Mr. Speaker, one of the things that being a Member of this Legislative Assembly has taught me is that I am an optimist, and honestly, I don’t think I could do this job if I wasn’t.
Just look at the state of our territory. Government labour relations are at an all-time low. The impending closure of all the diamond mines is going to do to Yellowknife what the fall of the oil and gas industry did to the communities up and down the valley. It’s getting harder for small businesses to make it in the NWT, and they are increasingly becoming convinced that this government is just fine with that. Indigenous leaders from across the territory have told me that the relationship between Indigenous governments and the GNWT is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Even the foundation of consensus government, the relationship between the 19 Members, is so weak that accountability has become a pipe dream.
If history tells us anything, it’s that change is hard to come by.
A while back, I was reading comments made in the House by Mrs. Jane Groenewegen. She was once again raising ongoing issues that she had been raising for years. Many of them are the same issues that I continue to raise 10 years later.
I just read a GNWT report from 1991, and if you had told me it was written this year, I would believe you because the challenges it identifies are indiscernible from the challenges we face today.
Going back even further, Mr. Speaker, I watched a CBC documentary from 1973 in which Nellie Cournoyea talked about the problems with the way government operates and how it is structured. Again, those comments still ring true today.
So, Mr. Speaker, in light of all this, given that the status quo seems impervious to change, how do I stay optimistic? Well, it is because I have seen the future.
I have been lucky enough to travel to every region of the NWT, to regional centres, communities, and the capital, and what I have seen is a new generation of leaders emerging in every corner of this territory. Every generation is shaped by common events, and these emerging leaders see the word in a different light than the champions of the status quo. They are educated in western and traditional ways to a degree and in a manner that hasn’t been seen before. They are not content with continuing business as usual. They would prefer to work together to achieve progress; not what they are told progress is supposed to be, but progress as they see it.
This groundswell of young, educated, capable future leaders is what keeps me optimistic in light of the mounting challenges this territory is facing, and I encourage them now, at the beginning of this sitting and at the beginning of this election year, to step up and begin to take the helm and help steer the NWT into the prosperous and equitable future that Northerners deserve.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.