Transcript of meeting #1 for Caucus Round Table in the 20th Assembly. (The original version is on the Legislative Assembly's site.)

The winning word was need.

Members Present

Ms. Cleveland, Mr. Edjericon, Mr. Hawkins, Mrs. Kuptana, Mr. MacDonald, Mr. McKay, Mr. McNeely, Ms. Morgan,

Mr. Morse, Mr. Nerysoo, Ms. Reid, Mr. Rodgers, Ms. Semmler, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Ms.

Wawzonek, Mrs. Weyallon Armstrong, Mrs. Yakelaya.

The House met at 9 a.m.


Opening Remarks By The Clerk Of The Legislative Assembly
Opening Remarks By The Clerk Of The Legislative Assembly

Page 1

Clerk Of The House Mr. Glen Rutland

Thank you, Ms. Cleveland. My name is Glen Rutland, and I am the Clerk of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly. Until your Speaker is elected, it is my responsibility to act as the presiding officer over your proceedings. I am joined at the table today by deputy clerk Kim Wickens and deputy clerk Jolene Saturino.

On behalf of the staff of the Legislative Assembly, I want to take this moment to congratulate each of you on your election to the 20th Legislative Assembly. One of the unique features of consensus government is that regardless of your roles within the Assembly, each of you will be active participants in forging the priorities of the 20th Legislative Assembly. It must be noted, however, that the priority setting process will look a little different in this Assembly. Typically, priority setting is one of the first orders of business for a new Assembly. Your predecessors recommended, and you have agreed, to take additional time to settle into your new roles and allow for more flexible and extended input process with a goal of setting priorities for the winter sitting of the 20th Assembly. You made this decision to allow for a more wholesome opportunity to understand what the 20th Assembly will focus on and what it will prioritize during its term. That brings us to today.

Today, you will hear what your colleagues want to see accomplished in the next four years. Many of the objectives you will hear about today can be achieved through collaboration, determination, and collective creativity, which is at the essence of consensus government. After today, the next steps for the priority setting process include meeting about priorities with Indigenous governments as well as community and non-governmental organizations, reviewing common priorities and themes that have been identified through all these meetings and associated cost estimates, receiving thorough briefings on the GNWT finances, contributing to an exercise where you will aim to reach consensus on your priorities, and finally tabling the priorities of the 20th Assembly in this House in February of next year. From there, the GNWT will develop its final budget and associated mandate with your input.

Now, on to a few housekeeping items.

Today's proceedings are open to the public and are also being broadcast on television and social media. You have agreed to limit your speeches today to 10 minutes. There is no need to use all of this time, and I will not interrupt you if you go over time. However, I would remind you to please be mindful of the time and the number of Members who wish to speak today. I will also ask that you please stand to deliver your speech.

We will take a 15-minute break at approximately 10:30 this morning, and we're expecting the proceedings to wrap up around 12:30. Members will indicate when they wish to speak and will be called upon by myself as the presiding officer. Thank you, Members. It is now time to begin.

We'll begin with the Member for Kam Lake.

Ms. Caitlin Cleveland's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Clerk. And thank you, colleagues. It's a great honour to stand in this House again and represent the people of Kam Lake. I want to thank Kam Lake residents for their continued support and trust.

I start today by speaking about trust because I want to begin by identifying my three personal priorities: our relationships with one another, our relationships with the public service, and our relationships with future Assemblies.

The foundation of every relationship is trust. I started the 19th Assembly speaking in this House about trust. Trust is both fragile and powerful, built over time, but easily and quickly broken. Building trust requires us to understand the unique challenges of our people, the curiosity and empathy to care, and the courage to do what is right. Trust is a feedback loop of not only gaining trust but also giving it both inside the House, within departments, other levels of government and community organizations, and within our own neighbourhoods. Trust allows us to have each other backs, work side by side, and advance with confidence towards a common purpose. This doesn't mean this space will be void of conflict. Conflict is healthy, and we rely on it to advocate for the people we serve with integrity.

Second, Mr. Clerk, is our relationship with the public service. To reach our political goals, we rely on public service. It is inherent in every one of us to want to do meaningful, respected work. The public service needs to be empowered to do innovative and collaborative work toward our common goals. I want a public service empowered to dream big and be accountable and driven by visible, progressive results.

Third is our relationship with future Assemblies. I'm frequently asked about working in Canada's first gender-balanced Legislature. Given that roughly 13 percent of elected seats worldwide are held by women, I don't discount the significance. But women don't want to be remembered or celebrated because of their gender but instead because of the work they do. That said, there's a deeper conversation to be had about what representation in this House truly means and reflect on who is not at the table. Are we missing entrepreneurs? Health care workers? Educators? People with disabilities? Mixed incomes, or gender diverse and two-spirited Northerners?

Mr. Clerk, my priority speech is -- sorry, priority speeches in general are difficult. Each of us could each fill a day talking about the intertwined connectedness of each of our platforms, what we heard at the doors, and the individual yet related issues of constituents. It's a fine balance trying to ensure residents hear their own voices in our speeches today while ensuring we are setting ourselves up for access with fewer priorities for the 20th Assembly. I do not believe our issues are discrete, nor can they be addressed one at a time in a vacuum. But I do think that our common priority trends, shared by the people we serve, and I look forward to see those emerge today.

Mr. Clerk, my election campaign, again, centered on three pillars: people, land, and prosperity. And together they were defined by 18 outcomes that put people first, provided stewardship of our living planet, and fostered economic growth and diversification. But I'm not going to take you through my platform. My constituents have been generous with their opinions through social media, family-friendly chats at the fieldhouse, and door-to-door conversations. So today I will take you through the common priorities that I have heard so far from Kam Lake residents that centre on cost of living, economy, accessible health care, and climate adaptability and resilience.

The escalating cost of living was a top priority for the people of Kam Lake. Many people reflected on the cost of food and goods and services but also acknowledged that this is a trend impacting much of Canada. Many Kam Lake residents agreed that energy and housing infrastructure were their top cost of living priorities. Kam Lake residents want the government to develop clean affordable energy systems to reduce diesel dependency. Yellowknife residents are paying premium rates and subsidizing small communities for expensive archaic infrastructure shared with the rest of the NWT and with oil reliance on diesel generators given the low water levels. The frustration of residents is further propelled by the carbon tax given there is limited ability to affordably and sustainably choose alternative energies.

Kam Lake residents, including young families, people -- sorry, young people, families, senior and elders, also tied affordable accessible housing to cost of living. People are finding it difficult to remain housed or visualize the long-term certainty and sustainability of living in the North, especially after retirement is pushing more people to explore southern housing options. I stand by my words of the 19th Assembly and believe housing needs to be looked at as the big infrastructure opportunity that it is. We need to incentivize affordable housing solutions through public and private partnership with major capital investments.

Second, most residents spoke about the economy. As a base, many of the people I serve are entrepreneurs or work within private industry that serves the entire Northwest Territories. They are concerned with the state of the economy across the territory now stressed by COVID-19, climate events, and the approaching deadlines of mine closures.

There are several parts to a thriving economic system. So in no particular order we need to increase the number of well-paid northern residents who call the NWT home and are able to buy goods and services right here. We need do this by educating self-confident and self-reliant youth graduating empowered to join our changing workforce, encouraging and welcoming our students to return North and incentivizing others to move here.

Second, we need to continue to identify business opportunities for the things people need and want in industries from mining to northern art to green energy and local food production to energy retrofits of public infrastructure. There are so many opportunities for creative innovation in our territory that would be served by focusing on accountability for achieving outcomes rather than focusing on compliance with procedure or policy that exists today.

Third, we are and have always been reliant on mining. Investors need clean affordable reliable energy in a certain and timely regulatory environment.

Finally, housing is key input to business costs. So many times people have not been able to move North because there's no housing. I have heard from Kam Lake businesses on multiple occasions they cannot afford to dream because they do not have the staff to realize those dreams because either they cannot find these staff, or those staff can't find affordable places to live.

Beyond this, what do working Northerners need? Childcare. We need to fully implement universal childcare and support fair compensation to the sector.

Third, many Kam Lake residents shared frustrations that related to accessible health care and social services. Residents expressed concern about accessing health care providers and mental health supports, concerns of medical travels financial supports, access to escorts and unfair process, and public safety within our city that directly relates to the NWT's need for an accessible client-focused integrated service delivery system that includes, housing, health, education, employment, income support, and community justice that pairs with healing and addictions and aftercare supports.

Mr. Clerk, we can't discuss mental health without talking about sport and recreation. When engaging with communities on child and family services, suicide prevention, and homelessness prevention, the 19th Assembly's Standing Committee on Social Development found that access to sport and recreation was a common recommendation from residents. Sport and recreation is a key component of healthy communities so we can't talk about mental health without raising the alarm on the quiet crisis coming our way. Much of our infrastructure was built within the same timeframe and is coming due. This territory needs an infrastructure deficit recovery plan and to address the municipal funding gap.

Climate adaptability and resilience were next up on the list. This summer the city of Yellowknife made history when it was evacuated. As expected, residents have questions, want to participate in a third party review to share their experiences, and want to see improvements in how this territory mitigates and manages emergencies. Beyond emergency management, residents want to see the GNWT support a culture shift to become leaders in adaptability and resilience in a climate change environment.

So in many more words than four, Mr. Clerk, the priorities I have ultimately identified today are:

  1. Cost of living, where Kam Lake residents tied this to developing clean energy solutions and affordable accessible housing;
  2. The economy through which residents also identified affordable clean energy infrastructure and affordable housing along with education, population retention, childcare, and certainty;
  3. Accessible health care where the people I serve highlighted medical travel reform and responsive client-centered integrated service delivery, especially for vulnerable residents; and,
  4. Climate adaptability and resilience where many Kam Lake residents reflected on a timely need to improve mitigation and management of emergencies while supporting a resilience-based culture shift.

Ultimately, Mr. Clerk, every single northerner wants to make a difference, whether it is in our own home, our workplace, our neighbourhood, or our community. My top priority is to see the work we do positively reflected on the ground and in the lives of Northerners and that together we do just that, make a difference. In doing so, I hope we earn the trust of Northerners not just as independents but also as an institution. Northerners need to trust that their words, concerns, and passions for their home are reflected through our work and ultimately our legacy. Thank you, Mr. Clerk.

Ms. Caitlin Cleveland's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Glen Rutland

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. If Members do want to be able to have -- are having issues hearing, I understand your desk one, your portable one, is now working on channel 1. And there's a volume control on the side. So channel 1. Thank you.

Next, I have the Member for Hay River North.

Mr. R.J. Simpson's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd like to speak about the priorities that have been informed by my eight years as an MLA; four as a Regular Member, four as a Minister, as well as, and most importantly, what I've heard from my constituents, the constituents of Hay River North. And so I think it's important to give some context about what Hay River has been through in the past five years.

In 2019, we saw the closure of the Hay River high rise. 130 people woke up with homes and went to bed homeless. Overnight, a building with 124 units was shut down. That has had such a major impact on the community. There were always vacancies in that building and so if a business wanted to bring someone into town, that person could find a place to live. So with that closure, we saw a massive impact on an already short housing situation.

That was followed shortly by COVID. For two years, Hay River experienced COVID, just like the rest of the territory, but I would say it was more divisive in Hay River than anywhere else. And the community is still healing from those wounds. That was followed the next year by what was, at the time, the biggest natural disaster in the history of the NWT, the flood. 500 homes in Hay River, KFN, damaged or destroyed. Mr. Speaker, there are elders who were in their late 80s when that happened. They're now in their early 90s, and they've been living a hotel room for the past year and a half. One resident had his 90th birthday at the evacuation centre here in Yellowknife actually and that's because this year, again, we were evacuated. The entire community evacuated. Not once, but twice. Three times in less than a year and a half, Mr. Speaker.

While this was all going on, we also saw an influx -- sorry, Mr. Chair. While this was all going on, we also saw an influx of illicit drugs into the community and new types of drugs. And not just drugs but tainted drugs. And we saw a number of deaths in the community. At least half a dozen directly attributed to toxic drugs and an additional maybe four or five additional deaths that probably wouldn't have -- might not have occurred without those drugs. This has become a very serious issue. And with those drugs, there's also organized crime now moving into the community.

During this entire time, we've also experienced health care shortages, health care professional shortages. There have been times when we've had zero physicians in our community. Meanwhile, every other regional centre has two or three or four or, you know, a number of health care physicians in the community at any given time. How is it that the second largest community in the territory which serves, you know, a number of communities in the region does not have physicians, Mr. Chair?

So this is the background that Hay River is dealing with right now. And so it's no surprise that the biggest concerns that I heard going door to door, and just living in the community, was the safety and security of our residents. At the bare minimum, the government needs to provide a safe and secure environment for residents. Residents need to feel as though they can live in their community. With constant disasters, with constant evacuations, with being out of our homes for two months this year, Mr. Chair, residents don't feel safe or secure anymore. And so those are the issues that we need to address. We need to ensure that we are doing our job to protect communities from disasters and emergencies through planning, preparation, mitigation, and proper investments. And, you know, the government finances, while they are stable, we can't keep expanding. And so I don't think there are lots of areas that we can make new investments in but this is one of the areas that we need to make investments in. If we built homes, if we have measures in place that prevent damage from happening, in the long run that saves us money.

We need to deal with our health issues in the community. People are moving because there are no physicians, and they don't feel safe. We have many seniors who don't have feel safe because they don't trust that if they get sick, they will be taken care of.

And we need to deal with the crime and the drugs in the community as well. The RCMP, they love nothing more than busting bad guys but over the years, they've had a number of the tools they traditionally use taken away from them by changes to the Criminal Code, by decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, and so as a territorial government we need to look at what we can do to support the RCMP as they try to address drugs and organized crime. So there's legislation that we can enact. Things like the scan legislation, civil forfeiture legislation, a trespass act.

We also need to look at our housing policies. I hear many complaints that there are residents in housing units who, you know, have a brand new truck and new skidoos and everything out front, and everyone knows that that's the drug dealer's house. So why are they in a social housing unit paying $80 a month? We need to change our housing policies to ensure that that doesn't happen. And ultimately, drugs is a -- it's not a criminal issue. It's a public health issue. And so we need to look at how we're going to address that. We've had a number of treatment centres in the territory. The territorial treatment centre system doesn't appear to have worked for us. So what else can we do? And I think that if we are investing our limited resources that we need to look at aftercare. People can go away to treatment. They can get treatment but when they come home, what are they coming back to? They might come back to homelessness. They might be couch surfing on their friend's couch who, you know, parties all the time. It doesn't take long to fall back into it if we don't address the aftercare part of it.

We also need to look at housing. It needs to be a priority. And this is true across Canada but especially true here in the territory. And there's lots of talk about social housing, but it's not just social housing. We need market housing as well and especially in communities like Hay River. If we have more market housing, that'll free up some of our social housing. The town and the Government of the Northwest Territories have worked on a housing strategy, and I think it's a good strategy, and it's something that we need to support, and we need to encourage. It's not something that can just sit on a shelf.

And speaking of housing, we also need to simplify and accelerate the process of returning displaced residents to their home. Earlier, I spoke about someone in their 90s who's been living in a hotel for a year and a half, coming up two years. Many people have gone through the process of, you know, repairing or replacing their homes. They've managed to get through that relatively complicated process, but not everyone has. And we need to ensure that we are taking care of everybody. And I could go through a number of different examples of cases that I've been working on, with the former MLA from Hay River have been working on, and, you know, those are our friends, they're our family, they're our community members, and they're heartbreaking stories and we need to do better to address them.

The government's finances, I mentioned that, you know, we're not in a terrible fiscal situation but we need to rein in government growth. We cannot continue to grow at the rate we've been growing. I don't think we need to make massive cuts but I think the government is stretched too thin. We've tried to do too many things, and we're doing them halfway. We need to focus our efforts on doing what things that are important. We need to get back to basics and ensure that we are delivering the services, providing the safety and security and the health care and the housing to residents that they need. We need to focus our efforts, get things done, and not do things halfway.

One of the ways to do that is with ensuring that we continue what we started in the last government with government procurement. When I was a Regular Member in the 18th Assembly, I was quite frustrated seeing all of the contract dollars from the GNWT flow to southern companies. There are many things in the economy that are outside of our control. How we spend our money is in our control. By that last year, when I was a regular Member, 75 percent of contract dollars from the GNWT were going south. This last government, the last two full years that we have data for, 75 percent of contract dollars were given to northern businesses. So we've completely flipped that, and we need to make sure that we continue that.

And of course, Mr. Speaker, reconciliation. That is going to be the cornerstone -- that should be the cornerstone of the upcoming government in my opinion. I believe we made some changes to negotiating mandates to how we approach Indigenous governments, and I believe we can finalize a couple of agreements in the next four years. You know, we can't continue this cycle. And we need to recognize that in 50 years, the territory's going to look much different than it does now. What is the GNWT's goal going to be in 50 years? You know, Indigenous governments are already taking on more responsibility, and they want to take on more responsibility, and so we need to start working with Indigenous governments now in a completely different way to ensure that when we develop legislation, programs, policies that the Indigenous governments are comfortable with it and those are the policies and legislation that they want to at some point take on responsibility for and administer. That means that we might have to do less because it does take time to work together but that is important. That is one of the most important things I think that can come out of this government.

And finally, Mr. Speaker, I'll say that one of my last priorities is to just make government easier for people. I hear of elders who need to fill out multiple forms to get assistance to basically do the same thing to their home, to get repairs to their homes, to get upgrades to their homes. I hear of -- I see the clock is ticking.

So I hear a number of things like this. What we need to do is give direction to government that when they are designing programs, policies, and legislation, that they focus on the end user, whether that's residents, whether that's businesses, we need to focus on designing legislation, policies, and programs for the people and not for government. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. R.J. Simpson's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Glen Rutland

Thank you, Member for Hay River North. Next, I have the Member for Hay River South.

Mr. Vince McKay's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Vince McKay

Vince McKay Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Chair. During my remarks, I aim to address some critical priorities impacting our residents, my community, and the region.

It is evident that our government is falling short in serving our communities and the NWT Indigenous government organizations. Much of what I am going to say, it may resonate with fellow colleagues and their ridings. You won't hear no big territorial projects from me other than funding a territorial trauma treatment centre and regional aftercare support programs in existing facilities; however, you will hear more about the need of fine tuning our government programs and services and invest in our communities and the infrastructure deficit. This approach is intended to stimulate the local economy through community-based employment rather than benefitting distant southern corporations that leave without spending a dime in our communities.

My community, like others, struggle with health care issues, education concerns, formula funding for the town of Hay River, funding nonprofit groups, and criminal activities. These were also key points during my campaign trail. However, we still face issues with the wildfires, flood problems that remain unaddressed, and proper dredging of waterways and MTS issues.

A project that could have detrimental effects on my community and the territory if not completed is the repair of the CN rail line. Our rail access needs to be repaired now, not later, and not next summer. If it doesn't get done in a timely manner, it may not get done at all. Without a rail line, there is a greater risk of a loss to MTS and other companies in Hay River resulting in job loss and residents likely leaving my community. The GNWT is ultimately responsible for leading the discussions with CN and supporting those operations. Without our government taking lead in addressing this, we're are setting up the next shipping season for failure and ultimately our mismanaged wildfires that put us in this situation.

Health care is an ongoing issue in Canada; however, some quick simple assistance from my community is the return of recruitment dollars for doctors to the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority without it having going through Yellowknife. We also need to return Hay River to a community health board and not an appointed public administrator. We need the community interest, not government interest to take care of us. Our health care -- the health of our residents should be a priority. I will have more to address on this in the coming months.

Regarding the development of the proposed NT polytechnic university, I want to see this project stopped with funding directed back to the Aurora College for improvement, development, and expanding of what we already built. We can't operate what we already have effectively; why build bigger? We need to concentrate on our current education system, our youth, and the communities, not some dream world projects. We need more money to support our current education system. And building new is just wasting money on O and M money we don't have. Some of this money could be used at home and our local schools. I know one of our schools that has an operating budget of $8,000. Kids are being asked to bring in tissue paper, and parents are asked to pay for school busing. When this is happening, we are failing our teachers and our students. We want higher graduation rates, then fix and support our system.

Our government always has been excuse of why it can't close the gap in funding, or funding formula for the communities. This must stop. And our government needs to work on fixing the formula funding and closing those gaps. It's been far too long of an issue.

Another long outstanding issue is the funding of ambulance services. The town of Hay River, like others, has been providing free ambulance service for the GNWT for years. It's not a legislative responsibility for free -- or sorry, for municipalities to provide these services on the back of local taxpayer dollars. I addressed this issue when I was on town council with MACA more than 20 years ago. I also addressed it through NWTAC through resolution, and all that has happened is studies. The studies are done, now let's get on with it. All the town of Hay River would have to do is stop providing these services for the GNWT to find a solution quickly. I don't think it has to come to this. All we need to do is sit down with the town of Hay River to discuss these issues. I will be addressing these issues repeatedly until they're resolved.

Throughout the territories, organizations like the Hay River biathlon group have had government and lotteries supports taken away from them. Regardless of the excuse, our government must find ways to work with these groups and others like it to keep our youth healthy and give them something to do other than turning to the streets of crime. We are ultimately responsible for a healthy NWT. We need to go to them to find ways to support them, not have them banging at our doorsteps to support groups with a very minor financial support. We can find ways to charter a plane for a day trip meeting, surely we can find ways to support our system and improve on what we already have.

Over the last ten years, I watched my community lose many GNWT services and jobs. I'm not sure the success of decentralization will ever transpire. This loss is exemplified not only in the loss of some jobs at the court services but also the absence of essential budgeted resources like the K9 unit located in Hay River for the South Slave Region. The K9 unit is vital in the fight against illegal activity and drugs in our community and quickly supports our RCMP members in the South Slave Region. Without essential resources and tools for the RCMP, it leads to an unsafe environment for RCMP staff and residents. Not only did they get inadequate housing, RCMP members in my community lack the supports to keep drug dealers out of our community and the North.

Hay River is unfortunately the hub of the drug trade. It is getting -- if it's getting into Hay River easily, it's also getting into my colleagues' ridings like in Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Fort Simpson, just for a couple examples. Our government needs to be tough on crime. We need to learn not to support criminal activities. Housing is a good example of where we could start. When an eviction order is approved, it doesn't need to sit on the Minister's desk for signature. Our government must take drug dealers and bootleggers out of our houses. Housing programs are a privilege, not a right. We can then utilize houses for those in the real need and are willing to contribute positively to a healthy community and territory. This will also address some of our housing concerns by properly utilizing our housing supports for their intended use, not bootlegging and drug dealing.

Another huge problem in our community is the cost of living. Unless something is done to bring down the cost of living, residents will leave. And slowly our community will die off. There needs to be a change, and we need to look at not only attracting residents but keeping the ones we have. A few items that can assist to bring down the cost of living is legislation. We could put legislation in place that stops price gouging, better utilize Nutrition North funding and approved funding access for northern grown and produced food. We also need to drop the carbon tax. We need an NWT made solution to go to the federal government to drop the carbon tax.

Our local floods and fires have opened the eyes of many people on how unprepared we are as a government. In my 30 years in emergency services, I can say that I'm not surprised. Our EMO needs more attention. We need to listen to those on the ground to understand how to implement programs to protect our residents. We don't have to look far for examples of our failures, the horrible implementation of the 9-1-1 system and how regional assistant fire marshals report to regional superintendents and not the NWT fire marshal. We must improve the territorial EMO services. I will be bringing forward a motion at an appropriate time to call for a third-party independent review of the two Hay River fire events last year.

Our government needs to learn from its mistakes for the health and safety of our communities. My community of Hay River and our neighbours are hurting. We are losing families to the south. They are moving because they can't take it anymore. Three evacuations in 16 months aren't easy. Even one isn't easy. When Yellowknife loses a family, hardly anyone notices. However, when we lose a family in a small community, we notice as it affects our staffing levels, our volunteers, funding for our schools and territory. When the population drops, so does our transfer dollars. Our government needs to change its way of thinking. Our government should support our communities, ensure all GNWT jobs stay in place and aid local governments and keeping residents healthy and happy through funding programs and addressing local issues.

We must stop building roads for industry. Our current territorial roadways are neglected and in disrepair. We can't keep up on the road maintenance we currently have and provide adequate emergency response on them. If industry wants resources, they should build the roads as they do down south. However, we do need to cut the red tape, work with them, and collaborate with Indigenous government organizations to achieve this. Our economy is an important and vital to our success and working together with industry and all interest groups will keep us on track.

We need to fine tune our government operations and build on what we have. With our already great government programs and great staff, we can create a healthier and improved NWT for all residents. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Vince McKay's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Glen Rutland

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Next, we'll hear from the Member for Nahendeh. Following that will be the Member for Thebacha.

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

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Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Clerk. To begin today, I would like to thank the residents of the Nahendeh personally and humbly for allowing me to represent and serve them for a third term. I have joined the three previous Nahendeh MLAs reaching this milestone. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

I would also like to thank the residents for allowing myself and my team into their homes to discuss what they feel are the priorities for the next four years.

To my team and family, I thank each of you for your support, advice, and encouragement. I realize it was difficult however you were the strength I needed to get through some of these challenges.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally congratulate everyone here for all the hard work you and your teams accomplished in being the voice to represent your riding. There are some here that were acclaimed, however, you were still actively engaged in conversations with your constituents. This is very impressive. I am very much looking forward to working with each of your for the next four years.

Furthermore, I would like to thank everyone who put their name forward to run for these positions. It takes a lot of time and commitment putting your name forward for public office.

Colleagues, each of the six communities in the Nahendeh region have similar and unique issues. This is a summary of what I heard the residents requesting for me to work on for the next four years. I will attempt to keep it high level where possible, however, some of my returning colleagues know that I do sometimes get into the weeds a little bit.

One of our many priorities is to continue working on our relationship with Indigenous governments. The region and communities would like to see the Government of the Northwest Territories come to some resolution with outstanding claims and processes. This process involves three parties and we need to work together, commit to fostering a good working relationship. A large part of this is listening attentively to what people have to 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 healthy and more productive communities.

I have experienced that trusting relationships that are built on personal and professional integrity. Trust and respect are not entitlements; they are earned. I encourage all parties to be authentic, transparent, honest, and forthright as we work for resolutions addressing issues, and concerns throughout the progress. Delivery of authentic services to the residents of the Northwest Territories is not accomplished by lip service or a box that can be checked off. Service to our residents is not a cookie cutter approach. I feel and believe personal and professional integrity needs to be the cornerstone of our work and our continuous 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 together for the well-being and self-reliance of our people and communities, valuing our knowledge-keepers and 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 in infrastructure that enhances the well-being of individuals such as long-term four-plex facilities in smaller communities, the enhancement of road structures within the region including the access roads to the smaller communities, chip seal at least forty additional kilometres on Highway No. 1 and additional 20 kilometres on Highway No. 7, remove at least 20 metres of brush and trees on each side of the road.

The creation of energy efficient homes in the smaller communities like what the community of Jean Marie River did in the 18th Assembly, where the Arctic Energy Alliance helped the band and homeowners become more energy efficient.

NWT Housing needs to work with small community governments ensuring and establishing a year-round maintenance program for our elders and knowledge-keepers in their own homes. It horrendous and deplorable when I visit community members' homes and they lack the support that is there to fix their homes.

As we are all aware, the cost of living has skyrocketed, and for this reason another priority is to work with the federal government to ensure the Nutrition North program is more efficient for each of our communities. Each community should have access to this program, especially in the Nahendeh. I have heard we need to create social service positions to help and support our elders. I find this frustrating, as we speak about our elders, but we don't have a support system in place to truly honour and respect them. We need to create a bill and positions to help and support our elders. Our elders are our foundation and we need to honour and respect them. One of the ways we can do this is increasing home care positions in the communities, which will create jobs, enable us to take care of and support our most vulnerable and marginalized population.

In the last Assembly, we enhanced the seniors fuel subsidy, however, with increases in carbon taxes and fuel costs, we need to add funding to this process to make it more financially stable for our residents.

The Mackenzie Valley Highway needs to see at least an additional 60 kilometres of all-weather road completed, particularly as we see the water levels of the Mackenzie River continue to recede which is having an impact on the resupply services and the shortening of the winter road season. Additionally, we need to reach out to the federal government about expanding this highway all the way to Inuvik. This will have a direct impact on job creation and infrastructure, which will open the regions to exploration consequently reducing the cost of living.

In the last Assembly, we were able to reduce lease payments for all residents. However, the right-based cabins issue requires further examination. We need to continue working with each regional Indigenous government to come up with their definition, but it needs to get done in this Assembly.

Equity leases continue to be an issue. We have made some progress but not enough. It is very frustrating for residents that have these types of leases and this issue needs to be resolved in the next four years.

Previously, I spoke regarding Highway No. 1, this highway needs to be enhanced, bridges fixed and/or replaced, and we need to see at least 40 kilometres of chip seal (20 kilometres on the Fort Providence junction side and 20 kilometres from the Jean Marie turnoff on Highway No. 1 and 20 kilometres on Highway No. 7 from the Fort Liard Junction to Muskeg bridge).

I am aware of the struggles some of the larger centres have with their highways, however, I invite you to drive down our highways to experience the true essence of a gravel road. I give credit to the staff and the contractors who maintain the highways. The crews do a great job with the resources they are given, but we need to do better.

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 new buildings are built, old buildings are torn down, this is when we need to advocate for those buildings to be renovated which will support the homeless situation. We need to continue encouraging and working with our Indigenous governments to access federal funding. This Assembly, we saw more money and housing units come to the NWT. We need to work on our elders' housing so that their homes are enhanced and maintained to allow the elders to age in place. Elders do not want to leave their home communities, so we need to ensure we give them that opportunity. For the smaller communities, we need to build four-plexes where elders can be taken care of in the comforts of their home. They are the knowledge-keepers, the ones who hold the history and the culture and wisdom. We need to respect them, build these homes, especially for elders that are stage 1 and stage 2 care. For stages 3 to 5, we need medical services as we do not have that presently.

With the reality that our debt is approximately $1.6 billion, and it is approaching our debt ceiling of $1.8 billion, we need to do something differently.

Residents have requested to continue to have 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 budget. The GNWT needs to examine the number of employment positions and analyze if these positions need to exist, and if they can be regionalized. This past Assembly, residents saw more contracts awarded to northern contractors which supported local northern economy, providing employment and further enhanced skills. These contractors are invested in local and our community as many of our contractors and residents themselves. Residents are looking forward to seeing the new and improved procurement policy and see how it supports the business moving forward.

Mr. Clerk, I realize that time is going fast and i have a number of pages that I need to complete to read, but with your permission I would like to have them deemed as read for the transcript. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We need to continue 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. The North 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 can 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 and solar to reduce the demand on diesel. Essentially, the priority is to work with the communities to come up with a plan that meets their needs, along with using modern technology to enhance existing systems currently in place. We need to work with northern innovators to help us move forward. I believe the utilization of green energy products would enhance the local economy. Last Assembly, I spoke about examining the concept of geothermal in the Nahendeh; not only can it operate the power plant, but the heat can also be utilized to heat buildings and greenhouses where we could grow our own food. Geothermal creates more employment opportunities and careers, lowers the cost of living in the community, and creates a more self-reliant community.

Colleagues, we need to support education and training initiatives that provide children, youth, and adult learners opportunities for positive contributions to society and meaningful employment. We need to review and address the educational system in the North. We need to repair our educational system to ensure our students get the same education as the larger centers. The divisional education board needs to be responsible and accountable to the Minister and not only to the board. There is a role for the divisional education council and DEA to ensure local voices are heard but our overall goal must be focused on the education of our children and youth; this is our next generation. Unfortunately, many of our families have left because they were not satisfied with the quality of education their children were receiving, consequently, they have left our Northern economy. We need to put our students and communities first by offering local skills and trades training which will reduce our need for importing skilled laborers. We need to promote and stress trades and apprenticeship programs in our communities for our people. We need to develop a physical literacy strategy for the schools and communities. We need to focus on health prevention and our residents overall 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. Government renewal with all the programs identified, this work needs to be completed in the next 16 months of the new government. There are many unfunded positions within departments, and we need to see if these positions are needed. If they are, they need to be added to the budget. If not, have them removed.

MACA needs to update the NWT Emergency Plan, which requires the GNWT to enhance community government training, and increases capacity for emergency response and evacuations across all NWT communities. Organizational changes are needed but at a minimum, we need to build the regional and Headquarter capacity. There are four designate authorities in the Nahendeh. All designate authorities are approximately 95 percent Indigenous, but they are not treated the same as reserves in Canada and the NWT.

The GNWT needs to work with Indigenous Service Canada to treat these communities properly and provide them with increase funding and land. ECC developing a combination of firebreaks and prescribed burns around communities is essential. We need to work with private businesses to cut the trees for business opportunities and a prescribed burn of the left over which would build bigger firebreaks. As the elders explained to me, this was done previously to protect their community or assets. We need to reach out to the federal government to get increase funding to help with the firebreaks around the forested communities and have the Department of ECC and MACA obtain increased funding to assist them in these initiatives.

Health and social services - Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority. This Assembly needs to seriously look at realigning the Department of Health and Social Services and the NTHSSA. We need to examine how this structure is operating. The rationale was it was going to streamline the process and reduce operating costs has not worked. The reality is, health and social services/NTHSSA is so busy with patient care that areas such as child protection does not get the attention it requires. I this Assembly to seriously consider a department of health that focuses on providing health services and medical travel.

In reference to medical travel; we need to work with Indigenous Services Canada to fix the shortfall that we receive for our Indigenous population. ISC only provides a small amount of reimbursement of the total costs. We, as a government, need to hold the Government of Canada accountable in supporting the Indigenous people of the NWT. For example; they do not supply certain things like dental and medical support for smaller communities. This needs to be addressed and stopped once and for all. In regard to medivacs, we need to see an increase in service. Waiting for 5 to 12 hours for a flight is not appropriate or acceptable. We need to action this immediately; it is about our people's lives. There are several options such as, an additional plane or, work with regional airlines to provide this service, to ensure our patients get to the regional health centres, for better support until they can be transported to Yellowknife or Edmonton. The second part of this would be the development of a Department of Social Services that would be a realignment of services, child and family services, adult social work, adoption and foster care; income support, and the senior fuel subsidy program. The common denominator is serving the vulnerable population, combining the supports to address the marginalized population will ensure families have access to resources and supports necessary to help their families be healthy and happy. Infrastructure The next Assembly needs to focus its efforts and budget on one major infrastructure project. I strongly feel this is the Mackenzie Valley Highway to be constructed all the way to Tsiigehtchic. This needs to include building a bridge at Fort Simpson - the Liard River Crossing. There are many factors that makes this the perfect project: This would aid with Canadian sovereignty in the North, connecting isolated communities (all-season access route), economic diversification, increased tourism, small business potential and promoting further development and exploration of the natural resource in the region. Each community in the Nahendeh has a list of initiatives that need to address and work on, however, with permission, I would like to submit the list for the Hansard and have it deemed as read.

What I heard from the constituents that we need to work on in the next four years: Fort Simpson Continue working on improve funding for Edehzhie through the PFP process Medical Travel - address the short fall to NIHB that the Federal Government gives the GNWT and increase per diem rates, accommodations for patients and nonmedical escorts As part of the MVH project, work with the Federal and Territorial to implement the feasibility study for the bridge over the Liard River Increasing Housing Stock in the community and work with the Indigenous governments to access the rapid housing funding Advocate Housing NWT to get out of market rent business and turn those unit for low-cost housing unit. Social service positions for elder Address the education system in the community and have it accountable to the Minister of Education Support the village as they reach out to the federal government to address the bank erosion issue Advocate and stress to the GNWT to build the new long-term care facility and health centre off the island (new jobs) NTPC - Build the new LNG Plant off the island and then have the Plant moved off the island

continue to advocate and stress that the GNWT continue to enhance Highway Number 1 by adding 40 kilometres of chip seal, fix the culvert system at Redknife and replace the bridge at checkpoint Advocate that MACA continue to enhance their EMO Division/Regional staff and work with the community to enhance and build their emergency plan Work with MACA, NWTAC and ECC to help the community to work on and build a fire break Continue to address the land lease issues (equity and recreational) Work with the Department of ECE and Health and Social Services on coming up with enhanced funding to keep the LKRHS lunch program operational Bring Ministers into the community to hear the concerns, issues and ideas directly from the residents with approval from leadership Receive, review, and advocate for constituents; issues, territorial and federal and continuously be responsive to constituent needs Fort Liard Working with Health and Social Services and DHSSA to access medical services in BC (formalize agreement with the BC Government) including Medical Travel where possible Medical Travel - address the short fall to NIHB that the Federal Government gives the GNWT and increase per diem rates, accommodations for patients and nonmedical escorts Advocate that MACA continue to enhance their EMO Division/Regional staff and work with the community to enhance and build their emergency plan Work with MACA, NWTAC and ECC to help the community to work on and build a firebreak Increase home care in the community Have the Local Housing Authority O & M and office transferred to the Development Corp Increasing Housing Stock in the community and work with the Indigenous Government to access the rapid housing funding Work on LNG and geothermal pilot projects Continue to advocate for chip seal from the Fort Liard Conjunction to Muskeg and continue to have enhancement to Highway No. 7 Continue to keep the Highway No. 7 maintenance contract stay in the community Continue to work to get a full allotment of social service workers in the community Bring Ministers into the community to hear the concerns, issues and ideas directly from the residents with approval from leadership Receive, review, and advocate for constituents' issues whether they are community, regional, territorial, and federal in nature and continuously be responsive to constituent needs

Jean Marie River: Work with Department of Infrastructure on enhancements to section of the access road Work with Department of Infrastructure on the maintenance contract for the access road and airport stays with the community Work with the federal government and Department of MACA on appropriate funding for Designate Authorities such as EMO Funding, Capital, and Governance Highway No. 1 chip sealing project, an additional 20 kilometres from the community junction four-plex for elders Medical Travel - address the short fall to NIHB that the Federal Government gives the GNWT and increase per diem rates, accommodations for patients and nonmedical escorts Advocate that MACA continue to enhance their EMO Division / Regional staff and work with the community to enhance and build their emergency plan Work with MACA, NWTAC and ECC to help the community to work on to build a firebreak. Work with Department of Infrastructure, MACA, federal government, and the Band to build an emergency access road Increasing Housing Stock in the community and work with the Indigenous Government to access the rapid housing funding Work with the Council to ensure the Lue Tue Sulai (Five Fish Lakes) candidate area is being brought forth and complete in the next four years bring Ministers into the community to hear the concerns, issues and ideas directly from the residents with approval from leadership Receive, review, and advocate for constituents' issues whether they are community, regional, territorial, and federal in nature and continuously be responsive to constituent needs.

Nahanni Butte: Work with the Local DEA and Band Council to get grade 12 into the community Working with Health and Social Services and DHSSA to access medical services in BC (formalize agreement with the BC Government) including Medical Travel where possible Medical Travel - address the short fall to NIHB that the Federal Government gives the GNWT and increase per diem rates, accommodations for patients and nonmedical escorts Work with Department of Infrastructure on enhancements to section of the access road Work with Department of Infrastructure on the maintenance contract for the access road, ice crossing and airport stays with the community Advocate that MACA continue to enhance their EMO Division / Regional staff and work with the community to enhance and build their emergency plan Work with MACA, NWTAC and ECC to help the community to work on to build a firebreak. Work with Department of Infrastructure, MACA, federal government and the Band to build an extend the access road by 200 extra metres Increasing Housing Stock in the community and work with the Indigenous Government to access the rapid housing funding Work with EIA, the federal government and Band to establish municipal boundaries and get some band land Work with the federal government and Department of MACA on appropriate funding for Designate Authorities such as EMO Funding, Capital, and Governance Four-plex for elders Bring Ministers into the community to hear the concerns, issues, and ideas directly from the residents with approval from leadership Receive, review, and advocate for constituents' issues whether they are community, regional, territorial, and federal in nature and continuously be responsive to constituent needs

Sambaa Ke: Work on developing a regional wellness program for residents that have addictions Medical Travel - address the short fall to NIHB that the Federal Government gives the GNWT and increase per diem rates, accommodations for patients and non-medical escorts Work with Department of Infrastructure on enhancements to section of the access road Work with Department of Infrastructure on the maintenance contract for the access road and airport stays with the community Advocate that MACA continue to enhance their EMO Division / Regional staff and work with the community to enhance and build their emergency plan Work with the Council to ensure the candidate area is being brought forth and complete in the next four years with ECC Work with MACA, NWTAC and ECC to help the community to work on to build completing the firebreak. Work with Department of Infrastructure, MACA, federal government, and the Band to build a road to access the local gravel sources Increasing Housing Stock in the community and work with the Indigenous Government to access the rapid housing funding Work with EIA, the federal government and Band to establish municipal boundaries and get some band land Work with the federal government and Department of MACA on appropriate funding for Designate Authorities such as EMO Funding, Capital, and Governance Work with the Local DEA and Band Council to get grade 12 into the community Bring Ministers into the community to hear the concerns, issues, and ideas directly from the residents with approval from leadership Receive, review, and advocate for constituents' issues whether they are community, regional, territorial, and federal in nature and continuously be responsive to constituent needs Wrigley Work with the Department of Infrastructure to start work on the Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Mount Gaudet for the benefit of both the residents and visitors Medical Travel - address the short fall to NIHB that the Federal Government gives the GNWT and increase per diem rates, accommodations for patients and non-medical escorts Work with Department of Infrastructure on enhancements to section of the access road and winter road Work with Department of Infrastructure on the maintenance contract for the access road and airport stays with the community Advocate that MACA continue to enhance their EMO Division / Regional staff and work with the community to enhance and build their emergency plan Work with MACA, NWTAC and ECC to help the community to work on to build completing the firebreak. Work with Department of Infrastructure, MACA, federal government, and the Band to build a road to access the local gravel sources Increasing Housing Stock in the community and work with the Indigenous Government to access the rapid housing funding Work with the federal government and Department of MACA on appropriate funding for Designate Authorities such as EMO Funding, Capital, and Governance Bring Ministers into the community to hear the concerns, issues, and ideas directly from the residents with approval from leadership Receive, review, and advocate for constituents' issues whether they are community, regional, territorial, and federal in nature and continuously be responsive to constituent needs.

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Glen Rutland

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Next, we'll hear from the Member for Thebacha, followed by the Member for Range Lake.

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Round Table Speeches By Members

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Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Clerk, and welcome colleagues. I am profoundly grateful to my family, the residents of Thebacha, and my dedicated team for their unwavering support and commitment throughout my election campaign to the 20th Assembly of the Northwest Territories. Your encouragement, tireless efforts, and belief in my vision have been instrumental in achieving this milestone. This victory is not only a personal triumph but a collective success that reflects the strength of our bonds and shared aspirations. I am honoured to have such a resilient and supportive network, and I carry the responsibility with deep humility.

As I embark on this new journey, I look forward to continuing our collective efforts drawing inspiration from the unity that brought us to success. Thank you for being the pillars of my journey. I am eager to serve the constituents of Thebacha and the people of the Northwest Territories with dedication and passion.

Mr. Clerk, now more than ever we must recognize the urgency for change. No government can go it alone, and the status quo is not sustainable. And the time has come to challenge the norms that have held us back. The economic landscape is evolving rapidly, and we must adapt. The bureaucratic processes that once may have served a purpose, now threaten to impede progress at a time when agility and innovation are critical. I propose a decisive shift in our approach. A commitment to untangle the red tape and streamline our bureaucratic processes. We must prioritize efficiency, transparency in a business-friendly environment that attracts investment and fosters economic development. It's time to simplify procedures, eliminate unnecessary regulations, and empower Indigenous governments, the regions, our communities, and the business sector to thrive.

We must embrace innovation. Our journey towards economic revitalization demands that we embrace innovation not only in our industries but also in the way we govern. Technology offers us the tools to create a more efficient and responsive bureaucracy. Let us leverage these advancements to reduce paperwork, enhance communications, and create a government that works hand in hand with business, not against them.

The issues of settling land claims has created a barrier to success. We must address the issues of settling land claims. Our relationship with Indigenous communities is foundational to the success and well-being of the Northwest Territories.

I envision a future where we work collaboratively to settle outstanding land claims, respecting the rights and traditions of Indigenous peoples. Through open dialogue and understanding, we can forge a path towards reconciliation, fostering unity and harmony among all residents. The collaborative approach to self-government and land negotiations must follow a well-defined process to ensure efficiencies and commitment initiated by our government lead appointed at the ministerial level. The process must emphasize political commitment through a nation-to-nation kickoff meeting, securing agreements from both territorial and Indigenous leadership, a specific timeline needs to be set, and a negotiation mandate must be loosely defined to allow for a broad set of goals in the interest-based approach encourages joint crafting of solutions within negotiated meetings. Focusing on shared interests rather than fixed positions, a federal role needs to be engaged in areas directly relevant to federal considerations and reporting structures ensuring timely communications without bureaucratic delays, an independent chief negotiator reporting directly to the Minister or deputy minister could lead negotiations with timely updates to Cabinet proposing solutions to develop collaboratively with Indigenous governments and partners. Cabinet provides timely feedback and final negotiated agreements follow with the usual government approvals and processes within the involved system. This approach ensures a streamlined and effective negotiation process, minimizing bureaucracy, bureaucratic hurdles, and maintaining political engagement throughout.

Mr. Clerk, I want to draw your attention to a critical aspect of my vision for the Northwest Territories.

The intersection of an economic prosperity and energy sustainability as we navigate the global urgency to combat climate change, I propose a visionary approach involving a sustainable investment in renewable energy sources. Our economic well-being is undeniably linked to the sustainability of our energy practices. In light of the increasing frequency of national disasters, shifts in seasonal patterns, and the broader impacts of climate change, it is crucial that we take decisive action. My vision for the NWT entails a significant commitment to harnessing the power of renewable energies, specifically wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, mitigate environmental impact, and contribute to a greener more sustainable future.

Wind and solar energy harnessed from the vast landscapes of the Northwest Territories hold immense potential. Additionally, our rivers offer opportunities for expanded hydroelectric projects ensuring a clean and reliable source of power. The reality of longer summers and shorter winter road seasons underscores the urgency of adapting our energy infrastructure to a changing climate. Renewable energy sources not only offer environmental benefits but also enhance the resilience of our energy created in the face of evolving weather patterns. This strategic investment will position the NWT as a leader in sustainable energy practices. Attracting investments and fostering innovation in the emerging green economy. Implementing micro grids in the communities of the Northwest Territories is a visionary step toward regional and local sustainability. By leveraging local labour development through partnerships with Indigenous and local governments, institutions like Aurora College, we can foster economic growth and empower residents with the skills needed for the renewable energy sector. Micro grids provide a decentralized and resilient energy solution, reducing reliance on traditional power sources, and mitigating environmental impact. This vision not only addresses energy security but also creates job opportunities within the communities that aligns with our community to environmental stewardship, economic empowerment, and the sustainable development of our regions, ensuring that brighter and more sufficient future for all. The shift to renewable energy aligns with our commitment to global climate goals. It is a proactive step forward to reducing our carbon footprint demonstrating responsible stewardship of our natural resources in securing a brighter more sustainable future for generations to come. Addressing the housing crisis demands a comprehensive and collaborative strategy that engages multiple stakeholders. It is critical to recognize and empower Indigenous communities, ensuring that housing solutions are culturally informed and community driven. Collaborating closely with Indigenous leaders is nonnegotiable for effective and sustainable outcomes. Simultaneously, multiple governments must be empowered to tailor solutions to the specific challenges faced by their residents. Recognizing the constraints of public resources, active engagement with the private sector becomes a key element. By partnering with responsible developers, we can leverage their expertise and resources to maximize the impact of housing initiatives. A unified approach requires collaboration and transparency and a commitment to shared goals among Indigenous and municipal governments and the priority sector. This collective effort will optimize resources, ensuring that each investment contributes significantly to addressing the housing needs of our communities.

A short-term solution of the housing crisis involves identifying the existing inventory of vacant housing and making these units available to Indigenous governments, municipalities, and the private sector. By repurposing and officially utilizing these vacant units, we can quickly address the immediate housing needs of our communities. This approach maximizes existing resources providing an expedited response to the housing shortage while more comprehensive long-term strategies are developed and implemented.

Mr. Clerk, substance abuse is becoming a growing problem in the North. The North, with its unique cultural and geographical context, requires a tailored approach to address substance abuse. I advocate for the establishment of culturally sensitive drug and alcohol treatment centres designed specifically for Northerners. These facilities would offer community driven programs recognizing the diverse backgrounds and challenges of those seeking help. Additionally, a comprehensive aftercare program is crucial for sustained recovery providing ongoing support, counselling, vocational assistance, and community engagement initiatives as individuals reintegrate into the communities.

To ensure success, active community involvement and collaboration are essential. I propose a community-based approach that includes local leaders, health care professionals, and community members in designing and implementing these programs, fostering a sense of ownership and understanding for an effective and sustainable support system.

As my time here, I see, is coming close to the limit, I want to express my deep appreciation for the opportunity to share my vision and proposals with you. While there are numerous areas that demand attention and improvement, I recognize the constraints of time. Our communities and the Northwest Territories are faced with multi-facetted challenges, and addressing them requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort. I want to assure you that my commitment to positive change goes beyond this platform. No government can go it alone. I emphasize the pressing need for change in the face of evolving economic landscape and the urgency to combat climate change. The status quo is no longer sustainable, and I propose a divisive shift in our approach in the pursuit of a brighter and more sustainable future. I am committed to these visionary proposals and look forward to working collaboratively with my colleagues for the benefit of Thebacha and the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Clerk.

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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Jolene Saturino

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. We'll now move to the Member for Range Lake who will be followed by the Member for Frame Lake.

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Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Range Lake

Thank you, Madam Clerk. Honourable Members. I rise today representing the citizens of Range Lake, a constituency whose needs and aspirations are at the forefront of my legislative responsibilities. It is with a profound sense of duty and commitment that I stand before you cognizant of the challenges our community faces and the imperative to transcend the rhetoric that has eroded the trust of our constituents. Empty words and unfulfilled promises have marred the public's perception of our political system. It is our duty as representatives of the people to rebuild that trust.

Trust is not bestowed lightly. It must be earned through sincerity, accountability, and most importantly through action. We must move beyond the platitudes and embark on a journey of tangible positive change. To build unity, we must recognize and celebrate the diversity within our community.

Range Lake is a tapestry of voices, each with a unique perspective. Embracing this diversity is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one. In unity, we find strength, and in strength we discover solutions to the multi facetted challenges that lie before us.

I promise to ensure that every citizens' voice is not only heard but valued and brought into a harmonious chorus that drives our progress forward as an Assembly and ensures none of our citizens are left behind by the challenges ahead. The time for action is now. As we deliberate in this esteemed Chamber, our constituents demand more than political posturing. They demand results. Whether it be in health care, economic development, public safety, or the cost of living, our constituents deserve a government that rolls up its sleeves and addresses their concerns head on.

First and foremost, health care is a foundational pillar of our society, and I pledge to advocate for increased funding, improved infrastructure, and enhanced accessibility to ensure that every citizen in Range Lake and the Northwest Territories receives the care they deserve. A healthy community is a thriving community.

Economic development is not a luxury. It is a necessity, especially with precious little time before the slated closure of the diamond mines and limited plans to offset the tremendous losses to our economy. I commit to champion policies that stimulate local businesses, attract investment, reinvigorate our natural resource sector, and generate employment opportunities.

Public safety is paramount. I will tirelessly work towards strengthening our law enforcement agencies and fire departments, providing the necessary resources and support to ensure safety and security of our constituents. Every citizen has the right to feel secure in their homes and their communities. This also means ensuring local governments have the funding and training necessary to protect against unprecedented climate disasters that turned two-thirds of our people into climate refugees mere months ago. We cannot afford or allow a repeat of what happened earlier this year. And I am determined to build the infrastructure and legislative framework that will keep our homes and families safe for decades to come.

As always, cost of living remains a pressing concern for my constituents. Through targeted initiatives, strategic investments, and thoughtful tax reforms, I will work collaboratively with my colleagues in the capital, regional centres, and smaller communities, to explore avenues to alleviate the financial burdens on our families striving to create an environment where the cost of living is not a barrier to fulfilling life irrespective of the demographic size or makeup of a community.

As we embark on this journey together, I must take a moment to reflect on the profound experience of walking the campaign trail. With my team, I knocked on as many doors as I could in Range Lake, taking 500,000 steps, engaging in hundreds of conversations, and most importantly listening to the voices of my constituents. This experience has shaped the priorities I bring before the House today.

The cadence of those steps mirrored the heartbeat of our neighbourhood. It brought me face-to-face with the realities, aspirations, and concerns of the people I am honoured to represent. Every step was a connection, every conversation an invaluable exchange of ideas, and every voter I met left an indelible mark on the vision I carry into this Chamber. I heard the stories that define us, the dreams that propel us, and the challenges that unite us. The conversations were not just about policy. They were about lives, experience, and the shared desire for a better tomorrow. This human connection forged step by step forms the foundation upon which the priorities I present today are built.

Health care, economic development, public safety, and the cost of living are not abstract concepts for me. They are the resonant echos of the conversations I had on the campaign trail. The steps I took were not just physical exertion. They were a symbolic commitment to being present, engaged, and attuned to the pulse of our communities.

Moreover, the insights gained from these conversations were instrumental in shaping the blueprint of my legislative agenda. The priorities I bring forward are not detached from the lived experience of our constituents. They are a direct response to the concerns voiced on doorsteps and community forums and amidst the vibrant neighbourhoods of Range Lake.

As we deliberate on the policies that will shape our communities' futures, I will continue carrying the spirit of the steps with me. I will remember the faces, the stories, and the shared hopes that have propelled me to this moment with all of you.

My honourable friends, it is with this profound connection to the people we serve that we can truly enact meaningful change.

Madam Clerk, allow me to delve deeper into the imperative task of restoring trust not only within our own constituencies but also with Indigenous nations whose rich histories are interwoven with the fabric of the Northwest Territories, the first and foremost peoples of our land. The erosion of trust borne from years of colonialism, inaction, and a failure to produce tangible results demands our immediate attention. The relationship with our Indigenous nations is of paramount importance. The history of our land is firmly rooted in these traditions -- in their traditions, wisdom, and their resilience. However, the trust between the government and these nations has been strained by years of unfulfilled promises and a lack of meaningful collaboration.

I commit to engaging in sincere and respectful dialogue with Indigenous leaders. The days of tokenism and symbolic gestures must give way to substantive action. We must recognize the rights of Indigenous nations to self-determination and self-development and actively involve them in the decision-making processes that affect their communities. By fostering genuine partnerships built on trust and mutual respect, we can begin to repair the rift that has persisted for far too long.

Restoring trust is not a passive endeavour. It requires a proactive approach that addresses discontent and dissolutionment. Let us, as elected representatives, write a new chapter in the relationship between the government, the public, and our Indigenous nations, a chapter defined by accountability, transparency, and a commitment to producing tangible positive outcomes.

Before I conclude, Madam Clerk, I must take a moment to express my genuine excitement and optimism for the road ahead. In this House, I am surrounded by colleagues whose skills and backgrounds converge in a symphony of expertise. Our collective experience, coupled with an unwavering commitment to public service, positions us as a force capable of surmounting the challenges that have beset us for far too long. Together we are not merely the voices of our people. We are architects of change that is long overdue. The energy emanating from this Assembly is palpable, and it resonates with the dreams and aspirations of the citizens we are privileged to serve. This is a dream team poised to transcend geographic lines and unite in common purpose, the betterment of the Northwest Territories and the restoration of public trust in our governing institutions. We have an opportunity, a mandate, and a responsibility to forge a path forward into a future that not only meets but surpasses the expectations of those who place their trust in us. Let us not forget what defines us and remember the Northwest Territories is a playground for entrepreneurs, a canvass for dreamers, and a realm of untapped potential for all. Let us harness this potential and create a future where innovation flourishes, where self-starters find the support they need to turn their visions into reality, and where individuals see real opportunities for career advancement within our borders.

In closing, I extend my gratitude to the citizens of Range Lake for giving me the privilege to serve them in this Assembly. Together we will work tirelessly to restore your trust, build unity, and take decisive action to address the most pressing issues facing our communities. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Mr. Kieron Testart's Speech
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Clerk Of The House Ms. Jolene Saturino

Thank you, Member for Range Lake. We'll now move to the Member for Frame Lake, followed by the Member for Great Slave.

Mr. Julian Morse's Speech
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Julian Morse

Julian Morse Frame Lake

Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate this opportunity for MLAs to share our initial input on what we feel should be the priorities of the 20th Assembly. I see this as a first step in what will be a more robust and complete process than has occurred in the past. Today, I will primarily speak to the platform I put before residents during the election and committed to bring forward if elected. Of course, we are going to hear 19 different perspectives today and are yet to hear from our partnering organizations. So I look forward to coming together with my colleagues to do the difficult and necessary work of forming a collective vision which captures as many perspectives as possible without losing focus.

I want to emphasize my awareness of the fact that it is GNWT's staff who are responsible for implementation of priorities set by MLAs. For this reason, I think it is critically important that we receive staff feedback and advice on how priorities can best be achieved. We also need staff input into measurable and achievable goal setting as part of this process to ensure that MLAs and administration have mutual understanding of what success is expected to look like. We should, where possible, align our goals with work which is already taking place. This will ensure consistency and that we don't lose initiatives staff have put valuable resources towards. However, I want to emphasize that we are going to have to realign some resources to ensure priorities are successful. One of the key failures of past priority setting has been lack of commitment of funding and resources towards ensuring their success.

It is also important to ensure priorities aren't siloed. In the past, a given priority has tended to be connected to a particular department that other departments may not consider how it affects their work and may even inadvertently work against it. We need to pay attention to how departments relate to one another and the role they play in affecting and implementing priorities if they are to be truly successful. I will now present the priorities I committed to bring to the table.

I am bringing forward two overarching priorities under which I have nested a number of initiatives which will be evolved in achieving them. My first proposed priority is making the Northwest Territories more liveable. It is a fundamentally simple priority however underpins so much of what I've heard from residents during the election and the work GNWT is or should be engaged in. Under this priority, I propose the following initiatives:

Addressing the housing crisis. We need to increase the territorial budget for housing, create a long-term plan in partnership with Indigenous governments and NGOs for increasing housing stock and access and seek stable funding to implement it.

Reducing cost of living. Specifically working to decrease basic living costs for lower income individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Increasing access to affordable child care and ensuring that changes to federal child care funding do not negatively impact child care providers and parents.

Investing in and evolving the primary health care system to improve health care access and outcomes. This includes mental health and addictions treatment with an emphasis on growing and strengthening aftercare.

Increasing accessibility for person with disabilities and ensuring extended health benefits coverage is comprehensive.

Working to improve outcomes of early childhood education in the K to 12 education system.

Adapting to and mitigating climate change. We need to be better prepared to face the challenges of increasingly extreme environmental changes. As a first step, it is important that an external review of the 2023 wildfire response and community evacuations be done with recommended -- with recommendations for changes to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.

Responding to climate change, if done right, is an opportunity to reduce cost of living, generate any economic activity, and protect the environment for future generations. But decarbonization needs to be done in a way that doesn't put further strain on residents who are already struggling to make ends meet. We need to simplify our climate strategy, prioritizing changes which will most quickly reduce the territory's reliance on diesel. Much of this work will be at the institutional level, but we can also include programs which help residents make changes that get their private homes off of diesel.

My second proposed priority is economic development and diversification. Under this overarching priority, I propose the following initiatives:

Continue transitioning Aurora College into a university and growing the knowledge economy throughout the territory. This will create jobs, help people build capacity, and bring more funds into the territory.

We need to continue to invest in and develop our tourism and art sectors, both of which have more potential than is currently being realized.

Settling land claims to help Indigenous governments realize the benefits of self-government and the associated benefits of direct federal funding to support those government's authorities and bringing much needed capacity to our regulatory system.

Ensuring that the regulatory system balances the need for environmental protection with economic development and does not prioritize one over the other unreasonably, particularly measures which could be taken to extend the life of existing mining projects should be explored. This would help to ensure employment continuity while other sectors or projects grow over time and ensure maximum benefit is obtained from sites which have already been disturbed.

Ensure procurement favours NWT owned and staffed businesses and helps them grow.

Actively preparing for closure of Diavik Diamond Mine by ensuring employment continuity for residents affected by the closure and that impacts from reduction in contracted activity are minimized.

Maximizing benefits of the growing remediation economy in the territory and ensuring as many residents and local companies benefit from remediation as possible. It's worth noting that in many cases the diversification elements I've spoken to are more about simply capturing benefits from activity that's already occurring here as opposed to creating new activity.

On top of these priorities, I am also proposing several guiding principles to apply generally across the government. I am hoping that together the priorities and guiding principles will speak at a high level to not only what work GNWT prioritizes but how the GNWT will work.

My proposed guiding principles are as follows: One, focusing government services and initiatives on helping those with the highest need first. This may seem like an obvious principle and is already the case for many GNWT programs; however, there are a surprising number of initiatives which end up inadvertently providing assistance in such a way which does not adhere to this principle. Where necessary, we need to refocus programming to ensure we are helping those who are most in need.

My second proposed guiding principle is being flexible, adaptable, and collaborative in our work. Put simply, I would like to see the government shift to more collaborative models of working being solutions oriented, open to change, and less risk adverse.

My third proposed guiding principle is implementing results-based management in our work. The GNWT should, at a bare minimum, be able to explain what value any of its programs are creating for Northerners. Even better is measuring the impact of programs and initiatives and changing and adapting as needed to maximize value and impacts.

The fourth is better characterized as initiative than a principle but it is empowering our workforce and shifting workplace culture by implementing modern theorys of leadership and management throughout the GNWT.

Something that's really stood out to me working in the North for as many years as I have is that the GNWT is full of passionate subject matter experts and the vast majority of people who work here care about their work, want it to achieve positive outcomes, and have ideas for how that can happen. I think the systems and policies of government can have the tendency to inadvertently get in the way of these ideas or getting in the way of them making their way to the top.

I also know that a common management problem in any organization is that often excelling in a specific role leads a person into management, but they may not have much specific training in managing people. We need to entrench ongoing leadership training and capacity building into the organization to ensure we are developing leaders who know how to build and empower effective teams. Training and capacity building is also a key to increasing Indigenous representation at higher levels in government, something we can't achieve with affirmative action alone.

This concludes my initial contribution to the priority setting process. Despite being quite long, this does not represent a comprehensive list of all the things I would like to see the government work towards over the next four years. Today I wanted to bring forward the main things I committed to in my platform and which came forward during my campaign, as I said I would. There is still much work to be done. While I maintain that we need to be strategic and focused, I also note that significant amounts of GNWT work proceeds without much political direction and should be considered by MLAs either through the priority setting process or through committee work. I look forward to further honing our priorities in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you

Mr. Julian Morse's Speech
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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Jolene Saturino

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. We'll now move to the Member for Great Slave. And following the Member for Great Slave, we'll take a short break.

Ms. Kate Reid's Speech
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Kate Reid

Kate Reid Great Slave

Thank you, Madam Clerk. Good morning, colleagues. Thank you for our discussions today and in the last week. I am sitting with your words, and I'm letting them live in my heart and mind. I ask that you please do me the favour to hear my words today with an open heart and mind.

We need a territory that puts people at the center of its decisions and policies, a territory where people are valued and respected for who they are now, a territory where people feel like they have a reasonable chance of getting by and where they don't have to worry about being left behind when times get tough. At their doors, I told residents of Great Slave that as their MLA, I will make it my job to help create a community and territory where everyone can thrive. I want to do this by working to advance the following priorities.

My first priority is also an outcome I believe we must prioritize during this Assembly, making sure nobody in the NWT get left behind. We can do this by focusing on the basics that everybody needs - a good place to live, enough money to provide for themselves and their families, and communities that provide more of the goods and services that people rely on locally.

The NWT needs new housing of all types, social, market, and middle housing, to bring down mortgage and rent costs. We also need better programs to look after the housing we already have as well as including climate adaptions for that housing. I'd like to see home heating moved to more renewable NWT industries, namely pellet or wood chip heating, which can also reduce fossil fuel usage.

We need to exhaust every avenue for all types of housing. I'm happy to see recent federal support, but much more needs to be done. The GNWT needs every government, including community and Indigenous, to help secure all federal dollars through every possible initiative. We also need to worker with developers, industry, and trades to get both materials and labour here and working on a consistent basis.

Good intentions to work together will not be enough. We need a plan created for and by all partners who have a role in addressing the housing crisis.

To make sure that no one gets left behind, we must begin to address the cost of living. We all know it is skyrocketing and even folks with good jobs are having trouble making ends meet. Working peep deserve a decent standard of living, and people without or between jobs need to be treated with respect and dignity. Government needs to be there for its residents protecting the rights of workers and seriously considering new ways to help people meet their financial needs, like guaranteed basic income projects. The Senate of Canada is studying it, and Alternatives North has already reported on it. It is time that this House takes a serious look at it too.

In my first week of knocking doors, I met two mothers in distress. One was desperately worried about losing her federal housing benefit since reinstated due to lobbying by the PSAC. The other was reviewing carbon tax increases yet to come and saw that she would need to downsize her home to be able to continue to properly provide for her family. These are stories that I want to honour in my time standing before you and are examples of the real financial fears that NWT residents have. I know my colleagues have heard similar stories. GBI is a tool that can lessen our residents' pain of just scraping by barely and would help eliminate the fear that people are feeling. Helping communities provide more of what people need is another way to help NWT residents flourish. Buy local isn't just a slogan; it's a northern way of life.

During the pandemic, we saw how fragile supply chains can be. When we spend locally, we support our neighbours with our dollars as well as our kinship and help to grow local businesses and jobs. We need new and innovative solutions for keeping local dollars local based on input and expertise of NWT businesses, chambers of commerce and mines, non-government organizations, and communities. And we have to make sure that we have the right policies and programs in place to support a better mix of small and medium size businesses in all NWT communities.

My second priority is a thriving arts and cultural scene. It's not enough to survive. We also need to thrive. Arts help shape the community's identity and creative outlets enhance well-being while also supporting the local economy. Collaborating with artists and artisans on what they identify is needed, like a sustainable core funding and pathfinder services for grants, will help sustain and expand a thriving artistic community. It's also important to note that arts and cultural -- culture is intimately connected to the reinvitation of communities.

It is, in fact, a social service. When the artist run community centre operated in an old church slated for demolition in 2011, they became an unofficial downtown day shelter. People of all walks of life were welcomed and felt safe because they were sharing and taking care of an inclusive community space. The art also attracted people to the downtown core, creating economic spinoffs like folks going to restaurants before or after events.

Arts and cultural -- arts and culture have practical socioeconomic returns that are being forgotten, and I will not let them be forgotten for the next four years.

My third priority is that people need to come first in the delivery of government services. Government should spend less time defending ineffective policies and processes and spend more time listening to residents so it can offer programs and services that match the needs that residents say that they have.

What we heard shouldn't mean what we want to hear. People in public engagement should be more than an exercise in checking off a box. It should be a genuine effort to learn from and listen to the public and must incorporate feedback where appropriate. Equally important, they must explain why other feedback was not used.

When I was in the public service, I made it a point to ask how can I help you today? The public service is full of people who genuinely want to do good work, and we need to enable them to do it. This mean takes -- taking a long hard look at how the government functions and where it doesn't and taking steps to remove any barriers that don't support the goal of service. We need to move towards a client service model that enables continued improvement.

My final priority is that we need to have fundamental discussions about how we grow and mature our consensus government. The GNWT has often been criticized for many years for being the party at the table holding up negotiations. I think we can be clearer at those tables and in all actions if we recognize that our role should be to direct and support a public government that operates alongside Indigenous governments in the spirit of partnership and humility, not opposition. That means high grading the conversation on northern governance.

We need to talk about how we can make collaborative decisions that all residents can trust. For me, that looks like finding a better way forward together. One option could be a bicameral legislature with an Indigenous senate. But I'm one person, and it needs to be a full conversation between all partners.

Further, land back is a conversation we need to be having every day for the next four years. To really confront what that looks like here in the North, what that means with the lens of reconciliation, what that looks like if we are honest about decolonization of a colonial structure that we are upholding as Members of the 20th Assembly. How do we start in that heart and head space to develop trust and earn respect as a partner in governing with Indigenous peoples of this territory?

These are my priorities that I most want to discuss and find a way forward on in the next four years and more if given the chance with all of you. Thank you.

Ms. Kate Reid's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Jolene Saturino

Thank you, Member for the Great Slave. This actually brings us to 10:30. So we're going to take a short 15-minute break, and we'll reconvene at 10:45. Thank you, Members.


Ms. Kate Reid's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Jolene Saturino

All right, I will call our meeting back to order, Members. Thank you. So we will get resumed for the remainder of the morning, and we will start with the Member from Sahtu and then proceeding that the Member for Boot Lake.

Mr. Danny McNeely's Speech
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Daniel McNeely

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Madam Chair. I firstly want to congratulate all 19 MLAs for putting their name forward in contributing to their efforts on including and delivering their endeavours for the next four years. It's a very prestige obligation to serve this institution and the better interests of the people that put us here as well as the whole Northwest Territories. So given that, I want to thank everybody on putting their name forward and the success in their campaign.

And as we conclude the process for prioritizing our four-year journey, it's very common to hear somebody -- some of the situations that are plaguing in our communities and our urban centres and our territorial economy and so on. In all aspects of what we've heard so far and moving forward and in the process of concluding our priorities, I also look forward to hearing in the coming weeks from our other organizations that they represent residents of the Northwest Territories.

When I did my campaign trail, I seen and heard many concerns, right from housing right to medical travel right to the conditions of the school in Colville Lake.

The school in Colville Lake is a building offering education to the residents of Colville Lake. And it's not very -- it's very concerning to see two classrooms, two individual classrooms, with four classes within each room offered by one teacher. And you have a curtain way for a doorway. That's not what we stand for in delivering education. So I also look forward to recognizing the projects that are out there. The incomplete school in Colville Lake, for example, the incomplete health centre in Tulita. How are we going to deliver health care to the residents of Tulita if we have an incomplete building? These buildings stand for capital projects which could add to the economy, creating a disposable economy for the residents and the workers. So I look forward to putting that as a priority amongst others. The projects listed and are shelved there do not contribute to an economy. So I look forward to expediting that through a priority.

Building relations, we also got to look forward in our coming years to build relations with the federal government and recognizing the many resources that they have through the number of programs. And when I listen to last week's 2023 fall economic statement, I recognized some principles that we can use for the strengthening of our engagements with the federal government. And also recognize the limitations of TFM. We are operating on a core funding that gives us limitations on resources to deliver the fuel subsidy for the program, yet the escalating inflationary factors keep going up, such as carbon tax. And I've heard that a number of times this morning and on the campaign trail. So we also got to look at escalating and increasing our programs and services based on inflation. So I see that as a very important process in strengthening our federal engagement.

And we're plagued by a number of issues that we all heard on our campaign trail, housing being a major one. And the whole impacts of climate change, transitioning to a greener economy is going to cost money, and the adaptation for climate change is also going to be a factor for escalating rates. And when I see the initiatives before us to help boost our economy, we have a number of critical mineral stakes of claims out there that we can assist with the private sector to help boost our economy.

The Northwest Territories, like many small communities within my riding, are plagued by the socioeconomic challenges, challenges contributing to mental health. We also got to look at mental health, what triggers mental health. Once we identify our priorities, then we can go to the nuts and bolts of defining that in developing an action plan to address mental health, cost of living, housing, and the list is endless.

Higher interest rates is plaguing our projects. In defining our economy, a descriptive statement would say our economy went from roadside assistance to roadside repos. So I think we have got to look at defining how can we reverse that.

There's a number of priorities as mentioned by all of us, and we are -- this 20th Assembly is really in a unique position for developing change, change in a number of priorities and defining those priorities with an action plan to deliver and improve our programs and services.

Education is important to us. We've heard that in our campaign trail. Now, let's look at how to improve the new partnership with the BC government on delivering an academic program that is designed and tailored for the North.

So those are just some of the issues that I look forward in bringing forward on a collective approach during this priority setting process in collaboration with the IGOs in the next coming days, next coming weeks.

Also, the social fabric of our communities is very low for a number of reasons. In my area, similar to other areas, we've got the absence of industry. What replaces industries' injection to the prosperity and to ops for training that come with their presence?

I can recall years ago we had a family that was travelling south on times off, going to get their truck serviced or even exchanged or buying a new one. And that same family is coming back home. I pass them on the winter road. They're full of smiles. The back of their truck is heaped with groceries, and everybody's smiling. I'm going back home to drop my family off and going back to work. That smiling face is not here today. We can go to every small community and every urban community, and you can see that. So there's many conflicting plaguing problems with our communities.

I'm hearing a lot of the influx of drugs and addictions. What's the solution to that? That becomes the aftereffect of designing and hearing and identifying the priorities followed by a review on efficiencies, whether it's a review on efficiencies by department, by department to the programs and services we have, to reflect the redesign process and remedies for those problems that we heard. So I look forward to concluding our priorities, in closing, and hearing from others and collectively over the number of weeks, let's put our list together followed by a review in efficiencies for departments and priorities. Mahsi cho.

Mr. Danny McNeely's Speech
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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Jolene Saturino

Mahsi, Member from Sahtu. I will pass it over to the Member for Inuvik Boot Lake followed by the Member for Monfwi.

Mr. Denny Rodgers' Speech
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Denny Rodgers

Denny Rodgers Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Madam Chair. First and foremost, I'd like to thank the voters of Inuvik for putting their trust in me, Inuvik Boot Lake. It's truly appreciated. My campaign team and the people who worked tirelessly and contributed to my election campaign, again thank you very much. My family for their tireless support. Without them I'd like to -- I certainly wouldn't be here representing Inuvik today.

Thank you to the outgoing Members. The 19th Assembly was plagued with some unprecedented issues that certainly you would not expect - the pandemic, the awful fires, the floods - and I know that wasn't an easy task and certainly, you know, I appreciate their courage and appreciate them putting their names forward to represent their territory. And thank you to the current Members, my 18 other colleagues here for the past week for sharing your thoughts for the open and honest dialogue. It's certainly appreciated. There are obviously are many of the same issue that face us, each region, and it was encouraging to have that dialogue and hear from everyone.

And finally, thank you to the staff of the Assembly, Madam Chair, the team, their patience. I know they're super busy right now, and we certainly appreciate their patience as we onboard and settle into our roles here at the Assembly. So thank you very much.

Campaigning is certainly a humbling experience. It's also a great way to learn and appreciate the many hard working people, the businesses, the Indigenous governments, community governments, and the non-government organizations in our community. You appreciate what makes our community tick. And going door to door and speaking to people is very humbling and also very educational. I would need likely more than ten minutes to hit every topic and every concern and every priority that was brought to my attention as I did campaign, but I will highlight some. And rest assured, as we move forward with our work, all the issues that were brought to my attention will be brought into this Chamber as well.

When I met with the Indigenous leadership in my region, the governments, it was clear we needed a different approach. We need that whole-of-community approach, and those who followed my campaign will know that I use that term quite frequently as I went door to door and as we debated. We need to ask the Indigenous governments how is the relationship, what's working, and what's not. And I think that's important. How can we as a government ensure that we are working with the Indigenous governments in a way that respects both and ensures we are working shoulder to shoulder providing the most we can for all our residents.

For far too long, divisive politics have made it so that our regions have not been able to take advantage of the opportunities that can come from working together. It's time for us to come together and work for our collective interests. As a whole of community, we are greater than the sum of our parts. We can address the needs of families. We can start to bring economic strength back to our regions. There are many priorities that will require significant work but none of them are possible without first agreeing to listen to each other and to working together. With the collective efforts of the federal government, the Indigenous governments, and the territorial government, we can ensure the prosperity of our regions and the well-being of our residents.

I spoke to many people in my riding that work in the health and wellness sector of our government, and the message was clear. The current model for health care delivery in our region does need some significant improvement. Increasing cost of living in our region have put an even more stress on an already overworked and under-resourced system. Frontline staff, public health workers, nurses, administrators, and all the wonderfully talented people who deliver health services in Inuvik know well the stresses our system was under. Medical travel has been an incredible challenge in our region. We must ensure that health professionals living here are given an opportunity to assist and inform our government on how we can improve our health care delivery. By engaging those on the front lines, we can better understand how we work to make these improvements. That goes throughout each department. It's important that we listen; we listen to the people that are actually delivering our programs. Those are the people that see the issues and can make recommendations on how we as a government can change policy, legislation to ensure that we are being as effective as we possibly can.

I met with educators and education staff during my campaign. To be sure, we have some excellent educators in our community but we must take the action necessary to address the challenge in recruiting and retaining teachers in our region. We need to bring back those who have left our community to pursue education elsewhere so they can work, live, and educate at home. Increasing cost of living in our region have meant that it's become harder and harder for some of our best and brightest in our community. A lack of meaningful access to programs and services for kids has also made it harder to keep people in our community. We must do more to retain the talent we have and to enrich the young talent that is already here. Many young people in our communities thrive when given the opportunity, but in many cases the opportunities are just too few and far between. Access to better programs and services, participation in education reform initiatives are but a few pieces in the largest constellation of initiatives necessary to create a made-in-Inuvik model, built for and by those who call Inuvik home. I am hopeful that with the new leadership, these initiatives can be implemented and begin to allow us to grow the wonderful educators who live and call Inuvik home.

I also spoke to many business owners during my campaign. And, you know, the message was there's no one industry that can solely be relied on. We must work together to ensure major infrastructure projects are procured and completed regionally. And that goes for all regions throughout the Northwest Territories. We must ensure that we have training for our younger workforce to be engaged and given opportunities to succeed at home and not have to leave our territory to find that work. We have to ensure that we keep a focus on the economy and work with our industry and small business partners to ensure we are always thinking strategically and looking for innovative solutions to growing and keeping our economy robust.

One of the biggest and likely the, I guess most talked about when I'm standing in someone's doorway or if I'm in having a coffee with them, Inuvik, like many other communities in the North, is facing a serious addictions crisis. I spoke with residents in their home that were suffering from addiction, literally knocking on their door and they're telling me, Denny, I need help. It was heartbreaking. We must come together to address this issue.

In speaking with residents, both in the professional field and people in their homes that are being affected by this, the answer's likely in three phase. Certainly we need a treatment centre of some sort, either a treatment or an aftercare centre. We need support for people when they have this treatment, that they come back to the communities. I had a young lady that came to our forum who was struggling with addiction. She comes back to the community. Those wounds have been opened. She's gotten -- she's seeked and gotten the help she's needed. Now she's back in the community, and there's just no support there for her to continue that journey to heal and to be free of this.

You know, the other piece on this is the -- obviously the enforcement. We need to make sure we are working with our enforcement agencies to make sure we are tackling this problem at its root core. We need to ensure they have the tools necessary to do what they need to do. I hear all the time from my residents saying why aren't we doing more? You know, we know where they're getting these drugs. We know where it is in our community, so why aren't we doing more? So we need to look at what we can do as a government to make sure we're giving law enforcement the tools to do that.

The other piece to that is the economy. If people are working, we need to create robust economies. As I said, if people are working they're healthy, they're happy, they're feeding their families, they're putting a roof over their family's heads, they're more likely to make healthy choices and, you know, a better chance of getting free from the addiction.

Our region, as other regions have, in some ways have lost their voice. We haven't had a regional director in our community for four years. This is an integral role in each region. This is the person that reports indirectly to Cabinet, reports indirectly to the Premier's office, and brings the departments together in our region. That position has been sorrily missed. I've heard from our Indigenous leadership. I've heard from others in our community. We need to ensure that we're bringing that position back to Inuvik. There's other senior positions as well that I know we have lost over the past four years, and we need to make sure that there is still some autonomy made for the regions so they can make decisions on their own.

Housing obviously was a big issue that was brought up during my door-to-door campaign. Again, as I heard Members speak earlier, not just social housing, which we know there's a huge need where the Indigenous governments in our region have taken the lead on that, and they've been doing a lot of work through their federal housing initiative funding to get this -- some homes completed, but we need housing for all. We need housing for professionals. We need housing for people that want to move here and make the North their home.

Childcare obviously is always a concern. We need to make sure that we're supporting the people that go to work so others can go to work. We need to make sure that we have childcare that's accessible, and we have -- you know, we have that ability to provide those services in each community. When I was with the Town of Inuvik as mayor, we did a survey and the two questions -- the top two questions were asked for people looking to move to our region was whether or not we had childcare and whether or not we had a pool. So obviously childcare is always on the top of people's minds.

More important than identifying the big issues, though, identifying the solutions to these issues. And the solution to all of those starts with us all working together. When we focus on services and opportunities for children, we must do that as a collective. When we attempt to address significant deficit left to us by the previous government, we must all work together to set clear priorities. When we look to revitalize small businesses in the region, we must look how governments can collaborate. The federal government, the Indigenous governments, and the territorial government have been greater than the sum of our parts. If we can work collaboratively, we could work together. If we can work in true partnership, then we can ensure that each resident finds a voice and that the biggest issues can start to be truly fixed.

During my campaign, I was constantly reminded of the vibrancy, creativity, passion, and intelligence of our communities. My commitment to the people of Inuvik was incredibly high at the start of the campaign and was only elevated in the intervening weeks. I am so proud to call Inuvik home, and I want to generally thank all of you who have invited me into your homes, showed me our passion, put your support in me, and I will do my best to make Inuvik proud as well. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Mr. Denny Rodgers' Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Jolene Saturino

Mahsi, Member from Inuvik Boot Lake. I'll pass the mic over to the Member for Monfwi, followed by the Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Mrs. Jane Weyallon Armstrong's Speech
Round Table Speeches By Members

Page 12

Weyallon Armstrong

Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair. Madam Chair, okay, no matter where we go, you know, in the NWT, housing is one of the top priorities on people's mind. Every government makes this a priority and then fails to make any real meaningful changes. We need to start thinking about this differently. I am personally tired of southern consultants and endless policy reviews that don't produce change.

We need to take a different approach to policy making. All government departments seems to want is to create one policy for the entire territory in the name of equality and accountability. Forming this type of policy making will never be fair because it doesn't take into consideration how different our 33 communities are. These differences should be celebrated. Like in small NWT communities, it's not the same as it is in larger communities or larger regional centre. One centralized policy is not the answer to our problem but is the problem. We need to change the way we do business that recognizes each community's unique needs.

For example, life in small communities, it's not the same as larger one. For example, in Wekweeti, after 6 o'clock there's no place to buy a pop. In Yellowknife, there's a lot of other establishment that you can go to. That's just one of the few examples. I have friends in the capitals -- in the capital and for some people who come here from the south, they talk about how much their home is worth, their house is worth, and their retirement plans, etcetera. And that is great for them, and I support them in what they want. The majority of people who live in smaller Indigenous communities don't view housing in the same way. We have been living here since the beginning of time. We don't view it the way that others view their house. Housing for us, especially for me, does not have a financial value but is a place where we raise the next generation of people. I live in my late parent's house and God willing, some day my grandson will raise his family there too as well.

Centralized decision making has never worked in the NWT context. Current policy development practices support colonization and need to be changed to incorporate the Indigenous world view. My late auntie, Elizabeth MacKenzie, often spoke about Chief Jimmy Bruneau words. Strong like two people, (no translation) and (no translation) - our way of life. This means that our policies needs to reflect all NWT culture.

The 20th Legislative Assembly needs to develop its policy using a concept like strong like two people. If we want things to be better across the NWT, we need to have different policies and different ways of doing things in different communities that supports the community.

Madam Chair, medical travel. We all received some concerns from residents about medical travel. It is sad that so many people have bad experience with medical travel. Just recently in my Member's statement, we had an elder who travelled to south seeking care because she could not get the help that she need at Stanton, and she was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, she passed on in Edmonton. And GNWT would not fly her home to be with her family because she was not on approved medical travel list.

I get concerns on a regular basis about escorts and people being denied escorts. It makes me sad because I have seen what a better system looks like. When I was a GNWT employee, my husband was on sick leave for three years. We travelled to Edmonton at least five times a year. We were given a hotel room, a rental car, food money, and we could easily change our travel plan as needed. We treat GNWT employees far better than our citizens, especially coming from small communities. It seems like medical travel system for citizens is all based around doing things the cheapest way possible. People who travel under this system get stuck in boarding homes, and they have no choice. The GNWT has to find a better way of providing these services in a way that support people.

Mental health and addictions. Many people have told us we need to bring a treatment centre back to the North, and then we heard it here from our colleagues. Every time this gets discussed, the bureaucrats tell us all the reasons why it failed in the past. For me, it's not about if we should. We have to bring treatment back to the NWT. The big question is how are we going to do it.

To simply bring up some southern base treatment facility and drop it in the NWT would not work well. We cannot just rely on the western medical treatment model but incorporate our own culture in order to make this work.

Madam Chair, I myself went to southern treatment, but my road to recovery was much more than just a facility or a 30-day program. That was just the beginning. I had to really work on myself and get support in a lot of different ways. I also had the support of my family, my friends, my elders, and the community. I would like to see some type of treatment facility or wellness centre in every region in the NWT. As part of it, we also need strong on the land programs that incorporate our language, culture, and way of life, strong supports and aftercare for people that go to treatment. Also opportunities for those on the road to recovery, like stable housing, education, and employment opportunities. Today when people return to their communities after treatment program, there are little supports in place for them. Many are still homeless and have lack of supports. On day one, many relapse.

Infrastructure. This is a big priority for everyone. We need to rethink how we do capital planning. We need to work more closely with community leadership like mayors, municipal governments, Indigenous governments, to make sure we are investing our money in the right places. We also need to focus on things like roads that will reduce the cost of living and support economic opportunities. In my region, we have not seen much investment in infrastructure. Some of our infrastructure, like water pipes, were put in place before GNWT was established. And our school is over 50 years old. Over the last two years, we have begun working on the plans to replace the school that will be coming before the 20th Legislative Assembly for approval. This is not just the only school. There are other schools in small communities with a lot of issues that needs attention as well.

Cost of living. All of us here are concerned about the cost of living. Many residents are struggling to provide the basic. We need to approach this issue in a variety of ways. For example, jobs. Bring good paying jobs to the NWT through strategic investment in infrastructure. Infrastructure, we need to invest in projects that will reduce the cost of living. What we need to do is settle collective agreement. There are other 6,000 GNWT employees that have not received an inflationary wage adjustment for years. Since the GNWT is the largest employer, settling the collective agreement should create a strong stable workforce and provide an economic boost to the NWT.

Tax. We need to revisit the carbon tax. This tax has an impact on smaller communities as we often -- many depend on diesel power for generations -- power generations, and people travel greater distance on winter road using more gas to get goods and services.

Another thing that what we need to do is review government programs, like income support, to ensure they are adjusted accordingly. Thank you.