This is page numbers 2545 – 2580 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 expenditures.

Topics

The House met at 1:29 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister's Statement 49-17(4): Management Actions For Barren Ground Caribou Herds
Ministers’ Statements

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to update the people of the Northwest Territories on management actions for barren ground caribou herds.

The new population estimates for the Beverly and Ahiak caribou herds, led by the Government of Nunavut, highlight the need for regular surveys and monitoring so we have a clear picture of herd status and can identify changes and deal with them in a timely manner.

The last calving ground survey of the Beverly herd was done in June 1994 and the herd was estimated at 276,000 animals. The survey done in June 2011 estimated 124,000 in the Beverly herd and 83,000 in the Ahiak herd. Results of other analysis done on these two herds suggest the Beverly herd has shifted its calving area about 200 to 300 kilometres north of its previous known area.

Mr. Speaker, we may never know the reason for this shift in the calving area or changes in numbers because of the limited monitoring of the herd in the past 20 years. This illustrates the critical need for ongoing monitoring so co-management partners can effectively manage caribou herds to meet the needs of current and future generations.

These new population estimates are good news. We plan on developing a proposal for a limited resident harvest of the Beverly and Ahiak herds for consideration by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.

Another proposal for a limited resident harvest of the Bluenose-East herd is also being developed for consideration by the Sahtu, Gwich’in and Wek’eezhìi Renewable Resources Boards and the Wildlife Management Advisory Council.

We will implement the co-management boards’ recommendations on management actions for these herds during the fall of 2013.

Planning is already underway to conduct a population survey of the Bluenose-East herd this June. The last survey was completed in June 2010.

We continue to work with the Tlicho Government on joint proposal on management actions for the Bathurst herd during the next three years. This proposal will be submitted to the Wek’eezhìi Renewable Resources Board this spring. The department will also be discussing the proposal with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the NWT Metis Nation. We will implement recommendations from the board this fall.

A recruitment survey of the Bathurst herd is also planned for April. This survey will provide information on calf recruitment and cow:calf ratios. This information is important in determining the trend in the herd’s population between population surveys.

Mr. Speaker, given the importance of caribou to the people of the Northwest Territories, our government is committed to working with our co-management partners to ensure regular monitoring of the herds is done for the effective management of this valuable resource. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 49-17(4): Management Actions For Barren Ground Caribou Herds
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Devolution Agreement Implementation
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As my respected colleagues on this side of the Assembly know, the job of MLA is not an easy one. We are not like Official Opposition down south. We don’t oppose the government just for the sake of opposing. We, in fact, elected this government. Our job is to represent the interests of

our constituents and to build consensus in this Assembly, and this is what I try to do.

Today I would like to give credit where credit is due. On Monday we celebrated a progress that has been made on finalizing the Devolution Agreement. Congratulations to our Premier, the Aboriginal government leaders and their officials for bringing us to this historic threshold.

This is big news, as devolution is a stated priority of this Legislative Assembly. Last Friday we celebrated the Tlicho Government coming on board with this process that will bring resource revenues and increase authorities to the North.

In the Deh Cho region, it is no secret that concerns around devolution have been expressed. Our Aboriginal leadership do not want anything to negatively impact the Dehcho Process for resolving Aboriginal title and self-government issues. As the MLA for Nahendeh and as a Dene person and of the Dehcho, I, of course, share these priorities too. I have brought these issues to my constituents in meetings and in conversations with the Premier, Cabinet members and experts. In response, I have heard the Devolution Agreement cannot stop or take away from our rights as Aboriginal people.

I understand that our Aboriginal treaty rights will continue to be constitutionally protected. I also understand that land claim and self-government negotiations will not be negatively affected by devolution and that the Government of Canada can take back any land necessary from the Government of the Northwest Territories for the settlement of the claims.

My job, and our jobs as MLAs, is to ensure that our constituents’ interests are heard and that their rights are protected. We have done that and I believe we need to seize the opportunities that devolution provides.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Devolution Agreement Implementation
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

I encourage my respective colleagues in this Assembly and all residents of the NWT to consider the opportunities devolution provides. Within my own constituency of Nahendeh, I encourage the Dehcho First Nations to carefully consider the merits of devolution. Devolution offers an important opportunity for the public government and Aboriginal governments to work more closely in land and resource management. Devolution also means that important decisions around land and resources will be made closer to home with the priorities of the people of the NWT in mind.

Devolution will also provide resource revenue to the people of the NWT. It is time to stop the flow of 100 percent of the resource revenues out of the North. It

is time to bring the powers closer to home. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Devolution Agreement Implementation
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Change Orders Paid To Southern Contractors
Members’ Statements

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We’re in our final week here in the Assembly, and over the course of the previous five weeks I’ve asked a lot of questions in the House. More importantly, trying to get down to the details and find some information out, I’ve asked some written questions to get some details to allow the departments to come back and give me the information that I really needed. One of these written questions was given back to me yesterday, and it was in regard to the GNWT contracts that are awarded to southern contractors. It just confirmed some of the questions in Member’s statements that I’ve had in this House where we reward so many contracts to southern contractors, yet they come back with millions of dollars in change orders. What grabbed my attention was that I had only asked questions and written questions in the House here about change orders over the last two fiscal years. The number that was brought to my attention was very high and raised a red flag with me. That was near the amount of $40 million that this government paid in change orders to southern contractors over the last two fiscal years. That needs to be addressed and that’s why it was one of my very first questions, my very first Member’s statements in this House when we sat in this session. It’s a very important issue and it needs to be addressed.

We get southern contractors that come up to the North, that try to take business away from northern contractors, get those contracts awarded because they don’t know how to do the business up in the North, they don’t know what the costs are associated with doing certain types of contracts that we have in the NWT.

I’ve only been in the government for 16 months and I’ve only asked questions in terms of the time related to how long I’ve been here. Because I have a privilege in this job and that’s to get information, that’s to ask questions, that’s to bring things up in this House and let the public know what our government’s doing. I’ve got two and a half more years at this and we’re going to try to get as much information as we can, but this one here, these written questions that we found out 16 months in, close to about $40 million in change orders, that needs to be addressed, that needs to be fixed. We have to get northern jobs, northern businesses awarded those contracts so that we can develop the economic sustainability up here.

Change Orders Paid To Southern Contractors
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

911 Emergency Call Centre
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With all the recent attention lately on 911 in the territory, this definitely opens up the debate on why the GNWT still does not have a system in place, nor has the appetite to initiate the framework of a 911 emergency call centre.

Admittedly, this 911 topic has been covered many times in the past by some of my colleagues here today. We have heard from the very same Municipal and Community Affairs Minister, even back on October 15, 2009, saying that 911 would not be considered in the NWT until cell phone service was available across the territory. Now, many, even back then, had a hard time understanding why mobile accessibility was a prerequisite for 911 services. Now that the majority of our communities have the capabilities of mobile use, it begs the question again, why is this government not in the mandate of public safety for its residents?

The residents of the NWT have many more questions. Why has this government dragged its heels on making sure that all 33 of our communities have updated and real-time access to emergency action plans which could incorporate a standardized 911 system? Why has this government not initiated a framework of an integrated 911 emergency community framework call centre? Why has this government not allowed the programming of 911 calls via dedicated circuits to a centralized public safety answering point somewhere in the NWT, thus allowing for potentially more jobs in our communities? If costs were such a factor, why has this government not worked with southern established 911 call centres, like in places like Edmonton, Alberta, to piggyback on what is currently an established and tested call centre?

Public safety is a mandate of public government. Just because this government provides money for community emergency services through capital funding and gas tax funding, it does not mean our responsibility to citizens gets passed on to community governments for such 911 emergency services. Sorry, but the power for such decisions is not for community governments to prioritize. It is for the responsibility of the territorial government to standardize such service for its people.

Now that devolution is well on its way, the Premier will be looking for a new issue to champion; therefore, I will have questions later today for the Premier for his commitment on the investigative framework of a 911 call centre for the residents of all our 33 communities across the Northwest Territories.

911 Emergency Call Centre
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Dolynny. The Member for Deh Cho, Mr. Nadli.

Status Of Aboriginal Languages
Members’ Statements

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. About 7,200 Northwest Territories residents speak one of nine Aboriginal languages. Five of the NWT’s official languages have fewer than 500 speakers; six languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers, eight languages have fewer than 1,500 including South Slavey, and only one has more than 2,500 people that speak it, from the 2009 statistics.

[Translation] The government has spent $3.5 million on Aboriginal languages and a lot of the money goes to the Dene Secretariat. The district of education also gets a certain amount of money and also towards the schools. It seems like the Dene language is starting to decline. It seems like we’re also losing our language in my home community of Fort Providence. A lot of young people are finding it hard to speak their Dene language, and also in regard to the media, such as TV. Suppose if we did use the TV media to revive the language. In 1988, the Official Languages Act came into force. In 1988, this is what happened. [Translation ends]

…Aboriginal language are over 40. This age group accounts for about two-thirds of South Slavey speakers. Only 38 percent of Aboriginal people in the NWT speak their language. In the Deh Cho region, 58 percent of Aboriginal people speak their language, the second highest in the Northwest Territories after Tlicho, which is 90 percent. Only about 220 people in the Northwest Territories were able to converse in Gwich’in in 2009.

I will have follow-up questions to the Minister of ECE later on today.

Status Of Aboriginal Languages
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. The Member for Frame Lake, Ms. Bisaro.

Devolution Agreement Public Engagement And Consultation Process
Members’ Statements

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What a historic day yesterday. Devolution has arrived after a long and a hard-fought battle. That we’ve reached this point is wonderful. I am in full support of devolution and very happy. It’s not something I thought I would see during my tenure here at the Legislative Assembly. I offer congratulations to the Premier, the Aboriginal governments and all the hardworking GNWT negotiations staff, past and present, who brought us to this point.

Today I’d like to follow up on an exchange that I had last week during budget deliberations with the Premier, and recent comments by the Premier. Just this week the Premier has been heard to say there will be an unprecedented level of public

engagement and consultation. We now embark on a period of public engagement and consultation for 40 or 50 days. We will then, apparently, decide whether or not to accept the terms of the Devolution Final Agreement and sign off on it. It’s unclear who will be making that decision. According to the Premier, it will be the GNWT and its partners. Who are the partners, I asked. Aboriginal governments, I’m told.

As I tried to say last week, I’m seriously concerned about several aspects of the consultation plan. Just where do the opinions of the general public get considered in the proposed consultation and engagement scenario? I see no opportunity for a large segment of the public, specifically those not represented by an Aboriginal government, to influence the decision to sign off on the final agreement or not. Oh, but those residents are represented by the GNWT, is the answer. I’ve heard that said by one or another Cabinet Minister more than once. Unfortunately, those NWT residents do not agree with the Premier, and currently there is little trust among the general public that the upcoming public engagement will allow for those residents’ opinions to be considered and appreciated

Just what will the Premier do if there is a groundswell of public opinion against signing off on the Devolution Final Agreement? Not very much, I’m afraid. Just this morning Premier McLeod informed an interviewer that devolution is a done deal; no changes are expected. Why, then, are we wasting money on a public engagement process when it will result in absolutely no change?

I will have questions for the Premier at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.