This is page numbers 2063 – 2092 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 health.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Hon. Tom Beaulieu, Ms. Bisaro, Mr. Blake, Mr. Bouchard, Mr. Bromley, Mr. Dolynny, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Hawkins, Hon. Jackie Jacobson, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Mr. Menicoche, Hon. Michael Miltenberger, Mr. Moses, Mr. Nadli, Hon. David Ramsay, Mr. Yakeleya

The House met at 10:01 a.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Minister’s Statement 21-17(4): Mackenzie Valley Highway
Ministers’ Statements

David Ramsay Kam Lake

The construction of an all-weather highway down the Mackenzie Valley to the Arctic coast is vital to connect our communities, and to access a wealth of natural resources that are critical for growing the NWT economy and ensuring Canada remains prosperous within the global economy.

Mr. Speaker, the northern most segment of the Mackenzie Valley all-weather highway, the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway, is our first priority for construction. This highway has received much attention recently as the Government of the Northwest Territories approaches some key decision points concerning the next steps for construction of this segment. At the same time, the Department of Transportation is reaching significant and notable milestones in planning the southern section of the highway from Wrigley to the Dempster Highway. The recent exploration activity in the Sahtu has drawn much attention to the southern portion of the Mackenzie Valley and we need to also continue our planning efforts to focus on the next construction priority: the road from Wrigley to Norman Wells.

I’m very pleased to announce the department initiated the second planning stage for the Mackenzie Valley Highway at the beginning of February.

Four project description reports for highway segments passing through land claim settlement areas have been combined into one scoping document and submitted to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board for initial review. The department requested the application be referred to an

environmental assessment. Last week the

Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board initiated the environmental review process for the proposed all-weather highway from Wrigley to the Dempster.

The project description reports for the southern segment of the highway were completed through partnerships with CanNor and Aboriginal land claim organizations. The partnerships delivered environmental and engineering information to support the regulatory review process for the all-weather highway project.

The Department of Transportation has engaged the federal government in discussions on funding for additional planning activities required to move the project through the EA process. In support of this work, CanNor recently contributed $600,000 for the next stage of environmental and engineering study activities.

A memorandum of understanding to create a partnership for Stage 2 Planning Activities was signed with the Gwich’in Development Corporation in January 2013 and a similar MOU is anticipated with the Tulita District Investment Corporation shortly.

While we work through the planning process for the all-weather highway, we have also been busy upgrading the Mackenzie Valley winter road. Through federal partnerships, such as the Building Canada Plan, the Department of Transportation has already invested over $100 million in incremental infrastructure improvements on the winter road.

The winter road’s grade and alignment have been improved significantly at key locations and the installation of permanent bridges has helped to stabilize the road’s operating season in the face of warming weather. Improvements in safety have been achieved by installing signs to indicate speed limits, distance and changing surface conditions.

Mr. Speaker, since 2005, the department has been collaborating with industry through annual contribution agreements to improve the level of service on the road to accommodate increased heavy traffic associated with resource development needs. This year the GNWT received $1.2 million in contributions from industry to advance the winter road construction effort.

This additional funding has allowed the department to accelerate the construction of ice crossings to deliver earlier access to the winter road, strengthen the road surface to better receive heavy equipment, and accommodate the demobilization of rigs and other gear at the latest possible date in the spring. Unfortunately, advance planning cannot account for the added measure of unpredictable and sometimes severe weather conditions experienced this year.

To improve safety, the department has increased the number of vehicle inspections and enforcement patrols, and is providing information packages to industrial drivers new to the winter road experience. Additional signage marking all the crossings will help new drivers understand and communicate their locations as they travel the route. We will continue to engage industry and work with them to improve winter road safety.

Mr. Speaker, while the capital investments required to complete the highway are substantial, the benefits that will accrue from this investment are significant and national in scope. The completion of the all-weather highway will improve access to our communities, help maximize the exploration investments from resource development companies, provide greater certainty for further exploration, and create significant employment opportunities for Northerners during construction and ongoing maintenance.

Mr. Speaker, strategic investment in our transportation infrastructure that will support economic development is an investment in a strong, prosperous Northwest Territories. The Department of Transportation is pleased to be moving the Mackenzie Valley Highway into the environmental assessment phase and closer to realizing the dream of an all-weather highway down the entire length of the Mackenzie Valley. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 21-17(4): Mackenzie Valley Highway
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. The honourable Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, Mr. McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 22-17(4): Good Governance Conferences
Ministers’ Statements

Inuvik Twin Lakes

Robert C. McLeod Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to speak about the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs’ upcoming Good Governance Conference. This year’s conference theme is Community Ownership. The conference will take place at the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife from February 26thto 28thand 165 participants representing all 33 communities are expected to attend.

Mr. Speaker, our 33 community governments play a vital role in the sustainability and strength of our territory. MACA, through the School of Community Government, continues to support them as they build capacity to address their increased authority.

We promote and support effective governance and program delivery through initiatives such as the Advancing Local Government Administrators Program, the Community Government Mentorship Program, Occupational Certification and the Recreation Leaders Program. We also provide specific training on a wide range of community government-related topics. From April to December 2012, 450 community government staff from 29 communities participated in courses delivered through the School of Community Government.

Building community capacity requires partnerships with stakeholders, including the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, the Local Government Administrators of the NWT, our own Department of Human Resources and community governments themselves.

Strategic investments in capacity building have resulted in programs that meet community governments’ unique needs. The Public Service Capacity Initiative, through which MACA is hosting the upcoming conference, is one example of the type of collaborative program being delivered through the school.

This year’s conference theme of Community Ownership reflects the importance of asset management and community involvement in planning. Sessions will cover a variety of topics and feature some of the foremost experts in the field from the North and across Canada. We will talk about community capacity and how to keep our communities sustainable, vibrant and safe.

I invite all of my fellow Members to attend what is sure to be an informative conference. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 22-17(4): Good Governance Conferences
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. The honourable Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Beaulieu.

Minister’s Statement 23-17(4): Early Childhood Development
Ministers’ Statements

Tu Nedhe

Tom Beaulieu Minister of Health and Social Services

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a priority of this government that children get the best possible start in life so they can reach their full potential. It is important that we continue investment in early childhood development as this is an investment in the future of our children.

In January of this year, in partnership with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, we hosted a roundtable to identify priorities for a renewed Early Childhood Development Framework. I’m pleased to report that the roundtable was a success.

I know the Members of this House that attended the roundtable would agree that the experts provided us with great insights about integrating new research findings into current practices.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that we are on the right track. The experts and the local presenters confirmed that we are funding the right programs. We must continue with existing programs like the Healthy Families Program, which we plan to expand to more communities. This program provides community-level support for families.

We continue our investment of over 3 percent of our budget in prevention programs. We know that by starting prevention programs at a young age will allow our families to grow strong and healthy. Our Mental Health and Addictions Plan, A Shared Path Towards Wellness, will complement our Early Childhood Development Framework.

We continue to support the great work NGOs are providing. NGOs like the NWT Literacy Council and NWT Disability Council and programs like the Aboriginal Head Start will contribute to successful early childhood development.

We all want our children to have the best possible start in life. We must work in partnership with all agencies to ensure that our children are healthy and can grow into responsible, healthy residents.

Minister Lafferty and I look forward to sharing our renewed framework with Members of this Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister’s Statement 23-17(4): Early Childhood Development
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Sahtu, Mr. Yakeleya.

Need For A Social Housing Strategic Plan
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The federal government will be getting out of public housing in 2038. That’s 25 years from now. I should be about 35 years old by then. The federal government will not continue to allocate funding for social housing in the Northwest Territories or in Canada.

We are experiencing cutbacks from social housing right now as we speak. Every year we’re receiving less and less. Soon the money will run dry, and then what? Are we ready for this? That’s a good question.

Today we own about 2,400 public housing units in the Northwest Territories. Each unit costs the NWT Housing Corporation about $16,000 per year. That includes electricity, heat, and water and sewer delivery. The sad part is that we have some houses sitting empty in our communities.

People keep reminding me of the promises that were made by the government of the day a long time ago, about how they were going to own their own homes once they were relocated off the land and put into public housing units at that time. Since we pay more for keeping our residents in those units, they are still not close to owning their own homes. They are residents who live in those units until they pass on. The government has to do away with that kind of thinking and work with people in training, creating jobs and assisting our residents with home ownership, and make it a priority of this government to provide support to our residents to become homeowners.

We value and take pride in our diverse cultures and our ability to adapt, and I believe we could adapt to new ways of looking at housing. We need to have discussions with our people, pay attention to them, and to adjust our strategic planning to see the future of our residents. We need a comprehensive territorial or national housing strategy.

We’re all in this together. There’s no telling what will happen if we work together with our residents and come up with solutions for our housing strategic plan. With the right amount of funding, it might just work. We need it to work. We need it to work now.

Need For A Social Housing Strategic Plan
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Yakeleya. The honourable Member for Range Lake, Mr. Dolynny.

Health Budget Reduction Opportunities Identified During Budget Dialogue 2012
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A couple of months ago our Minister of Finance took to the skies with his childhood bag of Legos and travelled the territory to talk to the people about the budget. I must admit the format was unique and provided some visual interaction, but months later, after the report has been tabled, one must look back and ask what we learned. What was used from this experience to influence the main estimates we’re currently reviewing? Did we listen? More importantly, did we hear the wishes of our people?

Interestingly, we are currently looking at the Department of Health and Social Services budget and I find myself dusting off this Budget Dialogue 2012 report to see what was captured and what was being transferred to good use today. Health was cited by most participants as the area where there were the most opportunities for savings. Suggestions range from cost reduction in administration of medical travel, using strategic staffing, using technology to reduce medical travel and investing in healthy lifestyles. These were all opportunities of efficiencies.

Medical travel, comments like “unnecessary trips to Edmonton” and “bad enough I had to travel to Yellowknife for medical reasons, even worse when I found out my appointment was cancelled” and “government needs to be vigilant about the abuse of the privilege” clearly shows opportunity for savings or potential abuse of the system. Some participants also indicated to have a better use of existing resources. Another quote, “We need to keep people in the North to get the treatment they need. That could be a cost-saving measure.” I agree. Reducing our need to fly people down south, in itself, is a very forward-thinking approach to reducing our medical travel costs. I applaud the residents who came up with that.

However, the many ideas generated for reducing the costs of medical travel, such as better scheduling practices to avoid these multiple trips and long stays, these checks and balances to reduce cancellation and missed appointments, and better coordination of our patients’ medical appointments, for the most part have fallen on deaf ears as we do not see any changes to these recommendations or any of this action today. This is very unfortunate.

I can speak to many more residents’ suggestions that are now part of the GNWT archaeological archives of other countless reports, but I’ll stop here. I will use this Budget Dialogue 2012 report to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services the appropriate questions later today.

Health Budget Reduction Opportunities Identified During Budget Dialogue 2012
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Health Care Card Renewal Process
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wonder how many people in our territory know that they have to renew their health care card. I just asked that because that is the new system that has been adopted by our Health department. It is now up to everyone to check the expiry date on their health care card and apply for a new one a few months in advance. The form is available on the Health and Social Services website, and at nursing stations and medical clinics.

I know there has been some advertising about this, and postcards to remind people to renew are being sent out, but old habits die hard. No doubt there will be people who do not get the message.

It used to be the health care cards were seldom replaced and when they were, the new one would simply arrive in the mail. Many of our residents probably still think that that’s how it works. Of course, what I do not want to see happen is any of our residents running into problems with their health care coverage – especially if they happen to travel outside the Northwest Territories – expiring. Sometimes we are asked to pay a bill and then we have to seek reimbursement after we get home.

I know that many people have applied for new cards but have not received them yet. There may be a backlog in Inuvik; I’m not sure. But, obviously, we need to provide health care to those people when it is required, so it’s important that there be a grace period. My understanding is that health care providers are supposed to confirm the patient’s enrolment number. It might be a good idea to have an automatic grace period of some length and then handle problems on a case-by-case basis.

I am glad that the Health department is keeping health care cards up to date. I’m sure that one good side effect will be that few people who have left the NWT will still have valid cards. I am always amazed by how many times I am approached by people in the public who want to convince me of an urban myth that there are more health care cards than there are people in the Northwest Territories. We have gone over this many, many times and I’ve assured people this is not the case, but it is still out there in the public that we have people who have left the Northwest Territories still carrying around NWT health care cards. This new system will, hopefully, help to alleviate that.

But change is always hard and I’m sure there will be little glitches before the population is used to renewing their health care cards, and I want to encourage the Health Minister to stay with the information campaign for a while and then reinforce it from time to time.

Later today I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services on this new health care card renewal process.

Health Care Card Renewal Process
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. The Member for Frame Lake, Ms. Bisaro.