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.

The winning word was need.

A recording is available from the Legislative Assembly.

On the agenda

MLAs speaking

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 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 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 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 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 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
Round Table Speeches By Members

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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
Round Table Speeches By Members

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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.