This is page numbers 4023 - 4060 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 school.

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Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

February 9th, 2010

The Chair Bob Bromley

I’ll call Committee of the Whole to order. Today we have under consideration Bills 2, 4, 7, Tabled Document 62-14(6) and Minister’s Statement 47-16(4). What is the wish of the committee? Mrs. Groenewegen.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The committee would like to continue on with general comments with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and hopefully make some progress on the detail of that department. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair Bob Bromley

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. We will continue with general comments on the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and perhaps get to detail today. Committee agree?

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair Bob Bromley

Thank you, committee. Short break.

---SHORT RECESS

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

I’d like to call Committee of the Whole to order. It’s been agreed we’ll begin with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. At this time I would like to ask the Minister of Education, Mr. Lafferty, if he will be bringing in witnesses. Mr. Lafferty.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Yes, Mr. Chair.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Does committee agree the Minister bring in his witnesses?

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Sergeant-at-Arms, escort the witnesses in.

For the record, Mr. Minister, can you introduce your witnesses?

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mahsi, Mr. Chair. I have with me the deputy minister, Dan Daniels, to my left, and, to my right, Paul Devitt, director of strategic investment services. Mahsi.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. Welcome, witnesses. Prior to adjournment yesterday, I suggested we allow the Minister to respond to comments from yesterday, and from there we go back to general comments starting with Mr. Yakeleya. Mr. Minister.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mahsi, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, first of all, I would like to touch on the Early Childhood Small Community Initiative that’s been allocated, approximately $600,000. This is to increase a half-time position in the Sahtu and Deh Cho regions and also in Fort Smith and Inuvik from one position to 1.5. That’s an additional $250,000. An increase in the early childhood programs that we talked about in the small, remote communities. So we’ve identified funding for that as well. The funding in addition to the $600,000 for the Early Childhood Small Community Initiative is Early Childhood Program territorial-wide increase, so combined will be $1.2 million in the early childhood area.

In the capital program for daycares, as Members have asked about adequate space for child care, of course, it’s an important piece of work ahead of us. An increase in subsidies may help some requirements. So those are the areas that we continue to improve on, Mr. Chair. There is also rent and mortgage subsidies that have been added.

The high schools in small communities... There has been talk about access in the trades area. Mr. Chair, there has been some initiatives underway, whether it be providing laptops to the grade 12 students in small, isolated communities and infrastructure contribution, as well, through CTS, career and technology facilities. So we’ve made some investment in that area.

Another area that we are focussing on is on our technology, upgrading our systems that we have in

place, just focussing on the education factor, the broadband centre of...(inaudible)...services.

The high school in Sachs has been brought to our attention. Of course, it is of importance and we need to discuss that further. We need to work closely with the education councils that we have in all regions. When it comes to issues that are being addressed, we will continue to work with them, because we do provide funding based on enrolment. So those are the challenges that have been put before us. So we will work with the school boards.

The elders in schools have been brought up before. Of course, elders are an important source of knowledge in our schools. They provide wisdom and experience through our education system. I haven’t really ignored this area because it is of importance to our department to have that in our school system. We have been trying to get around the system of them not being penalized, whether it be their pension or old age security. So those are the ongoing discussions we are having and we’re trying to come up with a strategic plan to move forward. We also work with education councils in this respect, working with the superintendents.

Mr. Chair, board reform has been brought up as well. This, as you know, there is still encouraging and supporting great collaboration among the various groups, the boards and agencies. We continue to work with other departments as well, interdepartmental areas. So we continue to have that dialogue, but we’ll certainly be asking for more information from the school boards themselves, because we need to compile the information that we need to work with. So we will be seeking input in these areas of collaboration. Mr. Chair, those are the ongoing communications that we’re having with the regions.

Another area that has been brought to our attention through this discussion is, of course, and even earlier today, is the Ecole Allain St-Cyr addition. This is part of the discussion that will occur through the consultation 10-year education plan that’s scheduled for Yellowknife. That particular school is part of the plan. Consultants have been hired to provide that service. So this particular information will be helpful for the next capital planning process.

The school in Tuk, Mangilaluk School. DK Consulting was hired to do a complete educational plan. It has been completed. Now it lays out what needs to be done. That will be in the works for the next capital planning process. They’re compiling that information that we can work with within our department.

Mr. Chair, the official languages. That is of great importance for us. The GNWT tabled the interim response, as you are aware, in the Legislative Assembly in the fall of 2009. We want to provide more of an in-depth implementation plan on

responding to these questions that were thrown at us, the recommendations. So we are developing a strategy to deal with those matters. Not only that, Mr. Chair, but involving aboriginal groups, aboriginal organizations. We are having a language symposium, as you are aware, at the end of March/beginning of April. Based on the outcome of that, we will definitely develop a comprehensive strategy and develop an implementation plan for each language group.

On the income security that has been brought up on numerous occasions, there has been some core delivery of courses with some improvement. The highest quality of service is part of our priority that we continue to provide those services in a timely and efficient manner, as best as we can as a department. Of course, there have been expressive concerns of customer services, questioning the customer service aspect of it, community relations. So those are the areas that we continue to improve on.

Mr. Chair, there are other areas that have been addressed: the O and M and mostly in the income security area where we’ve made some changes. As I indicated earlier, there’s been an additional increase in caseloads that we are currently dealing with. As we move forward, we’ll definitely provide more detailed information on that.

Mr. Chair, a lot of discussion or questions pertaining to education can be dealt with as we get to the details of it, but inclusive schooling, the funding that’s been highlighted, the Member has indicated there’s been a decrease. We can certainly elaborate more when we are at those detailed stages, but this also hinges on the enrolment that we’re challenged with in all schools. So we continue to work with the school boards and how we can improve in those areas.

So, Mr. Chair, those are just some of the highlights of the opening comments that Members have shared with us and I’ll continue to provide more detailed information and also respond to Members’ additional opening comments. Mahsi, Mr. Chair.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. General comments. Mr. Yakeleya.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Chair. The comments I have are just more in the sense of general comments to the Minister. Certainly, there will be further discussion once we get to the details of it.

I want to just let the Minister know that in our region there’s a big need to look at our education system and we’ve certainly had some discussions with the Minister regarding how we look at our education system in the Sahtu. The issue of high school students graduating with quality high school credits and there is a difference of opinion on this subject. However, the matter is we have high school

students in our communities who are walking around, hands in their pockets, going into the income support office, getting income assistance and living off income assistance and we are not doing any good, Mr. Chair. We need to look at that in terms of how we get them out of that state of dependency on the government to a state where we want them to be productive.

There are a lot of young, good people in my region that want to do good in their life. Like any child, they want to do good in their life by making an effort to get into school, get a trade or get a degree and come back to the community to be role models for the children. I don’t think any of them are very happy in going to the income support office for a handout.

I think two things, Mr. Chair. The first is look at our education system how we are producing graduates. We want to produce quality graduates. I mentioned to the Minister that we want to work with this Minister to have a symposium in the Sahtu region and the Minister has agreed to work with me. We’ll have to get some details together and have this much needed symposium in the Sahtu to really take charge in terms of how we produce high school graduates that can go out to post-secondary institutions or go to a trade school and do good and come back to the communities. So that’s one the Minister and I agreed to work on together. Actually, I have some draft proposals that are going to begin going to him shortly in terms of how we do stuff like this together.

The other one is income support really needs to be looked at. What are we doing in terms of... The Minister has indicated there is an increase, actually double the case files in terms of income support. Are we creating more dependency on our young people to the government in terms of funding? Or is it just a sign of the times that there’s no economy? The percentage of employment in our region is low. Mr. Chair, the employment rate, for example, in Colville Lake is 53 percent; Fort Good Hope is 52 percent; Deline is 46 percent; Tulita, 49 percent. That’s the employment rate. In Norman Wells, the oilfield, it’s 82 percent. The unemployment rate is 20 percent in the communities and only 7 percent in Norman Wells. So we really have to look at this in terms of taking a hard look at the means of the Income Support Program. We need to get our youth out. I have faith in terms of their ability to be a productive member of the community. That is something that I really want to look at. I will look at it more in detail in terms of going into the detail in the budget here.

Mr. Chairman, we have a young population in the Sahtu. There are 45 percent of our population that is under 25 years of age. That is a high number of youth under 25; 45 percent of our total population of the Sahtu. We need to look at programs that would

benefit them and services that would benefit them. One of the things that I like about the budget is a look at trades programs. It is long overdue. I am looking forward to the Minister to see how they would be implemented into our schools in the Sahtu, see where they would benefit, something like the Mackenzie Valley Highway or the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline and other initiatives.

Nutritious Food Initiative; I think the traditional foods need to be more exposed, more educated in the communities in terms of foods that are taken from the land. They need to be promoted and need to be explained by the elders on traditional foods. We need to have discussions with the elders. I look forward to receiving more things like that. It could happen.

I guess I wanted to close in terms of schooling in the Sahtu. I talked to our educational chair superintendent some time ago. I asked them what is it that they need to help us with our education. One thing he said is that we certainly need high school teachers in our schools; the funding is not adequate; the funding is not sufficient. I said, what do you mean? He said, well, we need high school teachers in some of our communities in the Sahtu. We had extra teachers in our communities. It will make a big difference in the quality of education our students are getting. Right now, they are just doing barely minimum standards to meet the requirements. It is not fair to our students. However, on the other side, that will cost a lot of money to get extra teachers into the Sahtu. Here we talked about that. How do we get an extra three or four million out of this government for teachers? This is only one region. The superintendent and I already had some discussions on that in terms of having high school teachers in our communities.

Mr. Chairman, the Minister made a ministerial statement -- I don’t have the exact day -- in terms of contribution of elders in our education system, our schools. I guess I want to know that this Minister is going to do something. I don’t know how long we have been talking about it. Still we haven’t seen it. This Minister has to do something to bring our elders into schools. It would be wonderful to walk into one of our schools and there is a room there, an office or room where there is an elder there. They go see the elder. That is part of our teaching. It is part of our culture. He is a Minister. He could do things that could ensure… These elders don’t know our system. They want to encourage parents to go into schools. Bring the elders in there. Elders can go talk to the parents when they come to school and all that. That is the way you get parents into the school system. They listen to the elders. Prominent elders in education, elders that speak up at meetings and tell us how things are going to be and how things should be. That is how you get the parents in there. That is all the advice I am going to give to the Minister in terms of how he is trying to

get parents involved in schools. Get the elders in the schools. He is a Minister. Let’s see him do it. Thank you.