Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate all the words of my colleagues up until now. I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, this motion to place binding arbitration before the mediation is not taking the proper steps in the first place, and I think what has happened here is we're tripping up the negotiators as they walk into the negotiating room. That, Mr. Speaker, is unfair. What it is, it's a lack of confidence, both in the Government of the Northwest Territories and the UNW, so I think this is kind of a double-edged sword that has been put upon us. I think, Mr. Speaker, we need to look at how we do thing in the territory, and also I think there is a level of interference, a level of political interference that we are really, really pushing people.
What it has come to, Mr. Speaker, I have had a lot of calls. Ninety-five percent of my constituents who have called are worried. They want to continue to work no matter what happens. Mr. Speaker, I have had phone calls from maybe five other constituencies, five other ridings in the territories, as well, with the same concern. As many of us here represent small communities, it's the small community people who are worried that this will affect their ability to work, to continue getting a paycheque, and continue to do the work that they are doing.
Some them work with children. Some of them work with children in schools and daycares, and they are worried that their program dollars may come to a halt, which sometimes when you are helping with children and their education, it has negative effects to that. It's like somebody getting up and walking out on you in the middle of a school year. Basically, that is what it is, and that is how they see it.
Mr. Speaker, I won't reiterate what some of my colleagues have said, but I believe the actions up until now are leading to something that is something that is blown out of proportion. This morning as I woke up and I thought, you know, holy cow, somebody was holding the grenade and someone just pulled the pin this morning, and here we are. It's blowing up on everybody. We need to look at this and say, well, maybe there needs to be a process moving forward. If we can't allow the professionals, the negotiators, to do their job, then what are we questioning? Does this say that we might need the negotiators that we have with the government and also the negotiators with the UNW? After three years of not negotiating, this is meant to expire in March, does that mean that everybody wants those negotiators to be changed and we put a new negotiator so that we can have a better future in the Northwest Territories rather than this division? I see the fracture, and it's getting bigger and bigger, Mr. Speaker, and I have a lot of worried constituents.
Also, I respect both sides. The unions, I have worked with unions with the North Warning System, and they are some of the highest-paid people in the territory and probably in the country, as well, Mr. Speaker. I think we need to look at the cost of living in the North, the cost of living for communities for harvesters, for people who do not have a voice to speak for themselves. I look at the number of union members who are pushing for this, and it's less than half, it's far less than half of the amount of union members in the territory. For me, that is a huge sign saying, okay, well, we need to rethink this. Maybe we need to meet with executive. You know, the legislature may need to meet with the executive of the Northwest Territories and look at a way forward, and maybe it means something. Maybe the union members across the territory need to unite and look at what's important for them, as well, and then maybe it takes a second round to get a true voice of what really is going on in the territory and what are the needs of the people who are worried about this strike.
We also need, Mr. Speaker, when we look at this, to look at the economy of the Northwest Territories. There are a number of mines that do not have 10 years left, and what's next for that. I saw a post this morning, and it said, "What now?" What's the way forward for everybody here? I think we need to really think long and hard about that. Coming from a small community, I see us struggling as the way it is right now, and for us to give this much to a union that is asking for so much, I think there is an imbalance there, and I think that is something we need to really consider when we look at these negotiations and appreciate that. There are 44,000 people in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Speaker. What about them? I think we need to really look at that and look at regions, the high cost of living, the high cost of transportation. I think those are all key factors in all of this, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of groups that will be affected in the Northwest Territories. I am speaking from an Indigenous perspective. Recently, I was involved with work with Indigenous groups, and I still am. Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of Indigenous groups in the Northwest Territories who have co-management agreements with the Government of the Northwest Territories. If they go into a strike, that will affect the kind of work that they are doing nationally, internationally, laterally with government-to-government relationships, and I think we really need to kind of stand back and say it has a much bigger effect than we think, than just the union.
It has an effect on Indigenous groups and Indigenous governments in the Northwest Territories, who are talking about, Mr. Speaker, an impasse on co-management in the Inuvialuit settlement region and other regions. You know, it also impacts the rest of the Northwest Territories as a lot of wildlife resources are shared in the NWT along with Nunavut, the Yukon, and Alaska, Mr. Speaker. Of particular importance is required polar bear surveys, which is a minimum three-year research program that provides vital information that leads to effective co-management of a species that is very important to the Inuvialuit, the Inuit, Canada, and the entire polar range states in the Arctic, Mr. Speaker. There are five Arctic states in the circumpolar world, and what about them, as well? I think we need to look more broadly and really see the negative effects, of what's really going on here or what could possibly happen.
That is why I say someone pulled the pin on the grenade this morning, and it's really blown up, for us to come here, to this point, to debate about something like this that should not have happened until Monday or Tuesday or sometime next week. If the union goes on strike, then this would be an effective tool, but right now we are taking away the strengths and the abilities of the people who are hired to negotiate this and negotiate it fairly. There are not many options other than what we have right now, Mr. Speaker, so I think we are losing those options. We are narrowing it down to the point where there is nowhere to go. We are simply cornering people who need to do their job to represent the people of the Northwest Territories, and I believe that very strongly, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I think we should allow the mediation to happen in good faith. I know both sides want a deal. Like the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh said earlier, "How close are we?" We do not know, but there are some things in every government, in every relationship, whether it's with Indigenous governments or other countries. Even though you may not be working at the surface, Mr. Speaker, there are some working relationships in there, and I think that's where the union and the Government of the Northwest Territories really need to grasp onto to strengthen those, and I believe that's a good working point.
I think all we can do is to encourage them to do their best this weekend and come up with something that's agreeable to the people of the Northwest Territories. I think that we owe that to them, Mr. Speaker. I really believe so. Otherwise, you know, Mr. Speaker, entering binding arbitration, next we will have to find an arbitrator who is willing to take this on, and I bet you the way that things are, the atmosphere in the territory right now, there aren't many out there, Mr. Speaker, so we need to think about that, as well.
Mr. Speaker, for that matter, I won't be supporting this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.