This is page numbers 879 - 917 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 4th 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.

Members Present

Honourable Jim Antoine, Honourable Goo Arlooktoo, Mr. Barnabas, Honourable Charles Dent, Mr. Enuaraq, Mr. Erasmus, Mr. Evaloarjuk, Honourable Samuel Gargan, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Henry, Honourable Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Krutko, Mr. Miltenberger, Honourable Don Morin, Mr. Ningark, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Ootes, Mr. Picco, Mr. Rabesca, Mr. Roland, Mr. Steen, Honourable Manitok Thompson, Honourable John Todd.

Oh, God, may your spirit and guidance be in us as we work for the benefit of all our people, for peace and justice in our land and for constant recognition of the dignity and aspirations of those whom we serve. Amen.

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 879

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Ningark. Good morning. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Morin.

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Than you, Mr. Speaker. On February 4, 1997, I met with members of the Aboriginal Summit together with my Cabinet colleague, the Honourable Jim Antoine. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss a number of issues of mutual concern. During the course of our discussions an issue emerged regarding the extent to which the Government of the Northwest Territories recognizes band councils and Metis locals.

Mr. Speaker, it was suggested that it would be useful if I could clarify the government's position for the public record regarding our recognition of community aboriginal governments. I agreed to do so. It is for that purpose that I stand to make this statement today. Mr. Speaker, I would like to state firmly and clearly that the Government of the Northwest Territories recognizes the band councils, Metis locals and Inuvialuit community corporations of the communities as institutions of aboriginal governance. Indeed, these institutions are the current structures of self-government.

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Morin. Ministers' statements. Mr. Dent.

Charles Dent

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last week the federal Finance Minister announced the National Child Benefit. This program will provide families whose income falls below a certain level with a benefit for each child under the age of 18. It will combine federal tax credits and low-income benefits into a single initiative to reduce child poverty. The program will ensure income support levels for children whose parents choose to work are not reduced. The announcement enables each province and territory to begin talks with the federal government to identify how each jurisdiction's income support programs will merge with the national program.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment will be the territorial government's lead department in negotiations with the federal government, working in co-operation with the Departments of Finance and Health and Social Services. The two major issues facing us are: ensuring that the high cost of living in the north is taken into account when the income levels for the program are set, and determining how to re-invest income support money that is freed up through the program. This re-investment plan will focus on approved programs directed at children, such as early intervention and child care, as well as work incentives for parents.

Mr. Speaker, negotiations with the federal government, and a draft program design, should be finished by June. The federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for social services have agreed to release information in the spring that will focus on how the program will be designed, as well as other issues. A process for national public feedback will be proposed.

The National Child Benefit Program is proposed to start July 1, 1998. However, the federal government, provinces and territories are working hard to advance this date. I note also that the federal government will increase the working income supplement on July 1 of this year as an interim measure. At this point, we are not sure how the National Child Benefit will impact northerners. Education, Culture and Employment staff will be keeping track of the program as it evolves to assess the benefits for Northwest Territories residents.

Income support reform in the Northwest Territories is based on the principle that people should be better off working than collecting income support. The National Child Benefit is intended to help level the playing field between income support recipients and the working poor. I will keep the Assembly informed of progress on this initiative in the coming months. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Dent. Ministers' statements. Mr. Antoine.

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to tell the Members of the success the Department of Transportation's marine services division is having in training northerners as captains on our ferries. By regulation, the people who operate our public ferries must be fully qualified ship's captains holding a Master of Minor Waters certificate issued by Transport Canada. In the past, the department's ferry contractors could only find properly qualified captains in southern Canada on the east and west coasts. A few years ago, the marine services division began encouraging young northern deck hands, who showed promise and interest, to seek their Master of Minor Waters certification and become ferry captains.

The Pacific Marine Training College in North Vancouver, British Columbia, offers a six-week course for the Master of Minor Waters certificate. The recruit's travel, accommodation and tuition costs for the six-week course are paid for by employment insurance and matching 50/50 contribution from the Department of Transportation and our ferry contractors.

Captain Ian Leishman of Fort Providence graduated from the Pacific Marine Training College in 1995 and has since served two seasons as captain of the MV Merv Hardie at the Fort Providence crossing. Captain Mervin Simba of Kakisa earned his Master of Minor Waters in 1996 and served as relief captain last year on the Merv Hardie at Fort Providence, the Lafferty at Fort Simpson and the Johnny Berens at the Ndulee crossing.

This year, two of my constituents, Sean Cli and Steven Lenoir of Fort Simpson are at the Pacific Marine Training College and will complete the Master of Minor Waters course at the end of this month. Ron Antoine, also of Fort Simpson, entered the Marine Services training program this summer. He worked as an oiler at Fort Providence on the Merv Hardie accumulating eligible time towards certification as a marine engineer.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased with the success of the Marine Services training program in opening professional career opportunities for northerners. I am sure that Members of this House are with me in looking forward to the day when we can crew our ferries entirely with northerners and we no longer look to southern Canada for qualified personnel. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Antoine. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Mrs. Groenewegen.

Public Housing Rental Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Jane Groenewegen

Jane Groenewegen Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to tell the Members of this House another story. This is a story about a strong woman struggling to make a good life for herself and her children. It is also a story about her illogical landlord. Years ago this woman had high hopes for the future. She got married and had four children. Then things went wrong. Her husband left her and the children. Although the courts said he had to make support payments, he never did. Rather than give up, she found a job, rented a home for her family and worked to provide a stable and healthy life for her children. Money was always tight with seldom any extras for small treats. Still she paid her rent and kept her kids well fed and clothed. Her landlord knew about her circumstances and charged her a rent he thought that she could afford on a small income.

In November, she got sick and had to miss many days of work. Unfortunately, her boss could not afford to pay sick days but he did keep her job for her until she came back to work. Her income was much less that month. Still her landlord said he had to charge her regular rent based on what she should have made. He could not lose any money just because she had become sick. In December out of the blue, a large cheque arrived from her ex-husband. Surprised and pleased that there would be a better Christmas this year, she told her landlord about the income. He quickly told her that her rent for that month would go up a lot because she had more income. She pleaded saying that this was the only payment received in an entire year and why was he considering all the income in one month and charging her such a high rent? But he would not relent.

Mr. Speaker, this sounds like a silly story. Unfortunately, if you are a single parent living in GNWT public housing, this is a true story. It makes no sense to me that we have a housing rent possible which penalizes you one month if you get a temporary additional income and ignores the unavoidable temporary decrease in income the next month. It also makes no sense to me that this government would penalize someone for receiving a single maintenance payment in one year. We should be looking at the circumstances of spreading that income out over the year when making a rent adjustment. This would make the total rent adjustment much less. We need to take a hard look at the public housing rent policy in view of some of these circumstances. Some of the rules seem very unfair and inconsistent with our government's programs designed to make people more independent. Other rules penalize people for misfortunes beyond their control. Mr. Speaker, for every person like this that we hear about, there are others afraid to speak out and I do encourage the Minister to look closely at this policy and make the necessary changes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Public Housing Rental Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. Members' statements. Mr. Enuaraq.

Work Performed At Fox 2 Station
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Tommy Enuaraq Baffin Central

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good morning colleagues. (Translation ends.) Mr. Speaker, in this House, Members show a lot of concern for language differences. Many of us from Nunavut spend a lot of time helping unilingual constituents get information and solve problems. Recently, I have been working on behalf of two people from Broughton Island. They have experienced difficulties at lest in part, because they are unilingual. I would like to share their story. In 1969, two people from Broughton Island were offered some work at the Fox 2 station. They worked for about six weeks, shovelling and digging out 45 gallon drums and loading them on a plane. Their understanding was that the pay was going to be $100 per day. The problem is that they apparently did not receive a pay cheque for this work.

During the 1970s, Commissioner Hodgson was approached by these two people on one of his visits to their community. As a result, they were each paid $300 and told the balance would be paid once the records were located. They have heard nothing, Mr. Speaker. Although previous MLAs and many staff have tried to find the records, we cannot seem to find them.

It is possible that, because they are unilingual, they did not understand the terms and conditions of the work they did. They maybe also did not understand what the Commissioner had promised. All we do know is what they thought they were told.

This story points out how confusing things can get for unilingual people. I hope we can have a happy ending. Later today, I will be asking the Premier whether this government will be able to live up to the commitment made by the Commissioner so many years ago. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

Work Performed At Fox 2 Station
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Enuaraq. Members' statements. Mr. Rabesca.

Affirmative Action
Item 3: Members' Statements

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James Rabesca North Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As you are aware, we have discussed affirmative action many times during this session. I feel that this is an important issue that should stay in the forefront of this government. Mr. Speaker, this policy has been in effect since 1985 and we still have a long way to go to reach the government's goal of 50 percent native employment. It is important that this government realizes the need to have a competent, home-grown employee base. How else can this government expect to provide its services without the understanding of the issues and the way of life our people share throughout this great land?

Mr. Speaker, what is needed to make this or any other employment policy work? I believe we must start by supporting and promoting education at all levels. We need to provide a broader education base so that all our residents can utilize the education services that are currently available. We must allow all residents access to education. As it stands presently, we do not allow any form of adult education in a number of communities. This must change.

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues have mentioned previously, we need to teach our people the different skills required to take over the government positions. We need to provide the basic training in communities which will allow interested residents to strive for more. Mr. Speaker, I believe we can provide this which will then make this or any other employment policy redundant. It is important that we get our people educated to the level that they can take over the positions they wish, which will allow for fair and competent competition between all that apply. Until this happens, we must strive to increase the level of native employment and reach this government's goal of 50 percent or possibly change our policy to better reflect our needs of today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Affirmative Action
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Rabesca. Members' statements. Mr. Picco.

Employment Changes After Division
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Edward Picco Iqaluit

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in Cambridge Bay during the leadership meetings, there was, I think, some confusion over employees now employed and employees to be employed by the Nunavut government on April 1st, 1999. Mr. Speaker, the plan at the present time is to have the initial 150 positions to be hired and in place on April 1st, 1999. However, this government has reiterated time and time again, that employees working prior to April 1st, 1999 and living in Nunavut, would be still employed on April 1st, 1999. It is important to say this, Mr. Speaker, because since the Cambridge Bay meetings, I have had numerous calls, e-mails and faxes from long-term, dedicated staff who are wondering about their future.

Mr. Speaker, while no job or position can be guaranteed in these days of reductions and fiscal clawbacks, I think it is safe to say that there will not be a major layoff of current employees prior to 1999. Mr. Speaker, all employees should be aware that a new government or employer will be in place on April 1st, 1999 and that government may decide to change job descriptions or re-profile employees. There is no anticipation that will mean current employees will be laid off en masse. This government has made that clear and I believe that it will be confirmed over the next few weeks.

Mr. Speaker, employees raising young families, purchasing homes and acquiring mortgages have been quite stressed over the past few weeks. I hope that this clarification will help put those concerned at ease. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

Employment Changes After Division
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Picco. Members' statements. Mr. Ootes.

Kids Help Phone Bowlathon
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Jake Ootes

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I am going to speak on behalf of my colleagues, the honourable Members, Charles Dent, Roy Erasmus and Seamus Henry, the MLAs for the city of Yellowknife. On Saturday night, we took part in the Kids Help Phone Bowlathon, an annual event organized by the NWT 5-Pin Bowling Association. The bowlathon raises money for a national toll-free telephone service which offers counselling information and referrals to children in need 24 hours a day.

I am pleased to report this year's bowlathon was a great success. It raised $19,900. The Yellowknife MLAs raised $4,500 altogether.

-- Applause

We collected $3,000 in pledges. BHP matched our efforts at 50 cents on the dollar for a $1,500 donation.

-- Applause

Our colleague, Mr. Erasmus, deserves special mention. He alone raised $2,200 in pledges.

-- Applause

I would also like to mention Dustin Fisher, a student at Sir John Franklin High School. Dustin earned the highest score among the teams that bowled with us in the six o'clock time slot. And we were good! While we are singling out people, I would like to give a big vote of thanks to the 5-Pin Bowlers' Association, which helped raise more than $100,000 for the Helpline. Special thanks also go to the Yellowknife Elks Club which donated $25,000 to the cause. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

Kids Help Phone Bowlathon
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Ootes. Members' statements. Mr. Miltenberger.

Unofficial Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Michael Miltenberger

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The issue of affirmative action has been a topic of some discussion in the past few days. I would like to briefly discuss a highly successful affirmative action program, though completely unofficial, one that has been with us for decades in this government. It is very effective, Mr. Speaker, because it services about 10 percent or less of the population. It is worked to the exclusion of many other groups, groups like the aboriginal people, groups like grown-in-the-north northerners and women.

Mr. Speaker, this group of less than 10 percent of our population, through this unofficial affirmative action, has managed to maintain at least 70 percent of all senior management positions in this government. Mr. Speaker, I am speaking about that group of people known as middle-aged non-aboriginals or white guys. Mr. Speaker, this is a very, very influential fraternity and a very closed fraternity. When I say that, I would like to demonstrate an example. Of the 18 deputy minister level positions, 16 of them are in this category. There is one woman and one aboriginal person at the deputy minister level by my calculations.

Mr. Speaker, when you have this kind of affirmative action policy, though it is unofficial and you are in a position to help design the structures of government at the municipal level, at the territorial level, you are also in a position to write policies and regulations, job descriptions and influence hiring. We have to ask the question as we look at our own affirmative action policy, where has it gone wrong and what can we learn from this unofficial affirmative action program?

Mr. Speaker, it is my contention that it is because of this kind of unofficial affirmative action policy that people of the north have grown very, very frustrated. I think it is one of the reasons that has driven people to embrace self-government so eagerly. It is one of the reasons that the people of Nunavut want to set up their own government that they would control. When we look at re-designing our affirmative action, northern job strategy, we have to take a page from this book. Our political direction is only as good as those who implement it, Mr. Speaker, and we have to have a senior management that is representative of the people it serves if we are going to have substantial change. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

Unofficial Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. Members' statements. Mr. Henry.

Plan 2000
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation recently rose to announce Plan 2000. This is a plan to provide housing to 2,000 more families by the year 2000. On the surface, this seems like a laudable effort. I was intrigued by the announcement that went on to talk about the program details, in particular, on the enhanced down payment assistance program. What I saw did not make me happy. It also did not make me happy to hear the Minister say in a radio interview that households with incomes between $50,000 and $90,000 would be eligible for assistance.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about empowering people but we develop programs which encourage dependence on government. We are making people dumb. We are teaching them they cannot manage on their own. We have to help them. What kind of a message does this program send to the many middle income families who have bought their homes the old-fashioned way by earning the down payment themselves? As a government, we talk about developing a private sector economy, then we create a program which totally disrupts the natural development of the economy.

birth rate. This government knows the birth rate is out of control, yet it does not do anything about it other than build more housing.

Mr. Speaker, the funds proposed to be expended on this new program should be put into programs that will modify and teach responsible attitudes in the NWT and encourage parents to know that the government cannot continue to support the high birth rate until we have an effective wage economy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Plan 2000
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Henry. Members' statements. Mr. Barnabas.

Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Levi Barnabas High Arctic

Qujannamiik. I have heard many opinions in this House on the affirmative action policy. I believe we need the affirmative action policy. I agree that the current policy has maybe not had the results we would want. The levels of employment of aboriginal and Inuit people are still not representative of the general population. However, Mr. Speaker, without this policy, there would be even fewer Inuit people in the workforce in my area. The people in my region are very capable of doing the jobs that need to be done. It is true that many people do not have a lot of formal education. Inuit people recognize this and are trying to upgrade their education. Young people are staying in school and getting their grade 12. Adults are returning to college to improve their skills. Education is only a piece. A person's experience, approach to life and knowledge of local customs and values are very important for being successful as a GNWT employee.

Mr. Speaker, Inuit people without a lot of education may bring a wealth of practical experience to the job. In Nunavut, we hope to have Inuit people represented in the new government. The affirmative action policy is providing the starting point. We cannot abandon it now. We must find ways to improve it, to increase the willingness of employers to recognize the life experience of Inuit people in the hiring process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. Krutko.