This is page numbers 19 - 39 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 8th 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 nurses.

Topics

Members Present

Honourable Jim Antoine, Honourable Charles Dent, Mr. Erasmus, Honourable Sam Gargan, 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 19

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

Minister's Statement 4-13(8): Nursing Compensation
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 19

Floyd Roland Inuvik

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to report to you today that we have successfully negotiated an agreement with the Union of Northern Workers to provide a temporary market supplement to nurses.

--Applause

In our 1999-2000 budget, the Government of the Northwest Territories identified $3 million specifically for nurse recruitment and retention. This funding was made available because the government realized that the national and international shortage of nurses is seriously affecting our ability to attract and retain nurses and needed to be addressed directly.

A consultation process with stakeholders was established to decide the best way to use this additional money. This stakeholders group included representatives of the Union of Northern Workers, the NWT Registered Nurses Association, health and social services boards, the Financial Management Board Secretariat and the Department of Health and Social Services.

These stakeholders worked hard to reach an agreement on how best to distribute the nursing supplement. It is very much to their credit that we were able to reach an agreement in such a short time frame and I would like to congratulate them on their work. Having this agreement in place means that approximately 270 indeterminate nurses employed by health and social services boards and related agencies will be eligible to receive temporary market supplements into the year 2000. Full and part-time indeterminate nurses will begin receiving it within the next few weeks. Boards and agencies recruiting nurses will also begin offering their new hires the recruitment incentive this month.

Part of the funding will also be used to hire three full-time nurse mentors who will provide additional support and mentoring to nurses in the field. This additional professional support and salary supplement will certainly help make the Northwest Territories more competitive in recruiting new nurses.

Mr. Speaker, because of the increasing competition for nurses, the Government of the Northwest Territories has reviewed compensation levels for northern nurses. A study of nursing salaries across the country showed that general duty and community health nurses in the NWT receive the highest base salary of nurses in Canada. This does not take into account benefits offered by various jurisdictions. However, when we included benefits in our calculations and adjusted for the cost of living, we found that our compensation levels were still very competitive.

I have spoken before of the vital role that nurses play in the NWT health and social services system. Attracting and retaining competent nurses is critical to the viability of our health care system.

To address this, the department, in partnership with the boards and professional associations, has developed a recruitment and retention strategy designed to attract, and provide support to, health and social services workers. This strategy is being implemented and is starting to yield positive results. In May we were experiencing a vacancy rate among all nurses of 20 percent. Today, I am pleased to be able to report that this rate is down to 10 percent. However, our greatest difficulty still lies in attracting and retaining community health nurses and we will be continuing to focus special attention on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, financial compensation is only one part of the recruitment and retention picture. To retain our northern nurses, they must know they are valued members of the system and of the community. We can all play a role in retaining nurses by recognizing them, at every opportunity, for the valuable contribution they make in our communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Minister's Statement 4-13(8): Nursing Compensation
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 19

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Dent.

Member's Statement 6-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees
Item 3: Members' Statements

September 8th, 1999

Page 19

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last night the Yellowknife MLAs held a constituency meeting. About 250 people turned out. I would say that the majority were concerned with the future of Giant Mine. There were probably 150 employees from Giant Mine accompanied by members of their families at the meeting. Mr. Speaker, it was difficult not to

be moved by the words expressed by Yellowknife residents and constituents, some as young as 13 years old, who do not want to leave the North.

Mr. Speaker, people who spoke at the meeting last night talked about the cost to employees of Giant Mine and their families with the loss of jobs. The cost to other businesses in the North and the cost in lost revenues in transfer payments to this government and the effect that might have on us.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that we can find another solution to the Giant Mine situation. One that will better deal with the environmental liabilities. One that will better protect the employees and one that will improve on the total number of jobs that will be offered to Giant Mine employees. Mr. Speaker, I agreed along with others in the meeting to meet and work with the union to see if together we can find such a solution. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Member's Statement 6-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 20

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. Ootes.

Member's Statement 7-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 20

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, like Mr. Dent, I would like to speak on the meeting that we had last night. A constituency meeting. There were other concerns, but the main concern was the Giant Mine employee situation and of course it was one where the employees are concerned about succession, pensions and separation pay. Of course the criteria and the important area for them is continued employment. We heard a lot of speakers last night who passionately spoke about their concerns. We were certainly very concerned ourselves as Members of this Legislature about this. Following that meeting, Mr. Speaker, today, it was agreed last night that we would hold a meeting today with a group of people, with union representation and with Members from this Legislature, the Yellowknife MLAs, and the City of Yellowknife. We did come to some agreement to do follow-up work immediately on that and hopefully, from there, there will be some encouraging light at the end of the tunnel.

It is certainly a difficult situation. It is one that affects a lot of employees for our community, close to 300. We can look at it in terms that there will be at least 300 more employees affected. The news is coming at a very late juncture. We are all trying to grapple with the situation and trying to work as hard as we can to reach some solutions to this. Like Mr. Dent, I am hoping that at the end of the day we do find some solutions for families. There were some young people who came forward last night stating that they would like to stay in this community, but if their parents do not have work, they have a fear that they might have to move where there is work. There was a very passionate plea for us to do something about it. We are working on that, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

--Applause

Member's Statement 7-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 20

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. Krutko.

Member's Statement 8-13(8): Expansion Of Inuvik Natural Gas Conversion Program
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 20

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my statement today is regarding the Inuvik Natural Gas Project that is now on line. I would like to congratulate the Inuvialuit Petroleum Corporation and also the Inuvialuit for taking on such an initiative of enhancing the oil and gas industry in the Beaufort. It has been quite a few years since any development has taken place in that area. It has been some time since we have taken advantage of our natural resources that we do have to better the lives of people of the Mackenzie Delta and also of Inuvik.

Regarding the gas pipeline and the benefits that it offers and the possibilities of converting over from diesel fuel to natural gas, to eventually bringing down the price of fuel in the Inuvik region. In Aklavik, Mr. Speaker, my constituency pays almost a dollar per liter of gas. In other areas that complain that gas prices are too high, like Yellowknife, yet when you pay a dollar a liter it is very expensive for the people in the community of Aklavik and other isolated communities.

I would also like to ask the Minister and this government to expand the program that they deliver to the community of Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic, Tuktoyaktuk and other communities in the Beaufort Delta, to be able to take advantage of the cheap cost of fuel, especially natural gas. There is talk about expanding the pipeline to Yellowknife. I think before we even think of leaving the Beaufort region, let us do something for the region that is presently finely feeling what it is like to have some economic opportunity, and also benefit the region as a whole, before we consider exporting our natural resources that are making the lives better for the people who live where those resources come from.

Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time I will be asking questions to the Minister regarding the possibility of expanding the program that is presently being delivered in Inuvik for conversion so that the other communities surrounding Inuvik can take advantage of converting from diesel fuel to natural gas which would mean savings to everyone and improve the lives of the people in the Mackenzie Delta. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Member's Statement 8-13(8): Expansion Of Inuvik Natural Gas Conversion Program
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 20

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mrs. Groenewegen.

Member's Statement 9-13(8): Recycling Program For Beverage Containers
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 20

Jane Groenewegen Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday, during oral questions, I brought to the attention of the Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development the need for a recycling program for beverage containers in the Northwest Territories. The Minister indicated willingness to do a paper outlining the different elements that would be necessary to start major recycling effort.

The less we put into the landfill sites, the fewer problems we will face down the road.

Mr. Speaker, the transportation system in the NWT is sufficiently developed to permit the return of recyclable beverage containers. With the exception of a few communities, all are reachable by winter road or the regular highway system. For the exceptions, barge services are usually available. With cooperation from transportation companies and local governments I am sure solutions would be easily realized.

Mr. Speaker, any system we implement for the return of non-alcoholic beverage containers will be better than what we have presently. It may require money now but will save the environment and cost to future generations of Northerners. Mr. Speaker, for the record, I raised this issue yesterday and today on behalf of a constituent in Hay River who is interested in being a proponent for a facility to handle these containers in Hay River. I would appreciate any assistance to that potential proponent from the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Member's Statement 9-13(8): Recycling Program For Beverage Containers
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 21

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Members' statements. Mr. Henry.

Member's Statement 10-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 21

Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My colleague, Mr. Dent, I noticed talked earlier about the constituency meeting that the Yellowknife MLAs had in the Great Hall last night and I would like to continue and add some of the points that I noted at that meeting.

The vast majority, as was mentioned, of the constituents at the meeting were Giant employees who were very concerned about the potential of losing their jobs, security and also pensions that they worked so hard for. For about two and one-half hours, the four MLAs from Yellowknife listened to the union officials and family members and concerned constituents about their fears of losing up to 300 jobs in our community because of a deal being negotiated with Price Waterhouse Coopers and Miramar Con Mine to potentially take over the Giant Mine.

Yesterday afternoon union officials were advised by Price Waterhouse Coopers that rumors of Miramar takeover of the Giant Mine are official. Last night we heard the many pleas for help and direction from the people of our community soon to be affected if this takeover proceeds. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we MLAs felt powerless to provide any concrete direction to the employees of Giant, nor were we able to offer any assurances that this government has any jurisdiction to intervene in the negotiating process. DIAND officials should have been the ones hearing the voices of the people here last night. These constituents came to us for help and guidance and we were powerless to offer anything that would reassure them that help was on the way.

How easy it would have been to have officials with responsibility and jurisdiction meet with these employees if these officials were in Yellowknife. Instead, Mr. Speaker, the people in the driver's seat are sitting in Ottawa behind their bureaucracy of the federal government. This again, is another example of why we need to have control and responsibility in the North. As MLAs we are certainly limited in what we can do and this was displayed last night. As much as we may want to help in an economic crisis of this magnitude, our hands are pretty well tied. DIAND had better heed what is going on. Not only can Yellowknife not afford to lose 300 jobs, the entire Territory will surely feel the effects as well, if the fear of those lost jobs come to pass.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Member's Statement 10-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 21

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Yellowknife South is seeking unanimous consent to conclude his statement. Do we have any nays? There are no nays. Mr. Henry, you have unanimous consent.