This is page numbers 459 - 488 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 chairman.

Topics

Members Present

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

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 459

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Pudluk. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Morin.

Minister's Statement 29-12(7): Rent Scale Implementation
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 459

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There has been some concern expressed by Members of this House about the implementation of the rent scale. I would like to make a statement today about our work with local housing organizations on the introduction of the new scale.

A new rent scale for social housing was approved in this House last fall. Changes in rent will start on April 1st. Increases will be phased in over the next four years. Change of any sort is difficult on people and it is important that all community members, especially tenants, know exactly what the change will mean to them.

To make sure that people learn about the new rent scale, the Housing Corporation has taken a number of steps. Over the last two months, Housing Corporation field staff and the staff of the local housing organizations in each community have been trained on the new scale. These people are our front-line workers whose job it is to answer tenant questions and implement the rent scale changes.

Members may have noticed some ads in the northern newspapers, posters around the communities or heard corporation staff on the radio answering questions on the new rent scale. This is being done to make sure everyone understands about the changes to the rent scale or where to get more information.

Notices of changes to rent have either been hand-delivered or sent by double registered mail to tenants.

Staff from the local housing organizations have reported that approximately 95 per cent of households received their notices by February 28th. Some tenants have not been reached yet because they are out of town. We will give these tenants their notices when they return and their rent will change one month from the date of getting their notices. Decreases in rent will be retroactive to April 1st.

In addition to the rent scale change notice, tenants received an information package on the rent scale changes and options for home ownership. This information advised tenants to contact their local housing organization to receive a counselling session on how the rent scale change would affect them. Local housing organization staff report that, as of March 3rd, approximately 40 per cent of tenants have asked for counselling and have been counselled. Local housing organization staff are confident that the March 31st deadline is achievable.

Mr. Speaker, every tenant will be individually informed about the new rent scale. Options for home ownership will be discussed with those higher-income tenants who may consider moving out of social housing. Information is being translated so that everyone receives the information in the language they understand best.

As I mentioned, change is difficult and for some of our higher-income families it may mean quite a big change. They will be encouraged to move out of social housing. However, we must do this so our social housing units are available for families who cannot afford home ownership. It is a very big job for our local housing organizations and corporation field staff. They are working long hours to make sure that all 5,600 families living in social housing are counselled before the beginning of April. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 29-12(7): Rent Scale Implementation
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Nerysoo.

Minister's Statement 30-12(7): Caring For Our Future - Education Week, 1995
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker and good afternoon. Mr. Speaker, for the past several years Northwest Territories schools have celebrated Education Week during the first full week of March. With the consolidation of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and the release of the department's new strategic plan, we are now working to develop a continuum of educational and cultural programs from early childhood to adulthood. To mark this strategic direction, this year's theme for Education Week is "Caring for our Future," which focuses on the importance of early childhood development.

Early childhood is the most critical stage in a person's development, because it is during these years that the foundations of life-long competencies and skills are established. Research on early childhood development and our own experience have shown that children who attend quality preschool programs tend to perform better in school, in training programs and in the workplace. Early childhood programming results in marked improvement in the development of language and thinking skills, as well as reading and mathematics. It has been shown that every dollar spent on preschool programs eventually saves $6 in remedial education, welfare and other social costs.

Mr. Speaker, there are many quality early childhood programs being offered to children in the Northwest Territories. I'd like to give you an overview of some of the many successful programs being offered to children in the Northwest Territories.

The Fort Norman child development centre has been operating for about 15 years, due largely to the community's ongoing support of the program and the staff. In the years since the program was established, kindergarten and grade one teachers have noticed better attitudes and skills among the children who have attended the program. They seem to be able to adjust to new situations and work in groups better than the children who have not taken part in the program. These children also enter school with increased thinking skills and are better prepared to learn. The program is so popular that the majority of preschool children in Fort Norman attend.

Mr. Speaker, quality child care is an important concern for young parents who wish to continue their own schooling. Child development programs now operate in seven of the NWT's senior secondary schools. These centres have three goals. First, they provide a safe and healthy place for the children, who are provided with a quality environment which helps them develop their skills in preparation for kindergarten. Secondly, these programs provide teen parents with an opportunity to develop parenting skills and understand the importance of being involved in the growth of their children. And thirdly, these programs give young parents the opportunity to continue their education, which gives them more options for employment and provides a brighter future for the family.

The opportunity to play with a variety of toys and to interact with other children plays an important role in early childhood development. The Yellowknife Catholic school board sponsors a toy-lending library in one of its elementary schools. In addition to lending toys, the library offers a drop-in play program for preschoolers and parents and provides support to parents interested in improving their parenting skills, either directly or by providing resource materials. The toy-lending library provides a safe atmosphere for preschool children and their parents to meet and socialize.

Mr. Speaker, offering early intervention to children who are at risk is essential if they are going to succeed in school. A successful pilot project run in Pelly Bay from 1991 to 1993 shows the value of early intervention. Twelve children, from newborn to five years of age, were identified to take part in the project because medical or environmental factors put them at risk of being delayed in their development. Program workers helped the children improve in areas such as vocabulary, socialization skills, thinking abilities and positive behaviour. Parents noted that their children had better listening skills and spoke more clearly than they had before entering the program. It was also reported that the children were well prepared to learn by the time they reached kindergarten. This program's success is due to the many partners in the areas of health, education, social services and other interested community agencies who had a role in the program.

Mr. Speaker, these are just a few examples of the many successful early childhood programs operating across the north. Many of the programs now operating have a specific focus on language and culture and play a valuable role in improving children's understanding of their language and culture and enhancing their self-esteem.

Tomorrow I will bring this Assembly up to date on changes to the early childhood program, another initiative which provides support to children, parents and child care providers. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 30-12(7): Caring For Our Future - Education Week, 1995
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Nerysoo.

Minister's Statement 31-12(7): Minister's Forum In Income Support Reform
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Education, Culture and Employment has been given a lead role in the review and reform of income support programs in the NWT. As a part of this process, I released a discussion paper called "Creating Choices: Solving the Income Support Puzzle," in July of last year. This document has proven to be a valuable starting point for public discussion and consultation on this complex issue. Today I would like to follow up on my earlier announcement on the establishment of the Minister's Forum on Income Support Reform, which will give northern residents a further opportunity to guide this government in laying the foundation for change in the Northwest Territories.

The members of the Minister's forum have been appointed because they are well respected northerners and are leaders in their communities. They also represent a cross section of stakeholders in income support programs.

Mr. Speaker, their primary function is to provide advice to me and to this Assembly, in the complex task of reforming income support programs in a way that best reflects the priorities and concerns of NWT residents.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise that the forum will be co-chaired by Grace Blake, who is the Tsiigehtchic band chief and a member of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, and Wilf Wilcox, a businessman and former mayor of Cambridge Bay. The other members of the forum are:

-Joanne Deneron, a Fort Liard businesswoman and former chair of the Arctic College board of directors;

-George Blondin of Rae-Edzo, an elder and writer;

-Elijah Erkloo, an elder, the coordinator of Pond Inlet's young offenders program, a member of the Nunavut Social Advisory Council and a former MLA;

-Sandra Kusugak of Rankin Inlet, member of the Keewatin Divisional Board of Education and an education consultant; and,

-Thelma Tees, a long-standing member of the Metis Nation of the NWT, former director of Northern Addiction Services and currently the chairperson of the victims' assistance fund.

Mr. Speaker, the forum will provide information to the public on income support reform and help to increase public awareness and understanding of reform issues. The members of the forum will also seek the advice of northerners on how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of income support programs and will forward this advice to me.

To reach these goals, the forum will hold focus group consultations on how changes in income support reform relate to social assistance, student financial assistance, child day care, unemployment insurance, harvesters' assistance and social housing. Discussions will focus on four critical areas: investment in work and learning; access and opportunities; community management; and, security. Specific questions to be discussed will include how we can encourage people to make productive choices which will lead them to independence and how we can ensure those most in need receive benefits.

We will also be asking advice on what our priorities should be in income support reform and how our partners can participate in the reform process. There will also be discussions around how we can encourage our youth to make positive contributions to the community and society.

Mr. Speaker, the focus group sessions will be held in Iqaluit, in fact they were held this past weekend, March 4th and 5th, and in Inuvik on March 25th and 26th. The forum will also invite interested organizations to make presentations in Yellowknife on March 28th. The forum will submit its report in April, after which I will present its findings to this Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 31-12(7): Minister's Forum In Income Support Reform
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 461

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Nerysoo. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Lewis.

Controversy Re Pipelines Vs Mining Roads
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 461

Brian Lewis Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I find it strange that CBC has been running clips from the proceedings of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline inquiry from the mid-1970s. Call it their 20th anniversary if you want, but there must be a better reason for reminding us of the inquiry than just plain nostalgia.

Is there concern that we have another boom that is proceeding too rapidly? Is there concern that development is proceeding unchecked and with too little concern for impact on people and on the environment? This can hardly be the case, Mr. Speaker, since there are intensive negotiations and consultation taking place between mining people and the various aboriginal organizations and governments. The difference between now and the 1970s is that development is not the huge media event in the way that it was then. This causes the media some concerns and frustration and some nostalgia for the days when the north was in the news almost every day.

A gas or oil pipeline was viewed as a threat to the huge Mackenzie River valley. It's difficult to generate similar anxieties about mining. We've had mines for more than 50 years. Today it's not pipelines that seem to be causing anxiety, but mining roads that seem to be provoking debate. I find it very difficult, however deeply I think about it, to compare roads and pipelines. Hopefully CBC is only innocently marking an anniversary.

I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that media circus like the one we had in the 1970s is enough of a show for one man's lifetime. Thank you.

---Applause

Controversy Re Pipelines Vs Mining Roads
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 461

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Ningark.

Pelly Bay Students' Fund-raising Campaign
Item 3: Members' Statements

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John Ningark Natilikmiot

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm honoured to rise in the House on behalf of five Pelly Bay students who are endeavouring to raise money for a trip to Colorado. Mr. Speaker, up to this point in time, the Pelly Bay students have raised $9,000 in their own community.

---Applause

Mr. Speaker, in my office I have pictures of the five students which have been autographed, and the pictures are going for $100 each. Mr. Speaker, when most of us were growing up, in school we did not have the opportunity to travel to other countries or within this jurisdiction to broaden our horizons. This is an opportunity that most young people today enjoy. These are our future leaders. I would urge my colleagues and the business people of the NWT to have a heart and buy a picture from my office. I can assure you that you will receive a receipt for each item you buy. Thank you.

---Applause

Pelly Bay Students' Fund-raising Campaign
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

Kids' Help Phone Bowl-a-thon
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 461

Tony Whitford Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon, colleagues. This past Saturday, Mr. Ballantyne, Mr. Dent, Mr. Morin, Frank Lemouel and myself formed a bowling team without a name. We didn't call ourselves the MLA Sharks or the MLA Bowlers or anything like that, but we formed a bowling team on behalf of the Kids' Help Phone. Mr. Speaker, I was elected to be the team spokesman, not because I'm the best bowler but because I had the lowest score on our team.

Kids' Help Phone Bowl-a-thon
Item 3: Members' Statements

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An Hon. Member

Is that good or bad?