This is page numbers 1250 - 1278 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, Mr. Ballantyne, Hon. Nellie Cournoyea, Mr. Dent, Hon. Samuel Gargan, Hon. Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Koe, Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Marie-Jewell, Ms. Mike, Hon. Don Morin, Hon. Richard Nerysoo, Hon. Kelvin Ng, Mr. Ningark, Mr. Patterson, Hon. John Pollard, Mr. Pudluk, Mrs. Thompson, Hon. John Todd, Mr. Whitford, Mr. Zoe

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 1251

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Pudluk. Orders of the day, item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Morin.

Minister's Statement 87-12(7): Sahtu Forest Fire
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1251

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have an emergency statement. Mr. Speaker, the last week has been a hectic time for the people of Fort Norman, Norman Wells and my staff in the fire management program.

I am pleased to report today that we are winning the fire battles we face. The fire in the area of Fort Norman is in the mop-up stage and has been turned over to the community to manage with their fire crews and other extra firefighters they hire. The fire came right up to the community's doorstep but, thanks to a lot of good cooperation by the department, the community leaders and individuals who have had experience in firefighting, and contract crews including helicopter and CL-215 crews, nothing was lost except one storage shed owned by Ursus Aviation and there were no injuries to anyone. In particular, I want to thank Her Worship Mayor Lorraine Doctor who worked tirelessly both as mayor of the community and as emergency measures officer coordinator.

Our crews are successfully holding the Norman Wells fire from proceeding any further toward that community. I am confident in their strategy for fighting the fire by back burning in front of it. Nine crews are working day and night with air support in order to complete the back bum. The latest report is that we have 80 per cent of the job already done.

Given the dry conditions we face, it is impossible to fight the fire straight on. First, the flames are at times as high as 100 feet in the air, a condition that makes it impossible for men to work on the ground in front of it and pointless to drop water or retardant on it.

Second, heavy smoke makes it often impossible to use fixed- wing aircraft. When we can use aircraft, we have four CL-215s, a DC-4 and five helicopters available. Yesterday, all of these machines were working on the fire. So far today, heavy smoke has prevented the use of fixed-wing aircraft. We could have all the DC-6s in the world on the tarmac in Norman Wells. They would not be any good to us because we cannot use them as we have adequate aircraft on the fire. Let me assure you none of our communities are unprotected.

Mr. Speaker, I spent three days at the scene last week and I can tell you we are doing everything possible and with success in managing this situation. I intend to report daily on the Norman Wells fire until it is fully under control.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we had a fire break out a few kilometres from Fort Providence. The fire could have been a threat to the community but again, thanks to a speedy and effective response by the community, the Evergreen fire crews and our staff, we have the situation well under control.

Yesterday, we had CL-215s arrive from Newfoundland, as requested through the mutual aid resource sharing agreement, and we feel these are the best planes at this time.

The smoke you see in the air today is coming mainly from northern Saskatchewan, Alberta and a lire northwest of the Horn Plateau. Our crews protected the top of the plateau where most of the resources at risk are located and we are now only monitoring that fire.

The fire situation across the western Arctic and in the northern parts of the provinces remains critical. Everyone should refrain from open camp fires or any burning until the hot dry conditions improve. The department will continue to send out advisories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 87-12(7): Sahtu Forest Fire
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

Minister's Statement 88-12(7): Successful Completion Of Agreement With Federal Government Transferring Arctic A Airports
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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John Todd Keewatin Central

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to announce formally, on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories, the successful completion of an agreement with the federal government for the transfer of Arctic A airports.

---Applause

Thank you. The agreement transfers ownership of the remaining nine airports in the Northwest Territories in Fort Smith, Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, InuAk, Cambridge Bay, Resolute Bay and last, but not least, lqaluit. Along with the ownership, the agreement transfers staff of 122 employees, $24.5 million annually for operations and maintenance and rehabilitation of the airports. As capital assets, the airports are worth over $500 million and generate $3.9 million annually in revenues.

As the Members know, this agreement has been under negotiation for the past two years. When I have been asked about the negotiations, I have always said that if we could not get a good deal for the Northwest Territories, there would be no transfer. Mr. Speaker, this is a good deal. I can assure the Members of this House that the $24.5 million was well negotiated and will enable the Department of Transportation to maintain the airports at their current levels of service.

We are indeed fortunate to have opened the negotiations long before the federal government began seriously attacking the national debt with massive program cuts. The transfer agreement protects the airports in the Northwest Territories from budget reductions across Canada. For a jurisdiction as dependent on air services as the NWT, this is truly a significant accomplishment.

The other important aspect of the transfer I want to emphasize is the general enhancement the transfer gives to the whole territorial airport system. The Department of Transportation is now responsible for operating all 52 public airports in the Northwest Territories as a coordinated system. Through the transfer, we have acquired a great deal of human talent, skills and expertise that we can now make available across the system to improve the airport services at the smaller airports. The larger airport system also opens up many new training and employment opportunities for northerners interested in pursuing careers in the airport operations and aviation industry generally.

As the Minister of Transportation, I would like to congratulate all those who have worked on the agreement over the past two years for a job well done. While the negotiations were led primarily by the Department of Transportation, at one stage or another, literally every government department made a contribution in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, with the transfer of the Arctic A airports, the Northwest Territories brings another big piece of our transportation system under northern control and in the service of northern interests. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 88-12(7): Successful Completion Of Agreement With Federal Government Transferring Arctic A Airports
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Ms. Cournoyea.

Minister's Statement 89-12(7): Minister Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1252

Nellie Cournoyea Nunakput

Mr. Speaker, I have an emergency statement. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Stephen Kakfwi will be absent from the House until approximately 3:30 today to tour evacuation sites set up as a result of the Sahtu forest fire. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 89-12(7): Minister Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

Snare Cascades Hydro Project Ceremonial Pour Of Concrete
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 1252

Tony Whitford Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon. This past Saturday, Mr. Lewis and some other people had an opportunity to join the president of the Power Corporation, the chiefs of the Dogrib Nation and the partners of the joint venture in the ceremonial pour of concrete at the new Snare Cascades hydro project.

Mr. Speaker, I had missed the opportunity to be there when the sod-turning took place, but I was very pleased to have been invited to attend this important event. It was very important because this project is very important to the members in this area. First of all, it has provided an opportunity for members of the Dogrib Nation to participate in a project in their own area. It is good to see the employment it is providing for persons form the surrounding area and more importantly, it is going to guarantee a certain amount of electricity for our future needs not only here in Yellowknife, but to the surrounding communities north of the lake.

Mr. Speaker, it was 30 years ago that I first went to the Snare project. I was with the Power Commission at the time and I trained in hydro. At the time I was there, it was in the fall and a lot of water was going through those turbines and the river was high. This year, Mr. Speaker, it is pretty frightening to see the low water and the effect it has had on the surrounding area. The shoreline has decreased considerably and it is going to put the future of electricity from hydro, at least for this year, under some strain. But it is good to see this project is one way of capturing some of that water that would otherwise be wasted.

I would urge, having seen it first hand, Mr. Speaker, consumers in this area to conserve as much electricity as possible to ensure a safe supply over the winter. This project will be completed by next year, providing us with an additional 4.3 megawatts. In the meantime, congratulations to the chiefs and the Power Corporation on this important project. Thank you.

---Applause

Snare Cascades Hydro Project Ceremonial Pour Of Concrete
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Whitford. Item 3, Members' statements. Mrs. Marie-Jewell.

Critical Forest Fire Situation In The Nwt
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 1252

Jeannie Marie-Jewell Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I listened with interest to the Minister's statement by the Minister responsible for forest fire management. Mr. Speaker, as we are all aware, the forest fire situation in the western territory is very critical in many areas. The dry winter and very little rainfall this year has caused an extremely dry forest in the north.

I believe one area which our government has to seriously consider working towards is creating fire breaks near many of the communities which are threatened by fire. I recognize that there have been fire breaks created by Fort Norman and Norman Wells. However, our government should consider creating more around other communities which may not have them, but would help firefighters in attacking fires near a community.

I recognize that fire breaks don't fully stop a fire, but it does help the firefighters tremendously when attacking a fire. Many communities along the Mackenzie Valley and south of the lake should have a fire break in the event a fire breaks out and threatens the community.

Mr. Speaker, I know in my area, where it is extremely dry and where our trees are so big compared to this area, once a fire starts, it could be very dangerous. Unfortunately, our forecast for this evening and tomorrow is that we are expecting dry electrical storms and we must be prepared.

We are very fortunate to have the Arctic College heavy equipment program in Fort Smith and I would suggest to this government to encourage using their resources to create fire breaks around communities where they are needed.

Mr. Speaker, not only will this approach give some comfort to my constituency and residents in the north, but it will allow this government to take a proactive approach at addressing one of the most expensive budgetary items in the summer months, which are forest fires. Thank you.

---Applause

Critical Forest Fire Situation In The Nwt
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 1253

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Mr. Whitford.

Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

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Tony Whitford Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize members from the NWT Council for Disabled Persons in the gallery. There is Lydia Bardak, the executive director; Mary Anne Duchesne, the national access coordinator; and, Ron Porter, who is our Yellowknife advocate. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly.

---Applause

Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Mr. Morin.