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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was know.

Last in the Legislative Assembly November 2015, as MLA for Weledeh

Won his last election, in 2011, with 89% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery October 8th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It’s always special when we have family members in the gallery and I’d like to particularly start by recognizing my wife, Marianne. Perhaps you could stand up.

---Applause

Much to be said there. I appreciate your comments about my mother. She was here when we started and I’m missing her today. I’d also like to recognize Chief Edward Sangris from Detah. Great to see you here, Chief.

I had quite a number of people show up in the gallery today in support of the work I do. They all seem to be movers and shakers, whether it be in our economy, our social work or our environmental work or putting the dots together for all three; my CA of four years, Craig Yeo; Ian Gilchrist, who we just heard mentioned; Peggy Holroyd; Lloyd Thiessen; Dan Wong; John Stevenson; Tasha Stevenson; Julie Green; Sue Wahlner; Rose Marie Jackson; Christine Wenman. I see Kevin O’Reilly has lasted out our droning on here today, and his wife, Suzette Montreuil, was here earlier, too; and I’d particularly like to recognize my CA, Bob Wilson, whose phone number is… Well, ask me if you don’t know it.

---Laughter

With regard to families, Melody, Judy, Rick and Jillian in the audience, I’d like to recognize them too. It’s always a special moment when you have family members here. Mahsi.

Appreciation For Constituents, Colleagues And Supporters October 8th, 2015

My wife, Marianne, in the audience today, has made many sacrifices and contributions to support my work. It is with the greatest love and appreciation that I say thank you, Marianne. I could not have done this without you.

Mr. Speaker, to you and all my colleagues in this Assembly, I say a big mahsi and onwards.

Appreciation For Constituents, Colleagues And Supporters October 8th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Indeed, I will be recognizing people, many of whom are in the gallery today. It’s been a huge privilege to represent the people of Weledeh and the people of the Northwest Territories, people who have my utmost respect and good wishes.

I would like to thank you all for the faith you have placed in me to speak on your behalf for the past eight years. Being your MLA has brought me closer to people and their issues and the struggles we all engage in to provide for healthy families and communities.

While I came into this position through concerns for the land, of which I am a student, I was soon engaged in the health, social and economic concern of the people in communities and the relationships between all of these. It is the interconnectedness of all issues that I have tried to emphasize with my colleagues and that I have strived to have recognized in any solution we propose.

I thank all those Ministers and their staff who have helped with so many constituency issues. Their willingness to try to look deeper and seek systemic solutions to those issues that arise all too frequently is much appreciated.

I thank the government and my colleagues for supporting more in-depth looks into policy options that prevent problems and attack underlying issues, rather than just symptoms.

The people we surround ourselves with are critical to achieving our goals. I would like to recognize the amazing Weledeh constituents who I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the past eight years, particularly Mr. Craig Yeo for fully half of my years in office. They have all left their mark and contributed to my work as scribes and sounding boards and to compassionate attention to myriad constituency issues. For those seeking a great CA, by the way, in the 18th, I suggest they give Bob Wilson a call.

My office neighbour, MLA Bisaro, has been a supportive colleague through my eight years and provided a fine example of the high standards we all strive for.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot say enough about the NWT Legislative Assembly’s outstanding Clerk, research, corporate, library and security staff that have supported us in our work. Completely dedicated, patient and thorough, they have been inspirational and enabling, and I thank them for their exceptional service.

Mr. Speaker, as usual, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters October 7th, 2015

Thanks to the Minister for that, and I recognize in some ways it’s a delicate situation in timing and we need a little time for the job to be done. I recognize that we’re talking about a future Assembly, but I hope if it is required that we can have some alacrity to deal with that legislative change despite having just done these amendments.

Thank you. That’s all I have.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters October 7th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’ve heard my colleagues and I’ve heard the Minister and I appreciate all that I’m hearing. Mental health and this legislation and the policies associated really are of deeply personal concerns to many people across the Northwest Territories, and I’ve heard, through the committee, that they were able to put their finger on that pulse of their community hearings. I know that we’ve heard from many individuals and families, organizations, institutions, First Nations. I think this is a very strong cross-section of our society and it’s a common issue that I think there’s a high degree of interest in doing a better job of addressing. In particular I would like to single out a family, some individuals, Connie and James Boraski and Ian Henderson, who delved into their personal experience, which involved some pain, but they had considerable perseverance and commitment and dedication to drawing the best results for everybody that they could from that experience and were very willing to share it. So I learned a lot through communications with those families.

I just want to back up the calls for the recognition of the need and the intentions to act and, in fact, there’s some work going on already on a youth adolescent strategy towards mental health. I see there’s a preventative element, which I always like to see, as well as progressive early intervention. This is very important. I see the intent to develop assisted community treatment for outpatients where sufficient resources exist, and we’ve heard some comments on the need for resources.

I’d also like to recognize, really, the hard work and the excellent work by committee and staff and the response to that work and interaction with the committee from the Minister and his staff and legal professionals, and that includes, of course, Glen Rutland, who was legal counsel for the Standing Committee on Social Programs. I was able to see them in action a number of times.

One specific thing I would like to mention is clause 9.(1) and I’ll just mention it here, Mr. Chair, rather than interrupt our review later, which is a response to some specific situations and in particular, for me, allows a patient who feels unsafe being on his or her own but is being released from hospital care and who wishes to remain admitted in the hospital may now, with this new legislation, seek a thorough review of his or her situation through a second opinion before being released from hospital care.

I think we’ve had some specific incidences and situations where that option was not available to a patient, with perhaps dire consequences. So, I really appreciate the committee going after that and the Minister and staff stepping in to address it in the most effective way. I would note that other clauses were developed or amended to support this clause, including, I highlight, the requirement to ensure that the patient understands their right to seek a second opinion before leaving hospital care. I think that’s obviously a requirement that if we have good legislation, it needs to be known about and understood and transparent. So there’s a commitment in the legislation to make that happen. Of course, the Minister did mention in his comments a recent report on the specific case study that he commissioned. He mentioned the five major recommendations and 11 supported recommendations. He also mentioned that some were very substantive requiring more time to deal with. So I guess if I had a question at this moment in time it would be should we anticipate any of those recommendations require a legislative response.

Is the Minister prepared at this time? Has the analysis been advanced to that degree that he can respond to that question? Thank you.

Motion 50-17(5): Medical Travel Policy, Carried October 7th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be supporting the motion and I’d like to offer comments that might be classified or categorized as tentative support.

The motion calls for immediately introducing a policy change to ensure access to non-medical escorts for the patients with particular issues. Then again on the last furthermore that the government produce the report to these recommended actions for consideration by the House by February 2016, that’s almost five months from now. We know that this is being worked on since 2011. So I think that’s a healthy opportunity to help the interim or the new government to do its work and provide its response.

We did begin this work in the 16th Assembly and we’re somewhat frustrated that we didn’t make more progress there. It’s gone for the life of this Assembly and I know that the department is actively working on it. This is the message: please get it done.

Consistently applied is the second ask here. That’s something that I think everybody in the House can support and I certainly do.

The mechanism, calling for a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation, again, that’s a no-brainer. We need to do that with all of our policies, and this one in particular, as already noted by my colleagues, is a very significant policy for our residents and a very expensive policy. So we need to make sure that we stretch our dollars as much as we can. I know, in fact, that we have done a considerable amount of work on the Medical Travel Policy. We are working on this 24/7, on-call process, where doctors can be reached 24/7 by a community nurse. We know that we’re working on getting Electronic Medical Records in place so there’s accurate and ready information on patients to help assess their situation. We’ve established Telehealth with equipment and skills in every community in the Northwest Territories so we can create images of patients in their community immediately and with immediate results, and through our IT they can be transferred to the appropriate doctor or professional, again, for immediate consideration and evaluation. All those things should be helpful.

So, finally, I guess, I would note, I think it’s already been noted very straightforwardly, the more dollars we put into this the less dollars there will be for actual health care, so it’s a fine balance and there will always be a tension. It’s not an easy one to do but I think, you know, we’ve been at this for five years at least and we should be able to see some vast improvements. I’d like to see that summarized in place and presented to committee by February of ’16, as called for in this motion. I’ll be supporting it, and thanks to the mover and seconder. Mahsi.

Mr. Bromley’s Reply October 7th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the sessional statement, the Premier asked three questions: Do we have the right vision? Can it be improved? What else can we do to make it a reality?

Those are big questions. I’d like to address at least some material around those. As far as the vision goes, the problem is it’s typically generic and can be interpreted in so many ways. Many say that this government lacks vision and though we have a brief vision statement that I don’t disagree with at all, I have to agree that we seem somehow to lack vision.

We talk about the need for inspiration and motivation here. For me, it’s something along the lines of I see our vision as healthy families and communities with a fully restored and healthy land with each of our residents supported in their pursuit of meaningful lives and achieving their full potential.

We face many challenges, indeed: poverty, lack of services, accelerating climate change, benefits of resource extraction going only to a few, unemployment and the need for local employment opportunities so people don’t have to leave their home communities, social measures, we know about mental health and addictions, diabetes and so on, the chronic diseases, physical activity levels, suicide and criminal activity and so on. The last time I looked, the income gap here in the Northwest Territories was the largest in the country – the poorest 20 percent, the richest 20 percent – and no indication that we are addressing that.

Our housing waiting lists grow longer and longer and our cost of living increases steadily. If not for millions of dollars in subsidies, our energy costs alone for families and homeowners would be even more unaffordable than they are, but ongoing, ever-increasing subsidies are really doing in our fiscal health and ability to efficiently provide services.

Certainly jobs in our small communities are scarce. We need an opportunity for people to find jobs in their home communities. This government continues to build very expensive roads for industry under the auspices of economic development. This is wrong and a misdirection of scarce financial resources. It is done with the hope that it works and is motivated politically through federal influence, rather than based on any real analysis, and again, such an approach is not serving us well.

Our subsidies to multi-nationals through crude infrastructure is wrong-headed and puts us into the hole financially with very little return and often more cost without the means to support them. Large costly infrastructure to support dreams and megaprojects just benefits shareholders far away and does little to the people of the North other than short-term, temporary jobs and part-time work. “Better than nothing” some people say, but is that the approach we want? Are we satisfied with crumbs rather than an intelligent locally appropriate and capacity-building investment in localized economic development that provides for meaningful and long-term jobs for people in their community rather than far away?

The Inuvik-Tuk Highway is a good example. Part-time seasonal jobs for a few years for a piece of infrastructure that industry has expressed no interest in that is hugely expensive, that is posted as economic development, a clear farce and possibly the opposite because it will be a very expensive piece of infrastructure to maintain, if not impossible in the face of climate change.

In contrast, think of the extraordinary benefits of a similar scale investment in moving the community of Tuk to safe ground, those willing to. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that that is a sad reality for people to face and perhaps it will not be done.

As an example, building wind generation in the Storm Hills for Inuvik, done with largely local resources, or addressing the billions of dollars in infrastructure damage anticipated over the next decade with permafrost thaw.

Continuing to support fossil fuel extraction when the science says it will only contribute to threatening human civilization from climate change is also a misuse of scarce government dollars and capacity. We say we agree with the science. It is leaving stranded assets and exacerbating our fiscal status by again wasting significant dollars, moving around the globe making promises to anybody about free access to these damaging resources. When we have dug ourselves into a deep hole, the first step is always stop digging and then figure out how to get out of it.

Our Greenhouse Gas Strategy recognizes the science and explicitly acknowledges that we must transform our economy so it is no longer dependent on fossil fuels. Along with the decision to act consistent with this requirement comes many opportunities for local economic development in every community. We must start requiring the use and development of renewable energy by territorial industry which, as in the case of Diavik Diamond Mine, as the Minister mentioned in the past, will place them at a competitive advantage.

Education, our Aboriginal graduation rates seem to be stuck mired in the 50 to 55 percent range and this is totally unacceptable to everybody in the House I know. Our kids in small communities are entering school with delayed development issues, again something that is really intolerable. We are doing some good work with a new emphasis on self-regulation, but the single biggest opportunity we have, as I just heard my colleague mention, is early childhood development, the first three years of life when the brain is growing and life-long capacities are being established. Those capacities enable multi-language development, life-long health, life-long avoidance of crime and addictions and they say investment in early childhood development is actually the greatest single economic development investment that we can make.

I’m not saying we have been inactive, Mr. Speaker. We have an Anti-Poverty Action Plan, wellness court in Yellowknife, a minimum wage increase and GNWT energy management. We have worked on education infrastructure and other infrastructure, worked on catching up on our maintenance deficit, mental health legislation, energy efficiency and government operations and so on. Now, albeit belatedly, we are looking at expressions of interest for 10 megawatts of renewable energy. We are finally starting to get there. There are many others that I’m not able to mention here. Yet there remains a huge opportunity for improvement in almost every area.

As I have probably mentioned before, we need to consider how we do things as much as what we actually do. We can be confident that we have non-renewable resources like minerals and plenty of them and there will always be interest in developing them when global economic conditions are strong. What would be a comprehensive response to our extreme income disparity and poverty, our serious environmental issues, our low population and migrant workers from afar, a high and persistent need for housing support, our multi-generational social issues of addictions, cultural loss and so on?

Here I shift from building into these challenges – we all understand them – and seeing what a new approach could be. The first aspect of that is we need a holistic shift in our thinking and focus. We need to focus on triple bottom line, full-cost accounting, prevention first, dealing with the basics that enables our potential in all of these areas. We need to shift away from the megaprojects and multinational stakeholders and towards serving the local needs and establishing strong local economies as foundations on which to build capacity, self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship, and on which communities can then seek out the non-renewable resource development that they want to see.

This can be done in a practical way by simply serving the immediate needs of Northerners. That is the basic needs: jobs, food, shelter, health, art and entertainment, all of which can be, to some degree, and often largely, derived from local and largely renewable sources. We need to localize our economies to provide the economic foundation on which communities can choose to participate in resource protection and the management of our land.

Our huge subsidy budget, and we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars, used to support people through income assistance and so on, and communities through income support, energy and housing subsidies and so on can be used much more effectively to contribute to this transformation in ways that resolve issues rather than simply maintain people in a depressed economic and social state.

In such an approach, early returns and achievements can be found through emphasizing, first of all:

• Local food production and processing. We still await our agriculture strategy after my modest eight years in politics.

• Local energy production, and there are lots of examples of that. Again, we need the policies that enable that.

• Sourcing local building materials for local projects to the extent doable.

• Breaking down territorial infrastructure projects to allow local contractors to take on certain aspects of the projects, something, again, we’ve talked about but we don’t seem to get on with.

• Local political employment and decision-making.

• Fostering a sense of community cooperation and collaboration amongst residents and communities.

How would we deal with some of the specific issues under this approach? Let’s start with housing. We know that’s a big one.

Housing units can be very modest in size. They can be small, and they can be in multi-unit buildings, as we are now doing, with common spaces to promote community benefits to residents, and these, I’m thinking of entertainment spaces and even kitchen spaces, communal kitchen spaces, super insulated and energy efficient, locally built, locally built even if time to build them needs to be relaxed from our normal expectations of a fast schedule, a one-season schedule, and initial costs may be a bit higher, but the benefits are improved local skills, local knowledge, and improved local knowledge for efficient and effective maintenance of those same structures, and of course, Housing First needs to be implemented so that people can start with a roof over their head, and again, we need to complement that with community pairings of families and Housing First clients to help provide such supports.

What about the issues of income? What are some alternatives to income assistance? Again, a number of us have made statements on consideration of basic income guarantees. I think it offers some real benefits through reduced administrative costs and complaints and much more reliability in the system. In fact, studies have shown that whenever they’ve tested these things, the benefits have been dramatic and very long lasting. We need to determine community living wage with known standardized processes, and that’s becoming well established now, and promote the living wage programs amongst employers who are able to adopt that policy, and perhaps recognize the need for youth wages for those who are just entering the market. For able-bodied, unemployed housing clients, we need to provide a range of opportunities to work and require some participation having given them a selection of opportunities. It might be 10 hours of work in the community garden, providing a cord of wood a week to the distributed energy facility in the community, perhaps some time doing housing maintenance work or whatever. This, of course, would not only be productive work, it would instill a sense of pride, hone skills and, indeed, likely sponsor a spirit of entrepreneurship when people recognize these skills are important and valued.

Governance. We have some real opportunities in strengthening our community governments and local decision-making. We have a start through some of our MACA program, but again, we need to increase our work to raise capacity but also shift to a collaborative, cooperative, sustainable community theme that involves community members more with obvious returns. At the territorial level, politicians need to listen to people, share decision-making and improve transparency, and perhaps we’ll hear more about that.

Education. Again, our single biggest opportunity is significantly enhanced effort on early childhood development needs to be NWT wide and start with small communities. The universal child care is a program that if well-conceived and implemented would be an important opportunity for improvement. It requires well-trained early childhood educators, and we need to bring our Aurora College programs up to standard for that. Understanding of play-based learning and quality spaces for program delivery. Again, this has been recognized as the biggest opportunity to invest in economic development.

The resolution of trauma. Because of our history of residential schools and high crime rates and suicide and so on, our people face many serious realities and experienced trauma that affects them throughout their lives. Along with early childhood development, there are amazing advances happening in the resolution of trauma that people carry often unconsciously but often also very obvious. There is much history to this and it has resulted in debilitation and also multi-generation impacts. The first approach, of course, is to prevent to the extent possible, and I think early childhood development, the extension of our health family programs through communities and so on are going to help with that. But again, the major advancements in treatment and resolution of trauma issues is something this government needs to get on top of and progressively go after. Again, results freeing up our potential, dealing with our issues in a holistic way and always with prevention at the forefront.

We are indeed showing interest in these approaches and we’re playing around the edges of them, but we seem to have unbounded tolerance for spending big bucks with little return and we have little will to really commit and shift resources toward these new approaches so that we can really progress and advance and realize the opportunities that we have. Again, these are real with real potential, and I remain an optimist that our government will get in gear and move on these progressive actions, starting with the 18th Assembly, and recognition that the old ways are not working. We know that our biggest resource, as my colleague from the Sahtu has mentioned here, is our people, and I remain convinced that that’s true, but we need to provide the support and enabling structures to make sure that they can realize their full potential and contribute to these holistic solutions.

On that, I will finish.

Question 948-17(5): Greenhouse Gas Strategy 2011 October 7th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Diavik did a great job there and put them at a competitive advantage, as well, so they’re saving money.

In 2011 we adopted the useless strategy of allowing a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions to 2005 levels rather than a decrease to 1990 levels as the science that Minister Miltenberger subscribes to says is required. What a waste of opportunity leading to added costs to our people. The strategy ends by committing to a new strategy in 2015. We certainly won’t do it, and the 18th won’t meet that deadline.

What has the Minister done to develop a new strategy and how will it actually help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as the science calls for and the Minister recognizes is required?

Question 948-17(5): Greenhouse Gas Strategy 2011 October 7th, 2015

It is a bizarre response that the Minister knows we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions when the strategy he produced in 2011 for a five-year period said we would greatly increase our greenhouse gas. That was our goal, to increase our greenhouse gas production in the Northwest Territories. But I’m glad to hear him say that recognition, even if it’s against the policy he’s put in place.

The 2011 Greenhouse Gas Strategy recognized the necessity of transforming our economy from one based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy. That’s almost a quote. With the right policy, industry could play a supportive role, or alternatively, it could continue to drag us down without defining policy in legislation.

Is the Minister finally convinced that we need to establish renewable energy standards and requirements for industrial development in the Northwest Territories? Mahsi.

Question 948-17(5): Greenhouse Gas Strategy 2011 October 7th, 2015

That’s in line with the things I’m hearing. Thanks to the Minister for that.

Eight years ago Natural Resources Canada concluded 40 to 75 percent of the Inuvik buildings alone will suffer $60 million in foundation damage during the building’s lifetime from permafrost loss. Shortly after that we wrote off a $14 million brand new young offenders facility in Inuvik. Today, estimates of costs to public and NWT infrastructure are coming in at billions of dollars over the next 15 years with similar costs expected for private, commercial and institutional infrastructure.

I’m wondering – I’m recognizing that this is already happening more each year – how is the government planning to mitigate this threat to our infrastructure and our economy? Mahsi.