Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty wants to create a new department of Language and Culture in the N.W.T. government in order to keep aboriginal languages alive.

"We are on the verge of losing some of the languages," Lafferty said in the house Monday, when MLAs met for the first time in the assembly to set priorities for the new government.

Lafferty listed Gwich'in, Innuinaqtun and the Cree languages among those that are endangered, noting that languages weren't mentioned during the candidates' pitches for premier last week. 

"If we don't do anything they'll be lost and forgotten," Lafferty said, "along with the knowledge that has kept our culture strong since the beginning of time."

Lafferty didn't say how the new department would affect the current Department of Education, Culture and Employment. Currently, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment is also designated the Minister Responsible for Official Languages. 

Lafferty served as the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment and the Minister Responsible for Official Languages in the last assembly.

Bob McLeod, the MLA for Yellowknife South who's hoping for a second term as premier, also suggested a new portfolio. He'd like to see a Minister of Transparency and Democratic Engagement.

Housing, land claims

Other priorities discussed Monday were familiar ones — covering everything from the cost of living to early childhood development and mental health. 

MLAs were full of ideas on how to improve things, from more money to get homeowners off fossil fuels to more jobs for smaller communities.

Shane Thompson, MLA for Nahendeh, spoke passionately about the lack of housing for people who finish school and come back north to live.

"We do not have adequate housing," Thompson said. "I'm not blaming it on the housing corporation. I'm blaming it on us, the government, because we have not found a way to get them in homes."

Robert C. McLeod, MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes, spoke on another lingering issue.

"We need to work to settle the land claims. It does give certainty on the ownership of land, it gives certainty to investors. We need to tap into that."