This Hansard has not been finalized - this is the "Blues" in Parliamentary speak, or unedited transcript in regular speak.

This Hansard is the unedited transcript and will be replaced by the final copy soon (generally within 5 business days). In the meantime, direct quotes should not be used, when the final is published it will seamlessly replace this unedited copy and any existing links should still work.

This is from the 19th Assembly, 2nd 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 going.

Topics

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Chair. I just want to reiterate the comments that my colleagues have been making. They have kind of taken my opening statements from me. I think we are speaking at the right level, that this is pragmatic realism in what we can accomplish. I also think there is a recognition in this House that there needs to be more service-oriented government. I will have a number of questions regarding the substance of each item in the mandate, but I wanted to speak to form.

I think there is no doubt this is the best mandate the Government of the Northwest Territories has ever seen. The Government of the Northwest Territories is a rather new government, and it has been evolving from these kinds of vague priorities. Now, we have finally gotten into wording where things are measurable; they are clearer. This is our job as politicians, to hold the government to account, to provide clear direction to departments. It also allows the public to hold us to account. I would like to thank all of the people in the departments and my Cabinet colleagues and the Premier for the hard work that went into this, making sure this is clear and measurable so that everyone can play the role that is required.

I struggle a little bit with the substance in that I think everyone here knows if I was going to write a mandate, it would look a lot different than this. Each individual Member could say that. That is consensus government. I have made a pledge to myself that I have bought into this mandate. We set those priorities in Caucus. We agreed to this process. We gave it to Cabinet to go and develop. I will ask lots of questions, and I will hold the government to account to accomplish this mandate. Although I may not agree with everything that is in here and although it may not include some of the things I would like to see, I am committed that this is the guiding principle for this government for the next four years. Let's get this done. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Member for Thebacha.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

I don't have anything written because I think I can speak from the cuff. I know that the 22 priorities were put together by all of the Members of this Assembly. I may not agree with some of it, just like some other Members, but I want to stress some of the things that are dear to my heart and some of the things that I think sometimes people talk very loosely about, the Aboriginal and Indigenous people of the North.

As a former leader for 10 years, I think that the settlement and the implementation of the outstanding land claims must be a priority if we are going to move forward. I feel that mandates have to be given to the negotiators, and we can't be a barrier. I think that it is very important because there are possibilities that we would move forward if we settle these claims because most of the money comes from the federal pockets. Then our people could move forward with us. It is a very important part of the whole pie.

I also want to ensure that we have to balance the economy with the social envelope. If you don't have an economy, you can't do all these other programs. I hope that we project that we are going to be open for business. I am very excited, and I don't see something on the Taltson expansion up to date on this House except something very brief in the document. It is 75/25 it says, but it could be 100 percent if we have the Indigenous governments taking part in the other 25 percent. We have to be innovative, and we have to look forward to making sure this is clean energy. I think that it has to happen, in order for larger proponents and for jobs in the future, with Aboriginal and Indigenous buy-in so that there is ownership instead of IDAs. I think that this is the way to go. We talk very loosely in this House about "Indigenous." Lots of people get up and say it. I lived it. There are always those barriers, just to get the federal government to recognize two reserves in the Northwest Territories as reserves north of 60, and they still do not. That is unacceptable. This government should be making sure that this happens.

The other thing I want to say is, the increase in the regional decision-making authority, I think that is a good thing. I think that it is time. I think that people in the regions feel that we shouldn't have to come to headquarters every time a decision has to be made. It benefits the smaller communities, and it benefits everybody in the community. This is the way to go, and I am very happy that this is one of the priorities. I really believe in reducing the municipal funding gap because the municipalities have a lot of infrastructure that hasn't been addressed for many years. Hopefully, in due course, we are able to do that within our mandate. Most importantly is to create the polytech university, a polytech university that will be at arm's-length from the Government of the Northwest Territories, with it is own board, and that we all buy into, and everybody benefits from, and the whole of the Northwest Territories and the students and the people who work there will be very happy with. I look forward to that.

There are many things that I could talk about, but we are going to be asking questions. I am proud to be part of these 22 priorities, even though some of them are more important than others to me, just like everybody else. I will always make sure that I speak on behalf of the people of Fort Smith. I celebrate that they are my members of the community that are very dear to my heart. We have to be more compassionate in delivery of services. Thank you so much.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. I will now turn it over to the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

February 12th, 2020

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Madam Chair. After much thought and deliberation about the mandate and our list of 22 priorities, I personally feel like I would have things a little differently, like you mentioned. We're all very strong alpha males and females in this room, and we wouldn't be here if we weren't. We all have 19 different ideologies and 19 different ways of doing business, but I'm very happy we came to a consensus and came to this document.

For me personally, I think it would be extremely helpful to have knowledge of our current financial state before going into this exercise, but that's how we learn. We learn and we move forward and do the best with what we've got. I know, as newly elected MLAs, a lot is expected of us; and, in fact, there are a lot of new faces here. People wanted real change, and we have to give it to them. They deserve it, but now we have this mandate, and I think, for lack of a better word, this is really our paddle for the canoe that we've got in this uncertain time. I'm going to believe in that and get behind it, and I'm going to think about that single mom who might be living in an isolated community, you know, struggling to support their kids. They could be in Lutselk'e. They could be in Lidlii Kue. They could be in Thebacha. It could be an elder who is having trouble getting by on their old age pension, and that's who we have to think about.

Overall, there are some items in this document that I'm glad to see and I'll be supporting; the Joint Committee on Indigenous Reconciliation, for example. It's a very good idea. However, there is one aspect that I would like to see added, and it's more inclusion with elected Indigenous leaders. If we really, truly want to reconcile, from the inside out, we need to invite our fellow Indigenous elected leaders to the joint committee. The same goes for "establish an internal working group" which this government plans to create. I hope to see, at some level, involvement with Indigenous leaders or Indigenous governments with the creation of that working group.

Regarding employment in small communities, I would like to see a higher number of jobs that will be created by the end of the 19th Assembly. A figure that was listed, I think, as a fairly low number, but nonetheless, I expect to see at least a few more jobs being created within my riding. Something that really, really angers me and frustrates me is how we always seem to have outside entities, like the Americans, southern companies; they come in and they take some very good business opportunities and jobs away from my community. I will say this until I'm blue in the face: any money that leaves the territories will hurt the Northwest Territories. We have to keep our money here. Again, our people deserve it.

In regard to tourism, I'm happy to see that there is an effort for increasing tourism to the regions outside of Yellowknife. That makes me happy. One aspect that I would like to see included is something about expanding our tourism market. Given the recent outbreak of this coronavirus -- I'm not going to go too much into that -- our tourism industry is probably going to take a hit for this. I hope to see efforts by this government to try to get people from newer markets.

On climate change, I wish there had been something regarding Indigenous guardians of the land. There is no mention of it anywhere in this document, and that is something that all regions would have appreciated. I think, overall, we need a balanced approach. You know, you can't just organize one group or sector over the other. We need a balanced approach going forward, and we can't do that without a healthy economy. We need a healthy economy to go forward. We need jobs, it's important, and more self-sufficiency for our Indigenous governments. That is how, I believe in my heart, we're going to achieve success.

I got a little bit emotional there because I still think about my great-grandmother when I saw the elder, the one prior to me mentioned about elders, and letting elders age in place with dignity, because we still have a lot of work to go in that direction. I'm hoping, if my great-grandmother is still watching, I'm hoping she's giving me a little nudge and supporting me. I'm thinking about her, and I want to say mahsi cho, Madam Chair. That's all I have to say.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Mr. Norn. Member for Monfwi.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Madam Chair. [Translation] This mandate that is in front of us today, it's a big document. We have 22 mandates listed. When we first started, we had a lot more issues than this which is not on this list, but we've been on this job for four or five months, now. We still have another three-and-a-half years, when another election will happen. This mandate is here only for three-and-a-half years, so I think we want to tackle the mandate as soon as possible. Sometimes when we talk about issues, we're always trying to find a solution to resolve our issues. When one of the Members has spoken, talked about how their constituent situation is, we want to try to help our people as soon as possible. We don't want to do any more research; we want to work on the issues right away. Madam Chair, I'm not going to say too much. All the MLAs have touched on the issues I wanted to say. We know that we all don't agree on issues, but, in order to go forward, we all need to work together. We need to respect each other and each other's words. That's the only way to go forward.

Madam Chair, if you notice, I seem to be the only one speaking in my language, but sometimes I hear a little bit of language from some of the Members, but I especially always speak in my language. This document is not translated in any of our languages. Even if I spoke in my language, they're not listening to me. As an MLA on this side of the table, I will try to speak on it as much as I can. Even though my issues are not in here, I will still talk on it. I think our language is very important. It identifies who you are. When we speak our language, they hear us and they know what we are talking about. When we talk about the Northwest Territories, we're losing a lot of our languages, especially one language group, which is Gwich'in. They are really losing their speakers. We don't have a mandate for that, so how are we to talk about it? Sometimes, we only talk about it. Nothing is listed here as a mandate for our languages. I have spoken on this. I will always speak in my language. That is the most important for me. I want to put it as a mandate. In the Northwest Territories, we have 11 official languages. Within Canada, when you take a look at this, we should try to make that as strong as possible. When we look at Nunavut, their language is very strong, and you can see it in their regions. When we look at our own regions, it's like, even though we have 11 official languages, we say we have official languages, but there are not a lot of things happening with those languages. So I can't say anything beyond that, but it is my mandate to talk about the issues of my region.

A lot of my elders have said in the past that I'm speaking my constituents' words. They are the ones who have given me the mandate and the issues. They voted me in. I have to talk on their issues; it's their issues. I will not stop, so that is the reason why we are elected and we are here. We need to be aware of that, and also languages, we should try to speak our language as much as possible. Even though it's not translated in this mandate, I want to speak in my language.

We have 22 mandates, here. We know that we might not be able to complete it, but, when you take a look at this document, there are a lot of big mandates. Where is the budget for it? I don't see the budget in here for it. Sometimes we may think that it's a good idea; it's just only something that's written. We have three-and-a-half years here. Can we complete this mandate? I don't know, but maybe in another two years we're going to review the Executive, whether they did their job or not, so all the Ministers will get their evaluation. Everything that's in here, we have to try to complete it. We'll see whether they can do the job or not.

Madam Chair, as my closing, I did want to speak in my language. I wanted to increase and make my language stronger. That's the reason why I'm speaking. We do have interpreters, and even a lot of the interpreters are really advocating for languages, and Mary Rose is one of them. I'm really thankful for her and all the other interpreters who are here pushing for languages. Masi. [End of translation.]

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. I will go to the Member for Hay River South.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Madam Chair. I don't have any notes. Well, I've got a few little notes here I jotted down, but I guess, when I look at the mandate and, like I said earlier today, as I look at where we are fiscally, we are in a tough position; but, again, this is a new government, new ideas, new hope to make the NWT, I guess I could say "great again," but we're already great, so better with what we have.

My focus, I guess, is going to be on the economy and business. I think, with the 19 Members that we have here, we've pretty well got all the issues covered off. There is interest in every area, and that's what I'm going to count on. I'm going to count on people who have a stronger interest or more knowledge than I have in certain areas to help me make the right decisions; but, when it comes to business and the economy, I'm glad that we have diversification in there. It's going to be a real positive impact on the region and smaller communities, but it's important also that this government takes a look at collaboration between departments, because I think that's been lacking in the past, like with housing and different projects. If the departments work together, there are only 45,000 of us here, there's no reason why we shouldn't all be working, just looking after ourselves, basically.

Having a strong economy, as well, you know, there is some despair out there; there are people losing hope, and it's up to us to at least give them tools to give them that hope back and make it stronger. So I guess, for me, it's all about the people. At the end of the day, I'll do what I can in this House, but, as an MLA, there are people who call me and text me and email me with their issues, and those are important. It's important to them, and it's important to me. Usually, they want you to deal with it right away, and most times you can see why they want you to deal with it right away.

One of the things I find with this government, when I look at some of those coming in and I think it's something this government should look at, is we're sending emails on to you to look at and deal with issues that should be routine and that should be able to be dealt with in your departments, in the communities and in the regions, yet we're taking time away from, you know, you should be doing bigger things, and we should be able to deal with the community issues, but we have to be able to somehow find a way where we can work with the departments and the regions; as an example, the Hay River Health Authority. You know, I guess maybe I'm supposed to be bringing any issues up to the Minister here, but my sense and the way I've always operated is just go to the source, make a decision, deal with it, and get it done, and people are happy.

So I think everything has been said by everybody here already, and I just want to get down and get to work. We have to roll something out to the communities and to the territories, and, if we don't do that, if we just sit here for another two months and they still haven't got anything, you know, we might as well just pack it up and let somebody else take our places. It's that easy. So I look forward to working with everybody, and there is still, I think, maybe one Minister who is giving hugs, I think Paulie; I'm not sure if anybody else is, but that's good. We're still getting along. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Lesa Semmler

All right, thank you, Member for Hay River South. I almost said Yellowknife South. I will now give the floor to the Member for Deh Cho.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Madam Chair. I represent the majority Aboriginal Dene people in my riding of Deh Cho, and I've also got two treaty groups that are at the table, the K'atlodeeche First Nations out of Hay River and also the Dehcho First Nations, which represents 10 Aboriginal Dene groups and two Metis groups, also. I think their struggles have been ongoing for quite some time, as every other claimant group. It's good to see that there are three that have reached self-government and are their own government bodies. I think that's what we're all aspiring to, to get to those points. I know there are difficulties in moving forward on many fronts, but I believe there is progress there, at the same time.

What I'm mostly encouraged about is that, you know, there are a couple of items within the mandate that we have selected that are at the top five that we're looking at, and I'm just kind of concerned that the Regular Members' voices are not really being heard when we want to move forward because, as I mentioned, when I first came to this House, the Assembly, I had a vision. That vision is the GNWT, the government of the day, works and walks hand in hand with all the Dene people of the Northwest Territories, as we are a majority population. All the groups there in the Northwest Territories, that we walk hand in hand to Ottawa and say, "Hey, this is what we have. We're working together. We recognize there is an Aboriginal Dene territory, and we're working with them, and here is what we want you to do," you know, to say that to the federal government, and to put meaning into wanting to settle and implement all the self-government agreements and treaty negotiations. You know, that's what we would really like to see, and we want to see it.

I said I wanted to see a committee at the beginning so that we can direct the negotiations team and not have it work the other way around. That's kind of what I saw, so we can say, "Hey, relax your policy or your demands a little bit and work with the Aboriginal groups." You know, dealing with subsurface rights, let's have a serious talk about this so that we can move forward. It's good for economic prosperity when we look at that picture in that sense. Maybe we have to look at, you know, we're talking about the UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Maybe we should put that first. Let's pass that. I don't believe that's going to cost us any money at all. What it's going to cost, I guess, is probably to look at our legislation and policies and making some changes in there. Those are the two biggest ones that I just wanted to mention at this point here. I probably have more questions as we go along. I thank the Chair for allowing me to speak. Mahsi.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Julie Green

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Madam Chair. In general, speaking to the mandate, I feel lucky because it did list a lot. If you've seen my pamphlet that I was handing out when I was doing my campaign and in my first remarks in the House of what I heard, I feel lucky because I did get a lot of the stuff that I spoke to in this mandate.

Housing was clearly identified in my region, and what we have in here, there's a start. There are a lot of issues. Regional decision-making, being part of a health authority that lost regional power, it is really important that the regions have their voice, and I think having that in our mandate will help give that back. Cost of living, I just recently received another $500 flat power bill that doesn't go along with everything else that I have, so the cost of living and especially in the Territories is driving the people out of here. They can't afford to live. That's in our mandate. We need to fix that. Education, we have early childhood in here. We have programs. We talk about the Polytechnic, and I am glad that we've got the Auditor General report now because we know from those middle years, we have issues. It is not in here, but we, as a government, have to continue business. We've got to provide good education for our students. Whether it's in here or not, I know we're going to work towards fixing that. Seniors: like my colleague from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, I, too, was raised by my great grandparents, and they had the opportunity to live in their house almost until the day they passed. That was something that they wanted to do. They never wanted to live in a facility, so I hear what my colleague from Nunakput says. Our elders do not want to be placed in facilities where they are away from their families, and so, we need to make sure they age in place with dignity and that we come up with really outside-the-box thinking, plans to keep them there. Increase in food: at my last position, I wrote support letters and referrals to Jordan's Principle and the Inuit Child First Initiative for families to buy food because they couldn't make it to the end of the month for their income support. These are things that are the realities in our communities.

Another one is the culturally respectful community and mental health addictions and aftercare. Our people are crying out to get help, but they do not want to leave. Again, like I said today earlier in my Member's statement and yesterday, people don't understand the things that Indigenous people have gone through and what their trauma is, and how is an outsider going to help us fix our trauma. We have to fix it from within. We're not asking for bricks and mortar. We are asking for places like the Indigenous wellness healing camps in our regional centres, in our communities. I spent one hour there last Friday, and, wow, I left there feeling refreshed, and I encourage you all to try it. Another area is residential health. Our people deserve to see the same person when they're telling their story. They shouldn't have to tell their story over and over and over again, every single time they walk into a health centre or speak with a physician. I am glad that we are going to try to increase the number of resident healthcare providers, and I'm just hoping that will help with our people wanting to access care again because that has been a barrier. That's all I have in regards to this. Thank you.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Julie Green

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Seeing there are no further general comments, comment, Madam Premier.