of residents can be linked to the cost of living. People are finding it harder to thrive in the North, but I was inspired by how many people discussed solutions by focusing on increasing the resiliency of our northern communities. In addition to housing and energy infrastructure, we discussed food infrastructure and the need to focus on locally grown and locally harvested food sources. The success of the Inuvik community greenhouse was celebrated more than once, along with our ability going forward to socially and environmentally sustainably harvest from our lands and waters.

Our communications infrastructure was highlighted. Many residents questioned the cost of creating broadband redundancy versus the lost revenue for the NWT when our communication systems are compromised. Transportation infrastructure and, more specifically, the road to resource was a polarizing topic with my constituents, who questioned the value of mining royalties, lost labour dollars through non-northern workers, and the environmental impacts of development versus the cost of the road.

Finally, education infrastructure. Environmental capital is where, the more you use, the less you have. With social and intellectual capital, the more you use, the more you have. It multiplies into beautiful communities. This means that social and intellectual capital is most sustainable for us.

The polytechnic was of huge interest, not just to the people within the area of Kam Lake, but throughout Yellowknife. The polytechnic and the innovation it brings increases our resilience to change by creating a research and training base for our future. In addition to the polytechnic, we know that job projections show trades as an area of opportunity for graduates. We need to align industry leaders for direction, skilled tradespeople for mentorship, foster partnership between Skills Canada and local businesses, and support schools and apprenticeships to expand trades opportunities.

Schools need our support, but not only to grow these tradespeople or graduates ready for a polytechnic. They need our support to grow children and keep families connected. I believe we need to change the protocols within our government and address how we are allowed to work within schools, with the whole well-being of the child in mind. In addition to the new child and youth care coordinator positions, we need a program navigator who works with families in connection with this position to connect families to government programs with the purpose of keeping families connected, and parents need to be involved in and empowered through this process.

We need to be able to work together to lift families up, building resiliency in our communities rather than continuing to work in inefficient silos. We cannot expect teachers to address the educational needs of students when the fundamental survival needs of our children are not being met. We need to cut away the red tape that prevents us from having meaningful conversations that bring about meaningful change. The success of our children depends on our ability to come together with respect and integrity. The program Building Stronger Families is starting work similar to this, but we need to keep the momentum going.

Connected to education at both ends is affordable childcare and after-school care. Safe, affordable childcare supports a parent's ability to pursue further education and meaningful employment, as well as a child's ability to thrive within the school system. However, not every community will have the same exact childcare and after-school care needs, and this is fluid with all of our programs and supports. Every single one of our communities is unique, and what success looks like to each community may differ.

We need to work with each of our communities to establish unique wellness indicators and empower local governments to administer and choose programs that work for them. Empowered communities show increased participation in evidence-based, informed decision making, where communities can decide their future with the support of the GNWT. Maybe that future is improved graduation and employment rates, increased use of Indigenous languages, increased agriculture and local harvesting, or more on-the-land-based schooling.

Throughout the election month, many of us shared a vision of a government led by stronger meaningful relationships both in the walls of this House, with the community and Indigenous governments, the Government of Canada, and throughout our communities and territory.

We started our day yesterday eating and sharing with Dene Nation, our first meeting as MLAs-elect. There, we discussed the need to come to the table, to be present, to listen, and to understand. "Reconciliation" as a word means "to come together." Reconciliation is key to both people and land, and with land comes land claims. We need to prioritize finalizing land claims and fostering nation-to-nation relationships.

Reconciliation is also language. We are unique in the NWT, with 11 official languages. Language is a tool that helps us decide what to see and how to see it. It is a cultural memory as a way to see the world in a new light at a time when the status quo approach digs us deeper holes.

Reconciliation is also about healing. Our people are hurting, and we need to heal together. Healing does not only need to happen in cases where our people are at their lowest, but at every opportunity. We need to collectively understand the root cause of addictions and to develop a suite of solutions. School-based resiliency programs and services for children, listening opportunities for people to share and others to hear, medical detox opportunities here in the North, well-sourced and supported on-the-land treatment, and community-based transitional programming to help people recover are all elements of healing solutions that need to happen within our territory.

Prosperity is something that happens over time. It is not a lottery. As we enter into a government that everyone has said will be fiscally tight, we need to think beyond our four years and put a plan in motion for the fiscal success of future governments.

Throughout our campaigns, we were asked again and again what we would do to support economic diversification to build our economy. While there are many opportunities within the North, a lot of the tools to encourage development are similar and consistent: making strategic infrastructure investments that reduce the cost of energy; ensuring the GNWT policies and processes are modern, fair, transparent and accessible; settling land claims with respect and integrity; streamlining regulatory processes and clarifying measurable objectives to provide certainty for business and the environment; by supporting local and Indigenous business development that align with our vision of a healthy sustainable north; and by strengthening the NWT skilled labour pool, where the conversation shifts from not "if" but "how."

Great leaders inspire action by defining their "why." During my door-to-door visit in the Kam Lake riding, I visited an elder, or knowledge-keeper, and his granddaughter. My father-in-law and I tossed a ball back and forth with them while we spoke, and the knowledge-keeper asked me what an MLA was, where they worked, and what their role in the community was. As I explained, the knowledge-keeper shied away and replied, "I am just a nobody, and I don't vote." At this moment, I had a tag line and had discovered how my platform connected together, but I did not yet have my "why." This man in this moment became my "why."

Today, we share our "what," what we want to accomplish. Over the coming years, we will work collaboratively with northern public servants to determine our "how," but, to truly be effective leaders who inspire change, we need to work together to establish our collective "why." Thank you.

Ms. Caitlin Cleveland's speech
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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Member-elect for Kam Lake, Ms. Cleveland. Members-elect, I have just received a note from the interpreters asking me to slow down when I speak. I have a bad tendency to speak a little bit too fast, so it's also a good reminder to all of us to slow down your speech so that the interpreters can keep up, and to almost make an effort to speak ridiculously slowly so that they can keep up with the translation. Now, we are going to turn to our first returning Member, who I know has no difficulty speaking slowly; and keep in mind that there is nothing going to happen when the clock runs out after 15 minutes. No one is going to cut you off. So, Mr. Blake, the returning Member for Mackenzie Delta, the floor is yours.

Mr. Frederick Blake's Speech
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Frederick Blake Jr.

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Clerk. Good morning, colleagues. It is with great honour that I congratulate everyone in the Chamber today. Over the next four years, we have a lot of work ahead of us. This election has made history with the amount of women being voted in. Let's make this 19th Assembly one to remember by making our mandates a reality. We have the power to help our ridings with our voices, but mostly we as Members of this Assembly have the power to make changes to the NWT by working together.

Today, I want to touch on my riding. We have many challenges in the Mackenzie Delta, as we do in all our ridings, especially ridings with small communities. Today, as I set my priorities for the Mackenzie Delta, I do so with so much determination and the will to make the Mackenzie Delta succeed in all aspects of our day-to-day living.

Our services need a lot of attention, starting with, and in no particular order; I say "no particular order" because to me they are all important. I stand here representing the Mackenzie Delta and the whole Northwest Territories.

I'd like to begin with Aklavik and the need for a new school. Not renovations to what is already existing to the oldest school in the Northwest Territories; my main goal is to get a new building, with all the necessary space for the best quality of education for my constituents. We've been to Aklavik many times and the concerns are echoed, that we need a new school.

Talking about education, in all three communities in my riding, we want the same level of education as in the regional centres. Our students deserve the best quality and highest level of education they can get. As it is right now, we have the best teachers, dedicated to our students and willing to stay long-term, which is beneficial to our students and our communities. However, I still get feedback that we could improve in our system. I will be talking to the DEAs and BDEC, hoping to help them decide priorities so that I can advocate on their behalf.

Health concerns are always brought up from time to time, from the lack of medical escorts for our elders, medical escorts for our cancer patients, and for our sick patients who go for surgery. Quality healthcare is a concern right across the NWT. My constituents want to see more dentists' visits, more doctors' visits, and the same regular visits in all three of my communities, as well as physio, counselling, the list goes on. Colleagues, we want more healthcare and we need relief for our health and social services workers. We need them to be healthy in order to look after our families and our children. Also, my constituents would like to see long-term care in our communities, in order to keep our elders in the communities and with their families.

Policing in Tsiigehtchic. We appreciate the extra hands that we do receive from Fort McPherson, but we know hands down that we need full-time RCMP in Tsiigehtchic. I will advocate on this and will make sure that we have something full-time sooner than later.

Our economy is at a stand-still. Let's get some money in the Mackenzie Delta to create some jobs. Also for the Beaufort Delta, we need the Mackenzie Valley Highway extended from Wrigley to Inuvik. Also, increase our funding for our community governments so that they can focus on infrastructure such as swimming pools, upgrading our arenas, baseball diamonds, and community roads, just to name a few, because, in order to keep any of our professionals in our communities, whether it's doctors, teachers, social workers, we need these sorts of facilities. Also for our youth; you know, our future.

The Dempster Highway and our winter ice roads are always in need of building, operation, and maintenance. I want to secure funding so that we always have work for our local contractors. Not only that, the upkeep of our highways and ice roads only ensure the safety for people travelling to and from.

For Aklavik, an all-season road from Aklavik to Fort MacPherson has been talked about for years; I know, because I've mentioned it more than you can imagine. This is what we want, and it's a reality. We have the power to make this happen. Imagine the high cost of living right now, especially with the rivers ready to freeze over, making Aklavik an isolated community. Being isolated only means food and fuel cost increases. This has to change.

Daycare for our communities is also another priority. I've heard from many constituents that, in order for them to hold a stable job, if they want to attend school and if they want to take advantage of training opportunities, they need daycare. Daycare is one of our highest priorities.

Housing will always be way up there for concerns for the Mackenzie Delta. In fact, it is a concern for every riding. Our communities are growing. We have less and less housing for young families wanting to start out on their own. We have homeless people in our communities, whether we want to admit it or not. All our communities have individuals couch surfing, nowhere to go, and I want to focus on housing, more housing units for singles, for families, and for our elders.

Also, working together with the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Inuvialuit Regional Council, our bands, designated Gwich'in organizations, and community corporations.

I have so much more to add. I want the best for the NWT, but right now the Mackenzie Delta is my riding so I will speak on their behalf and fight for the next four years for the best I can get for my constituents.

I want to close by thanking my supporters, the individuals who came forward to give me advice, and for everyone just having faith in me to lead them in this 19th Assembly. My biggest supporter, Jaimie, my children, my parents, and everyone, I just want to say thank you, and I look forward to working with you all. Mahsi.

Mr. Frederick Blake's Speech
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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Mr. Blake, the Member-elect for Mackenzie Delta. Next, we have the Member-elect for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty. I wish to remind all Members-elect that setting your language dials to 1 will allow you to hear the interpretation in English. Mr. Lafferty, the floor is yours.

Mr. Jackson Lafferty's Speech
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Jackson Lafferty

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Clerk. [Translation] Mr. Clerk, before we start, I'd like to mention the four missing on Great Slave Lake, and I think we should give them one minute of silence and do a prayer for them. [End of translation] Colleagues, I'd just like for us to take a moment of silence for the missing four fishermen and their families on the Great Slave Lake. Masi, Mr. Clerk. Our thoughts and prayers to the families in Hay River.

Mr. Clerk, [Translation] first of all, I'd like to congratulate all the elected MLAs for the region. We have a big job ahead of us. Today, when we look at the situation, everything is okay. Not only that, but when we look and reflect on our community, we have to represent our people. For myself, I represent the Monfwi region. They have given me a job for another four years. I am really thankful to my region. I think they have faith in me to continue, so I'm here again.

When we represent our people, we have to do our best. We have to always take advice from our people and put forward their concerns. That is the reason why we are here. We have to always remember who we represent. Also, we are here for the next four years. We are here on the 19th Assembly, and we have a lot of issues ahead of us. Let's all work well together and support each other. We said that yesterday, and today we will be like a rock to push our issues forward.

When we look at the government, we are looking at three things. We always want to do the best for them. That is the reason why we are here. When we look at the government and MLAs, I want those two to work well together. We need to be cautious about issues and make sure that nothing goes wrong with our discussions. We also have to consider working with other organizations. We represent the Northwest Territories, 33 communities. We will have a lot of issues to discuss.

Yesterday, we had a meeting. We will also have another meeting next week with the Dene leaders. They will also give us advice on the issues that they want us to consider. Let's all work together on those issues, as well. The 19 MLAs who are here, let's put our packsack in front with all the issues on the table. They are our people's issues, and we need to try to help them with those.

I would also like to congratulate every one of you again. There are a few things I would like to talk about regarding housing, education, and also early childhood issues, our languages, our culture. I will also comment on that. Also, in the smaller, isolated communities, everything is so expensive. I want to talk about that and also talk about how we can improve our economy in the Northwest Territories. I will comment on that. I have said this much in my language, and now I will switch to English. I would like to thank you. Masi. [Translation ends]

Colleagues, I would just like to begin by congratulating all of you here today in our Chamber. I would just like to say masi to my Monfwi constituents, as well, the Monfwi constituents who have allowed me for another four years to serve them in this House as their representative. I also want to thank Mr. R.C. McLeod, who was here earlier, on passing on the torch of being the Dean of this House to me, and I just want to say masi for all the services over the years.

Colleagues, it is my goal for the next four years that we need to look at the 19th Assembly as a government that takes pride in itself in collaboration and also cooperation, a government that works together for the good of all of the people of the Northwest Territories. This government will be a government in which Cabinet and Regular Members have found a way to work closely together and effectively in a manner that satisfies both groups, both parties, and produces programs and services that truly help improve the quality of life for all Northerners.

The next four years present an opportunity to build on good work done by many people before us here today. We will work together to tackle issues that we know our residents face, such as high cost of living, health and wellness issues, education, employment challenges in small communities, homelessness, food security, and continuing efforts needed to support many, many northern families living with the effects of the history and legacy of the residential schools and the result of Indigenous language lost, and cultural practices and ceremonies.

Goal number one: in four years, the NWT Housing Corporation policy is amended to provide viable solutions to homelessness issues throughout the Northwest Territories. How are we going to do that? Continue to increase available, safe, affordable housing. To do this, we will have to re-evaluate our current policy and system so that it aligns with our community needs and meets our people's, as well; a made-in-the-North solution; innovation and also technology; and creating partnerships with local governments to empower them to build units for their communities and to further explore tiny homes initiatives and building capacity in communities to build them on their own.

Another goal that I would like to focus on is on the NWT polytechnic university or, as we call it, University of the North. My view is that it's been established it will provide Northerners as well as Canadians and international students a means to study diploma degrees and masters programs in a wide variety of trades; develop a post-secondary education act; establish increased post-secondary programming; encourage collaboration between the three NWT campuses to offer the best possible programs that meet the needs of our students; provide research opportunities for Canadians and international academics looking to climate change research and other Arctic-specific issues and challenges that impact studies in the Northwest Territories' climate change.

My vision is that, in 10 years, the majority of NWT students are choosing to attend our University of the North, rather than to go south, because the programs are the highest quality and provide students with the skills and knowledge and the certification required to be ready for a work force.

Another area is to improve JK through grade 12 education in the Northwest Territories; infrastructure for community schools; continued accountability for all schools; continuing to strengthen high-quality early education and JK through 12 education; continue to expand e-learning opportunities for small communities so that all high school students have some opportunity to take advantage of the advanced academic courses, regardless of their location; evaluate the Early Childhood Development Action Plan; a junior kindergarten instruction hours review; improve school formula funding; re-evaluate the NWT Education Act to reflect on the current educational needs and our priorities; programs and services in all NWT communities; quality and affordability of early childhood programs in all communities, including the 10 smallest communities that are currently unable to offer programming to children zero to three years of age.

Another goal to focus on is to increase efforts and the areas of language and culture preservation, advocate for and support language revitalization efforts, build capacity in communities to develop a pool of language teachers and knowledge-keepers, encourage Indigenous language immersion programs in the K to 12 education system so that 10 years from now we have students who are fluent in their language and are proud to use it; continue to support innovative initiatives honouring the Indigenous culture and ways of doing things, both within the government and at the grass-roots level.

I will just give you some examples: initiatives undertaken by the Department of Health and Social Services Indigenous health and community wellness division; Dene Nahjo's on-the-land and leadership initiatives; support on-the-land treatment program and justice program, including urban on-the-land wellness camp; programs that encourage traditional skills such as harvesting and trapping and encourage stewardship of the land and animals. These initiatives not only honour Indigenous languages, traditions, and beliefs but also work to preserve them.

Another goal is to develop a plan to deal with the high cost of living here in the Northwest Territories: food security by means of providing new incentives and supports to get more people back on the land, harvesting wildlife such as caribou, moose, musk ox, bison, et cetera. We need to put more emphasis on agriculture and helping Northerners get the training and skills and equipment to start growing their own food in their community greenhouses and within the schools so that students learn from a young age about agriculture; invest additional funding in expanding the community harvesting funding focused on communities hiring a group of talented and trusted harvesters to go hunting for the community, in particular to go harvest wild meat and fish for the elderly and for the single mothers and for those who are sick and also disabled.

Another goal is to develop an energy plan: establish a plan to reduce the use of diesel generators in communities to cut the cost of living and look at more viable and green solutions such as hydro, solar, and wind power; commit to converting up to 50 percent of the GNWT infrastructures, buildings, schools, health centres, and warehouses, et cetera, to be more energy efficient, using wood pellets rather than using diesel to heat within the next 10 years.

Another goal that we need to seriously look at will be to improve economic viability of the Northwest Territories: settle all outstanding land claims and self-governments as it is in the best interest of the people of the NWT that we support our Indigenous governments in their right to self-governance and autonomy; work with Indigenous governments and the federal government to find a mutually agreeable solution to finalize.

Elected officials need to meet with the Indigenous leadership to identify what are the real challenges and to come up with solutions to support them, as this is the key to economic diversity and growth; investigate opportunities to increase tourism across the NWT with a focus on ecotourism so that all communities can benefit from the economic opportunities that tourism brings; continue supporting up-and-coming mining opportunities by reducing bureaucratic red tape and barriers to mining development opportunities. We need to be open for business for any business, for exploration and also future mining opportunities, but this has to be on our terms, northern terms, and we have a say; develop a plan to encourage mining and exploration in the Northwest Territories that satisfies both our need for economic development and environmental stewardship.

What steps should the GNWT take to achieve this vision? We need to be practical in our vision and not to create a priority plan that is overambitious. Our plan needs to be achievable. The 18th Legislative Assembly was overambitious. In the end, too many items were not achieved and are still in transition. Most small jurisdictions, provincial or territorial governments, set only 10 to 15 priorities. Our goal is to meet the needs of our people of the Northwest Territories. We cannot meet these needs if we overstretch ourselves. I am looking forward to working with all of my colleagues in this House. Masi.

Mr. Jackson Lafferty's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Member-elect for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty. Members-elect, it is 10:39 a.m. We will now take a break. There is coffee in the Members' lounge, and we will reconvene at 11:00 a.m. Thank you.


Mr. Jackson Lafferty's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

Page 17

Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Welcome back, Members-elect. Next [English translation not provided].

Mr. Rylund Johnson's Speech
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Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

... I have faith in the process, and hopefully I will be returning here.

Colleagues, people of the Northwest Territories, I am honoured by this opportunity to stand in this Legislature before all of you and share my priorities in the coming four years.

Firstly, I want to introduce myself for those of you who I did not meet yesterday and for the many residents of the Northwest Territories who may not know me. I am 29 years old, which makes me by far the youngest Member of this Legislature. I was also born and raised in Summerland, BC, and I know that there is sometimes uncertainty when a person is not born and raised in the North, but I assure you I earned the trust of the residents of Yellowknife North, and, in time, I hope to earn all of your trust. To those Members, I hope to earn the privilege to invite me to your communities so I can meet your families, so I can speak to your constituents. Over my four years, I hope to get to all of the communities of the Northwest Territories.

I am a lawyer by trade. I am deeply passionate about policy work and deeply passionate about the work we do here in this Legislature. Yellowknife is my home. It is where I have learned so much. It has given me so much opportunity. It's where I want to raise a family. I want to recognize that I come from a place of privilege. I came up here as a lawyer. I have never known what it's like to have the government take my children away. I have never known what it's like to live in a community where the jobs are few and far between, and that is why I intend to listen.

I intend to listen to all of you during this Assembly, and I want you to recognize that, when I speak, it is not just me speaking. I am speaking for the constituents of Yellowknife North. I have a very diverse riding. It is a riding full of permanent residents who could not vote, but they are still my constituents. It is a riding full of doctors and lawyers and senior bureaucrats and policy experts who have educated me on the various areas of law. It is a riding with people struggling on income assistance. When I speak, I speak for my most vulnerable constituents, and I will give you that same service, that over the next four years, when you speak, I recognize you speak for the people who elected you and sent you here. That is what I think we all have to remember. We represent the people of the Northwest Territories.

I would like to thank each and every one of my constituents for taking the time to share their stories, concerns, and aspirations throughout this campaign. I am humbled by the chance to be their voice for the next four years. As a Caucus, we were handed an overwhelming mandate for change in this election: change the way we invest; change the way we address our most pressing issues; change the way we do business in this Legislature. We have a duty to our constituents to ensure that's reflected in our priorities. I will now talk about what I believe that change looks like.

Change to me is a government pushing for big strides to better our society. Our public service contains some of the foremost policy experts in the world. No one is better suited to enact policy than our bureaucrats who work and live in the North. Now, I recognize we are going to enter into this game of "survivor" to select our Cabinet and Premier over the next three weeks. I myself will not be seeking Cabinet. I intend to be a Regular Member who advocates for my constituents. Let us not let this process divide us. After that vote, let us meet in Caucus and come together. Over the next four years, we will make hard decisions. They will not always be unanimous, but let them not divide us. After those votes, we will come together in Caucus and we will be whole again.

In my platform, I advocated and I got elected on a platform of progressive social policies, one of which I would like to speak to is universal daycare, and why universal. The word "universal" does not discriminate. It does not matter if you are white or Indigenous. It does not matter if you are from a community or Yellowknife. It allows us to enact policy that applies to all of the people of the Northwest Territories. Let us think bigger, dare to lead, and be the change we wish to see.

We are all here because we won. We have earned this, and now we must be leaders. We all fight for our constituents. I recognize that, but reactionary is not the key. We must create a user-focused government. We do not want a faceless bureaucracy. We are small; we can be nimble. When someone comes to our government, especially in our communities, they know that person by name. We can hear our constituents, and we can get what they want. We must try to find solutions, not be the reason for inaction, not create red tape for our Northerners but listen. I emphasize universal daycare because early childhood makes sure that every child ages zero to three has a safe, fun place to thrive. If we want to revive our Indigenous languages, we need to create language nests. Universal daycare is a place to create those language nests.

We were asked to see what our priorities look like over the next four years and what the NWT looks like in the next 10 years. I would also like to think about what the NWT looks like over the next 30 years. I believe one of the first things this Assembly should do is declare that we are in a climate emergency and recognize that all of our decision making going forward must always keep that fact in mind, for, as we advocate for social change, it means nothing if we do not take meaningful climate action.

I believe we have leaders we can send to the international stage. Just as we have seen in the pacific islands and the leaders in Greenland, we can probably do more by sending our leaders to speak on the international stage about the effects of climate change here in the North, we can do more to lower emissions by convincing others to do so probably than we can lower them here in the North.

Now, I think it is important to speak about mining at this time because often, as an environmentalist, my views on mining get mischaracterized. Mining and the environment do not have to be polarized. In fact, I would like to see the first carbon-neutral mine in the NWT. I would like to see us use green mining technology that we can export around the world. One of the best things I think we could do for the City of Yellowknife and for the Northwest Territories is to have a gold mine right outside our boundaries, and I recognize that is scary. I recognize that is scary as we stand on 237,000 tonnes of arsenic, but we must remember that we must have faith in our land and water boards and our regulatory processes; we must have faith that new mining technology will not allow another Giant Mine disaster to happen. As the world looks to rare earth metals, it's important to remember that solar panels are not made of wood and lithium batteries do not grow on trees. We have an opportunity here in the North to be leaders, and an international race to the bottom for commodity prices does not benefit us, does not benefit Canada.

I want to tell you that I believe this last government got it wrong when it came to mining. We sent our Cabinet to Vancouver to promote it, but we did not send our Indigenous governments with them and we did not send our land and water boards together. This conversation about exploration is meaningless without all parties at the table, without all parties buying in.

I believe change looks like a government that leads instead of follows. I heard throughout this campaign where my constituents want us to take the lead. One of those such proposals is a guaranteed liveable income, also known as a universal basic income. We have to recognize that we are not exempt from the processes of automation and the labour market changes that are happening around the world. When I look forward to the year 2050, I want to see a universal income in the North. I recognize that some priorities may not be accomplished in one election cycle, but we cannot lose sight of them. We cannot lose sight and hit "reset" every election cycle. I want to create priorities that plan for 10, 20, 30 years.

We have an opportunity to establish a hub of students for this kind of economy by building a northern university in our capital. However, I believe this issue has become unnecessarily divisive. I would like to see this Assembly commit to net-zero job loss at Fort Smith campus. I would like to see this Assembly do the same for the Inuvik campus. We are talking about expansion into a university. We are not talking about moving Aurora College to Yellowknife. We have to think bigger. We must recognize that it is our university and that it is a university that must serve the needs of our students first and foremost. That means training nurses, social workers, and teachers to respond to the unique cultural context in each of our communities.

We need programs focused on skills like geoscience, graphic design, environmental rehabilitation, which are desperately needed in our northern organizations and put our students to work. We need trade programs that focus on green construction and retrofit techniques that are designed specifically for our infrastructure and climate. If we achieve this vision, I am confident this institution can establish our territory as a home of research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in our Arctic, but we must act now if we are ever going to get there.

For our economy to grow, we need to attract and retain people. I believe we need to take a new approach this time around to finally achieve those aims. The world is full of workers who don't need to be in a traditional office nine to five, but it is also full of companies who can have satellite corporate offices virtually anywhere. We have a unique territorial financing formula and a lot of latitude to fund incentives to get people and retain people in the North, so let's take up the torch where our past government stalled. Let's get the incentives right and make a strong case for entrepreneurs and workers to join our vibrant northern economy.

I believe we need to prioritize a green economy. Reducing energy consumption and saving costs on energy and logistics are crucial to our future. A big way we can affect that change as a government is putting serious focus into retrofit programs. It is a proven way to generate economic activity, save costs in the long run, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a way we can create good-paying jobs for our people, bring down their utility bills, and improve their quality of life; and we can do this while increasing demand for products which can be produced locally.

I believe change looks like a government with harm reduction at its core. People across our territory are struggling with intergenerational trauma, addictions, and mental health. I believe this Assembly must take leadership in reforming our supports for the most vulnerable people, in their most vulnerable times.

Let's make real investments in Housing First to bring the stability folks need to address their challenges. It works, and we should put the money behind it so it can succeed.

Let's implement programs such as a managed consumption program for alcohol and establish a supervised consumption site for drugs in our capital. These models save lives, help break the cycle of addiction, and help save long-term care costs in the healthcare system. It's been proven in Canada and abroad, and it's time we acted on that evidence, not get caught up in old prohibition debates.

For these programs to work, we need to staff our services with wraparound support. We need to prioritize getting more addictions and mental health professionals in our communities.

I also believe change looks like a justice system that is more just and culturally relevant. There is a general agreement among my constituents that our justice system is not working. I believe the single biggest thing we can do to fix it is to bring our focus to restorative justice. In the coming weeks, I will be pushing several initiatives under that theme for inclusion in our mandate.

Change looks like a government pushing to realize the true vision and intent of devolution. That means recognizing that the next step is devolving more powers to Indigenous governments and communities. That starts with settling our land claims. I believe this is the single most powerful thing we can do to advance reconciliation and end the uncertainty in our economy.

The next step is handing over the reins to some of these services and getting Indigenous governments the resources they need to deliver them directly to their constituents. I will make our regions stronger and help our service delivery better reflect the reality of our clients.

Change looks like transparency in government. As other jurisdictions accelerate towards greater transparency, we continue to foster a cloak of opacity. We need to be advocates for a government that is transparent, effective, and responsive for the sake of our constituents. I heard no shortage of great ideas from within the public service when I was knocking doors. As elected officials, it is our job to bring those ideas to the top and make sure we can implement them.

Colleagues, we have a lot of work ahead of us to be the change our constituents asked us to be. In getting to know each of you, I know none of you takes this responsibility lightly. As we get down to the business of governing, I have full confidence that we can be the most progressive, productive Assembly this territory has seen in a long time. I look forward to working with each of you in the spirit of consensus and in the service of our constituents.

Lastly, I want you to know that I will always be upfront and honest with you, and I ask that you do the same. As we commence this game of survivor for our Cabinet, Speaker, and Premier, I can tell you that my vote is open for anyone. It is open for those whose priorities align with mine. I will listen to you, and I ask that you do the same. Thank you.

Mr. Rylund Johnson's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

Page 20

Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Thank you, Member-elect for Yellowknife North, Mr. Johnson. Next, we will go to the Member-elect for Nahendeh, Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson, the floor is yours.

Mr. Shane Thompson's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

Page 20

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Clerk. I would like to congratulate everyone here for all your hard work to be able to represent your riding and being the ridings' voice. As well, I'd like to thank everyone who put their name forward to run for these same positions. It takes a lot of commitment to put your name forward for public office. I am very excited and look forward to working with you all for the next four years.

I would like to personally thank the residents of the Nahendeh for allowing me into their homes to discuss what we need to work on for the next four years. Each of the six communities have similar and unique issues, and I will share some of them here today with you. I would like to thank them for allowing me to represent them for a second term. It is a very humbling experience, and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.

To my team and family, thank you for all your support, advice, and encouragement as we move forward.

Colleagues, this is a summary of what I heard that we need to work on for the next four years. I will try to keep it high-level where possible, but some of my returning colleagues will know I do get into the weeds a little bit sometimes.

Working with Indigenous governments moving forward. The region would like to see the Government of the Northwest Territories come to some resolution with the outstanding claims and processes, especially in the Nahendeh Dehcho First Nation and Acho Dene. In speaking with regional leadership, we have not seen any improvements over the past four years and it seems to be going backwards in some cases, especially in the Nahendeh.

We need to build on relationships. We need to make it a point to sit down and listen to what the people have to say and share. Hearing and listening to the people often require creativity in addressing concerns, issues, and challenges. Building relationships is a cornerstone to serving, which fosters respectful, trusting relationships, which then builds healthier and more productive communities.

Personal and professional integrity is built on trusting relationships. Trust and respect are not entitlements; they are earned. We need do our utmost to be honest and forthright in working through solutions to address their issues and concerns and be authentic and transparent throughout the progress. Delivery of authentic services to people is not delivered in lip service or a box that can be checked off, or saying we consulted and are trying, when in fact we did not. Service to people is not a cookie-cutter approach; personal and professional integrity needs to be the guidepost.

I feel the Indigenous governments' processes need to be completed, which will create certainty for industry and investment in the North.

Colleagues, we need to work towards the well-being and self-reliance of our people and our communities, valuing our knowledge keepers, as I just recently found out, instead of calling them elders, by listening to them, paying special attention to their traditional knowledge and meeting their needs for care in the NWT.

We need to continue to invest with partners in infrastructure that enhances our well-being as individuals, situation as the long-term facilities; making homes more energy efficient, which would include increasing funding to the Arctic Energy Alliance. The 18th Assembly increased their budget to enhance the work that they are currently doing. I look at the success they have had in small communities, such as Jean Marie River, where they helped the band and homeowners become more energy efficient. This needs to be done for all communities.

NWT Housing needs to work with small community governments to establish a year-round maintenance program for looking after the knowledge keepers in their homes. It's horrendous when you go into these people's homes and they don't have the support there to fix their homes.

Work with the federal government to make better use of the Nutrition North program for the communities. Each community should be able to access this program, especially in the North.

Social services positions for elders. We talk about our elders, but we don't have a support system in place. We need to create a bill and positions to help them. They are our foundation, and we need to respect that.

Increase homecare positions in the communities. This will help create jobs and help look after our most vulnerable people.

Relook at the seniors' fuel subsidy issue and add funds to it, instead of giving a pot and just dividing it as we create uses for it.

The Mackenzie Valley Highway road to Whati needs to be completed first and foremost. This will have an impact on all of the smaller communities, and we have to understand this is how our residents move forward.

Lease payments need to be reduced from 5 percent to 3 percent. I know we started out at 10 percent last sitting, and we got to 5 percent, but we need to go to 3 percent. We need to reduce the cost of living for all residents. When you are looking at elders and they are sitting there and having to pay over $3,000 for a home for the lease payments; not cool, so we need to work on that to reduce that.

Equity lease issues need to be resolved in the next four years. This has been ongoing, and as people, my colleagues, have heard, I spoke up in this House about this. In my riding, it's 26, and my colleague's from the Deh Cho, it's 46. People are being put into a situation where the government is not honouring their commitment.

Highway No. 1 needs to be completed, and what I mean by that is chipsealing from Fort Providence all the way to Wrigley. I understand the struggles that some of the bigger centres have with their highways, but come drive down our highway. See what gravel roads are like. I have to give credit to the staff and the contractors who look after those highways. They do a great job with what they are given, but we need to fix this. Similarly, Highway No. 7, we need to complete the chipsealing process on that road. We need to enhance that because there are some opportunities now happening in the Deh Cho and the Nahendeh, and we need to help make sure the infrastructure is there so that the residents can benefit from it.

Colleagues, we need to respond to the NWT residents for safe and affordable housing and address the homelessness issue. Public housing units have a long waiting list and no new infrastructure occurring. When you see new buildings built, old buildings get torn down. We need to use those buildings to help our homelessness situation. We need to work with the federal government to access Indigenous housing funding for Indigenous governments; not the territorial government but Indigenous governments. We need to work with local governments to come up with creative ways to address housing issues. They can be creative and develop housing solutions for their residents with this funding. They have answers, and let's work with them.

We need to work on elder housing so that their homes are enhanced and maintained to allow the elders to age in place. Elders a lot of times do not want to leave their home community, so we need to ensure we give them that opportunity.

For the smaller communities, we need to build fourplexes where elders can be taken care of in the comfort of their own home communities. They are the knowledge keepers. We hear it. They are the ones who hold the history and the culture, and we need to respect them, and we need to build these homes in there, especially for elders who are stage 1 and stage 2 care. Stages 3 to 5, we need medical services, and we do not have that presently for that, so we need to understand that.

We have to be realistic. Our debt is $1.1 billion, and it's getting closer to our debt ceiling of $1.3 billion. This is our reality, so we need to do things differently. I heard from residents who would like to see the Finance Minister reach out to Northerners to hear their concerns and their ideas on how to improve the GNWT economy and how to utilize the budgets as best we can. This will allow us to develop creativity in spending the $1.9 billion. Departments need to do zero-based budgeting to eliminate redundancy and duplication of services in the system. The 19 Members of the Legislative Assembly need to implement a "can-do" approach with the understanding that we are working for the residents of the Northwest Territories. In true consensus government, it's about working together for the betterment of our residents.

Contracts need to be awarded to northern contractors for the economy to grow and flourish in the North. Northern contractors provide employment for Northerners and skills development. These contractors are not only invested in local economy, but in our communities, as many of our contractors are residents themselves. In other words, we need to fix the business incentive program, known as BIP. This program used to be used on all contracts, but somehow it was decided that it would be capped. Colleagues, we see large contracts going south with limited benefit to Northerners. One example was the project on Highway No. 1. The southern company was awarded the contract for roughly $14.5 million, and we did not see very much left behind. We saved a little bit of money on the contract, but what was the impact on the other areas. Again, it's about the residents.

We need to develop infrastructure and the economy in a way that we can support a positive future for our people and our land. We need creative ways to enhance tourism outside of the larger centres. Northerners offer a rich and diverse cultural and traditional perspective and experience, coupled with the incredible untouched landscape that few people have the pleasure of enjoying. Unfortunately, the larger centres are the only places many of our tourists are able to visit because of the undeveloped northern tourism industry.

Moving forward, I would like to see the GNWT develop more green projects, such as geothermal, LNG, solar, and other creative ways to reduce the demand on diesel. It is essentially about working with the communities to come up with a plan that meets their needs as well as using modern technology to enhance existing systems we currently have in place. We have a perfect example in the community of Fort Providence, where SSI Energy has developed a system using modern technology to reduce the use of diesel fuel, utilizing the waste heat for the business. This is an idea that reduces their costs. We need to work with these types of innovators. I believe the utilization of green energy products would enhance the local economy. If you look at geothermal, not only does it operate the power plant, but the heat can be used to heat buildings and greenhouses where we could grow our own food. This creates more employment opportunities and careers, lowers the cost of living in the community, and makes the community more self-reliant.

Last Assembly, we saw an increase in the small community employment fund, which saw new employment opportunities in the smaller communities. However, it is not enough. We need to develop strategic spending which will stimulate employment opportunities, such as homecare, and special projects which are driven by the communities, like work on the access roads and firebreaks, which will help stimulate their economy.

It is about diversifying and improving economic opportunities to encourage community self-reliance and provide local employment through traditional industries, such as arts, culture, small businesses, mining, fisheries, and tourism, as I mentioned before. It's about strategically spending in the region, working with the local governments on projects that will get people to work and be productive citizens. By working on addressing smaller communities, it helps regional centres and it helps the City of Yellowknife. It's the old analogy: you work on your weakest part of it; it makes the whole team better. By doing that, working with the small communities, it does help enhance this.

Colleagues, we need to provide education and training that provides children, youth, and adult learners opportunities for positive contributions to society and meaningful employment.

We need to review and address the education funding formula we are using. It needs to be fixed to ensure all divisional education councils and school staffs have the necessary tools and funding in place to help our students. Divisional boards should not have to look for almost 30 percent of their operational budget outside the department, and this is what's happening in the Deh Cho.

I have to personally thank the staff for doing an amazing job, the divisional staff and teachers, being able to do what they are doing with the resources they have. I have been very fortunate. My children and I have been through this education system. It is an amazing system, but it needs to be fixed in certain areas.

We need to put our students and communities first by offering local skills and trades training that will reduce our needs for importing skilled labourers. We need to promote and stress trades and apprenticeships.

We need to develop a physical literacy strategy for the schools and communities. We need to focus on prevention and people's well-being. We are behind the rest of Canada in this area.

Being respectful of the time, I will try to summarize some of the remaining ideas that I have heard for the past four years and on the campaign trail.

We need to finally address the municipal infrastructure shortfall. We need to start reducing the gap by at least $3.3 million a year for the next four years. This will help municipalities start addressing their concerns. As part of the process, we need to work with the municipalities to develop a capital plan that is realistic and they are aware of O and M costs for these new facilities.

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs needs to work with the federal government to develop an ability for the smaller communities, especially the designated authorities, to use the CIP and gas tax funding for community projects that they need and maybe a part of the funding to help run the facility and for program staff. We need to explain that every facility being built has an O and M cost and it comes down to that they have limited funds that they receive from the federal government and territorial government. They do not have the ability to raise funds through taxation like some of the bigger centres.

We need to continue to strengthen our human resources capacity across the public service. We need to build up their skills so that they can move up the corporate ladder should they wish. We need Northerners in positions that are looking after Northerners for Northerners, and we need to understand the importance of that.

We need to have a budget line for each department for summer students, and we need to have the ability to share with our municipal governments to give our youth the opportunity to get meaningful employment in the summertime, to help them get positive work experience and funding to go back to school. As well, this would be another way of supporting our youth and our future.

Medical travel policy needs to be reviewed; $18 a day for meals is not right. Tell me where you can get a good meal for $18. You can go to McDonald's, maybe. These are people who are going on medical travel, and we are not looking after them properly.

We also need to look at the time, about the opportunity for people to drive instead of flights. We also have to look at non-medical travel escorts and the work that they do because they are sometimes not family members who are stepping up to look after our sick and the elderly.

Finally, decentralization needs to be looked at. These positions, they are positions that should be in the region, but they are in headquarters. This puts an additional barrier to the government operations and slows down process. There are several examples of this, and I have seen them in the past few years. As well, I believe with modern technology in place, there are positions out there that could be decentralized.

Each community in the Nahendeh does have a list of things we need to work on, but, with everybody's permission here, I would like to be able to submit the list for the Hansard and have it deemed as read. In closing, I would like to thank my former colleagues from the 18th Assembly. Your help, your assistance, and your support was greatly appreciated. I have learned a lot from you. The scary thing is I have gone from being a rookie to a knowledge-keeper in four short years. It is exciting and scary at the same time. Thank you, my colleagues.

Mr. Shane Thompson's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

Page 23

Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Deeming a portion of your speech read, that is a procedural trick from a wily veteran, but we will make it so, Mr. Thompson.