The 17th Legislative Assembly accomplished a great deal over the past term. Here are a few highlights:
- Devolution. It’s not just about control over our land and water. Look deeper and you’ll see what it means for the relationship with Aboriginal governments and the massive amount of work it took to do the negotiations and then the reorganize the GNWT accordingly. Devolution is not complete. We must continue to pursue the full transfer of authority from the Federal government in the coming term and evolve to develop a made in the north regulatory system.
- Leading the first national Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. This is a major national achievement and one we must continue to lead. I was honored when the National Aboriginal Governments asked me to Chair the First Roundtable. We will continue to respect those that have been lost or lost their lives without explanation. We must break the cycle of violence against all women. The Roundtable is another concrete platform from which to work.
- Increasing the GNWT borrowing limit to $1.3 billion. This is vital to addressing our infrastructure deficit. This was very much at the forefront of our national agenda. Without increased borrowing capacity we would be unable to invest in infrastructure that supports our economy and our communities and provides jobs in a way that ensures everyone benefits.
- Increased Foreign Direct investment and increased tourism. We live in a global market and Asia is one of the fastest growing economies on the planet. Foreign investment from Asia and other counties will support economic growth. Building bridges into that market resulted in more than 7,000 visitors from China in 2014. Just four years ago, the number was in the low hundreds. The value of these efforts was confirmed in September when we hosted His Excellency Luo Zhaohui, Ambassador of China to Canada, on his first visit to the NWT. The Ambassador spoke publicly about his interest in doing more to promote NWT tourism at home in China.
- Promoted NWT and worked to diversify and grow NWT economy. We need to attract international and domestic capital investment. We also need to develop our local economies to take advantage of our sustainable renewable resources. As well, growing our reputation in Asia is about more than tourism, which has been a significant success to date. We are now receiving inquiries from private Chinese investors on hotel projects and resource developments. In Asia, it matters that people with real influence are there to foster those relationships. And the respect that it shows for our prospective partners in Asia is not missed by those who make the decisions there.
This term has been demanding. I’ve spent weeks travelling to ensure the NWT is a full partner in national affairs and promoting the NWT as an attractive place for new investment on Wall Street, Bay Street and in Dallas, to name a few. That will reap rewards when the global commodity markets turn. The job of the Premier’s trade mission remains the same: keep raising the territories’ profile and keep strengthening international relationships that are vital to bringing investments and jobs home.
Yes, it has been a demanding term, however, I wouldn’t have it another way. I’ve spent my entire career as a champion of the NWT and, if elected, I will re-dedicate my efforts to lead our territories to a new and better place.
This message today is built on experience and the success of our past efforts however it’s not about the past. It’s about the present and the future. Leaders rarely talk about it, but as I see it, we have serious issues to tackle in the next Legislative Assembly: population migration rates are troublesome; the cost of living is too high; resource investments have stalled; and the cost of energy is far too high. We have a job to do, and a job that we can only do if we work together.
The first thing we’re going to do is make sure we live within our means by controlling our spending and honouring the taxpayers of the Northwest Territories who pay our bills.
We have a healthy Aa1 credit rating; however, our commitment to sound fiscal management must be resolute. If we don’t have the money, we will not spend it. We will live within our means, and that means constraining the growth in government spending.
At the same time, we will stick to our plan to grow this economy, because a shrinking economy won’t give us the resources that we need to be able to invest in the future, for health care, schools, and roads – all of those services that people want and need and have come to expect.
Resource development, particularly mining, is a huge industry for the NWT, and as we develop it, we need to ensure that territorial residents are the first ones to get the jobs. To do that, we need to ensure that they have the necessary skills. So we need to strengthen our education system, work with business and labour to build and deliver the best skills training possible, because when global commodity markets rally, we are standing ready before an unprecedented opportunity, not just for the territories, but for the entire country.
Clearly, we still have many challenges to overcome. The way to confront challenges is to go back to your core principles, to be guided by underlying values and a commitment to the people of the NWT.
One thing I firmly believe in is altering the cost of living in the North. This has been part of my national dialogue with party leaders for the past several years. We need to aggressively pursue the Federal government’s recent campaign commitment to improve Northern Residents Income Tax Deduction. I feel like we’re well-positioned to achieve it.
Another important way to reduce the cost of living is to address the high cost of energy. The government has limited capital spending capacity and the small size of the market means that new infrastructure would significantly increase the cost of electricity in the near term. It’s a catch 22 situation.
However, there are new technologies out there that I believe can help and I will commit to rigorously exploring them. I’m also a proponent of small scale alternative energy projects. We have had some success with them in the past and certainly there is broad support for alternative energy investments coming out of the Energy Charrette.
Our energy and our environmental strategies have included solar panels in Colville Lake, bio-fuel systems in large commercial applications, incentives for homeowners to go green, district heating systems in small communities and analysis of the NWT’s geo-thermal potential.
The challenges we face are real. They will not be met easily, but they will be met.
I commit to you that I will work tirelessly to improve the economy and the very real conditions we all live with in Yellowknife South and throughout the NWT should I be fortunate enough to earn your vote on November 23.
Now it’s time to look ahead. There’s important work to do in the 18th Legislative Assembly. We must seize the opportunities, resolve issues and get the job done. I
Pledge to stay focused on getting the job done for you and the NWT.
The strength of any jurisdiction is its People. We’re long-term northerners, carving out a place in the national mindset. We’re resilient and embody many of the best values for which Canada is known.
My platform in 2015 is, again, about enabling people to reach their potential and in doing so enabling the NWT to achieve new levels of success. Let’s put experience, commitment and leadership back to work for Yellowknife South.
It will be my privilege to go to work for you in the 18th Legislative Assembly.
Thank you for your support over the past four years. I look forward to serving you for four more.