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

Minister Moses' Statement
Ministers' Statements

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I am pleased to report on our achievements in Education, Culture and Employment during the first half of the 18th Legislative Assembly. Mr. Chair, as Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, and as Minister responsible for Youth, I am especially proud of the work we accomplished as a result of the Right from the Start Early Childhood Development Framework.

We have increased operating subsidy rates to create more affordable childcare spaces, we eased the burden on operators by offering simplified licensing and funding application processes, and we have made changes to allow for multi-year agreements.

The passing of Bill 16 established junior kindergarten for four-year-olds in 33 communities in the Northwest Territories. This is something that we all can be proud of. I have visited children in junior kindergarten classrooms around the Northwest Territories and their energy and enthusiasm give me great hope for the future. Because of our actions, children in the Northwest Territories are getting a better start to their educational journey. In high schools, I want to make sure that all students have the opportunity to learn and excel in a multitude of subjects.

Distance learning continues to bridge the gap by offering programs that were previously not available in rural and remote communities. I am excited to keep expanding this innovative program. While the factors that influence student outcomes are complex, there is strong evidence to show that giving teachers more time to prepare, assess, collaborate, and professionally develop their teaching practice is critically important. Bill 16 gives teachers this flexibility through the Strengthening Teacher Instructional Practices initiative. Our partnerships with the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association and the Northwest Territories Superintendents Association were significant in reaching this milestone.

Mr. Chair, we must ensure our residents have the skills and training they need to enter the workforce.

The Skills 4 Success 10-Year Strategic Framework aims to improve employment success for all Northerners. We have already completed many key actions including releasing and implementing the Apprenticeship, Trades and Occupational Certification Strategy. This plan details how training, apprenticeship, and certification opportunities will be improved in skilled trades and industrial occupations across the Northwest Territories. Another part of our actions under Skills 4 Success is working with Aurora College on their renewed strategic plan. Currently the strategic plan has been put aside to allow for other informing work to be concluded. This will make the outcome stronger and enable Northerners to benefit from college programming offered in response to labour market needs.

To fulfil our mandate to increase immigration to the Northwest Territories, the Government of the Northwest Territories has launched a marketing campaign promoting the Northwest Territories Nominee Program. The launch of the ImmigrateNWT website was the first action to increase the number of immigrants working and investing here. I am pleased to report that Education, Culture and Employment's target to increase the number of approved applications by 25 per cent each year has been fully achieved. As well, Education, Culture and Employment and Industry, Tourism and Investment released the first ever Northwest Territories' Immigration Strategy. This strategy supports population growth and addresses labour market gaps and skills shortages, while safeguarding employment for our northern residents.

Mr. Chair, language is the foundation of our culture and heritage, and it expresses the uniqueness of who we are as Northerners. Negotiation with the federal government to provide additional money for official languages has been successful. We received a substantial increase: we now receive $19.6 million for Indigenous languages and almost $22.5 million for French through the unprecedented multi-year agreement.

The updated Aboriginal Languages Framework: A Shared Responsibility was tabled in May. This work would not have been possible without the support and expertise from language communities and Indigenous governments.

Mr. Chair, as Minister, I have worked hard with all our partners. I am proud of our achievements to date and certain that with the guidance of Members we will meet our remaining mandate responsibilities by the end of the 18th Legislative Assembly.

Mahsi cho. Quyanainni. Merci beaucoup. Thank you.

Minister Moses' Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Minister Moses. We will now hear from Minister Wally Schumann. Minister Schumann, please proceed with your statement.

Minister Schumann's Statement
Ministers' Statements

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, the Departments of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Infrastructure play an important role in delivering our mandate to advance economic growth in the Northwest Territories and reduce the cost of living for our people. Natural resources are the foundation of our economy. In the first two years of our mandate, we have invested approximately $3.4 million under the Mineral Development Strategy to support ongoing geoscience, marketing, Aboriginal capacity building, and the Mining Incentive Program. Our NWT Geological Survey continues to enhance publicly available geoscience, some of which has contributed to the most staking we have seen in years. Mr. Chair, we have completed community engagement sessions of our territory's first Mineral Resources Act and we are on track to ensure the unique needs of our territory are reflected in the legislation before this Legislative Assembly dissolves.

Mr. Chair, we have also made significant progress on an important priority of all MLAs: economic diversification. By supporting entrepreneurs, businesses, and business associations across the NWT with improved programs and services, as well as generous grants and contributions, we are growing areas of our economy to create better opportunities for residents to succeed. We committed to improving our tourism and parks facilities, Mr. Chair. We invested nearly $7 million to grow the capacity within the sector. Our investments have been reflected in the best-ever year for the NWT tourism sector, now worth more than $200 million to our economy. Mr. Chair, we released an Agriculture Strategy in March to encourage local food production and commercial capacity. It gives us the foundation to guide the expansion and growth of the business of food in our territory and over time will help address the cost of living, improve food security, foster healthy families, and enhance capacity-building programs for our youth.

We have also introduced a strategy to revitalize the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery, backing our commitments with funding to build a new fish processing plant in Hay River and plans for a collection point in Yellowknife. We have committed to growing a profile of NWT art at home and abroad. Our revamped NWT Arts website is delivering on this commitment by connecting the world to the NWT-made art.

Mr. Chair, with my Infrastructure portfolio, we have achieved progress on our mandate in the first half of this government that will benefit residents across the Northwest Territories. All Members agree that we need to address the cost of living and we have made strides in reducing energy costs and transitioning the territory to alternative energy production. Mr. Chair, we committed to a comprehensive public engagement on energy and climate change. That informed the development of the draft Energy Strategy. It sets out the long-term vision for energy security in the territory. We have supported alternative energy projects in communities here and now, with two solar installations completed in Inuvik as well as one in Aklavik. Biomass systems were installed in several GNWT facilities and a combined heat and power pilot project is under way in Fort Simpson. A feasibility study looking at building liquefied natural gas storage for power generation in Tuktoyaktuk was completed. Mr. Chair, access to secure, affordable, environmentally sustainable sources of energy is essential to the prosperity of the Northwest Territories and we've continued to work to find markets for the Taltson Hydro Expansion.

We have also made significant process in expanding the transportation system. Construction of the Canyon Creek all-season access road has commenced, creating employment for Sahtu residents while providing access to traditional lands for recreation, tourism, and business development. Mr. Chair, conditional approval of the Tlicho All-Season Road has also been received. The project will provide all-weather access to Whati, while improving winter access to Gameti and Wekweeti. Most recently, expressions of interest for the Slave Geological Province Corridor and the Mackenzie Valley Highway were submitted under the National Trade Corridors Fund. These transformative projects will help create jobs and business opportunities, while increasing access to our territory's extraordinary natural resource potential.

Mr. Chair, I believe in working together. Of the 38 commitments I am responsible for, seven commitments were completed, while the remaining 31 are at varying levels of progress. Mr. Chair, this work would not be possible without the support of Regular Members and their respective standing committees. Our success is not measured on one individual, but on the collective efforts of both sides of this House and the commitment of dedication of public servants to improve the lives of residents and ensure they have the ability to find success in their lives. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister Schumann's Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Minister Schumann. We will now hear from Minister Lou Sebert. Minister Sebert, please proceed with your statement.

Minister Sebert's Statement
Ministers' Statements

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I was asked to improve access to justice for residents of the Northwest Territories. I am proud to say that through innovative action and the support of this Assembly, we have made progress in this area. We have expanded the Outreach Legal Aid Clinic allowing residents access to free confidential legal advice for up to three hours on any single legal issue. This expansion makes it possible to offer more in-person clinics in our communities. We have also expanded the Mediation and Parenting after Separation and Divorce programs. Our mandate also set goals for supporting the RCMP and our communities in developing policing action plans. We now have plans in place that reflect local community safety priorities for every community in the Northwest Territories. I am keenly aware that the relationship between community, RCMP, and our government is of critical importance to how we keep citizens safe. I have worked hard to maintain an open and collaborative relationship with the new commanding officer of "G" Division.

Our mandate also set out goals to strengthen initiatives to address the crisis of family violence, including the continuation of A New Day program. Transitioning A New Day program from a pilot project to a long-term program was not without challenges. Of utmost importance to me was ensuring that the program was flexible to meet the needs of participants, provide greater opportunity for success, and be sustainable for the future. The changes made improved the program. The transition to the new service provider has been smooth and all supports are in place, including well-qualified, culturally competent, and experienced facilitators.

I want to acknowledge Members' support of this program. The objective of having the best programs available to prevent and reduce family violence is one we all share. I also want to acknowledge the role that Members have played in supporting our extensive engagement program with the public and stakeholders on cannabis legalization. We want to make sure that we understand the views of Northerners and I look forward to discussing what we heard with committee in the near future.

As Minister of Lands, I continue to work with the Premier on a number of land issues with the federal government. Together we have shared our concerns about participant funding and reducing regulatory duplication in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, as well as on proposed changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. In March, I tabled the Recreational Leasing Management Framework. We are hard at work on implementing the framework's action items and are working towards fulfilling this mandate commitment. Over the summer, we also engaged with Aboriginal governments, stakeholders, and the public on the review of the Commissioner's and Northwest Territories Lands Acts. Work is also underway on developing a Yellowknife Periphery Area Management Plan. Our Aboriginal engagement process has started, and we hope to have a draft of the plan ready for public review in early 2018. This plan will provide direction and guidance on how to manage recreational lands outside and around Yellowknife, Ndilo, and Detah. Mr. Chair, I have heard the concerns of residents and Members on issues of land ownership, and I have made it a priority to seek out solutions. I have given clear direction to the department to return with options on how to resolve issues with equity leases, and I look forward to discussing these with committee in the coming year.

Finally Mr. Chair, open and transparent government has been a top priority of our government, and I was happy to take a leadership role in helping bring forward an open government policy, ombudsman legislation, and changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As lead Minister for open government, I visited every constituency in the Northwest Territories and personally hosted 16 open houses in 14 communities. True democracy involves working with citizens and stakeholders, not just for them, and this progress will lead to a more engaged and involved public to ultimately support and enable the development of better policies, decisions, programs, and services. Mr. Chair, I look forward to working with all Members of this Assembly to advance all of our priorities.

Minister Sebert's Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Minister Sebert. That concludes the statements from the Premier, Ministers on their leadership and performance, as well as collective leadership and performance of Cabinet. At this time, I would like to recognize former Members: Mr. Anthony W.J. Whitford, former Commissioner, former Speaker, former Minister, Sergeant-at-Arms, honourary clerk at the table, and also with us our former Member Wendy Bisaro, 16th and 17th Assembly Member. Welcome. Members, just being mindful of interpreters: obviously, they will need a break from this. The chair is going to call for a short recess, and we will be back ten after 10:00. Masi.

---SHORT RECESS

Minister Sebert's Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Members, we just went through the statements from the Premier and Ministers. We will now proceed to Members' questions to Ministers. Members' questions to Ministers. I remind everybody that each Member is permitted to ask up to two questions to each Minister, no longer than two minutes each. Responses by the Ministers must not be longer than two minutes as well. We'll proceed. Are there any questions? Member Green.

Ms. Green's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Earlier this year, the GNWT signed a new healthcare funding arrangement with Ottawa. It offers less money, even with the special allocations for specific purposes such as homecare, at a time when the cost of providing healthcare and the demand for service is growing. My question for the Minister is: what is your assessment of this gap, and how are you going to close it? Mahsi.

Ms. Green's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister Abernethy.

Ms. Green's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Chair. The money that we are getting from the federal government, when you look at the Canada Health Transfer and the new monies for the individual pots, is less than we would have received if they had maintained it at a six per cent growth rate for CHT. This is certainly a challenge, but we are working on a number of mandate items within this government. We are looking at seeking additional resources for many of the activities that we are undertaking, things like homecare, things like midwifery services, and things like community counsellors in communities throughout the Northwest Territories. We continue to work with the federal government to try and get a better understanding of how we can utilize these funds, but clearly it is a challenge. Many of these funds are what are often referred to as boutique funding because they have a real short time period. They start one day and they end a number of years later. We are going to use these dollars to help actually build some capacity within the system, training and putting in new programs that we can use those dollars to help design, to make real changes for people in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Green's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Questions. Next on my list: Member Simpson.

Mr. Simpson's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, a lot of people have commented to me that today will be an interesting day. Spoiler alert: it won't be. The Ministers' statements we heard today are no different from the Ministers' statements we hear during session. The MLAs everyone expects to ask questions will ask questions and the Ministers will answer them in the same manner they've done for two years.

This is essentially just another sitting day, albeit a longer and likely less productive one. For those who have paid any attention to the proceedings in this House, there will likely be nothing new. However, Mr. Chair, what most people do not know is what happens when we're not in this Chamber. Residents generally are not aware of how Ministers handle the constituents' issues that we bring to them, how their offices respond to our requests for information, or about the battles that some Ministers have with their departments and with other Ministers when they attempt to change the status quo for the benefit of the territory. All of this will factor into my decision today.

Mr. Chair, with all that being said I would like to start with a general question addressed to all Ministers. If you receive a vote of non-confidence from the majority of this Assembly today, will you step aside, or will you be defiant and force Members to remove you? Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Simpson's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister Abernethy.

Mr. Simpson's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, there are established protocols for how an individual can be removed from this House and from this Chamber. The only way to remove somebody from Executive Council is through an open public vote in this Assembly. Given the protocols that exist, the protocols that have been agreed by this Assembly, I wouldn't resign. I would take the criticism. I would work with Members to make improvements where appropriate and hopefully be able to do a better job moving forward, but I wouldn't resign. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Simpson's Question
Members' Questions for Ministers

The Chair Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister Cochrane.