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N.W.T.'s newest health minister on why she asked for the portfolio

Julie Green says she asked for the health portfolio — in the middle of an ongoing pandemic — because she believes it's one of the most important issues for people in the territory.

Julie Green was acclaimed as a cabinet minister after ousting of former minister Katrina Nokleby

Julie Green is now heading the Department of Health and Social Services. She also takes on responsibility for seniors and persons with disabilities. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

N.W.T.'s newest cabinet minister says she asked for the health portfolio — despite being in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.

"It's true. I did ask for it," said Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre. "I did it because I think it's the most important issue for most residents of the Northwest Territories — is the continuing of care they receive from birth to death." 

"I thought I would go for the big challenge."

Green was acclaimed to replace outgoing infrastructure and industry minister Katrina Nokleby, who was ejected from her job in a charged emergency legislature session in late August. Last week, Premier Caroline Cochrane shuffled her cabinet for the fourth time, announcing that new ministers would head many of the government's largest departments.

Green is now heading the Department of Health and Social Services, formerly led by Inuvik Boot Lake MLA and deputy premier Diane Thom. She also takes on responsibility for seniors and persons with disabilities.

A new $87 million COVID-19 "co-ordinating secretariat" was introduced last week — a "single agency" to manage the territory's response to COVID-19 between departments, and centralizing government communications on the pandemic.

Green said although the COVID-19 response will be centralized to that agency, she still sees herself involved as health minister.

"I see those functions continuing ... so that the one hand knows what the other hand is doing. So that doesn't let the health minister off the hook," she said.

Heading a department riddled with criticisms 

The N.W.T. Health Department has been the subject of intense criticism going back years for its handling of its child and family services division.

"This is obviously a very important issue and a live issue for this assembly, just as it was for the last," Green said.

N.W.T. Health Minister Julie Green, left, speaks to reporters at the Legislative Assembly while Premier Caroline Cochrane watches on Tuesday. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Green noted an improvement plan already in place and said she "need[s] a briefing on where they're planning to take that process from here" in the coming days.

She said she's aware of a review of the N.W.T.'s Child and Family Services Act coming up in the next year.

Green didn't directly answer what she wants to accomplish on the child and family services file.

What Green hopes to tackle as minister

Green said she hopes to take on issues like aftercare for people who are returning from alcohol and drug treatment centres from the South. 

"They need more supports," she said. "It's not a robust and wide system at this point. That's a very important issue to me."

I'm getting used to a whole new world.- Julie Green,  N.W.T. health minister

Green added she hopes to look at peer support programs and transitional housing "so [people] can extend their sobriety." 

Additionally, Green said she is looking forward to implementing improved care for seniors.

"I have a lot of seniors in my riding ... They need more robust home care delivered to them — both nursing care and personal support worker care — so that they could stay in their own homes."

How Green sees the state of 19th Assembly

When former minister Nokleby was removed from cabinet, Green had said there was "a tremendous amount of division" in the House, during her acclamation speech. 

When asked on Wednesday how she sees the state of the 19th Assembly now, Green noted all 19 members haven't been together since the emergency sitting in August.

"It's hard to say what state that we're at. Obviously for me personally, I'm in a transitional state. I have new colleagues, I have new staff. I'm getting used to a whole new world," she said.

WATCH | 'There is a tremendous amount of division,' says Green in speech to MLAs after her acclamation:

MLA Julie Green speaks after selection as minister

2 years ago
Duration 3:00
"I'm standing here on my own merits," says MLA for Yellowknife Centre, Julie Green, after being acclaimed to become N.W.T.'s newest minister.

She noted a business plan process in the coming weeks where all members will be together again.

"I'm hoping that there will be some talking, some socializing, some trying to rebuild relationships — where in some cases build them for the first time," Green said.

"I'm hopeful that we have turned a corner here, and I think we have good leadership in place on both the regular member and executive council sides."

Written based on an interview by Loren McGinnis

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