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Simpson calls for housing minister to be removed from cabinet

Hay River MLA Rocky Simpson called for a cabinet reshuffle and for Minister Paulie Chinna to be removed, as the housing crisis in the territory persists.

Simpson spoke in the Legislative Assembly, saying inaction has become a problem within the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

“The Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and her senior bureaucrats do not seem to grasp that a housing crisis exists, and I am not sure why that is,” he said. “If the Minister is the problem, then I would ask the Premier for a Cabinet shuffle.”

Premier Caroline Cochrane ruled out a cabin reshuffle.

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“I am not going to consider a shuffle at this time. I know that every single Minister here is compassionate,” she said in response to Simpson. “They care about their files, and they are doing a great job. I know that the Minister of housing has so much passion for housing, but I know that housing is an issue.”

Cochrane added she met with Chinna in December and senior team members within the housing corporation and said that changes needed to be made.

Simpson’s call for a cabinet reshuffle came on the Legislative Assembly’s day of focusing on housing issues in the territory.

Other MLAs called for more public housing, support for Yellowknives Dene in creating a housing strategy and repairs to aging the territory’s housing stock.

“This government, with all its good intentions, has made minimal progress over the last several decades on meeting the housing needs of Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories,” said Simpson.  “This failure has contributed to disadvantaging Indigenous Peoples in areas such as education, employment, and health.”

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Cochrane said housing has always been her priority and that it would continue to be moving forward.

“I will do what is necessary to make sure, before the end of this Assembly, that we have more houses on the ground and that we address – not all, I’m not naive – but that we start addressing the housing needs of the Northwest Territories. That is my commitment,” Cochrane said.

MLAs passed a motion that called for a review of the NWT Housing Corporation and for the organization to update its mission statement to greater recognize housing’s role in social wellness.

Also included in the motion was a commitment to refer tenants of public housing to government services before the Housing Corporation can move forward with eviction.

Ten MLA’s voted in favour, with zero against, and seven abstentions — cabinet members usually abstain from motions directed at cabinet.

The GNWT has 120 days to demonstrate a response to the motion.

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