Newly-minted speaker of the house Freddy Blake Jr. says he has a pretty good idea what his constituents are expecting out of the new legislative assembly, but he is eager to get out and hear more.
Acclaimed as Mackenzie Delta MLA for his third term, Blake was also acclaimed as speaker of the house Oct. 24.
“First off, I’m working out the timing of my next constituency tour to get a good feeling from the communities what their priorities are because mine might not be the same as theirs,” he said. “It’s always better to get it from the people.”
Aside from what he hears from his constituents, he has a pretty good sense of the needs of the region from his time as chief and mayor of Tsiigehtchic, noting many of the issues have been around long enough.
“It’s pretty much the same things. Aklavik, it’s the road up to the gravel source outside of town at Willow River and there’s a need for a new school,” he said. “In all the communities, there’s a need for more housing, throughout the territories. We need to lobby the federal government. That will let us know if we can increase our stock or not.”
He noted Ottawa is going to need to step up for the future of the territory to help bring in more development and investment. He is also interested in looking at inking potential partnerships between the private sector and Indigenous groups where applicable.
Other issues he’s had his hear close to are the needs for a full-time nurse in Tsiigehtchic and better RCMP presence. He added he wanted to get to Fort McPherson to hear if residents there were in a similar boat.
In addition to his experience as head of Tsiigehtchic, Blake has also held a term as president of the Gwich’in Tribal Council and sat on the board of directors, so he has a background in community leadership.
He added he was looking forward to learning the process from the government downward, now that he’s seen the process in the other direction.
“When you’re in community leadership, you’re always making requests to the territorial government,” he said. “It takes years for things to happen sometimes. Whereas in community leadership you just get a budget and you make things happen.”
Regardless, he remained optimistic the new government would be able to help move a few files forward.
“We need to work together to make things happen,” he said. “There’s lots of good things that can be done. I’m looking forward to the next four years.”