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Yellowknife Centre

Ambe Chenemu

1. What in your experience and background makes you the right person to shepherd the Northwest Territories’ economic development through the next four years?

I’ve had the opportunity to play many roles which have prepared me for the task.

In my time with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, I had the opportunity to learn about many of the issues and challenges affecting members in Yellowknife. These are issues shared by many in our riding.

As a policy and government relations specialist with the Tlicho Government, I’ve worked with all levels of government and industry on matters of economic development to move the territory forward.

As a small business owner, I have seen firsthand the challenges entrepreneurs have in getting a business off the ground and thriving.

With my experience running as local non profit, I have helped a lot of locally owned businesses from startup to expansion and understand what it takes to access resources, raise capital and build a successful business ecosystem

With a law degree and a diploma in natural resource Management from Aurora College, I have the knowledge necessary to understand and act on complex issues critical to solving the economic problems we face.

And as a seasoned advocate with a history of organizing people to affect change, I will bring the energy to drive real progress on economic development as a member of the legislature.

I’m extremely grateful to the North for the opportunities I’ve had. I will put all of these skills, experience, and expertise into pushing for a government which will help others get the same chance - in our riding and beyond.


2. As an MLA what action will you take to increase land availability within the City of Yellowknife?

As an MLA will you commit to the expedited transfer of all lands in the municipal boundary, under the administration and control of the Commissioner of the NWT, to the City of Yellowknife?

There are two things that need to be done - the release of all territorial lands within municipal boundaries, and settling the Akaitcho claim.

I will absolutely support the expedited release of lands within the City’s boundaries from territorial management.

Further, with my background in issues of land management during my time with the Tlicho Government, I have the expertise to play a strong role in pushing the issue on Committee and in the Legislature.

The lack of a settled Akaitcho claim continues to be a major issue for the whole region. It is time for the territorial government to get focused and throw urgency behind getting this done. It will provide the necessary economic certainty for the region to reach its full potential, and help socially as more land becomes available to provide the critical services and housing necessary to address the crises being faced by this City.

As a former Yellowknives Dene First Nation employee, and a policy and government relations leader in the Tlicho Government, I understand the issues at-play and the opportunities which come from settling outstanding claims – and I will be a strong advocate for putting the necessary urgency behind finally getting this done.


3. As an MLA or member of Cabinet how do you plan to address and facilitate economic immigration to our region to promote economic growth and job opportunities?
How will you support the integration of newcomers into our unique northern communities?

As a small business-owner and someone who immigrated to Canada, this hits close to home for me. My goal would be to push policies which would see immigration to the territory grow by 20% over four years.

This can be achieved by creating targeted immigration streams that address the territories needs ranging from healthcare to labour to new capital investment.

To help new residents reach their full potential, it is critical to work with diaspora communities, licencing organizations, and the federal government in having a predictable, reasonable process for recognizing the skills, experience, and expertise folks have gained abroad, while ensuring professional standards are upheld.

Further, I would like to see the Labour Market Impact Assessment Process (LMIA) eliminated. It is limiting businesses in addressing labour shortages in Yellowknife and beyond.

We can look to the Atlantic provinces for an example - where this was eliminated and where Halifax has seen explosive population growth and a thriving economy.

Along with a University in the NWT, serving as another avenue for attracting new residents, getting this right could be a game-changer for our economy.

As far as integration, I believe this is a major strength in our community today - our biggest priority should be to continue to strengthen organizations doing good work today.

With greater immigration would come greater need for organizations like CDETNO - and I would support ensuring they have the resources needed to assist in integrating new residents.

I would further support funding and collaboration with organizations like the Phillipine Cultural Association of Yellowknife, Islamic Centre of Yellowknife, the Multicultural Community of Yellowknife, and countless other diaspora organizations in our City and territory in not only helping new residents learn about the North and integrate into the community, but to further enrich this place we live together.


4. As an MLA what specific steps will you take to support and strengthen the local/northern construction Industry?

One major issue I hear from folks in construction is government procurement. The government completed a review on procurement and has set out a path for improvements. This is great news - and I understand from reviewing the panel that most recommendations were incorporated.

However, too often these plans sit on a shelf with limited or delayed implementation. I will hold the next government to account to ensure the plan is implemented, and implemented quickly to ensure the experience improves for northern companies looking to do business with us – and ensure local benefits are maximized in infrastructure planning.

Further, I was disappointed by the fact amendments to the Builder’s Lien Act in the last assembly included a provision effectively exempting the territorial government from its terms. Prompt payment matters for construction companies - and I would like to see this revisited and fixed to ensure the territorial government - one of the biggest customers for many players in construction - is treated the same as any other organization.

We also do a favour to the construction industry by focusing our infrastructure asks. I would push for the government to pick a smaller selection of big infrastructure projects and go hard to get shovels in the ground as soon as possible. We have spread our asks out far and wide, and it’s meant progress in small bursts without the capital to move to
construction – which is where the real benefit to the industry, and people across the NWT, comes.


5. As an MLA how will you look to leverage remediation projects so that associated jobs, work, contracts, innovation stay in, and benefit, the NWT?

Many of the largest projects on the remediation front will be federally-led. The role of the territorial government is to use its influence to ensure these projects go forward in a way that respects local capacity, and provides adequate opportunity for local businesses and workforces to be harnessed to get this work done by northerners, for northerners.

A great deal of this revolves around progressive procurement policies that will allow local companies to bid on more aspects of these projects over longer periods of time.

These projects are also an excellent way to establish the territory as a destination for folks who have an interest in getting these projects done.

As we look to establish a university here in the capital, we should be considering the needs of these projects as the university is handed its mandate to create programs.

From there, we can establish a pipeline for both northerners, and new residents who come here for school to have rewarding, long-term, well-paid work in the remediation economy – ensuring there’s a good reason for northerners to stay and raise their
families, and for new residents to make a home here over the long-term.


6.  As we look to diversify the NWT’s economy, what economic growth opportunities do you see inherent in Yellowknife’s airport?

Do you think it is time to transition the Yellowknife Airport to an airport authority model allowing for greater flexibility to invest in infrastructure, improve services, and manage their finances?

I am in favour of the airport being managed as an airport authority. This is the model in capital cities across the country and I believe it would allow for a more responsive and dynamic airport to better serve folks as the first point of entry for our territory.

One thing that’s always held us back in Yellowknife - especially our tourism industry - is the fact our airport is not considered an Airport of Entry. Whitehorse’s airport is, and this has allowed them to implement direct flights from Germany – opening new doors for tourism.

We have an audience in Europe and Asia for our tourism offerings as evidenced by tourism visitor data - but I believe we could expand that audience if barriers to visiting were lower.

I believe an airport authority with the focused mandate and commitment to improvement of the airport’s offerings to locals and visitors alike could achieve these ends should they believe that’s the right path.


7. As an MLA how will you make downtown Yellowknife a more attractive place for touriststo visit and for future business investment?

How do you view the intersection between homelessness and public safety?

In terms of making downtown a more attractive location for tourists, we need this government to invest meaningfully in tourism product development centred downtown.

In terms of homelessness and public safety, as a long-time resident of the downtown core, this is my neighbourhood. Everyone downtown are my neighbours and I care deeply about this issue.

First and foremost, violence and crime which impacts others can’t be tolerated. There are established ways to deal with these issues. I support enforcing the law to ensure public safety issues are addressed promptly.
At the core of the issue for underhoused and those experiencing homelessness is a failure of our system to meet them where they are with the support they need.

I’ve proposed developing individualized care plans which get people off the street and into places which can help them address their challenges - whether that be addiction, mental health, or other traumas, get roofs over heads, reach stability, and get them into the workforce.

Recently, the Yellowknife Women’s Society proposed to the City of Yellowknife enhanced levels of care through the Street Outreach Program - expanding to include outreach nurses, mental health assistance, paramedical care, and foot patrols in addition to the established vehicle-based service.

The Street Outreach Program is a success, but it is under-resourced in part because the Government of the Northwest Territories is not a full-participant in its delivery. We have instead left the largest burden of investment on the City when there are clear benefits for territorial services, and a built-in, passionate group of individuals willing to do the hard work.

I believe that this is a good example of a way forward which could help folks overcome their challenges - and with the right upfront work done to prove its concept, and with collaboration with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, I would support investing in initiatives like this.

Similar projects have been pursued in Whitehorse as well as southern jurisdictions to significant success.

I am confident that, if done right, it will make downtown safer, while saving taxpayers money in the long run.

And of course, we need to get serious about Housing First as an approach - because it’s proven that getting roofs over heads first brings greater success in supporting recovery, less burden on policing and emergency services, and fewer people on the streets.


8. As an MLA, what concrete steps will you take to build the collaboration necessary to implement comprehensive solutions to these issues?

What accountability measures will you commit to implement to ensure meaningful action
takes place to address these issues?

From working with land-users and community members as a program coordinator with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, to working with every level of government, non- profits, and industry as a government relations specialist with the Tlicho Government, to advocacy work in collaboration with many other groups in founding the Black Advocacy Coalition, collaboration is at the core of everything I’ve done in my professional life.

I believe as an MLA, your first job is being the mechanism for accountability for your constituents - holding decision-makers’ feet to the fire, and pushing them to do the right thing. As a seasoned advocate, I’ll bring the energy and commitment to ensuring Yellowknife Centre has strong representation on the issues most important to our riding.

I believe we also need to bring others into our decisions more - not on an ad-hoc basis, but as a basic part of making decisions that affect our territory.

In terms of accountability, I would also like to see us making sure that every action plan, every new initiative, every new program is subject to an outcomes-based evaluation periodically.

Sometimes, ideas don’t work. Too often, the government sticks with the same plan even if that plan isn’t achieving the outcomes it intended. And sometimes, we just don’t know if they are. We need to accept that sometimes that’s the case and be nimble enough to adapt and change as that becomes clear.

I would support the creation of an independent office of program review to ensure a coordinated and rigorous approach to program and policy assessment over time.

At minimum, it should be independent and serve as an impartial, independent, fact- based reviewer of territorial programs to provide the best possible services and value to northerners. They should have the ability to compel the public service to provide information to inform these program reviews.

The Auditor General of Canada can only do so much. Reviews of large overarching issues completed by this body over time have shown there are significant improvements to be made. Meaningful change has resulted due to these reviews when they have occurred. We should bring a similar approach to the dozens of territorial programs which do not, and are highly unlikely to, receive this level of scrutiny.

It is likely cost-savings, or redirected investment to areas where they could make more impact, could be recognized as a result. Public servants and Cabinet could also get actionable intelligence on how to run their programs better, and provide better service to

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