This is page numbers 5399 - 5430 of the Hansard for the 16th Assembly, 5th 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 northwest.

Topics

The House met at 1:41 p.m.

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Prayer

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Good afternoon, colleagues. Welcome back to the Chamber. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister’s Statement 77-16(5): Devolution Of Lands And Resources - Environment And Legislation
Ministers’ Statements

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Gaining northern control over the resource management decision-making process is one of the main reasons the Government of the Northwest Territories is pursuing devolution.

Until Northerners have this control, we are not in the position to determine the pace of development in our Territory.

The residents of the Northwest Territories, especially aboriginal people, have a special relationship with the land and water. We all have a strong interest in making sure our land and water is protected and our resources are developed in a wise and sustainable manner.

A devolution agreement will give Northerners the ability to make sure development proceeds in accordance with the principles of environmental protection and sustainability that are so important to all of us.

The draft agreement-in-principle for devolution of the authority over land and resources from Canada to this government includes a number of key elements which support the vision and priorities of the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, all Members believe, and agree, our natural resources are a fundamental element of our identity and our capacity to generate wealth and a sustainable future. This is the reason we established a Managing This Land Strategic Initiative, managed by a Ministers’ committee.

Through this strategic initiative, we have worked closely with aboriginal governments to develop the Northwest Territories Water Stewardship Strategy, which outlines our vision, values, goals and objectives for the protection and use of our water resources. This is an example of what can be done when northern governments, organizations and residents work together.

We have developed a collaborative process with aboriginal governments and other stakeholders to develop important legislation such as the Species at Risk Act and the proposed new Wildlife Act. This uniquely northern approach brings all parties to the table, shows mutual respect and creates a stronger finished product.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the mirror federal legislation required to transfer the jurisdiction from Canada to our government will not immediately reflect the values of NWT residents. We know amendments to legislation will be needed. However, mirroring the federal legislation is a requirement that will provide for a smoother transition of responsibility and administration between our two governments. It will also provide certainty to existing right holders, residents and industry that the rules will not be immediately and drastically changed. It will give us the time needed to lay the foundation for policy change using the expertise of transferring federal employees.

Mr. Speaker, our commitment to work with NWT aboriginal governments will not be lessened by devolution. Not only does the draft agreement-in-principle respect and protect aboriginal interests, it also contains a commitment, with associated funding, to negotiating a government-to-government relationship on post-devolution resource management. These provisions commit GNWT and aboriginal parties to a review of land and resource systems and, where appropriate, recommending changes to these systems and the legislation governing them. This work is expected to be completed within a specified period of time after the effective date of an agreement.

Mr. Speaker, this process will provide the Northwest Territories with a made-in-the-NWT land and resource management and regulatory regime.

More importantly, the draft agreement-in-principle provides the federal funding to achieve this.

Aboriginal parties would receive up to $4 million to support their participation in the transitional stage and a further $3 million annually after an agreement has been reached for ongoing participation in the post-devolution resource management regime.

It also provides many challenges and opportunities. Much of the current federal legislation is old and needs to be modernized. However, if we do not proceed with devolution, the current process will continue to reflect Canada’s national interests first and the Northwest Territories’ second. The latest regulatory review process is a prime example of this. NWT residents and their governments are represented as stakeholders.

We need to bring the management and administration of our resources home to the Northwest Territories where management of these resources can be directly accountable to our residents in accord with their values and needs. The proposed agreement-in-principle provides a possible basis for a deal on devolution that could see real authority and control transferred to the people of the Northwest Territories, to the benefit of all NWT residents.

Minister’s Statement 77-16(5): Devolution Of Lands And Resources - Environment And Legislation
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. The honourable Minister responsible for Health and Social Services, Ms. Lee.

Minister’s Statement 78-16(5): Updates To Extended Health Benefits
Ministers’ Statements

Sandy Lee Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to provide further details on the process that we are taking to implement the recommendations from the Supplementary Health Benefits Joint Working Group surrounding updates to the existing Extended Health Benefits Program.

The recommendations that were made by the Joint Working Group require varying levels of additional research and planning before implementation. We plan to move forward as quickly as we can while ensuring we have done our homework.

We will immediately begin working with the Department of Human Resources, and later on, other employers in the NWT to ensure third-party insurance coverage is maximized both by current employees and retirees.

We will also initiate contact in November with existing program clients who have been grandfathered additional benefits from 2004, to inform them that this grandfathering is being discontinued effective April 1, 2011. This will allow time for them to work with their health professionals to ensure we have a seamless transition to generic medication.

Health and Social Services will begin work to reform the prescription drug system to provide better access to lower-cost generic drugs for patients, as part of an NWT pharmaceutical

strategy. We will begin work in December with pharmacists, doctors and nurse practitioners regarding this reform and continue to keep them informed. We expect to announce the new program this spring.

Revisions to the Extended Health Benefits Policy to accomplish the Joint Working Group’s recommendations surrounding third-party insurance, extended residency requirements and the implementation plan for parity with NIHB will also be introduced in the spring.

During the same time period we will do a thorough analysis of the cost of enrolling those who are excluded from parts of the Extended Health Benefits Program, also known as “working poor.” It is expected that the savings from the changes we make to the program that I have mentioned will allow for the inclusion of this group of our residents who need the assistance of the government.

We will also plan for a new appeals process for extended health benefits that will be implemented by March 1, 2011. This will allow time for those affected by the change in their status to appeal decisions based on medical necessity.

This will be a busy time for the Department of Health and Social Services as we continue to finalize details and policy. I will continue to work with the Members of the Standing Committee on Social Programs and keep the public informed of our progress.

Minister’s Statement 78-16(5): Updates To Extended Health Benefits
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Ms. Lee. The honourable Minister responsible for Transportation, Mr. Michael McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 79-16(5): Drive Alive
Ministers’ Statements

Michael McLeod Deh Cho

Mr. Speaker, it’s my pleasure to rise today to give Members an update on the Drive Alive travel safety program.

Drive Alive is a partnership-based initiative that promotes safety on the roads, trails and waterways of the Northwest Territories. By promoting action that will reduce the number of collisions, serious injuries and fatalities in the Northwest Territories, we are helping to deliver on the government’s commitment to building our future as well as this Assembly’s priority to build sustainable, vibrant and safer communities.

Over the next few weeks we will be unveiling initiatives under Drive Alive to promote pedestrian safety, improve seat belt and child restraint usage, and reduce distracted driving. These are all measures we expect will help reduce avoidable collisions, injuries and deaths on our highways.

Mr. Speaker, this morning many of us had the pleasure of witnessing Commissioner George Tuccaro as he was inducted into the Lifesaving

Society of Canada as a vice-patron of the society. I was also pleased to be joined by my colleagues, the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, in an announcement committing the Government of the Northwest Territories to make the Lifesaving Society’s Water Smart program available in each of our communities across the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, this initiative is expected to reduce the number of avoidable drowning deaths each year due to boating and recreation.

As winter continues its journey across our land, I am mindful that there is a great deal that we can do to improve travel safety. I will close with some examples:

Equip your vehicles with snow tires. They grip the road better and provide better traction on snow and ice.

Drive at a speed appropriate to road

conditions.

When weather and road conditions are poor, slow down to get to your destination safely.

Prepare for the unexpected by packing

supplies you may need if your vehicle breaks down.

Let someone know when you expect to arrive at your destination, whether you’re driving or sledding.

As this holiday season approaches, Mr.

Speaker, be the life of your party, be a designated driver.

Thank you. Mahsi cho.

Minister’s Statement 79-16(5): Drive Alive
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. The honourable Minister responsible for Human Resources, Mr. Bob McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 80-16(5): Employee Satisfaction And Engagement Survey
Ministers’ Statements

Yellowknife South

Bob McLeod Minister of Human Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce the results of the 2010 Employee Satisfaction and Engagement Survey. As I have often stated, Mr. Speaker, our employees are this government’s most important asset. Though difficult to quantify, employee engagement and satisfaction is of vital importance to the effectiveness of our public service.

The Employee Satisfaction and Engagement Survey is part of a national initiative started in 2004. At that time, several governments from across Canada agreed to conduct employee surveys every two years using a common set of questions. These shared questions allow us to compare results across jurisdictions and track changes over time. This is the third satisfaction and engagement survey conducted. The full survey results are

available on the Department of Human Resources website.

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy with this year’s results. Approximately 43 percent of Government of the Northwest Territories employees responded to this survey. Those who responded continue to show a high degree of satisfaction and engagement, as more than half agreed or strongly agreed with the majority of statements provided. Nearly 77 percent of respondents were satisfied with their work as Government of the Northwest Territories employees. Over 70 percent feel inspired to give their very best. I am especially pleased that over 70 percent of those surveyed would recommend the Government of the Northwest Territories as a great place to work. This is a significant improvement over the 2008 survey, where only 53 percent agreed with that statement.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, survey respondents communicated an increased level of satisfaction with the services provided by the Department of Human Resources. Benefits and payroll staff achieved a high level of client satisfaction, over 70 percent on most questions. The majority of Government of the Northwest Territories managers expressed satisfaction with the services provided by our staffing officers and client service personnel. Overall, nearly 78 percent of those surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied with the services provided by Human Resources.

Mr. Speaker, we should all be proud that the Government of the Northwest Territories scored higher than the national averages on 18 of the 19 shared questions.

The survey also highlights some areas of employee concern. Survey respondents communicated the importance of career growth within the Government of the Northwest Territories. Training in particular was highlighted as an important aspect of employee engagement. In addition, those surveyed indicated a desire for an increasingly inclusive workplace where all staff are treated equitably, along with the need to further raise the profile of people with disabilities in the Government of the Northwest Territories. Managers identified recruitment strategies as an area that needs continued attention.

Mr. Speaker, these issues are at the forefront of our human resource planning today. Under 20/20, A Brilliant North, the Northwest Territories Public Service Strategic Plan, new recruitment and marketing strategies are currently in development, including aboriginal recruitment initiatives, a Talent Acquisition Strategy and partnerships between various departments to align marketing plans and the recruitment of specific occupations. Investment in employee development is being addressed through new and innovative training programs, such as the Leadership Development Program, the

Associate Director/Superintendent Program and the development of a Performance Management System and Learning Policy. Diversity initiatives include a Cross-Cultural Awareness Program and the creation of our diversity officer position within the Department of Human Resources.

Over the past several years, human resource management in the public service has gone through a period of considerable change and transition. One of the priorities of the 16th Legislative Assembly has

been effective and efficient government through improved human resource management. The Northwest Territories Public Service Strategic Plan, 20/20, A Brilliant North, has put greater focus on human resources strategies and practices. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the survey results demonstrate that our efforts have been successful and that human resource management in the Northwest Territories public service is on the right track.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the work done by our public service employees. They also deserve our recognition for making the Government of the Northwest Territories such a great organization and such a great place to work. Their hard work and dedication today have laid the foundation for a very bright future for the Northwest Territories public service. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 80-16(5): Employee Satisfaction And Engagement Survey
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Nunakput, Mr. Jacobson.

Tuktoyaktuk Shoreline Erosion
Members’ Statements

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I am speaking on the community of Tuktoyaktuk and the shoreline erosion problems that we are having in the community. The shoreline has been in the national news, Mr. Speaker. This government has to help the community deal with the problem which is going to take a lot of work and resources over a period of time.

In my lifetime, I have seen a lot of coastline disappear. Areas where there used to be cabins are now under water. A couple of times a year with high west winds the sea floods the roads on one end of town where the swimming pool and the youth centre is. One of the reasons erosion happens so fast in Tuk is that it is built on a very thick layer of permafrost. The warming climate change, rising sea waters and bigger storms are doing a lot of damage. We are lucky we didn’t have one this past summer, otherwise the breach in the shoreline that we are having, it would have breached.

The town’s policy is to build the structure further inland but we have to...these important buildings at

risk including the RCMP station and their six units, our fire hall, the Glad Tidings Church, our former old folk’s home, 31 units in total and the house of one former MLA, Mr. Vince Steen’s unit, the breach is right in front of his house.

Mr. Speaker, we need a long-term plan for the community of Tuk before it is too late. Right now we have to protect the shoreline. But sometime years ago the community placed concrete slabs on the outer peninsula, which helped a bit, but we need to extend the deficiencies about three-quarters of a mile, Mr. Speaker. The rock has to be done this year and I’ll be asking for extraordinary funding at the appropriate time. We started this job years ago, but funding was cut off and the job remains unfinished, Mr. Speaker. If we don’t do this soon, Tuktoyaktuk, its very foundation will wash away. Fortifying the peninsula would give this government and the community time to come up with a long-term plan.

Mr. Speaker, I will be asking the Minister of Community Affairs questions later today. Thank you.

Tuktoyaktuk Shoreline Erosion
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Jacobson. The honourable Member for Kam Lake, Mr. Ramsay.

Respite Care Program Funding Reductions
Members’ Statements

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to follow up with a statement I made earlier this session on the continuance of the respite program for the 29 families that currently utilize the service from the Yellowknife Association for Community Living.

Mr. Speaker, first off, the mere suggestion that this government is cutting this critical service is unconscionable. The Minister could not even tell me the other day where the $250,000 was going. Mr. Speaker, the federal funding through THAF would have enabled the program to be funded until 2012. Someone has made the decision to move the money and the Minister just doesn’t know where it went.

Just like the $1.7 million announced by the federal government to fund anti-drug programs. The Minister is quoted in the news story, but the reality, Mr. Speaker, is she has no idea where the money is going and what it will be spent on, just like the respite money.

I’d like to refresh the Minister’s memory when it comes to her support for the respite program. As a Regular Member, February 1, 2006, Hansard, “for many months and number of years I’ve been here, there has been a call for the need or speaking about the need for the respite care program. There is a huge need for this and I think the Members on this side of the floor have been getting lots of calls

from those parents or caregivers who are able to get some relief, which is what the program is meant to do.”

Then, Mr. Speaker, Minister Lee was responding to my colleague Mr. Yakeleya on February 16, 2009, as Minister of Health and Social Services, and I quote from that Hansard. “I was simply pointing out that the pilot program in Yellowknife started three or four years ago and I think that just showed the need and the value of giving families who are spending every day, 24/7, taking care of their children in need.” The program, according to Minister Lee, was so successful that the department decided to expand it to smaller communities. So, Mr. Speaker, I’m left completely and utterly confused by a decision to cut the funding for the respite care program here in Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, it defies any logic and the Minister can’t even blame the federal government for it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Respite Care Program Funding Reductions
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. The honourable Member for Sahtu, Mr. Yakeleya.