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Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly

PO Box 1320  |  Yellowknife, NT  X1A 2L9

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MEMBER'S STATEMENTS

Updated: Mar 12


This is a list of all member's statements for MLA Rylund Johnson of Yellowknife North and will be regularly updated. To access full transcripts from each session, visit the Hansard Archive.


19th Assembly, 2nd Session March 11, 2020

Carbon Offsets


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Today, I would like to speak about carbon offsets. Firstly, a carbon offset is a credit for greenhouse gas reductions achieved by one party, that can be purchased and used to compensate the emissions of another party. Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of carbon-offset schemes, and some have proved to work better than others. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about not just simply buying carbon offsets but the possibility of selling them and using what is an increasingly larger and larger market with billions of dollars to access and fund projects in the North. The Northwest Territories is extremely well suited to access carbon offsets and to purchase them, for the same reason, Mr. Speaker. Getting all of our communities off diesel is not an easy task. It will require significant investment in infrastructure. The whole point of carbon offsets is to allow energy organizations and communities to find funding for projects that would not otherwise be feasible. As governments around the world start to wake up to the reality of climate change, we are seeing an increase in the purchasing of carbon offsets. More and more companies are being faced with regulatory requirements to lower their carbon or greenhouse gas emissions. I hope, Mr. Speaker, we can get the air regulations in place during the life of this Assembly and make that the case here. I see carbon offsets as a pivotal tool in growing our renewable sector in the North, as well as a safeguard for a number of our protected areas and our boreal forest. We've seen the Department of Environment and Natural Resources begin to access federal money for replanting. There is plenty of opportunity for the Northwest Territories to become a leader in selling carbon offsets. We've seen these used in the Amazon rainforest. I see no reason why they can't be used in the boreal forest, Mr. Speaker. There is significant amount of money on the table to be invested in carbon offsetting, and, with more and more projects meeting the qualifications for certification, I believe it is prudent for our government to take advantage of that market and to assist our constituents in doing the same. We have seen the federal government begin to take these steps. I don't want to leave that money on the table. I want the Northwest Territories to be a leader in carbon offsets. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker."



19th Assembly, 2nd Session March 10, 2020

Daylight Savings Time


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Are you feeling a little tired today, perhaps like you did not get enough sleep? Well, that is because, Mr. Speaker, on the weekend, the government stole an hour from us due to the time change. The hardest part about this is I don't really know why. Often, people say it's about the farmers, but that is actually not true. Saskatchewan has not had a time change for years, and the farming is doing just fine there. The true origins of this lie with Germany and World War I, as a cost measure to save fuel, something that is not even the case anymore as it has been shown that places with daylight savings time actually spend more money on electricity consumption. Mr. Speaker, I would also like to address that often people say that daylight savings time adds daylight, which is not possible. The sun and the earth's position is something we cannot change. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, there is no reason for daylight savings time to exist in the Northwest Territories. Just ask my friends from the Beaudel. There is plenty of daylight in the summertime. Mr. Speaker, our neighbours in the Yukon have recently gotten rid of the time change. I believe it is time for the Northwest Territories to do this, as well. The last Assembly began this work. There was a petition with over 500 signatures requesting this. The Alberta government recently conducted a survey of its residents and found that 93 percent want to get rid of the time change. There are jurisdictions across the world finally looking at getting rid of this anomaly that we believe we can control time, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister of Justice, or should I say the Minister of Time, about whether we can finally get rid of this archaic practice. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session March 5, 2020

Women in Trades and International Women's Day


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In honour of this Sunday being International Women's Day, and my constituency assistant Cat McGurk recently receiving her Red Seal in carpentry, I want to speak about women in trades. Canada is facing a spike in trade and technology positions, without the skilled labour to fill those positions. The NWT presently heavily relies on southern labour to supply our various trade needs. Our infrastructure projects, our mines, and our private sector are all put at risk because skilled labour has become such a precious commodity in the North. We need to build up our skilled labour here. I believe one of the solutions to doing that lies with the women of the NWT. The numbers for women in construction trades in the NWT is less than 3 percent, Mr. Speaker. That's half our population who have never been encouraged to enter the trades. The reality is that most women still don't see the trades as an option for them. Despite changing attitudes, we still avoid teaching young girls physical capacity, and most guidance counsellors neglect to discuss shop classes with female high school students. In our small communities face many unique barriers to entering a fulfilling career in the trades. I propose we take an active stake in supporting northern women and develop a women in trades program. Other such programs in Canada have been met with terrific success; programs like Women Unlimited, with their 93 percent completion rate. Trades Discovery for Women, Trade Herizons, and Women Building Futures have a 90-percent work placement rate: proof that these programs work, and not only can women do the work they set out to do, employers want to hire them. Often, when the idea of female-focused pre-apprenticeship programs are brought up, it is deflected by the sentiment that we must encourage all people to consider careers in the trades, not just women. We must consider all people to enter the trades but, Mr. Speaker, this Assembly is a testament that gender-based programs work. When we championed campaign schools for women, it resulted in more women entering this Assembly and, if we champion women in trades, it will result in more tradespeople, something we are in desperate need of. Just this week, we heard the Minister of ECE say that apprenticeship in the NWT is dropping. We know women in trades programs are effective, the majority of which are based on the east coast, where they boast the highest inclusion rate for women in trades. Mr. Speaker, we need more tradespeople, period, and there is clear data that establishing a women in trades program does exactly that. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session March 4, 2020

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Many of our conversations around Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, are centred around making sure mothers stop drinking during pregnancy, but, in fact, there is much work to be done. The science has shown for years that there is a causal relationship between FASD prevalence and fathers drinking. Putting all of the responsibility on the mother means we are not fully addressing the problem. We need to build up support around our mothers, not isolate them. The Foster Family Coalition of the NWT has done great work flipping the narrative around, and I will table a report by them later today, but it isn't the end of the conversation around FASD awareness. There is much work to be done to prevent FASD and to end the stigma for those living with it. National studies suggest that 4 percent of our population, or roughly 1,800 people, are living with FASD. These people need support and structure in childhood and throughout their entire lives. We need to ensure that our front-line workers are sympathetic to the complex needs of these individuals, not just our healthcare workers but our teachers, our Housing Corporation employees, and our general population. The most effective way to do this is through advocacy and continued conversations that break down stigma. I will stand in this House and continue to talk about FASD awareness for that reason, to break down stigma, Mr. Speaker. Currently, the GNWT relies on data from the rest of Canada, but I wonder how that information holds up to northern realities. We don't have any data on prevalent rates in the NWT, and so we can't know if we are successfully addressing this issue. It is difficult to advocate for an issue when we are only guessing at its scope, Mr. Speaker. In 2018, the department released its Disability Action Plan, which indicated they would review existing data sources to validate the prevalence of risk factors in incidents of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Without northern data, I don't see how we could possibly achieve this. I believe it is important that our department implement, at the very least, some basic research on prevalence. We've come a long way in the last couple of years, developing an adult FASD diagnostic clinic, and there is even training going on in Yellowknife right now on FASD and neurodiversity for social workers and caregivers, aimed at improving client relationships. It's good work, but we have to keep going, Mr. Speaker. I would love to see more screening for those in the justice system, reduced wait times for youth diagnostic clinics, housing strategies, and stronger language in our departmental action plans around FASD. I hope we are on track to some of these things, but I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session March 3, 2020

Health System Navigator


"Thank you, Madam Speaker. We spend a lot of time in this House criticizing GNWT practices, trying to right the wrongs of the past, and hold the government to account. Today, I would like to focus on an initiative that has been performing exceptionally well in our government, based on my experience. One of the most helpful tools the Department of Health and Social Services has is its system navigator. The system assists residents with inquiries in the various sectors of the department. It directs residents down the right path depending on their individual needs, both frees up resources within the department and delivers a higher level of service to residents, whether it's accessing non-insured health benefits, seniors' services, or using medical travel for the first time. Instead of being sent through a maze of e-mail chains and phone calls, you're one e-mail or call away from the answers you're looking for. Madam Speaker, the health system navigator has helped numerous constituents of mine. It has been very helpful to my constituency assistant, and Madam Speaker, the goal in the long term is to not have our processes be so complicated that we have a navigator, but that's not the world we presently live in. There has been a lot of talk in this House lately about discussing personnel issues. I usually would not do this, but I would really like to commend the current Health and Social Services net navigator, Shoshanna Canuel-Kirkwood, on behalf of myself and all my constituents. I thank you for all the work you have done in ensuring that this process runs smoothly. Thank you, Shoshanna."



19th Assembly, 2nd Session March 2, 2020

Northview Real Estate Investment Purchase


"Thank you, Madam Speaker. In light of Starlight Investments and KingSett Capital's recent intention to purchase Northview Real Estate, thus making the two largest landlords in Yellowknife one, I wanted to read an open letter to CEO Jon Love of KingSett Capital and CEO Daniel Drimmer of Starlight Investments. Congratulations on your intention to purchase Northview Real Estate Investment Trust for $4.8 billion. I wish to inform you that, upon closing this deal, you will own a small city in the subarctic called Yellowknife. Yellowknife also happens to be the capital city of the Northwest Territories. I invite you to come and visit sometime. It's a beautiful place. In case you were not aware, Northview presently owns the majority of rental apartment units in Yellowknife, and when combining their commercial stock with KingSett's current Yellowknife stock, you will own the majority of commercial leasing space, as well. I have attached a picture of our downtown core to show you all the buildings you will own, one of which KingSett has managed to keep vacant for almost a decade. It recently had its siding fall off; I have attached that picture for you, as well. Additionally, congratulations on your intention to purchase a company which is our city's leader in residential tenancies violations. When you come visit our town, I hope you will visit the various Northview apartments that have been left in disrepair due to rent money flowing south to fuel other capital investments. Before you purchase our city, I wanted to ensure that you are aware of the fact that the majority of Yellowknifers have, at some point, lived or worked in one of the buildings in this deal, and I have yet to ever hear a single positive thing about that fact. My apologies, Dan. I know you have significant amount of investment in Northview, but I hope, as our new landlords, we can start a fresh and do some work to repair the relationship with our residents. Now I recognize that by design real estate is first and foremost an investment for your companies and the fact that people live and work in your property is secondary; but I would hope you both put something extra in for exceptional cases such as this. As I am sure you are aware the North is an exceptional market. The capitalization rate for Northview's Northern Canada holdings is 9.17 percent which is 55 percent higher than its overall capitalization rate and 40 percent higher than its next most profitable region. Of course KingSett, as a private equity fund for institutional and ultra-high net worth investors, does not have the transparency of an exchange-traded REIT like Northview, such that similar information is not publicly available for Kingsett's current holdings in northern Canada. I also not that Northview's current market power, combined with Kingsett's market share, is an index that will make Yellowknife one the most highly concentrated real estate markets in Canada.


Dan, Jon, we all know this deal is not really about Yellowknife. There are so many assets in your combined multi-billion-dollar portfolios that I wouldn't expect you to ever know them all by city. I am hopeful that this letter, despite its sarcastic tone, can start a conversation. There are a variety of remedies available that will ensure the acquisition of Northview can allow some competition to once again exist in our northern capital. I have brought this market share issue to the Competition Bureau of Canada's attention on multiple occasions. I encourage you to reach out the them and divest some of Yellowknife assets in this deal, ideally on a small enough scale to allow local ownership in a city which is desperately in need of competition and local developers. At the very least, perhaps you could try and do something about that 10-storey vacant tower that you own. Yours truly, Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 28, 2020

Northern Building Standards


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We need to establish territory-wide building standards to meet the cost of climate changes today. While the standards of the national Modern Energy Building Code are required, there are no assurances that these standards are met due to the lack of small community inspections and enforcement systems. Project management capacity at the community level is also a concern, Mr. Speaker. For example, there is no guarantee that a new community building won't be sited on permafrost for lack of a geotechnical survey. This raises major concerns. Public safety can be put at risk. Without standards, there is no assurance of operational quality, energy efficiency, durability, or security of investment, because the best expertise for northern construction resides with our northern architects, engineers, and consultants. Lack of standards can allow our public dollars to leak south to those unfamiliar or under-qualified with northern requirements. We need to ensure GNWT funds transferred to communities are used to build long lasting and efficient buildings, Mr. Speaker. The NWT Association of Communities has long called for the creation of an NWT-wide building and inspections capacity, and pass resolutions pointing to the needs for improved construction. The Northwest Territories Association of Architects has repeatedly brought forward the needs for standards and compliance. The Northwest Territories Greenhouse Gas Strategy and new ministerial mandates call for NWT building standards to assist communities in reducing their energy costs via efficiency. A northern building code would meet our responsibility for addressing these concerns, but we will also need to help our communities and citizens meet these standards by establishing an advisory and inspection capacity and by establishing systems to require professional assurances that standards have been met. We need to aim higher by ensuring our NWT standard for energy efficiency recognizes our northern conditions and exceeds southern standards. Mr. Speaker, last week, I plagiarized a Member's statement by my predecessor, Mr. Cory Vanthuyne. The Member's statement I just read practically word-for-word was plagiarized by my predecessor's predecessor, Mr. Bob Bromley, in 2011. This issue should have been addressed a long time ago. It is the start to get the ball rolling, and once again, the simplest and most effective tools in implementing our Energy Strategy is a building standards act. I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure, Mr. Speaker."



19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 27, 2020

Yellowknife Motor Vehicles Office Hours


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Today I wish to speak about the hours of service for the Yellowknife Department of Motor Vehicles.


Mr. Speaker, a number of my platform points that I campaigned on currently lie dead in the water. I won't walk out of here in four years having delivered universal basic income or universal daycare. However, in my platform, I had a number of smaller, very simple changes, and hopefully, after four years of persistence, I can get the Yellowknife Department of Motor Vehicles to be open evenings or weekends, Mr. Speaker.


Firstly, I would like to begin by acknowledging that the Yellowknife Department of Motor Vehicles office has put more and more services online, which has reduced wait times. They are accessible 24 hours a day, but there are a still a number of services you have to go into the office for. I have been trying to change the address on my driver's licence for years.


In this town, which is a government town, if you work government hours but government services are only available those same hours, you find yourself having to take a day off simply to catch up on bureaucratic paperwork.


Now, Mr. Speaker, when I do a jurisdictional scan, it is clear: Edmonton, open 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week. You can go in after supper and renew your driver's licence. A number of jurisdictions; Ottawa, Thursday, they pick one night a week where they are open evenings and then a few hours on Saturday. Mr. Speaker, I believe we can accomplish this in the next four years.


One of the barriers to this is: we can't simply ask a GNWT employee to start two hours later, which would allow the DMV to be open two hours later, because we run into the collective agreement. I believe in the collective agreement, which serves the members who work in the public service, but in a government town where they have to then go access those services, it actually becomes a barrier.


I have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure on whether we can add some flexibility into the collective agreement that allows our services to be open evenings and weekends.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 26, 2020

Ministerial Responsibility


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Today, I would like to begin my Member's statement by quoting from our consensus guiding principles: "Consensus government is a unique combination of the British traditions of ministerial responsibility, Cabinet solidarity, and legislative accountability and the Aboriginal traditions of open dialogue, inclusive decision-making, accommodation, respect, and trust."


Mr. Speaker, I love consensus government. I would never wish to be a politician in a partisan system, but the system we operate in only works when we all play our roles and we make sure these conventions are followed.


Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the principle of ministerial responsibility. That is the principle which is a Westminster's system of government where a Cabinet Minister bears the ultimate responsibility for all actions of their department. The accountable Minister must take the blame for the faults of their department. "This means that, if waste, corruption, or any misbehaviour is found to have occurred within a ministry, the Minster is responsible even if the Minister had no knowledge of the actions."


Mr. Speaker, that quote there is from Wikipedia, a source just as infallible as our own guiding principles.


This principle is essential to consensus government, Mr. Speaker, as it guarantees that elected officials are answerable for every single government decision. It is key to motivate Ministers to closely scrutinize the activities within their department. One rule coming from this principle is that each Cabinet Member answers for their own ministry in question period.


Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation started talking about their election campaign as an excuse for not knowing what is happening in their department, that is not acceptable. This is not how our system of government works. When a Minister starts talking about decisions of previous Ministers, that is not how this system works.


Today, I heard the Minister talk about and take credit for an award on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway. They get to take credit for that because they are responsible for all past decisions of their ministry.


Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation on how the Arnica Inn project got denied due to her department not providing support and how she is going to take responsibility to correct this situation.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker."



19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 25, 2020

Arnica Inn Transitional Housing Project


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I am also going to hop on this train. The Arnica Inn: an example of how not to govern.


By my count, every single Yellowknife MLA and my colleague beside me supported this project. During the election, the City of Yellowknife supported this project. In fact, I don't remember talking to a single person opposed to this project. Then, once we get elected, this project seemingly does not go through because the GNWT did not support it.


Furthermore, I find out that we don't support this project due to the mayor and the executive director of the women's society informing me, and CMHC ultimately informing them. This was a clear breakdown in communication, Mr. Speaker. The Housing Corporation is a Crown corporation. It is supposed to be arm's length from government, but it is not supposed to be arm's length from the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation. It is not supposed to be arm's length from democratically elected Members of this legislature.


Mr. Speaker, I struggle to know why this occurred. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation, but I believe that there is a larger problem here. Our NWT Housing Corporation is extremely risk adverse. They are so afraid of the 2038 deadline on losing funding from CMHC that they fail to put new units on the ground.


We speak of partnerships. We speak of ending homelessness, and this was a project that checked all of those boxes, Mr. Speaker.


We need a Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation who has a bold vision, who is willing to take the risks, and is willing to address our housing crisis. It is now the responsibility of that Minister to repair the relationship with the Members who supported this project, to repair the relationship with the women's society, to repair the relationship with the City of Yellowknife, and most importantly, to give some hope to our most vulnerable citizens who, on the streets of Yellowknife, who come from all across this territory, that they will have housing, that there is some plan in place that ultimately addresses this.


Mr. Speaker, from where I was standing and where I stand now, this project made complete sense.


I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation."



19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 13, 2020

Integrated Case Management


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I would like to build on the statement given by my colleague from Kam Lake.


There have been many successes of the integrated case management approach, many individual successes, but, ultimately, those pathfinders are trying to run a person-centred method of helping people in a system centred institution.


Mr. Speaker, I believe that the writing is on the wall with the upcoming evaluation of the integrated case management project. What will happen is that unit will have discovered many barriers to systemic change; there will have been many successes for people with complex needs; yet, they are not empowered to bring about the regulatory, the policy, and the legislative changes required. That is our job in this House.


I don't believe that these solutions are that complex. They require front-line workers making a "yes" the default answer. They require our front-line workers having flexibility to interpret policies that, when a person with complex needs is in front of them, they can allow the policy to work for that person. They require our departments to talk to each other and create case files for individuals with complex needs. They require our departments to email each other on the front lines.


Right now, when we want to make policy changes, we have to go up, all the way up the chain and then all the back down, and what actually should have been an easy policy shift that happened when the complex-needs individual was in front of them takes months.


Mr. Speaker, we need to make housing and income support talk to each other better. We need to extend the time period that a person can be on income assistance so that they're not struggling with monthly reporting and fear of eviction and complex health needs all at the same time.


Mr. Speaker, I believe that our integrated case management unit has discovered many of the systemic problems in this GNWT. I believe that they have the solutions. The question now is: are they going to be empowered to bring about the systemic change and break down the silos in our government?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister of Justice on integrated case management.



19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 12, 2020

Yellowknife City Charter


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Today, I wish to plagiarize a Member's statement brought forward by my predecessor, Cory Vanthuyne, Member for Yellowknife North. I think many of us are aware that the only way to get things done in this House is persistence, persistence through Assemblies.


The idea and the topic of my Member's statement today is a Yellowknife city charter. This request has been made by the City of Yellowknife in response to frustration from getting traction out of the GNWT.


For as long as the Property Assessment and Taxation act has existed, municipalities have been asking for it to be amended. The City of Yellowknife has asked for the land within their municipal boundaries to be transferred because they have found the process through the Department of Lands to be burdensome and frustrating. They asked for about a decade to get a hotel tax, something that was fought tooth and nail by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. A Yellowknife city charter begins to address these issues.


I think we all recognize that Yellowknife is in a different situation from many of our communities, and should not fall under the same legislation. I believe the reason this issue gets no traction is because there's a consistent hesitation to giving Yellowknife more in this Assembly, which I do believe is a healthy check on power- governments tend to centralize over time. However, blind, anti-Yellowknife sentiment can cause bad policy.


In this case, we have seen the City of Yellowknife frustrated with where its mandate begins and where the GNWT ends. We have seen this in issues such as homelessness. We have seen this in issues of control of lands. A Yellowknife city charter would allow the City of Yellowknife, which is in a unique position, representing approximately half of our territory, to begin negotiations with Municipal and Community Affairs of where those jurisdictions lie, where there are needs in the city of Yellowknife that simply don't make sense in other communities, and then it would allow time in our departments to stop micro-managing the city of Yellowknife and allow what is a much more flexible government to accomplish the task it needs to do.


Today, I will have questions for the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs about whether we can begin the work on a Yellowknife city charter.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker."



19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 11, 2020

Iron Law of Bureaucracy


"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to speak about the iron law of bureaucracy, a term coined by Jerry Pournelle, a researcher on legacy institutions. The law states that, in any bureaucratic organization, there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization and those who 10 work for the organization itself. Examples in the GNWT would be those who work hard and sacrifice their time to serve our public, and I thank them for that, versus those who avoid accountability, consider their main role to push paper, and ensure that they hold the department record for being cc'd on the most emails. The iron law states that, in all cases, the type of person whose primary goal is to climb a bureaucratic ladder, as opposed to serve the public, will always gain control of the organization and will always write the rules under which the organization functions. This is the challenge of legacy institutions, Mr. Speaker, such as government. If government were a business, it would have failed long ago. It would have been forced to declare bankruptcy and try again with new ideas. Yet government bankruptcy, despite what our fiscal situation might say, is not an option. Mr. Speaker, I wish to clarify: government can't be run on profit motive, and all of our goals in this House is to have the GNWT succeed, not fail; but, if we are not speaking honestly about problems that persist in any legacy institution, then we cannot serve our citizens. This is not me speaking, Mr. Speaker. There is no shortage of research on solutions on how to address systemic problems in public service institutions. One way in which the iron law is solidified is the avoidance of making decisions, also known as "paralysis by analysis." The reality is that we all have to make decisions in uncertainty. There will always be trade-offs. We can't pretend that we live in a perfect world with all of the data. If you are in a department and the sixth briefing note on a subject has been requested, perhaps it is time to just make a decision. Mr. Speaker, I struggle with this because, on this side of the House, we constantly ask for more power, for more input, for more information, yet we all have to realize that the goal here is to empower the experts in our departments to make decisions; to empower those on the front line to serve our citizens. It may be time to ruffle some feathers, but it is our job to make those tough decisions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 10, 2020 Residential Tenancies Legislation and Enforcement

"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The North loves its monopolies, whether it be Northmart, Northwestel, Northland Utilities, or today's topic of my statement, Northview Apartment Real Estate Investment Trust. Mr. Speaker, our residential tenancy system, by design, is a neutral arbitrator of individual disputes and, as such, is not empowered to address larger systemic issues and abuses by landlords. We have seen this recently in Northview's illegal collecting of pet deposits, yet this is not a one-off issue, Mr. Speaker. There is no shortage of human rights or residential tenancies' complaints that point to larger systemic negligence on the part of Northview Apartment REIT. Northview is the North's largest private landlord, with a near-monopoly on rental apartments in both Yellowknife and Inuvik. Northview is an unincorporated, open-end real estate investment trust, a corporate entity which, by design, treats real estate as an investment first and foremost, and pleasing its shareholders above treating those houses as people's homes. The company has a portfolio of over 24,000 residential suites in over 60 markets across 9 Canada. It was formed in 2015 following a merger of Northern Property REIT, True North Apartment REIT, and a number of privately held residential properties. Prior to that merger, the Competition Bureau conducted an investigation and issued a no-action letter, Mr. Speaker. I, myself, have filed a complaint in regard to Northview's monopolistic practice, but found no traction in the federal legislation. It falls on us in this House to ensure we have adequate legislative powers to address this. Mr. Speaker, it is our role here as a government to ensure there is fair and adequate competition in our territory. A dominant landlord reinvesting rent collected in the North into properties located in the south has a significant impact on the people living in a territory with one of the highest costs of living in the country. In addition, Mr. Speaker, the high cost of construction in the North limits the building of any new rentals. This means that a competitor emerging is not going to happen. Yellowknife and Inuvik have significant income inequality, with a large section of the population living below the poverty line. Given these factors, there is an increased necessity to avoid market domination in the North. The solution to this issue is complicated. It requires competition to emerge in the market. The solution to dominant market share is complicated. It requires competition to emerge in the market, it requires punishment for consistent violations of our legislation, and it requires our Housing Corporation to increase its housing supply. Today, I will have questions for the Minister of Justice to begin the discussion of how to address Northview's dominant market share in the North. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 7, 2020

Eulogy for Gary Vaillancourt

"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Gary Vaillancourt came north from Sudbury, Ontario, in 1977 to fly helicopters, but where he hailed from, I think he would deem irrelevant, as the North was his home and captivated him for over 40 years. Gary was a hardworking, enigmatic individual, one of the first houseboaters on the Yellowknife Bay. It is with a heavy heart, and as a member of his community, that I mourn his passing. I think Gary would scoff at the idea of me giving him an address in the Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately, our last interaction was him yelling at me about where to park my canoe, but Gary deserves this address. Without him, we may not have the colourful bay life that charms visitors and characterizes the Yellowknife landscape. Gary was a baron of the bay, housing many and helping more. He was a community-minded innovator, who worked tirelessly and dreamed big. In the early '80s, Gary and friends, such as John Alexander, Chris Holloway, and Scott Mitchell, built the first permanent houseboats. The barges were built out of 50-foot trees, telephone poles, and discarded aviation barrels. This was not the last houseboat that he would build, but rather the start of a floating empire. Gary was fiercely independent. It drove him to learn many trades, and he was always willing to share his immense knowledge. Gary was a pilot, musician, builder, philosopher, and embodied the creative spirit of the North. The extent of his contribution to the culture and vibrancy of this city really cannot be measured. Gary is survived by his daughter, Molly, who is with us today in the gallery, a large community of friends, and many ambitious floating homes. Thank you, Gary. You won't be forgotten."



19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 6, 2020 Suicide Crisis and Prevention

"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As we sit in this House, we must never forget who we serve. We serve the people on the ground, and the reality is that so many of them are hurting. The reality is that the North is at the bottom of most social indicators in Canada. We are dealing with a history of both past and ongoing colonialism and ongoing trauma from residential schools, and there are so many issues and only limited resources. Often in this House, we feel like we are being pulled in many directions, but government is a large ship, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that it goes in a coherent, strategic direction. Today, I would like to speak about one of the many issues facing our territory. We are presently in a suicide crisis, Mr. Speaker. We have among the highest rates of suicide in the North. Additionally, we can only do so much with the information that we have, and there is a lack of data on this. Often, when there is a suicide, there are 20 times as many attempts. Additionally, many of our residents head south and they disappear into larger urban centres, where they too often fall to suicide and addictions, and we do not track those numbers properly. Mr. Speaker, we have a responsibility to do more. We have a responsibility to develop a suicide prevention strategy, working with our Indigenous governments, working with the federal government, and working across departments to make sure that we are getting a full picture of this crisis. We have a responsibility to help those who are hurting, especially those in our small communities and those who have lost hope, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 2nd Session February 5, 2020 Polytechnic University and Academic Freedom "Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Building on my colleague's statement regarding the recent firing of the president of Aurora College, I would like to speak today about the importance of academic freedom. This past week, a number of MLAs met with Dechinta University, an example of what a thriving and inspiring university can look like in the North. Fundamental to their success and in establishing a successful grant and research programming with funding from the federal government has been academic freedom. In order for a university to thrive, it must be nimble, it must be able to move quickly, and it must be able to be critical of government. I am very skeptical that Aurora College is in a position to do that now and on the path that we are going forward will take it there. It saddens me that Aurora College is one of the most costly colleges to run in the country and one of the least successful. However, I think this reality should be recognition on all our parts that we can do better. I want Aurora College to inspire. I want the residents of Fort Smith to be excited, yet, repeatedly, when I have conversations about this, there is a lack of enthusiasm. I think people are scared. Now, we have a president leading this transformation who is a former bureaucrat. I do not believe that is the right path to head down if we truly want to create a northern university that is inspiring, that will meet the demands of our citizens, and will lead us into the future. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 1st Session December 12, 2019 Public Servants and Innovation "Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to end the first session of this new Assembly by thanking the public service. In this House, part of our job is to be critical of government, but I want to assure everyone who works in our public service that we are grateful for the work they do, and being a government worker can often be a thankless job. We elected officials must remember that the GNWT is not some amorphous, impersonal machine, but it is made up of hard-working people who take pride in their jobs. It is our nurses who heal the sick. It is our teachers who are raising the next generation of strong minds. It is social workers, policy wonks, scientists, firefighters, road maintenance workers, and so much more. To all of the members of the public service, I know, at times, that the demands of this House can be difficult. Sometimes you just get that program finally implemented and working, and some MLA tells you to change it, but I ask you to be patient. This leads me to my next point. We in this House are not the experts. We are elected to lead, but we can only do so if provided advice from those in government who are the experts. We can only make truly informed decisions if we are provided all of the facts and options for solving our territory's problems. To our public service, I encourage you to know that this is a new Assembly, an Assembly willing to do things differently, and know that we want new ideas. In fact, we want old ideas, too. Perhaps that program that was denied by the last administration, perhaps this is the time to push it through. I am reminded, when we met our new ombud, that a Member wanted to thank Wendy Bisaro, who served as a Member two Assemblies ago. This is a recognition that progress is often slow, and all of our progress is built on the Members who served before us. To our new Ministers, I encourage you to get into your regions, talk with your front-line workers, hear their concerns, and let's give them a few early wins. You must trust your senior management, but you must also remember that a department is so much more than its headquarters. It is more than its senior bureaucrats, who often have a lens that may be risk-adverse and not exactly a reflection of what is happening on the ground. I ask all of us, and mostly, I thank the public service, and I encourage them to feel bold, feel empowered, and let's deliver programs and services that our Northerners need. Thank you."

19th Assembly, 1st Session December 11, 2019

Land Claims and Reconciliation "Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Two of the priorities of this Assembly are to settle and implement treaty, land, resources, and selfgovernment agreements, and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. I believe these are the two most important priorities of this assembly, as they go to the very heart of what is the role of the GNWT and what is the future role of this House. When all of us as new MLAs, before breaking off into Cabinet and Regular Members, sat with Indigenous leaders, we repeatedly heard that the GNWT was a barrier at negotiating tables. I have no doubt this is true. Despite the fact that previous Assemblies also prioritized settling land rights agreements, we became a barrier at the table. This shows there is a disconnect between what is said and what is done. That is one of the most rampant issues in our politics. We always shy away from framing the issues that are divisive. As such, no MLA in this Assembly will ever say they don't want to implement land rights and self-government agreements. Yet, if everyone agrees, that means we are asking the wrong question. The first and most important question we must ask ourselves is if we as government are willing to give up control to Indigenous governments. Any change in circumstances, I would argue, is human nature. It causes an initial defensive reaction, especially a change that results in having less control. Yet settling outstanding land rights and self-government agreements is not a matter of "if"; it is a matter of "when." It is inevitable for this territory, and the question we must ask ourselves is: are we going to make any progress on these files or are we going to keep being a barrier at the table? The current unsettled state of affairs and uncertainty benefits no one. It causes uncertainty in our economy and it strains our relationships with Indigenous governments. Canada's Collaborative Self-Government Fiscal Policy means there is money ready for our Indigenous governments to exercise their right to govern, yet that money is waiting for us to sign self-government agreements. It is waiting for us in his House to be bold and to take the very difficult step to give up power that rightly belongs to our Indigenous governments. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."


19th Assembly, 1st Session December 10, 2019

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

"Along with my colleagues, I would like to recognize that today is World Human Rights Day, which marks the conclusion of The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

After publishing the priorities of this 19th Assembly, it was pointed out by a number of my constituents that any mention of working to address violence against women was missing from the list. This is an omission that I believe this Assembly must rectify. It must be made clear that taking action to end domestic violence and gender-based violence is a priority of this Assembly. In the throne speech last week, the federal government committed to reconciliation and responding to the calls for justice of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We are living in an Indigenous territory, and we work within a gender-balanced Assembly. We can and should be leading the way on ending gender-based violence. This is a difficult topic to speak about. It is a topic of actual tragedy, and, with some of the worst domestic violence rates in the country, this tragedy is taking place right now. This is a difficult topic for me to speak about. I find the voice of men is all too often silent on fighting gender-based violence, despite men overwhelmingly being the perpetrators. This silence places an unfair burden on the victims to also be advocates for change. This silence is reinforced by a culture in which too many men and boys are discouraged from speaking with vulnerability, from admitting weakness or sadness or pain. This is a part of the narrative that needs to change. I believe we in this House must not shy away from speaking about the things that are hard to speak about, about the roots of tragedies that are still taking place and about the faults in our systems, in ourselves, and about the desperate need for change, change in a society that disproportionately harms our most vulnerable. Much of the policy work to enact this change has already been done for us. The Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls for justice are addressed specifically to governments. In this report, one of the roadblocks identified was a lack of political will. I am here to say the political will exists in the Northwest Territories. This 19th Assembly is now writing its mandate. Now is the time to commit to implementing the calls for justice in collaboration with all levels of government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker."

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