Legislative Assembly photo



Crucial Fact

Last in the Legislative Assembly September 2019, as MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Won his last election, in 2015, with 70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committee Report 25-18(3): Report on the Review of Bill 48: Post-Secondary Education Act August 12th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


The Information and Privacy Commissioner advised committee that the rights of individuals to privacy are set aside in several instances in Bill 48 without justification. Committee sought clarification and worked with the department to address several of the privacy-related matters flagged by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, as outlined below.

The educational institutions contemplated in Bill 48 will have to collect, use, and disclose significant amounts of personal information. Most, if not all, Canadian jurisdictions include public post-secondary institutions under their public sector access and privacy laws. Committee understands that public post-secondary institutions in the NWT will continue to be subject to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) as designated public bodies under that act, whereas private educational institutions will not, consistent with the practice elsewhere.

Section 55 allows the Minister to request information from either a post-secondary institution or a department or public agency "for the purposes of fulfilling his or her role under the act." The provision goes on to say in subsection (2) that, "notwithstanding the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act," an entity that receives such a request must provide that information in the form and within the time specified. Similarly, subsection 56(1) of Bill 48 authorizes the Minister to collect personal information "directly or indirectly" under section 55 and that such collection and use is "notwithstanding the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act."

Committee was advised that the "notwithstanding" phrase in subsections 55(2) and 56(1) provides a wide scope for the collection and use of personal information under Bill 48. The unintended effect of this phrase was the removal of the right of the individual to seek an independent review by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, making the Minister the sole arbiter of whether or not personal information collected, used, or disclosed under section 55 and 56 was necessary or appropriate. As such, committee and the Minister collaborated to develop Motions 15 and 16, set out in Appendix A, to remove the references to "notwithstanding the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act" from subsections 55(2) and 56(1).

Part 7, Private Training Institutions, and Part 8, Private Vocational Training, of Bill 48 both refer to "student contracts," agreements between a student and their vocational training program or private training institution. There was concern that the term "student contract" could be interpreted as referring to a private agreement between a student and his or her institution, and that these contracts may be subject to review by the Minister. Committee determined that the intent of the term "student contract" in Bill 48 is to refer to an institution's standard contract with its students rather an individual student's contract with his or her institution. As such, committee collaborated with the Minister to develop Motion 18, set out in Appendix A, to provide more clarity around the intended meaning of the term "student contract" in Bill 48.

Part 7, Private Training Institutions, and Part 8, Private Vocational Training, of Bill 48 contain provisions requiring an institution to "provide to the Minister as soon as possible a list of the names and addresses of the students registered at the institution." The Information and Privacy Commissioner flagged for committee that any limitations on the use of this personal information are not clear from the bill. Committee worked with the Minister to develop Motions 10, 11, 13, and 14, set out in Appendix A, to clarify that subsections 31(5), 33(2), 39(5), and 41(2) require a post-secondary institution to provide the Minister with student names and addresses only for the purposes of giving notice to those students.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to turn the reading over to the honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Report 24-18(3): Report on the Review of Bill 40: Smoking Control and Reduction Act and Bill 41: Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act August 12th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minimum Age for Purchase, Sale, and Supply

The topic in Bill 41 that appeared to be of most interest to stakeholders was the minimum age for the purchase, sale, or supply of tobacco and vaping products. Sections 1 and 4 of Bill 41 establish the minimum age at 19 years with respect to tobacco and vapour products and accessories. This is up from the current Tobacco Control Act's minimum age of 18 years. The Minister of Health and Social Services informed committee that the intention in raising the minimum age from 18 to 19 is to reduce youth uptake and be consistent with the minimum age for the purchase, sale, and supply of other regulated substances in the NWT, namely cannabis and alcohol.

Research indicates that most smokers have already begun smoking by the age of 19. As such, several stakeholders argued that a legal age of 19 does not go far enough to reduce youth access to harmful products.

Raising the age to 21 for tobacco and vaping products, the Canadian Cancer Society submits, would achieve several things. First, it would delay the age when young people first try or begin using tobacco or vaping, which can reduce the risk that they become regular users and, if they do become regular users, increase their chances of quitting successfully. For example, a 2015 report in the U.S. concluded that increasing the minimum tobacco sales age to 21 would reduce smoking by 25 percent among 15-17-year-olds, and 15 percent among 18-19-year-olds. Further, in places where the minimum age for purchases and sales was raised to 21, teenagers are reportedly less likely to experiment with cannabis.

Second, raising the age to 21 would reduce access. The societal influences that lead youth and adolescents to start using nicotine-containing products are unknown. As youth obtain most of their tobacco and vaping products through retail and social sources, raising the minimum age to 21 would prevent high school students from buying products for their peers and would make it more difficult for underage smokers to gain access to these products.

Third, the Canadian Cancer Society says the NWT has an opportunity to heed experiences elsewhere, including momentum in the United States towards raising the minimum age from 18 to 21. In the town of Needham, Massachusetts, for example, the results of raising the minimum age to 21 were an immediate, significant drop in current and frequent use of cigarettes among youth. Following full enforcement of the 21-years law, the percentage decline in youth smoking in Needham was nearly triple that of its neighbours.

Fourth, a minimum age of 21 would reduce disease and death. According to a 2015 report, if the minimum age were increased to 21 in the United States, tobacco use would decrease by 12 percent by the time today's teenagers were adults, smoking-related deaths would decrease by 10 percent, and 50,000 fewer people would die of lung cancer in that country.

Fifth, the Canadian Cancer Society is not persuaded by the Minister's rationale that 19 corresponds with the minimum age for alcohol and cannabis. The Canadian Cancer Society argues that tobacco should be treated differently than alcohol and cannabis, and Bill 41 should contain broader safeguards and impose stronger intervention than the NWT's liquor and cannabis legislation for several reasons:

  • The objective is to pursue a tobacco-free society, but alcohol and cannabis are here to stay;
  • The magnitude of the population-wide health damage from tobacco is much greater than for cannabis;
  • Nicotine addiction is far more likely and much more severe, though cannabis can lead to dependence; and
  • Unlike for cannabis, there is support from both commercial and public health interests for a minimum age of 21, including from JUUL Labs, which confirmed their support for 21 in a follow-up submission to committee.

Alternatively, the Canadian Cancer Society recommended Bill 41 provide for regulatory authority to prescribe a minimum age higher than 19, a step taken by British Columbia.

While committee recognizes the strong arguments in favour of raising the minimum age for the purchase, sale, and supply of tobacco and vaping products and accessories in Bill 41 from 19 to 21, committee agrees it makes sense to harmonize the legal ages for the purchase, sale, and supply of tobacco and vaping products with that for cannabis and alcohol. Unless or until the people of the NWT wish to debate whether the minimum age should be raised with respect to all of these substances, committee supports the minimum age of 19 years set out in Bill 41. Committee believes a minimum age of 19 is appropriate in the context of Bill 40, as well. Bill 40 refers to minors for the purpose of prohibiting smoking in a motor vehicle when a person under the age of 19 is present.

Recommendation 2

The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Finance explore the merits of raising the minimum age for the purchase, sale and supply of liquor, tobacco, cannabis, vaping products and accessories from 19 to 21.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will now hand this reading over to the honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Housing Issues in the Northwest Territories August 12th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, 12 years ago, when I first campaigned to be elected as MLA for Tu Nedhe, every second household I attended had a housing issue. In my first term as MLA for Tu Nedhe, I brought over 300 housing issues to the government. That was quite an accomplishment, Mr. Speaker, considering I was representing 295 households.

In any event, over the years, many of us as MLAs have all worked on housing issues and, for the past 12 years that I have been an MLA and we have had a full House in this Assembly, the core need for housing has never changed, from what I could see. I think that the last documentation we have is 2014, Mr. Speaker, but, for the most part, the core need for social housing across the NWT has remained the same.

For the next government, Mr. Speaker, I would recommend that the NWT Housing Corporation or the government revamp the NWT Housing Corporation. If we are spending $100 million a year towards addressing social housing issues across the Northwest Territories and the core need remains the same, then there must be something wrong because the core need is growing as fast as the core needs that we are repairing. I am not saying that the Housing Corporation isn't doing hard work or isn't working for the people, but what I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is that I think it is time to change the way the Housing Corporation is working for the people of the Northwest Territories.

We must begin to lower core needs, and we must begin to start working in housing, actively working on houses to address the housing issues in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, there are any economic spin-off benefits to housing and improving housing markets. There are huge potential for employment in small communities by repairing houses and eliminating core need across the Northwest Territories. We also see many economic spin-offs. I hope that the next government takes a look at the Housing Corporation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters June 6th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Committee wishes to consider Committee Report 19-18(3), Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2017-2018 Public Accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Protected Areas Act June 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, in our small communities, our graduation rates are low. There are too many youth unemployed and uneducated. We need to employ more youth, and the Protected Areas Act has the potential to provide more opportunities in the area of a conservation economy.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the day of seeing our guardians protecting our cultural and traditional areas in all communities of the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Protected Areas Act June 6th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, we will read the Protected Areas Act for the third time. Should this bill pass, it will undoubtedly be a huge step towards creating a conservation economy unlike anything we have seen before.

The federal government over the last several years has budgeted large amounts of money for the conservation economy across Canada. This decision by the federal government demonstrates a desire to expand the amount of protected areas in our country. In fact, the federal government hopes to protect at least 17 percent of all lands and waters in Canada over the next few years. Our Protected Areas Act will give the NWT the ability to substantially participate in this initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to see all communities in the riding of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh develop plans for protection of traditional and culturally significant areas. Lutselk'e has Thaidene Nene, YK Dene may want to protect the shoreline from Detah to Francois Bay, and Fort Resolution may want to protect the lower Taltson River and the lower Slave River. Furthermore, each community should have an option to employ their own people as guardians of the land and water. For example, in Lutselk'e, there already exists an established group of guardians called Ni hat'ni Dene, which means "watchers of the land." These guardians are out on the land and ready to engage environmental organizations and industry alike.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the environmental benefits of protecting land and water, the protection of land and water will provide many social benefits that come along with protecting those lands. This includes employment for local people, and I have said many times in the House there are plenty of good socio-economic impacts that come with employing people. I will say it again. For every dollar spent on employing guardians of the land, you will see returns of $2.50 in social spending reductions.

Mr. Speaker, people who are employed are better equipped to support their school-age children both financially and as positive role models for giving them a better chance in life and a more employable future. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Recorded Vote June 5th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I move that the Chair rise and report progress.

Committee Motion 151-18(3): Bill 38: Protected Areas Act - Motion to Amend s. 98, Defeated June 5th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is a very difficult situation for me. I agree with the Minister that some of these things shouldn't have to be spelled out and shouldn't have to be described in an act for the most part. My issue with this is the Intergovernmental Council, not that I have an issue with the Intergovernmental Council; I have an issue with the lack of membership on the Intergovernmental Council. Although all of our Indigenous groups were given the opportunity to sign a devolution agreement, not all have.

In Dehcho and Akaitcho, we have selected groups that have signed to the Intergovernmental Council and are sitting on the Intergovernmental Council. We are trying to find a way to capture the rest of the Indigenous governments or Indigenous organizations, as it says, I guess, throughout the bill, referring to both the government and the organizations.

Leaving this amendment out essentially leaves out most members of Akaitcho, as one of the community governments has signed onto the Intergovernmental Council, and it also leaves out the Dehcho. Again, this is, of course, certainly not an issue for me, but it is an issue for my colleagues in here. In the Dehcho, two of the communities have signed on, but not all.

This, left as is, unfortunately doesn't really clearly indicate that we are going to include organizations or the governments who have not signed a devolution agreement. I am really quite torn as to what to do with this clause, and I am in favour of reduced words, reduced legislation, that gives the opportunities and the mobility needed inside of the acts in order for us to use our discretion or the Minister to use his discretion, which does include all Members of the Assembly.

Unfortunately, unless it is described, the discretion will exclude people that I represent. It is a difficult thing. It really needs to be put in here that all Indigenous governments, whether they are on the Intergovernmental Council or not, need to be consulted when writing regulations. For that reason, I have to support the add-on to this. I feel like it is described. I know the Minister's intention is good, and I know that the government's intention is good, and it is to reach out to all organizations. Unfortunately, at this point, it appears as though the only place they are reaching to is through the Intergovernmental Council, which, you know, most of the people representing the organizations are on the council. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me. For myself and for the members of Deh Cho and Nahendeh, we do not have representation there when these regulations are being drafted. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 150-18(3): Bill 38: Protected Areas Act - Motion to Amend s. 10(6), Defeated June 5th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, the way the legislation is written, if you go to what is being proposed in the act right now, in order for the Minister to reject the nominated area, he or she would have to put it in writing. It doesn't have to be put in writing to accept a nominating committee, so in effect, following this legislation would say that, once the nomination is made and the Minister does not reject it, it is accepted.

This actually puts more restrictions. The new recommendation actually puts more restriction in. Number one, it makes it within 90 days. Number two, it has both accepted and rejected the clause. This clause here, the Minister will only need to act if he is rejecting the nomination. This act here, we will have to put it in writing whether the Minister is accepting or rejecting the nomination, so this one here is less restrictive and would be better for the Indigenous government. If they were to recommend an area that they wish to nominate as a protected area, the Minister would then have to, in order to reject it, have to put it in writing. If the Minister does not write to the Indigenous government, then, by this act, he is actually accepting the nomination area. This has less restriction than what is being proposed, so I will not support the amendment. Thank you.

Committee Motion 149-18(3): Bill 38: Protected Areas Act - Motion to Amend s. 10(2), Defeated June 5th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think there are a lot of additions on the recommendations that are not necessary. I believe that I would be satisfied that the Minister has discretion for the simple reason that, if the Minister has discretion, then this House has a discretion. This House here, we are elected Members. We are put in here by our Indigenous governments, the people we represent. We represent Indigenous people. We represent non-Indigenous people. Things like vexatious, frivolous, malicious, I don't think those type of words need to be put inside an act. I think that this is too descriptive.

I like the idea that the Minister has a discretion, that we're able as elected Members by the people of the Northwest Territories. I'm elected by people from the Akaitcho and I'd like the opportunity to sit in front of a Minister, whether it's this Minister or another Minister or a different MLA, have an opportunity to sit down with the Minister and discuss these things about the Minister's discretion. This will be necessary if we thought the Minister would go rogue.

As the clerk said, the Minister has certain rules to follow when he's exercising discretion. Some of those rules are including all Cabinet Members and a decision.

I feel that the way the act is written now, it's not too descriptive. It doesn't pin us into a corner, that these areas, where the Indigenous governments make under the (i) in the case of a nomination by an Indigenous government or other organization has no asserted or established Aboriginal right or title in a nominated area. Well, the Indigenous governments think they own title to all the land in the NWT, and that's why there are negotiations. That's why some of these lands had been negotiated. That's why there was a settlement in the Gwich'in. There was a settlement in Inuvialuit, and the Sahtu, and now, we're looking forward to settlement with Dehcho and Akaitcho. I feel that this restricts that, so I would be voting against this motion. Thank you, Mr. Chair.