This is page numbers 451 - 494 of the Hansard for the 15th Assembly, 6th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was work.

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Mr. Ramsay's Reply
Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 468

David Ramsay Kam Lake

I wish him and his family all the best in whatever it is he decides to do.

Mr. Speaker, to my friend Mr. Braden, who is pursuing a new path in life as well, I want to thank him for all of his sage advice and guidance over the past four years. As Members will know, Mr. Braden and I sit next to each other in committee and it's very interesting how the two of us got along so well and it's perhaps because we're both there at 9 o'clock every morning.

Mr. Ramsay's Reply
Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 469

An Hon. Member

Hear! Hear!

Mr. Ramsay's Reply
Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 469

An Hon. Member

Bravo! Bravo!

---Applause

---Laughter

Mr. Ramsay's Reply
Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 469

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Mr. Braden, you will certainly be missed and I'll miss you.

I want to thank you all for your hard work in committees, especially Mr. Braden and his hard work in committees especially on the Liquor Act and the WCB legislation. Good luck and best wishes to you, Bill and Val and your family, as you venture off in a new direction.

To my other colleagues, I want to thank you for helping me be an effective Member of this Assembly. I'd like to wish you all the best in the upcoming election, those of you who are seeking re-election. Should my constituents give me another opportunity to represent them once again in this House, I look forward to working with you again after the election.

Our work here as Members is made so much easier by the dedicated staff we have in this building. I want to thank each and every staff member for all of their help the past four years. The Clerk of the House, Mr. Tim Mercer, is to be commended for the first-rate staff and services that this building has offered Members...

---Applause

...all the way from the Clerk's office, research, the library staff, security, corporate services, the cleaners and the cafeteria staff.

I just wanted to also thank my constituency assistant, Lynda Comerford, for her four years of dedicated service to my office. She has been truly a great employee and I'm very lucky to have had her as my constituency assistant.

Mr. Speaker, I'm very honoured to have been a partner in governing this great territory the past four years. The future is very bright. As a territory, we have so much to look forward to. We are moving ahead on devolution and resource revenue sharing negotiations and, as we know, this government has done a great deal in advancing our position and we are close to getting a deal done.

The next government is going to need to find peace with our regions and our aboriginal governments. We cannot afford to have differences that lead to inaction. We need to work together to achieve results for our people. We cannot work in isolation. We must work with one another because we need one another. We need to examine what public government is going to look like here in the Northwest Territories 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Mr. Speaker, my advice would be that we should not deviate from our current consensus style of government until all outstanding issues of land claims and self-governments are dealt with. My fear is any shift toward party politics will further alienate the Government of the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, we will need to take a look at reinventing ourselves and including everyone in a discussion that will lead to a Government of the Northwest Territories that everyone will, and should be, comfortable with.

As the government moves forward, there are issues that will be need to be addressed. The first order of business for the new government should be a zero-based budgeting exercise so we get a grip and a handle on how effective our current spending patterns are. Also, the work must continue on the review of boards and agencies. The 16th Assembly must conclude this important piece of work. Also, work will need to be done to develop a new corporate capital planning program with more accurate cost and time estimates.

Mr. Speaker, the environment, of course, should and will be front and centre, with new legislation, hopefully coming in the 16th Assembly, like SARA, the Wildlife Act, and hopefully these things will be moved forward. The next government will again have to balance resource development and opportunities for our residents with protecting our environment. Mr. Speaker, I'm a big supporter of the whistleblower legislation that is coming forward and should be pursued by the next government. The next government will also have to come up with a plan to tackle addictions. We need to put more resources in place that will benefit those needing the help. Programming and education should be the primary focus of the next government's dealing with our addictions issues. The next government will need to continue to address the high cost of living and look for ways to help residents cope with that cost of living.

Certainly challenges lie ahead, Mr. Speaker; that is true. But our economy is strong; our people are getting stronger, and we must look to the future with great interest. The future of this territory and our people require all of us working together to ensure that opportunities are provided for anyone and everyone who desires them.

Thank you again, Members, for your indulgence this afternoon. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Mr. Ramsay's Reply
Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 469

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Replies to opening address. The honourable Premier, Mr. Handley.

Mr. Ramsay's Reply
Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 469

Joe Handley Weledeh

Mr. Speaker, I request unanimous consent to return to item number 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery.

Mr. Ramsay's Reply
Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 469

The Speaker Paul Delorey

The Member is seeking unanimous consent to return to item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Return to item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. The honourable Member for Weledeh, Mr. Handley.

Revert To Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Revert To Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

August 21st, 2007

Page 469

Joe Handley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm honoured to recognize some guests who have flown and driven here for the NWT Dog Sledding Symposium this past weekend. None of them travelled by dog team, by the way, I don't think. Mr. Speaker, with us today are Dr. Caroline Griffiths, a doctor in veterinary medicine from

Colorado; Dr. Tim Hunt from Marque, Michigan; his wife, Mary Hunt; and Cate Stronge from Logan, Utah. I don't see Chuck Gould who is from Minnesota. We lost him somewhere. Also, Carol Beck who travelled in from Kam Lake.

---Laughter

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Revert To Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Revert To Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

Page 470

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Handley. Indeed, welcome to the House. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Replies to opening address. The honourable Member for Frame Lake, Mr. Dent.

Mr. Dent's Reply
Revert To Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 470

Charles Dent Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For four consecutive elections and nearly 16 years I've been honoured to be selected by the constituents of Frame Lake to represent them in this Legislative Assembly. To this day, I am awed to have had that level of trust. Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that even though I've got 16 years under my belt, I have no intention of trying to win the record for the amount of time on replies to opening address.

---Applause

I don't like to be called the oldest Member of the Assembly, because by age that's not necessarily true. I prefer the term "Dean of the Assembly," and I hope I can demonstrate some of the...(inaudible)...of that position.

Mr. Speaker, this system of government that we have is unique. It is significantly different than what most Canadians, in fact what most democratic societies, are used to. There are some who don't think it works well; but it works as it should. Over the 16 years that I've been here, I've seen quite a few changes, so I know that it is evolving.

Mr. Speaker, while I'm moving on and it will be up to subsequent assemblies to determine what consensus government looks like, I would like to take this time to reflect a bit on the operation of consensus government.

When I first got elected, I thought that we should move to incorporate some of the trappings of party politics to improve accountability. After just a while in the Assembly, I came to realize that there is some significant advantage to the system that we call consensus. In no other government with ministerial responsibility to a House, do non-government Members have so much power; so much information about how and when government decisions are being made. And that's an important point and I think it's one that many people, probably because they're used to our system, forget.

I had been active in party politics in the South before moving to the Territories. In fact, I was very active in my university for years so I understood how the federal and provincial governments worked. After getting elected here, I was astounded at how much information Regular Members were given. Nowhere else in Canada do Regular Members get to see a budget before it was presented to a House, and have the opportunity to press the Minister of Finance to make changes before it was introduced. Nowhere else did Regular Members have the opportunities to propose changes to legislation while it was under consideration, like we do here. In no other jurisdiction can Members support the government on one issue and the next day oppose the government on another. This is still true today. Other than Nunavut, there is no jurisdiction in Canada that comes close to giving non-government Members the power and independence and how they represent their constituents than they have in our system of government.

Mr. Dent's Reply
Revert To Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 470

An Hon. Member

Hear! Hear!

Mr. Dent's Reply
Revert To Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 470

Charles Dent Frame Lake

As I said, Mr. Speaker, I think it's because we are used to it that so many of us forget it. But when I talk to Members of provincial legislative assemblies, they are astounded to hear about the power of Regular Members. When I tell elected officials from other jurisdictions that when I was Regular Member I worked with other Members to get the government to make significant changes to budgets, like adding $1 million to a program that all Regular Members agreed should be a priority, they're incredulous. In a party system, that could never happen. Members would not be able to vote according to whether a proposal or legislation was good for their constituency; all votes would be controlled by party discipline. I still don't think we need that in our small jurisdiction. We need to be able to work together in the interest of our constituents.

Some have called for open committee meetings, and I agree that government should do as much as possible in public, but there has to be some balance, of course. Budget issues will always have to be considered behind closed doors or it would be impossible for the government to disclose all the information.

So, Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt that our consensus system will continue to evolve over time. Subsequent governments will make decisions about what it should look like. Right now, the system we have isn't perfect, but in my opinion it's better than the alternatives I see across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, being a Member of this Assembly has been a great experience. Over the years, I have chaired and participated in many committees. I am proud of the achievements. There has been a tremendous amount of legislation that has been passed over the last 16 years, way too much to mention, but our human rights legislation is a very good model for the rest of Canada and I am proud of the role I played as a member of committee sitting on the other side and seeing that come forward.

The same can be said for the Protection Against Family Violence Act. Those two acts speak to what this Legislative Assembly and past Legislative Assemblies have seen as important in protecting the rights of individuals and those who may not have access to protection in other ways.

I have also been very pleased, Mr. Speaker, to be on Cabinet for two terms. Over the years, I have had a lot of different responsibilities. I am especially proud of the time I have had as Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. What I found really interesting in reading a study not long ago, Mr. Speaker, is that in Canada the average span of time that a person spends on Cabinet as

an active Member in Canada is about four and a half years. So typically, a Cabinet Minister doesn't have a long tenure, doesn't have a long life as a Member of government. However, I have been really lucky in that I got to spend four years in the mid-90s as Minister of Education and then come back in this term as Minister of Education. So some of the changes that were instituted early on in the '90s, we are getting to see the results for now.

One of the most critical decisions that have been made by government over the years was to proceed with grade extensions. It was a controversial decision when it was proposed in the early '90s. There were significant arguments about whether or not they actually provide a good level of education in the smallest communities. But we are seeing now, Mr. Speaker, that it does work. We are seeing the grad rates have increased over the last 12 to 15 years to the same levels that what took between 30 and 50 years in other areas of Canada. We still have a long ways to go, but, Mr. Speaker, we have demonstrated that we are on the right track. We have seen tremendous growth in participation.

I am also really pleased that we have been able to achieve significant changes to the Income Support Program. Again, this is a program that provides assistance to those who are most in need in our society and helps to demonstrate the compassion this government has for those who are dealing with poverty issues.

Mr. Speaker over the years, I haven't always been able to resolve issues for constituents, but on many occasions a quick phone call has resolved things while a few have taken longer. I have to say that my biggest regret in deciding not to run again revolved around two outstanding issues that have not been resolved: the transfer of the Con lands to the city and resolution of the infrastructure problems in Northland.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the Minister of MACA is interested in resolving the Con and Rycon situation. I know that residents there want ownership of their lots and I hope we will see the transfer process started before the election, but I know it's going to take longer than four weeks to get done so it will not happen during the life of this government.

Mr. Speaker, I have also been very pleased by the recent actions of the City of Yellowknife to help the residents of Northland to develop a plan to resolve their water and sewer problems. I can only hope that the next MLA to represent Frame Lake will be able to see a joint response between this government, the city and residents to resolve that issue.

Mr. Speaker, in 16 years in this position, I owe a lot of people thanks. I have been here for so long I couldn't possibly list them all by name or I would be getting close to that three hour and 20 minute record. Obviously, in a system like ours, you don't do the work here alone. I have counted on the assistance and help of colleagues. It has been a tremendous experience over the years working on different committees with Regular Members, who worked, as I have, for two terms with Cabinet. I have really enjoyed the last four years working with this Cabinet and wish all of the Members well in their future for those who are seeking re-election and those who are like me and are moving onto other challenges.

I have also enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from the staff in this Assembly. Going back 16 years, there has been almost complete turnover in staff. I have seen almost every position filled by different faces, but the competency and the level of support either by the Clerk's offices, research and library staff, administrative staff, they have all provided tremendous support to me and to others over the years and I thank them for that.

In the eight years I have been Minister I have also found that the public service is incredibly dedicated. I know it's too often too easy for the public to take shots at the public service, but I know how many of my staff show up for work at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning often seven days a week. I have been proud to have the people support me in the departments who have put in those extra hours and make sure things are done when they should be. Whether it's clerical staff, directors, ADMs, DMs, I have been impressed by the work ethic we have by the public service. I would say that our public service in the North is second to none.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take a moment to say a special thanks to those who have worked in my office while I was Minister. My executive assistants, especially over the last four years; Katherine Robinson and Alison Welch; the executive secretaries, Kathy Wind and Heather Bibby. Over the 16 years I have had more constituency assistants than I could mention, but Pearl Benyk has been the one who has been most recent and has lasted the longest. I thank her for the work that she's done in helping me keep my constituents informed about the work that we do here.

Mr. Speaker, to be effective in this job, you need not only the support from your colleagues, constituents and staff, but even more you need support from your family. Mr. Speaker, it's probably no secret to people who know Eileen, but my wife has never really been a fan of me being a politician.

---Laughter

Pretty well every election, she has said that she prefer that I not run. But once the race was on and the papers were filed, she was always a formidable part of the campaign team. I appreciate that.

Not only has she helped during campaigns, once elected, Eileen has always supported my political activities. She even had to take over running my business. That meant she had to run her jewellery store as well as operate a staff intensive 24/7 operation like a radio station. Then, after she started running two businesses, we had a son. So now she had three jobs and all of them full time. While, as she occasionally pointed out, just occasionally, I only had one job.

---Laughter

And this one job meant that I travelled a lot. So I wasn't there when Tyler was sick and she still had the two businesses to run. It eventually got to the point where Eileen decided something had to go. Thankfully, it wasn't me.

---Laughter

---Applause

Mr. Dent's Reply
Revert To Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 472

An Hon. Member

It's early!

Mr. Dent's Reply
Revert To Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 472

Charles Dent Frame Lake

I appreciate that she stuck by that decision. But her jewellery store, the business she started, had to be sold after 18 years of being her baby. Our son, Tyler, has also paid a price for my public service. I have missed a lot of his activities over the years and haven't been there on many occasions when he needed me.

So, Mr. Speaker, I owe a deep debt of gratitude not only to my constituents and colleagues here, but to my family who have supported me to do this job. That's a debt that I could never adequately repay, but it's time that I started trying. So after waiting 27 years, Eileen has told me that it would be a good start for me to finish the basement and that's where I will start.

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure after the basement what the future holds for me, but I expect there will always be some element of public service involved. In spite of my white hair, I still feel that I am young enough to enjoy another career or two and Yellowknife is home. With all the opportunities that we have in the North, whatever I get involved in, I am sure we will be in the North and, undoubtedly, Mr. Speaker, it will be something interesting. Thank you.

---Applause

Mr. Dent's Reply
Revert To Item 10: Replies To Opening Address

Page 472

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Dent. I am quite sure I noticed all your colleagues evaluating your performance when you say you are leaving with only two unresolved issues.