North

N.W.T. Legislative Assembly back in session

The N.W.T. legislature has not talked business since June. ‘I’m really hoping that this is a drama-free session and we get back to work,’ says caucus chair Rylund Johnson.

The legislature has not talked business since June

The Legislative Assembly in the N.W.T. is back in session Thursday. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

MLAs are back in Yellowknife Thursday to launch the first session since they last met — to talk about something other than Katrina Nokleby — back in June. 

"I'm really hoping that this is a drama-free session and we get back to work," said caucus chair Rylund Johnson.

This session is primarily about passing the capital budget, Johnson said. Citizens can also expect a fiscal update from Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek and an amendment to the Employment Standards Act that will ensure workers can take time off if they need to self-isolate due to COVID-19. 

The house will also consider a supplementary appropriation (a request for money) for the proposed new COVID-19 secretariat.

That discussion is guaranteed to have an audience.

"By and large I think our membership is pretty skeptical," said Tim Syer, president of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce. "What I'd like to see are clear policy objectives." 

Jenni Bruce, president of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, will also be watching for "the actual budget" of the proposed office. 

"So many different numbers have been thrown out there, we don't really know what the real number is. We have concerns with the backfilling of positions and the backfilling of budgets actually means this budget is quite a bit larger than it's been portrayed," she said. 

A 'Just Recovery'

Neesha Rao, interim executive director for the Yellowknife Women's Society, said she'll be watching to see how the government approaches pandemic recovery. Her society is one of several to have signed letters of support for the Just Recovery for the N.W.T. movement, spearheaded by the Our Time for a Green New Deal Yellowknife group. The goal is to urge territorial and federal politicians to use pandemic recovery to reduce inequality. 

"We think it's important for our legislature to be creative and to think about what kind of economy and society we want to create," Rao said.

Neesha Rao is part of a group urging politicians to use pandemic recovery to reduce inequality. (Submitted by Neesha Rao)

Rao is also hoping to see a solution to the stalemate over where to locate a second day shelter so that people experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife can spend time safely indoors this winter. 

"One thing I'd love to see is for our levels of government to be working together," she said.

Kenny Smith, the newly elected grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, will also be keeping an eye on the territory's pandemic response. He's particularly worried about mental health supports in smaller communities. "That is an area that it's often missed," he said. 

This will be the first session featuring Yellowknife Centre MLA, Julie Green, as the minister of Health and Social Services

It will also be the first session to include Nokleby as the regular MLA for Great Slave. 

Nokleby declined an interview for this story, but she did give an interview to CKLB radio. She said that one of the reasons she was ousted is that she had challenged the premier, though she did not say how. She also pledged to "pick away at what I see as being the corruption I've alluded to." 

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