This is page numbers 1 - 29 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 6th 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 housing.

Topics

Members Present

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

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 1

The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Mr. Clerk, would you ascertain if His Honour the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories is prepared to address the Legislative Assembly.

Item 2: Opening Address
Item 2: Opening Address

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Commissioner Norris

Madam Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Sixth Session of the 12th Legislative Assembly.

The past few years have been a period of change and adjustment in the Northwest Territories, as we consolidated departments, decentralized and privatized some services, changed our approach to staff housing, and moved towards the constitutional reality of two new territories by 1999.

Standing and special committees of this House have played a major role in the process, particularly in the areas of health, social services and housing and in helping to meet the financial challenges resulting from cuts in the transfer payments we receive from the federal government.

We've been through some very difficult situations, but we have managed to maintain spending levels for essential programs and services, and to make sure that certain initiatives were introduced to create jobs now and to build for a better future.

The public servants who deliver our programs and services have faced the greatest challenge with respect to reforms instituted by the government and the Legislative Assembly. Change is never easy, particularly when the challenge is to do more with less. The process leads to uncertainty and anxiety for many people, yet our public servants have demonstrated a great deal of professionalism and integrity in tackling the job that has to be done.

There is considerable work to complete before the term of the government ends, including the development of a strategy to combat family violence and the reform of income support programs. Of particular importance to government at this time is the need to introduce significant legislative initiatives before this session is recessed later this week so that standing committees can use the summer period to consider them and undertake any public consultation that will be required.

Madam Speaker, on a number of occasions, beginning with the introduction of a private Member's bill by the Member for Deh Cho, the government and the Assembly have spoken about their commitment towards making sure our constituents have a legislated right of access to information relating to the operations of government and its institutions. Consequently, the government will be introducing an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act before the recess.

The act proposes to provide the public with a right to access information held by government, subject to specific and limited exceptions. The bill will also control the manner in which the government may collect and use personal information about individuals and would establish an access and privacy commission on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly. Budget projections relating to the act and a legislative action paper on establishing an ombudsman will also be presented to the House.

Madam Speaker, all of us are aware of the need to address shortcomings in the existing legislation as it relates to the safe operation of existing mines in the Northwest Territories and new mines that may develop as a result of extensive diamond and basic metal exploration currently taking place in the western territories.

As a result, a new Mine Health and Safety Act will also be introduced before the recess. The bill marks the end of a long process involving extensive consultation with the industry, trade unions, non-union workers and mine occupational health and safety committees. It will replace the present Mining Safety Act which is both antiquated and unwieldy and very difficult to understand.

The new act isn't written for lawyers and judges. Instead, the proposed bill is a clear and simple document that will be easy to understand by the average mine worker and his or her supervisors. The need for clarity cannot be too strongly emphasized. In many cases, understanding the rules about mine safety can mean the difference between life and death.

Madam Speaker, during this session, the government will also be presenting the following bills for consideration in the House: The Guardianship and Trusteeship Act, the Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act, an Act to Amend the Liquor Act, and Appropriation Act, No. 1, 1995-96.

The Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act is designed to eliminate the time-consuming process of formalizing custom adoptions in the Northwest Territories. The act establishes a simple procedure to obtain recognition of an aboriginal custom adoption that will have the same effect as a court order.

The Guardianship and Trusteeship Act provides for the court appointment of a guardian to make decisions on behalf of an adult who is not capable of independently managing his or her personal care or health care, and for the appointment of a trustee for an adult who is not capable of independently managing his or her financial affairs.

Amendments to the Liquor Act will widen the scope of the local option system of liquor control presently set out in existing legislation. It will also give the Liquor Licensing Board more control over its proceedings and enable a responsible Minister, at the request of a community, to ban the consumption, purchase, sale or transportation of liquor in the community in which a special occasion is scheduled to occur.

Finally, Appropriation Act, No. 1, 1995-96, will be presented in October. It will detail capital spending plans that are designed to maximize opportunities for northern-based construction companies and job opportunities for people wanting to participate in a wage economy.

Your government considers these bills essential to the good conduct of government business. I particularly wish to recommend passage of Appropriation Act, No. 1, 1995-96.

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip for undertaking a visit to the Northwest Territories this summer. A number of special events are being planned.

Madam Speaker, I would now like to commend to you, for your earnest consideration and wise judgement, the business of this House, as I declare open the Sixth Session of the 12th Assembly of the Northwest Territories. Thank you.

---Applause

Item 2: Opening Address
Item 2: Opening Address

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The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

You may be seated. Item 3, Ministers' statements. The honourable Member for Tu Nedhe, Mr. Morin.

Minister's Statement 1-12(6): New Social Housing Rent Scale
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

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Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Later on today, the new social housing rent scale will be tabled. Over the past ten years, ever since the recommendations of the Special Committee on Housing, there has been growing concerns about the need to revise the social housing rent scale.

The existing rent scale has been in place since 1983. At that time, communities were divided into two groups. One group was called home ownership communities. These were communities where it was felt home ownership programs would be successful. The other group was called non-home ownership communities. These were communities where the cost of home ownership was thought to be too expensive for most residents.

The existing rent scale charges very low maximum rents in the so-called "non-home ownership communities." This means that people with incomes high enough to afford home ownership, have no incentive to move. This contributes to overcrowding and housing shortages, which is so severe in many communities.

It will come as no surprise to Members, or the public, that the federal government is not prepared to subsidize high income tenants in cost-shared rental housing. CMHC will reduce its funding by a further $5.3 million, unless we address this issue with a revised rent scale that charges high income tenants more realistic rents.

That being said, Madam Speaker, a new rent scale is long overdue. Over the years, in many reports and consultation meetings, tenants, community leaders and MLAs have urged that the rent scale be changed. In the recent community consultation meetings held across the NWT, residents made many suggestions for changing the rent scale. The Advisory Committee on Social Housing and all MLAs have voiced concerns and suggested changes.

The rent scale that will be tabled today addresses many of these concerns.

1. The new rent scale will be applied in the same way in every NWT community, Madam Speaker. It will treat all tenants fairly and equitably regardless of where they live.

2. All rents will remain affordable. No tenant will pay more than 30 per cent of their household income for rent.

3. There will be no across-the-board increases in rent, in fact, lowest income tenants will be paying less rent.

4. High income tenants will be encouraged to become home owners.

5. Education and employment will be encouraged.

6. Federal funding will be maintained.

Madam Speaker, the new rent scale recognizes the high cost of living in remote communities. It also recognizes the additional costs of raising large families. There will also be deductions for units in poor condition.

Implementation of the new rent scale will be gradual. Major rent increases will be phased in over the next two years. The first increase will not take effect until January 1, 1995, but decreases will take effect in July, 1994.

Information on the new rent scale is going out to all local housing organizations, community governments, band councils and Metis locals. Representatives of these groups will be invited to attend a consultation meeting in their district in May or June, to be briefed and to discuss the new rent scale and other housing issues.

Madam Speaker, I believe the new rent scale is fair to all tenants. I appreciate the input of tenants, local housing organizations, the Advisory Committee on Social Housing, MLAs and the public in the development of the new rent scale. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 1-12(6): New Social Housing Rent Scale
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Thank you. Item 3, Ministers' statements. The honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Nerysoo.

Minister's Statement 2-12(6): Progress On Income Security Reform
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

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Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, Members will recall that earlier in this session, I reported on the joint federal/provincial/territorial meetings of Ministers responsible for Labour Market and Social Services and the agenda for income security reform.

Since the Ministers' meetings, officials have been working to develop principles and criteria that would be used to guide investment in the $800 million strategic initiatives fund. The fund, established in the recent federal budget, is to provide for cost-shared demonstration projects whose design, delivery and outcomes can be considered in the redesign of the income security net in this country. It is our government's intention to gain approval under this program for the investing in people initiative, which was presented earlier to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Our initiative would see up to seven pilot projects being undertaken and the provision of over 200 additional adult training seats to our current activity levels. Subsequent work activity projects would allow people to combine academic and on-the-job training as they prepare for the labour market or further post-secondary training. The proposal calls for a joint federal/territorial investment of some $6 million over two years. The GNWT share of the resources will come from re-profiled funds from the departments of Social Services and Education, Culture and Employment.

Madam Speaker, I believe we must be both aggressive and progressive in order to participate in the national agenda of change. We cannot afford to have changes imposed upon us and overlook our unique social, cultural and economic needs. We need to make a meaningful contribution to this reform, but we will have to try some new approaches, so that we can benefit from some practical experience in larger scale employment development.

To ensure that we are on the leading edge of change, I am advising this Assembly that our government will establish, on April 11, an income security reform task group. The group will be headed by Mr. Conrad Pilon, the assistant deputy minister.

Madam Speaker, I again return to my earlier statement to inform the House that the Honourable Rebecca Mike, Minister of Social Services, and I have again been invited to meet our counterparts in Ottawa on April 17 and 19 to review the federal government's action plan. The action plan will lay out, in detail, the scope of the income security reform review and its program and fiscal principles and its objectives. The federal government has announced that its fiscal objective for 1996-97 is to reduce expenditures in the Canada assistance plan by some $1.5 billion from its projected 1994-95 expenditures levels.

Madam Speaker, it has also been a joint objective of the departments of Education, Culture and Employment and Social Services to release a discussion paper on the entire matter of income security reform. Due to the very dynamic nature of the national agenda and the continuing work on the scope of the reform, we have delayed the release of the paper until sometime after the mid-April ministerial consultation. Our paper can then be more comprehensive and match more closely the federal plans for consultations and activity over the summer months.

I will correspond with all Members later this spring and provide them with the discussion paper along with a proposed plan for consultations with respect to the reform initiative. I would expect to review progress and major policy issues in this Assembly in the fall session. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 2-12(6): Progress On Income Security Reform
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Thank you. Item 3, Ministers' statements. The honourable Member for Baffin Central, Ms. Mike.

Minister's Statement 3-12(6): Progress On Income Security Reform
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

Page 3

Rebecca Mike Baffin Central

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I would like to follow up on the statement on income security reform made by my colleague, the Honourable Richard Nerysoo.

Madam Speaker, the Minister spoke about the scope of reform. The overall objective of reform is to build a social security system that better integrates social policy, income support, labour market and learning policies and programs. The focus for redesign is not on programs, but on people and will occur with the recognition that people's needs vary according to their individual circumstances and the stage of their lives.

A number of federal programs will be affected by the review. They include but are not limited to: unemployment insurance and labour market programs; the Canada assistance plan; benefits delivered through the tax system such as the child tax credit; vocational rehabilitation of disabled persons; Canada pension plan disability pensions; survivors' and children's benefits; post-secondary education; and, the Canada student loans program. For the Northwest Territories we recognize that our review in terms of linking to federal programming must include social housing rental policy, hunters' and trappers' assistance programs, our employment development and short-term employment programs, student financial assistance program, child day care programs, and there are probably other areas that can be explored. Programs for seniors are not part of the social security reform. They will be addressed separately through the development of a discussion paper later this fall. We must carefully assess the financial impact of change with the knowledge that we will undoubtedly be receiving fewer dollars and that we are going into negotiations soon on a new formula financial arrangement.

Madam Speaker, Canada's social security net is going to change. We must work in partnership to maximize the opportunities to restructure our income security programs to invest in people to allow them to become more productive, self-sufficient and self-reliant. Government, families and individuals all have a responsibility to contribute to building a strong and healthy society. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 3-12(6): Progress On Income Security Reform
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Thank you. Item 3, Ministers' statements. The honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Nerysoo.

Minister's Statement 4-12(6): Development Of The Inuuqatigiit Curriculum
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

Page 4

Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Madam Speaker. The NWT school system is based on the philosophy that education must be founded on local culture if it is going to be relevant to students, families and communities. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment, boards, divisional boards of education and schools across the Northwest Territories have made a good deal of progress in developing curricula and school programs that are appropriate for the many languages and cultures within the Northwest Territories. Today I would like to announce another important initiative in this area.

This coming September, Inuuqatigiit, a curriculum which enhances and enriches first language and culture for Inuit students, will be piloted in schools in the Baffin, Keewatin, Kitikmeot and Beaufort-Delta regions.

Inuuqatigiit, which is designed for students from kindergarten to grade 12, is the first curriculum designed in the north which reflects the Inuit perspective. Inuuqatigiit means Inuit to Inuit, people to people, or family to family. It also implies a togetherness and unity between people. Enhancing unity for the benefit of students, teachers, schools and communities is the most fundamental goal of the curriculum.

The curriculum is to be used by Inuinnait, Inuvialuit and Inuit across the Northwest Territories. To ensure that the concerns and priorities of all Nunavut regions are well-represented, Inuuqatigiit was developed by an advisory committee of Inuit educators from the four regions in which the curriculum will be used. These committee members have worked extensively with people in their regions, including educators, parents, key community members and elders. The elders have played a central role by providing important resource information and validating the curriculum as the work has progressed. It is the knowledge of the elders that gives the curriculum the true sense of Inuit culture.

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to individually recognize and thank the members of the Inuuqatigiit advisory committee for their dedication and commitment to development this curriculum. They are: Rose Marie Kirby of Inuvik, representing the Beaufort-Delta; Millie Kitupana and Rosemarie Meyok, both of Coppermine, representing the Kitikmeot; Guita Anawak of Rankin Inlet, Eva Noah of Baker Lake and Elisapee Karetak of Arviat, representing the Keewatin; and, Naullaq Arnaquq of Iqaluit, representing the Baffin. The committee's work has been coordinated by Liz Apak Rose, the Inuktitut curriculum coordinator for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

Madam Speaker, Inuuqatigiit will play an important role in enhancing Inuit culture and language. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 4-12(6): Development Of The Inuuqatigiit Curriculum
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

Page 4

The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Thank you. Item 3, Ministers' statements. Item 4, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Deh Cho, Mr. Gargan.

Housing Issues In The Nwt
Item 4: Members' Statements

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Samuel Gargan Deh Cho

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak about housing issues in the Northwest Territories. In many communities we have a serious shortage in the number of units available to people who need social assisted housing. The federal government has made the decision to reduce the amount spent on social housing programs across the country. These federal cutbacks have lead to the difficulties this government has faced when attempting to fund territorial housing projects.

In January, when the Finance committee met, it took the position that this government is aiming to have no deficit. This is a noble goal and one which I hope we can accomplish. However, if we do end up with a deficit I would personally prefer that we invest that money. It is my opinion that providing shelter to people in need is an investment. The overcrowded, run down conditions which some people live in is absolutely appalling. I realize that the Housing Minister is working to ratify this issue, however it is crucial that the Government Leader, backed by her Cabinet, adopt a firm position too.

Inadequate housing affects numerous departments. It affects the Department of Social Services in that poor housing conditions may cause an increase in the need for social assistance. There may be an increase in family abuse which would, in turn, produce a need for more counselling services. It affects the Justice department because the need for corrections services will increase. Education, Culture and Employment will also be affected because the children's learning ability will suffer.

Generally, the social problems of society will be reflected by the way the government decides to invest our money. Madam Speaker, I strongly believe that the money spent today will be money saved in the future. This government must set a stage for future governments to ensure that this issue becomes and remains a priority. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Housing Issues In The Nwt
Item 4: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Thank you. Item 4, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Yellowknife South, Mr. Whitford.