Please be seated. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Premier, Ministers and Members, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour to welcome you to the third session of the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.
This session comes at approximately the halfway point in the life of the 18th Assembly and follows the recent review and adoption of the revised Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories, 2016-2019. Yours is the first Legislative Assembly to have formally adopted a mandate to clearly set out its plan for achieving the priorities you have selected on behalf of the people of the Northwest Territories.
I commend and congratulate you for this new step in improved transparency and accountability and for your continued commitment to better serving the people of the Northwest Territories. The revised mandate adopted at the end of the Second Session of the Legislative Assembly on October 4, 2017, includes changes proposed by both Cabinet and the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning and discussed among all Members in Caucus meetings.
These changes take into account both the progress made on mandate commitments over the first half of this Legislative Assembly, as well as new challenges and opportunities that have arisen since the mandate was first adopted in March 2016. With your revised mandate, the 18th Legislative Assembly now has a strong and clear plan for advancing its shared priorities during the remainder of its term. In its revised mandate, your government has renewed its commitment to grow, diversify, and modernize the NWT economy so that territorial residents have the jobs and opportunities that they need support themselves and their families.
The knowledge economy will become an increasingly important part of the NWT economy in the future, and your government has made a commitment to foster and develop this sector. Actions to support the knowledge economy will include supporting the development and growth of post-secondary institutions and programs available in the NWT.
Your government will also support the feasibility of creating a Northern Centre for Excellence to promote and support research, innovation, and use of traditional Indigenous knowledge. Supporting local food production is another area for economic growth that will also help reduce Northerners' cost of living and promote health.
In partnership with other organizations, your government will support the creation of a central repository to research, store, and share knowledge and best practices for Northern farming and greenhouse technology. Recognizing that resource development will continue to be an important foundation of the NWT economy, your government will also ensure high-quality geoscience knowledge is available to support exploration and discovery, and will increase public awareness about how NWT renewable and non-renewable resources can be developed in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Northerners expect jobs and opportunities in small communities in every region, not just in Yellowknife or regional centres. That is why your government has made a commitment to enhance job creation programs in small communities, build community capacity, and support new economic opportunities.
The new Rural and Remote Communities Committee established to bring together Cabinet Ministers and small community MLAs will be an important source of ideas and advice for helping the residents of the NWT's smallest communities.
NWT residents expect their government to provide them with good, accessible opportunities for education from the earliest ages so they have the tools and learning they need to achieve their hopes and aspirations. That is why your government has renewed its commitment in its revised mandate to continue investing in quality early childhood development and supporting the JK to grade 12 system.
Your government has also renewed its commitment to expanding opportunities for post-secondary education, trades-oriented learning, and northern educational institutions. Its commitments include developing legislation to outline a quality assurance system to support the recognition of post-secondary institutions and completing the Foundational Review of Aurora College.
Through Aurora College and other educational partners, your government has also committed to develop and promote post-secondary programs designed to meet needs in high-demand occupations identified in the Labour Market Forecast and Needs Assessment (2016).
Cost of living has a direct impact on Northerners' quality of life and opportunities for economic growth, and that is why your government has renewed its commitment to focus on cost drivers that directly affect families in its revised mandate.
Addressing the urgent need for affordable housing is a particular priority for your government, and it is making a new commitment to reduce the number of households in core housing need in the NWT by 250 households per year for the next three years. As part of this, your government will create a comprehensive and fully costed plan to reduce core need, develop housing programs and services to deliver households from core need, and ensure that they reflect community values and priorities.
Your government will also address the shortage of market housing in tax-based communities through collaboration with stakeholders, including the private sector, other governments, and third-party organizations. The high cost of energy is another burden on Northerners, and your government is committed to increasing the production and transmission of renewable and alternative energy.
Your government will implement a new NWT Energy Strategy that will include renewable and alternative energy solutions and actions to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets and a 10-year strategy for investing federal and other funding.
Your government will also continue to develop and advance initiatives to displace diesel generation, including Taltson expansion and the Inuvik High Point Wind Project, as well as other hydro, wind, solar, and biomass projects.
Your government has also renewed its commitment to making childcare available and affordable, including creating an action plan for a phased-in approach. It has committed to support the creation of new child care spaces and programs in all communities and to ensure the sustainability of existing early childhood development programs.
Your government's revised mandate includes a new commitment to support communities in crisis by providing appropriate responses to suicide, including forming a crisis response network and providing specialized trauma-informed training and critical incident stress debriefing training. It will build surge capacity so there is coverage for team members and use the expertise of the crisis response network to promote enhanced suicide intervention activities.
To continue its work to reduce poverty, your government will work collaboratively by funding community-based partners and convening meetings of stakeholders. It will collect and report annually on indicators for assessing performance in reducing poverty and will ensure continuous quality improvement in the administration of the Anti-Poverty Fund.
Your government has also made new commitments in its revised mandate to implement a territorial 911 program and to develop and implement the policy, program, and legislative regimes to support the legalization of cannabis in the NWT.
Your government's revised mandate renews its commitment to improve governance in the NWT by improving accountability, transparency, and collaboration. That includes recognition of the need for improved communications between Cabinet and Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly and a revised commitment to ensure early, regular, and open consultation by Cabinet with Regular Members and committees of the Legislative Assembly.
The revised mandate continues your government's commitment to collaborating and fostering government-to-government relationships with Aboriginal governments. It continues to be committed to advancing, finalizing, and implementing land, resources, and self-government agreements and to building stronger relationships with community governments and stakeholders.
The revised mandate also continues your government's commitment to supporting initiatives to increase the number of women running for elected office in the NWT. Taken together, the commitments set out in the Revised Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories, 2016-2019, provides a clear plan and road map for achieving the priorities of the 18th Legislative Assembly in the areas of economy; environment and climate change; education, training and youth development; cost of living; community wellness and safety; and governance.
I wish you well in your efforts and look forward to the progress that you will make on behalf of the people of the Northwest Territories. During this session, the Government of the Northwest Territories will be introducing the following bills for consideration by the House:
• Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2017-2018;
• Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 3, 2017-2018; and
• Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 1, 2018-2019.
The government considers these bills essential to the good conduct of government business and, as such, I recommend their passage. As Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, I now declare open the third session of the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.
Mahsi Cho, Quanani, Koana, merci beaucoup, thank you.