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Last in the Legislative Assembly September 1995, as MLA for Yellowknife North

Won his last election, in 1991, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committee Motion 105-12(7): To Amend Clause 118 Of Bill 25, Carried June 22nd, 1995

Mr. Chairman, I move that clause 118 of Bill 25 be amended by adding "including parents' advisory committees," after "committees," in proposed paragraph (1)(g).

Committee Motion 102-12(7): To Amend Clause 77 Of Bill 25, Carried June 22nd, 1995

Mr. Chairman, I move that clause 77 of Bill 25 be amended by repealing proposed subsection (3) and by substituting the following:

(3) A public denominational school may provide religious instruction and

(a) may conduct religious exercises

(i) in a manner that reflects the religious values of the majority of the ratepayers who petitioned the Minister in accordance with section 97 for the establishment of the public denominational school,

(ii) in accordance with the directions of the Minister; and (b) that religious instruction shall be provided or conducted in a manner that is respectful of the spiritual and religious values of all the students.

Committee Motion 101-12(7): To Amend Clause 71 Of Bill 25, Carried June 22nd, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I seek unanimous consent to return to clause 77. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Evolution Of Government System June 22nd, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think now, when Mr. Pollard and the government are putting together the transition document, is the time to think about some of these things. If we don't do them, the results could be quite disastrous.

Next time, we should look at institutionalizing regular meetings of Cabinet with aboriginal/municipal leaders. There have to be regular opportunities for aboriginal/municipal leaders to meet with the Legislative Assembly and with committees of the Legislative Assembly. The next government should follow the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance, to have a separate intergovernmental affairs secretariat and aboriginal affairs secretariat, and we should look at setting up some bureaucratic structure that includes bureaucrats from aboriginal organizations that meet on a regular basis.

Unless there is a free flow of information some formalized mechanisms to work out problems and strategize, inevitably we will be turning on ourselves. I think the future of the Northwest Territories will depend on increased cooperation and problem solving amongst all the elected leaders of the Northwest Territories. It is my own feeling that we are not going to have the luxury to be able to fight amongst ourselves. There is too much at stake. At the end of the day, either we hang together or we are going to be hung separately one by one. Thank you very much.

---Applause

Evolution Of Government System June 22nd, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For the last day, I thought I would talk a bit about the need for increased cooperation amongst the elected leaders of the Northwest Territories. I think the misunderstanding we recently had between the aboriginal leaders and our Legislative Assembly brings home a plight, at least to me, that we probably have to rethink how we approach some of these things.

Any misunderstanding that has happened is definitely not the fault of any individual Minister or of this government. I think our government can be quite proud of the fact that we have better relationships with aboriginal organizations than any government in the country.

However, times are changing quickly. The reality is that the regional land claims have given constitutional status to many of the aboriginal organizations. The division legislation has given legislative status to organizations such as NIC and self-government discussions have raised expectations and, at some point, many aboriginal organizations will be lost in the Constitution of Canada. That is a reality.

Another reality is that public government in the Northwest Territories has a legislative base. It has a very strong elected mandate and it is supported by a large number of people in the Northwest Territories and it isn't going away.

The third reality is we have a strong history in the Northwest Territories of community governments, mayors and chiefs, and our communities are well respected and are taking on new responsibilities. So unless we come up with some new structures in our government, we are inevitably going to head towards clashes. I think we will see that more and more unless we look at changing the way we do business here in the Legislative Assembly. The present system is too rigid to deal with these new realities. There is no doubt in my mind that there is going to be a lot of frustration in self-government negotiations, a lot of misunderstandings, as well as frustration in the division negotiations. Unless we find mechanisms where people can work out these problems, we are going to end up fighting amongst ourselves. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Committee Motion 87-12(7): To Amend Clause 84 Of Bill 25, Carried June 21st, 1995

I also understand there was some significant technical difficulty, changes throughout the whole act if we had changed it. Just to reassure the board, you would have no problem if their correspondence was board of education and they just kept using that. It's a legal terminology which would be used, I suppose, in a legal sense, but nobody is going to give them a hard time if they continue to use board of education for a long time.

Committee Motion 87-12(7): To Amend Clause 84 Of Bill 25, Carried June 21st, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think this concern has been brought up in committee and been brought up to the Minister before, but I would like to put it on the public record here in the House. There has been a fair amount of concern expressed right across the territories about the use of the new terms: district education authority, divisional education council. Specifically, the school board of Yellowknife Education District No. 1 would really like to keep that nomenclature of "board of education." I wonder if the Minister could explain why it was necessary to make these changes, and what advice he would have to the board to be able to use "board of education."

Item 9: Replies To Opening Address June 21st, 1995

It's not very long. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, Mr. Todd, for listening to my address.

---Laughter

It's actually relatively short. I know everyone wants to finish the business, so I won't keep you here long. Mr. Speaker, today in my reply to the Commissioner's address, I intend to give some views and observations on the rapidly-changing Northwest Territories from the perspective of an elected politician, both municipal and territorial, over the last 17 years.

Compared to the rest of Canada, the last two decades in the north have been very productive. There has been a massive construction of infrastructure and communities now have a strong physical base on which to develop. If I look at Yellowknife, at Ndilo and Dettah today, I'm proud of what we've accomplished over the years. Communities today are well organized, self-reliant and very capable of taking on new challenges. We must ensure that they are given the support to control more of their own destinies. I'm not going to dwell on the past today. Politics is a tough business, and no one is really interested in the victories of yesterday, which is good because all of our energy must be directed towards the future.

What does the future hold? Land claims, treaty issues, the Charter of Rights, and a fragile and incomplete public government system present the most complex and confusing political landscape in Canada. I would like to step back for a moment and reflect objectively on what it all means. Each of these issues is compelling and each create their own momentum and expectations. There are strong moral and legal arguments to pursue each to its ultimate conclusion. Unfortunately, depending on who you are and what you believe, these issues often clash and spin off on tangents and more tangents; we never conclude any of these issues, and everybody loses.

Let's get back to basics for a moment, and identify some basic principles. What do we want to achieve? First of all, and I think very importantly, we want to provide basic services to people as efficiently as possible. Second, it's been agreed to and it's a bottom-line principle that aboriginal people have a fight to self-government. Third, communities need, demand, and should have more control. Fourth, regional governments and concepts are here to stay. Once the comprehensive claim broke down and regions negotiated their claims on a region by-region basis, regions were here. There are institutions set up by claims that actually give regional bodies constitutional protection. The communities in those regions, whether they are based on land claims or treaty groupings, want to delegate certain powers to regional bodies. Although some people don't want to deal with that, it's a reality. It's there, so let's deal with it. Fifth, there is a need for a central government. In all discussions, though there are differences about the powers that that central government will have, everybody acknowledges that in this ever-changing, difficult, competitive world, we have to speak with one voice here in the western government. So, there is a need for a central government here. These are the principles that I think all of us have to accept. There are also some basic realities, which we have to recognize, whether we like it or not, although some people are having a problem recognizing these realities. One, and this is very, very important, there will be considerably less money to do whatever we want to do over the next four years. That's a fact. It changes everything. Whatever we talk about, let's keep in mind, we need money to do it. The second reality is that division will be very difficult. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that it's a mammoth undertaking fraught with all sorts of perils. It is going to consume a tremendous amount of energy in the next Legislative Assembly and government. It is going to cause us problems that we haven't yet anticipated. I don't think any of us should fool ourselves that division will be easy because it won't be. It is going to be very, very difficult.

Self-government will be very difficult. I think there's a reality now that, no matter how much the present Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs would like to fulfil his commitments on self-government, I have no doubt that the central agencies in the federal government, whether it is Finance or the Treasury Board, are shutting down the money. It is going to be very difficult to fulfil those commitments without money. I think we should recognize that the federal government has caught themselves in a trap right now. They've raised expectations and are caught in the midst of a huge deficit and debt crisis which, I think, will have tremendous negative ramifications here in the territories in the next four or five years. The federal government made a start this year to deal with the deficit, but they haven't even begun to deal with the debt and, when they do, I think this country is going to change dramatically and irrevocably from coast to coast.

Another reality is that some regions in the Northwest Territories are richer than other regions. We should keep that in mind. Some regions may be blessed by oil and gas exploration, others by diamond mining, while others may have nothing. Whatever we do, we have to ensure that there is some equalization of riches of the western Arctic so that poor regions don't wither and die. That's very important. We're back to the concept that there has to be some form of central government to ensure that the more fortunate regions contribute to the less fortunate regions.

Another bottom line that nobody wants to talk about, but I think that people in the Northwest Territories want to hear at least discussed is that, whatever we do, whatever new forms of government we may want -- and I'm not disagreeing, in the ideal world, it would be great if we could do everything that everybody wants -- is what price are we prepared to pay. Are we prepared to cut programs for people in order to add new government structures? That's a question people should talk about. It's nice to pretend that that issue won't come up, but that issue is going to be with us and it's going to be with us more and more. I think we have to be very honest with ourselves and with our constituents that any choice has effects. Any choice has costs.

It seems to me, and this is only my opinion, that sooner or later, reality is going to strike in the Northwest Territories. Reality is going to strike about the ease or difficulty of division. Reality is going to strike about what the federal government is prepared to accept in self-government. Sooner or later, we, in the Northwest Territories, are going to have to bite the bullet. Sooner or later, we, in the Northwest Territories, are going to have to compromise. That day is when real leadership comes to the fore. It's easy to be a leader when you're promising the moon, but when you have to make tough compromises that are necessary because of external forces, that's a real measure of a leader. What we'll desperately need over the next four or five years is strong, courageous leaders who are willing to face reality straight in the eye and make the tough decisions so we can survive.

No one is going to get everything they want. There is no doubt in my mind that any group in the Northwest Territories won't get what they want. To people here in Yellowknite who want the status quo, the status quo is gone. The world will change. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that people here in Yellowknife have to accept the fact that it will change. But in every region of the Northwest Territories, people aren't going to get everything they want. There's not enough money for everybody to get everything they want.

So as I said, sooner or later, we're going to have to bite the bullet. I think we should start thinking about it now. If we wait until slowly, but surely, this truth opens up to us, we're going to beat ourselves to death in the meantime. We're going to turn on each other, there are going to be accusations of lack of faith and of mistrust. It's going to be very difficult to achieve anything in that sort of atmosphere.

Maybe what we should think about in the west for 1999, if we haven't come up with a brilliant plan, is to try a five-year experiment. If we haven't come up with an agreement, why don't we say that for each of the regions in the western Arctic, we'll give them three or four programs to deliver. Let's say we'll give them housing, we'll give them social services, and we'll do that for five years. We could say that each region could choose their own regional director and that person can be the contact person with the Cabinet. We can ensure that each region has representation on Cabinet and see how it works. Try it. Try something real. The problem with the community transfer program we have now is that we have a whole smorgasbord; take any number of 200 things. The reality is it's far too complex. It hasn't worked. So why don't we say let's start somewhere real and see where we go? I think after checking it out for a while, again some reality will step in. Regions will see there are certain things they want and certain things they don't want. But as long as they're not given the opportunity to try, they're always going to ask for everything. There's always going to be a sense of mistrust. ideal world, it would be great if we could do everything that I say, Mr. Speaker, the next five years are going to be a tremendous test of everything we've done. Those of us who have spent most of our lives in politics will see whether all that work was worth it, or if it's all brushed aside.

What gives me some hope, Mr. Speaker, is that we, as northerners, at many, many levels are able to work out many difficult and complex issues. I really think that if we become very pragmatic, we recognize that there's not going to be the external help that we think there is. There's no magic out there. The federal government is not going to ride in on a white charger and save anybody, it's quite to the contrary. I don't think you're going to hear clear statements from the federal government. I don't think they're in a position to give clear statements or in a position to give any clear direction. So I think we're going to have to make those decisions, and we're going to have to use our own abilities to put together something here that works.

There's not going to be any sympathy in the rest of Canada. Canada is having tougher times than they've ever had. There's no sympathy now in Ontario for the Northwest Territories. There's no sympathy in British Columbia for the Northwest Territories. They can't believe that 65,000 people with all the potential wealth we have can't take care of themselves. So we're really on our own, and I feel we should recognize that. There's really no magic left. We're left to our own devices, and I think we have enough potential here to be able to do something very worthwhile and something that will work if all of us take our heads out of the stars or out of the sand and just look at the reality of the situation that we're in.

Mr. Speaker, I will make an announcement over the summer as to my intentions in the next election. In the meantime, I want to thank my colleagues here in the House for dealing with the issues of my constituency over the years, for their support for the positions I've held in the Legislative Assembly and the Cabinet over the years, and as Speaker. Being part of this Legislative Assembly can be a very frustrating experience at times, and it can be a very rewarding experience at times. MLAs can be very supportive or they can be total pains in the proverbial...

It's a tough business. No quarter is asked and none is given, and there's little margin for error. But I must say, Mr. Speaker, that this Assembly, with its different cultures, languages and different regional perspectives, is very reflective of the people of the territories. We represent all of the good parts and we represent all of its flaws. Politicians are neither saints nor are they evil. They're just ordinary human beings who, for a short period of time, are chosen by the people to represent them to the best of their abilities.

Mr. Speaker, 65,000 people is a very small pool to draw the number of leaders that our system requires. I think that with all our flaws, everyone who has served in this Assembly over the years should take some satisfaction that we have done very well compared to other jurisdictions in the country. Very well indeed, and I think sometimes we lose perspective. I hear a lot of complaints here in the Northwest Territories but, if you travel across this country, we still live in one of the most fortunate areas in the country and in the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank by wife Penny and to thank my son Nicholas and my daughters Erin and Alexandra for their support over the years. Something that I don't think can be overstated here in the political arena is the support of our families. I think those people who have never gone through elections or who have never gone through the pressures of politics can only guess to the pressure that that puts on families. Any of us who have managed to survive in politics for a number of years owe so much of that to the support that we get from our families.

I want to thank David Hamilton, who I've had the pleasure of working with for close to two decades. I want to thank the staff of the Legislative Assembly, the interpreters, Hansard, everyone in the government who I've worked with over the years; I think of deputy ministers Stein Lal, Geoff Bickert, Eric Nielsen, Lew Voytilla, Hiram Beaubier who served this government well; and the great staff who have worked with me personally over the years: I think of John Stephenson, who was my executive assistant for six years, Peggy Butler; Jodi Kapicki, who is with me now; Anne Todd; Paul Jones, who was with me for a long period of time; Fran Hurcomb; Tanis Stirling; Rosemarie Cairns and all the other staff who have served really the people of the Northwest Territories so well.

I would also like to thank the people of my constituency. As you know, I have, I think, a very interesting constituency, a very diverse constituency, a high percentage of aboriginal people in my constituency, probably close to 25 per cent; people who live on Latham Island are very different from the people who live at Royal Oak. The people who live in the high rise are very different from the people who live in Old Town. So I've always had a diversity of opinions, and I must say for the last 12 years I was often in trouble with one group or another because any decision made is sure to offend one group. I did my best and people were quite supportive.

But I have to say that I've been very proud to represent Yellowknife North for many, many years. I think the group is quite representative of the Northwest Territories. I think the challenge in trying to deal with their differences is very much a microcosm of the challenge all of us have in dealing with the real problems of the Northwest Territories.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I know everybody wants to get back to the Education Act so I don't want to keep anybody here any longer. I just want to thank everybody here. I wish everybody a great summer; those who are running all the best of luck; those who aren't, a good life. I must say for me, Mr. Speaker, my life in the Legislative Assembly so far has been a slice. Thank you very much.

---Applause

Ndilo Education Concerns June 21st, 1995

They've made a presentation to the Minister to start work on a school in Ndilo, starting off kindergarten to grade 3 but over a period of time having kindergarten to grade 8. The Minister has been open; there's been a lot of support from the Catholic school board, and I think there is a lot of possibility.

I think it's very important for the people of Ndilo. They feel that if they can run the school down there, they can get the parents involved in the school, they can bring the support mechanism to get the kids to school and make sure the kids are successful.

Their intention, ultimately, is to have these successful kids come out of grade 8 and enter the Catholic high school in Yellowknife and go on to whatever career choices they may want to make.

At some point, they are looking at belonging to a Treaty 8 education division, and I know again that the Minister is open and flexible about how, over a period of time, these aspirations can be met.

The people of Ndilo have always felt, just because of the status of their community, that they've been isolated from Dettah, which has a different status. So we are looking at ways that the education programs between the two communities can work more closely together.

So, during the course of the next couple of days, as we discuss the Education Act, there are other meetings happening with the Minister. The Minister has indicated to me and to other MLAs that he's open to finding a solution to allow the people of Ndilo to take more control over the education of their am looking forward to a successful conclusion of those discussions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Ndilo Education Concerns June 21st, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak about the community of Ndilo in my constituency. It's been more than a decade and a hall now that I have had the privilege of working with the people of Ndilo and the Yellowknives Dene Band. When I started, Chief Isidore Tsetta was the chief of the Yellowknives Band and Eddie Lacome was the subchief for what was then called Rainbow Valley. When I came on to the scene, there was a major jurisdictional problem and everything had stopped in Ndilo. The federal government said it was a territorial responsibility; the municipal government said it was a federal government responsibility and nothing was happening. The people then were real victims of bureaucratic in-lighting.

From that time, I and many of us have always treated Ndilo as its own community. Many times over the last decade and a half we have tried ways to formalize its status as its own community, but there have been so many barriers. But anyhow, the government and the Legislative Assembly were good enough to include Ndilo in the five-year plan and, for all intents and purposes for the last decade, Ndilo has been treated fairly with h other communities in the Northwest Territories. The issue of education has always been a very important issue in Ndilo. I remember that we started off, probably nine or 10 years ago, with a very successful upgrading program. Everybody remembers Florence Erasmus, the Tree of Peace and their kindergarten program in Ndilo which was a mainstay of the community for many years. In the last couple of years, there has been a very successful after-school care program.

The people of Ndilo, for many years, have been frustrated With the lack of success of their students in the education system here in Yellowknife. They have really thought that because they are a community, they should have more community control over the system. I want to thank the Minister. There have been a number of discussions with the Minister and the issue has come up again around the Education Act.

Mr. Speaker, the band is looking at getting support for the head start program, a pre-school care program in Ndilo, this fall. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.