This is page numbers 357 - 395 of the Hansard for the 13th 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 highway.

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Budget Reply 5-13(7)
Item 10: Replies To Budget Address

Page 371

James Rabesca North Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As we now start our journey in this new territory of ours we find many challenges facing us. Through my review of the Budget Address presented by the Honourable Minister of Finance, I can see many of my concerns are being addressed, however, the main problem that I see is we still need additional funding.

Although we are spending additional dollars in education which will help assist in solving some of the problems of overcrowding in classrooms, I feel this is far below what we should be allocating. We have many areas within education that must be addressed and this budget does not go far enough.

I am rather disheartened that the Working Together Program will only be extended for one more year, even though this has proven to be a very good program with a good number of young northerners employed. I think this should be extended for future years as well. We do have some very good programs within the education, culture and employment portfolio, however, the one thing that is needed and we have heard over again is the need for more dollars to be allocated.

As I continued to review this Budget Address, it was good to see a focus to increased funding for recruitment and training local residents for careers in the health and social services area. We have heard many times how the nursing staff in any community are over worked and are constantly under pressure, which does result in burnout and relocation to the south. I hope for the good of our residents that these initiatives will help relieve the stress and pressures that our staff currently face. We must also look at ways that we can assist residents with the many social problems that our communities face. Spousal assault, alcohol and drug abuse are all becoming very prevalent in today's society and we must react to these problems now.

Every year across this country we lose loved ones and property as a result of fire. Over the last number of years we have witnessed many terrible tragedies, communities losing their schools, their stores and houses. We acknowledge the need for a well-trained fire department and good equipment for all communities. Through this Budget Address it looks like we may be heading in the right direction. It is very important to allow communities the ability to protect against fire. I hope future budgets will continue to stress the need for further fire prevention and support.

I have heard that the Down Payment Assistance Program has been a success and it is good to see many residents are taking advantage of this, however, I wonder how many residents in the smaller communities were able to take advantage of this. We must also look for ways to increase housing units within our communities. We need affordable housing for all residents across our territory.

Throughout the next year we have many important issues to deal with. If we can get our people trained as we are attempting to do with the continuation of some programs, we must also be in the position to have jobs available. By supporting and developing local economies within all our communities of the NWT our people will find jobs and will create business opportunities. It is important that we realize everything does not have to be diamond related. We have many areas that local people can create and develop successful businesses within all communities. It is good to see the lustre of diamonds as it is an important part of our lives for many years to come, but there is much more to develop.

Our territory is vast and we are blessed with renewable and non-renewable resources that are waiting for us to utilize and develop. We must work together, to ensure the NWT as a whole prospers not just the large centres. I feel an economic strategy for the territory is essential to a better economic future, however, I also feel this is more important at the local community level and the communities should be encouraged to develop their own strategy, for it is at the community level that most of our economic activities take place.

In closing, I am hopeful that this year's Budget Address covers a good number of solid initiatives and programs that we need to provide for our residents and businesses. However, the one main problem that this government still faces is the lack of dollars to continue to upgrade our infrastructure, rebuild our sagging economy, provide training at all levels. I continue to believe that our government will be able to negotiate a win-win situation with the federal government over the royalties issue. I would also like to congratulate the Honourable Minister of Finance for this year's first, truly, NWT budget. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Budget Reply 5-13(7)
Item 10: Replies To Budget Address

Page 372

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Replies to the budget address. Item 11, petitions. Item 12, reports of standing and special committees. Item 13, reports of committees on the review of bills. Item 14, tabling of documents. Mr. Krutko.

Tabled Document 33-13(7): Letter From Inuvik Health And Social Services Board Regarding Northern Addiction Services Treatment Dollars
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 372

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to table a letter from the Inuvik Regional Health Board in which they attach a motion in regard to requesting the Minister of Health to return northern referral dollars to the Inuvik Regional Health Board.

Tabled Document 33-13(7): Letter From Inuvik Health And Social Services Board Regarding Northern Addiction Services Treatment Dollars
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 372

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Tabling of documents. Item 15, notices of motion. Item 16, notices of motion for first reading of bills. Item 17, motions. Item 18, first reading of bills. Item 19, second reading of bills. Item 20, consideration in committee of the whole of bills and other matters. Bill 17, Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and Committee Report 1-13(7), with Mr. Krutko in the chair.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

April 27th, 1999

Page 372

The Chair David Krutko

We are dealing with Bill 17, Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and Committee Report 1-13(7). What is the wish of the committee? Mr. Ootes.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 372

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I recommend that we continue with Bill 17, Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and the Department of Public Works and Services followed by the Department of Transportation.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 372

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Ootes. We will be dealing with the Department of Public Works and Services after a short break.

--Break

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

I would like to call the committee to order. We are reviewing the Main Estimates. We are dealing with the Department of Public Works and Services. At this time I would like to ask the Minister responsible if he has any opening comments. Mr. Steen.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 372

Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to present the Department of Public Works and Services main estimates for the fiscal year 1999-2000. The estimates propose a department operations and maintenance budget for 1999-2000 of just over $37 million and a capital budget of just under $1.5 million. The department will have approximately 200 positions funded within the appropriation. In addition, the department manages the petroleum products revolving fund and provides systems and communication services, which are funded through charge back to client departments. A further 32 positions are associated with these non-appropriated activities.

Mr. Chairman, this proposed budget is very close to the funding level anticipated in the department's division plan. Through normal staff adjustments over the next year or two, it is expected that PWS will decrease to the planned size. In the meantime, the department will be carrying a number of extra positions and will have to manage those within the current budget. Many of these extra positions will be providing support to Nunavut in 1999-2000, through Nunavut service agreements.

There are two unique challenges for the coming year, Mr. Chairman. First, we will be continuing to support our former colleagues in Nunavut through service arrangements. Contracts have been established for service in the areas of asset management, petroleum products, and systems and communications. The second challenge will be in the preparation and response to the Year 2000. In addition to ensuring that the department's own information systems and workstations continue to function, we also have to ensure that the government's mainframe computer systems, telecommunications networks and building systems are ready for the century turnover. We have our computer systems ready. Non-complaint workstation computers and servers in the department have been upgraded or replaced. Work is also proceeding on embedded computer services, such as those in vehicles and building systems. Staff have worked with many of the manufacturers of building systems to review testing and updating procedures. PWS employees have been visiting each community in order to review GNWT assets and ensure service disruptions are avoided. Staff will also be giving presentations on Year 2000 compliance and providing assistance to other departments, communities and agencies. Overall, Public Works and Services and most GNWT buildings will be well prepared when the calendar turns to 2000.

Another departmental objective concerns the assessment and remediation of environmental liabilities at community tank forms. PWS has made substantial progress. In June, 1998, the department hired Deton'Cho Corporation, in partnership with Rescan Environmental Services and Vista Engineering, to do environmental assessments of community tank farms. In addition to inspections and sampling, a remediation plan will be designed for each location. This year plans will be developed for several communities assessed in 1998-99. These include Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic and Tuktoyaktuk. Assessments will be done this year in Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Rae Lakes, Wha Ti, Wekweti, Wrigley, Trout Lake, Nahanni Butte, and Jean Marie River. Mr. Chairman, I want to conclude my opening remarks by saying that I look forward to the year ahead of us. Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 373

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. Does the standing committee responsible for the Department of Public Works have any comments? Mr. Rabesca.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 373

James Rabesca North Slave

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The mandate of the Department of Public Works and Services is to design, construct, acquire, operate and maintain buildings, works and equipment and implement energy efficient projects in buildings and works required for the government to deliver its programs and services, provide a system of specialist services that enhance the efficiency of government departments and make essential petroleum products available for sale to the public where these are not provided by the private sector.

The Standing Committee on Resource Management and Infrastructure reviewed the department's 1999-2002 business plan on November 24, 1998, and the department's draft 1999-2000 Main Estimates on March 21, 1999. Committee concerns during review of the department's business plan centred on the government's contract awarding process, competition with the private sector, proposed retention of the Laing Building, Year 2000 compliance and Nunavut service contracts, incorporation of full cost recovery and a cost-plus in all contracts. These issues continued to concern committee Members during their review of the department's draft Main Estimates.

The draft 1999-2000 Main Estimates showed proposed declines in most programs and activities in comparison to the 1999-2000 business plan projections with the exception of a $5,000 increase in funding for systems and communications. Capital expenditures remain essentially flat with a projected $7,000 or a 0.48 percent decrease from the business plan.

Committee Members noted during the review of the department's draft Main Estimates that a significant portion of the department's overall revenues is the result of computer charge back services to Nunavut. This $2.2 million in projected revenue represents a major portion, or 59.77 percent of the department's projected revenues of $3,681 million. Eventually, the Government of Nunavut will be able to service its own computer needs.

Awarded contracts. Committee Members expressed concern during the business plan review that some contracts were awarded to southern contractors over equally qualified northern contractors. As a result, the committee recommended that clear-cut explanations be given to unsuccessful bidders, and as with the federal government, GNWT officials should be made available to bidders for further discussion. A description of this process and related items were provided to the committee prior to the review of the Main Estimates.

However, in the business plan review exercise, Members were also concerned about the number of contracts that were awarded under the different awarding processes. The committee looked forward to receiving a summary report that details the number and amount of contracts that were awarded as the result of a tender, request for proposal, sole source, or negotiated award process in the past year. This item was addressed prior to review of Main Estimates. In an effort to bring a greater degree of clarity to the contracting issue committee Members requested a briefing on contracting methodology used by this department and other departments.

Competition with the private sector. The committee noted that the government is already competing or is proposing to compete with the private sector in areas of petroleum products, ongoing and real estate development, ongoing and anticipated to escalate. Members pointed out the Laing Building, originally scheduled for sale or demolition, will now be renovated and retained by the government for its own offices. This is likely to contribute to the oversupply of office space in Yellowknife. The committee looks forward to receiving a confidential briefing by the Minister that will answer the Members' concerns regarding the Laing Building and the Yellowknife Office Space Plan.

Conflict of interest guidelines. The committee noted during its review of the department's business plan that many employees are not covered under the current conflict of interest guideline. The current guideline only applies to high-level employees. The committee requested further information about conflict of interest guidelines for all employees. This concern arose from the Inuvik arena project where a non-management PWS employee resigned from the arena project management committee, comprised of municipal, MACA and PWS personnel, to take a managerial position with the consulting firm for the project. The department has addressed the Inuvik arena project issue and suggested that general conflict of interest concerns may be more appropriately redirected to the Financial Management Board Secretariat.

Year 2000 compliance. The committee expressed its concern that year 2000 compliance may entail unforeseen consequences despite the ongoing efforts by the government to minimize its effects. Further, committee Members noted that technical personnel should be available during the changeover period to rectify any unanticipated events. The department replied that there would be staff on standby during the changeover period.

Nunavut service contracts. Committee Members were concerned whether full cost recovery plus the standard service fee of 6.5 percent has been and will continue to be incorporated into each Nunavut contract. Further, the committee was concerned about the lengths of the contracts and potential layoffs due to the completion of Nunavut contracts. The department has advised that cost recovery plus a standard service fee of 6.5 percent is incorporated into each Nunavut contract, and the contracts range from six months to two years. As well, there will be no layoffs due to the completion of Nunavut contracts and any staff reductions will be the result of natural attrition. That concludes the committee's report. Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 374

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Rabesca. At this time I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Public Works and Services if he would like to bring in witnesses?

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 374

Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I would.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 374

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Steen. I would like to ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to escort the witnesses in. Does the committee agree?

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 374

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.