1. What in your experience and background makes you the right person to shepherd the Northwest Territories’ economic development through the next four years?
We need to see progress and change on multiple fronts: transportation corridors, energy systems, postsecondary education and training, housing, labor accessibility, entrepreneurial and business support ecosystems, and more. The government therefore needs many strong leaders with the ability to see both the forest and the trees at the same time so that many different projects and programs can advance simultaneously, while considering what secondary or “back up” plans might also need to be ready.
I have been at the helm of the Departments of Finance and Industry, Tourism and Investment for four years and three years respectively. I believe I have demonstrated an ability for practical problem solving and for maintaining accountability for multiple simultaneous initiatives.
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?
Land that is available within municipal boundaries should be available for use whether for housing, business development or other recreational use. In the spring, I brought together Yellowknife City Councillors and Department of ECC’s lands officials for a meeting to review the progress on a land transfer process. The GNWT has initiated a process for these transfers to occur and in Yellowknife it is my understanding that a next step requires the signing of an MOU between governments. One of my first actions as MLA will be to follow up on the status of that MOU.
We also need to settle outstanding land and self government claims. This fact has been said repeatedly for years. Some progress has been made on the GNWT side for example in publishing the mandates and reviewing the core principles and objectives. That progress needs to be capitalised upon urgently to see withdrawn lands be resolved in favor of certainty and availability whether to the GNWT or Indigenous governments.
Once available, land will require zoning and developers will require permits. Much of this work falls to municipalities but might be made more efficient by financial or system support from the GNWT towards efforts automation of application processes, providing pre-approved building plans and commitments to fast tracked processes for buildings designated as medium and high density.
I will commit to pursuing these actions and to following up with those responsible for taking the steps necessary to achieve these goals.
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?
Unlike most other jurisdictions in Canada, the GNWT does not come close to maximizing the Federal allowance for new immigrants into the Territory. Responsibility for immigration should be housed in a single department not spread between Industry, Tourism and Investment and Education, Culture and Employment. We must improve the process for new immigrants to receive the required language test and medical exam so that travel to Edmonton is not required. For example, either a Federally approved or certified official can have set dates to visit the Territory and conduct whatever is required or a virtual option could be made available.
Accreditation and credentialing should be made more accessible and efficient. National initiatives at the Canadian Trade table that support Canadian labor mobility should be followed through and adopted, where available, in the NWT. We might consider a Labor Mobility Act, or at least an equivalent policy, to streamline documentation requirements and enable certified out-of-territory workers to obtain a registration decision through a published standardized process and timeline.
The Francophone association has had success in supporting the transition of newcomers to the North. I would like to beer understand what they have done and how in order to help expand their programs or style of programs to be available to a wider variety of newcomers. I would like to engage Indigenous communities to take on a larger role in the process of welcoming newcomers to their traditional lands and examine whether there are welcoming traditions or practices that could also be used to showcase the uniqueness of the NWT.
4. As an MLA what specific steps will you take to support and strengthen the local/northern construction Industry?
- Ensure that the Builder’s Lien Act that was passed right at the end of the 19th Assembly is ready for implementation;
- Review the status of the Procurement Review response and workplan and monitor its follow continued through including deployment of standardized contract terms.
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?
There are two things I would like to see done early:
a) What happened to the engagement work that was done earlier in 2023 about the prospects for “remediation economy” opportunities across the NWT? The Department of Environment and Climate Change is the GNWT lead for identifying and maximizing remediation opportunities. The
discussion paper and subsequent engagement was an opportunity to scope out the potential future in this sector and local industry’s interest and capacity as well as any areas that will require additional support in order to be ready to capitalize on opportunities.
b) There is a lot happening in this space across GNWT departments as well as within other levels of governments including potential Federal funding. Unfortunately, some work risks being duplicative (multiple efforts to map out labor market needs) while other areas seem to stagnate (sustainability of the Mine Training Society, for example). I would like to see a gathering of both industry and education professionals to map out on one side what skills, trades and certifications are needed in the immediate and medium terms and then to describe what programs are being offered or may be in development to meet those needs. Ideally, there should be straight pathways from high school through to either apprenticeship programs or post secondary programs and then on to internships or journeyperson designations, etc. Similarly, there should be no delay in post secondary academic credits for trades or other certifications; these programs should align to the timing of their associated industry’s high needs for staff so that students can maximize their work opportunities and industry can reduce their labor needs. With the right connections, contacts and training pathways assured, I would then look to who the contracting authorities are for specific projects and ensure that their processes are clear, accessible and designed to encourage bids by local companies including small and medium sized businesses or, for largely or more complex aspects, encourage partnerships that meaningfully engage local businesses.
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?
The airport and air services industry are an essential transportation corridor into not only Yellowknife but the NWT. When the Yellowknife airport was shut down to commercial services during the evacuation, the impacts on the entire NWT were immediate from food security to tourism.
Geopolitics makes Canada’s northern border a critical place to asset national sovereignty. This must engage the populations and Indigenous governments on whose settled and traditional lands these borders are on.
It must also engage key regional centres including Yellowknife. The Yellowknife airport, as well as Inuvik, should be a key strategic, national asset and be funded accordingly by the Federal government.
Interest in our tourism sector rebounded after COVID but unfortunately, the number of direct flights into small and medium sized airports, including Yellowknife, were reduced. We must engage with the Federal Minister of Transportation to make it easier to fly directly into rural and remote airports and incentivize more airlines to make these routes available. This work is already underway within the Canadian Council of Tourism Ministers and must accelerate and gain wider attention.
As a key part of the NWT supply chain, we should also look at what is available to encourage growth within our local airline industry whether that is more space available for leasing or better terms to encourage airlines to use Yellowknife as an operational base. We also need to continue to work with the Northern Air Transport Association and other jurisdictions with isolated fly-in communities or work sites to ensure that the availability of exemptions for airline pilot hours are expeditious while also ensuring appropriate safety suited to the circumstances of travel.
As to whether it is time to transition to an Airport Authority model or not, the question is framed in a way that indicates that the Chamber believes that it is time for this to happen. I would like to first know why the Chamber believes this model will achieve the listed benefits, whether NATA or other relevant industry associations are of the same view, and also understand why this is not the current structure.
7. As an MLA how will you make downtown Yellowknife a more atractive place for tourists to visit and for future business investment?
How do you view the intersection between homelessness
and public safety?
Municipal planning and zoning is a municipal responsibility. However, ensuring the availability of land as described under question two is a shared responsibility and one that will help encourage business growth
and development in the city as a whole. There should be a review of the government’s leasing needs and usage in the downtown to ensure we continue to get the best value for dollar in changing market conditions; and, also, to consider whether more first floor, main street-type commercial space can be available to restaurants and shops.
More might be done to encourage more and more frequent festivals and events in the downtown from arts funding to food and beverage regulations that are easier to navigate for events.
As for question two: We should continue to address the social and human needs that are too often the underlying causes for criminal behaviour or public disorder; for example, housing availability, social indicators of health, primary care, mental wellness and social and cultural wellbeing.
Some of the most vulnerable persons often have the most difficulty accessing services particularly when a suite of services are needed to meaningfully address their needs.
The Integrated Case Management (ICM) office should be expanded. ICM provides case management support and pathfinding for clients dealing with at least one government service such as income assistance, housing, child and family services, mental health services, etc. and has very positive outcomes from clients who may have otherwise struggled to coordinate and manage all of their needs.
The proposed wellness centre should be a place where wrap around-style services like ICM are available so that clients can access not only a safe shelter but also counselling, income assistance or child and family services.
All of these types of responses, from emergency sheltering to income assistance and wellness, need to also be available to the greatest extent possible in all regional centres and, also to the greatest extent possible, in all communities. The “greatest extent possible” must take into account some economies of scale that come with larger population base but also with any specific areas of need that could help focus what resources be directed where. This would help reduce the need for people to leave their home communities in order to access services and then be at risk of being homeless in Yellowknife.
Last, a community safety office pilot is underway in Fort Liard but should also be piloted in one of the larger regional centres. The Community Safety Officer Pilot Program is meant to be a community-driven initiative that focuses on crime prevention strategies and relationship building between the community, service providers and the RCMP. This could be an important bridge beyond what the MED officers are responsible for but without requiring a full RCMP response.
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?
During the last four years, I have frequently met with representatives from across different sectors and industries. I have also more than once paused a government program or project in order to take stock from those likely to be affected on what the framework or process for the new initiative should look like before getting underway. I instituted annual Budget Dialogues in order to hear directly from outside of government how well, or not, the GNWT is meeting the needs and expectation of the NWT with the public dollars available. I intend to continue to this approach to my work in whatever capacity I may find myself.
Upon being elected into Cabinet, I instituted biweekly meetings with my Departments and monthly meetings with the entities for which I was the minister responsible (BDIC and the Gender Equity Unit).
These meetings included set agenda items to ensure regular monitoring of on key projects. I also calendared key target dates for immediate follow up to confirm that the target was achieved. Whatever capacity I may find myself in during the 20th Assembly, I intend to employ a similar practice of calendaring key dates, sending follow ups on those key dates and ensuring regular meetings with known agendas for updates and conduct follow ups among any key stakeholders with whom I am associated or for whom or to whom I may be accountable.