This is page numbers 3229 – 3260 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 communities.

Topics

The House met at 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Transportation, Mr. Ramsay.

Minister's Statement 93-17(4): Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway
Ministers’ Statements

Kam Lake

David Ramsay Minister of Transportation

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to update the House on the progress being made to advance the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway Project. This winter we plan to begin constructing the final link between the NWT highway system and the Arctic Coast community of Tuktoyaktuk. This all-weather highway will be constructed in one of Canada’s most challenging environments.

The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway is a legacy project of this government that will help reduce the high cost of living in our most northerly region and will assist in opening up new economic development and tourism opportunities for residents of the Inuvik region and the Northwest Territories.

On behalf of the people of the NWT, I would like to thank the federal government for their funding support for this project. Thanks to the Prime Minister’s vision of establishing Canada’s first permanent road to the Arctic Coast, and the strong support of the Members of this House, we have established a strong partnership arrangement to fund construction of this important new section of NWT highway. The project will produce significant employment opportunities for area residents and will assist to develop new workplace skills that may be applied to future projects at other NWT locations.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway Project is proceeding according to the plan. We anticipate receiving the necessary water licence, land use permits and

fisheries authorization to begin constructing the new highway in December 2013.

A significant amount of work had to be completed before achieving this milestone. The Department of Transportation staff and consultants have been dedicated to the project for the last four years to produce volumes of studies, geotechnical investigations, design work and environmental management plans. The department held numerous consultations with regulators, stakeholders and co-management groups, leading to commitments under 12 management plans and over 250 commitments to the Environmental Impact Review Board.

The final geometric design and the individual designs for the 68 watercourse crossing structures for the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway are complete. These detailed designs include special innovative engineering features to preserve the sensitive permafrost in the region and to ensure the quantity and quality in the adjacent water bodies.

Over the past year the department has been working successfully with a regional contracting company to begin upgrading Navy Road in Inuvik and the Source 177 access road south of Tuktoyaktuk to enable efficient construction of the highway over the next three winters. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that this contracting approach has resulted in significant employment and work for many contractors and service providers in the Inuvik region. Over 10,500 person days of employment were secured by NWT residents.

The department has also advanced several other initiatives to maximize oversight and stakeholder engagement on the project. The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Corridor Working Group will hold its first meeting on November 5

th in Inuvik to discuss

the first year of construction. This working group consists of 12 regional and government stakeholder groups dedicated to sharing perspectives on how to improve the effectiveness of construction activities and to how to minimize adverse effects on the land, water and wildlife.

Coordination and collaboration of efforts by government is very important in a public project of this size. The department is contributing to establish a project coordination office in Tuktoyaktuk and partially funding a career

development officer in Inuvik. It’s important that we work closely with our colleagues in the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and Aurora College to train local residents so they may participate meaningfully in this construction project and develop new skills improving their ability to secure future jobs in the NWT. The first driver training program toward a Class 1 driver’s licence with air brakes is scheduled to begin in mid-November in Inuvik.

We are also working closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and regional management stakeholders to ensure wildlife and the environment are properly protected as the project is being delivered.

Mr. Speaker, as we ready ourselves to begin constructing the northern-most section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, planning work is also moving ahead for the southern portion of the highway from Fort Good Hope to Wrigley. We are closely monitoring the construction schedule and budget and this is on track.

The department is working closely with Aboriginal and community stakeholders along the Mackenzie Valley corridor to ensure the planning, design, construction and operation of the permanent highway will meet the needs and expectations of NWT residents and businesses.

The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board held public meetings in Mackenzie Valley communities in September to determine the scope of the project developers’ assessment report. The government continues to discuss the project with stakeholders throughout the Mackenzie Valley to gain valuable perspectives from the people who will be most affected by its construction.

Work is also proceeding to complete the collection of essential baseline data along the Mackenzie Valley corridor to support and initiate the required business case for the project to leverage federal funding and meet the requirements of the project’s environmental review.

I will continue to provide Members with regular updates on our progress to advance the entire Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Tuktoyaktuk. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 93-17(4): Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Minister Ramsay. Item 3, Members’ statements. Member for Range Lake, Mr. Dolynny.

Pursuit Of Proven Solutions To Addictions Treatment
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The guiding principles of the 17

th Legislative Assembly

clearly state that under extraordinary circumstances, Members of the Legislative Assembly should have the opportunity to discuss significant announcements, changes or initiatives before they are released to public. Unfortunately, it appears that the Minister of Health and Social Services and his entire department failed to dust off these principles, as numerous cavalier actions took place during the summer months that affected our dealings with addictions and health governance. Of course, Mr. Speaker, I’m talking about the closure of our only residential treatment facility and the removal of the Deh Cho Health Authority.

You might see a little theme happening here today and I would like to set the stage by reading some excerpts from a government document. “The greatest problem facing the people of the Northwest Territories in the year 2002 is addiction of substances such as alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, and addiction to problem gambling.” It goes on to say, “Improved economic opportunities as a result of oil, gas and mineral exploration have done little to decrease the incidence of addictions in the year 2002. Many problems related to addictions remain prevalent.”

These excerpts come from a document, entitled A State of Emergency: A Report on the Delivery of Addiction Services in the NWT. If, back in 2002, addictions were declared a state of emergency, sadly, in 2013, we must now be at a state of Armageddon. Ironically, if one didn’t know any better, this 2002 document mirrors many of the current documents such as our Shared Path Towards Wellness, Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan 2012-15 and the recent Forum on Addictions.

My point is that we are plagued with study after study after study and still we are no further ahead than we were decades ago. We have a way of repeating the scabs of our past and it is painfully obvious that we attempt to recycle failed directions and repeated patterns. This pattern of activity needs to stop, Mr. Speaker.

The compass waypoints that this Department of Health and Social Services are using have been changing constantly. Until we put serious dollars into quality programs and strategic infrastructure to deal with these issues, we will lose the fight to addictions. History has taught us this lesson more than once, yet it appears we are too stubborn to listen.

As a Member of this House and a Member of the Standing Committee on Social Programs, all I ask the Department of Health and Social Services and its Minister is to…

I ask for unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Pursuit Of Proven Solutions To Addictions Treatment
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

All I ask the Department of Health and Social Services and its Minister is to select one proven pathway for addiction treatment, stop shooting from the hip, put the right amount of dollars to address the needs of all Northerners, not just a select few, and stop changing your minds every couple years. That’s it. Simple. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuit Of Proven Solutions To Addictions Treatment
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Residential Treatment Centre For Addictions
Members’ Statements

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe we have ever given consideration of a fully supported alcohol and drug addiction treatment centre the attention it deserves. We need thorough, informed debate to examine the pros and cons leading to a clear, evidenced-based decision and commitment to act.

Ministers have frequently said they are considering various forms of treatment. We’ve played regional politics, closing one centre to open one in another region, only to close it a few years later and never providing the support and oversight needed.

We need to remember that beating an addiction is not like going to the hospital because you cut your finger. Beating an addiction is one of the most difficult things a person can do in their lives. We need to treat the issue with the respect it deserves.

The recent Minister’s Forum on Addictions was a respectful process and many people made the effort to express their views. Action taken so far by this government does not match that effort and many people are disappointed. Closing the only NWT addictions treatment centre was a shock. Though, in my mind, not unwarranted, it was poorly communicated. Hiring a coordinator to try to figure out what an on-the-land process might look like is a beginning, but does not, again, meet the people’s expectations.

Let’s take the momentum that the Minister’s Forum initiated and springboard to a clear assessment and debate on what a comprehensive treatment centre can do or not. Let’s set a timeline, do the research and commit to making a decision to pursue a centre or abandon the idea and focus elsewhere. Let’s not bury this potentially critical and currently festering question as a potential action and a Mental Health Strategy that we hope to do someday. Enough dithering, pose the question, encourage research and debate to answer it, make a decision and move on.

In the past I have suggested a promising but modestly tested treatment model developed in the Yukon that showed real evidence of success, which relies, to some degree, on a treatment centre.

Other jurisdictions may have programs we can adapt and base in the North as well. I’m not talking some point in the future. Let’s have the Minister of Health come forward during this session and announce a timeline to make this final assessment. While on-the-land treatment is going ahead and I don’t want to detract from that, we should not be making this up as we go along. We need to look at the latest research and make an objective and soundly based decision on whether or not a treatment centre is a necessary part of our treatment program in the NWT.

We need to put as much resolve into this as we are asking from those who are trying to break their addictions. Let’s get it done. Mahsi.

Residential Treatment Centre For Addictions
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. The Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Full-Time Mental Health Worker For Fort Liard
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For years the mental health worker position in Fort Liard has been filled by temporary contract workers. Residents are tired of professional staff turnover at the Deh Cho Health and Social Services office in Fort Liard. They’re always dealing with inconsistent service delivery.

It’s hard enough to build trust and to share painful, intimate details and it’s harder still when you’re constantly facing someone new. Getting help with your mental health isn’t like getting your car repaired or your house painted. Residents need dedicated, full-time mental health workers who can provide a complete range of referrals and treatment options.

It’s great to see the government making headway with its Regional Recruitment Program, but here’s the tricky part: The Department of Health and Social Services now handles its own recruiting, so finding full-time health care workers in places like Fort Liard is outside the mandate of the Regional Recruitment Program.

It’s difficult to untangle the reasons for high staff turnover. One factor isn’t specific to the North; there is a nationwide shortage of health care professionals. Another factor is leadership. Evidence clearly shows that people don’t stay in jobs if they don’t have strong leadership. This should be on the government’s radar as it tackles health care governance. There’s also the question of competitive benefits and training opportunities.

These are proven ways to build capacity and keep staff engaged and upbeat. These are smart ways of heading off the constant staff turnover.

The final consideration is that work done by health care professionals in the small communities often leads to burnout. This government isn’t doing

enough to find seasoned employees and professional couples who are genuinely able to handle the intensive workload and make a commitment.

Residents in my communities want this government to build a strong and steady northern workforce. Quite frankly, there’s no greater urgency than in the area of mental health and addictions. Thank you.

Full-Time Mental Health Worker For Fort Liard
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. Member for Frame Lake, Ms. Bisaro.

Acting On The Recommendations Of The Minister’s Forum On Addictions
Members’ Statements

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On June 12, 2012, the Minister of Health and Social Services tabled the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan 2012-2015. One year later, June 3, 2013, the Minister’s Forum on Addiction and Community Wellness Healing Voices report was tabled.

A year ago, as the Minister was setting up this forum, I rose in this House and I complained about the lack of action on the issue of addictions by the Department of Health and Social Services. I felt that the Minister should be taking action, not consulting. Now, one year later, I’m again complaining about the lack of action on addictions and community wellness.

Five months ago a very comprehensive forum report was received. It makes 33 primary recommendations and 34 secondary recommendations. But since June, what has the Health and Social Services department put in place to work on addictions problems, to take action on some of these 67 recommendations? Not much, from what I can tell.

Well, there has been some action. The Minister has closed the only treatment centre in the NWT, but we have yet to see any northern treatment programs to replace what has been lost, even though those treatment programs are called for in the forum report.

Addictions, drugs and alcohol are huge afflictions for our territory. We all know that. We knew that a year and a half ago when the 2012-15 action plan was tabled. We knew it a year ago when the Minister’s Forum was set up. We knew it five months ago when the forum results were tabled, and we know it now as Members all speak to the problem. What has changed in the last 18 months? What progress has been made to attack the issue of addictions?

It’s well known that our jails are mostly populated by inmates who are there because their addictions led them to break the law. It’s well known that family violence in the NWT is associated with, and the result of, alcohol and drug abuse. I’ve previously called alcohol a scourge on NWT

society. It still is. Unfortunately, I see little improvement in alcohol and drug treatment and prevention programs from the first time I stood in this House to address the issue.

As we will hear later today, the Standing Committee on Government Operations, while consulting on the Liquor Act, heard story after story of the negative impact of alcohol and drugs on Sahtu communities. Everywhere in the NWT, our residents are asking for help with the effect of addictions on their lives.

I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Acting On The Recommendations Of The Minister’s Forum On Addictions
Members’ Statements

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Everywhere in the NWT our residents are asking for help with the effect of addictions on their lives. What is the government actually doing about this? Very little, from what I can see. We have to stop talking and start doing.

Acting On The Recommendations Of The Minister’s Forum On Addictions
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. The honourable Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, Mr. Moses.