Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I hope you bear with me ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Speaker, since May of 1993, I have had the honour to serve as the MLA representing residents of Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, and Umingmaktok and Bathurst Inlet. I have also had the honour since 1995 to serve as a Minister representing all NWT residents. In eight days the boundaries in Canada will change, something that has not happened in over 50 years. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation of this historic event, and all of us are a part. Whether we are Members of the last NWT Legislative Assembly, as we know it today, Members of the first Nunavut Assembly coming into office, or as Members of the first NWT Legislative Assembly post-division this coming fall.
Mr. Speaker, we have undertaken dramatic changes since taking office in preparation for division and the restructuring of government. There have been changes to programs and services as we have moved to balance our budget. We have also had a concerted effort to give greater control to communities and regions. There have been lots of hardships and growing pains as we have undertaken these initiatives, but we all believe it is for the overall benefit of all our residents.
For the past six years, as the MLA, there have been many developments in my constituency. In Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay, we have had new primary schools. We had the establishment of high schools, new air terminal buildings, fire halls, and municipal garages. We have had daycares established, independent seniors' housing units, and significant private housing developments. In Kugluktuk, they have also had a maintenance garage and a major runway expansion. In Cambridge Bay, there has been a major arena expansion and a new Nunavut Arctic College Learning Centre, a new Kitikmeot Foods Facility, and the establishment of the Mount Pelly Territorial Park.
Both communities have also had significant private investments. There have been dental clinics and new co-op stores in both communities. In Cambridge Bay, they have been further fortunate to have the establishment of a Royal Bank, CBC and a new Northern Store that is housed in the Kitikmeot Centre which also holds the NTI and KIA offices. There have also been significant local business investments in the hotel and retail sectors.
Umingmaktok and Bathurst Inlet have had all new alternative housing units and new fuel storage facilities. There has also been a new assembly building in Umingmaktok. By the same token, there have been new programs or enhancements to existing programs that have impacted all constituents. There have been fuel price reductions, a homecare program, hunters' support program, Northern Employment Strategy, Community Futures, small grants and contributions, home ownership programs, child care programs, a commercial harvesting program, income support increases, and the child tax benefit. All of these have been significant developments.
But we have also had our share of setbacks. There has been major fire loss in both Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay. Kugluktuk lost their arena in the winter of 1996 but were fortunate that it was a fully insured loss. They recuperated and had a new facility that opened in the spring of 1998. As we all know, in the summer of 1998, Cambridge Bay lost its Kiilinik High School. Right now there is work ongoing in the replacement of that significant project. We also have work ongoing for the regional health facility and Nunavut Arctic College residence under our P3 initiative that we hope to see finished off in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak on my Cabinet responsibilities over the past four years. In February to October, 1995, I was the Minister of MACA in the last government. Mr. David Ramsden was the deputy minister. We were fortunate to have the first block funding agreements completed, initiatives for SAO training, and for firefighter training. From October, 1995, to March, 1996, for a brief time I was responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation with Mr. Al Menard and Penny Ballantyne as the presidents. We initiated a major reorganization, and we finalized a seniors' independent housing strategy. In March, 1996, to November, 1997, I had responsibilities for the Ministry of Justice with Mr. Don Cooper as the deputy minister. There were deficiencies and corrections that were resolved. We initiated an independent review of the whole corrections system which became known as the Evan's Report. We refocussed on community justice initiatives.
From October, 1995, up until now, Health and Social Services and the Minister responsible for the Social Union Framework Agreement; I have had three deputy ministers, Ken Lovely, David Ramsden, and Penny Ballantyne. There has been a lot that has happened in that department, as we all know. We have been fortunate, we have completed the amalgamation of Health and Social Services. There has been the completion of the MacKenzie Region Decentralization which saw the establishment of numerous boards, the Dogrib Board, Fort Resolution, Lutselk'e, Hay River, Fort Smith, Deh Cho, and the soon to be up and running Yellowknife Board. We have seen the stabilization of funding and reinvestment in the health care system through the Healthy Children Initiatives, Strategic Initiatives Fund, reinvestment in the Social Worker Income Support Programs, the capital and recruitment and retention.
We have also seen the start of the P3 projects for the replacement of hospitals in Inuvik and Baffin, the health centre in Arviat, and the regional facilities in Rankin and Cambridge Bay. We have also had major reforms under alcohol and drug initiatives, long-term care facilities, and we formalized a strategic plan that is forming the foundation to guide two new territories in the ongoing reform of the health and social services system. We have also been successful in concluding the Social Union Framework Agreement.
Mr. Speaker, this is, as we all know, a high turnover field. There has been tremendous demand and pressure on the system, on Ministers, and on boards. In three and a half years, I have become the senior Health Minister in this country. I have seen three federal ministers and numerous jurisdictional turnover. In 48 hours from now, I will be fortunate, there will be a relief I think, in that I will become one of the former Health Ministers in this country. There is no doubt that we have had our share of controversy, and there have been a lot of concerns raised.
I will have to recognize the health and social services boards across the Northwest Territories. Many times I feel that they have come under unwarranted criticism. But these are the individuals who have the commitment and the interest to offer their services to represent us in trying to make things better for the people they represent. I have to say that given the difficulties that we operate under in our country, with the remoteness, the distances, the isolation, the weather conditions, and the small communities and service base that we have, I have to recognize the dedicated front line staff. And I say to that we have one of, if not the best, health and social services system in Canada.
I have to acknowledge our deputies once again, the deputies that I have been fortunate to serve with. I want to thank them for their dedication. I have been fortunate. I think they are some of the hardest working deputies that we have had in the government. I also would like to recognize the departmental staff. I want to recognize the Legislative Assembly staff for their guidance and assistance over the past six years, particularly our well-seasoned clerk, Mr. David Hamilton, who is the longest serving individual in this Assembly. My ministerial staff, both Joan Irwin and Kat Nicholson; Joan has been with me for four years and Kat for three. I have to recognize and thank them for their dedication to their positions, all the extra time they put in, well over and above the call of duty. I am proud to have had both of them as my staff members.
To my colleagues in this House, Mr. Barnabas, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Picco and Ms. Thompson, who will be my future Nunavut Assembly and Cabinet colleagues, I look forward to another four and a half years with them. To Mr. Enuaraq and Mr. Evaloarjuk, who were unfortunate in not being re-elected in their bids, I wish them all the best. To Mr. Arlooktoo, the rookie MLA, Cabinet Member, and Deputy Premier, I have seen him develop, in leaps and bounds, over the past three and a half years. I think it is a loss to Nunavut on the basis of experience that he would have been able to offer, but I have no doubt that with his talents and experience, he will play a prominent role after April 1st, no matter what he chooses to do.
Mr. Ningark, who is entering retirement as the longest continuous-serving Nunavut Caucus member, I am sure that he will also offer some experience, in some future capacity, in Nunavut. To John Todd, my friend and Cabinet colleague, who also chose not to seek re-election in Nunavut; only he has received more attention, publicity and pressure resulting from program changes and government policy than I. I believe he is a true visionary, someone who is totally dedicated and committed to carrying out his responsibilities. He is extremely opinionated to the point of being stubborn, but of course, we all know he also has his humble side. He says that, on those rare occasions where he is wrong, he will acknowledge that he made a mistake. I will miss our friendly competition of being the first to the office in the morning, I will miss his often candid advice, his humour and his wit. Donny Morin, another friend and Cabinet colleague.
When I first met Donny, I became attached to him almost immediately. I found him to be very upfront and direct on issues and when he gave his word, I knew that he meant it. He is a sincere individual who is always addressing the interests of his constituents. I think it is really unfortunate that his twelve years of hard work as an MLA and as an Executive Council Member will be overshadowed by a few errors of judgement. But I want to thank both Donny and John for their support that they have provided to me when I first took office right up until today.
Mr. Dent, Mr. Kakfwi, Mr. Antoine, Mr. Gargan. It has been a memorable past six years serving with you. I know we have had differences on occasion, but I have certainly enjoyed our experiences. Mr. Roland and Mr. Miltenberger, our morning coffee discussion sessions will be definitely missed. I have enjoyed the debates and the issues, along with Mr. Todd and any other foolish individual who might have stumbled into the office at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning. I do not know what will happen on the Nunavut side and who will be there. To the rest of my western colleagues, and I apologize if I do not mention you by name, it has also been a pleasure serving with you in this historic 13th Assembly which, a week from now, will be changed forever. I wish you all luck whether you choose to seek re-election or choose other pursuits.
Mr. Speaker, all of us are privileged to be given the trust and the responsibility to represent our constituents. Many of us take our positions very seriously and we put in an inordinate effort into doing the best job possible. I believe many of our constituents realize this, however, I doubt if any of them realize the toll it takes on us but, more importantly, on our families. Only our predecessors and us know of the long hours, the travel, the briefings, the meetings, the deadlines, the missed family events that we have all experienced over the past years. I want to thank my family for their support and understanding.
Mr. Speaker, both new territories are in the midst of historic and dramatic change. As politicians, we all want glitzy programs, infrastructure, and immediate impact that we can show our constituents. As the Minister of Health and Social Services a soon to be outgoing Minister, my advice to future new Ministers, to future legislators and to future governments; I ask you to consider focusing on the long term preventative programs which will deal with reducing FAS/FAE, tobacco use and planned parenting. They may have no immediate impact, but they have significant long-term benefits in attaining a healthier society and ensuring that sustainable social programs remain in place to serve our constituents.