This is page numbers 397 - 430 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 chairman.

Topics

Members Present

Honourable Jim Antoine, Honourable Charles Dent, Mr. Erasmus, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Henry, Honourable Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Krutko, Honourable Michael Miltenberger, Mr. Morin, Mr. Ootes, Mr. Rabesca, Honourable Floyd Roland, Honourable Vince Steen.

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 the constant recognition of the dignity and aspirations of those whom we serve. Amen.

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 397

The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. Good afternoon. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister's Statement 48-13(7): National Day Of Mourning
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today the flags in front of the Assembly are at half-mast in recognition of the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job. Despite ongoing efforts by employers and employees to ensure safe workplaces, there are hundreds of people injured at work every year. In many years, we also lose territorial residents to workplace accidents. At noon today, the Northern Territories Federation of Labour held their annual ceremony to recognize those Northwest Territories workers who have died or been injured or disabled on the job. The ceremony was held at the Miners' Monument and was well attended.

Mr. Speaker, this day reminds us of the need to continue our efforts in the area of occupational health and safety and the important work that we are doing in prevention, with employers, employees and youth. I would ask each Member to take a moment to remember the employees who have been the victims of workplace accidents and disease and to remember the families who must also live with the result of these accidents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 48-13(7): National Day Of Mourning
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

Ministers' statements. Mr. Roland

Minister's Statement 49-13(7): Minister's Forum On Health And Social Services
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Floyd Roland Inuvik

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce the establishment of a Minister's Forum on Health and Social Services. There has always been a high degree of public interest in health and social services issues in the Northwest Territories. This is understandable. All of us come into contact with the health and social services system at some point in our lives. The quality of health care and support services, especially at the community level, has a significant impact on individuals, families and communities.

There have been several reviews and studies of health and social services issues over the past several years. In 1992, the Legislative Assembly initiated the Special Committee on Health and Social Services. One of the primary recommendations from the special committee was for the GNWT to consolidate the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services. The main purpose of the consolidation was to improve services to clients by eliminating overlap and duplication, and by integrating program and service delivery. In June, 1994, the Departments of Social Services and Health were amalgamated. Over the next two years, regional health boards added social services functions to their mandates.

In 1995, the department undertook a comprehensive review of its programs and services with the Community Wellness Initiative. This initiative involved aboriginal organizations and over 50 non-governmental organizations and women's groups. The directions outlined in the Community Wellness Directions document provided a foundation for the integration of health and social services at the community and regional levels.

In 1996 and 1997, in response to continuing challenges within the system, the department consulted again with the public, boards, professional groups and non-governmental organizations. Health and social services boards also undertook extensive consultations in their respective communities. The department also commissioned the Med-Emerg Group to conduct a comprehensive review of the health and social services system. As a result of these consultations and the information gathered from the Med-Emerg report, the Department of Health and Social Services released "Shaping Our Future: A Strategic Plan for Health and Wellness" in June, 1998.

Mr. Speaker, as I have just outlined, the department has been under almost continuous review since its establishment in 1994. One might question why another review is needed at this time. I believe a Minister's Forum on Health and Social Services is needed, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I want to make sure that our health and social service system continues to offer high-quality services to people in all of our communities, not only today, but also in the future.

I am concerned about sustainability. Since assuming this portfolio, I have been briefed by my department on a number of key cost-drivers, which are escalating the costs of the system at an alarming rate. These cost-drivers threaten the future sustainability of our system, and we must address them. Some of these cost-drivers include:

- a severe shortage of nurses and social workers - particularly at the community level;

- increased national and international competition for physicians and nurses; - increased costs of operating the system;

- increased incidence of preventable illnesses and conditions; and

- growing public expectations for more services, better services, faster access and more choices.

I want to emphasize that this Minister's forum is not a fishing expedition to generate a wish list of new programs and services. In light of the government's fiscal situation, we cannot expect major increases in funding for health and social services in next year's budget. We all need to understand this at the outset. What we can do is share information with the public about the current state of our system, and discuss how we can sustain and improve the system in the future.

I will ask the Minister's forum to focus on the directions in the strategic plan related to sustaining and improving the system. These are: governance, human resources, financial sustainability and program and service delivery.

Mr. Speaker, health and social services are expensive, especially in the north and they cost more each year. We need a system we can continue to afford; one which makes use of our relatively small economies of scale. We need to maximize service levels and eliminate unnecessary administration and overhead. We also have to review program and service delivery. Many health and social problems, and costly demands on the system, could be avoided or greatly reduced. Mr. Speaker, it is often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The forum will provide information to the public on current health trends in the Northwest Territories, and, I hope, generate discussion on more effective ways to support healthy lifestyles, prevention and health promotion.

The Minister's forum will consult with the general public, boards, professional associations and non-governmental organizations. I will be calling for nominations of individuals with past experience in the health and social services system, either as a frontline worker, in a governance role, or as an advocate. The Minister's forum will represent a broad cross-section of the NWT population: north to south, east to west. Ideally, I would like to see a balance of both professionals and lay people on the forum.

I hope to appoint forum members within the next three weeks. Community consultations will be held as soon as possible. At least one community meeting will be held in every constituency across the Northwest Territories.

A Health and Social Services Conference will be held in the fall. Delegates from across the NWT will be invited to meet with forum members, representatives of the professional organizations and the boards, to hear the results of the community meetings and discuss the findings. Following the fall meeting, the forum will finalize its recommendations. Mr. Speaker, depending on the date of the next election, the results of the Minister's forum will either be tabled in this House or provided to the next Legislative Assembly. I hope that MLAs will be able to attend the meetings in their constituency and I look for their support in promoting the work of the forum. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Minister's Statement 49-13(7): Minister's Forum On Health And Social Services
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

Thank you. Ministers' statements. Mr. Steen.

Minister's Statement 50-13(7): Joint Nwtam/maca Municipal Finance Review
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide an update on the Municipal Finance Review. Members will recall that the discussion paper developed for this review were tabled in this Assembly last month. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is committed to continuing this review in partnership with the NWT Association of Municipalities. The annual general meeting of the NWT Association of Municipalities was held in Cambridge Bay last March. Delegates there supported continued efforts on this review. There has been much hard work put into this review over the past two years and everyone who has participated is to be commended on their efforts. This partnership has worked well to date and we plan to continue to work together through consultations on the proposals.

This government is committed to building stronger communities. One of the essentials for building stronger communities is that financial resources be made available to community governments. Communities have concerns about the fairness of our department's current funding. They want greater flexibility in how funds can be used as well as new financial arrangements with fewer controls. The proposals in the Municipal Finance Review discussion papers give us an opportunity to redesign the financial structure between the communities and MACA so that community governments can achieve greater authority, flexibility and accountability.

The same discussion papers tabled with the Assembly have now been distributed to community governments, aboriginal organizations, and other interested groups. Over the next four months the department, with the NWT Association of Municipalities, will consult these groups to seek their input on the proposals and to hear their comments. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to carry on the work of my predecessor in this important area and will seriously consider recommendations of the Municipal Finance Review Steering Committee, based on community consultations held this spring and summer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 50-13(7): Joint Nwtam/maca Municipal Finance Review
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

Ministers' statements. Mr. Steen.

Minister's Statement 51-13(7): Annual Fire Loss Report - 1998
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this time to discuss the Annual Fire Loss Report for the Northwest Territories for 1998. The north continues to experience significant losses as a result of fire. Tragically, in 1998, a five-year-old boy died in a fire. Last year, fire losses in the NWT were worth $14.5 million dollars. This was largely due to the loss of the Kilinik High School in Cambridge Bay. The fire losses in the Northwest Territories for 1998 are still high in comparison with the Canadian average.

Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Fire Marshal has been working with stakeholders to improve fire prevention and firefighting. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs has developed a fire protection strategy that will give direction to the future of fire protection in the territories. The commitment of local communities to support the initiatives of the Fire Marshal is critical to the success of the strategy. Through this support, we will be able to limit the damage caused by fire or prevent fires from occurring. Mr. Speaker, I am confident that with the support of my colleagues and local governments, we will see fire protection in the Northwest Territories improve and reduce our losses due to fire. Mr. Speaker, later today at the appropriate time, I will table the Office of the Fire Marshal 1998 Annual Report. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Minister's Statement 51-13(7): Annual Fire Loss Report - 1998
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

Thank you. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Erasmus.

Member's Statement 137-13(7): Bellanca Development's Initiative To Provide Exercise Equipment
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to speak about a new initiative in Yellowknife. I believe it is important to recognize businesses that contribute to better health in our community and last session I had indicated that Sutherland's drugstore had quit selling tobacco in their drugstore.

Today I wish to speak about Bellanca Developments, who have provided exercise equipment downstairs in the Scotia Centre to the tenants of their four buildings, namely the Precambrian Building, Scotia Centre, Bellanca Building and the Northwestel Building. Mr. Speaker, this area where the exercise equipment is, is where the YWCA was formerly housed and it moved last year. Obviously the tenants are sad to see the YWCA go, but Bellanca Developments conducted a survey to see if the tenants would use this available space if exercise equipment was provided. The reply was yes, so there has been equipment put into this area, namely three new treadmills as well as four bicycles. The intention, of course, is not to compete with local fitness facilities, but to provide a service to their tenants. The tenants can access this area from 7:30 in the morning to 9:00 pm and tenants provide a $25 deposit for an access card fee which is refundable when the tenant turns in their card. This has been in use since March 15th and already well over 100 people have signed up.

Mr. Speaker, studies in the south indicate that a lot of businesses do this now and it allows workers to relieve stress, so it turns out healthier workers and, in fact, better productivity to those businesses. The businesses and agencies in those four buildings, I would think would like to heartily thank Bellanca Developments and I am sure the Members here join me in applauding them in this new venture. Thank you.

--Applause

Member's Statement 137-13(7): Bellanca Development's Initiative To Provide Exercise Equipment
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

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

Member's Statement 138-13(7): Youth Employer Award Presented To Javaroma
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Small and medium-sized businesses are one of the fastest-growing sectors in our economy. They bring investment and employment into our communities. Many small businesses also provide our youth with part-time employment and valuable job experience. The National Conference Board of Canada has recently chosen Javaroma, a coffee and snack-bar service, with the honour of being the NWT's top employer of youth. The awards are sponsored by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Forum of Labour Market Ministers. This is a significant achievement for Brendan and Adrian Bell, owners of Javaroma in Yellowknife. They are in Toronto this week to accept their award and to share some of the knowledge and experience they have acquired in their youth hiring program. Along with other winners they will also be taking part in a Winner's Circle forum, a panel discussion at the 10th annual Reaching for Success Conference. Their award also gives significant recognition to our youth.

Clearly our young people are interested, capable and committed to building their job skills when given the opportunity. Javaroma has provided such opportunity. They in turn are grateful for the support provided by the GNWT/ECE Working Together program; an initiative aimed at providing job opportunities for students and youth. We need more of these sorts of initiatives that encourage government and business to work together for the benefit of our young people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Member's Statement 138-13(7): Youth Employer Award Presented To Javaroma
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

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