This is page numbers 3837 – 3872 of the Hansard for the 16th 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.

Topics

The House met at 1:36 p.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Good afternoon, colleagues. Welcome back to the Chamber. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, the Hon. Robert McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 47-16(4): Transfer Of The Public Housing Rental Subsidy
Ministers’ Statements

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to provide some context on this government’s decision to transfer the administration of the Public Housing Rental Subsidy back to the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. This decision restores full responsibility for all aspects of the Public Housing Program to the Housing Corporation and its community partners, the local housing organizations.

The Public Housing Program plays a critical role in meeting the housing needs in our communities. With the ever increasing need for housing in the Northwest Territories comes an increasing reliance on our programs, and an increasing demand to ensure that tenants in communities receive the highest level of service possible through programs designed to suit the needs of Northerners.

During the 15th Legislative Assembly, the

Government of the Northwest Territories approved the Income Security Policy Framework for Personal Self-Reliance. This framework was designed to create a one-stop shop for income security programs and for greater consistency in the administration of those programs. However, in subsequent years, concerns have been raised by tenants, MLAs, and other stakeholders about the administration of the Public Housing Rental Subsidy.

Since the responsibility of the Public Housing Rental Subsidy was transferred to ECE, the Housing Corporation and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment have been working closely in an effort to better align the

program with the Income Security Policy Framework. Providing timely assessments and having tenants become accustomed to the new process has been a continuing challenge that resulted in duplication of effort on the part of many clients who were accessing one service, increased rental arrears and lack of financial stability at LHOs.

Mr. Speaker, as Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, I have given direction to my officials that the focus of the corporation will continue to be on our tenants. I believe that in order for the Public Housing Program to respond to the needs of the Northwest Territories and its residents, it is essential to have partnerships with tenants that can better inform our decisions as they relate to housing programs, policies and needs. It is clear that the process of assessing rents has been less convenient for most tenants in recent years. We have heard tenants’ concerns in this area and are addressing them. It is important that the future delivery model for public housing be designed to provide not only fair and equitable treatment to all tenants, but to do so in a respectful, locally driven and dignified way.

Residents of the NWT expect and deserve efficient service from government departments and agencies. In our effort to provide improvements to programs and initiatives, we must also be willing to learn from our tenants, leaders and citizens, respect their needs and consider their guidance in program design and delivery. As Minister responsible for the NWTHC, one of my primary goals is the provision of improved client service and ongoing improvements to our Public Housing Program and its delivery. I am also committed to identifying and taking advantage of improved efficiencies that can result from coordination between departments and agencies.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that the transfer of responsibility for public housing subsidies back to the NWTHC is not simply a turning back of the clock to the old way of doing business. Our focus going forward will be on correcting the problems that have arisen over the past five years and building on the improvements that were made during that time. Most importantly, we recognize that in order for housing programs to be effective, they must be developed and improved in partnership with stakeholders. As Minister

responsible for Housing, I believe it is critical that local solutions for housing are developed that reflect northern need while recognizing the significant challenges we face. We will now turn our focus to working more directly with our tenants, LHOs, NWTHC and ECE staff, MLAs and other stakeholders to make necessary changes to the delivery of public housing.

Effective communications are vital in our future approach. We intend to continually improve our communications not only to provide better information to our clients but to be more responsive to their concerns. Ultimately, the housing challenges being faced by the NWT can only be addressed through the provision of northern programs that address northern needs and a clear partnership between tenants and government. These partnerships will guide us in our efforts to provide adequate, affordable and suitable housing to residents of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 47-16(4): Transfer Of The Public Housing Rental Subsidy
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. The honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Krutko.

Motion To Move Minister’s Statement 47-16(4) Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Ministers’ Statements

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Nahendeh, that Minister’s Statement 47-16(4) be moved into Committee of the Whole for consideration. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion To Move Minister’s Statement 47-16(4) Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Krutko. There’s a motion on the floor. The motion is in order.

---Carried

Motion To Move Minister’s Statement 47-16(4) Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Minister’s Statement 47-16(4) will be moved into Committee of the Whole.

The honourable Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Mr. Lafferty.

Minister’s Statement 48-16(4): Review Of The Public Housing Rental Subsidy
Ministers’ Statements

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment assumed responsibility for administration of the Public Housing Rental Subsidy on April 1, 2006. Leading into the transfer, some specific goals were put in place for improvements to the program in the overall context of the income security framework.

A lot of hard work has been undertaken and we have met with some success. We are pleased to report that Education, Culture and Employment has strengthened the Public Housing Rental Subsidy Program over the past four years and have

developed new tools including a policy and procedures manual, forms, training material, an electronic information system, and overall monitoring and reporting procedures. The department has also implemented an appeal process for clients who do not agree with the outcomes of their assessments. These new and improved policies and processes make the program more effective and efficient from an accountability perspective and also ensure that clients are treated fairly and equitably across the Northwest Territories.

During this time, much emphasis was put on maintaining the dignity of income security clients and increasing support for people to make productive choices to enable them to have a better quality of life. Mr. Speaker, at all times, we deliver income security programs with a client-focused perspective and it was with this vision that the PHRS was merged into the basket of programs available to help our residents. The one-stop shop for subsidies also meant a number of clients could access information on benefits other than the Public Housing Rental Subsidy in one location.

While the goals we set were achieved, in undertaking this work we also discovered ramifications that were not immediately apparent.

Mr. Speaker, for instance, although we much improved service to our income security clients, those clients who only required the Public Housing Rental Subsidy became disconnected from the local housing organizations. Over time, it emerged that this disconnect was not helpful to those clients and concerns have been expressed that their dignity was compromised.

Since the transfer occurred, Education, Culture and Employment and the Housing Corporation, including local housing organizations, have worked diligently and cooperatively in a strong effort to resolve issues and make improvements around the service of providing subsidies to public housing tenants through the Public Housing Rental Subsidy Program. In addition, the government undertook a review of the administration of the program. The findings of the review are being examined by an interdepartmental steering committee.

Mr. Speaker, we have all but concluded this work and we have reached a decision regarding the future administration of the Public Housing Rental Subsidy Program. The responsibility of the program will return to the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to be delivered by local housing organizations.

We all agree that the good work that Education, Culture and Employment has accomplished over the past years will be built upon by the NWT Housing Corporation and the local housing organizations to produce an even greater process, still with a strong client focus, that will better serve

the people of the Northwest Territories. We must continue our work together to help people move ahead in their lives and support those with the greatest need.

Education, Culture and Employment and the NWT Housing Corporation will work closely together over the coming months to provide for a seamless transition. We will be sharing an ongoing rollout and communications plan with Members over the coming weeks and months.

Mr. Speaker, we would like to thank Members for their advice and guidance during this time. It is only through honest collaboration, such as this, that we can continue to make system improvements to the benefit of our people in the North. Mahsi.

Minister’s Statement 48-16(4): Review Of The Public Housing Rental Subsidy
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. The honourable Minister of Transportation, Mr. Michael McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 49-16(4): Mackenzie Valley Highway Project Description Reports
Ministers’ Statements

Deh Cho

Michael McLeod Minister of Transportation

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to provide Members and the public with information related to the future Mackenzie Valley Highway to Tuktoyaktuk.

On Friday, January 29th , the Government of

Canada announced it has agreed to commit $3 million over two years toward a $7 million project description report on the construction of an all-weather highway from Wrigley to the Dempster Highway. This report will work in combination with a previously announced $1 million commitment to a project description report for the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk portion.

With this announcement, the Government of Canada has partnered with the Government of Northwest Territories to take a necessary next step leading to the construction of an all-weather highway connecting the national highway system through the Mackenzie Valley to Tuktoyaktuk.

The project description report will provide baseline environmental and engineering information required for the consultation and regulatory process of the proposed route of the Mackenzie Valley Highway. It identifies the scope of work, predicted impacts and mitigation measures that will be required when the project proceeds. It will provide an opportunity for communities that will be affected by the highway to identify concerns and requirements to better inform the planning process for the design and development of the highway. It is an important next step for this project, which has been identified by the 16th Assembly as a significant priority.

In combination with the work that has already been done in building 34 of the 40 required bridges for the Mackenzie Valley winter road, this funding announcement is an indication that our

government’s efforts to put the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway on the agenda of federal decision-makers has been at least partially successful. Members have my assurance that this government will continue to make the case for federal funding and support for the construction of a Mackenzie Valley Highway that will lower the cost of living and improve economic opportunities for the valley, and that will connect Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mahsi cho.

Minister’s Statement 49-16(4): Mackenzie Valley Highway Project Description Reports
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. The honourable Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Mr. Bob McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 50-16(4): Fur Auction Results
Ministers’ Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, trapping has long been a way of life for the people of the Northwest Territories. It’s a fundamental part of our culture. It is part of who we are.

Trapping is also an important economic activity, especially in many of our smaller communities. Trapping is not easy work, but it is rewarding work and it allows our people to get out on the land -- just as their ancestors have done for centuries -- and make a few dollars while they are at it.

Mr. Speaker, results from a recent fur auction show just how important that activity is to the Northwest Territories. At the Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. Wild Fur Sale held in North Bay, Ontario, in early January, $100,000 worth of genuine Mackenzie Valley furs were sold.

Worth noting from that sale is that all of our muskrats pelts were sold -- over 12,600 in all -- and 95 percent of our beaver and red fox fur pelts were also sold. Prices for muskrat, beaver and fox increased as much as 20 percent compared to last year’s prices, a strong indication that the market for furs is improving. Most of the demand at the North Bay auction came from Chinese and Greek buyers.

The next auction where genuine Mackenzie Valley furs will be sold is in Seattle, Washington, on February 19, and we look forward to more positive results from that event.

Mr. Speaker, to further illustrate the economic impact the trapping industry has on the Territory, I must mention our 2008-2009 sales results from Northwest Territories wild furs. From October 2008 to June 2009, $1.1 million worth of genuine Mackenzie Valley furs were sold.

These are outstanding results, given that demand for furs dropped substantially over the past couple of years due to the global recession. It is also a testament to the work done by this government to promote the traditional fur economy through the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program.

Since the program was created in 2002, our government has worked with Northwest Territories fur harvesters and the fur industry to support and promote the trapping industry. Thanks in large part to those efforts and the hard work of our trappers, genuine Mackenzie Valley furs are now recognized as some of the finest wild furs in the world.

Through initiatives like our guaranteed advances, the Prime Fur Bonus Program and the Grubstake Program, our government provides Northwest Territories trappers with the proper support and incentives to keep them harvesting wild fur and to keep this traditional way of life alive.

And, Mr. Speaker, there is evidence our work is paying off in more than just fur sales. It is paying off in the increased number of Northwest Territories residents who are going out on the land and actively trapping.

Last season the number of active trappers in the Northwest Territories was 809. That is up from 627 trappers in 2007-2008 -- a 30 percent increase -- and it is the highest number of active trappers we’ve had since the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program began. That growth in trappers is especially evident in the South Slave and Sahtu regions.

Mr. Speaker, the health of our trapping industry in the Northwest Territories is a good news story. Mega projects like the Mackenzie Gas Project tend to grab all of the attention and headlines, but it’s community-based sectors like the trapping industry that truly help diversify our economy, which is one of the goals of the 16th Legislative Assembly.

As the recent results from the North Bay auction and our 2008-2009 sales of genuine Mackenzie Valley furs prove, trapping is one of those opportunities, and I look forward to even better results in 2010. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 50-16(4): Fur Auction Results
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre, Mr. Hawkins.

Consultation On Caribou Conservation Measures
Members’ Statements

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to continue to talk about the caribou issue today in terms of trust and relationship. Today I don’t want to talk about whether the decision was good or bad, right or wrong; I want to talk about it in the context of consultation as more than a fly-by, a coffee, a hey, how you doing? That is a southern mentality that has been brought up here for years when they speak to true Northerners and it does not work. Anyone here even for a short time can tell you that is not how decisions need to be made.

Last week I heard a wise man say, what good is a right if you can’t exercise it? He was true to his point. Because no one wants to hear the last rifle shot to take down the last of the caribou. The GNWT must realize that the caribou harvest is more than a right. It is an essence of spiritual being of the aboriginal people of our North. There needs to be some decision with context that works with them. It’s not about our lawyers are smarter than their lawyers and the Constitution tells us what we can tell you. It’s about working together. It’s about the moral obligation to ensure that the aboriginal people are sharing in their treaty rights, their destiny as how we work together.

It’s turning into more of a school-ground argument where my dad is tougher than your dad. But I’ll tell you, their lawyers are just going to waste more money on our lawyers and we’re going to lose in our relationship of trust.

There is more here than the law at stake, it’s politics; the politics of what we can do with our friends and their friends. I think there’s an equal relationship that needs to be constantly fostered between the Northwest Territories government and the aboriginal leadership.

The decision of the caribou needs to be a decision with the aboriginal people. A political decision like this is not just about the caribou, it is rather about the Dene culture. I think it’s time for this Minister and this government to immediately call upon a caribou summit that invites the Dene leadership to discuss this issue. Leave the special interests at home. Leave the bureaucrats, those Mandarins, at home. Have a face-to-face, eye-to-eye conversation with the leadership of the Dene and our government leader on this issue, Mr. Miltenberger, and we’ll find an immediate solution by calling a summit and together we’ll find a path to work together.