Last in the Legislative Assembly December 1999, as MLA for Tu Nedhe
Won his last election, in 1995, with 68% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Member's Statement 26-13(8): Level Of Commitment Required By Mlas September 10th, 1999
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When you are a Member of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Speaker, I do not know about anybody else, I can only reflect on things I have done for my constituency. You do everything from fix peoples' toilets to try to get them housing, to get them lawyers, to help with education, help with health problems, you counsel them, you help with deaths and you help with general things that the territorial
government supply. That is a full-time job. The Member of the Legislative Assembly job is full-time.
Later today, Mr. Speaker, we are going to pass a new Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act that makes it very clear that Members of Cabinet, if you own a business, you have to put it in blind trust. That is the right thing to do. You should have to do that if you are a business person. What about Members of the Legislative Assembly, ordinary Members of the Legislative Assembly? There is no fine line, Mr. Speaker, it must be a big line, a thick line. If you are a businessman, can you walk into a deputy minister's office and say, I need this for my business or I want to do this for my business? You are an elected Member. Can any Member sit across from another Member and not be a Member at any given time? No, they cannot. You are always a Member 24 hours a day. You are a Member of the Legislative Assembly and supposed to be representing your constituency. There are prime examples of that already.
Mr. Seamus Henry, my good colleague to my left, can he walk into a deputy minister's office and talk about business and say I am only coming here as a businessman? What is the public's perception of that? Did he leave his MLA job at the door? I do not think you can do that. I urge constituents in the Western Arctic, ask the question of those candidates, no matter who it is, are you going to work for us every waking moment of your life for the next four years because, if you are going to represent people, you should do it properly and you should do it full time?
We are passing this act today and it clearly states Members get paid 70 some thousand dollars per year. That is what they get paid and this act is good. Now finally people can understand what Members of the Legislative Assembly are getting paid. But is that a part-time job? Is that part-time wages? It is suppose to be a full-time job. Always talk to your candidates and ask them the question, are they fully committed to work for them and also are you fully committed to the North, or do you have a house in BC that you are going to retire to if you lose or retire to right after you are finished, after you make decisions in this House, then are you going to go south and leave the North to live with those decisions? Ask those potential candidates, are you only keeping an apartment in Yellowknife, an apartment and you have your wife and a house down in BC, is that commitment? I do not think so, Mr. Speaker.
Can an MLA, an ordinary Member walk into a Minister's office and say, I have come to meet with you as a business person and I would like you to increase the rent in my apartment buildings or the rent on my leases and extend the leases? Where do you draw the line? You cannot. That is why I would encourage all candidates to put their businesses in blind trusts if they are going to run for an election. I would encourage all voters to ask those candidates whether or not they are going to do that and commit to the people for the job that they are supposed to do.
The election is coming soon, I wish everybody luck that is running. It has been a pleasure working with the Members of this Assembly and with that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you.
Member's Statement 26-13(8): Level Of Commitment Required By Mlas September 10th, 1999
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to talk a little bit about being a Member of the Legislative Assembly and what that means and what type of work does that also include. It is just about 12 years ago, Mr. Speaker, that I ran for office as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Tu Nedhe. Only yourself, Mr. Speaker, has served longer in this House. Mr. Kakfwi has served the same length of time as I have. Mr. Kakfwi served as a Minister for the past 12 years. I have had the opportunity of serving around five and a half years as an ordinary Member in this Legislative Assembly.
What does it mean for people to run for MLA? What does it really mean? When people first run do they have any idea at all of what they are getting themselves into? Do they realize when they wake up the day after election they are no longer just a person, they are now an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly. They now represent people. That is their job. Do people run just for a job or do people run to do a job? I myself, Mr. Speaker, ran 12 years ago to do a job, to come to Yellowknife to change the way the government worked. The people wanted a change and I hope over the past 12 years we were able to create some good change. When you run and when you do become a Member of the Legislative Assembly your life changes. In order to do the job properly you have to be totally committed, 100 percent of your time has to be committed to representing your people. That is what they elected you to do. In a very short period of time some of the Members of this Legislative Assembly will seek re-election. Many others, citizens of the Northwest Territories will also seek election. I urge the voters in the Northwest Territories in every riding to ask the candidates about their commitment to representing them as constituents. What is their commitment or do they have other commitments as well? I seek unanimous consent to continue, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I request a recorded vote on this motion. Thank you.
Item 20: Report Of Committee Of The Whole July 30th, 1999
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to return to item 6. Thank you.
Thank you, Madame Chairperson. So this decision that the government has made, and you have heard it many, many times in this House, decisions made on the advice they receive. So they have received advice from the architectural firm, from DPW, from construction architects in DPW, those types of people. They have received advice from the Justice department and the bureaucracy itself. Was there any advice received at all from caregivers or program delivery people or people that are involved in rehabilitation of inmates or youths, people who are involved in young offenders programs, people that are involved in developing specific institutions or specific rehabilitation centres in southern Canada or anywhere else in Canada that are specific to aboriginal people by taking
into account the culture of aboriginal people and rehabilitation. Anything like that? Where does that fit into the mix? Where in his consultation did that fit in the Minister's consultation process?
Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Who in the architectural firm has experience and background in rehabilitation programs for youth and adults and considers that the majority of them, 90 percent, are aboriginal inmates and that this would be best for the inmates?
Thank you, Madam Chairperson. It was the architectural firm that made this recommendation to the government to put them closer together, semi-attached or something, so that they can share the same facilities. The architectural firm said that it is cheaper than the original idea of renovation, enhancement and two separate facilities. It is the architectural firm that recommended back to the government to do this. Is this correct?
Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Just so I understand what happened here and we are of the same understanding as the Minister, this was going to be a renovation of the existing facility. It was going to be a new facility for young offenders. Then you went out for some preliminary costing, and the architectural firm said that it does not make sense to renovate Yellowknife Correctional Centre because it is going to cost so many million dollars, that it makes more sense to build a new one. No one ever said that to go back and renovate makes more sense than to build a new one. I would just let the Minister know that as well. It makes more sense and makes better economics to build a new facility and to combine the two. That is what the architectural firm said.
Thank you. You know that this is the first time, as the Minister said, that he has a budget in Justice, and it is probably long overdue. But I still have serious concerns about the process followed. No matter how they want to slip and slide around this issue, this is a new project. It is as simple as that. The scope of work has changed to a new building. It is as simple as that. Why the government would not want to go out and meet with the standing committee responsible and get some other advice. This is a huge expenditure. Previously the decision was made, you had no choice but to spend the money at that facility because it was a renovation decision. There are no questions about Inuvik's facility. That never, ever changed. It never, ever changed. As far as my understanding, it never, ever changed. It was always to be in Inuvik, it is still there. But Cabinet made so many great decisions that I do not remember them all.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson. It is interesting, I do not know if there is a lack of understanding or if there is just not a will at all, once a decision is made, to listen to any other input on it. I see the slipping and the sliding. A renovation can be changed to build a new building because the function of the program delivery has not changed. That is amazing. It has not changed the project. That is totally, totally amazing. The next thing we are going to hear in this Legislative Assembly is probably that we have now decided to build a brand new highway between Fort Rae and Yellowknife instead of reconstructing the old one over many years - and we can do that all on our own - because the function of the program delivery has not changed. There are still going to be the same vehicles going over and over it. It is the same type of issue. Some of us may be going on the campaign trail later, but I think some are there already.
It is amazing to hear the Minister, who did not have the decency or the foresight to follow the process and consult with the committee or Members that it affects, now offer for us to have some input into the building design. He is going to be involved. I do not know what his qualifications are, but he is going to be involved. There are a lot of people and organizations in Canada that say these cement buildings with bars, stuck on the outskirts of populated areas to house aboriginal inmates, do not do their job. The numbers of people going in there just keep going up and up and up, and there is never any change. The numbers just increase. I have seen programs and talked to people. People are taking different approaches on how to house and give program delivery to aboriginal inmates. There are different approaches all through Canada. It seems ironic, Madam Chairperson, that in the Northwest Territories, where aboriginal people are just about the majority, close to 50 percent of the population, we are going to build a building to warehouse inmates. I think it is safe to say it is over 90 percent aboriginal people in our correctional centres, but there is no imagination to do anything different.
Before this Minister became the Minister, the previous Minister had no choice but to make the decisions he made, for the simple reason that you are talking about a renovation of a building. Nothing else, just a renovation. You had to do it because of a fire marshal's order. Now all of a sudden you have brand new dollars. You are going to build a brand new facility. What do they want to build? They want to build a cement building with bars on the windows and a gym that young offenders and adult offenders can share, and I believe it is a kitchen that they both get to share as well. I do not know if that is the answer at all. I do not even know if this is the proper place to put a brand new building of that type. I do not even know, if you have $35 million kicking around, if that is the right approach. I do not know that. I do not have the information that you all have. What I do know is that if you take the opportunity to consult with the standing committee, if you take the opportunity to consult with MLAs and other interest groups, if you have the time, maybe somebody with some qualifications, maybe somebody with some experience may have another answer. Then again, maybe those same people will say, you are doing the right thing, that is the right thing to do. I do not know that. We have not been given the opportunity to go explore that. The Minister says this is the first time his department has a capital expenditure budget. Well, if it is the first time, he should attempt to do it right. He should attempt to make the right decision. But then alas, again, you would never want to question the Minister that knows what is good for all because he has made the decision. He went south. I think he went to Alberta and Saskatchewan. I am not sure where he went, but he went somewhere anyhow where these facilities exist. No, no I am bragging you up, Mr. Minister. You are such a great guy with great vision. Very short-sighted vision but great, anyhow.
But what I cannot understand is what we are attempting to do and we are meeting great resistance from the government is to have the ability to go out and get some advice as well. We would like that opportunity as well. You have had the advice of your departments, of the bureaucracy, of the people in the system. I do not know if you had advice from people outside the system, from the inmates themselves. I do not know if you have gotten that advice. I have not seen any of that information. Maybe this is the greatest decision that was made in the 13th Legislative Assembly, or is going to be made. I do not know that.
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