Michael Nadli hopes to remain the MLA for the Deh Cho district.
Nadli’s broad platform touches on healthcare, education, jobs and training, and infrastructure. He is particularly adamant the “effectiveness of our programs and services” must be improved across the NWT.
He called for a territorial addictions treatment centre, saying the government has budgeted large sums for other projects and this shouldn’t be any different. “We have to be open-minded to looking at solutions and ensure that we are indeed taking care of and helping our people that are caught up in the circle of addictions,” he said.
He promised to be a “strong voice” for Deh Cho constituents.
Below, find a transcript of the full interview.
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News podcast. Nadli’s interview air date is September 20.
More information: Michael Nadli’s Facebook page
More interviews: Browse our 2019 NWT election coverage so far
This interview was recorded on September 8, 2019. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Sarah Pruys: What would you say are some of your key accomplishments, both at the territorial level and your riding level over your last term?
Michael Nadli: It’s always a fine balance and challenge in terms of constituency priorities and a larger push for some common efforts in terms of dealing with territorial issues. I could comfortably say that I’ve been involved with the establishment of the ombud. The concept of a personal body that citizens can go to, to address their grievances on government services, has been some time in the making. So I was very pleased to see it established.
Recently, there’s been a push for a 911 system. And I understand the fall time will be the roll-out of that service.
I think we’ve made some advances on the housing issue – most recently, of course, with the establishment of the housing association office in the Hay River Reserve. We’ve given communities more involvement in trying to build up capacities in terms of some of the trade skills to maintain houses, whether it’s furnaces, or plumbing, or electrical needs that people have when they are tenants of the public housing system.
Recently, there has been an effort to renovate the seniors’ home here in Fort Providence and it’s ongoing. It’s created some business and employment opportunities, and plus it will relieve the housing waiting list. We have people trying to get into public housing that want to be more independent and their own roof over their head. So that’s going to be possible.
Some other initiatives include the reserve road. That’s been a big concern for residents of Hay River Reserve. Recently, there’s been some remediation to the road foundation, addressing the water issue, and putting a fresh layer of chipseal on it, and it looks very well.
There’s still some some concerns around the healthcare services. And I think we made efforts have those programs and services related to health more responsive to community needs and constituent needs. I think in a general way, that’s what we’ve accomplished in the 18th assembly. There were some very ambitious mandates and I think we’ve done the best work that we can.
Looking forward to the next term, what would you like to see happen? What’s on your platform?
The 19th assembly, I think it’s in the making for a very exciting assembly, with anticipation of the possibility of more women being elected. I think we’ll have more balanced decisions. Those sectors of the population being equally represented, there could be some issues and major initiatives that would be characterized as paradigm shifts, perhaps breaking from the status-quo or bureaucratic initiatives. There could be a change in terms of how this government operates. So that’s possibly very exciting for me, I’m looking forward to that.
In terms of my platform for re-election, I think there are certain pillars that communities need, especially small communities, so I want to continue advocating for constituents and communities – ensuring that there is effective delivery of programs and services. For example, for health, education, jobs and training, and youth. There’s still a need for some baseline infrastructure projects, like Enterprise has advocated for a school as an addition to the community hall. I think that’s very possible to do with governments.
There are ongoing challenges in terms of the financing and funding availability for water treatment plants. So there are different options being considered: whether some communities would have a standalone water treatment plant versus the reservoir. And there are ongoing projects like this trail system to try to enhance tourism. So things are happening.
I think there’s always the common call for more jobs, I think we have to understand that. On the flip side of it, people have to be well. It’s acknowledged that we have very blatant statistics on the high rates of alcohol and drug addiction, family violence, and low levels of education. We need to be prepared to also address the social pillars that enable a person to stand up and create and be a contributing member of society by undertaking jobs, paying their taxes, and contributing to the global well-being of the communities.
I think one thing that we failed at in the 18th assembly was to support the completion of lands, resources, and self-governance agreements. I think there’s been a series of changes that were proposed. One in particular that I tried to do was the creation of a joint committee between cabinet and regular MLAs, the committee that dealt with Indigenous affairs. We tried to change the scope of the committee so that it could perhaps play a mediator and facilitator role in terms of understanding both sides of the negotiations from the government perspective. So I think that’s a role that we had proposed, but it wasn’t supported at that time.
And at the same time, the idea of empowering Aboriginal governments at local and regional levels. I think this government is on record in terms of recognizing Aboriginal governments but, in recognizing Aboriginal governments, is it a municipal-style government that we’re recognizing, or can it be a regional or tribal government? So that Aboriginal governments are involved with GNWT district centres in terms of human resource planning, in terms of addressing how it is that we fail in the area of affirmative action, and the ratio of Indigenous people that are working in government positions versus non-Aboriginal people, and whether they’re professionals with their degrees versus perhaps their high-school education. How do we tackle those very fundamental issues? Maybe it would help to understand it from a regional perspective. It could be very progressive in terms of advancing some key initiatives with Aboriginal governments.
When we negotiate and there’s a draw to the closure to the whole process, it has to be acknowledged that it takes a lot of time and resources. Some land claims are negotiated in 20 years or even centuries. And so there’s no easy fix.
The concept that I completely disagree with is that these are final agreements. I think the perception should be that these are living agreements, and that those agreements should not be final, per se, but they should be empowering Indigenous and Aboriginal governments to take the reins of responsibility in terms of their communities – for individuals, for the well-being of their families – and move forward in terms of progression to the larger part of society.
Last but not least, there’s been some debate in terms of the effectiveness of consensus government. In some ways, it’s convenient for the premier, and the cabinet executive councils who expound the positive virtues of consensus. But from a regular MLA perspective, we don’t feel part of decision-making. We’re marginalized in our perimeter of the inner circle of decision-making. And that’s not fair. And that’s not right. We need to take the principles of consensus government and start employing it at all levels, not only at the Legislative Assembly level, but in departments, district offices, and down there at the community local levels to ensure the principles of consensus are taken to the very limit in terms of trying to change this.
And I think those are some key things that I’ll be interested in trying to promote as we move towards the 19th assembly. It’s been challenging, it’s been very interesting.
The way that I’ve understood my role, in terms of why I do this kind of work, is that I have a deep sense of responsibility to advocate for people that have been marginalized on the outer perimeter and they’ve experienced injustice. And I like to be their voice at the same time. I think I have a deep passion for equality and fairness and making the North a greater place to live. That’s essentially why I wanted to run for MLA again and stand for re-election.
What would you say are the top three most important things you would like to address on that list?
I think focusing on the effectiveness of our programs and services. In the southern part of the NWT, in the Deh Cho riding, we have four communities, we live along the highway, we have a big lake, we have a river system. So we’re quite comfortable. And then contrast that with very northern remote communities – sometimes there are great debates in terms of needs, or wants, especially from small-community perspectives and so on. I think the tendency is trying to build bricks and mortar in terms of large infrastructure projects. I think we need to focus on delivering effective programming and services.
Education, in terms of addressing the low attendance rates in small communities and the quality of high-school diplomas, and advancing our youth towards college and university preparation, and ensuring that they succeed. With the move towards a polytechnic university, there are some elements of reformation that are happening in terms of the whole education department. So it could be timely.
Obviously, the common ask from most constituents is the need for more jobs and training. The other one would be of course infrastructure projects, in terms of the need for a school in Enterprise, water treatment plants, ensuring that we tap into the tourism industry. Because we live along the highway, we’re the first communities if you’re driving from the south, perhaps from Arizona with the RV. Hay River Reserve, Enterprise, Kakisa, and Fort Providence are the first communities you would see along the highway. So I’d like to ensure that government helps us to create a first good impression.
You said alcohol and drug addiction is a major issue across the territory. How would you like to see that addressed?
I think there are positive and negative ways to look at it. A negative is that it affects all levels of our societies and our communities. And it leads to tragic consequences and statistics, in terms of affecting children, the women, and the elders. It’s a very demoralizing and debilitating habit that people undertake and experience for some time. And sometimes, it takes them a long time to straighten out.
I think about having the proper services in terms of ensuring that we have counselling, we have at least support groups, we have education and information. And this has been debated, I’m pretty sure, for a long period of time in terms of really trying to arrive at the magic formula that would address all these issues in terms of alcohol and drug addiction. I think communities have to be involved and local people have to be involved in terms of trying to address that. The way that it’s been addressed could be to be a lot better than it is.
There’s been a call consistently for treatment centres up here in the Northwest Territories and we can’t abandon that option simply because of cost. I think we’ve made some other decisions that were hefty in cost but we didn’t question it. And so at the same time, I think we need to ensure that we have those services available for people that want to take advantage and change their lives. We have to be open-minded to looking at solutions and ensure that we are indeed taking care of and helping our people that are caught up in the circle of addictions.
Why are you the best candidate for the job?
I’m bilingual, I promote the Dene language. I would have to say I’m experienced, I’ve worked in many levels of government, including, of course, the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly. Throughout, I’ve consistently engaged with constituents and at the same time, my involvement with various standing committees. I’ve been there for the most part, I’m committed, I’m a hard worker, and I’ve been fairly consistent in terms of my decision-making, with positions that are reflective of the Deh Cho constituents.
I’ve been a strong voice and I believe I will continue to be a strong voice. There are some things that we’ve started and I’d like to play a hand in terms of helping and seeing them to the point of conclusion for the benefit of the Deh Cho constituency as well.