This is page numbers 3027 – 3066 of the Hansard for the 17th 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 community.

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The House met at 1:30 p.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements.

Minister’s Statement 79-17(4): Changes To Homeownership Programs
Ministers’ Statements

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to update the Legislative Assembly on changes to homeownership programs offered through the NWT Housing Corporation.

When we developed our strategic plan, Building for the Future, residents told us that we needed to examine our homeownership programs. They wanted us to recognize the different roles that homeownership plays in non-market and market communities. They told us we need to make these programs more effective.

Mr. Speaker, following our strategic plan, we have made significant changes to Providing Assistance for Territorial Homeownership, our main homeownership subsidy program. We’ve changed the way we determine subsidy levels, expanded the eligible pool of clients, and significantly closed the gap between the cost of homeownership and public housing.

Our new approach provides higher subsidies in non-market communities with a higher cost of living. For example, an eligible household in Deline would be able to purchase a new home for about $140,000 after receiving a subsidy under PATH. This would mean the client would have approximately $1,500 in monthly costs for their mortgage and utilities. This is very similar to the maximum rent charged for public housing clients.

The approach to the subsidy is different in market communities. Housing supply and development is much different in these communities and in market communities, the program focuses on helping first-time homeowners.

Mr. Speaker, we have also changed the way we deliver our homeownership programs. Residents will now be able to apply for programs at any time during the year rather than only during a targeted intake period. We will work with clients to schedule repairs, making sure to allow for getting materials into the community and for weather conditions.

Mr. Speaker, homeowners are responsible for maintaining their homes and for completing any repairs that are required. The NWT Housing Corporation supports homeowners with modest income to meet that responsibility. We need to ensure that our emergency and major repair programs support homeowners but do not take away from their role in maintaining their own home.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, last year we introduced the Revised Mortgage Balance Program for about 400 clients, with mortgages payable directly to the NWT Housing Corporation. Most of these clients had considerable arrears, and collection rates were very low.

Since then, about 60 percent of our mortgage clients have taken advantage of the program. They have a fresh start and their mortgage payments are predictable and affordable. The success of the program is reflected in the monthly mortgage collection rates, which have averaged 85 percent for clients in the new program compared with less than 30 percent for those that have yet to sign up.

The NWT Housing Corporation will continue to work with clients who are continuing to accumulate mortgage arrears. They still have an opportunity to take advantage of the Revised Mortgage Balance Program, but there are a number of files now being advanced through the legal process.

Mr. Speaker, the homeownership programs support residents to meet their own housing needs. The approach to Securing Assistance for Emergencies, our emergency repair program, to the new Providing Assistance for Territorial Homeownership, our homeownership subsidy program, and to Contributing Assistance for Repairs and Enhancements, our major repair program, reflect our partnership approach between homeowners and the NWT Housing Corporation.

The vision of the 17th Legislative Assembly includes

strong individuals, families and communities, and I look forward to working with all Members as we

continue to work on our housing priorities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 79-17(4): Changes To Homeownership Programs
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Minister’s Statement 80-17(4): Update On Partnership With Wilfrid Laurier University
Ministers’ Statements

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity today to update Members on our partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University on water and cold region research.

This partnership helps support our government’s vision of strong individuals, families and communities sharing the benefits and responsibilities of a unified, environmentally sustainable and prosperous Northwest Territories by ensuring we use sound and reliable evidence-based information when developing policy, programs and services.

The purpose of the partnership agreement, signed in May 2010, is to provide new infrastructure and expertise to our government for environmental research and education, increase our capacity to conduct this research, and provide training needed to manage natural resources while dealing with the emerging challenges of climate and the impacts of growth and development.

Our government committed $2 million to the partnership with $1 million upon signing of the agreement. Annual contributions since then total $600,000. Our investment has resulted in approximately $12 million in partnership funding.

This investment has allowed the partnership to secure an additional $5.8 million for research programs in the Northwest Territories, with just over $1.5 million of that spent here.

The partnership is expected to leverage at least another five to seven million dollars in research funding for NWT programs during the life of the agreement.

Mr. Speaker, there are 10 principal scientists leading research projects in collaboration with communities and residents and involving more than 50 researchers and students. There are also three part-time employees in the Northwest Territories to support these partnership activities.

Two researchers are working with the leaders of the Liidlii Kue First Nations, Jean Marie River First Nation, Sambaa K’e Dene First Nation and the Dehcho First Nations on impacts of thawing permafrost at the Scotty Creek field site near Fort Liard.

Another researcher has provided substantial in-kind support to the Lutselk’e and Sambaa K’e Dene First Nations and Ecology North by

providing wastewater analysis using a relatively simple and inexpensive way to screen water sources for the presence of human fecal matter.

In Wekweeti local students and Government of Northwest Territories scientists are involved in a project investigating snow characteristics to help calculate snow density using remote sensing. The students conduct snow surveys throughout the winter and their data helps this project and another project where GNWT biologists are working to correlate snow characteristics to caribou health.

Mr. Speaker, other projects include:

• permafrost, water and vegetation large-scale

monitoring being done from Fort Liard to Inuvik to look at the impact of permafrost melt on vegetation;

• looking at water use in trees, the role of trees

in melting permafrost, modeling carbon accumulation in permafrost peat lands and documenting long-term permafrost change using tree growth;

• terrestrial monitoring of hydrology and water

chemistry, looking at sense of place and changing water conditions in Fort Resolution and examining contaminants and hydroecology of the Slave River Delta.

Analysis of much of the research gathered in the Northwest Territories will be done at the Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science on the campus of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. The grand opening took place two weeks ago and I was in attendance to see the new facility.

There is also the potential, through our partnership, for NASA to include the Scotty Creek field site and an Inuvik site in its Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment.

Mr. Speaker, Wilfrid Laurier University professors and staff are working with several of our departments to find ways to support NWT-based graduate students in distance learning by offering distance courses, directed studies and appropriate funding opportunities.

The Northwest Territories continues to be an important area for scientific research for Aboriginal, federal and territorial governments, boards, agencies, and territorial, national and international academic and industry-based researchers and scientists.

Partnerships, like the one with Wilfrid Laurier University, ensure Northwest Territories communities and residents are involved in this research so we benefit from it.

It is my hope that as more young people are exposed to these types of scientific research

projects in the physical and social sciences, they will be encouraged to look at professions in this field. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 80-17(4): Update On Partnership With Wilfrid Laurier University
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. The honourable Minister responsible for Women, Mr. Premier.

Minister’s Statement 81-17(4): Family Violence
Ministers’ Statements

Yellowknife South

Bob McLeod Premier

Mr. Speaker, many Northwest Territories residents continue to experience family violence or are dealing with its negative after-effects. This is not the kind of territory that we want. We talk about healthy and educated people in this Assembly, and we talk about safe and sustainable communities. We are committed to achieving those goals and addressing family violence is an important part of that commitment.

One of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to family violence is the perception that what goes on in a person’s family is private business. Most times that is true. But family violence is a complex problem that has its roots in social issues. These are issues like prevailing attitudes, social inequality and systemic injustice. Social problems require a community solution; they cannot be fixed by solitary individuals alone, particularly those who are being abused by those they should be able to trust most.

Shared responsibility and community solutions are something we have been discussing a lot lately in the context of community safety. Family violence is no different; we all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure that people, especially the most vulnerable people, are safe in their own homes.

Government has an important leadership role to play in stopping family violence. We share that role with other partners like community governments, Aboriginal governments, law enforcement and community social agencies. Together we are responsible for developing and implementing strategies to prevent family violence. We also work together to ensure that programs and services are available to support victims of family violence and to help the perpetrators take responsibility for, and change, their actions.

Government programs for victims of family violence include emergency funding that helps them with financial needs related to the crime. RCMP, social workers and victim services workers provide support throughout the territory. If they are not safe in their homes, victims can stay at one of our local shelters while they think about what to do next.

For perpetrators of violence, our government’s new 24-week Wek’eahkaa program reflects our healing philosophy. Violence is a choice and people need

effective strategies and tools for dealing with their anger appropriately and constructively. The Wek’eahkaa program helps teach men who have used violence in their relationships that there is a better way. We believe every day brings a new chance for a violent person to change his behaviour. This pilot project being delivered in Yellowknife was designed for northern residents. Ultimately, our goal is to have a program that is accessible and relevant throughout the Northwest Territories.

The community can play a role by watching out for the signs of abuse and taking steps to stop it. A healthy and safe community is one where friends and neighbours know and look out for each other. Friends need to ask victims to get help. Neighbours need to call the police when they hear violence in the home or on the street. People need to listen to victims and help them to make the choices that will keep themselves and their families safe.

Family violence is related to many of the issues we deal with as elected leaders. It is connected to poverty, to mental health and addictions, and to respect for women. As we all know, these issues are complicated and the links are not always direct. But by taking a holistic approach, we can make progress on the long-term issues while taking immediate action to ensure victims’ safety.

I would like to thank the Coalition Against Family Violence for their work throughout the Northwest Territories to support victims, including the work they do for Family Violence Awareness Week. They help women and teens to know when they or their friends are in unhealthy relationships, and they support victims to be safe. Recently, one of the booklets they produced to help northern teenagers became so popular they were asked to send copies throughout Canada, United States and the United Kingdom. We are not alone in facing this problem. We have a lot to learn from our neighbours, and they have a lot to learn from us.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot achieve the vision of this Assembly if we do not address family violence. Our people cannot be healthy and educated when they live in fear of violence in their own home. They will not have the freedom or confidence to pursue their goals or participate fully in the economic or social life of their community. Children who witness violence will find it difficult to grow up to be good parents and loving partners. As leaders, we need to take a strong stand against family violence. The people of the Northwest Territories deserve nothing less. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 81-17(4): Family Violence
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Range Lake, Mr. Dolynny.

Access To Information Provisions For Members Of The Legislative Assembly
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My attempt in June to see a construction contract related to our own government building has illustrated some serious problems in terms of access to information for Members. Under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, MLAs have no more rights or privileges than the public, and in some cases, public access is severely restricted or hampered with red tape.

I know some limits are needed, but I believe public access to government information could be improved and, with it, public confidence in the way we are governed.

Some quick facts, Mr. Speaker: the Information and Privacy Commissioner recommended a full review of the act in the 2010-2011 annual report, and in her own words, “This review has not been done since the act came into force almost 17 years ago.” Mr. Speaker, our main goals in reviewing and updating the act should be to improve access to information to all residents and ensure their privacy is protected.

Another major goal is to entrench MLAs’ access to a broader range of information on a confidential basis than is generally available to the public.

Let me remind everyone here, this category of access is the cornerstone to the success of consensus government. If Members cannot get access to the information they need, the consensus system will ultimately fail.

I suspect the Justice Minister will say it is not necessary to add to the act or to provide special access to information for Members. In fact, he more likely will say that there’s a process convention in place that the Assembly has adopted.

That said, I’m here to say that it is not enough, Mr. Speaker. Conventions are not as strong as clearly defined rights founded in legislation. We can access no less if we are faithfully building a system of government that is open and accountable to both Members and the public at large. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Access To Information Provisions For Members Of The Legislative Assembly
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Dolynny. Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, Mr. Moses.

Access To Information Provisions For Members Of The Legislative Assembly
Members’ Statements

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday we had some pretty good discussions here in the House during Committee of the Whole on Aurora Campus and the need for a new stand-alone campus with the planning studies. However, we do have a lot of other facilities here in the Northwest Territories. We have three facilities that allow post-

secondary education for our residents of the Northwest Territories and I just want to speak to those.

As the Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, I do represent a community where the region and the Aurora Campus itself does have space and availability to offer new programs in these spaces working forward. I also want to talk about Fort Smith, as well, as another campus that can provide space.

Up in Inuvik we also have an opportunity here with the new fibre optic link operating with the Aurora Research Institute to develop and create some…

Access To Information Provisions For Members Of The Legislative Assembly
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

This is before committee, so your Member’s statement is concluded. Thank you. Sorry, Mr. Moses, I should have caught that earlier. Member for Deh Cho, Mr. Nadli.

Deh Cho Regional Health Authority Governance
Members’ Statements

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Deh Cho Health Authority was just placed under a public administrator. That makes it the fourth regional authority to experience a board takeover. In the Deh Cho case, a slew of resignations had left the board with eight vacancies and only two spots filled. There had also been questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.

This shift toward public administrators is a kind of litmus test. It’s an indicator of genuine problems with health care governance. Existing health care legislation is vague on the respective roles of the health authority and the ministry. Technology and health care isn’t keeping pace. The Medical Travel Policy needs revamping and the level of efficiency in day-to-day operations is less than exemplary.

When the government undertakes health care reform, it should include jurisdictional boundaries. My constituents in Fort Providence and the Hay River Reserve may want to receive services in nearby Hay River rather than Fort Simpson, while the majority actually prefer to receive medical services in Yellowknife. On this note, people who travel for their medical care should not be unduly burdened with the cost of taxis, hotel rooms and meals on the road.

The board takeover at the Deh Cho Regional Health Authority, the fourth of its kind in recent memory, signals the need for a system overhaul. It’s time for the government to get into step with best practices in health care governance. Thank you.

Deh Cho Regional Health Authority Governance
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. Member for Weledeh, Mr. Bromley.