This is page numbers 45 - 54 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 5th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was services.

Topics

Members Present

Mr. Allooloo, Mr. Antoine, Hon. Silas Arngna'naaq, Mr. Ballantyne, Hon. Nellie Cournoyea, Mr. Dent, Mr. Gargan, Hon. Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Koe, Mr. Lewis, Hon. Jeannie Marie-Jewell, Hon. Rebecca Mike, Hon. Don Morin, Mr. Ng, Mr. Ningark, Mr. Patterson, Mr. Pudlat, Hon. John Todd, Mr. Whitford, Mr. Zoe

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

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Madam Speaker

Thank you, Mr. Koe. Good afternoon. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Madam Premier.

Minister's Statement 5-12(5): Session Business
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Nellie Cournoyea Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Speaker. On Monday of next week, Finance Minister, John Pollard, will be presenting the O and M spending plan for the 1994-95 fiscal year. This will be the third of four budgets to be presented by the government during its term of office. It reflects a determination to return to a balanced budget, while maintaining existing services. We all recognize that this isn't an easy task. During the past three years, all of us have been involved in an extremely difficult financial and complex political situation.

There has been considerable change. There have been changes in the membership of this House, changes in Cabinet, how government is organized and how it is conducting its business, and changes that will lead to a post-division budget in less than three years, with the creation of two new territories by April of 1999.

Public expectations have also shifted. People are demanding increased financial and administrative accountability. They want governments at all levels to work together, to end waste and to spend their tax dollars wisely. And they want help in solving the many serious social problems afflicting and undermining the well-being of the Northwest Territories.

Strong families that are free of violence and properly sheltered, well-educated youth, employment opportunities and a greater degree of community control over programs and services are seen by northern residents as the keys to a better future. Madam Speaker, Cabinet, the Legislative Assembly and its standing and special committees have been making progress towards meeting these objectives.

But there is still much to do and not much time for this Assembly to finish the work it started after the election of 1991. As a result, the remainder of our term promises to be extremely significant. In a statement to this House at the start of session, I noted that Cabinet intends to concentrate its efforts on making sure what began in 1991 is either completed or nearing completion by 1995.

That includes living within our means. We have to make sure that the sizeable amount of money we spend on paying for the management and administration of government doesn't become an increasing burden on the resources required to help those most in need and to help create jobs in all sectors of our economy. It also includes, among other things, steps or initiatives dealing with family violence, the education system, stimulation of economic opportunities, reform of income support systems, custom adoptions and access to government information.

Madam Speaker, we have an obligation to the people who put us here. They put us here to work together to develop a consensus and to find constructive solutions to the problems that are bothering them. That is the challenge we face, despite the budget pressures we deal with on a regular basis and the financial situation that is crippling the federal and provincial governments.

Relatively speaking, our long-term economic outlook remains positive, particularly in the minerals sector, which we expect to be the stimulus for the development of transportation infrastructure, in partnership with Ottawa and the private sector. But that doesn't mean we can afford to forget about our multi-million dollar health billings dispute and the housing crisis resulting from Ottawa's elimination of cost-shared new social housing in the territories.

We intend to continue our pursuit of a fair and reasonable resolution to those outstanding issues and other financial irritants, particularly those that place us in a disadvantaged position compared to the type of equalization formulas that exists between the federal government and the have-not provinces. Ministers will be speaking to you in greater detail on these and other matters during this budget session.

Madam Speaker, many items that have occupied the government since coming into office, such as consolidation, the sale of staff housing, decentralization, community transfers, and privatization, are being implemented. Other matters that have been discussed are now coming forward to the Assembly for debate.

A number of initiatives, such as the new building and learning strategy, will be put into place during this summer's construction season. The building and learning strategy is designed to generate properly trained northern workers who will recapture, by the year 2000, the estimated $16 million per year in wages that are currently being paid to southern construction workers.

In addition, the government will be tabling a renewable resources development strategy during this session, which will identify economic opportunities in the renewable resource sector. A document dealing with development of a mineral strategy is already before the House. People must have a choice of working in traditional or industrial economies.

Work is also progressing on a health services strategy, and Arctic College is developing a strategic plan as part of the process of decentralization and in order to get ready for division. At the appropriate time, the Assembly will be asked to consider legislation creating two colleges, one in the east and the second in the west.

Earlier, I referred to the serious social problems confronting many individuals, families and communities in the Northwest Territories. These problems, in one way or another, are contributing to a breakdown in family values and lifestyles and lead to violence in the home or criminal activities in general. Madam Speaker, beating up on spouses, sexual abuse of adults and children, and alcohol and drug dependency can't be tolerated. We have to create a strategy that will help restore traditional values and a stronger sense of self-reliance.

With this in mind, we will begin a discussion on the matter tomorrow, with representatives from various interest groups. These problems must be resolved and everyone has to be involved in the solution. The discussion is a follow-up to a recommendation by the Special Committee on Health and Social Services calling for zero tolerance against family violence and a declaration on zero tolerance tabled by the Minister of Justice, Stephen Kakfwi, in December.

Other important documents that will be brought forward during this session include papers on income support and training, and legislation dealing with custom adoption and access to government information. As you know, a document outlining the government's response to the gender equality report has already been tabled and is ready for discussion. So is a discussion paper by the Department of Education that will be used to finalize a comprehensive strategy that will guide the development and delivery of education, culture and employment programs to the year 2010.

Madam Speaker, the area of income support is of particular importance. The systems that are in place need to be reformed in order to provide better overall coordination and to make sure the support systems no longer create barriers to work and training opportunities. The need to reform the income support regime in a manner that will combine all aspects of social assistance, income support, employment development and training has recently been approved, in principle, by Cabinet. It doesn't make any sense to pay able-bodied people to stay at home.

Part of the work in the area of income support reform is in response to recommendations from the Special Committee on Health and Social Services. We will table a comprehensive response to the committee's report before the end of the budget session. The government will also be introducing legislation dealing with access to information, custom adoptions and guardianship and trusteeship, during the current session.

The Access to Information and Privacy Act will provide a mechanism for the public to access all information held by the government, subject to limited and specific exceptions. It will also provide for the protection of privacy in respect to information relating to individuals.

The Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act sets out a simple procedure to obtain recognition of an aboriginal custom adoption that will have the effect of a court order. The Guardianship and Trusteeship Act, among other things, provides for the court appointment of a guardian to make decisions on behalf of an adult who is incapable of independently managing his or her personal care.

In conclusion, Madam Speaker, we now have about 20 months left in our mandate to finish what we started and to lay the groundwork on some new initiatives that will prove to be of considerable help to the next Assembly.

Madam Speaker, I am confident we will succeed. The desire for change is strong across the Northwest Territories, and that strength will help guide our deliberations and decision-making. Thank you.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 5-12(5): Session Business
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Madam Speaker

Thank you, Madam Premier. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Madam Premier.

Minister's Statement 6-12(5): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Nellie Cournoyea Nunakput

Madam Speaker, the Honourable John Pollard will be absent from the House today to attend the meeting of Health Ministers in Ottawa. The Honourable Richard Nerysoo will be absent from the House today and tomorrow to attend the Nunavut education meeting in Rankin Inlet. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 6-12(5): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Madam Speaker

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Iqaluit.

Alcohol And Drug Workers' Salaries And Benefits
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Dennis Patterson Iqaluit

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, Members will recall our concerns about the adequacy of salaries and benefits for alcohol and drug workers in the Northwest Territories. Specifically, as I had recently informed the Minister of Social Services, there are serious problems being encountered by the board of directors of the Baffin regional treatment centre in recruiting suitable candidates to begin an eight week training program this month under the auspices of Bellwood Treatment Centre, in order to be trained in time for the opening of the centre in Iqaluit in April 1994.

I wrote the Minister on several occasions, with my concerns on this issue and included a resolution passed on January 14, 1994 at the Baffin leaders' summit, urging the Minister of Social Services to identify extra funds and housing, in order to be able to attract employees to staff the long-awaited treatment centre.

The chairman of the board of the Baffin regional treatment centre, Mr. Mangitak Kellypalik, also informed the Minister, in a letter dated January 16, that the lack of housing, adequate benefits and salaries had discouraged qualified people from applying, given the high cost of living in Iqaluit.

Madam Speaker -- and I am pleased to start the session off on a positive note -- I am pleased to report to the House that yesterday I was informed by the Honourable Rebecca Mike that significant steps have been taken towards addressing this issue. A retroactive salary increase of $2,500 to April 1, 1993, and the provisions of settlement allowance, which in the case of Iqaluit amounts to $4,484 per year, has now been approved for alcohol and drug treatment centre staff. This is progress on this issue, Madam Speaker.

Since I have not hesitated to be critical of the Minister and the department in the past, I want to be the first to acknowledge this and to thank the Minister and her staff for this action.

Having said that, Madam Speaker, I must still point out that the challenges for this Minister are not over by any means. There is still no housing available for the staff. That is the next issue which must be solved if the centre is to open on time. Also, the Minister must soon deal with the question of wages and benefits for alcohol and drug workers, in fact, wages and benefits for staff in women's shelters and senior citizens' homes. There are also urgent issues like food allowances for social assistance recipients and responses to the report of the Special Committee on Health and Social Services.

So, Madam Speaker, the honourable Minister still has many pressing and long-outstanding issues she must work hard to tackle. However, I think we should allow her to pause for a moment, only a moment, today and accept our acknowledgement of the steps she has taken on this issue. Qujannamiik. Thank you.

---Applause

Alcohol And Drug Workers' Salaries And Benefits
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Madam Speaker

Thank you, Mr. Patterson. Item 3, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Baffin South.

Apologies For Lack Of Travel To Constituency
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Kenoayoak Pudlat Baffin South

(Translation) Thank you, Madam Speaker. I rise today, Madam Speaker, recognizing the first meeting in this House in the year 1994. At our last session in 1993, I wanted to express my apologies for not being able to visit my constituency. I would also like to thank them for their patience. During the last sitting of the session I received a lot of help and support from those constituencies, and with the new year coming upon us, I wanted to acknowledge their support and remind them that I am still representing them in this House and I will do my best. I extend my apologies for not being able to visit their communities. I have intentions to visit them more frequently this year, Madam Speaker. I just wanted to express my apologies to my constituents. For this reason, I rise in the House today. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Apologies For Lack Of Travel To Constituency
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Madam Speaker

Thank you, Mr. Pudlat. Item 3, Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. The honourable Member for Sahtu, Mr. Kakfwi.

Return To Question 8-12(5): Hay River Reserve - Model For Treaty Lands
Item 4: Returns To Oral Questions
Item 4: Returns To Oral Questions

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Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Thank you, Madam Speaker. This is in response to a question asked by Mr. Antoine, on December 13, 1993.

During question period on December 13, the Member for Nahendeh asked the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs if a tripartite administrative agreement, which is being developed between the Hay River Dene Band, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Government of the Northwest Territories, will "be a model for all Indian Affairs lands and future lands set aside through treaties."

As the ministry for Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs is coordinating this government's participation in those discussions, I have undertaken to provide this reply, which Minister Todd took as notice.

First, the tripartite administrative agreement discussions with the Hay River Reserve are meant to put in place a process for negotiation of sub-agreements, which would provide the band with some certainty on the delivery of federal and territorial programs and services.

Second, the focus of these talks is on the delivery of federal and territorial programs on the Hay River Reserve, some of which could involve transactions and development of reserve lands and environmental management and protection of reserve lands.

Third, the talks were premised on the principle that all parties are participating without prejudice to their respective positions on comparative levels of service, legal jurisdiction, self-government, land claims negotiations, interpretation of treaty rights and obligations and other related matters.

Fourth, while these discussions may provide for sub-agreements respecting the Hay River Reserve land, the programs and services provided by government will clearly have to respect the band's authority and jurisdiction over reserve land. Moreover, these talks establish that the sub-agreements on land, or any other matter, can be terminated by the band.

Finally, the Hay River band's request that the Government of the Northwest Territories develop a policy on reserves will obviously involve addressing the delivery of GNWT programs and services, as they may relate to existing reserve lands and lands which may be set aside in the future through treaty land entitlement agreements or related measures.

The arrangements made with respect to Hay River Reserve lands would presumably be considered in a Government of the Northwest Territories' policy, if one is developed, but it is premature, at this time, to suggest that these talks and its land management sub-agreements will become the "model" for new reserves. Thank you.

Return To Question 8-12(5): Hay River Reserve - Model For Treaty Lands
Item 4: Returns To Oral Questions
Item 4: Returns To Oral Questions

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Madam Speaker

Thank you, Mr. Kakfwi. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Item 5, oral questions. The honourable Member for Natilikmiot.

Question 29-12(5): Impact Of Federal Tax Reduction On Tobacco Products
Item 5: Oral Questions

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John Ningark Natilikmiot

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Yesterday, the federal government announced a reduction of federal tax on tobacco products. My question is to the Honourable Minister of Finance, but he is not in the House so I will direct my question to the Premier. Madam Speaker, what impact will this have on the cost of tobacco products in the NWT? Thank you.

Question 29-12(5): Impact Of Federal Tax Reduction On Tobacco Products
Item 5: Oral Questions

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Madam Speaker

Thank you, Mr. Ningark. Madam Premier.