This is page numbers 4781 - 4806 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 health.

Topics

The House met at 1:37 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Deputy Speaker David Krutko

Please be seated. Colleagues, welcome back to the Chamber for the continuation of the Fifth Session of the 16th Legislative Assembly.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the elders of our Territory who participated in the first Elders Parliament held in the Northwest Territories and, in fact, the First Elders’ Parliament held in any commonwealth country.

---Applause

The special parliament took place last week and I was honoured to serve as Speaker for this historic event.

The Elders Parliament clearly celebrated the wisdom of our elders, the knowledge and history they bring from their communities, and their wonderful humour and generosity in sharing their knowledge. To each participant, thank you again for your unique contribution.

Members will notice that their seats in the Chamber are covered with fur and seal pelts, on loan from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Development. The pelts were used during Elders Parliament for the comfort of participants, and to highlight the importance of the traditional economy and the role it plays in all our lives. We are fortunate to have them on hand during this sitting of the House.

It is now my duty, colleagues, to advise the House that I have received the following message from the Deputy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It reads:

Dear Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, the passage of

Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 1, 2010-2011

Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2010-2011

during the Fifth Session of the 16th Legislative

Assembly. Yours truly, Margaret Thom, Deputy Commissioner.

Thank you, colleagues,

Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Finance, Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister’s Statement 18-16(5): Fiscal And Economic Update
Ministers’ Statements

Thebacha

Michael Miltenberger Minister of Finance

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. April 1st , 2010, marked the start of a

new fiscal year. The measures included in our 2010-2011 budget are now being implemented, including almost $1.3 billion of operating expenditures and over $200 million in planned capital investments. These measures will be used to deliver needed public services and infrastructure to NWT residents and will help support our economy as the recovery takes hold.

Recently released preliminary estimates of 2009 Gross Domestic Product confirmed that the NWT economy shrank last year. Although there are positive signs for 2010, including rising diamond prices and an expected increase in mining exploration spending, the need for caution remains. Canada’s economy is expected to grow in 2010, but growth will be moderated as interest rates edge up and fiscal stimulus spending winds down. Internationally, fiscal and financial instability in parts of Europe point to the fragile and complex state of the global economy.

Our 2010-2011 budget planned for a slow recovery. Our government’s fiscal plan included holding the course on spending and making substantial investments in infrastructure to provide NWT residents and businesses breathing room. We are prepared to incur some short-term debt to accomplish this. We recognized, however, that the fiscal plan needed to include measures to return to a sustainable path over the next few fiscal years, measures such as maintaining a tight rein on spending growth and reducing capital investment over time to historical levels. Although barely six weeks into the fiscal year, we have already begun our planning for 2011-2012, based on the fiscal

strategy we laid out in January. Next year’s budget will be the last for the 16th Assembly. With the time

left to us, we will be focussing on consolidating the progress we have made and deliver on the initiatives that we have begun.

Mr. Speaker, April 1st was also the day the GNWT

assumed the debt associated with the Deh Cho Bridge Project. However, assuming this responsibility will not change the GNWT’s fiscal strategy. The bridge will largely be financed by the savings from the elimination of the current ferry and ice bridge operations and a toll on commercial vehicles crossing the bridge. The requirement for a subsidy of up to $2 million was identified in 2007 and has been factored into our fiscal projections.

I am able to confirm that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has obtained federal Cabinet approval for a temporary adjustment to our borrowing limit. Effective April 2010, the limit has been increased by $75 million for a period of five years. This accommodation will give us the necessary room to implement the fiscal strategy that we presented in January. In addition, assumption of the debt has not affected our Aa1 credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service.

The Deh Cho Bridge Project is now a GNWT capital project, funded by the debt issued in 2008. However, the GNWT has always stood behind this project. We have never provided anything less than our full support, including guaranteeing the payments needed to service the debt. For this reason, we were, and continue to be, puzzled and disappointed by the lack of confidence of the lenders, Sunlife Financial and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, in the project. Their financial interest and that of their shareholders and beneficiaries was never in jeopardy.

Mr. Speaker, the investments and plans we have put in place to date have served as a source of stability during the economic downturn. We will continue to proceed carefully through the uncertain economic times ahead, but will also continue to ensure that the important work we have started in this Assembly is completed. Thank you.

Minister’s Statement 18-16(5): Fiscal And Economic Update
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Minister’s Statement 19-16(5): Small Community Employment Supports Program
Ministers’ Statements

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to announce today the official launch of the Small Community Employment Supports Program made possible under the Reducing the Cost of Living Strategic Initiative.

Smaller communities face many employment challenges. Youth unemployment rates in smaller communities can be double those of regional centres. Through this program, youth gain valuable work experience and develop the essential skills they need for taking advantage of rewarding employment opportunities.

This program supports the goals of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and the priorities of the 16th Legislative Assembly of the

Northwest Territories for sustainable, vibrant, safe communities and a diversified economy that provides all communities and regions with the opportunities people need for reaching their full potential. Through this program, employers in small and remote communities are eligible for wage subsidies for hiring and training summer students and youth.

The new program is modelled after the highly successful Youth Employment Program, and Education, Culture and Employment staff are currently promoting it to eligible employers and receiving applications. The department anticipates that this program will see similar success and expects that 45 youth and 20 employers in 27 communities will receive support through this program.

While this program is limited to small and remote communities only, the department has other similar labour market programming available to youth employers in all NWT communities. Mahsi.

Minister’s Statement 19-16(5): Small Community Employment Supports Program
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. The honourable Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Ms. Lee.

Minister’s Statement 20-16(5): Bertha Allen
Ministers’ Statements

Range Lake

Sandy Lee Minister Responsible for the Status of Women

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is with a strong sense of loss that I rise in the House to acknowledge the passing of a great northern woman and leader, Bertha Allen. Bertha is known throughout the Beaufort-Delta, the NWT, Canada and the world as a strong yet soft-spoken Gwich’in woman who lived and worked for the advancement of aboriginal and northern women and social change.

In 1978, Bertha founded the Native Women’s Association of the Northwest Territories. It was her goal to ensure indigenous women of the North were not left behind in the fast-paced development of the day.

She saw that women needed to get involved in all areas of community life, particularly in economics.

She recognized the value of traditional art, encouraging women to create themselves and train their daughters with their skills.

She saw the future of women in business and industry. The Native Women’s Training Centres delivered training in business management and trades training for future oil and gas development.

Her strong sense of justice and equality for all women was tempered with her compassion and love of and belief in people. Her spirit and laughter was contagious. In her presence, women worked hard and laughed with her.

Bertha was elected as president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and met other women throughout the world, talking of the common ties indigenous people have with each other.

She has been honoured nationally with:

the Order of Canada;

the Governor General’s Northern Medal, and

the Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bertha and her husband, Victor, raised seven children. Bertha’s strong heart suffered a massive blow with the 2008 tragic loss of Victor, daughter Delma, and granddaughter Asta. It was the survival of Peyton and the love of her children, grandchildren and friends that helped her through those dark days.

I know Members of the House feel a deep sense of loss with the passing of this substantial woman and her leadership. On behalf of all Members of this House I would like to extend our condolences to the family.

Minister’s Statement 20-16(5): Bertha Allen
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Ms. Lee. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Kam Lake, Mr. Ramsay.

Proposed Changes To Supplementary Health Benefits Program
Members’ Statements

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. During the brief emergency session in March I had the opportunity to make a statement on the proposed changes to the supplementary health benefits. Like many of my colleagues, I am feeling completely frustrated and very uneasy about the direction that this government is taking with supplementary health benefits.

Why is it so easy for this government to state that they want a system that is fair and equitable when this is just not a reality? Why is this government so good at upsetting people? Again today we saw another protest in front of the Legislative Assembly protesting a decision of this government. Does the government care? Apparently not, seeing that Minister Lee has been given her marching orders by Cabinet and she is being too arrogant and too ignorant to see that by pursuing this direction she is

doing untold damage to her reputation as a people’s politician.

I worked with Minister Lee on this side of the House for four years. She took no prisoners when defending her constituents’ interests. Why now that she is in Cabinet does she continue to ignore the people? Perhaps Members in this House should look at putting Ms. Lee back on this side of the House. I’d be very interested in seeing just how fast Ms. Lee would run from her stance as Minister.

A politician who does not listen does not care. It is becoming very apparent that Minister Lee requires a wake-up call from Members of this House, to remind her that she is listening to neither the Members of this House nor the public.

Why make those who are most vulnerable pay when they need help the most? Make no mistake about it, this is a tax on the sick and the elderly. It is a gross misrepresentation of the laurels of this government to be fair and equitable to all they serve. All of this for what? To divide people on racial lines, to save $2.5 million a year. Mr. Speaker, it’s just not worth it. Our values, our relationships, our social fabric is far more important than $2.5 million a year.

I do believe we need to address those who have no coverage. This should be done. These costs should be paid out of tax revenues or other revenues the government generates on a year-to-year basis. Why can’t this be a solution, Mr. Speaker?

I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Proposed Changes To Supplementary Health Benefits Program
Members’ Statements

David Ramsay Kam Lake

It is Cabinet’s responsibility to manage these decisions, and given Cabinet’s track record of decision-making, it’s little wonder people outside in the public are so upset, again, at another decision this government is making. It’s the wrong decision. We need to park it. We need to find a new solution, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Proposed Changes To Supplementary Health Benefits Program
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. The honourable Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Condition Of Fort Liard Playground Equipment
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [English translation not provided.]

Earlier this year, in January, I gave a Member’s statement on the deplorable condition of the playground equipment at the Echo-Dene School in Fort Liard. The community is very concerned about how the existing equipment is beyond repair and the pressure treatment used on the wood does not meet current national standards for safety. As well, the playground site itself needs to be backfilled and re-levelled.

Last month I was very pleased when Jackson Lafferty, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, visited Fort Liard. During an Aurora College community tour, Minister Lafferty got a good look at how bad this playground was, with its outdated equipment and unsafe conditions. A few days later, Mr. Tom Beaulieu, the chair of the Standing Committee on Social Programs, along with members of his committee was in Fort Liard. They too saw the condition it is in and why it is not used by the children. Needless to say, the condition of the playground has not been improved.

Mr. Speaker, we know that children who participate in active recreation are at an advantage in regard to health and academic achievement. Mr. Speaker, we have agreed on priorities in this, the 16th Assembly, that include promoting healthy choices and enhancing early childhood education. The playground offers both. Our priorities also include working with communities and schools to improve the physical and mental well-being of our youth. Let’s keep our promises and provide this playground for the children in Fort Liard, beginning this summer and fall.

The community has raised about $26,000 towards this goal. Our government has yet to make a contribution for much needed school playground equipment. In January I was advised that ECE is working to identify the funding in this year’s budget and, Mr. Speaker, I continue to implore the Minister of Education to provide funding for this playground so that it can be worked on this summer and put in place for this fall. Mahsi cho.

Condition Of Fort Liard Playground Equipment
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Private And Confidential Medical Records
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Citizens of the Northwest Territories expect their government to handle private and confidential medical records with a high degree of responsibility and respect. Today, CBC North told the people of the Northwest Territories that maybe we should be afraid, afraid that this government does not understand that confidential medical records must, in all circumstances and at all times, be treated with a high degree of professionalism and confidentiality. Private and confidential records must be kept private and confidential. If employees aren’t able to understand that, then why are they are our employees? Would anyone in their house make the mistake of faxing the most intimate details of their spouse’s medical records to a news media? I think not. We would be darn sure that with 100 percent accuracy we would be sending documents to the right place.

In my mind, this shows simple sloppiness. It would seem to me that, perhaps, what we have here are people who just are so used to walking over to a fax machine, punching in the numbers and they forget the high degree of professionalism required of them. If that is the case, I would have to say that I don’t want them to handle my medical records, nor my wife’s medical records, nor anyone in my family, nor those of anyone in the Northwest Territories. I will have questions to the Minister later on today, Mr. Speaker.