This is page numbers 1817 – 1858 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 going.

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The House met at 1:32 p.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Mr. Ramsay.

Minister’s Statement 8-17(4): Economic Opportunities Strategy Engagement Process
Ministers’ Statements

Kam Lake

David Ramsay Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Mr. Speaker, the 17th Legislative Assembly identified the need for an Economic Development Strategy to strengthen and diversify the Northwest Territories economy.

Our strategy will respond to changing circumstances in the North and address business opportunities in all regions of our territory.

Mr. Speaker, the Economic Opportunities Strategy is part of a much bigger picture. It complements other initiatives the GNWT is undertaking such as a comprehensive Mineral Development Strategy, and other linked initiatives such as the Land Use and Sustainability Framework and a Northwest Territories Anti-Poverty Strategy.

While the NWT is filled with economic opportunity and potential, we are sometimes challenged to find ways to convert it into jobs and development that prevents poverty and encourages people in all of our communities to participate in the economy.

This strategy is of pan-territorial importance and cannot be developed by government alone. While Industry, Tourism and Investment is coordinating the government’s participation, the project itself is being overseen by a governance committee that includes representatives of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Aboriginal Business Association, the NWT Association of Communities and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Last December, in consultation with this governance committee, I appointed an advisory panel to engage NWT residents, the private sector,

governments and other key stakeholders in a series of discussions on the economy. This panel is travelling to communities to identify the economic opportunities that exist in our territory’s regions and communities along with the strengths, weaknesses and threats that exist in each area. All of this work will be very helpful as our governance committee drafts the Economic Opportunities Strategy.

This strategy will have benefits for every region of our territory. It will contain tangible, attainable recommendations for investments and decisions that will advance and sustain the NWT economy for the future.

Over 100 invitations and opportunities are being provided to NWT residents and organizations to engage with the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy Advisory Panel. The panel has already met with stakeholders and residents in Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution and Inuvik. They will also travel this month to Fort Simpson, Norman Wells and Behchoko.

A public forum will be held tonight at six o’clock in the Explorer Hotel here in Yellowknife. These public meetings are opportunities for individuals and organizations to contribute experience and insights on the very important subject of our territory’s economic future.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, this period of listening and public engagement is only a part of the overall process. We have done a review of major NWT economic studies together with best practices in other regions. Our strategy will include the recommendations and applied experience and insights of our highly qualified advisory panel. We also value the advice of industry and economic expertise from our territory and elsewhere.

Collectively, through this extensive and multi-partnered process, we are putting in place the elements of an economic strategy that will enable the NWT to keep pace with the incredible opportunities and growth potential that it possesses. We will ensure that our North is positioned to manage this investment and growth to advance jobs for people, opportunities for businesses, self-reliance for communities and economic sustainability for our territory. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 8-17(4): Economic Opportunities Strategy Engagement Process
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Honourable Premier, Mr. McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 9-17(4): Minister Absent From The House
Ministers’ Statements

Yellowknife South

Bob McLeod Premier

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Glen Abernethy will be absent from the House for a portion of today’s proceedings to attend to a personal matter. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 9-17(4): Minister Absent From The House
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway
Members’ Statements

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Construction of the road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk is an important first step in completing the Mackenzie Valley Highway. If we do it right, this project will provide many jobs and business opportunities.

Living in the Delta, I see all kinds of business going to the Yukon because the Dempster Highway is our supplier. I see millions of dollars going down the road every year, Mr. Speaker. We need that business and economic opportunity in our territory. The Beaufort-Delta region badly needs a boost to its economy and people need jobs so they can support their families. The unemployment level in most of our communities is terrible, at 35 percent.

As you know, creating jobs is one way we can build safe and sustainable communities, one of this government’s main priorities. By building the road to Tuk, we will create lots of jobs. The question is who’s going to do them. Will our people in the Beaufort-Delta be ready for those jobs?

I’m worried that we are behind on providing education and training to prepare the Delta workforce to get well-paying highway jobs that should be available for many years to come. For example, there should be Class 1 driving courses in every community every few months.

Appropriate courses should be delivered through the community learning centres, but some are not very active and in some communities they don’t even exist. Current high school students should be ready and able to handle the future jobs. The community schools are under-resourced and graduation rates could be a lot better.

Support for students who have completed high school in Inuvik is another big problem. If this territory is going to prosper, and if our people are going to prosper, we have to improve our education and training.

I’ll be asking the Education, Culture and Employment Minister about that later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Blake. Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Medical Agreement With Bc Health
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Today I want to say, for the record, that we do have a great health care system. It is very difficult to deliver quality health care from Fort Liard all the way to Sachs Harbour, but on the whole, people working in the health system are to be commended.

Saying that, there is always room for improvement, and I would like to suggest some changes that would both help out the people of Fort Liard and probably lower the cost of health care and medical travel in my region.

It is one of the goals of our health system to deliver as much care as close to home as possible and I very much agree with this. For people in Fort Liard, that means getting some of their health services in Fort Nelson, British Columbia. Right now residents of Fort Liard often use their own resources and just drive south for certain services. It is only 210 from Liard to Fort Nelson, and I might add that the road is better, too, compared to the 284 kilometres on Highway No. 7 to Fort Simpson. It is not uncommon for Liard patients to be flown to Yellowknife, which is 780 kilometres away. If it is not absolutely necessary, this is both inconvenient to patients and expensive to our health system.

For example, a constituent can say his knee hurts, he is sent to Yellowknife and sees a doctor who confirms that his knee hurts, and then sent home to await a more rigorous appointment. This, as I say, can be done closer to home in Fort Nelson.

I would like to see an agreement between the Health and Social Services and the BC Health ministry that allows seamless care that is invoiced to our health system. As it is now, it is not fair to those people in Fort Liard who are covering the costs of their own trips to Fort Nelson.

I see the current budget includes expanding the use of electronic medical records. This should make it easier to manage the arrangement I propose. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Medical Agreement With Bc Health
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again I must preface my statement with all due respect to the folks of the Beaufort-Delta. We, as keepers of the public purse, have a job here to

keep the public interest, and the accountability and transparency for the expenditure of government funds. We have an obligation to question that.

I’d like to also talk about the Inuvik-Tuk highway. I am not categorically dismissing it as a good idea, but there are certainly some very big questions that need to be asked before I can personally endorse a project of this magnitude.

The cost-benefit analysis of a piece of infrastructure of this expense at this time in this area needs to be very critically looked at, and I do hear the plight of the Inuvik area, the Inuvik region, in terms of the economic downtown, the conditions there. I do not think that a $300 million road project to create economy is the answer to that situation, not in and of itself.

I hear the federal government say that they want to be able to say that they have highway infrastructure coast to coast to coast. That’s a very lofty goal, an admirable goal, but our government is necessarily being called upon to participate in this project at least with 25 percent of the capital cost and who knows how much on the ongoing operations and maintenance of that highway.

We have Highway No. 7. We hear our colleague from Nahendeh stand up session after session and talk about the lack of maintenance and upkeep on a highway in his region. We heard many times from folks that represent the Mackenzie Delta about the conditions of the Dempster Highway and how this government does not have enough resources to maintain and upkeep that highway, and now we want to build another piece of highway infrastructure. We need to do so by first very seriously counting the costs of what the use will be and what the ongoing costs of that are.

I look at the latest major highway project this government overtook, which was from the Rae turnoff to Yellowknife, and no offense to the Department of Transportation, but they were building a highway in the Canadian Shield where they had unlimited access to rock they could crush to put a proper bed in that road, and that road is beyond disgusting. I think they started rebuilding the road the day after they built it. That was a $200 million project in this part of the country where they didn’t have to deal with permafrost and all the challenges that they will have to deal with up in the Beaufort-Delta area.

So we have to ask ourselves some very hard questions, regardless of the fact that it is on sale at 75 percent off. It will still be a piece of infrastructure that we will be responsible for and we have to look at this very critically. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. The Member for Sahtu, Mr. Yakeleya.

Elders In Motion Program
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning I sat down with some very committed and encouraging people in the Northwest Territories. They were working on initiatives to help our elders in our small communities. The program is called Elders in Motion. These people talked about how they are working with the elders in our communities, and some of the barriers, some of the advice and some of the things that they are doing in our communities. I just happened to be there when they were doing their presentation – and they’re at the Baker Centre this afternoon finishing off today’s work there – and they were talking about the elders who are needing help in our small communities and communities right across the Northwest Territories.

The people in my region were talking about having some support, some of the small stuff we can do in our communities to help our elders get out, get active and do some of the things they used to do a long time ago.

For example, one of the things that the participants talked about is having ramps at the elders’ homes so they can easily come out of the houses and get out and exercise, pick berries and do the things they have loved to do all their life. They also talked about putting small steps into the school because some of the steps are pretty steep in the schools in the settlements. There’s maybe about 20 steps for them to get up into some of the classrooms or walk in some of the other areas that they want to go. They also talked about the roaming of dogs in the small communities. They are really afraid that there are too many loose dogs in the communities and it stops them from getting out and being active.

These community people are working hard. The elders are guiding and advising them. I think that there is a time and place that these small things, that sometimes we overlook as legislators, we need to look at some of these things that can support our elders get out, get them in motion and give them a good life before they pass on to the next world. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Elders In Motion Program
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Yakeleya. The Member for Weledeh, Mr. Bromley.