This is page numbers 1157 - 1192 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 communities.

Members Present

Honourable Jim Antoine, Honourable Goo Arlooktoo, Mr. Barnabas, Honourable Charles Dent, Mr. Enuaraq, Mr. Erasmus, Mr. Evaloarjuk, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Henry, Mr. Krutko, Mr. Miltenberger, 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 1157

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Enuaraq. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Todd.

John Todd Keewatin Central

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, during the past two years it has been all too rare to hear good news about new program spending. For reasons all Members know well, it has been my responsibility to present the sobering, if not always popular, facts of this government's difficult financial situation. Our government was determined to lead, rather than be led, by circumstances seemingly beyond our control. But today I have the privilege of reporting that the last 18 months of difficult decisions and wise choices are beginning to pay off.

Responsible and prudent fiscal management has allowed us to reallocate government funds. Funds that we have raised from the sale of our property holdings such as staff housing are being reinvested in people and in community economic development and job creation.

Mr. Speaker, after consultation with my colleagues in the House who identified the need for such a program, I am pleased to announce today the launch of the Northern Employment Strategy. This $16 million, in each of the next two years, is a focused action plan to stimulate job creation, economic growth and labour force development. It is specifically targeted to young people and those out of work - people out of hope - people who need a reason to believe in themselves and to believe in a better future.

Certainly, the challenges facing our communities are great. Whether we talk about unemployment, school drop-out, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and solvent abuse, crime or suicide rates, northern communities account for some of the most alarming statistics in the country. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, we cannot wait for our economic futures and fortunes to improve before we act. We face a socio-economic crisis that demands an urgent response.

I am confident the Northern Employment Strategy will go a long way to providing that response. Here is how it will work. The GNWT will directly support private sector and community economic development initiatives which:

- Stimulate immediate job and work experience opportunities, particularly for summer students and youth;

- Provide new job and work-related educational opportunities to social assistance recipients and unemployed residents; or,

- Offer training and technical support to build capacity within individual communities.

We will invest in seed initiatives that result in increased private sector access to equity capital and debt financing programs. This, in turn, will stimulate partnerships that lever other sources of funding to optimize access to capital, job creation, skills development and economic activity.

If approved by this Legislative Assembly, the Northern Employment Strategy will invest $16 million in departmental programs. When combined with existing budgets, this means a total of $30 million will be strategically invested in community, economic and labour force development initiatives this year. A further $8 million is projected to be levered through contributions from partnerships and client equity. A minimum of $12.5 million in project funds is expected to be spent on NWT goods and services.

As a result, at least 43,000 work weeks of employment -- the equivalent of 1,072 full-time jobs or $17 million in payroll -- will be created, this year alone. With the infusion of an additional $16 million in the next fiscal year, we anticipate even greater results.

Mr. Speaker, the Northern Employment Strategy will be coordinated and co-managed by the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and the Financial Management Board Secretariat. These three departments will work together to reduce red tape and get more mileage out of every government dollar. They will maximize benefits to communities by offering an integrated one window access to capital and skills development opportunities to meet immediate job creation needs and to stimulate long-term economic growth.

Communities are the key to the success of the strategy. Consistent with this government's commitment to community empowerment, the Northern Employment Strategy will strengthen community efforts to achieve greater self-sufficiency and to improve social and economic conditions.

It will increase support for empowerment initiatives by providing the necessary advisory, human resource development, planning support and programming. It will give business, industry and communities the tools and flexibility they require to make wise economic decisions that will lead to the responsible management of our resources.

Mr. Speaker, we know the GNWT is no longer the engine of the economy. Business and community development drive economic growth, and are the lifeblood of job creation in a sustainable economy. We know, too, that the only lasting solutions to community challenges are invariably homegrown. That is why community-based and regional organizations, working in partnership with local private sector interests, will have control over project design, development and, more importantly, delivery.

With these new powers come new responsibilities. Communities will now be held accountable for the outcomes of their employment strategies. Achievable targets have been identified and projects will be measured against these standards to assess whether initiatives produce the expected results.

This represents a significant shift in the government's approach to how programs are delivered and how results are achieved. In today's difficult economy, it is essential that we focus our energies and resources on strategies that demonstrate the best performance. It is also important to note that the additional $16 million, this year and next, will build on what ever works. In the interests of efficiency and cost effectiveness, most of the funds will go to six existing programs with the reminder being reinvested in two new initiatives. The monies will be allocated as follows:

- $3 million to the Business Development Fund, to stimulate business growth through business planning, creation, marketing and the development of business skills;

- $3 million to Community Futures, to replenish community funds that have been exhausted and to expand the program into the Sahtu, Deh Cho, Kitikmeot and North Slave regions;

- $2 million to the Community Initiatives Program, which supports community-based projects such as community wellness, municipal infrastructure, student programs and pathways;

- $2 million to the GNWT/Canada Infrastructure Initiative, to revitalize local infrastructure, provide skills training, work experience and short-term jobs to individuals in the community;

- $2 million to investing in people, which helps individuals become more employable through adult basic education and personnel development;

- $2 million to Working Together, Youth at Work which will provide subsidies to employers who hire students or young people;

- $1.5 million to the Community Empowerment Development Fund to support municipal governments as they take on more responsibilities transferred from the GNWT; and,

- $500,000 in grants to small businesses which are geared to individuals - typically social assistance recipients - who are unable to access larger business programs.

I remind this House that these are not new dollars. They are reinvested dollars. Dollars re-directed to areas of greatest need. We are making strategic investments, investing in people, providing incentives for learning, encouraging self-reliance and creating opportunities for economic growth and lasting employment. We are increasing our investments where it counts, in the areas that will make the most difference over the longer term. More to the point, we are putting our investment in people first.

Mr. Speaker, I am not suggesting the Northern Employment Strategy will be a panacea. Our needs are great and funding is still scarce. But it is a critical first step on the path to greater economic growth and self-sufficiency for northern communities.

I want to thank my colleagues, the Honourable Charles Dent, Honourable Stephen Kakfwi and Honourable Manitok Thompson for the productive partnerships which have made this important new initiative possible. I would also like to recognize the role of the Standing Committee on Government Operations in identifying the need to develop a comprehensive northern employment strategy and their advice in the development of this strategy.

Mr. Speaker, every Member of this Legislature can take pride in this accomplishment. Our collective commitment to fiscal responsibility to making difficult, but ultimately the right choices, has allowed us to make this progress. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

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

Charles Dent

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon. Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Finance has just said this government is committed to helping students and youth find meaningful employment. Two months ago, along with my honourable colleague, Mr. Erasmus, I was pleased to announce a new initiative of my department called Working Together: Providing Opportunities for Students and Youth. Mr. Speaker, the funding for Working Together was part of the

Northern Employment Strategy just announced by the Finance Minister a few minutes ago.

This two-part program is aimed at helping post-secondary and senior high school students in their search for summer work, and at young people who have been unemployed for at least three months. Working Together provides wage subsidies to employers to help offset the costs of hiring students and/or youth with limited skills. Although the program has been in existence for less than two months, it is already a resounding success.

To date, 110 contracts have been written with northern employers. This represents jobs for 332 students and youth. The two-year program is expected to generate 10,000 work weeks of employment.

-- Applause

Student and youth employment is a critical challenge for the Northwest Territories. However, government cannot meet that challenge on its own. We are pleased with the level of co-operation we have experienced so far with employers. We continue to seek partnerships with private sector employers, municipal governments, band councils and other non-governmental organizations to get more youth and students working.

Mr. Speaker, together, we can ensure that youth acquire the skills and knowledge they need to increase their employability and in the longer term, make a successful transition from school to work. Thank you.

-- Applause

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

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

Jake Ootes

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to rule 34(5);

I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Amittuq that the Minister's Statement 77-13(4), entitled "The Northern Employment Strategy" be moved into committee of the whole for further discussion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Thank you. The motion is in order. Question has been called. All those in favour of the motion, signify. Down please, thank you. Opposed? The motion is carried. Minister's statement 77-13(4) will be moved into the committee of the whole for today. Thank you.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize one of our young men, Mr. Jay Bran, who is our deputy Sergeant-at-Arms. Jay is a student who is attending Langara College in Vancouver and is taking environmental studies. I would also like to recognize Jay's parents, Mrs. Eleanor and Mr. Barry Bran, who are sitting in the Gallery today. Welcome.

-- Applause

Thank you. Welcome to the Assembly. On behalf of Mr. Picco and our colleagues, Members of this Legislature I would like to wish a happy birthday to one of the Pages from Iqaluit, Alex Stubbing. Happy birthday.

-- Applause

Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Miltenberger.

Member's Statement 335-13(4): Settlement Allowance
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 1159

Michael Miltenberger

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My Member's statement today deals with the long outstanding issue of settlement allowances as it affects the communities of Fort Smith, Hay River and Yellowknife. There is an ongoing difference between the union and the government about whether settlement allowances should have been paid to unionized employees in these communities. Excuse me. I have been watching my colleague Seamus in public speaking and I am starting to regress.

Member's Statement 335-13(4): Settlement Allowance
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 1159

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. I would like to remind all Members again, in recognition of the dignity of the House, a Member of the House cannot use another Member's first name. You should use the last name, in respect of other Members. Thank you. Madam Groenewegen, Member for Hay River.

Jane Groenewegen

Jane Groenewegen Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as Members of the Assembly we have access to an abundance of information that we try to stay ahead of. I can only imagine that it is difficult for the public to keep informed and decipher fact from fiction with the information that they glean through our public proceedings, through the media et cetera. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to assist the public by clarifying an issue dealing with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, based on concerns which have been raised to me by the public.

Several months ago, after the release of Footprints in the Snow 2 and after a very comprehensive briefing of Members by senior officials of the Power Corporation, there was general agreement by the GNWT, federal government and NTI that the Power Corporation would remain as a single entity. The two new governments would be the shareholders. This general agreement, in my opinion, addressed the immediate future of the Power Corporation's operations. However, it would appear that a persistent myth in the west that we are subsidizing power rates in Nunavut is still out there. This myth, in turn, feeds ongoing debate surrounding division of the Power Corporation.

It is important for the public to understand the following points: First, the rate structure of the NWT Power Corporation is such that there is no, I repeat, no cross subsidy between Nunavut and the West. Each rate zone supports itself. Secondly, there is a subsidy for power rates, but that subsidy is through the territorial Power Support Program, not the NWT Power Corporation. The Power Corporation neither administers nor has any authority over this support program.

Quite frankly, I find the often revisiting and reopening of this issue to be disturbing. First of all, it appears that a part of the discussion is predicated on misinformation regarding cross subsidization. It creates confusion, not to mention apprehension on the part of the employees and it is very likely driven by individuals representing interests relating to privatization which only complicates matters at this junction in time. It also takes away time that should be spent on the many outstanding issues relating to division. I hope that this information provides some clarification to the public. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Thank you, Madam Groenewegen. Members' statements. I have the honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Krutko.

David Krutko

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My statement today is regarding the situation the people of Aklavik find themselves in again this year, where they are presently on flood watch because of the high water in the Mackenzie Valley and also in the Delta. I think that one thing we can say, watching on the television about what is happening in the United States, Manitoba and the Peace River Basin, that it is better to be proactive rather than reactive in regard to floods. I think we have to have a mechanism in place to ensure that we protect not only the residents of those communities, but the property and the infrastructure we presently have in those communities to ensure there is adequate infrastructure built in those communities, such as we have seen carried out in Manitoba to protect the property of individuals and also the city of Winnipeg.

This government has to take an effective approach through it's Emergency Measures Act and ensure that when they build infrastructure for those communities who are in flood areas, the adequate infrastructure is built. Instead of failed reactions to floods, we should have adequate arrangements built in those communities when we put infrastructure there such as dykes and whatnot, and also have adequate drainage systems so when it does flood, it does not cause individual homes to be flooded or property to be damaged. I believe this government should take an active role in developing a policy and also developing infrastructure with the understanding of where that infrastructure is being built.

Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time I will be asking the appropriate Minister a question regarding emergency measures and also, in the case of Aklavik, to ensure that resources are made available to that community to develop proper infrastructure. Instead of reacting to floods, let us be proactive and put something there to protect them. Thank you.

-- Applause

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Thank you, Mr. Krutko. Members' statements. The honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre, Mr. Ootes.

Jake Ootes

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After the last session of this House, I was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the NWT Construction Association. This was in response to my comments on sole source and negotiated contracts. Now the association represents a cross section of firms from across the Northwest Territories, small ones, large ones, engineering firms, architects, suppliers and contractors. At this meeting, 75 people were present, Mr. Speaker. After my presentation, we had a question and answer period. One of the questions I posed was how many people here are in favour of sole source and negotiated contracts and see a benefit to it? Not one hand went up, Mr. Speaker, out of 75 people there.

-- Applause

Now, the association itself has taken quite an aggressive stand in supporting public tendering systems. While I am not against sole source and negotiated contracts on a 100 percent basis, I feel that there is need for clarification of the policy. Now, since Mr. Picco's motion last year, seconded by myself, the government produced an initial report but now has produced this particular report. It is the latest one and I have to compliment the government. I do not go out of my way to compliment the government much, except yesterday and today, and this is an excellent report. It provides all the data that we have been seeking. At the back is a summary, tabulated in sole source, negotiated and tendered in columns of where they went. I think it is very, very valuable. My compliments.

However, what it does point out that while we have come a long way, we have a great many sole source and negotiated contracts and that is of concern. It is the percentage of sole source contracts that are of concern to me. We need clarification of the conditions under which those are let, and then address the concern about the quantity. We need to reduce the quantity of sole source and negotiated contracts, Mr. Speaker, because the system and volume is building resentment amongst a number of businesses in our communities. I want to watch that we do not create a system of corporate support which is available to some, but not to others. If we could address that, Mr. Speaker. And we want to ensure we have...

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Mr. Ootes, your allotted time has elapsed. Mr. Ootes.

Jake Ootes

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

I am finished.

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

The honourable Member for Yellowknife South, Mr. Henry. Thank you.

Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, when I came to this legislative building approximately 18 months ago, there were many issues my constituents wanted me to address. One of these issues was preparation for division. There was a feeling that Nunavut was well on its way with a clear vision and lots of support from the federal and the territorial governments. People did not think the west was getting equal treatment. They told me they were worried that the west would not be properly represented when it came time to divide the pie. The hot topic was assets and liabilities. Over the past year, I have looked at the assets and liabilities and reviewed the papers prepared by the government. Like most MLAs, I do not see major concerns in this area. Most of the assets and liabilities are quite straightforward as to how they should be divided. It is very clear how they should be divided, with the exception of a couple or three items.

People then told me they were worried about material changes between the two territories. Again, I have looked at this and it is not going to be a big deal, Mr. Speaker. The Members of the Legislative Assembly have spent the last week reviewing the initial division costings of the two new governments. We were prepared for some significant differences in opinion between eastern and western Members, but it never happened. There are not many trouble spots, just more technical details. I am convinced that there are not very many areas where east and west will have major differences. There is not a big fight coming, Mr. Speaker. What we do have is a lot of work to do to get people and programs in place in both territories by April 1, 1999.

I am aware of the fears of some western residents about division and what it will mean. One of the things that I have done with the support of my colleagues in the Western Caucus of the Assembly is to become involved with the Western Coalition. This group is working hard, yes very hard, Mr. Speaker, and it is focused with working with other parties to make division happen as smoothly as possible. Mr. Speaker, there is lots being done to prepare for division both east and west. If we can stay focused and not get sidetracked by unnecessary tangents, we will be ready. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Thank you, Mr. Henry. The honourable Member for Inuvik, Mr. Roland.

Floyd Roland

Floyd Roland Inuvik

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the issue of division and the concern that was raised from Members of the west not only in this Assembly, but outside of this Assembly when it comes to businesses and other people. Mr. Speaker, as we heard earlier, a Western Coalition was formed and through that I represent the Members of the Western Caucus. This coalition was formed early last winter and began on the road of looking at issues that would affect the west when it comes to division. The partnership is made up of the Aboriginal Summit, the NWT Chamber of Commerce, and the NWT Association of Municipalities. All of the western groups of those bodies are represented at the table. I am trying to bring information out here to show people of the west that we are definitely working to ensure that, as division comes, what we have today as services and programs continue to exist after division.

I think the same would be going for the east as they go about their work to ensure that we have no less after division than we have today. We struggled through hard times as we have heard earlier when it comes to balancing the budget. I think we have a long road to go, but with the continued cooperation and effort of all parts of the coalition and the Assembly we can get through this without much difficulty. There will be a lot of work and there will be pick-ups along the way, but through hard work and a good effort from all parts, I am sure that we will be able to see compromises come and reach conclusions in the necessary time that we are allotted.

So to let the people of the west know that we are at work not only as an Assembly, but as people from the west to make sure that we look at what impacts will come down because of division. We will look out for the best interests of the western population as well as I am sure the eastern groups will be doing for the east. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Thank you, Mr. Roland. Members' statements. The honourable Member for High Arctic, Mr. Barnabas.

Levi Barnabas High Arctic

Qujannamiik. (Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a Member's statement in regards to the residents of Grise Fiord. They have had problems with their municipal services such as water delivery. I would like to state that even though the community is relatively small, it is growing every year because of high birth rates. At the appropriate time, I would like to ask the Minister of MACA questions regarding my statement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Translation ends)

The Deputy Speaker John Ningark

Thank you, Mr. Barnabas. The honourable Member for Iqaluit, Mr. Picco.