Debates of October 6, 2023 (day 168)

19th Assembly, 2nd Session
Members Present
Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Mr. Edjericon, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O’Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong


Colleagues, before we begin today, seeing this is our last day, I have a statement or two.

I would just like to start off by saying it was a pleasure and honour to serve with you all in the 19th Assembly. You know, we had a huge turnover and, you know, there's no shortage of challenges we faced in Assembly but at the end of the day, we worked through it together and here we are. I'll touch on that a bit more later.

I would like to start off by thanking the people of the Mackenzie Delta. You know, in 2011, even up until August, I wasn't even planning to run as MLA. It was until two former Members came to the community of Tsiigehtchic. At the time, we were having our Gwich'in Assembly and, at that time, a couple Ministers were at the Assembly taking questions, and that was R.C. McLeod and Michael McLeod. And at the end, after we were finished, they took a break and they pulled me aside and asked what I was up to because before that I was chief for four years. And they're like, so what's your plans? And I was like oh, no plans, just see what comes up. And they're like you should run for MLA. I was like oh,no, no, David's doing that. And they said oh no, he's not running. I said yeah, I'll think about it. And after a couple weeks there, I talked to a few people and decided to run and here we are today.

But, you know, it's so important, I think, like, a lot of times we, you know, because over the last 12 well, it's 16 years in leadership. It seems like most of the time we thank people is when it's too late, you know, because I've been to, oh I can't even keep track of the amount of funerals I've attended over the years, you know, paying respects. But I think it's so important to thank people, you know. Thank all those that gave me solid advice over the years and, you know, gave me their support. You know, people of the Mackenzie Delta, it started with the community of Tsiigehtchic as their chief. There, too, I wasn't planning on ever getting into politics but, you know, we don't know what our path holds in store for us because I'm a firm believer that the Lord shows us the way. You know, growing up in Tsiigehtchic, even back then religion was big in school and even to this day, I have my bible with me and something to protect me, and that was from our new Member from Monfwi. Thank you for that. It's got me over the last couple years here, but mahsi.

Like I said, it's so important to thank all those that stood by you. My wife and my children, my mom, who is here this week. She's flying home today, but. Also my constituency assistant for ten years, Ms. Wright, thank you for your service and, you know, I hope you're doing with as a chief in Fort McPherson. I know you are, but I'd just like to thank you. And also my new constituency assistant, Diane Koe, thank you for all the work you've been doing. And also Manny Arey, Dean, is my contact in Aklavik. And before that was Eugene Pascal. Thank you very much for your service.

For the people of the Mackenzie Delta. You know, I have so many friends and constituents in the communities and family members, you know, they that's one thing I learned in leadership is you'll never get a hundred percent support but it's usually 85 percent are behind you, and that's what you focus on. Nowadays, especially with Facebook, there's 15 percent you know, they say and this was told to me by a former leader in the band centre, you know, 15 percent, you could move mountains for them but it's never enough but they're the loudest. But just don't focus on that, just focus on your 85 percent and keep doing what you're doing, and that's one thing I learned or since that day, that's what I try to do. And, you know, just moving forward, like I said, I thank the people of the Mackenzie Delta because without them, I wouldn't be here.

And one more thing is, you know, growing up, my mother was a chief before me and even back then, they always said, you know, our younger generation, it's time for them to take over. And look at our Assembly today, you couldn't tell but Mr. Simpson is the youngest one here is I think or no, Rylund is now. But, you know, if you look around the room today, and about 30, 40 years ago, it was almost all our older the old school. But, you know, but it goes to show that, you know, what our elders wanted back then is happening here today and it's an honour working with some of the people I went to school with, Ms. Archie, Ms. Semmler, Jackie was before my time, but Paulie as well.

But before I move on to the speakers, I'd just like to thank Jackie. When I first got in, all the hotel rooms in the city were full and I had to spend two or three weeks with Jackie in his apartment. It was the longest two or three weeks of my life. No. Just kidding. I'm just kidding. But I never forget that. I'd like to thank Jackie. We had a lot of good conversations over the years.

And, you know, one thing that we were told in this Assembly was you can't become friends with anybody, like staff. You know 12 years in this facility with a lot of these staff, you know, you can't help but become friends with them, most of them. But, you know, it's almost impossible.

Even Members here, four years, and I feel like we've become good friends even though I never met you before, but that's just how it goes. And, yeah, it's challenging but, you know, end of the day, I think a lot of us have become good friends and stay friends.

So I'll just move on to some of the things in the Speaker's office. Every Speaker before me had a free ride up here. Oh boy. It was nothing but trips before I showed up. But, Members, I want to begin today's final sitting day of the 19th Assembly by sharing a few words on the challenges the Assembly faced.

As the 19th Legislative Assembly, we started strong, electing a record number of women to the legislature and to Cabinet. However, it was not long before we faced our first challenge the arrival of COVID19. As an Assembly, we had to stop our business mid sitting, resume sitting for a day to pass an interim budget, and then return home. The Assembly had to find a new way to work, including remote work, a new layout in the Chamber, and hybrid sittings. The challenges we faced were not only external but also internal. Allegations were made and investigations were conducted. It was a difficult and challenging time for all.

The Assembly belongs to the people and, for the first time, was closed to the public for extended periods of time during COVID19 and the wildfire evacuations.

The 19th Assembly was the first with a binding Kindergarten. It was a learning opportunity for us all, and this Assembly made changes to the process based on what we learned.

Wildfires and evacuations on our final sitting, and on short notice we held the sitting outside of Yellowknife for the first time since 1989. Not only was this sitting held in Inuvik, it was our largest hybrid sitting.

The membership of our Assembly changed during our term with two byelections and the election of a new Member for Monfwi and Tu NedheWiilideh. The election of the election for Monfwi made our Assembly the first elected Assembly in Canada to a majority of female Members. I believe this is the first Assembly where the mace was transported by skidoo when the road to Tsiigehtchic was blocked and we had to haul the mace and staff by skidoo and sled into the community.

The Office of the Clerk saw significant changes. The clerk, sergeantatarms, and manager of finance retired taking with them more than 80 years of experience and service. However, we are moving forward with the new people in these key roles. We have made significant changes and progress in our office and the clerk works with it, development and implementation of the workplace review and action plan. We may have had some rough time, but we started and will finish strong. Just this week, unveiling a new permanent memorial of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQIA people.

Colleagues, once again, it was a pleasure serving with you all, and I thank again the people of the Mackenzie Delta. You know, like I said, we don't know what's in store for us and if it's the Lord's will,I will be here again in the 20th, and I will just wish everybody good luck in the elections. And those that are retiring, I wish you well. Kevin, Caroline, Julie, and Rylund, you know, we had some good times well, retire from politics. But you never know you might come back. We had some great committee meetings in the last Assembly with Ms. Green and Kevin.

Kevin, I think R.C. McLeod said it best. Yeah Kevin. Kevin. But he said, it's one thing about Kevin, you know, he's got his ways but he is a man of his word. He usually tells you what he is going to do, and he does it and stands up for what he believes in, and there is a lot of people that really appreciate that. I would like to thank you you all for the work that you have done. Some of you have been here only four years but made a good impact.

One thing about that I learned from territorial politics is things take time so maybe in eight years, you might see the DMV opened on a Saturday. Fingers crossed. But once again, thank you all very much, and I can't help but thank the people in the Mackenzie Delta as well for putting your trust in me. And just thank you very much. Mahsi.

Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 396-19(2): Increasing Student Outcomes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is a mandate of this government to increase our education outcomes to the same level as the rest of Canada. And we've taken a number of steps to advance this goal. This month, we began trialing an adapted version sorry, Mr. Speaker, last month. This was written before the evacuations. Last month, we began trialing an adapted version of British Columbia's curriculum. It will be fully implemented in all our schools over the next five years. This partnership has been years in the making, and I am happy to see it come to fruition.

British Columbia is one of the top performers in education among all the provinces. This modern curriculum focuses on deeper learning. Students will develop skills like problem solving, research, leadership, communicating, and public speaking. These are skills that will prepare them for the rest of their lives.

Mr. Speaker, we have also expanded education programs across the territory. In the life of this Assembly, the career and education advisor program expanded to every region. This resource encourages Grade 9 to 12 students to start thinking about what is next after high school. But, Mr. Speaker, it is much more than asking what do you want to be when you grow up.

Advisors work with students to explore their skills and interests. They connect students with people who are doing work that interests them and with learning opportunities they can take part in while they are still in school. The Schools North Apprenticeship Program, SNAP program, which provides high school students with work experience in the trades while finishing school, is one example of these learnign opportunities. And This program has grown from having no student participants in 2016, to 22 in 2022.

Mr. Speaker, northern distance learning has also expanded every year since its pilot. Twenty schools are now part of the program. It allows students in small schools to take advanced high school courses online while staying in their home community. This program helps students meet graduation requirements and allows them to apply for postsecondary school right out of high school.

Since junior kindergarten was introduced territorywide in 2017, we are seeing consistent improvement in students who attend. We hope to see these beneficial effects continue as those students get older.

Mr. Speaker, as part of our commitment to improve student outcomes, we must also identify where there are barriers and opportunities for improvement. Over the life of this Assembly, we have taken many steps to address these challenges. We have developed a new way to calculate the graduation rate to ensure it is accurately counting all students who graduate and considers the unique realities of our communities.

We continue to release annual reports on the state of the education system, which provide crucial data to address students' needs. This year's report includes data on unplanned school closures related to the pandemic and, beginning next year, reports will reflect all school closures including those related to wildfires, flooding, infrastructure issues, etc.

As we have seen in recent weeks and years, unplanned school closures can have an impact on students and the education system. Monitoring these impacts will ensure we have programs and services to meet students and families' needs.

We have taken steps to address social passing and clarify that the NWT does not endorse free passes in education. Rather, we encourage parents and students to make informed decisions and provide supports to meet their specific strengths and needs.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we launched exciting initiatives during this Assembly to support educators' development and growth. We introduced competencybased professional standards, which establish the knowledge, skills, and values a successful educator should be able to demonstrate and transfer. We launched Certified NWT, a new online system for educators to easily apply for and update their teaching certifications. We also launched ConnectEd NWT, a learning management system where educators can take professional development online to further their skills and knowledge. We partnered with Douglas College to offer a free pilot of the education assistance and inclusion certificate to support assistants in the territory. We are also seeing an increase in the number of educators here in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, this progress would not be possible without NWT education bodies, Indigenous governments, the Northwest Territories Teachers Association, educators, families, and of course students. We will continue this crucial work toward improving student outcomes in the Northwest Territories and supporting our students in becoming capable people. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Colleague, before we continue, I'd like to recognize the former Member for Tu NedheWiilideh Mr. Norn. Welcome to the Chamber.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister’s Statement 397-19(2): NWT Active Living Framework 2023-2033

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce that after several months of engagement and collaboration with territorial and regional sport organizations, the NWT Active Living Framework 20232033 has been approved. The intent of the framework is to guide the investment of public funds to support the development of recreation sports and physical activity priorities for NWT residents.

Work on the NWT Active Living Framework 20232033 began prior to the COVID19 pandemic following amendments to the Western Canada Lottery Act. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs has worked hard, in collaboration with its partners, to develop a framework that is representative of the northern jurisdictions, and it supports those who will be underserved or underrepresented in the sport sector. There were some delays experienced due to the pandemic, but work resumed in the fall of 2022 with engagement starting in December.

Engagement included more than 24 organizations and 49 individuals who provided input on what residents felt should be a priority action for the NWT. This engagement culminated in early July with the publication of the What We Heard report which summarized the findings. From this report, the NWT Active Living Framework 20232033 was developed and has recently been endorsed by our partner organizations, including the NWT Sport and Recreation Association, the Mackenzie Recreation Association, the Aboriginal Sport Circle of the Northwest Territories, and Sport North Federation. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to these organizations for their input and guidance in advancing this project.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT Active Living Framework 20232033 represents the interests and needs of sport and recreation programs in the NWT and will lead to the best outcomes for residents. The framework will focus on six themes that are of critically import to the NWT active living sector. They include

Prioritizing Indigenous cultures and practices;

Building sector capacity;

Celebrating and supporting local champions;

Improving access and increasing opportunities for participation;

Promoting the value of the sector; and

Investing in the sector with sustainable, flexible funding.

With the completion of this framework, the department will turn its attention to the implementation of these priorities going forward. This will be achieved by aligning funding agreements under the Western Canada Lottery as well as department budgets to this framework. A monitoring and evaluation strategy will be developed to support reporting on key performance indicators and evaluate selected programs on a regular basis.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT Active Living Framework 20232033 could not have been developed without input and collaboration from key stakeholders, nor can the priorities be implemented without ongoing support of the many organizations that deliver sport, recreation, and physical activity programs to the Northwest Territories residents. Municipal and community affairs will continue to foster this collaboration to ensure the best results.

Once again, I extend my thanks to all those who contributed to this project. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the department to coordinate and manage this renewed effort that has resulted in a document that is broadly supported. I look forward to the implementation of the NWT Active Living Framework 20232033 for years to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Minister’s Statement 398-19(2): Housing Delivery Update

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my statement yesterday, over the last four years I have consistently advocated to the federal government for funding to address housing needs across the Northwest Territories. This advocacy resulted in a significant expansion of the capital delivery program for the Northwest Territories.

Since the 18th Legislative Assembly, an extraordinary annual capital delivery plan of approximately $136 million in this 19th Legislative Assembly in the 20232024 fiscal year alone. This annual capital delivery plan will include the construction and repair of approximately 500 housing units.

The capital delivery program in the 19th Legislative Assembly included a commitment to build an additional 100 new homes for the public housing program which are all either completed or under construction in the current fiscal year. The 100unit public housing expansion represents the largest increase in public housing units that the territory has seen in decades, with units being built in communities across the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier this week, even though significant schedule disruptions caused by evacuations from floods and fire to low water levels affecting barging season and throughout various supply chains distribute the 100 units, rollout is still on track for construction in the 20232024 fiscal year as originally planned.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the 100unit delivery over my term as Minister, Housing NWT has invested over $29 million in homeownership programming that has assisted numerous private homeowners across our territory with the purchase and repair of these homes, as well as providing much needed programming to assist seniors aging in place.

With the funding, NWT homeowners will be able to address needed home repairs before they became much more extensive and costly. Over this timeline, a further $50 million was invested by Housing NWT to repair projects to preserve and maintain Housing NWT's existing housing stock.

We have supported new construction and renovation projects for approximately 100 senior units throughout the Northwest Territories and provided 1,012 senior applicants across the Northwest Territories with funding to improve their homes and support aging in place at the beginning of my term as Minister as well.

Over the past four years, Housing NWT has provided 1,018 residents with support for emergency repairs, 198 residents with funding to support fuel tank replacements. 1,510 residents have accessed our prevention and maintenance program, allowing homeowners to do minor servicing and repairs, dealing with issues before they become more costly.

To support small communities in developing skilled trades, Housing NWT has leveraged every opportunity to help build and maintain this capacity to ensure the success of apprenticeship programs. Housing NWT introduced a requirement in 2020 for general contractors to hire at least one NWT apprenticeship in the new construction contracts. Since this time, Housing NWT's new construction contracts have supported 47 apprenticeship assignments. Housing NWT has also continued to work closely with local housing organizations to provide up to 12 apprenticeship within their staffing to support them each.

To further promote the increase of employment and skills development opportunities in small communities, Housing NWT, in their negotiated contracts with Indigenous governments and businesses seeking to build capacity Since the beginning of the 19th Legislative Assembly. Housing NWT has entered nine negotiated contracts increasing regional capacity in the residential construction sector across the Northwest Territories. These negotiated contracts have resulted in Indigenous governments, businesses, and contractors developing innovative programs to attract, develop, and retain northern workers to meet the commitments set out in our negotiated contract proposals and defined within our communities.

Mr. Speaker, inspired by Housing NWT's commitment to renewed ways of working together, Indigenous governments have had opportunities to participate in planning, design, site selection, and have been engaged in numerous construction contract opportunities. Over the life of this government, we continue to ensure that Indigenous governments are informed about current and upcoming delivery plans and continue to be engaged in key initiatives such as developing community housing plans. These partnerships help to ensure the local housing priorities and needs are considered during the planning process.

Mr. Speaker, while I have highlighted some of the government's housing successes, I want to be clear that this was not done without any difficulty. As I mentioned, the last four years have presented extraordinary challenges for the residential construction sector including disruptions with the material supply chain, the movement of skilled labour between construction sites, and the rising of fuel costs and construction material costs. The reality for remote communities have been even more challenging, which has required a high degree of creativity on our end.

I am so proud of the efforts of Housing NWT staff, Indigenous governments, partners at the community level who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, the natural disasters, and the supply chain issues to support our work of building a better tomorrow for the Northwest Territories. I would like to thank the staff of housing for their continued creativity to enhance programming and to address our housing crisis. While I am celebrating the construction of 100 new public housing units and supports that have been provided, I want to emphasize to my colleagues and residents of the NWT that there is still more work to do to sustain these successes.

Housing NWT will promote a culture of participation, innovation, and continuous improvement well beyond the lifetime of this 19th Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I also wanted to acknowledge Tom Williams, who was a former president of the Housing NWT, and former Minister Alfred Moses who held this portfolio in the last Assembly. Mr. Speaker, respectfully, I tried to carry their legacy forward and working with the people of the Northwest Territories and also enhancing our Indigenous file and working with the people at the local community level. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Members’ Statements

Member’s Statement 1654-19(2): Reflections on the 19th Legislative Assembly

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, prior to starting my statement, I want to acknowledge Kya Wickens, one of the pages who is here with us today, and who has celebrated her 14th birthday with us in this House on September the 27th. I ask you to join me in wishing her a happy belated 14th birthday. And I like that big smile and hopefully we didn't embarrass her.

Mr. Speaker, to close off this 19th Legislative Assembly, which I have to say has been an interesting four years which I am pleased to have been part of. Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my colleagues who I have served alongside for these past four years. I thank each of them for sharing their wisdom with me, providing support, and providing leadership throughout this term. It was refreshing to work with a diverse group of individuals, all of whom I believe had the best interest of the residents of the NWT at heart.

Mr. Speaker, without the hardworking staff in this building, this government may well come to a standstill. Even though I show up for work around 6 a.m. when session is in, I often ask security who else is here, and it's usually the clerks, researchers, library, or support staff who I sometimes think they have staff housing built into this building which we don't know about. And if you do not hear it enough, believe me, your work is appreciated by myself and all MLAs.

The staff who support Cabinet and individual Ministers, I see the workload that you take on and that is not lost on me, and I appreciate all you do, and I appreciate all the baking that you provide to me as well in the mornings, so thank you.

Mr. Speaker, during session we have yourself, the clerks, sergeantatarms, translators, pages, security and maintenance staff, all who make sure session takes place efficiently, effectively, and safely, and for that commitment I thank all of you.

Mr. Speaker, government is also made up of many departments that provide diverse services to the people of the Northwest Territories. The delivery of those services requires employees with varying skills, experience, and education. Those employees are the ones doing the heavy lifting for us, and the residents of the NWT. And for that, I thank them. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Member’s Statement 1656-19(2): Appreciation for Family and Residents of Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, it's been an honour to represent the Inuvik Twin Lakes constituents the last four years, and I thank you for your continued support. And I hope that I met your expectations and represented you well in this House. Thank you to the individuals and the elders who have supported me when times got tough. They always had got advice for me and gave me the strength to continue on. Thank you to my friends that have supported me as well. They were always there when I needed them throughout the past four years.

But, Mr. Speaker, without family, I could not do this. I'd like to thank my family for their support. Many of them are here today. My husband Jozef, my best friend, who's always supported me and encouraged me with all my decisions, even the crazy one to run as an MLA. My children Mya and Jozef. As an MLA, sometimes it's hard for our children as they are also under the spotlight, and they didn't sign up for that. But my children were strong and always supported me as they know the work is very important. My grandma Esther, she is my rock. She is one of the strongest women I know, and I thank you for your continued support. My sisterinlaw scratch that, Mr. Speaker, my sister. Thank you for always being there for me and my kids throughout this Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, just like you, if I named all my family who have supported me, I'd be here all day. I would also like to thank my constituency assistant that I had two. I started the Assembly with Loretta Rogers. Thank you to you and your family for your continued support. Brenda Bernhardt, thank you for jumping right into the role. You have been amazing. Thank you.

Thank you to my colleagues. This has been quite the Assembly. I've mentioned many times we've had many firsts in this Assembly, some good, some not. Despite what some might think, we have all worked hard together, even with all the natural disasters, and got a lot of work done. Thank you to the clerk's office staff. You've been amazing. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's been a pleasure working with you as your deputy. Premier Cochrane, you sailed this ship through many storms. Thank you for your leadership.

And with that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to let my constituents know that I will be putting my name forward for the 20th Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Member’s Statement 1657-19(2): Reflections on the 19th Legislative Assembly

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today's the final day of the 19th Assembly. I know that some of the staff here have felt that this Assembly would never end. But, finally, we made it to the finish line in one piece.

Mr. Speaker, I know this Assembly has been long and eventful. Four years not only for everyone in this building but also for the people of the NWT. But as with life, there are always highs and lows and ups and downs. We all make good memories as well as bad ones but, regardless, the important thing is that we learn from our mistakes and our experiences and we keep pushing forward in a good and positive way. We cannot lose sight of what is most important within our lives, our communities, and within our broader society.

Mr. Speaker, to conclude the 19th Assembly, as the MLA for Thebacha there are a few people I'd like to thank on behalf of the people of Fort Smith.

First off, I want to thank all the interpreters that have served throughout this Assembly. I also want to thank all the current and former staff of the Legislative Assembly that have worked here throughout the 19th Assembly. I would also like to thank the Premier and Cabinet for their service in the 19th Assembly. And especially you, Mr. Speaker; love your sense of humour and your casual manner. I'd also like to thank each of the Regular Members for their contributions and perspectives during this 19th Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I want to give a special farewell to the outgoing Members who are not seeking reelection. That includes Premier Cochrane, Minister Green, Kevin O'Reilly and, of course, Rylund Johnson. Thank you to each of you for your work in this House and to the people of the NWT.

I want to thank Pascal Erasmus, Priscilla Lepine, and Colleen O'Connor for keeping me grounded.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all the amazing constituents of Thebacha for placing their faith and trust in me to represent them here in the Legislative Assembly. It has been an honour of a lifetime to serve my community in this House, and I hope to return to the 20th Assembly to continue fighting for Fort Smith and all the people of the NWT.

And, lastly, I want to thank my husband Peter, my sons Jerry and Mickey, and of course my dog Rambo. I could not do this job without their full support every step of the way. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Member’s Statement 1658-19(2): Reflections on the 19th Legislative Assembly

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to announce that I survived the last four years of the 19th Assembly. Mind you, it wasn't without its socalled battle wounds and paper cuts. It was a pleasure to serve with my colleagues on both sides of the floor, especially as history was made with the majority of women in the 19th Assembly; the first in the Northwest Territories and Canada.

Mr. Speaker, my time here has been a learning curve when dealing with legislation but well worth the lessons. Mind you, I've been in leadership roles for quite a number of years, so my past experience has served me well here in the Legislative Assembly.

There were many challenges in my role as an MLA, taking into account the twoyear COVID spell and not making contact with constituents, especially the other communities in my riding of Kakisa, Enterprise, and K'atlodeeche, that coupled with floods in the couple of years and the recent wildfires that KFN faced twice in a short period of time.

I may not have seen many of my constituents, but I have always reached out to the leaders by email, text message, or phone calls. I may not have received replies to many of my messages, but I am okay with that. It was surely challenging to address issues without that rapport; however, we still managed to move on.

At this time, I will let my name stand for reelection and can only promise to do a better job in consoling, visiting, and providing better communications to all residents of the Deh Cho riding. Mahsi for all your support through all these tough times and all the tough times wear on the constituents who managed to stay calm and let the authorities do their work.

To my colleagues, mahsi for making my experience here at the Legislative Assembly an enjoyable one. To all the staff in the Legislative Assembly, a huge mahsi for your support and assistance as I navigated my way around procedures and existing processes. Mahsi, and you guys rock.

I would be remiss if I didn't include the Dene Zhatie translators for providing your voice for the residents of both ridings Deh Cho and Nahendeh, Sarah Gargan and Mary Jane Cazon. And equally to all the translators for their time here at the Assembly.

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, for your diligence with me throughout my time here and appreciate your advice and assistance on many matters.

I have to extend my extreme gratitude to my family and grandchildren. I truly appreciate their continuous support.

Mahsi to all the residents of the Northwest Territories. Please stay safe in your future travels and endeavours. Mahsi.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Tu NedheWiilideh.

Member’s Statement 1659-19(2): Kosmos 954 Incident

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is with heavy heart and a deep sense of responsibility that I stand before you in this House today. On May 29th, earlier this year, I spoke passionately about the pressing issue faced by the people of Tu NedheWiilideh and all those who live in the Mackenzie River Basin, and I called for a public inquiry into the crash of Kosmos 954, as well for the immediate action to address the ongoing environmental and health concerns that plague our communities. Today I rise to seek answers and accountability from our government.

I appreciate the attention and support that my previous speech received, and I want to thank my colleagues, the people of Tu NedheWiilideh, and concerned individuals across the country who have rallied behind this cause. However, it is not enough to merely acknowledge the problem. We must take decisive action to address them.

Since my initial speech, what concrete steps has our government taken to investigate the consequences of Kosmos 954 crash and the contaminant threats that continues to affect our homeland? What progress have we made in understanding the link between the crash and the alarming rise of cancer rates around the Great Slave Lake? Have we engaged independent experts to a conduct comprehensive inquiry into the health and environmental impacts as I strongly advocated? We must not let this critical issue fade into the background.

The people of Fort Resolution, Lutselk'e, Dettah, and N'dilo have been living with the consequences of Kosmos 954 for far too long without the support, compensation, and public apology they deserve. This is a grave injustice that we cannot tolerate any longer.

The Berger Inquiry, which played a pivotal role in shaping this history of the North, serves as a shining example of a governmentfunded commission that listens to the voices of Indigenous people and communities. We need to have a similar commitment today to address the health of our homeland and water and people. We need our government to listen, to care, and to take meaningful action.

The call for a public inquiry remains as urgent as ever. The health of our communities, the wellbeing of our environment, and the future of our people depend on it. We cannot ignore the consequences of the Kosmos 954 incident any longer. We must demand answers, demand justice, and demand action. I implore the Premier to provide a comprehensive update on the steps taken by government since my previous statement. Our resilient communities cannot bear this burden alone. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my Member's statement. Thank you.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you, colleagues. Our resilient communities cannot bear the burden alone. We need the unwavering support of our government at both the territorial and national level to ensure that justice is served, that harm caused is addressed, and that our communities can thrive once more.

Mr. Speaker, let us continue to stand together in solidarity for the health and wellbeing of our people, or land, and our waters. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have questions for Premier Cochrane at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Tu NedheWiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Member’s Statement 1660-19(2): Impacts of Carbon Taxation on the Cost of Living in Northwest Territories

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today my last Member statement is my favorite topic carbon tax. I'm not going to let them go off this easy, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my last statement in the 19th Assembly, I want to speak again on the federallyimposed carbon tax and its negative effects to the people of the NWT, especially in my riding. Across our territory, 0.05 carbon, that's what we emit, which is nothing. They should be paying us for our fresh air.

Mr. Speaker, my views on the carbon tax are well known. The GNWT have signed off on this tax. Our government should have pushed back harder against the carbon tax and not accepted it, which I stood up in this House and I fought for, and I fell short. There, we weren't going to them. We just pushed our government and took it lying down, not much of a fight. I hope this tiered system really works that what we're talking about and telling us. At the very least, we could have fought harder, more exemptions for assistance into transitioning into more green energy, for example, Mr. Speaker; more exemptions on such things as transportation, trucks, airplanes, home heating fuel, among others. Because the carbon tax, not only compounding pressures, inflation is adding up and skyrocketing costs and cost of living across our territory. And that's especially so hard for people living in the far north in remote communities what we represent.

Mr. Speaker, the carbon tax is hurting people. It's hurting people's finances. It's making it harder for people to put food on the table. It's even making harder for people to go out on the land and harvest animals for traditional foods. In the future, we need to do better. I could go on and on about this, Mr. Speaker, but I'll leave it at that. But I will have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Member’s Statement 1661-19(2): Critical Infrastructure Funding

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I didn’t speak about one of my favorite topics one last time in this Assembly, Infrastructure.

When I say that word, one’s mind often turns to roads and buildings, airports, and bridges. But really Infrastructure encompasses so much more than that. It is

The pipes that bring you water and carry away your waste.

The fibre optic line that allows you to instantly communicate or watch that sporting event in Europe.

The solid waste facility where you take your garbage or the water treatment plant that provides you with fresh, clean water to drink.

One only needs to compare the budgets associated with the GNWT departments to understand the sheer enormity of the Department of Infrastructure and all they do for residents and the territory. This is the department that completes the community resupply and ensures that heat and ventilation systems stay on in our buildings. They ferry us around, keep our planes in the air, and patrol our highways.

Over the last four years, I have been vocal about the extreme infrastructure deficit in our communities. Our hamlets and towns are in desperate need of funding to build new schools and recreation centres, roads, and waste facilities. However, what good is building new infrastructure if we’re not properly caring for what we have? Everywhere you go in the NWT the eye is met with crumbling, aging buildings and roads in need of repair. Despite a new capital budget full of road money, the political will to address the infrastructure deficit has been missing in this Assembly. Every year that we fail to provide the funds to upkeep and properly maintain our assets, the costs for repair and replacement exponentially increase. To allow this to continue is negligent and poor fiscal management. One only has to look at the lack of movement, the lack of urgency, to address the shoreline erosion threatening the diesel plant in Fort Simpson for a prime example of this lack of foresight and planning by the GNWT.

Mr. Speaker, I want to urge whoever sits in this Chamber in the 20th Assembly to immediately assess and create a plan to address the growing community infrastructure deficit and to properly fund municipalities so that they can operate and maintain their assets in order to ensure their longevity.

And one last thing Mr. Speaker, I want to urge them to build the Mackenzie Valley Highway a needed lifeline for the Sahtu if they do anything in the next four years.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Member’s Statement 1662-19(2): Reflections on the 19th Legislative Assembly

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Four years ago when I decided to run for MLA in Yellowknife North, it was on a bit of a whim, and I didn't think I had any chance of getting elected at all, Mr. Speaker. So, firstly, I would like to thank the constituents of Yellowknife North for putting their faith in me, Mr. Speaker. They're a unique bunch, the Yellowknife North, and I truly truly, it has been the honour of my life serving them.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of my colleagues. Even through the rough times, it has been a learning experience. I am a completely different person than I was when I entered this House four years ago.

And, lastly, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my two constituency assistants I've had in this Assembly. That is Cathy Kirk and Ms. Sarah KalnayWatson. It makes this job so much easier knowing your constituents are in good hands.

Mr. Speaker, thank you, everyone. Best of luck to the 20th Assembly. Keep your stick on the ice.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Member’s Statement 1663-19(2): Priority Setting for the 20th Legislative Assembly

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my parting Member's statement is a gift to interpreters. It is going to be both slowly spoken, and it is going to be brief.

To the next Assembly, I wish you a long and uncomfortable priority setting exercise because that will hopefully mean that you land with less priorities than this and previous Assemblies. We often get lost in the weeds thinking that priority setting is an exercise to outline what the government does for every single item we want to see some form of growth on. But it isn't. It is a question of what you want your collective legacy to be.

Mr. Speaker, you've heard it said in this House before, you are better off to choose a few things and actually make marketable change than to choose many things and change nothing. So if you end up with a long list, stop, take a breath, take an extra day, and get uncomfortable, have hard conversations. Remember, this is your term and you, 20th Assembly, define the priorities and ultimately your legacy. And so to the 20th Assembly, I wish you a long and uncomfortable priority setting exercise. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Member’s Statement 1664-19(2): 2023 North Slave Wildfire Evacuation on Tlicho Communities

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on August 16th, 2023, the GNWT issued an evacuation notice for Yellowknife, N'dilo, Dettah, and Ingraham Trail residents to leave by noon on Friday, August 18th. This decision was made without consultation with Indigenous government and without even involving all MLAs. Left out were MLA for Tu NedheWiilideh and Monfwi.

After August 18th, the four Tlicho communities were the only ones left in the North Slave. It became clear very fast that the GNWT had no plans on how they were going to provide basic necessities for our communities. There was a huge gap in services across the NWT for shipment of food, access to health and social services, and medical prescriptions. It was like the remaining 15,000 people inside the NWT were just abandoned.

Thankfully, Mr. Speaker, the Tlicho region is selfgoverning and has capacity to fill some of the gaps in services. I want to thank Tlicho government for establishing evacuation centres in the south. They worked hard to find and look after Tlicho citizens who were evacuated, especially the most vulnerable.

I also want to thank the community government, Tlicho Community Services Agency, the friendship centre, and all our local business. The Tlicho Investment Corporation flew groceries out of Edmonton to support the Tlicho communities.

Finally, I want to thank Sutherland Drugs in Yellowknife who stayed open so they could continue to fill people's prescriptions.

Mr. Speaker, over the past few years, I have spoken many times about the need for a Tlicho region separate from North Slave. Creating a separate region would allow us to make better decisions on behalf of our residents and more authority to support our residents' needs, especially during times of emergency. It took days before the GNWT had any meaningful discussions with this region and its leaders. This is the reason why I brought forward Bill 98. We need to move away from the centralized decisionmaking structures that fail to consider the needs of residents outside of Yellowknife.

God willing, I will be part of next Legislative Assembly where I will continue to work for amendments to the Emergency Management Act and the Tlicho region to be established as its own administrative region. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Member for Frame Lake.

Member’s Statement 1665-19(2): Northwest Territories Jobs in Demand 20-Year Forecast Report

Merci, Monsieur le President. I am saving my mushy stuff for a little bit later.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment has released a report Jobs in Demand 20 Year Forecast on May 1st. It is full of interesting and information. The report is primarily broken up into categories of educational attainment that will be needed for projected types and numbers of jobs. These could be current jobs that need to be refilled because of turnover, retirement or death, or newly created jobs. By far the largest demand for new workers is for elementary school teachers, at 5 percent of new hires; nurses and secondary school teachers following closely at 3 percent each.

Examples of other leading occupations include doctors, lawyers, engineers, and financial managers. 27 percent of new hires will require university graduation. Trades make up 11 percent of future needs, with customer service occupations such as cooks, automotive mechanics, carpenters, and electricians leading the field. It is notable that it appears not many jobs are needed or will be created directly in the resource sector. The positions requiring college diplomas will make up 24 percent of total new jobs, and jobs requiring high school education or less comprise 38 percent of projected new hires. Now, compare these totals to current levels of educational attainment, and we are faced some unpleasant facts.

New jobs requiring university, college, and/or a trade certification will make up 62 percent of new demand. Today, only 49 percent of workers have attained this educational level, a spread of 13 percent whereas today, 27 percent of the workforce has trades, certificates or diplomas, the projected demand will be 35 percent of candidates to hold these credentials.

In all job categories requiring postsecondary education, Indigenous peoples' educational attainment is lower than nonIndigenous, sometimes dramatically so. Several conclusions come to mind.

First, we are not going to have enough NWT residents to fill occupations requiring advanced education. Many of these jobs will go to new hires from the south or will stand vacant thwarting wellbeing and provision of services for our residents. I'll have questions for the Minister of Education later today on this topic. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Range Lake.

Member’s Statement 1666-19(2): Yellowknife Dene First Nation Chief Eddie Sangris

Mr. Speaker, one of the unique features of our governance system in the Northwest Territories is the importance of Indigenous governments. Indigenous governments deliver programs and services to their members, run businesses, and engage in a range of intergovernmental activities. Being a leader is challenging, and today I want to acknowledge former Chief Eddie Sangris.

Chief Sangris was born and raised in Dettah. I remember him as a child coming to Yellowknife by dog team. He spent 23 years as a heavy equipment mechanic. I wish I had known that; I could have used some of that service over the time. He was elected as a councillor for the Yellowknife First Nation, a role that he held for 12 years.

In 2007, Mr. Speaker, he was elected as the Dettah chief, a role he remained in for four terms, 16 years. During this time, Det’on Cho companies have flourished. The Yellowknife Dene First Nation housing strategy was developed, and the community has weathered many challenges from COVID19 to this year's wildfires.

Being a leader frequently means being away from family. Today, his family is here with us today as we recognize his 26 years of service to his communities. Eddie, we wish you all the best, and we thank you for your tireless advocacy for your community members. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Range Lake. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Member’s Statement 1667-19(2): Thanks to Staff and Interpreters

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday in my reply to the Commissioner's address, I thanked people, but I left these ones out specifically for today, the last day.

Again, I would like to thank the Legislative Assembly staff. Clerks sorry, I'm reading my writing researchers, librarians, and support staff. I ended up in Cabinet this time, but I was able to still work with you on a number of projects as being part of the rules committee and in the transition matters. Your advice and support through this time was greatly appreciated, and I thank you for that.

To the MSAs and CAs or EACs of the Ministers, thank you very much for taking my thousand briefing notes and having to deal with them as we moved forward. I greatly appreciate your work, frankness, and compassion for the residents of the Northwest Territories.

To the CAs of our Regular Members, or all our MLAs, thank you very much for the work you did for the residents of the Northwest Territories. You are our frontline people that our constituents get to come into and talk to and, nine times out of ten, tell their stories, and there were some heartbreaking stories that you got to share it, so thank you for that.

And finally, to the translators, you've done an amazing job. Sometimes some of us spoke a little fast. We have a number of speaking notes here. It says slow, and I bet you appreciate it when we were using those. So I would again like to thank everybody.

And to the Regular MLAs, again, thank you for the work you've done for the residents of the Northwest Territories.