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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was know.

Last in the Legislative Assembly November 2015, as MLA for Yellowknife Centre

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 23% of the vote.

Statements in the House

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I move that we report progress.

---Carried

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I certainly think today is a fantastic day that we are now at this stage that we are talking about the bill becoming a reality. It wasn’t that long ago that the Mental Health Act was being looked at as strong, maybe, but we’re not sure, and possibly, maybe next term. So a lot of things had to come to bear to bring an introduction into this ring and certainly an amazing amount of work has brought it forth here.

I certainly want to begin by stressing how appreciative I am of the department to bring this forward and for the Minister to bring this forward and certainly for the committee to do the work that was required to go through this in order to have a bill here today. You can tell how important the bill was. I have heard people speak about the Mental Health Act for years and I know, from my own experience of dealing with headaches created with the old act, I can tell you first hand I have seen it as a frustrating piece of legislation and I certainly look forward to the implementation of the new act.

You can also tell how serious the standing committee took it. As I understand it, there is, and I’m going to use the very specific terminology of a whack. There is a whack of amendments, and they put a lot of heart and soul and passion into their work that they’ve done. I want to thank them for that. It’s not easy work sitting on a committee, just like the saying it’s not easy being green. But committee work is very important. Many hours of briefings, details, you go through it over and over again, and that work, it needs to be stressed how important it is, and again, I give committee a pat on the back.

The issues I want to raise very quickly are that I’ve sat with constituents in meetings with their psychiatrist talking about their loved ones. I’ve been to discussions at families’ houses about the strain and stress about mental health problems in the Northwest Territories, and I honestly find it heart wrenching. I mean there is no humor in this. To me it seems almost like one of the most complicated issues, and in my experience there are certain issues you get in this House you just want to stay away from because you just know it’s going to be, you know, it’s not a 10 minute sit and listen; it’s not here’s an hour of your time all wrapped up. I’m serious. These are tough issues to deal with and there’s no way of sort of just saying do you want to hurry up? I want to go a movie tonight or something. No, you have to sit and listen and understand and appreciate from the people’s perspective.

Hearing people talk about either their children or their spouses or their parents, I mean, it is absolutely a very deeply emotional experience, especially even when they’re talking about themselves and how challenging it is.

One of the things I’ve found, not just with the act, and I’m going to stray only for a moment here, is the fact that so much work still needs to be done on the public education aspect of mental health and for those who want to seek it feel paralyzed, parents are paralyzed, loved ones are paralyzed because of either the stigma that is created by them or the challenge and fear of getting involved or feeling that the system itself can’t help them or won’t help them. Sitting at people’s houses, a family’s house, or sitting even at the hospital talking to the folks who have been going through these challenges, I can’t say it enough, and I’ll probably say it a few more times as I go on, but it is a very emotional experience and sometimes just watching people feel helpless is just such a terrible feeling.

I want to point out, and a couple of my colleagues have mentioned it. I heard Mr. Dolynny mention it, and I think Mr. Moses mentioned it, and probably others have mentioned about how mental health seems to go hand in hand with addictions and the literature supports that. I’ve watched people who have mental health problems also lean into the addictions world. Let us not assume that that’s an easy experience for those who watch.

The big thing about this one, of course, like anything, is we can create the best piece of legislation, we could have a million pages of clauses talking about this and certainly about that. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s one page or a million pages, it really comes down to how it’s going to be implemented and certainly how it’s going to be supported.

The implementation and support is certainly, if I’d say, just as important as the time it took to draft the concepts. Of course, you get drafting from speaking to the professionals and their experience in and around the system, so I certainly look forward to how it’s going to be implemented and see where the supports are going to be there. It’s funny, sometimes we talk about supports as brick and mortar and sometimes it’s just a phone call, so it’s going to be an array of things to see this come to life.

My last experience in helping a family was watching someone who had a loved one who self-medicated. They would seek help. They would get help. They would be fine. Then they would not medicate because, well, heck, they didn’t need it they said, and the family struggled knowing that there was no power for the psychiatrist to implement an order to say if you don’t take your medication, we’re going to make you. The destructive behaviour that they had done when they’d get off their medication was terrible. People were fearful. When they were back on their meds, they knew that it was a problem. But like I said, mental health goes hand in hand with addictions and they’d get into other trouble and not just addiction, they get into other types of criminal behaviour. I think really what we see is good people who just needed help and support.

I just don’t know what to say enough in the sense of how excited I am that we are here to this day and I can honestly say I never ever remember getting a phone call when someone had a mental health problem and I thought, goodness, I can’t wait to hear what’s going to happen, where this conversation’s going. I can tell you, every single time I’ve had a call on this, I know it’s going to be a struggle.

I know I’m not telling anyone anything new here and I can just say that I certainly know that I hope this prepares us for the challenge ahead. I mean, it is a new act. It’s like preparing for the knowns, in other words the known problem, but sometimes that’s easier than preparing for the unknowns. What are we going to be prepared for? What is the act going to facilitate and be flexible enough to address things that come along? That’s the problem. You try to predict where this challenge, the mental health issue, is going and how to be prepared for it. So, I don’t have a particular question. My last statement wasn’t necessarily a question, more an anecdote about making sure we’re ready.

I am just going to wrap up by saying that, you know, I’m so happy we’re here. I fully support this, support the implementation of this. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. I definitely believe education needs to be done. I know this is a department that represents health, not the Department of Education which is another Minister, another department, another budget. But you know, we have to ask ourselves, what can we do? I mean, if I may liken it in the way that we’ve had other problems in the world and social sort of understanding and realization has caused us to rise up and meet the occasion as required. But will the government eventually find a way to engage its citizenry in a way that we all rise up and all say that no one should ever be ashamed of having a mental health challenge and we should see so many hands up that say we’re going to help you through this challenge. I look forward to that day. I know this act isn’t going to do that and I’m under no foolish sort of delusion that it’s going to be easy to get there some day, but I just know that as we, as a society, have risen up and said certain behaviours are not correct on other areas, let us find a way to rise up on this one and be there to help when you need help. Thank you.

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

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the motion brought forward by my good colleague Mr. Norman Yakeleya, the MLA for Sahtu, and I think it’s very timely. It’s not just a personal experience he’s gone through. These are experiences we are hearing time and time again. Some of the challenges have been brought to my attention, even as of late, and it’s unfortunate, sometimes an experience like what Mr. Yakeleya had personally, all of a sudden it becomes a lightning rod for people all of a sudden to wake up and go, “Hey, wait a minute, that’s happened to me,” or these are the types of things where, you know, the northern culture has been, whereas people have kept to themselves and sort of accepted sort of sometimes the bumpy road and just said, “Well, I’ll put up with it. I’ll put up with it.”

But this issue is on the radar right now and it’s got people phoning in. Recently, I’ve spoken to a constituent, in particular about the medical travel issue and their experience through it, and certainly their family and relatives and the trials and tribulations that they’ve been challenged with and, you know, I mean, the motion speaks loud and clear itself, but I’ll speak to some of the areas they drew up for concern. I know these are areas that are being worked on. I shouldn’t be remiss on that; I need to emphasize that. I know medical travel is complicated. It’s never been an easy beast to wrestle down and solve and it’s one of those things that it’s very expensive. Let us not kid ourselves that medical travel is certainly an amazing benefit, but it’s an important one and represents the values and type of people we are and we feel it’s that important and this is why we need to do a good job. If we’ve committed to do this process then we’re obligated to do a decent job, and that’s the gap right there where I think we expose for fault or failure or liability, whereas in the system itself it has agreed this is what we’re going to do.

It’s funny, that type of commitment is kind of dangerous because when folks finally get through the medical travel gauntlet of approval, whereas their doctor made recommendations and they finally agree that, yes, everybody’s agreed that you require medical travel, even in non-emergency situations, but it’s the same in emergency situations as well. Then it’s, like, what do you do. The family waits. The patient waits. Whether they’re waiting by themselves or waiting to find out approval from their escort, connecting the dots seems to be an issue, and I don’t know how that could be done better. I don’t know if we have to hire a super A-type personality to get in there and put sticky notes and come up with these processes and spreadsheets. I don’t know what the right solution is. The Department of Health is a huge department. I’m sure they can find someone who has great ideas how to link these things, but linking folks through this process has been really a problem.

When you have someone that’s approved for medical travel, how do you link the escort? How do people know what they’re doing, where they’re going and what time to be there? I mean, I’ve heard many horror stories about how people have believed that they were supposed to be on that plane and they get there and there’s no plane ticket sitting there waiting for them. They didn’t get cab fare to that airport so they pay out of their pocket. They get there and then they’re told there’s no plane ticket there. Then they don’t know who to call when they’re panicking. When you’re sick it may, frankly, be an unfortunate experience. If you’re super deathly ill or you’re trying to be the hero through being the escort helping that person who’s going through this terrible experience, people are under a very difficult challenge at that time emotionally, they’re stressed, and all of a sudden now they don’t have plane tickets, they don’t know who to call. It certainly isn’t Ghostbusters.

But the fact is they are stressed. We need, I don’t know if it’s a simple pamphlet that once you’re approved they hand it to you and say, how do you connect these dots? Any problem, you call this phone number and this person has the authority to delegate a solution. I don’t know where it’s going.

But just to continue on, I don’t have a lot of the issues here that I’m going to tie committee time up with here, but there is very little follow-up. For example, if you’re someone from a small community, which happens regularly that English isn’t you’re first language. I mean, this shouldn’t be a shock to our system. It shouldn’t be a shock to anybody in this area of the Assembly. There’s the language problem. Then, of course, there’s just the connection on how you tie everything together, and certainly, there’s not a follow-up process either to make sure that, hey, did it work, how do we make it better.

I mean, sometimes they call those the 360 process where people make phone calls, who are from the system, obviously, find out, hey, did it work, what could we do better, how do we, as Stephen Covey would say, sharpen the sword. You know, you’ve just got to keep working on the system, tirelessly trying to make it better and better.

Again, I recognize and respect that the people there work on this thing every day, and I recognize that it’s complicated each and every day that they’re working on, but these are people working in ideal situations and when you’re on medical travel or trying to get medical travel, you’re not in an ideal situation. If you’re in a place, as I said at the start, you don’t know who to call, where to go, when to be there, and all of a sudden it starts to have a ripple effect. It just makes the whole experience such an incredible burden that it’s great frustration.

I’m happy we have the motion here before us, and I think, really, what it’s saying is we can find ways to do it better, and I certainly look forward to the department finding ways to make this work better. There may never be a perfect solution, but as I said earlier, I’m sure we’ve got someone who could consider things like how do we connect, as I said, people to their processes better, how do we do follow-ups, how do we ensure that the quality assurance programming on the medical travel is there and make sure people understand exactly what they need to do, where to go, and certainly where to go if you have trouble.

That’s all I’m going to say. I think that it’s an important motion. Again, I want to thank Mr. Yakeleya, and the opportunity to second is certainly an important one and a privilege to work with my colleague on this initiative.

Question 951-17(5): Homelessness Programs In The Deh Cho October 7th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to return to item 7, oral questions, so I can have an oral question. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent denied

Ministerial Travel Claims October 7th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Eight weeks ago today I wrote an e-mail to the Minister of Finance because of complaints I received from the public about Minister Ramsay’s most recent travel claim to a luxury hotel in Quebec and using a luxury car. In my e-mail I had asked a number of questions about the luxury rental vehicle, luxury hotel, government paying for Ministers going to weddings and many more questions along the lines of Minister’s signing off their own travel claims, but one of the concerns I raised was how long has this been going on. So I specifically asked the Minister of Finance to have an independent review of Minister Ramsay’s travel claims for the past year. I know this can happen because it does happen regularly. So I asked for an independent review because I think it falls well within the realms of the ability.

I often hear that government bean counters go months after travel claims have been filed and they audit them for clarification and confirmation of expenses. If an error has been processed in good faith, I’m prepared to accept that for what it is. Small administrative errors happen. We’re all human. It’s easy to tick a box off accidentally and sometimes even unknowingly. However, if an error is habitual, then we do have some problems. An example of that could be claiming dinners repeatedly as your per diems, but the conference or meetings all seem to provide them. That would be wrong.

I know this Minister has flown friends and family around and didn’t offer to pay for them at first, until I complained to the Comptroller General, who, once reviewed the situation, found my point correct and the Minister did pay the money back. What I find interesting is I sent the e-mail and it was received by the Finance Minister on Wednesday, August 12th, but it took him two days after my e-mail was sent to reply that Minister Ramsay has called for a review on his own self.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but when you look at Friday’s newspaper of that week when it hit the streets of Yellowknife and me making a statement saying this needs to be done, coincidence starts to add up. Two days to be able to call the reviewers on their own self starts to make you wonder. The Minister has justified his expenses in Monday’s paper, stood by them very strongly, but then all of a sudden, wait a minute, he changes his mind.

The fact remains that the reasonable request is outstanding. If a simple error has been made, I still stand by that point; accidents happen. But if it’s habitual, we need to be asking ourselves, how do we correct this?

I brought this point up again to the Minister of Finance when we were out at the Caucus retreat over a month ago, that he didn’t answer all my requests in the e-mail. The point is, this review is still outstanding and it’s reasonable to be done. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Motion 146-17(5): Bill 64: An Act To Amend The Co-Operative Associations Act - Amendment To Clause 23, Carried October 6th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure held its public review of Bill 65, An Act to Amend the Safety Act, on September 17, 2015. The committee thanks the Minister and his staff for presenting the bill.

Bill 65 amends the Safety Act to harmonize with the new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, including regulation-making power and authority for three sections and with the new federal Workplace Hazardous Information System legislation.

The committee recognizes that extensive consultation informed the draft of the new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. However, no specific consultation was undertaken in the drafting of Bill 65. The committee encourages the undertaking of specific consultation for any future legislative proposals specifically respecting the Safety Act.

During the public hearing, the committee initiated two amendments of Bill 65 with the Minister’s concurrence. The first corrects an inconsistency in the translation in the French version of Clause 4 to align with the remainder of the Safety Act. The second clarifies the language regarding the exemption of privileged information under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in clause 5.

Following the clause-by-clause review, a motion was carried to report Bill 65 to the Assembly as ready for consideration in Committee of the Whole as amended and reprinted.

This certainly concludes the committee’s general comments of Bill 65. Individual Members may have additional questions and comments as they arise. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Committee Motion 146-17(5): Bill 64: An Act To Amend The Co-Operative Associations Act - Amendment To Clause 23, Carried October 6th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure certainly worked tirelessly on its review of the public review of Bill 61, An Act to Amend the Public Airports Act. We did that on September 16, 2015.

Bill 61 amends the Public Airports Act to increase the maximum lease duration for Commissioner’s public airports land to 30 years, specified disposal procedures for unclaimed property and synchronize the regulations of traffic and pedestrians with the Motor Vehicles Act.

The bill also makes consequential amendments respecting enforcement to the Motor Vehicles Act.

The committee appreciates the amendments that align the language of the various statutes under the Department of Transportation. Members also appreciate the reduction of red tape and clarification of the department’s authority. The committee looks forward to the implementation of clear and effective procedures for enforcement and for storage and disposal of unclaimed property. Following the clause-by-clause review, a motion was carried to report that Bill 61 to the Assembly as ready for consideration in Committee of the Whole.

This concludes the committee’s general comments on Bill 61. Individual Members may have additional questions or comments as we proceed. Thank you.

Committee Motion 146-17(5): Bill 64: An Act To Amend The Co-Operative Associations Act - Amendment To Clause 23, Carried October 6th, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It`s not my intent to continue this all night, so I’ll just be quick. I know there’s no willingness on the department to make that change and we have to be very clear, distracted driving at the time is equal if not worse than drunk driving. I`m not a scientist and I`m not going to try to explain which one’s worse, I’m just going to say equal, for safety’s sake.

At the moment that particular individual stopped, the crime itself has been stopped, they’re no longer impaired in the sense of mental impairment of driving has been taken away and I think that’s probably some of the reasoning behind why they’re allowed to drive home and park their car until their suspension type of thing or philosophy built behind it.

I pointed out the social ill or the nature of it is that there was a time that drunk driving was not, I’m not going to say it was okay, it didn’t have the stigma it does have today. Distracted driving is the same way, it’s just I’m not convinced the department sort of sees it through the demerit point process that it observes and waiting for someone to have five fines before they have to visit a judge to explain that they’re driving in a manner that is just equal if not worse than drunk driving. I think my point is if the demerit points were increased, they’d be visiting them either after the second or third offence. So that’s the only other thing.

The last comment I’ll make very briefly because I see my time has run down, and it’s not necessarily a question, I’m just glad we’re giving the registrar some authorities to make some changes in regulations around abandoned vehicles. The only issue I’ll raise there is that I’ve had people here who have had concerns about trying to repurpose, revitalize old vehicles that have been written off, lost, found in the dump or whatnot, and for them to be able to reissue registration so they can put a little life back into a rebuilt old vehicle. The way I understood it was they would have that ability to do that. So that’s the only other area of concern and I assume they’ll want to reply, but unless it’s earth shattering, I’d probably leave the Minister with the final comment. Thank you.

Committee Motion 146-17(5): Bill 64: An Act To Amend The Co-Operative Associations Act - Amendment To Clause 23, Carried October 6th, 2015

Thank you for that, Minister. The other area that I have concern, although I have to admit it didn’t necessarily garner committee support, but it still doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to me even less, which is the fact that I’m not convinced that the way we are proposing to change the distracted driving offences is the right direction when it comes to how we suspend.

I think, in my opinion, we should increase the value of the demerits, and once you’ve reached the limit of your demerits because these offences have now become very steep, that alone by de facto suspends your licence rather than leaving it down to judgment calls and about suspending people within a certain amount of time and telling them to give, well, you can drive home, but we’re going to pursue with paperwork.

I think we should let the process decide on its own. If someone is caught, I think the demerit process is you lose three demerits if you’re fined under the distracted driving, and I believe, if memory serves, you get a total of 15. If that’s not 100 percent correct, it doesn’t really matter, because the point I’m making is I suggest we bump it up quite a bit, because a couple fines and all of a sudden you now have to appear before a judge and explain your behaviour and why you cannot comply with the rules of the road. The way it’s intended now is that, I think, after your second one all of sudden you’ve got some explaining to do, as they say. I look forward to how that types out in translation or in the Hansard tomorrow.

The point is that I hate the thought of the subjectivity into it. I really like the cut and dry. I know the department heard my grievance in committee that day we had had the hearing, and I know that the likelihood of that being all of a sudden, miraculously, hey, wait a minute, we should change. That isn’t going to happen. I’m probably expecting a unicorn sooner to run through the Assembly any moment now and that ain’t gonna happen. I just wish it was different, and in my opinion I think it’s become more of an administrative issue, that it’s more of a headache as opposed to the way I’ve suggested that it just be attached to increase.

The other thing is, in my opinion, if distracted driving really matters that much, and it does, as we’ve seen all the research and we hear more and more about people who can’t comply, and we hear about the dangers and the type of behaviours and nightmares that it leads to, then maybe we should have the demerit points that reflects that social change.

Committee Motion 146-17(5): Bill 64: An Act To Amend The Co-Operative Associations Act - Amendment To Clause 23, Carried October 6th, 2015

Well, I’m glad to hear that. It doesn’t surprise me from our earlier discussions, of course, that we had heard that those types of things are issues. I think I remember reading or hearing about the case in the Yukon where you’re arguing definition of what distracted driving is and what constitutes on the phone and definition on there, and that’s kind of what I’m really getting at, is that it’s great that we have a definition on the books but sometimes folks in practical sense don’t view it that way. So really what I’m suggesting is I encourage them through a public awareness campaign of some sort to show folks what’s right and not right. I’ll wait for the Minister’s comment and then I’ll change subjects.