Mr. Speaker, in 1886, the SS Wrigley, a steam-powered sternwheeler, was launched in Fort Smith and began regular freight and passenger service to the trading posts along the Slave River, the Great Slave Lake, the Mackenzie River, and up to Fort McPherson on the Peel River. While people and goods had always moved along the water ways, the Wrigley connected the North to the South in a way that had never been done before, and ushered in an era of marine shipping that continues to this day. The North as we know it exists because of our marine transportation industry. Not only that, if you consider the role it played in the Klondike gold rush, resource development in Canada and Alaska, the DEW line, the CANOL pipeline, and the Manhattan Project, it’s also had a role in shaping the world.
Mr. Speaker, this government’s purchase of NTCL’s assets provides the perfect chance to bring this history to light, to celebrate the people who helped shape our Territory, and to engage our communities and our youth. When NorTerra purchased the NTCL in the 1980s, the vessels were renamed in honour of individuals from the shareholders’ regions. Now that the GNWT owns those assets, I propose that I we rename the vessels to better reflect the entire Northwest Territories.
I’m not suggesting that the government strikes some internal committee to do this. There are over 130 years of stories about the people involved in the shipping industry, from Fort Smith to the High Arctic, and nearly everywhere in between. I’d like to see this government reach out to the public and solicit nominations for the new names, so we can hear these stories and celebrate our history.
This also presents a great opportunity to engage our youth, and teach them about the history of the NWT. Imagine a student who starts researching this history for a class project and sees his or her last name, and sees the contribution their family has made to the Territory. Suddenly, they’re interested and engaged. In some communities, like mine, the families who’ve been involved in marine shipping read like the phonebook: Beaulieu, Lafferty, Camsell, Bouvier, Loutit, and so on. Mr. Speaker, that’s a lot of engagement.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this potential initiative wasn’t my idea. A few of us were sitting around having a coffee at the Hay River Museum, and Kirk, the Museum Manager suggested it. He thought that it would be a great way to recognize our history and pass it on to the next generation, and I agree.
Naming government infrastructure is the responsibility of the Department of the Executive so I mentioned this to the Premier a while back. During question period see if he’s on board.
MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The GNWT is now the proud owner of a fleet of marine transportation vessels. As I spoke of earlier in my statement, they’re named after people who aren’t necessarily reflective of the entire Northwest Territories. My one question to the Premier is: would you be onboard with helping solicit stories from the communities and nominations of names so that we can rename these vessels to better reflect the entirety of the Northwest Territories? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Masi. Honourable Premier.
HON. BOB MCLEOD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The renaming of MTS vessels to better reflect the Northwest Territories’ long history of marine shipping is a very good idea, worth pursuing; however, we have to be respectful of some of the existing names on existing vessels and the reasons behind them. Also, we have to confirm what vessels we will be keeping in the long term, and would only consider renaming vessels in our core fleet.
I have since directed staff of Executive and Indigenous Affairs and Infrastructure to start drafting some guidelines about naming and a process for soliciting nominations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SIMPSON: I understand there are a lot of technical issues, they don’t know what ships they’re keeping yet and all that kind of stuff, but it’s great to hear that the Premier is moving forward with a way to solicit nominations, and I’ll be letting my constituents know to start getting their stories ready. Does the Premier have a timeline of when we can expect either this process to begin or the names to change?
HON. BOB MCLEOD: We will be developing a process for renaming these vessels and will bring forward proposed names for the Executive Council’s consideration.
There are some other considerations; for example, in the guidelines for naming of government buildings, we require that it not be named after living persons and other considerations, so those kinds of things have to be developed. I expect that, in the very near future, probably within a couple of months, we would be able to develop a process.
MR. SIMPSON: Since this is the government’s first foray into naming vessels, I hope that they look at different ways of doing it and don’t just transfer the rules from naming buildings to vessels. I know that in Hay River, for example, we have a family, the Loutits, where they have son, father, grandfather; they’re all legendary river pilots, so to have an SS Loutit would be to name after it after a family, so it would be a little different. I think we should be open to that. Will the government look at being open to different ways of naming and not just transferring the system from buildings to the marine vessels?
HON. BOB MCLEOD: We’re very open to looking at different ways, as long as we stick to the original intention of naming vessels to help recognize the long history of marine shipping.
One name that comes to mind when I look in the United Kingdom or in England where they had a competition to name a sea-going vessel and they came up with a name like Boaty McBoatface, or something like that. I think we want to make sure we have a process that we come up with names that recognize the long marine history in the Northwest Territories.
MR. SPEAKER: Masi. Oral questions. Member for Mackenzie Delta.