Inuvik-Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler never pictured herself in politics, but now that she’s in the seat she can reflect on how she got here.
“I never thought I was going to be in politics, but I guess it was ingrained in me from my granny,” she said with a laugh. “I was going to be a nurse and take care of everybody, but when policies hinder to do what you think is right, that’s when you end up getting frustrated and end up an MLA.”
Semmler was briefly in town in between legislature sessions in Yellowknife and decided to use the time to hold a constituency meeting to update residents on how the government has progressed so far.
As the legislature is mainly organizing into cabinet and caucus, Semmler described most of the session to be a rubber-stamping process, first with the speaker and then premier, cabinet and then committees.
Aside from sitting in on a number of committees and serving as one of three chairs of the Committee of the Whole, Semmler also is making history as the first Inuvialuit Deputy Speaker of the House.
However, she stressed her main goal was to ensure that cabinet is held to its mandate and the priorities it laid out. She noted residents who have questions or issues should get in touch with her.
“You may not hear something you are passionate in session, but I’ve probably dealt with 25 issues already with individual ministers and received timelines back from them, so a lot of this stuff happens behind the scene,” she said. “So if you have any issues, or you know someone with issues, you have to come and talk to us so we can follow up. If no one talks to us, it’s hard for us to follow up unless it’s something everyone knows about.”
Noting she withheld her name from a potential cabinet position at the request of elders who wanted the area to have representation both inside and outside of cabinet, Semmler said she will be able to put forward three-member statements this coming session.
Semmler will make a statement on the government’s progress, or lack thereof, in expanding housing. Noting there are more than 100 people waiting for homes in Inuvik alone. Semmler said she wants to make it clear to the new government that the status quo is not working.
Also in her opening volley will be a statement on behalf of elders in an effort to establish more and better home care, instead of forcing people to sit in the emergency room for basic treatments.
But first on her list is reading out the introduction to the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, noting that keeping the problem front and centre until it is resolved was a huge part of her motivation to run for office in the first place.
“We know the calls for justice that came out of there deal with so many issues our community is faced with,” she said. “It’s part of the reason I ran, to ensure we as a government do not forget this happened and that it’s not going to be put on the shelf.”
“If I have to remind this government over and over and over again for the next four years about an action plan, I will.”