Last in the Legislative Assembly September 2007, as MLA for Great Slave
Won his last election, in 2003, with 65% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that on Wednesday, August 22, 2007, I will move the following motion: Now therefore I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River South, that this Legislative Assembly strongly recommends the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board extend Mr. Denny Rodgers' appointment as chair of the Governance Council to April 12, 2008. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
social Implications Of Scan Legislation August 20th, 2007
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Most of the presenters expressed a view that while they would like to see the government introduce better means to address illegal and illicit activities in their communities, evicting people from their homes may, in fact, cause more social problems in communities. There is also a question about how effectively SCAN legislation would address the issue it is designed to address.
In Yellowknife, Ben McDonald stated that "It seems like the act is designed as good politics but I don't think it's necessarily designed as good social policy or as good social development policy..."
We heard repeatedly questions like: What happens to a person when they are evicted in a community without market housing? Who do they stay with? What are the consequences for families that rely on the person evicted under SCAN as the primary breadwinner? To where do these families move?
Even in the larger communities, questions were raised about whether the SCAN legislation is the most cost effective or efficient tool to address the issues we are all concerned about.
Lydia Bardak of Yellowknife, representing the John Howard Society, pointed out "Every bootlegger and every drug dealer that you remove will be replaced by someone else. So if this is an attempt to try and reduce substance abuse, it is not going to cut it. Restrictions don't work; prohibition doesn't work. The reasons persons turn to illegal substances or substance abuse are very strong and very compelling. Not addressing those reasons is irresponsible."
A common perspective is that there are severe housing shortage issues in all communities in the Northwest Territories, and Bill 7 would only compound this problem in the absence of a plan by government to address it in implementing the SCAN legislation.
Chief Leon Lafferty of Behchoko pointed out that if you want to clean up the communities, make sure that you do not hurt the people by making the social problems worse.
It should be made clear that the people do not object to holding the perpetrators under the SCAN legislation accountable. What they are saying is that in small communities, once these people are evicted under SCAN, not all of them are going to move out of town, which means that most of them will become homeless and ineligible for public housing. They will then rely on their families and friends to provide housing, and this would exacerbate overcrowding in situations where there are already housing shortages.
This was made abundantly clear in comments made by Veryl Gruben of Tuktoyaktuk in speaking of the impacts on a small community, who stated "If someone gets evicted immediately for something, some illegal activity, whether it be alcohol, drugs or gambling, they're only going to go to someone else's house and create more problems."
Saeed Shesheghar, a social worker in Tuktoyaktuk, said, "I have a concern about what would happen to people thrown out of their homes." He went on to say, "A lot of these people are going to end up at social services and trying to ask for help because they are homeless."
As well, there are questions about whether more than a million dollars that would be allocated for this program could not be better used by employing more police drug dogs or more RCMP officers in communities. Addressing the lack of treatment programs and services for those affected by substance abuse is another issue that people feel should be weighed against the priority of investing in SCAN.
Saeed Shesheghar of Tuktoyaktuk was quite eloquent in stating, "People are suffering here in this community. Bootlegging and other gambling problems are actually bleeding the whole community. If we haven't answered
that question yet, trying to come up with an act like this is a band-aid solution."
The committee appreciates that justice, health and social services and housing issues are separate and fall under different departmental mandates.
However, our people do not understand why one part of the government would, in pursuing its mandate, create a whole set of new problems for other parts of the government that are working together to address the existing issues.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn the continuation of the report over to the Member for Monfwi. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Braden's Reply August 20th, 2007
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, colleagues, and every Member of this Assembly. Indeed, anyone who ever chooses to run for public office knows how intensely personal that decision is. For me, the choice was a combination of almost 30 years of interest and involvement in all sorts of elections and public affairs at every level of our country's government. It was my various work experience as reporter, tourism manager, a small business owner, a senior corporate director, all of it here in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, that gave me the sense that, perhaps, I could make a contribution here in this Assembly.
It was a combination of watching a lot of northern MLAs, town councillors and federal MPs over those years and seeing how their decisions, ideas and values affected me, my family and my community. Mr. Speaker, I came to see that most of them shared at least one thing in common. That was a belief that if our communities, regions and our nation are to be safe and prosperous places, good people need to get together and make the decisions that will help make this happen. That is why we have elections. That is what government is for. For the most part, Mr. Speaker, I found that these people did not carry some great manifest mantle of political destiny. If they did, it was usually quickly dispelled, sometimes brutally on election day. Neither did they aspire to be champions who are single-handedly going to turn the world upside down. For the most part, they were ordinary people who earnestly offered their time, skills and strength in the service of their community.
When I ran for my first term, Mr. Speaker, in the fall of 1999, that was a unique event that I wanted to be part of. I know a number of people here who ran in that election also wanted to be part of it. It was the creation of the new NWT as Nunavut had just been created months before, Mr. Speaker. Many new horizons were opening for us here at the turn of the century. I wanted to be part of it. This is what I wanted to bring to the table when I decided, now some 10 years ago, to run for office in this Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, that is the public side. The personal side for me was really not whether I could handle losing an election. I had enough experience of that in several of the campaigns that I had worked with previously.
I figured I could handle that, but, Mr. Speaker, how was I going to handle winning? More specifically, how was my family going to cope with the demands of having a son, a husband, a dad, a brother and an uncle out there in public display every day for the next four years? I know it was going to be okay when my wife, Valerie, said this to me. She said, "Bill, go ahead. I believe in you. If you don't do it now, you will regret it. And so will I, because you will never stop complaining."
Mr. Speaker, when a candidate offers up their name on a ballot and a voter puts their "X" beside that name, it really is, in effect, a contract. If enough voters sign that contract, you have the job as their MLA. The deal is quite simple. It is to represent all constituents to the best of your ability. I hope I have done that for the constituents of Great Slave. I am grateful to the voters of my constituency and the chance to serve them for the past eight years and, through their support, to serve the people of the Northwest Territories.
I have tried to give my voice, Mr. Speaker, especially to those who don't have a voice: the disabled and their families seeking equitable treatment and a chance to succeed on their terms; to those marginalized by illnesses, addictions and many other situations that our policies and budgets do not yet deal fairly with and compassionately with; to those who are captured in the cycle of poverty and hopelessness, all too often fostered in some part or to some degree, Mr. Speaker, by our own government's lack of progressive thinking. Perhaps most significant for me, Mr. Speaker, is the plight of those injured workers who have fallen through the cracks in our WCB system and who, in the future, will have a WCB that is more responsive and accepting of their situation.
Mr. Speaker, I have also tried to shed light on the arts, festivals and events across the North that help to define us, give us our identity and make us who we are: northerners with many great talents and a multilingual,
multicultural heritage that is as strong and vibrant as any in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, in our consensus system, it is expected that each MLA will become very well versed in every aspect of our government and be able to respond to any and all ideas and issues. I know that I have disappointed some of my constituents in these areas. But I also know that I have satisfied others. On balance, Mr. Speaker, I believe that I have satisfied my own desire to have been a part of this Assembly and to have helped make the decisions that will make the NWT a safe and prosperous place. Thank you, voters of Great Slave, for your trust and your confidence.
Mr. Speaker, it would be presumptuous of me to tell the next Legislative Assembly what it should or should not do. I have chosen to give that job to the next MLA for Great Slave and I wish him or her all the best. But I do have a message to leave, Mr. Speaker, for the voters and all the candidates in the election coming on October 1st. Mr. Speaker, a consensus government is under threat. It suffers from complacency within the Legislative assembly here and lack of openness and transparency to the voters and from a federal government that has no real tangible agenda for the social and political role the North should play in the Canadian federation.
Being an MLA in this system is hard work. It demands unity to make our system work, yet it has virtually no discipline or authority to compel Members to do so. MLAs it seems are simply expected to work with each other. I believe that our committees and our Cabinet in this 15th Assembly have failed on many occasions to work together. The decision to relocate the Territorial Treatment Centre from Yellowknife, the toothless socio-economic agreement on the pipeline and the so-called letter of comfort to the pipeline proponents are all examples, Mr. Speaker, of where Cabinet and committee could have done a better job of working together for the people of the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, I have been a strong proponent of a more open and public system of consensus government, especially at the committee level. In this area, I believe we are actually one of Canada's most secretive assemblies. That could be remedied, in part, by having more public committee sessions so the public can see and hear our discussions and deliberations. Consensus, ironically, Mr. Speaker, actually allows too much information to be cloaked behind closed doors. Our successor assemblies, I believe, can fix that. One of the things that is in the works here that I am very excited about is a new co-operative and television channel and broadcast network with our colleagues in Nunavut that can open up tremendous avenues for communication and information sharing and inclusion with the public of what we do in this Assembly. Please do not take for granted that consensus can continue. It's going to take constant care, hard work and forthright honest and open communication.
Mr. Speaker, the federal government, of course, holds the purse strings in the NWT but it also holds the increasingly complex controls of land claims, self-government and regulatory processes here in the NWT. Its lack of coordination and disjointed strategies have created enormous divisions across our political, social and economic agendas here in the NWT as Canada, the aboriginal claimant groups and the GNWT spar at each other at the expense of the whole.
I believe these rifts are at the heart of why we cannot achieve a collective devolution and resource revenue sharing agreement, Mr. Speaker. Canada has to declare whether it's ready to let the NWT truly come into its own. We must not stop in pursuit of that goal, Mr. Speaker, because when it happens we will be more than just an energy and resource bank for all of Canada. We will truly be a land of hope and prosperity that we all want and deserve for our children.
Mr. Speaker, I have many people to thank for the opportunity and the support I have received as the MLA for Great Slave. Let me start here with the people who are under your direction. Mr. Speaker, the staff of the Legislative Assembly and my first term led by the legendary David Hamilton, the Clerk from my first term; and a legend in his own time now, I believe, Mr. Tim Mercer, our present Clerk.
Their teams of support staff including administrative, legislative and legal help have been outstanding. I would like to say a special thank you, Mr. Speaker, to the research staff; Robert Collinson, Regina Pfeifer, Susan Martin, and led by Colette Langlois for their tremendous backing.
Loretta Sabirsh and Vera Raschke have provided constant support and attention to me and I know for many, many other Members, in library services. I also want to recognize very specially Verna Currimbhoy, Members' secretary, who toils selflessly on our behalf upstairs in our offices. Thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker, no one gets elected by themselves. I have had the great good fortune to have a very experienced and a very conscientious campaign manager in Ms. Hilary Jones for both of my election campaigns and I had a schoolmate, Abe Theil, as my official agent, in both election campaigns. I want to thank them both very, very sincerely for their time, commitment and the belief they put in me.
Mr. Speaker, no one can do this job by themselves. Our constituency assistants, CAs as we call them, are people who do much of the legwork when constituents call. I have been especially fortunate to have one man, John Argue, as my CA for all eight years here. I think that's a record that few of us can say.
His intimate knowledge of the NWT, of government and of this city is unique. Above all, Mr. Speaker, his loyalty and wise counsel make me very grateful to have had him by my side working for me and the constituents of Great Slave.
I said earlier that this job is a very personal commitment and that could never have happened without my family at my side. Mr. Speaker, my older brother, George, former MLA in this Assembly and the first elected leader to the Executive Council in 1979, is a special inspiration and an
ongoing support to me; my mother, Esther, my daughters Rae and Carmen who have joined us in the Assembly, Mr. Speaker; my sister, Sandy, and brothers Pat and Max and their families. You never let me down.
My wife and I will be married 30 years in October, Mr. Speaker. Now it is time to return to do some of the other things we want to do.
Val and I will be relocating temporarily to Vancouver where I plan to go to school for a year and where she will have a chance to spend some real time with her family who reside in that part of Canada. We will return to the North.
The NWT is a great land with many great people, Mr. Speaker. I am proud to be part of it. Thank you.
Question 152-15(6): Longstanding Workers' Compensation Claims August 20th, 2007
Mr. Speaker, what steps will the WCB be taking to address the relatively large caseload of longstanding chronically unresolved issues for injured workers? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question 152-15(6): Longstanding Workers' Compensation Claims August 20th, 2007
Mr. Speaker, thank you. My questions this afternoon are for the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board, Mr. Krutko. It regards the plight of longstanding unresolved cases of injured workers and specifically the widely publicized case of Mr. Ivan Valic, a worker who was injured while he was helping to build the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool here in Yellowknife some 19 years ago now.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Valic's case was a subject of a Supreme Court ruling that found the WCB's policies and procedures wanting and an instruction developed to make sure that his case was reheard at appeal. But my understanding is that even 18 months after that court ruling, Mr. Valic's case still remains unresolved. I would like the Minister to advise the Assembly what is the status of Mr. Valic's longstanding case with the WCB?
Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery August 20th, 2007
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am very pleased to stand here today and recognize my wife of almost 30 years now, Valerie;...
...my mother of all my life, Esther; a great friend and teacher of many people across the North, Ed Jeske.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to recognize a constituent and leader in the arts community here in Yellowknife, Mr. Glen Abernethy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Longstanding Workers' Compensation Claims August 20th, 2007
Merci beaucoup, monsieur le president. One of the most frequent issues that I have raised in this House and had a little bit of an inventory done 50 times, Mr. Speaker, in the last eight years, has been the plight of injured workers. It's not about those people whose injury or disability has been expeditiously handled by the WCB and the vast majority of cases have, indeed, been handled this way. Rather, my concern has been for those injured workers that have complex, unconventional injuries who have challenged the WCB for years. In their quest for justice, some of them have lost virtually everything in their personal and professional lives, everything that is except their dignity and their belief that the wrong that's been committed against them must be made right.
Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's review in the performance of the WCB in this area discovered some 30 injured workers with longstanding, regrettable, unresolved cases. In the case of one worker, Ivan Valic, I was full of optimism in December of 2005 when the Supreme Court of the NWT ruled that Mr. Valic, whose injury dates back 19 years, ruled that Mr. Valic had indeed been wronged, his Charter rights have been violated and his right to natural justice denied. Even today, 18 months after this ruling, he still waits for justice. He's not alone. Longstanding unresolved cases like his will, I am certain, continue and should come before this Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, on a forward looking basis, this Assembly, committees, the Auditor General for Canada, the Governance Council and Ministers have done excellent progressive work on new legislation that is now before this Assembly. This is a cause for optimism that our WCB will indeed improve in the way it meets the needs of all workers and employers.
It is important for this Assembly, Mr. Speaker, for workers and for employers who pay the cost of this vital part of the society to stay engaged and involved as the WCB moves through the important changes that it faces in the future. Merci beaucoup.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the clarification. The detail that we were provided with, Mr. Chairman, explains that this money is needed because of higher than planned expenditures in these four
different categories. This is obviously something that's in front of us every year. I wanted to ask to what extent is this a sustained trend and are we able to forecast and budget for these kind of costs with any more predictability, Mr. Chairman?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A question of clarification. The information provided indicates that this amount, $3 million, is about 50 percent more than the amount originally allocated for this kind of activity here, which basically, Mr. Chairman, relates to rising expenses in out-of-territory hospitals, physicians from outside of the NWT. I just wanted to confirm, am I interpreting this correctly? Are the expenses that are being requested here, the funds being requested, about a 50 percent increase over what was originally budgeted, or can the Minister offer some context for this number?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yes, I appreciate that in some of the really longstanding deals before the whole consciousness of environmentalism and liability was really at the fore, that our government probably did not include the kind of contingent liability things that we should have in the transfer. I accept that. The main purpose of my question here is to make sure that on each and every one of these properties that we're dealing with and potentially taking over, that this is one of the criteria that we're looking at to explore whether there was a previous owner/operator and to what extent, if any, can they also be held responsible for the cost of the cleanup. I just want to make sure that that is part of the process that we use when we book these kinds of liabilities. That's all, Mr. Chairman.
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