Transcript of meeting #1 for Midterm Review Committee in the 18th Assembly. (The original version is on the Legislative Assembly's site.) The winning word was work.

The winning word was work.

On the agenda

MLAs speaking

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Mr. McNeely, Hon. Alfred Moses, Mr. Nadli, Mr. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne

The committee met at 9:00 a.m.

Call to Order
Call to Order

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

I will call to order the Interim Mid-Term Review of the 18th Legislative Assembly, and I would like to ask Member Beaulieu to lead us into a prayer.

Prayer
Prayer

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

[Translation] Marsi. I'd like to say thank you while we're here together. Two years now we've been working together, since we've been elected. So that's why we're here: to do a good job today, and we're here to talk about that today. So that's why I want to ask for prayers. Thank you. [Translation ends.]

---Prayer

Review and Adoption of Agenda
Review and Adoption of Agenda

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Member Beaulieu. Members, the agenda before you today is one that we have all agreed in Caucus. Do Members agree with the agenda that is before us today?

Review and Adoption of Agenda
Review and Adoption of Agenda

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Review and Adoption of Agenda
Review and Adoption of Agenda

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Agreed. Masi.

Chair's Opening Remarks
Chair's Opening Remarks

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Just some of the opening remarks from the chair. As chair of the Mid-Term Review Committee of the 18th Legislative Assembly, I would like to take some opening comments before we proceed today.

All Members have been provided with the guidelines and also procedures for the Mid-Term Review Committee. We have reviewed these guidelines and procedures in Caucus and have agreed to follow all of them throughout our proceedings today. I will review these guidelines and procedures as a reminder to all Members and to explain our process to those joining us here today; as well, for those who are following our proceedings televised or radio or Facebook Live. In a few minutes we will begin statements by Premier Robert R. McLeod. The Premier will have up to 10 minutes to make a statement on his leadership and performance, as well as leadership and performance of Cabinet as a whole. Following the Premier's statement, each Minister may make a statement of up to five minutes on his or her leadership and performance. The order for Ministers will be alphabetical by surname as follows: Minister Glen Abernethy; Minister Caroline Cochrane; Minister Robert C. McLeod; Minister Alfred Moses; Minister Wally Schumann; and Minister Louis Sebert. Following the statements by all Ministers, we will commence Members' questions to Ministers. Each Member will be permitted to ask up to two questions to each Minister. Questions must not be longer than two minutes; responses from Ministers also must not be longer than two minutes. No extension of time limits will be permitted. Members are not required to ask their full allotment of questions.

As chair, I will recognize Members wishing to ask questions as they catch my attention. I will not recognize the Members wishing to ask second questions or subsequent questions until all Members have had the opportunity to ask their first questions. Supplementary questions will not be permitted. However, second questions on a same topic are acceptable. The chair and the clerks at the table will maintain a tally of how many questions each Member has asked, and to whom. Once recognized, Members may ask a single question to one or more Ministers. If a Member asks a question to multiple Ministers, it will be counted as a question to each Minister.

When there are no further questions to Ministers, or when Members have each asked two questions to each Minister, we will proceed to questions to the Premier. No questions to the Premier will be permitted until questions to the Ministers have concluded. Each Member will be permitted to ask up to two questions to the Premier. Questions must not be longer than two minutes. Responses from the Premier must not be longer than two minutes as well.

Once questions to the Premier have concluded, Members will be called upon to cast their secret ballot in an open forum. The ballot will inquire as to whether each Member does or does not have confidence in the performance and leadership of Cabinet as a whole, the Premier, and each Minister individually. A ballot box will be placed in front of the clerk's table and two voting booths will be placed on either side of the clerk's table immediately prior to balloting. Each Member will receive one ballot from the clerk's table. Members must be present to vote and Members will not be permitted to cast their ballots by proxy. As chair, I will cast my ballot once all Members have voted. Once balloting has concluded, the ballot box will be taken to the clerk's office, where the ballots will be counted by the clerks at the table. Incomplete ballots will be rejected. Specific vote totals will not be announced. The bells will be rung for five minutes to call Members back to the Chamber once the results are determined.

As chair, I will announce the aggregated results on Cabinet as a whole, followed by the Premier, and then each Minister in alphabetical order. In the event of equality of votes, I will report an expression of confidence. The order of results will be: Cabinet as a whole, Premier Robert R. McLeod, Minister Glen Abernethy, Minister Caroline Cochrane, Minister Robert C. McLeod, Minister Alfred Moses, Minister Wally Schumann, and Minister Lou Sebert.

As Members, we owe a great duty to our constituents in the Northwest Territories. However, in a forum such as a Mid-Term Review Committee, we must consider the entire territory to the best of our ability. I also wish to remind Members that we have publicly committed to conduct ourselves in a dignified and respectful manner throughout this process. The guidelines and the procedures of the Territorial Leadership Committee will be followed where applicable and all Members are expected to conduct themselves accordingly.

Members, we will now continue with item 4, statement by Premier Robert R. McLeod. I would like to call upon Premier Robert R. McLeod to deliver a statement on his leadership and performance and the collective leadership and performance of the Cabinet. I remind the Premier that he has up to ten minutes to deliver his statement. Premier McLeod, you may proceed.

Premier's Statement
Premier's Statement

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, as Members of the Legislative Assembly and as Cabinet Ministers, it is important that we always remember that our job is to serve the people of the Northwest Territories. I was born and raised in the Northwest Territories, and I am proud to be from Fort Providence in the Deh Cho. I spent more than 30 years in public service working to build a strong and self-reliant territory for our people. I am now in my third term representing the people of Yellowknife South and have been chosen by my colleagues to serve on Cabinet in all three terms, including the honour of being selected Premier twice, the first person in the history of our territory to return as Premier. My small community roots and travels throughout the territory have helped me learn what the people care about the most. They want jobs and a strong economy, Mr. Chair. They want safe communities and a good future for their children and grandchildren. They want to be healthy and educated, and they look to us here in the Assembly to support them in those aspirations. These are things that I have been working steadily towards for my entire career, and they continue to be priorities for me today.

I am proud of the work I have been a part of as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, as a Cabinet Minister and Premier, and what we have achieved by working together. You will hear in more detail from Ministers today about the good work that they have done to fulfil our mandate, but I wanted to highlight a few areas that are particularly important to me.

Addressing the needs of our people and communities is a priority for me, and I am pleased with the work we have done on this. Some of our achievements including holding health fairs in 18 communities, establishing regional wellness councils, and holding regional and territorial early childhood development workshops. We have completed construction of the Mackenzie Valley fibre link, connecting the people of the Mackenzie Valley to new services and business opportunities and positioning our territory to be a leader in the knowledge economy.

We have begun to address homelessness with Housing First pilot projects in Behchoko, Fort Simpson, Aklavik, and Yellowknife. We have partnered with the K'atlodeeche First Nation and K'asho Got'ine to provide housing for their residents and establish local housing organizations in Gameti, Whati, and Fort Liard. We are addressing the needs of elders with new seniors' supported independent living units in Aklavik, Fort Liard, Fort McPherson, Fort Good Hope, and Whati, and we are responding to the need for long-term care beds with plans for facilities in Norman Wells, Hay River, and Yellowknife in the next three years, as well as additional facilities in Inuvik and Fort Simpson.

We are investing in new health facilities in our communities, including the $300-million Stanton renewal project, which is on schedule to be completed during this government. We are successfully bringing government closer to the people that it serves through our single window service centres and through Cabinet open houses in every region.

We are also doing significant work to address the issue of climate change and the high cost of energy in the Northwest Territories. In addition to completing renewable energy projects in six communities, we have also been working to outline our government's long-term approach to energy and plans for addressing climate change. Early next year, we expect to table a new energy strategy and a climate change strategic framework, both informed by extensive public engagement. We continue to invest in jobs and the economy, Mr. Chair, particularly through infrastructure investments to support further economic development and diversification. This includes the $20-million Canyon Creek Road in the Sahtu, the Tlicho all-season road, and work to increase access to the Slave Geological Province, and completing the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

Next month, Members will have the opportunity to be part of the opening of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway. The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway will bring new opportunities to the people of Tuktoyaktuk and complete a decades-old vision of connecting Canada by road from sea to sea to sea. We recognize that diversification is critical to the sustainable economic future of our territory and continue to work to expand economic opportunities in all regions and communities. Just one example: our efforts, including trade missions to China, have significantly grown aurora tourism and helped make tourism one of the fastest growing renewable sectors of the economy.

Finally, Mr. Chair, creating certainty around Aboriginal rights and land ownership in the territory would be a major accomplishment for us, and we continue to make progress in all regions. Most significantly, our government was able to make innovative new offers to the Akaitcho and Northwest Territories Metis Nation earlier this year, and I am hopeful that deals are very close. We also continue to pursue negotiations with the Dehcho First Nations, and I remain hopeful that we can find a path forward there.

Mr. Chair, when Members voted unanimously to adopt the first ever mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories in March 2016, we all made approximately 200 commitments to the people of the Northwest Territories that we said we would complete during our four-year term. Nearly halfway through, we have made progress in all areas of our mandate. We have completed 53 commitments, and another 145 are in progress. Only two of our 200 commitments are in the planning stages. I am pleased with that progress, Mr. Chair, and confident that our record speaks for itself.

I am also pleased with the work that my Cabinet colleagues have done during the first half of our term. We have a good team that combines the unique strengths of each individual to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I look forward to working with them under whatever circumstances Members decide on today.

I do recognize, though, that we cannot rest on our achievements or lose our focus. I also know that there is always an opportunity to do better. Today's mid-term performance and mandate progress review is an important opportunity to check our progress and recalibrate our efforts for the remaining two years of our term. Mr. Chair, we all share responsibility for the achievements and accomplishments of this government. Every Member has a role to play and can take credit for what we have done.

I look forward to hearing from Members today about how they think we have been doing and which areas need a renewed focus. On behalf of Cabinet and myself, I thank Members for their support and contributions to date, and should Members express confidence in my leadership and Cabinet's performance, we will continue to work with you to create the strong, healthy, and prosperous Northwest Territories our residents expect and deserve. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Premier's Statement
Premier's Statement

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Premier McLeod. We will now proceed to statements by Ministers. I remind the Ministers that they will have up to five minutes to deliver their statements on his or her leadership and performance. We will begin with Minister Glen Abernethy. Minister Abernethy, you may proceed with your statement.

Minister Abernethy's Statement
Ministers' Statements

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to stand up today and reflect on what we have achieved together over the past two years. The government's mandate provided an ambitious road map, but I believe that we have made substantial process in a number of areas that are priorities not only for this Assembly, but for residents of the Northwest Territories. Mr. Chair, I have travelled throughout the Northwest Territories, I have met with community leaders and stakeholders, I have listened to the concerns of representatives in this House, and it is clear that concerns about the impacts of mental health and addictions on our community is a priority for all.

Last fall, the Department of Health and Social Services completed a Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Framework that sets the stage for enhancing the range of programs and services that are available to our residents. Last week, I tabled the first of three action plans to be completed under this framework. The Child and Youth Mental Wellness Action Plan outlines concrete achievable actions that will take over the next five years in partnership with government departments as well as external stakeholders. These actions will make a real difference in the lives of youth across the Northwest Territories.

Another priority in the government's mandate speaks to taking action so that seniors can age in their communities. Mr. Chair, we have delivered on this priority. We completed a major long-term care review that identified key areas for action. Our Continuing Care Services Action Plan outlines how we will enhance and improve services available for elders, including expanding homecare services and vibrant day programs. New investments in homecare have allowed us to expand services in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, and, for the first time, offer homecare services in five Dehcho communities, but we also need to take care of elders who are no longer able to live independently.

The government has rolled out a detailed plan to address the projected shortfall of 250 long-term care beds over the next ten years, and their funding is included in the capital plan to make good on that commitment. In the next three years, we will see an 18-long-term-care-bed facility open in Norman Wells, a 48-bed facility constructed in Hay River, a 72-bed facility within the old Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife, and plans underway for facilities in Inuvik, as well as Fort Simpson.

Mr. Chair, just over one year ago, we achieved a major milestone with the establishment of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority. Integrating six existing authorities has allowed us to implement improvements to care and services delivered to people across the entire Northwest Territories. We have already made significant progress in establishing consistent standards of care across the Northwest Territories. We have improved our ability to deploy staff in situations of physician shortages, as well as community crisis response.

We have seen how implementation of territorial electronic medical records is helping to ensure that patients no longer fall through the cracks and are no longer required to keep telling their stories over again as they move between regions. With the establishment of the new regional wellness councils and the Health and Social Services Leadership Council, regions now have a voice at the territorial level and can bring their issues and concerns forward in ways that they could not in the old system.

Mr. Chair, we have made great strides in addressing the challenges of aging infrastructure. Hay River and surrounding communities are now benefiting from a state-of-the-art regional health centre, the new health centre in Fort Providence opened last year, and we are poised to move into the new health centre in Fort Resolution. The new Stanton Territorial Hospital project is on time and on budget and will serve residents from across the Northwest Territories and the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.

Finally, Mr. Chair, I am incredibly proud of the work that has been done in the health and social services system to respond to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to address disparities of health outcomes for Indigenous people. Our commitment to building a culturally respectful health and social services system is being realized through the rollout of cultural safety training for frontline workers. We are in the early stages of piloting elders-in-residence programs at Stanton Territorial Hospital and in the Sahtu and the Dehcho regions. We are working with the Deline Got'ine government to implement a traditional healing project.

Mr. Chair, none of this work is accomplished by working in isolation. As a Minister, I have invested a tremendous amount of time and effort in reaching out to communities and stakeholders. I value the knowledge and wisdom of the people in our communities. I value the partnerships we have created with our government departments, our Indigenous governments, and with non-government organizations. I value the perspectives of my colleagues in this House, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you and your contributions to improving health and social services for all residents of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister Abernethy's Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Minister Abernethy. We will now hear from Minister Caroline Cochrane. Minister Cochrane, you may proceed with your statement.

Minister Cochrane's Statement
Ministers' Statements

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, almost two years ago, I stood in front of my colleagues and explained why I felt that I would be an appropriate choice to become one of seven Ministers for the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. I was honoured and humbled with the vote of confidence shown to me at the beginning of this Legislative Assembly, and not once have I forgotten the responsibility I carry for the residents of the Northwest Territories.

We've all worked hard towards achieving the mandate commitments, and I appreciate the endeavours of my colleagues from both sides of this House, as well as the amazing dedication of my personal staff, department heads, employees on the ground, and those behind the scenes. In regards to gender equity, we have made some progress. As of January 2017, gender equity on NWT public boards and agencies reached 50 per cent. We also completed two women in leadership workshops and are reviewing the feedback to develop a made-in-the-North curriculum that will equip women for a broad range of leadership roles.

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs has enhanced its support to community and Indigenous governments through online courses and training designed specifically for Indigenous governments. As well, we have modified the accountability framework tool and the asset management framework to better assist in capital planning and identifying training needs. We continue to provide a host of supports to encourage wellness through physical activity, healthy lifestyles, and community leadership. Evaluations have been completed on some of the youth programs to ensure that we are providing services that meet their needs.

Mr. Chair, I have held high expectations of all of my team, and I am exceptionally proud of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. The corporation has expanded community property management services to provide better service and increase jobs in communities. We are addressing homelessness through support of the City of Yellowknife's Housing First project, building semi-independent units, and constructing shelters in three other communities. We have also constructed more seniors' units, and provided information seminars to assist seniors to age in place.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has made a significant shift in direction. Over the last two years, I have watched the transformation of programs, policies, and even employees as we move beyond simply providing housing supports to a place of supporting people to obtain, maintain, and retain their homes. Mr. Chair, all the work that we have done has been in a spirit of transparency, accountability, and collaboration. MLAs provided direction through the mandate, and we have worked with community and Aboriginal governments, stakeholders, and residents to help shape our approaches and meet the needs of residents. Almost 1500 replies to the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation's survey have provided the background for policy and program enhancements.

We have built solid relationships with provincial and territorial counterparts, and federal Ministers. These partnerships have resulted in funding specifically dedicated to addressing the needs of the Northwest Territories, and I am confident that we will see even more long-term federal investment. Mr. Chair, I have taken the mandate of this Legislative Assembly seriously, and my team has worked hard to live up to the expectations placed on us. Our successes are the result of a commitment to work together with partners, stakeholders, and residents. I look forward to continuing to work with these amazing people as we all strive to provide the best services for the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister Cochrane's Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Minister Cochrane. We will now hear from Minister Robert C. McLeod. Minister McLeod, you may proceed with your statement.

Minister Mcleod's Statement
Ministers' Statements

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, when I put my name forward for consideration as Minister at the start of the 18th Legislative Assembly, I outlined the key qualities that I possess and would carry with me during my term as Minister. I am confident that I have approached my work as Minister as I said I would.

I treat people with respect and maintain an open and transparent relationship with MLAs, Ministers, committees, Aboriginal governments, federal Minister, and non-government organizations. I am straightforward and honest. I believe in fairness and the equitable application of government policies and programs and remain committed to ensuring identified policy gaps are addressed in a timely manner. I believe in the committee process. It adds value to the work we do, and ensures input from all MLAs are considered. My commitment remains true and I will continue working with these principles. Mr. Chair, I would like to proceed with highlighting some of the key deliverables from my respective portfolios.

As Minister of Finance, my main responsibility is to ensure the financial resources of this government are well-managed. When we began the 18th Legislative Assembly, we had some significant financial challenges. We had to make difficult choices, including implementing reductions and revenue initiatives, and managing our growing expenditure needs. These actions were necessary first steps to better align our expenditures with revenues, and together we have begun to correct our course. Mr. Chair, one of the major initiatives for the Department of Finance has been the Mackenzie Valley fibre link. The completion of this project is evidence of the 18th Legislative Assembly's commitment to strategic investment, diversification, and modernization towards a high-tech future.

The fibre link brings affordable, high-speed, telecommunications to communities along the Mackenzie Valley and enables our government to offer improved service delivery. The completion of the fibre link not only builds on the GNWT's mandate commitment to help modernize the economy and enable growth in all sectors, but also positions Inuvik to be one of the leading sites for tracking and receiving real-time data from polar-orbiting satellites which should lead to further growth of the remote-sensing and commercial satellite industry.

Mr. Chair, early in the 18th Legislative Assembly, we fulfilled the commitment to increase the Northern Residents Deductions. I was pleased the federal government agreed to this increase and will help offset the high cost of living in the NWT, and we will continue to raise the issue at every opportunity. Challenges for the Department of Finance include the renewal of our Territorial Formula Financing arrangements, implementation of carbon pricing, and taxation and issues associated with the legalization of cannabis. I am confident that in my role as Minister of Finance that I have made strides in advancing our issues at the federal level and will continue to do so.

Mr. Chair, as you know, the 2016-2020 Water Stewardship Strategy Action Plan has been finalized, and I have tabled the first progress report. As per the action plan, the department of Environment and Natural Resources has released mixing zone guidelines in cooperation with the land and water boards. The department has also finalized, or is working towards finalizing, transboundary agreements with Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Saskatchewan, and Nunavut. As part of the overall strategy, the department also continues work to update and modernize the Waters Act. In addition to this piece of legislation, the department is updating the Environmental Protection Act, the Environmental Rights Act, the Forest Management Act, and proposing new legislation for protected areas. This demonstrates GNWT leadership on land and water resource management since devolution.

Mr. Chair, ENR has also been developing an NWT climate change strategic framework. Together with Infrastructure, we have held six regional engagement workshops on climate change and energy, and have made those reports available to the public. That input combined with the recommendations of the OAG audit will inform the final framework document scheduled for tabling in February 2018. As Minister, I remain committed to an open, transparent, fair, and straightforward relationship with this House. I encourage and welcome your input and assistance in making the hard decisions that face all of us in advancing the mandate priorities of this Assembly for the people of the Northwest Territories.

Minister Mcleod's Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Minister McLeod. We will now hear from Minister Alfred Moses. Minister Moses, please proceed with your statement.