This is page numbers 227 - 260 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 7th 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 ---agreed.

Topics

Members Present

Mr. Antoine, Hon. Silas Arngna'naaq, Mr. Ballantyne, Mr. Dent, Hon. Samuel Gargan, Hon. Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Marie-Jewell, Hon. Don Morin, Hon. Richard Nerysoo, Hon. Kelvin Ng, Mr. Ningark, Hon. John Pollard, Mr. Pudlat, Mr. Whitford, Mr. Zoe

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 227

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Pollard.

Minister's Statement 20-12(7): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 227

John Pollard Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Premier and the Honourable John Todd will be absent from the House today to attend the Nunavut conference in Iqaluit. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 20-12(7): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 227

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Arngna'naaq.

Minister's Statement 21-12(7): Bhp Environmental Assessment And Review And Slave Geological Province Regional Study
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 227

Silas Arngna'naaq Kivallivik

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, most people in the NWT and outside the NWT have followed with interest the various announcements about the valuable mineral deposits that have been identified in the area geologists refer to as the "Slave geological province." Generally there is consensus that some of the exploration activities will result in mines in the near future. The most likely is BHP's diamond exploration activity in the Lac de Gras area.

The potential for mines in this area has raised many questions about the impact of development of wildlife, water quality and traditional activities. There have also been many questions about the economic opportunity development could bring to the north. Mr. Speaker, I want to assure this House that through the Department of Renewable Resources, this government is carefully monitoring the impact of this exploration activity on the environment. We are working closely with other government departments, DIAND, aboriginal groups and industry.

Mr. Speaker, over the past three months, two major initiatives have been announced that are directed at responding to environmental concerns. In December, the federal government announced the appointment of a four-member environmental assessment panel to review BHP's diamond mine project in the Lac de Gras area. At the same time the panel was announced, I and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced a major regional study of the environmental, social and economic issues related to mineral development in the Slave geological province. The partners involved in this study include government, industry, aboriginal groups and environmental groups.

I would like to take this opportunity to update my colleagues on both these initiatives. Mr. Speaker, the BHP diamond mine project is being reviewed under federal environmental assessment legislation. My department is currently coordinating GNWT participation in the review process. We are doing this through an interdepartmental working group which includes the departments of Economic Development and Tourism; Education, Culture and Employment; Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources; Health and Social Services; Justice; Safety and Public Services; and, Transportation. This working group will be responsible for developing GNWT input throughout the environmental assessment and review process which will include written submissions and formal presentations before the federal panel.

On the second initiative, the Slave geological province regional study, my department has met with each of the partner groups. Their response to this regional study has been positive. The first workshop for the regional study will take place on February 28th, March 1st and 2nd in Yellowknife. Representatives from industry, environmental groups, aboriginal groups and government will be attending the workshop. The objectives of this workshop are to develop terms of reference and goals and objectives for the study, to define the management structure for the study and to agree on the next steps in the study process. By working together, the concerns of all parties can be identified and addressed. This is the first step towards achieving a sustainable future for the area.

Mr. Speaker, it is our objective, in both the environmental assessment of the BHP diamond mine project and the Slave geological province regional study, to promote exploration and development of mineral resources in ways that provide lasting social and economic benefits to northerners while preserving the environment. Mr. Speaker, I will continue to update my colleagues on progress on both the BHP environmental assessment process and the regional study. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 21-12(7): Bhp Environmental Assessment And Review And Slave Geological Province Regional Study
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 227

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Arngna'naaq. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Ningark.

Birthing Centre For Taloyoak
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 228

John Ningark Natilikmiot

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as Members of the 12th Assembly we've talked a lot about strengthening our communities. We have talked about community-based approaches to problems. In my region, there is a community which wants to address an important problem. In my region, when a mother is going to have a baby, she must leave the support of her family and travel to Yellowknife to have the child. Expectant mothers are sent to Yellowknife four to five weeks before the baby is due. This separation from community and family causes stress for the mother, reduces the early bonding to family and is very hard on families left behind.

Mr. Speaker, the people in Taloyoak have come up with an idea which would allow mothers to stay at home longer and be healthier during their pregnancies. Taloyoak would like to establish a birthing centre. This birthing centre would provide enhanced prenatal care which would reduce the risk of birthing complications. It would also provide an alternative for those women who decide to remain in their community for childbirth. Not only is a birthing centre good from a social perspective; it also has financial benefits. The current four to five-week stays in Yellowknife are very expensive for this government. Although there is a cost to setting up and running the birthing centre, the total cost per mother will be much less than current arrangements.

The government has indicated that it is waiting for the results of the review of the Rankin Inlet birthing project before looking at Taloyoak. Mr. Speaker, the people of Taloyoak are ready to proceed with this centre now. I urge the Minister of Health and Social Services to work with the people of Taloyoak in making this birthing centre become a reality. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Birthing Centre For Taloyoak
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 228

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Ningark. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Pudlat.

Reason For Absence From Nic Meeting In Iqaluit
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 228

Kenoayoak Pudlat Baffin South

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to make a Member's statement to tell you why I did not attend a Nunavut Implementation Commission meeting, which is being held in Iqaluit. I didn't attend that conference because there has to be a certain number of Members present to make a quorum. I feel to represent my constituents, I should stay here in Yellowknife to meet during the session. I just want to make sure that I represent my constituency properly.

Reason For Absence From Nic Meeting In Iqaluit
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 228

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Pudlat. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Ballantyne.

Vulnerability Of NWT In Negotiations Regarding Quebec
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 228

Michael Ballantyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I was quite disappointed with the response of the Premier to my questions yesterday on the government's preparation for the debate that is taking place about the possible independence of Quebec. Canada is rapidly changing as we know it. Social programs inevitably will be cut. The battle for the hearts and minds of Quebecers has been engaged. We know that the civil service will be cut dramatically and there is no doubt -- and the Finance Minister has warned us -- that over the next few years, the transfer payments are in jeopardy.

So what I expect from the government is leadership. I don't expect the government strategy to come out in dribs and drabs in response to questions by Members. Presently, we are in the midst of very sensitive and fragile negotiations with the federal government on division. The aboriginal groups in the territories are in the midst of sensitive and fragile negotiations on self-government. The EARP panel is deciding the fate of diamond mining in the Northwest Territories. It is very important that the people of the Northwest Territories are kept fully informed on the drastic changes which will soon be upon us.

Quebec is one good example. If Quebec leaves, it not only affects the people of Quebec, it affects all of us here in the territories. One-third of the population of Canada live in Quebec. Will the remaining two-thirds be as willing to bankroll the north or will we be overwhelmed in the constitutional and economic chaos that will inevitably follow.

If Quebec doesn't leave -- I sincerely hope it doesn't and I don't believe it will -- there will still be drastic changes to Canada as we know it. If the federal government decentralizes -- and that is what Paul Martin is talking about; its authority in Health, Social Services and Education -- the central government becomes much weaker with less resources. We will find it more difficult to protect the north. If Quebec doesn't leave, inevitably there are going to be new constitutional discussions. Each province is looking after their own interests. For the first time ever, the province of Ontario is not looking from a national perspective. They are looking at it from their own perspective. We could be gobbled up by the provinces.

Members will recall the intense debates in the north about whether or not provinces could move into the territories. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Vulnerability Of NWT In Negotiations Regarding Quebec
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 228

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The honourable Member is seeking unanimous consent. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Please proceed, Mr. Ballantyne.

Vulnerability Of NWT In Negotiations Regarding Quebec
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 228

Michael Ballantyne Yellowknife North

We haven't discussed it since Charlottetown, but the reality is we are extremely vulnerable. The reason many of us worked hard for Charlottetown and the Charlottetown accord is because it did protect the Northwest Territories and the Constitution of Canada. There is nothing now that protects us. When we are carrying out these constitutional discussions here in the west, the whole concept of division across the territories, it has to be done in the context of a country which is changing so rapidly that we aren't keeping up with it.

So I expect that this government should be very proactive. This government has a responsibility to lay out, in every forum and opportunity possible to the people of the Northwest Territories, those things which are happening in the country which are going to impact us, which will make our decisions tougher and are going to take away our choices. I also think we have a responsibility to tell the powers that be, whether they are Premiers or Cabinet Ministers that, whatever happens in southern Canada, it will have a dramatic effect on us. We can't just sit on our hands in the Northwest Territories.

I have said it before in this House and I will say it again: I hope to hear from government Ministers on exactly how we are going to deal with all of this. If we don't do something, it will inevitably be death by 1,000 cuts. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Vulnerability Of NWT In Negotiations Regarding Quebec
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 229

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Ballantyne. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Whitford.