This is page numbers 6849 - 6882 of the Hansard for the 16th Assembly, 6th 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 safety.

Topics

Amendments To The Motor Vehicles Act Regarding Handheld Electronic Devices
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Ms. Bisaro, your Member’s statement is dealing on a matter that is before Committee of the Whole right now. The honourable Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Capital Planning For Nahendeh School Facilities
Members’ Statements

August 22nd, 2011

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. We always tell our young people that they need to get a good education and that is the key to their success, but the examples we set are not always good. I refer, for example, to the school in Nahanni Butte. It’s an old log building that needs to be replaced. We have to get this into the capital plan.

I wish I could refer to the school in Trout Lake, as well, but the situation is even worse in Nahanni Butte. In Trout Lake, technically that is not a school at all. No school. The people of Trout Lake send their kids to the recreation centre for classes. This has been going on for years now and the old school is long gone.

School is not recreation. It is not daycare. The Department of Education has a duty to provide students with a good learning environment. The teachers are doing their best, but all they have is a little renovated area in the rec centre to accommodate students all the way from kindergarten to grade 10. There is not enough separation between grade levels, and there is not even a gymnasium for the students or the

community. This government is letting down those students, the teachers, and all the people of Trout Lake.

I have asked time and time again for this government to at least start planning for this project, but all I get is talk and no plan, let alone any action. We hear a lot about the Aboriginal Student Achievement Program and this government has spent more than $100 million on the super school in Inuvik. It is not too much to have a school, even a mini-school, in Trout Lake. It should not be too much to ask to get a modern little school in Nahanni Butte as well.

I have been polite but persistent on this issue. I have been pushing on this for years now and it’s time to get the job done. It’s time to break the ground for Nahendeh student achievement. I will be asking the Education Minister about this shortly. In his replies he should just borrow a line from President Obama and say, yes, we can.

Capital Planning For Nahendeh School Facilities
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. The honourable Member for Weledeh, Mr. Bromley.

GNWT Workplace Health And Safety Performance
Members’ Statements

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m alarmed to hear about the apparently huge issue of health and safety performance in the GNWT workplace. Information received from the Minister of Human Resources describes GNWT performance under the Safe Advantage program created by the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission in 2007. It says that employers with proven safety and return-to-work practices receive a refund and employers with poor safety and return-to-work practices pay a penalty.

Since the program was created in 2007, the GNWT has never received a good performance refund. In fact, over the past four years we’ve paid $255,000 in penalties, rising to a peak this year. During that time, claims experience costs topped $2 million. This is not good, and I will be asking the Minister how our workplace injury rates and costs compare to other workplace categories.

There are also confusing results of management practice questionnaires completed by GNWT to report on its performance. Managers describe their performance in such areas as inspections, hazard management, and Occupational Health and Safety Program evaluation. Survey results have given steadily improving ratings, from 17 percent in return-to-work practices and zero percent on safety in 2007-2008, to 100 percent in return-to-work practices and 86 percent on safety in 2010-2011. Contrast this to the dramatic growth in penalties from zero four years ago to a quarter million-plus this most recent year and claims costs peaking at

another three-quarters of a million dollars in 2010-2011 and it’s hard to understand how the survey ratings could be improving when claims and penalties are skyrocketing.

Incredibly, the GNWT does not have health and safety committees intended under the act. According to the Minister’s explanation, the GNWT will establish a health and safety committee structure, which will require departments to have occupational health and safety committees and an overall committee, it will meet the legislated requirements of the act by the end of 2011-2012. We’re talking “will,” four years into the introduction of the program.

What are these injuries and what are we doing to avoid them? Information I’ve gathered indicates health and safety committees are a rarity. I will be asking the Minister how rare and how it’s possible that our penalties and costs continue to go up while our ratings appear to improve, all in the absence of government-wide health and safety committee structure that meets the requirement of the act.

GNWT Workplace Health And Safety Performance
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Resolute Bay Tragedy
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, today would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to all the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic crash at Resolute Bay this weekend. We realize how interconnected we all are as Northerners when we hear the initial news of something like this and know, inevitably, that we will know people who were involved in this.

Today especially I would like to send my condolences out to Aziz Kheraj and his wife, Alisak, on the loss of their little granddaughter, the miracle and the blessing of the granddaughter that did not perish, and for a speedy recovery for those whose lives were not lost.

For the crew that flew the plane and took care of the people, for the crews and flight attendants who fly us everyday all over this vast north country, I thank them and I want them to know that our hearts are with them today as they mourn the loss of their colleagues.

I guess all we can say is that our prayers are with those that grieve today. We grieve with them, and we hope that they’ll find strength and comfort from the cherished memories that they have of their loved ones.

Resolute Bay Tragedy
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. The honourable Member for Nunakput, Mr. Jacobson.

Support For High School Students In Small Communities
Members’ Statements

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Only a handful of communities in the Northwest Territories are small enough not to have a high school in their communities. Whatever the rationale this government gives, it’s still wrong that our students and families receive no support with student accommodations.

In the past, many MLAs from small communities have also tried to get this government to provide more support for high school students, with no success. We have provided suggestions, options such as high school grades in our small communities, with no success.

In years past, more and more students get lagged behind the territory and the rest of Canada. How are we supposed to truly build a regional and northern capacity or prepare our use in the increasingly competitive world when we cannot even provide them the basics of learning?

In order for our students to succeed, we need a safe and secure place to live, and a healthy environment when they leave home.

I stated previously that this government and district office must do more to assist the families to find appropriate homes and facilities so that their children can go to school and learn in a healthy environment. Many students live in boarding homes where there’s drinking, and drugs, and partying. That’s a shame. There is no place for a student that can learn and have safety on their mind at all times.

Now that the region has no government-assisted boarding homes, parents are literally left on their own to make due, and the kids are left to defend for themselves once they leave their home and return to school. This is unacceptable. We owe this to our students, to the future, and the priority of our students across the territory in the small communities, especially in Sachs Harbour where we’re having this issue dealt with for the past three years.

I will have questions at the appropriate time for the Minister.

Support For High School Students In Small Communities
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Resolute Bay Tragedy
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, along with my colleagues, want to offer my condolences to the people of Nunavut. I’m glad the Premier said some words for them. At this time they certainly need our prayers and our support.

When I heard the news I was taken back, because some time ago I was involved in the incident in Fort

Good Hope and it’s very heavy on the hearts of people, the families, the grandparents, people right across Canada. I can’t imagine what the people up in Resolute Bay are going through. At this time today, they need our support. They need our prayers from this Legislative Assembly. They need our help over there to get them through some of the very difficult things that are going to happen in the coming year.

I want to say this: I know there are things in this Assembly that we need to deal with that are very important, such as the wildlife, such as the cell phones, such as the issues on health and education, but today I thought when I stepped outside, when I got on the plane this morning in Tulita, today is that we can put aside those differences, put aside and offer our energy and support to the people in Resolute Bay, to the people up in Nunavut, to help them get through this tragic event. There are questions that are going to be answered. Questions of why the good Lord let this happen, God. These things that they need our help with.

I want to say on behalf of the Sahtu people, that we offer our support to those people, and also to our friends; as the Premier said, Smiling Jack. I was telling my wife, what next? I offer my condolences to his family, also, on behalf of the Sahtu, and all for the supporters of Mr. Layton and the recent election that he came north here and he certainly was a man to be admired bringing his party up to a stature that nobody thought could happen. Smiling Jack did it and he did it above all, and he did it on behalf of his own beliefs and values and principles.

I want to say this in my Member’s statement that we offer our condolences to the people in Resolute and also to people Mr. Layton has left behind.

Resolute Bay Tragedy
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Yakeleya. The honourable Member for Great Slave, Mr. Abernethy.

GNWT Workplace Health And Safety Performance
Members’ Statements

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to follow up on the statement made by my colleague Mr. Bromley.

I was disappointed last week when Mr. Bromley shared the GNWT results of the Safe Advantage program with me. For the 2010-2011 year, the GNWT received a penalty of $243,583.37. I understand that this is the largest penalty issued by the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission during the 2010-2011 fiscal year. In fact, it may be the largest penalty issued in the life of the Safe Advantage program.

According to the Safe Advantage program guidelines that I found on the WSCC website,

prevention programs are essential in creating a safe workplace. Further, it is important that both the employer and workers support and follow procedures outlined in the program and work to keep those programs up to date.

The penalties occur when claim costs are above experience-incentive ranges. Claim costs include all of the costs directed to an employer, such as medical aid, compensation, vocational rehabilitation, and pensions. Experience-incentive ranges are based on average assessments of individual employers. So, basically, penalties occur when the costs of workplace injuries to an employer is higher than the average cost of similar costs throughout the Northwest Territories. In short, this current penalty suggests that the GNWT has a worse than average record of workplace safety and prevention.

The Safe Advantage program has only existed for four years. In that time, as Mr. Bromley indicated in his statement, the GNWT has experienced a total claim cost in excess of $2 million. This is embarrassing. It’s my understanding that the Department of Human Resources is working to address the requirements set out in the Safe Advantage program. To this end, the Department of Human Resources is apparently working on a government-wide Occupational Health and Safety Program which will help to meet the legislative requirements set out in the Safety Act. Yet a review of the GNWT phone directory shows the only occupational health and safety position in the GNWT is at Stanton Territorial Health Authority. After four years, only one position.

There are also five health and wellness positions at the Department of Human Resources. One is a consultant and four are officers. I’m assuming the consultant is the one position in the GNWT working on the government-wide health and safety programs.

The GNWT must lead by example. We must strive for the safest workplaces in the Northwest Territories. We must stop being assessed these significant fines.

I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

GNWT Workplace Health And Safety Performance
Members’ Statements

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

All the Members in this House have talked about using public money wisely. Having to pay these fines is not wise use of money.

Workplace incidents are completely avoidable. As leaders we must promote behavioural changes within the GNWT that will increase workplace safety and incident prevention, and work with our injured staff to encourage early and safe return to work.

Let’s stop paying these unnecessary and avoidable fines and let’s use our money to provide quality

services and programs for our residents, programs that help our residents, Mr. Speaker. Thank you so much.

GNWT Workplace Health And Safety Performance
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Abernethy. The honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre, Mr. Hawkins.

Need For Mandatory Regular Performance Audits On Crown Corporations
Members’ Statements

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I’d like to speak to the need for mandatory regular performance audits on territorial corporations owned by the GNWT, like the NWT Housing Corporation, the NWT Power Corporation, and the Business Development and Investment Corporation. This is an issue I have raised many times before in this House, Mr. Speaker, in this Assembly and certainly in the last.

As we all know, these corporations are, of course, subject to annual financial audits by the Auditor General’s office, which examines the books and ensures the financial reporting practices are in accordance with recognized accounting principles. Mr. Speaker, while this is a very important accountable mechanism that the work is being done there, it does not do the needed added steps which gives the corporations and the directors or shareholders, that is, which are ultimately the residents of the NWT, an indication as to how effectively and efficiently these corporations are operating. This is something that should happen, Mr. Speaker, over the course of every five years, not unlike what the federal government does, and the Auditor General makes sure the federal corporations are acting and operating healthy.

I have said this before: we need to catch up with other jurisdictions that are already doing this, and by bringing our own legislation that ensures the corporations are not only following the rules but are also working as effectively as possible.

As I understand it, the review of the Financial Administration Act will very likely be on the agenda of the 17

Assembly. This would be an ideal

opportunity to bring the needed amendments, and I would strongly encourage the Minister of Finance to instruct his staff to undertake the background work so that this option can be available and considered for the next committee and government that reviews the update of the Financial Administration Act.

This is a critical piece of work that needs to be done, and it proves to the citizens of the Northwest Territories that our corporations are working efficiently and effectively, and I think it shows demonstrated proof, Mr. Speaker, that we’re getting the best dollar out of corporations as possible.

I will have questions for the Minister of Finance later today when the time comes. As well, Mr. Speaker, I will be tabling, at the appropriate time, a letter from the Auditor General of Canada who supports this initiative. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.