This is page numbers 3945 - 3980 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 work.

Topics

The House met at 1:34 p.m.

---Prayer

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 of Justice, Mr. Lafferty.

Minister’s Statement 55-16(4): Success Of New Approach To Corrections Training And Recruitment
Ministers’ Statements

Monfwi

Jackson Lafferty Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide an update on our new approach to recruit and training corrections officers and youth officers to work in our facilities.

In the past, we have had challenges with recruiting Northerners for these specialized jobs. Not just anyone can work as a corrections officer or in a correctional centre. These jobs take many skills and the right attitude. The skills required are not easy to come by in the North, and we need to make sure that people have the skills and training they need to qualify for these jobs. Situations can escalate within seconds and staff need to be able to react quickly and appropriately.

We wanted Northerners to qualify for these jobs. That’s especially true because our approach to corrections is much different than the approaches that are common in other parts of Canada. Our focus is on rehabilitation and community reintegration and we use a direct supervision model that has our staff and offenders working closely together.

We need people who have the same approach, people who care about their communities, people who want to help inmates deal with the issues that have been leading them to crime. We can’t train people to care about their communities. We can train people who already care about their communities to be good corrections staff. This is part of the Government of the Northwest Territories’ work to improve human resource management through training, career planning and encouraging

employee innovation. Our own Justice Northern Workforce Development Plan depends on this client-focused, service-oriented model.

Our northern solution is a recruitment program which identifies Northerners with the right aptitude and attitude and then provides them with a six-week training program. It was developed by Northerners and graduates are qualified to start work at any of our correctional centres right away. So far, 20 people have graduated. That’s 20 northern residents who qualified right away to work in our corrections system or in any other security-type job in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, the next program will start this April with concurrent training programs in Yellowknife and Fort Smith. These programs are delivered in-house by qualified instructors. We need people with all sorts of backgrounds to work in corrections. Our diversity is our strength. We hire people with training in social work, education, nursing, recreation, counselling, management and law enforcement. Sometimes people don’t realize how many opportunities they have. We think this training program will help.

Our corrections service is working hard to recruit and retain northern staff to be as responsible as we can be to the needs of northern offenders. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 55-16(4): Success Of New Approach To Corrections Training And Recruitment
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. The honourable Premier, Mr. Roland.

Minister’s Statement 56-16(4): Minister Absent From The House
Ministers’ Statements

Inuvik Boot Lake

Floyd Roland Premier

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Bob McLeod will be absent from the House today to attend promotional events related to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 56-16(4): Minister Absent From The House
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Roland. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Krutko.

Caribou Conservation Measures
Members’ Statements

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise today on an issue I raised yesterday in the House. I find it kind of ironic that the Government of the Northwest Territories is falling back to federal legislation that was passed in the federal Parliament in 1960 to deal with an issue in 2010. I think, Mr. Speaker, it’s a bad precedent that this government is setting on how we manage the affairs of the Northwest Territories by going back to the colonial government of John Diefenbaker.

At that time, we used to have a council which was appointed by Ottawa and ran the government out of Ottawa, and now we are in the situation where we are going back to that same legislation and same process of falling back instead of going ahead and agreeing to acknowledging aboriginal rights, aboriginal land claims and Canadian constitutional changes in regards to Section 35, acknowledging aboriginal people’s rights in the Northwest Territories and enhancing those processes to enact those legislative agreements that have been passed in this Legislature by adhering to aboriginal rights with regard to constitutional rights and, more importantly, Mr. Speaker, the right as Canadians to upholding our Constitution, Section 35.

Mr. Speaker, I find it kind of hard to understand how a government can make a political decision on outdated decisions regarding a government which no longer applies to the Northwest Territories. We are a new Territory after division. We have land claims settled in the Northwest Territories. We also have agreements that clearly stipulate the process this government must follow before it takes any type of radical decisions such as the one we’re dealing with today by ensuring due process, making sure that the needs levels of indigenous people are upheld, and allowing those aboriginal people the right to subsistence harvesting on a manageable level. I think for myself, a Member of this House going on 15 years, this sets a bad precedent in regard to how we make decisions in this Legislature for the people of the Northwest Territories, running back to Ottawa, going through their archives to dig up something that might be...

Caribou Conservation Measures
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Mr. Krutko, your time for your Member’s statement has expired.

Caribou Conservation Measures
Members’ Statements

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

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

---Unanimous consent granted.

Caribou Conservation Measures
Members’ Statements

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

This sets a bad precedent where we have to go back to the federal archives in Ottawa to dig up anything we can to justify what we’re doing today in 2010. I think because of the

justification of how this came about, the process was enhanced and I think it’s critical that this government investigates exactly how this took place. I will be asking the Minister questions on why we had to go to the federal archives.

Caribou Conservation Measures
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Krutko. The honourable Member for Frame Lake, Ms. Bisaro.

Establishment Of An Ombudsman Office
Members’ Statements

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Over my time in this Assembly I have encountered quite a few situations where constituents have been at odds with a body or organization who has made a decision that affects the constituent or their family. In most cases when that happens the only recourse available is for the matter to be taken to court. That option comes with all sorts of problems attached. Most people don’t have the money to pay for a lawyer. Most people are not comfortable in the court system even if they do have a lawyer. As well, the court system is adversarial and does not allow for solving a dispute with mediation and arbitration, in most cases. That’s a process which is far less combative and much more in line with what most of us are used to in our daily lives.

I know that Members of this House have previously argued for an office of an ombudsman and I want to add my voice to that chorus, albeit a faint chorus at the moment. There are innumerable situations where NWT residents could use an ombudsman to assist in solving a dispute or disagreement. Disputes such as landlord-tenant issues that are outside the jurisdiction of the rental officer; an investigation and/or decision by a self-regulating body where the professional person feels it was incorrectly handled or resulted in an unjust decision; decisions by housing authorities that the client may disagree with; income support issues -- a family may lose their home due to Income Support not issuing cheques in a timely manner and they would like to dispute that; health and social services issues -- an ombudsman can investigate administrative decisions by officials in hospitals and other medical facilities; decisions made by the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission could go to an ombudsman. For all of these situations, and many others as well, there’s no avenue of appeal except the court.

An ombudsman is impartial and independent from the government. They would make recommendations to resolve issues of unfairness and to improve administrative processes. Many of us in this House receive inquiries from constituents in distress because we, as MLAs, are an informal avenue of appeal and I don’t believe that MLA intervention is the best way to solve these sorts of disputes.

All these disputes could be dealt with by an ombudsman. Almost two years ago now the Minister of Justice advised that his department would look into the possibility of establishing an ombudsman office. I will have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time.

Establishment Of An Ombudsman Office
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. The honourable Member for Weledeh, Mr. Bromley.

Delivery Of Seniors Home Heating Subsidy Program
Members’ Statements

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to talk today about the woeful delivery of the Seniors Home Heating Subsidy and the need for improvements in our general customer service approach. One of my constituents applied for the heating fuel subsidy and filed his paperwork asking for propane fuel. He was told more information was needed, re-filed the identical information, and was approved. He heard nothing until a delivery truck arrived at his rural home and filled his generator fuel tank with diesel. He called the department, reported the error, and was told he would receive propane this time. The allowable benefit for propane is 3,200 litres.

The department mistakenly approved him for the 2,400 litre diesel allowance. Upon request, they corrected this error. The department told him to call the propane company to arrange his delivery. The company has no Yellowknife service representatives and when he called they knew nothing of the program. He went to the Yellowknife office and was told that the delivery would be made and to give the propane company the government delivery order so the company could get payment from the department. He supplied that. The bill went unpaid for three months and he began to get letters demanding payment and saying late payment charges would be added. The overdue account was turned over to a collection agency with a warning that his credit rating would be damaged. The bill has now been paid but he is still on the hook for the late payment charges, which the department hasn’t paid.

I think you would agree that this experience could hardly have been worse. I am not only concerned with the disappointing treatment of my constituent, but with the potential loss of benefits to many seniors owing to the complexity, difficulty and failed management of the program. This person happened to have sophisticated skills for dealing with government. Others who may be less well-educated or informed might never know the program due to lack of promotion. They might abandon their attempts to receive support at any one of the failed service points in this process. They could receive less than their allowance benefits due to errors in the amount and type of fuel subsidy

being approved. They could end up suffering adverse credit rating consequences or even the loss of their credit rating. They would definitely be subjected to long and unnecessary anxiety and inconvenience.

Seniors receive this assistance because they are in need of extra support. While the program is admirable and reasonable in its intentions, this case demonstrates dreadful customer service delivery. If we were a business…