Members of the 19th Legislative Assembly returned to the house for their second session on Thursday, the first time all members had gathered there since the emergency session was held in August and just over a year after they were elected as MLAs.
Premier Caroline Cochrane opened the physically distanced session by outlining the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic which has been “like nothing we’ve ever experienced,” infecting more than 37 million people worldwide and causing the deaths of one million others and 9,000 Canadians in less than one year.
In the early days of the pandemic she said the GNWT’s “swift” efforts to contain Covid included measures such as forming the ProtectNWT body, investing millions of dollars in personal protective equipment and ensured the health care system was ready to handle an increase in cases.
“Our early interventions have paid off. Residents have been safe. Communities haven’t experienced loss of life,” she said.
“We heard that our employees and departments were stretched thin trying to help with the pandemic response and doing the best they could to complete their normal work duties. Keeping our residents safe during the ongoing pandemic continues to be our priority and is why we proposed the Covid Secretariat.
It will host the borders patrols and enforcement team, isolation units, distribution of personal protective equipment to non-health care providers, 811 and ProtectNWT. The Secretariat will focus on the Covid response which enables departments to focus on service delivery and implementing our Mandate commitments.”
Cochrane stated that the government’s response to the pandemic “will cost money, real money” and added that an Indigenous leader reminded her “how much money is one life worth?”
She hailed the protective efforts of NWT society but warned the pandemic won’t end anytime soon and added “we cannot lose sight of the work we were elected to do by residents of the NWT.”
“We need to advance our long-term priorities, particularly when it comes to growing our economy and ensuring a healthy, vibrant and educated territory for years to come. We must continue to work with Indigenous governments to conclude negotiations, define the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and work with the federal government on a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls action plan.”
Cochrane acknowledged that Covid has occupied much of the government’s focus but said the departments have still made progress in meeting Mandate objectives.
Details of that progress would be given during the sitting in February of 2021, she said.
The second session is scheduled to run until Thursday, Nov. 5.