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Last in the Legislative Assembly November 2003, as MLA for Sahtu

Won his last election, in 1999, with 61% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Motion 21-14(6): Censure Of The Minister Of Health And Social Services, Defeated October 10th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just a few comments to speak against the motion. I, too, think we should just let people in the communities and all try to do that. I think it's important to know that every Premier across this country, including the federal government, acknowledge that we will never be able to find the money and resources to address the difficulties of health across this country because we simply cannot cover the cost. That is just the cost of most Canadians who need basic health services. The costs are rising and will continue to rise.

In our case, because of our remote situations and because of the rising health conditions of aboriginal people, we have the very difficult situation to address. As the Minister said, I think one thing we can all agree here, if our people stop drinking, if they stop smoking, if they stop committing acts of violence, if they stop breaking the law, this government would be a very healthy government. We would have a lot of money to put to use where we should. The fact is we don't. Because too many of our people smoke too much, they drink too much, there's too many of them in jail, there's too many of them going to court, there's too many of them abandoning, neglecting and abusing children and somehow we have to take responsibility for that. All of us have to take some responsibility for that. It isn't just the Minister. It isn't just the Ministers. It is not just the Cabinet. It's all of us.

To say at the closing days of government that somehow you want to single out a Minister for all the ills that we're suffering is, I think, not acceptable on my part. I don't accept that. We will never be able to take care of people who are not willing or unable to take care of themselves. You can take care of the people who are willing to help, who are willing to take some responsibility. I know we can do that. These problems that I've said before are not that far away. I'm not talking about people who are hundreds of miles away. A lot of us have family members who are suffering from alcoholism or cancer or because of difficulties arising out of smoking. Families who neglect their children. We're not talking about people in far-off communities. We're talking about our own families and we're acutely aware of that.

I ask Members to reject this motion because I don't think it's acceptable. I think we should all take some responsibility for it and realize there are a lot of people out there as well who are willing to do something or taking responsibility for their lives and seeking healthy alternatives. Our people are getting stronger and they can get stronger still. Negative messages like this do not help at all. Thank you.

---Applause

Tabled Document 106-14(6): Letter From President Of Kapami Cooperative Regarding Power Rates In Colville Lake October 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table a letter from the president of Kapami Cooperative in Colville Lake, Barbara Blancho. It's a letter regarding the difficulties of dealing with the extremely high power rates in Colville Lake.

Question 431-14(6): Invitation To Attend Grey Cup Festivities October 10th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One of the opportunities we have is to look at developing a less confrontational relationship between the next Prime Minister and the Premiers. The idea of having First Ministers meetings has, over the years, always had high expectations and always had a wide difference of approach and opinion between the Prime Minister's office and the Premiers. This has always lead to Canadians feeling somewhat divided and disillusioned with the type of leadership we provide, where we always seem to be fighting and having differences of opinion and blaming one another. We're looking at the idea of having more frequent information meetings, lowering expectations and developing a better relationship. As well, the council of the federation is one that was advanced by the Premier of Quebec as a way to develop a better relationship, as I've said, between the political offices and leaders of this country. As Premiers, we'll continue to advance that. We'll be going to Quebec in a couple of weeks. The Grey Cup meeting is on November 16th, on the Sunday, and we will also be meeting as Premiers on the 23rd and 24th of this month in Quebec City. We are continuing to work, as I've said, and of course we're interested to know whether there's going to be a surplus in the federal budget because if there is, there is a commitment to provide another $2 billion for health to Canadians by the federal government. Thank you.

Question 431-14(6): Invitation To Attend Grey Cup Festivities October 10th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Government of the Northwest Territories has already spent a considerable amount of time developing a good relationship with the former Minister of Finance Paul Martin. We worked with him very well during his time as the Finance Minister. Since he became a Member of Parliament we have continued to have communications with him. He has always been very excited and supportive of the agenda of the Government of the Northwest Territories and this legislature. He continues to express that. He has, for instance, indicated he supports the idea of having the net fiscal benefit included in any revenue-sharing talks and has expressed interest in concluding a revenue-sharing arrangement with our government. The issue of devolution, revenue sharing, northern development regarding pipelines and diamond mines are all issues that he is already very well aware of and will continue to advance those in the time that we have as your government. Thank you.

Question 431-14(6): Invitation To Attend Grey Cup Festivities October 10th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe all the Premiers have received an invitation from Paul Martin and the Premiers had a conference call yesterday and we have agreed to attend. We believe it's a good way to develop a relationship. The intent is to have an informal get-together and dinner to talk about the state of affairs in each of our jurisdictions and to start developing a good, positive relationship with the person we believe is going to be the next Prime Minister of Canada. Thank you.

Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery October 10th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's not often I do this, but today I have a special visitor: my son, Thomas Keenan, who's got a day off school and is attending the session.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 111-14(6): Department Of Executive October 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss in my duties as Premier if I did not take time during this final session of the 14th Legislative Assembly to acknowledge the efforts and achievements of a department that does not receive a great deal of recognition in this House, but one which is nonetheless instrumental in ensuring the overall coordination and management of government -- the Department of Executive.

In my capacity as Minister responsible for Intergovernmental Affairs, and with the unflagging services of the Department of Executive, Cabinet has succeeded in placing the NWT on the national stage, raising our profile with our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts and, most importantly, establishing the linkage between a booming economy and the benefits to the nation. This positioning has helped to influence the growing national recognition that the territorial government must have greater access to revenues generated here, if we are to reach our goal of economic self-sufficiency. Meetings of First Ministers were used to build alliances with provinces and territories and unanimous support for devolution was gained from all.

On the intergovernmental relations front, we also worked hard to establish a solid working relationship with our northern partners. We signed a bilateral MOU with the Yukon, as well as a trilateral MOU amongst the three territories. Strengthening our northern voice has assisted in raising awareness about northern issues and the challenges northern governments face. For example, the unified approach that we northern Premiers took at the First Ministers meeting was critical in ensuring an additional $20 million per territory for health care, as well as convincing Canada that per capita funding for federal programs does not help the territories, where populations are small and program delivery costs are huge.

Our relationships with Premiers across the country has never been stronger and it has resulted in their support for devolution and initiatives such as the national diamond strategy. Furthermore, we will be hosting the 2004 annual Western Premiers conference in Inuvik next July.

One important role played by the Department of Executive is the corporate leadership and government-wide support offered to departments. Managers in the Executive chair interdepartmental committees whose purpose is to ensure that information is shared, to promote excellence in their respective fields and to solidify cross-departmental relationships.

The department assists with the development of the strategic, policy and communications aspects of overall government-wide strategies such as the energy strategy, maximizing northern employment, the social agenda and the development of the national diamond strategy -- a strategy developed by all provinces and territories and spearheaded by the NWT and Quebec.

As well, the Executive provides leadership in communicating about the government's agenda. The Executive produces the monthly Bear Facts newsletter, to keep our public service informed and connected. It manages the GNWT's Web site and visual identity program. As well, it provides an exemplary protocol service for visiting dignitaries from all over the world. In the past four years, we have planned or played host to over 50 protocol events, ranging from the visits of foreign ambassadors, high commissioners and consul generals to those of Canadian foreign service officers, heads of diplomatic missions and Canadian high commissioners, ambassadors and federal Ministers. With each visit comes an opportunity to promote an increased understanding of the NWT, its goals and aspirations and the opportunities we have to offer.

Through its Cabinet Secretariat, the Executive provides quality advice and analysis that is intrinsic to the Cabinet decision-making process. The thorough examination of all matters and issues that were brought before Cabinet is another assurance that sound decision-making, based on solid information and analysis, remains a cornerstone of governmental processes.

The Executive has provided corporate human resource support through the delivery of a number of innovative programs. The management assignment program, designed to help develop skills of existing employees to better prepare them for management and senior management is now underway. We had 101 applications this year. This group was reduced to 29 who are in the final assessment phase. Twenty will join the existing five participants. This innovative program is one means of providing training and career advancement opportunities within our public service.

A new employee recognition program was launched. It updated the long service and retirement programs, added departmental recognition programs and introduced the Premier's Award for Excellence, which celebrates excellence in public service. We have honoured the recent recipients of this award during this session.

Additionally, we have made strides in standardizing GNWT training in both human resources and in general management skills areas such as staffing and writing decision papers. These training opportunities are being delivered in all regional centres on a regular basis.

In terms of building the public service of tomorrow, highly successful student and graduate employment programs have been put in place. The graduate employment program, in place for the past two years, has seen over 200 new graduates of diploma and degree programs find initial employment in the NWT in their fields of study. A good cross-section of communities were represented among the graduates and placements. Over 90 percent of these graduates remained in relevant jobs following their initial placements. On the student side, increased coordination has resulted in over 300 students hired in each of the last two summers, one-third of whom were regional placements.

To support staff retention, we introduced a standard exit interview process for those changing jobs or leaving government. The first year of this new process has been completed and a report released on the results. These results will help the GNWT to become an even better employer and improve the retention of our valuable staff.

We have also done a variety of things to improve coordination and consistency in human resource practices across government. This has resulted in regular sharing of information among human resource officers and managers, regular reporting to deputy ministers and improved guidelines and procedures in a number of areas including a complete overhaul of the staffing procedures.

Mr. Speaker, the staff members of the Department of Executive are a hard-working and dedicated group of employees whose talents help ensure the continued smooth operations of the machinery of government. It has been my pleasure to work with them as Premier and I thank them again for their efforts. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Bill 34: Tlicho Land Claims And Self-government Agreement Act October 9th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, we have many, many people watching us today and I think people are becoming aware that we are continuing to make history. There will be those that take leadership roles and those that will become a little afraid and apprehensive and ask for more time. We should be aware that we are still seen very much as a foreign institution by many people in the communities. Little things like Orders of the Day, our rules are confusing to people. They come into the legislature and all of a sudden they are told to be quiet, can't clap, can't laugh and they can't say anything. It's completely contrary to all the rules they have about how they make decisions back home in their own communities in the aboriginal institutions.

Our job is to try to bring dignity to the governments that we come in contact with. We should say and we should recognize the reason for people fighting all these years for aboriginal rights and self-government is because this government was never seen as good enough. The whole reason the Tlicho agreement is coming to us is because people are telling us we're trying to make it better, here are our suggestions. In this case, this agreement is between governments. It's between the federal government, the Tlicho government and this government. We shouldn't fool our constituents into asking them what do you think about aboriginal rights. That debate is over. We don't want to ask people if they support aboriginal rights or not.

I say we have an obligation to go out there and inform people about what the agreement is, I agree with that. But don't fool people into say do you agree with it or not, what do you want me to change? The fact is there's very little we can change. If we can change anything at all, it's the nature of it. It's an agreement that is going to be constitutionalized and it's going to be ratified by the federal government, and it has already been ratified in part by the Tlicho people. No one is going to go back and jeopardize this work by starting to tinker with clauses.

There's a reason for what I'm saying, because I think we have to be honest about it and we have to provide a certain kind of leadership. In this case, I think our constituents are going to look at us and say as my elected representative, what do you think I should do. How do you want me to think about it? It's our obligation to say this is an agreement between governments. It's the government that negotiated it. They've done that within the rules of this country, and it is for their better judgment. That's what the government says they're going to do. You can go further than that and say in my best opinion I'm going to support it and so should everybody else. I don't know if that's going too far, but I know it's been done before.

When extra seats were being debated in this legislature, I didn't run home and ask the Sahtu people what I should do. I didn't ask them. It was about the rights of people in Yellowknife to have more representation, based on population. I didn't go and ask them what I should do with the rights of Yellowknife people. I took a stand and said I support it, much to the chagrin of my constituents and other aboriginal leaders, but that's what I did. I went into an election and got re-elected. That's what leadership is about.

I know that it's very close to election and we have to do some soul searching about how strong a stance we can take. It does take courage. I think if you look at the history of aboriginal people, we come from a time when we had no vote, we had no rights. This country stood up and said it's not in the Constitution, we don't see it in the rules, we don't see it in our institutions, you don't have any rights. We have processes and we have institutions, but we don't see you having any rights. We come from a time in the Northwest Territories when that was the rule of the land, and aboriginal people have taken the time to advance that. It takes a lot of courage to bend the rules and say this doesn't really follow the laws of this country and this institution to be prepared to take a leap of faith.

Some leaders in this country did that some years ago. Sometimes they were prodded by the Supreme Court of Canada, but it has been a long, hard struggle for everybody. And we're not there yet. If we think we have the credibility and the backing of all aboriginal people to be and to continue to be the Government of the Northwest Territories, we have to take stock here because I don't think we're there yet. We're getting there, but we're not there yet.

This is an offer to be partners. This is an offer, but the Tlicho could say we can make this a better government, we're going to endorse it. We're going with a public government, we're going to go with a partnership government. That's what I see here and I think again we need to take a stand and not be afraid. Maybe we skipped some steps and people are uncomfortable with it, but the fact is we're here. We're not back last year or even two weeks ago, we're here, we have to make a decision. As imperfect as this process is, this institution is, take a leap of faith, vote in support of it. This government will gain credibility, it will gain substance, it will gain support.

I said in Fort Rae in front of the Prime Minister, in front of everybody, one thing you have to understand -- and it applies to all the other aboriginal groups -- if you take care of the Tlicho, the Tlicho will take care of you. And it applies to this government particularly. They have taken a bold step to say we will partner with this government, we will take care of this government by endorsing it. That's the statement here today, it's not in the technical clauses. We can't get mired in what steps we've missed, we don't have time for that.

So I know there's due process, there's expectations from our constituents. I think we have to be honest with our constituents. Take a position of leadership, tell them what in your best judgment needs to be done here. There's a lot more at stake than this particular agreement, there's still a lot of other work to do and they're waiting for us to make a definitive statement and we should do that. Thank you.

Minister's Statements 110-14(6): Minister Absent From The House October 9th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Joe Handley will be absent from the House today and tomorrow to attend the federal/provincial/territorial Finance Ministers meeting in Ottawa. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 406-14(6): Dismissal Of Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board Member October 8th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this is a board that also ties into the Gwich'in claim and the Sahtu claim. It is a partnership between the different groups, including the federal government and the Government of the Northwest Territories, as well as the Sahtu and Gwich'in. So there is a very high expectation for cooperation, partnership and consultation in the way this board operates in the terms of reference it has, especially the need for arm's length. independent ability to operate and carry out their duties as all parties expect them to. Thank you.