This is page numbers 4991 - 5034 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 1:38 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Good afternoon, colleagues. Welcome back to the Chamber. Before we begin the business of the day, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge a special day for one of our Members. It happens to be the birthday of the Member for Yellowknife Centre, Mr. Robert Hawkins.

---Applause

Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Premier, Mr. Roland.

Minister’s Statement 41-16(5): Honouring Former Commissioner Whitford
Ministers’ Statements

Inuvik Boot Lake

Floyd Roland Premier

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to take the opportunity today to say thank you, on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories and all the people of the Northwest Territories, to Mr. Tony Whitford who has successfully completed...

---Applause

...his term as Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

The way the Territory is governed has evolved considerably during Mr. Whitford’s lifetime and he has been present to witness much of it. When Mr. Whitford was born in Fort Smith, the NWT was still being governed out of Ottawa by federal bureaucrats. That began to change with the relocation of the Commissioner to Yellowknife in 1967. Mr. Whitford served as executive assistant to John Parker, the second Commissioner to call the NWT home and the one who was to preside over the establishment of fully responsible government in the NWT. As Speaker of the 14th Legislative

Assembly, Mr. Whitford guided the first post-division Assembly of the Northwest Territories helping to adapt old rules, traditions and conventions to a new Assembly and new situation.

In between, Mr. Whitford served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, participating in the debates and decisions that shaped how the NWT was governed during the 11th and 12th Assemblies.

As a Member of the Executive Council, Mr. Whitford also served as Minister of Health and Social Services, Safety and Public Services and Transportation. While not a Member of the 13th Assembly, Mr. Whitford continued his long association with this House as Sergeant-at-Arms.

Mr. Whitford was appointed as Deputy Commissioner in 2004 and became Commissioner of the NWT in April 2005. During his time as Commissioner, he has worked hard to be the people’s Commissioner. He made it a priority to travel to every NWT community to meet and hear from the people he represented. As a tireless promoter of education, spring would usually find him speaking at graduation ceremonies across the NWT. Throughout his time as Commissioner, Mr. Whitford never hesitated to represent the government and the people of the Northwest Territories at countless official ceremonies and public functions.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Whitford’s time as Commissioner was a culmination of a lifetime of public service and as an example to where hard work and dedication can take a person. Northern born and raised, Mr. Whitford has risen to the highest office in the Northwest Territories through his commitment to his fellow Northerners and his community. Whether it was performing weddings, serving as a Justice of the Peace, sitting as an MLA, presiding over the Rotary Bike Auction or presiding over this House, the one constant has been Mr. Whitford’s dedication to public service. As we say thank you to him for his service to us as Commissioner, I am sure that this time will not be the last we will hear of Mr. Whitford. While the office he holds may change from time to time, the one thing not likely to change is his desire to contribute to his community and to the Territory. I’m sure he’s already thinking of what’s next -- as he likes to say, “Have gavel will travel.” Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister’s Statement 41-16(5): Honouring Former Commissioner Whitford
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Minister’s Statement 42-16(5): Deh Cho Bridge Project
Ministers’ Statements

Deh Cho

Michael McLeod Minister of Transportation

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to provide Members and the public with an update on the Deh Cho Bridge Project. I want to say that I am very much looking forward to the day that the bridge opens to traffic in a year and a half.

Mr. Speaker, in just 18 months we will be able to drive across the Mackenzie River 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No longer will the residents of the North Slave be cut off during spring breakup. No longer will commercial vehicles sit and idle, waiting for passage on the ferry. No longer will low water and ice in the river disrupt service. No longer will businesses have to warehouse large volumes of goods. No longer will the Merv Hardie burn half a million litres of diesel and release tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. No longer will we have to concern ourselves with future impacts of climate change on the ice bridge. All the anxieties and frustrations that we associate with the current operation will finally be a thing of the past.

Mr. Speaker, we are about to enter a critical stage in the construction of the bridge. We have set an ambitious but achievable schedule that will require the cooperation of everyone involved in the project. To meet the schedule, we have assembled a team of skilled professionals under the direction of the Department of Transportation. This team is committed to completing the bridge by November 2011.

Work has commenced this spring and by next March the bridge will have taken shape. Steel fabrication is underway. The contractor, Ruskin Construction, will spend the summer completing the earthworks approaches and installing the two concrete abutments. This will be followed by the launching of the steel trusses or girders in September. Steel members will be bolted together on both banks and pushed out inch by inch over the river to span the piers. Once the trusses are in place, Ruskin will erect the two towers and string the massive cables that will support the centre span. The centre span will be hoisted into place from the work bridges below using huge winches. Then it will be a matter of completing the bridge deck, the approaches and other minor works.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has taken over the project but the community of Fort Providence still remains committed and involved with the project. We are entering into a new relationship with our community partners: the Deh Gah Got’ie First Nation, the Fort Providence Metis Council, and the Hamlet of Fort Providence. I am looking forward to attending the community feast in Fort Providence to celebrate the signing of the new agreements that will replace the concession agreement.

Mr. Speaker, I am certain that in the future the news surrounding the bridge will be more favourable, particularly as we approach the completion of construction. The Department of Transportation is developing a communication plan under the banner of “Bridging Our Future” that will include new signage, a newsletter, a stand-alone website and a real-time video feed. Our intent is to highlight all the positive accomplishments associated with the bridge.

Mr. Speaker, the Deh Cho Bridge, by virtue of its innovative design, its remote location and its sheer size, will be a unique structure that we can all be proud of. Thank you.

Minister’s Statement 42-16(5): Deh Cho Bridge Project
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. The honourable Minister responsible for Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister’s Statement 43-16(5): Northwest Territories Water Stewardship Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, for many years, going back to the last century, Northerners have increasingly voiced their concerns about water and all the things affecting water. The message to us has been clear: we must take the steps necessary to protect our water.

The 15th Assembly heard the people and shared

their concern. In 2007, the 15th Legislative

Assembly declared in part that all people have a fundamental right to water.

The 16th Legislative Assembly built on that motion

and directed that a made-in-the-NWT water strategy was a priority and needed to be developed. For the past 28 months, we along with our many partners have worked long and hard to carry out that direction. Today I stand before you to report that our made-in-the-North strategy, Northern Voices, Northern Waters, is ready and I will be tabling it later today.

Our concern about water is greater than ever as we deal with climate change, transboundary issues and the many pressures within our borders. This strategy is a critical policy document that allows us to move forward immediately. There will be no resting on our laurels. There is no time as events affecting our water are moving too fast.

Northern Voices, Northern Waters provides our policy base and roadmap as we move forward with transboundary discussions under the Mackenzie River Basin Board Transboundary Master Agreement. We also have much work to do within our own boundaries.

This strategy is a collaborative approach to responsible water stewardship. It was developed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada,

designated representatives of aboriginal governments and active input from NWT residents.

The GNWT greatly appreciates the contributions of the Aboriginal Steering Committee for their guidance in the development of the strategy. The steering committee will continue to offer its advice as the strategy is implemented. NWT residents will continue to have opportunities to engage on this living strategy.

The strategy promotes an ecosystem-based approach within watersheds to improve water management to reflect the deep and fundamental relationship between residents and the waters of the Northwest Territories.

As one of our most valuable resources, we recognize the importance of clean waters and healthy aquatic ecosystems. The strategy sets a common path forward for water partners to ensure the continued sustainable use of this resource. It will improve decision-making processes, information sharing and communications among all water partners actively involved in water stewardship in the Northwest Territories.

The goals of the strategy are:

to ensure that the waters that flow into, within or through the NWT are not substantially altered in quality, quantity and rates of flow;

that residents have access to safe, clean and plentiful drinking water at all times;

that aquatic ecosystems are healthy and

diverse;

that residents can rely on their water to sustain their communities and economies;

that residents are involved in and

knowledgeable about water stewardship; and finally,

that all those making water stewardship

decisions work together to communicate and share information.

Mr. Speaker, the time to act on water stewardship is now. As aboriginal governments raise awareness through the annual water gatherings, pressures on waters throughout the NWT and in neighbouring jurisdictions continue to increase.

NWT residents have expressed concern about water levels, water quality and the health of our aquatic ecosystems. Many have witnessed differences in river flow and levels, and worry about the future of our wetlands, deltas, rivers and lakes.

Upstream development in the Mackenzie River Basin, including hydro, nuclear and oil sands development have or may have an impact on our aquatic ecosystems. In north-eastern British Columbia, the Bennett Dam has already altered river flows. B.C. Hydro has recently proposed a 900

megawatt project to develop Site C, the third dam on the Peace River, which may continue to modify flows. Downstream aboriginal governments have indicated concern over even slight additional alterations.

In Alberta, TransAlta continues to gather information to develop a hydroelectric project for a 100 megawatt facility and a four-reactor 4,000 megawatt nuclear plant on the Peace River. In the Great Slave sub-basin of the Mackenzie River Basin, a proposal for a Slave River hydro development near the NWT border is being investigated. Oil sands development continues in the Athabasca sub-basin of the Mackenzie River Basin.

The strategy will help us prepare for negotiations with other governments within the Mackenzie River Basin to ensure its aquatic and plant life continue to thrive.

As partners, we must show strong leadership in water stewardship to ensure the sustainable use of this valuable resource throughout the NWT. We must set high standards and hold ourselves and others responsible and accountable. We cannot sit back and watch as our water resources deplete or become contaminated. We must properly manage our waters so future generations can enjoy what we currently enjoy.

Mr. Speaker, our strategy relies on the principles of an ecosystem-based approach within watersheds. When water flows downstream, the land mass where that water flows becomes increasingly larger. Decisions on how the waters within these watersheds are used have the potential to affect many ecosystems.

These decisions cannot be made in isolation. Decisions and subsequent actions must be made after considering the entire watershed, its land and water, and all the values within it.

This ecosystem-based approach allows for the protection of the water environment while addressing critical issues such as the current and future impacts of development and climate change.

Together with our water partners, we have already accomplished a significant amount of work in the area of environmental monitoring, research and planning at all levels in the Northwest Territories.

As we actively plan for the future of water management in the NWT, we will build on the work to date. Water partners continue to examine available information and use it to make sound decisions that will provide a healthy water legacy for future generations.

Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to lead by example. By using our collective voice on water issues, partnering with aboriginal governments and setting high standards, we hold ourselves and

others accountable for the establishment of sound and effective water management policies. The next step in this process is to develop a detailed action plan for fall 2010.

This plan will be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure all concerns and important details are included.

Our water resources are precious and this strategy is our guide to engagement in the development of current and future water projects, including the Site C and the Slave River Hydro Dams and ensures we can keep our waters clean, abundant and productive for all time. Mahsi.

Minister’s Statement 43-16(5): Northwest Territories Water Stewardship Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Minister’s Statement 44-16(5): Implementation Update – Transfer Of Public Housing Rental Subsidy
Ministers’ Statements

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to provide an update to Members and the general public on our decision to return responsibility for public housing rent assessments to the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, my first priority after I was appointed Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation was to examine the issue of the public housing rental subsidy and explore ways to find resolution to the challenges that the program’s administration was causing for public housing tenants and front-line staff.

On January 28, 2010, following a review of the issues and examination of the possible solutions, Minister Miltenberger announced in the budget address that the responsibility for assessing public housing rent would be returning to the local housing organizations during the coming fiscal year. This decision was made with a view towards providing quality client service in a fair and equitable manner for all tenants, while also improving the financial stability of LHOs. Client service is a primary concern for myself and the Housing Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that we are well underway with the implementation of this change. As of June 1st , Mr. Speaker, local housing

organizations will take over responsibility for assessing public housing rent. As of that date, residents will only have to visit their local housing organization in order to be assessed and to make their rent payments. Local housing organizations are being asked to ensure that all rent assessments are completed within the first week of every month. So it is important that tenants visit within that first week to be properly assessed and to avoid falling into arrears.

In preparation for June 1st , we have undertaken

communications and implementation plans to support the smooth transition for tenants and staff alike. In April, both the NWT Housing Corp and ECE began implementing communication activities to inform residents of the coming changes. We have informed tenants, LHO board chairs, staff and standing committee directly. An advertising campaign to remind tenants of the changes coming in June is also underway and will be enhanced later this month. In order to prepare LHO and ECE staff to deal with tenants during the transition, we have provided training and information to front-line staff at both the LHOs and the Housing Corporation that will help them answer tenant questions, and ensure they provide a high level of customer service and have full awareness of how the subsidy process works.

NWT Housing Corp and ECE are also collaborating through an implementation plan covering the period from now until April 1st , 2011. This plan will guide

activities related both to the change in responsibilities for assessment as well as other improvements being made in the Public Housing Program in 2010-11. These improvements will include a review of the LHO operating budgets, revisions to the Public Housing Policy and Procedures Manual, as well as Information Management System development. We will also complete the review of existing rent scales, which will involve public consultation.

Mr. Speaker, our Public Housing Program is a key component of our government’s effort to deal with the high cost of living in our communities. I feel strongly that the return of assessments to the LHOs, along with the other improvements we will make this fiscal year, will help to contribute to our overall goal to improve client service and provide a Public Housing Program that meets the needs of those that it serves. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 44-16(5): Implementation Update – Transfer Of Public Housing Rental Subsidy
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act And Land Claims Agreements
Members’ Statements

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There’s talk of changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resources Management Act, and blowing up the boards, and making changes to the act and guidelines. By doing so, they’re stating it would not affect the land claims agreements. Mr. Speaker, I totally disagree. This is far from the truth, Mr. Speaker.

The land claims agreements were negotiated in such a way that the lands resources management act that is in place flowed from the land claims agreement in which it was enacted by the land claims organizations, the federal government, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the people throughout the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Northwest Territories, especially the people in the Mackenzie Valley, through the Dene Metis land claims process, made it clear that they were tired of developers coming into their regions, coming into their territories and not consulting and not including them in any process. Mr. Speaker, the fundamental element of the land, water, and regimes in the land claim agreements were clear that the aboriginal groups, the Dene Metis, made it specifically clear that they had to be not only included, but they had to have some guarantees by way of percentages that 50 percent of all the boards would include appointments for nominees from the aboriginal organizations so that they were included in the regulatory process not only through consulting, but being full, active members of the regulatory process established in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, no longer will the aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories be bystanders to developers who have no place or ability to say aboriginal people have rights here. We have rights, we have land claims, we have the legal protection under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, but, Mr. Speaker, again, the federal government is finding a way to undermine the land claims agreements, and more importantly, doing it in such a way that they are saying that by simply making minor changes to the regulations and guidelines that they will not be affecting the agreements. I disagree.

Mr. Speaker, I think it’s important to realize that the land claim organizations were involved in the drafting and the implementation of the Mackenzie Valley Resources Act, in which they had people at the table negotiating those agreements so that they can find and ensure...

The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act And Land Claims Agreements
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act And Land Claims Agreements
Members’ Statements

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

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

---Unanimous consent granted

The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act And Land Claims Agreements
Members’ Statements

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Mr. Speaker, again, the aboriginal organizations want to ensure that they’re protecting the rights and their abilities that are recognized through the land claims agreements.

Mr. Speaker, Section 35 of the Canadian Constitutional specifically...(inaudible)...states that basically nothing by way of legislation changes can affect the land claim agreements. The rights are entrenched in those agreements and must be

protected, upheld, and also the federal government has a fiduciary obligation to protect aboriginal rights and land claims agreements in regard to Section 35.

Mr. Speaker, I will be asking some questions to the Minister of Environment on this, realizing he did have a meeting with the federal appointee a number of days ago. Thank you.