This is page numbers 4597 - 4626 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 territories.

Topics

The House met at 1:35 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 Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, Mr. Roland.

Minister’s Statement 7-16(5): A Common Vision For The Political Development Of The NWT
Ministers’ Statements

Floyd Roland Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to take this opportunity to update Members on the work being undertaken to advance the 16th Legislative Assembly’s priority of working

toward a common vision for the political development of the NWT.

As Members are aware, the newly established Northern Leaders’ Forum is made up of a representative from each of the regional aboriginal governments, the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, MLAs Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Krutko and myself. We initially met in July 2009 to hold preliminary discussions about working on the development of a common vision for the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise that the Northern Leaders’ Forum met for the second time in November 2009 and we are united in our agreement to work together to develop a common vision and roadmap for the future of the NWT and build upon a solid foundation of respectful government-to-government relations. Now we need to turn our attention to formalizing our collaboration, identifying a common vision for this Territory we all call home, engaging the people we serve and learning from those who have travelled this road before us.

There is a wealth of information for us to build upon. There are national examples of how governments can work together for the betterment of all citizens. For instance, since 2005, the Council of the Federation has successfully provided provincial and territorial governments the

opportunity to identify, advance and resolve common issues and interests. All of the governments who participate in the Council of the Federation retain full authority and jurisdiction within their respective provinces and territories but are able to come together and discuss issues of national and mutual concern for the benefit of all Canadians. I believe this is what governments in the NWT can and need to do to enhance our collective ability to successfully advance key issues of importance for all Northerners.

All northern leaders expressed support to consider a similar approach, based on mutual respect and recognition, to determine the nature and extent of our future intergovernmental relationships.

Mr. Speaker, as Premier and Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, I have made it a priority to meet with regional aboriginal government leaders on a regular basis. My meetings with all the leaders, through the GNWT-Regional Aboriginal Leaders’ Meeting forum (RALM) take place three to four times per year. Since taking office, we have met in the RALM forum seven times, with another meeting planned for later this March.

Our government is committed to attending the annual general assemblies of regional aboriginal governments. Over the course of the past year, Ministers and I have been fortunate to be able to attend a number of these assemblies held throughout the NWT, and look forward to the opportunity to attend more in the upcoming year.

Mr. Speaker, our government has also placed high importance on making ourselves available to meet individually with aboriginal leaders. These types of meetings provide the opportunity to address a range of matters that are of specific concern or interest to our respective governments and organizations and serve to further strengthen our one-on-one relationships.

The recent establishment of the Northern Leaders’ Forum, the multilateral RALM meetings, the annual general assemblies and the numerous bilateral meetings present many formal and informal opportunities to engage with the North’s leadership.

During the term of this Assembly, we have met on a government-to-government basis with aboriginal

government leaders more frequently than any other previous territorial government.

I believe that keeping open lines of communication among all northern governments and finding concrete ways in which we can work together is particularly important at times such as these. When we may not all agree on an issue. The challenge before us is to find respectful ways in which we can discuss these issues, seek common ground, and at times agree to disagree but to do so without compromising our government-to-government relations.

As I stated last session, I am fully committed to working with Members during the term of this Assembly to ensure that we achieve our goal of achieving a strong and independent North built on partnerships and to completing a common vision for the political development of the NWT. Currently the Northern Leaders’ Forum is developing a plan of action to guide us over the coming months and I’ll ensure that the Legislative Assembly is kept apprised of these developments.

Minister’s Statement 7-16(5): A Common Vision For The Political Development Of The NWT
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Roland. The honourable Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment, Mr. Bob McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 8-16(5): Electricity Review Update
Ministers’ Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, electricity is an essential service in today’s society. Access to affordable electrical power enhances our quality of life and allows economies to grow. Without it, we face serious challenges.

Today I would like to provide an update on one of the Government of the Northwest Territories most important initiatives: the electricity review process. In November 2009 I tabled the report of the Electricity Review Panel titled Creating a Brighter Future: A Review of Electricity Rates, Regulation, and Subsidy Programs in the Northwest Territories, commonly referred to as the Electricity Review. This report was distributed to all communities and key stakeholders so they could provide comments for the Government of the Northwest Territories consideration.

I am pleased to report that a number of communities and key stakeholders took us up on this offer. We have received comments from the communities of Inuvik, Yellowknife, Fort Smith and Hay River, as well as the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and the Public Utilities Board. We have distributed copies of these comments to all Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly through the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning. We will consider those comments as we work with the standing committee on the development of the Government of the Northwest Territories response.

As we develop our response, the key issue of concern to residents of communities -- high energy costs -- is at the forefront of many discussions.

It is incumbent upon our government to address this issue and achieve the objectives we set out at the beginning of this electricity review process:

reduce costs where possible;

distribute costs equitably; and

ensure

affordability.

When I tabled the report of the Electricity Review Panel our government proposed to develop a comprehensive response by March 2010. This response was to also consider the findings of the review of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, a report that the Premier will be tabling later today.

As all Members have come to appreciate, the development of our response is a complex undertaking. In addition to consideration of the findings of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation review, we need to ensure that any change can work for all communities, residents and utilities in the Northwest Territories. I believe all Members of this Assembly agree that it is important we take the time to get it right. That is what we intend to do.

As we embark on completing this important work, I believe we need to make the choices that will strengthen the entire Northwest Territories. This includes access to affordable electricity for all our communities and our residents.

That is the task before us as we set a course for the future. The Ministerial Energy Coordinating Committee will continue to work closely with the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning to develop our government response. We have achieved a great deal of progress to date and I am confident that we will be in a position to release our response by May 2010.

Minister’s Statement 8-16(5): Electricity Review Update
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. The honourable Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, Mr. Robert McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 9-16(5): Update On Federal-Territorial Housing Discussion
Ministers’ Statements

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the decline of funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the challenges this decline will cause in the delivery of the Public Housing Program, as well as the potential negative impact on the condition of our housing stock.

There are clear signs that core need continues to be on the rise in Canada and in our own Territory. Earlier in this session I tabled the results of our

housing needs portion of the 2009 NWT Community Survey showing that we continue to experience a growth in core housing need. This is in spite of investments made by the federal government and our own government over the last five years through the Affordable Housing Initiative, the Northern Housing Trust, as well as Canada’s Economic Action Plan, all of which saw funding matched by the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Since the NWT Housing Corporation came into being in 1974, federal funding and cost sharing of the construction has been the norm. Canada as a whole has approximately 630,000 social housing units, with 2,400 of these houses in the NWT. Many of the agreements to fund the O and M of these houses nationally will be ending in the next several years.

In the Northwest Territories, the federal cost share portion of funding for the operating and amortization costs for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation public housing portfolio is declining, and will lapse entirely by 2038. The funding reductions began in 2003-2004, with reductions increasing each year as additional project agreements expire, resulting in a significant financial shortfall to the GNWT. By the year 2038, the impact to the GNWT will be a shortfall of $348 million dollars in O and M funding.

It has been estimated that an annual ongoing capital replacement budget of $35 million is required to implement the government’s strategy, through the NWTHC, of replacing detached public housing units with multiplexes and retrofitting units twice during their design life. A capital replacement budget of $35 million annually does not, however, address the requirement for new housing stock to alleviate core need or the impact of new family formations.

Based on the 2009 NWT Community Survey results, it has been estimated that approximately an additional 2,755 new units are required in the NWT to address existing core need. This number is larger than our entire current public housing stock of approximately 2,400 units, and clearly, under our current means, we are not able to meet the demand for public housing to all residents who require it. The decline of the federal funding will further hamper our ability to adequately house our residents.

In response to the impact of reducing federal support for housing nationally, the provinces and territories are working towards the development of a business case for Parliament to consider the reinstatement of public housing subsidies as part of a national housing strategy. I have raised specific NWT concerns on the future delivery of federal housing funding at tri-territorial discussions and most recently during the FPT Housing Minister’s

Conference in December 2009. Those concerns have focused on:

the need for more public housing in the NWT;

the need for increased O and M funding in support of public housing;

support for funding formulas that are not based on per capita calculations; and

the design of housing programs by the NWT that reflect the importance of housing need in the NWT.

The three territorial governments are also working collaboratively to develop a northern approach to address the high incidence of core need in our northern jurisdictions.

Mr. Speaker, our government is also taking proactive steps to mitigate the reduction in federal support towards the operation of the 2,400 public housing units. The NWT Housing Corporation, over the past several years, has invested significant federal and GNWT capital resources in renovating and replacing detached public housing with energy efficient, multi-family housing units such as triplexes and fourplexes. These units are more economical to construct and are more cost effective to maintain, especially when the utility costs are taken into account.

As well, in order to minimize the impact of the declining CMHC funding, the NWT Housing Corporation extends the design life of each public housing unit from 25 to 50 years by performing complete retrofits. These retrofits are performed 20 years after construction and again at 35 years after construction. Public housing units are planned for replacement after a period of 50 years. Units that are looked after and properly maintained will see their lifespan extended and will reduce pressure on the O and M budget. Likewise, improved payment and collection of arrears will offset some of the losses suffered from the declining CMHC funds.

The NWT Housing Corporation is working on a strategic plan, as well as a 20-year capital needs assessment. A major component of these plans will outline our efforts to address the infrastructure deficit and work to reducing core housing need across the NWT. We plan on sharing our strategic plan with all Members before the end of 2010.

While the impacts to date on GNWT revenue and expenditures have not been excessive, it is clear that the reduction in CMHC and federal investments will begin to be more acute in 2010-2011 with the expiration of a broad range of federal funding initiatives and programs aimed at housing. This, coupled with ever increasing energy, O and M, and construction costs, will be a significant challenge to the NWT in the immediate future.

While we have seen great progress made in the development of new supply over the last several

years, it is also clear that the number of Northerners living in core housing need continues to be a problem that governments must tackle in a planned and strategic way. Through the proactive approaches I have outlined today and with a renewed strategic focus, I am hopeful that our public housing and homeownership programs will continue to serve our residents in the years to come.

Minister’s Statement 9-16(5): Update On Federal-Territorial Housing Discussion
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Minister’s Statement 10-16(5): Minister Absent From The House
Ministers’ Statements

Inuvik Boot Lake

Floyd Roland Premier

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Jackson Lafferty will be absent from the House today and tomorrow to attend the Council of Ministers of Education meeting in Toronto.

Minister’s Statement 10-16(5): Minister Absent From The House
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Roland. Colleagues, before I go on with the business of the day I would like to draw your attention to and acknowledge a very special day in the House of two of our Members. It happens to be the birthday of the Member for Range Lake, Ms. Lee, and the Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, Mr. Robert McLeod. Happy Birthday to both of you.

---Applause

Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Tribute To Ken Hunt Of Hay River
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to use my Member’s statement to pay my respects to a Hay River resident who recently passed away.

James Kenneth Hunt passed away, surrounded by his family, in Hay River this past Sunday. A celebration had marked his 90th birthday last year

and a celebration and remembrance of his life will mark what would have been his 91st birthday in a

service planned for Hay River tomorrow.

Ken had a full and interesting life. He started his career with the Hudson’s Bay and served in posts as diverse as Ross River and Lutselk’e in a time when the Bay manager was everything from the recorder of the local weather to a stand-in medical care provider until help arrived.

He met his beautiful wife, Peggy, on a blind date set up by friends and it had to be love, as she joined him in Clyde River where they had their first home together. They had four children: Lynn, Jimmy, Bruce and Barb. He is predeceased by his wife in 2002 and his eldest son, Jimmy, in 2009.

Ken Hunt eventually made his way to Hay River in 1955 and that became home. He was the longest-serving member of the Hay River Volunteer Fire Department and attended the most recent firemen’s ball just this past December. His work career was varied because he was someone who made sure he was always busy and would step up to the needs and opportunities that came his way.

He finished his formal career as a Fisheries and Oceans inspections officer and that’s where I first met him. I was 18 at the time and he never hesitated to share his opinion on just about anything. I typed his weekly handwritten reports, which he always signed J.K. Hunt, and that was the name I fondly referred to him by.

Even by that time he had had some heart problems. He carried his nitro pills in his uniform shirt pocket and that was 35 years ago, so I’m amazed at how active and involved he remained.

They say that age is a state of mind. If that’s the case, then Ken Hunt never considered himself old. Never having known how to dance myself, but attending social functions that he attended, I loved to watch him dance; so light on his feet and such a gentleman.

He leaves behind a legacy of dedication to family and strong community service. This is now reflected in the lives of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted.

Tribute To Ken Hunt Of Hay River
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

With the greatest of admiration and respect I will say that I don’t think Ken would have won a congeniality contest and he had a famous licence plate on his van that would prove that. But he was good people with a strong presence and he formed an integral part of the fabric of Hay River. He will be missed. May he rest in peace.

Please join me in sending our sincere condolences to the Hunt family of Hay River.

Tribute To Ken Hunt Of Hay River
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. My sincere condolences go on to the Hunt family, that’s for sure. The honourable Member for Tu Nedhe, Mr. Beaulieu.

Lutselk’e Capital Infrastructure Requirements
Members’ Statements

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. [English translation not provided.]

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak about capital dollars for Lutselk’e. We are coming to the end of another fiscal year and the community of Lutselk’e is once again in danger of losing out on

accessing capital funding for another year; much needed funding for infrastructure and long-overdue municipal projects.

The community has a capital plan. They have identified the projects that are a priority. Unfortunately, because of inflexible policies within the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and the process of getting much needed capital money, the community is stuck in a morass.

Currently the community has a plan that is within the acceptable amounts congruent to what a settlement council would receive. Although the community wishes to negotiate hamlet status level, they will accept the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs delivering capital directly at a settlement council status level for the interim. The department must initiate discussions with the community of Lutselk’e now, specifically the Lutselk’e Dene First Nations, to complete the transfer of assets and capital dollars as soon as possible.

Some of the projects the community is looking to get started right away are building a new youth recreation centre, a new fire hall, gravel production, stockpiling, heavy equipment such as a water and sewer truck, a loader, backhoe, dump truck, and dust control. A water truck is an essential piece of equipment for Lutselk’e. If their current water truck breaks down, they will not be able to deliver water to the homes or businesses within the community.

With the barge season almost upon us we need to take advantage at this time and confirm plans for this summer’s construction season and get all the necessary equipment, supplies and materials in on this summer’s barge. I will have questions for the Minister of MACA on this later.