This is page numbers 2685 – 2724 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 work.

Topics

The House met at 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

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 57-17(4): Economic Development Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

Kam Lake

David Ramsay Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Mr. Speaker, later today, at the appropriate time, I will be tabling the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy Advisory Panel’s “What We Heard” report.

This report summarizes more than 80 engagements with our territory’s residents, private sector, governments and other stakeholders on the opportunities and challenges that they see for the NWT economy.

The advisory panel’s report documents what people had to say, it includes informed observations based on the perspectives and expertise of individual panel members, and it provides 90 recommendations to guide the drafting of the final Economic Opportunities Strategy.

These recommendations support several messages that the advisory panel has heard:

People are essential; we cannot advance our

economy without a growing healthy population.

Our resources, including our people, are largely

unrealized.

Economic opportunities and development must

be considered according to the benefits that will be provided to the NWT and its people; and

We must build our economy from the ground up,

using the local entrepreneurs and community-based businesses that provide the sustainability and growth of our community economies.

Mr. Speaker, our government has a vision of a territory in which a strong economy provides jobs and opportunities for our people and their communities. We are developing and implementing

plans and strategies that will make this vision a reality. Our work is interrelated. Initiatives to develop and sustain our grassroots economy, for instance, will be affected by the Mineral Development Strategy. Economic development is integrated with labour development, as it is with the Land Use and Sustainability Framework and our work to address poverty. Investments in managing our land and environment help us use our resources wisely and sustainably, while continuing to protect the health of our land and our people. A thriving economy is made up of healthy, educated people. We need people to own and run businesses and employees to work in them. People need education, training and healthier lifestyles to play a role in the economic life of the territory.

Our government is working hard to finalize a Devolution Agreement that will provide us with the authorities and resources to build our territory’s economic future. When we do, we will need to have strategies in place to guide the critical economic planning and decision-making that we have fought so hard to gain. Effective governance ensures that economic development leads directly to social development and protection of the environment. We can’t have one without the others. As our economy grows, we will be able to make more investments in prevention and early childhood to stop problems before they occur. The GNWT already has substantial social, environmental and economic responsibilities. Devolution will enhance our capacity to manage those responsibilities.

The NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy is one example of this foundational economic planning.

The process to develop this strategy was initiated by Members of this Assembly in 2011 when we took office, with a promise to invest, first and foremost, in partnerships and building solid relationships. Alongside a sustainable Mineral Development Strategy, it was identified specifically in our Caucus priorities. We have said, many times, that it is only by working together that we will be able to realize the full potential of our territory and the kind of future we envision for our people.

Mr. Speaker, the process that we are following to develop our Economic Opportunities Strategy is evidence to this.

The work is being led by the NWT Economic Opportunities Governance Committee, of which the GNWT is a member alongside its partners: the NWT Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Aboriginal Business Association, the NWT Association of Communities and Canada’s Northern Economic Development Agency, CanNor.

Government and business have come together, and now, thanks to the work of the advisory panel, our partnered approach has been extended to our territory's many leaders, stakeholders, organizations and residents.

Together, our goal is a strategy that can be a guide for a partnered approach to supporting the growth and development of NWT business and industry over the next decade. It will provide a tool for us as leaders to move forward in the same spirit of partnership and cooperation in which it is being created. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 57-17(4): Economic Development Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Colleagues, before we move on today, I’d like to welcome back former Member, former Premier, Mr. Joe Handley is in the House today. Welcome.

---Applause

The honourable Minister of Justice, Mr. Abernethy.

Minister's Statement 58-17(4): Community Safety Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

Great Slave

Glen Abernethy Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Northwest Territories know their needs and priorities and communities should take the lead on determining how to address issues, like community safety, that matter to them. The Department of Justice is committed to assisting communities, and the NWT has been recognized throughout Canada as a leader in community-based initiatives like our community justice committees. Today I would like to speak to Members about another initiative we are introducing to support our people and their communities, the Community Safety Strategy.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, crime, violence and substance abuse continue to be issues that our people struggle against. Left unchecked, these problems can create a cycle of harm that spreads its effects throughout our communities and damages the sense of belonging, safety and wellness that a strong, healthy society should provide. Dealing with the effects of crime and violence alone is not enough. To create the sustainable, vibrant and safe communities that are a priority of this Assembly, we need to be working to strengthen the social fabric of our communities and establish feelings of confidence, trust, engagement and partnership among our people.

Our new Community Safety Strategy will help bring an end to this cycle of harm. Like our community policing plans, this strategy takes a community-first

approach that empowers them to identify their own priority safety issues. With support from our government, they will work to set their own goals for resolving these issues and develop plans to address them. These will be community plans, Mr. Speaker, that will be effective, sustainable and responsive to local needs because they will have been developed by their residents.

The goals of the strategy are to increase involvement, help people learn what they can do to create healthy, safe communities and encourage innovative ideas. We also expect communities will benefit from increased capacity as they gain experience in developing their own safety plans. The growing sense of empowerment, confidence, accountability and self-reliance that will come from taking charge of their own issues will also help to reverse the cycle of harm and build the social cohesion that all healthy communities need.

Many of our communities have said they want to stop bootlegging; this strategy will help them make plans to do that. It will help them work together on plans for youth and elder initiatives or on-the-land programs that fit with their priorities. Through this strategy, the Department of Justice will be there with the support and tools that communities need to achieve their own safety goals.

Mr. Speaker, the community of Tulita is ready to start working on their own Community Safety Strategy and we will be holding our first sessions there in the next few weeks. This will be followed by sessions in two additional communities in the near future.

A strong, prosperous territory is built on a strong society sustained by a healthy environment, Mr. Speaker. The Community Safety Strategy is one of several strategies this government is working on that will support our citizens, grow our economy and help us protect our environment. This includes work like the Anti-Poverty Strategy, the Early Childhood Development Framework, the Land Use and Sustainability Framework, the Economic Opportunities Strategy, Energy Strategy and Mineral Development Strategy. We know similar approaches to community safety have met with great success. I look forward to telling Members about the difference the Community Safety Strategy is making in our communities in future sessions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 58-17(4): Community Safety Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Abernethy. The honourable Minister of Transportation, Mr. Ramsay.

Minister's Statement 59-17(4): Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway – Source 177 Upgrade
Ministers’ Statements

Kam Lake

David Ramsay Minister of Transportation

Mr. Speaker, achieving our vision of a strong, prosperous territory requires a balanced approach that advances our economic,

social and environmental priorities. This government is moving forward on all those fronts, and the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway demonstrates our commitment to each of those areas.

The construction of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway will be the largest capital project undertaken by the Government of the Northwest Territories. The Department of Transportation, working with our local contractors, has been putting Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik residents and equipment to work, upgrading the access road to Gravel Source 177, creating local jobs and business opportunities in the Beaufort-Delta region.

A joint venture consisting of local companies undertook the work to upgrade the 19-kilometre access road south of Tuktoyaktuk to Canadian highway standards.

A significant amount of work has been completed since the start of construction in March 2013. The upgrading of the Source 177 Access Road is now 90 percent complete. Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik residents worked around the clock to blast, excavate, haul, dump, spread, and upgrade the access road before the cold began to leave the ground. The first big push of highway construction activity is now winding down as the weather in the Delta warms up.

DOT contractors are using a highway construction technique that will not disturb the continuous Arctic permafrost that would become fragile if disturbed.

Instead of cutting into the land, geotextile fabric is being applied to the frozen ground with granular material placed on top, creating a layer of insulation that protects the permafrost from degradation. Crews also extended culverts in addition to raising and widening the access road’s embankment.

This upgrade work employed almost 150 Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik residents, and involved 14 northern, local, Inuvialuit and Gwich’in contractors.

Mr. Speaker, with almost 50 pieces of heavy equipment working on the project, our contractors reported that every available dump truck, grader, CAT, water truck, driver and mechanic in Tuktoyaktuk received the benefit of gainful employment during the spring construction period. Local contractors will continue compacting, levelling and grading the embankment and side slopes over the summer.

Geotechnical work was also completed, with over 30 people primarily from local communities employed on the investigation project. We are looking forward to the anticipated positive results of the investigation and analysis. The borehole samples taken along the alignment, borrow sources, and bridge crossings will provide the geotechnical information necessary to complete the

100 percent design of the new alignment and bridge structures this summer.

I am encouraged by the extensive and immediate local employment provided by the Source 177 upgrade and geotechnical works. These local employment opportunities will continue through the summer as Navy Road upgrade work commences in Inuvik. I am looking forward to the extensive employment opportunities during the upcoming winter and ongoing as we move forward on the construction of the new highway.

The total Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway construction is expected to require some 5.8 million cubic metres of embankment material, which means local employment on the construction project will continue to grow in the coming years, and the maintenance of the highway will provide local jobs for generations to come.

I congratulate the local citizens, contractors and leadership who are helping to make the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway project a reality that will result in long-term employment, training, economic, social and other benefits.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has a vision of a territory where strong individuals, families and communities share in the benefits and responsibilities of a unified, environmentally sustainable and prosperous NWT.

This vision is the Department of Transportation’s motivation to rely upon Northern experience, talent and skill to build the northernmost segment of highway that will connect Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 59-17(4): Inuvik To Tuktoyaktuk Highway – Source 177 Upgrade
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

New School For Deline
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to talk about the investment of our children and the people in our communities, especially in the community of Deline. Investment in our education, in our people, is very, very critical. I met with the Deline leadership this morning and they talked solely on the investment of their children, to the point where in 1995 was the first time the government said to the community we want to bring Grade 12 into your communities. The people in Deline said yes, providing you bring the resources that allow sufficient Grade 12 programs. Nothing to this date has honoured that commitment.

The people in Deline say we do like Grade 12 but the resources are not there. We only had three extra teachers that have come along. But the

education is not the same type of education they have in Yellowknife or Hay River or Inuvik. We are still waiting for the resources. This is why students are being sent to Yellowknife, where the parents have to pay their housing, their food, their airline tickets, and the government will not help them get a better education.

It has been proven just today, as Mr. Ramsay talked about in his statement about education being a key point to economic growth, sustainability, wealth and prosperity. People in Deline also are reminded of that. People in Deline know that the quality of education makes it all worthwhile in their community. They have ?ehtseo Ayha School. They say we need to rebuild that school and have a quality of education brought into our communities. We have not heard anything since 1995. The government’s going to bring that type of education into the communities. That’s why they said we’re not too sure, but we were okay by having this Grade 12 come in our communities. They want to come back to the government and say are we going to get the same type of facilities and resources in our communities if you’re going to give us Grade 12, because now students and parents are sending their kids out to Inuvik, Fort Smith and Yellowknife to get the kind of quality of education they want to see their children get.

I will have questions for the Minister on this topic.

New School For Deline
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Health Care Card Renewal Process
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. During the last sitting of the Legislature, I did a Member’s statement on health care card renewal. Many weeks have gone by, and I have to tell you that this has turned into an almost fulltime job for us in our constituency offices to deal with the myriad of people who cannot seemingly get a quick response to getting their health care cards renewed. I’ve checked with some of my other colleagues and Hay River is not alone. At first I wondered if it was a conspiracy.

It gives me no pleasure to stand up here and complain, as you know. We must always express all the things we’re thankful for. I am thankful for our health care system. I am thankful for those cards we have. I am thankful that we can hand them to any place in Canada and they will take care of us. I am thankful that we pay no premium, but you would think that issuing new health care cards on a new program that coincides with people’s birthdates would not have been this difficult.

Let me give you a few examples. I had a constituent that showed up for a medical procedure in Yellowknife three days before her birthday when

her card expired, only to be told by the health care professional that she, in fact, had to pay for the service and then she would get reimbursed later. Her health care hadn’t even expired yet and they were telling her this. Where is the communication with the people on the front line that are telling health care professionals what to say? Somebody’s got to be in charge of this.

I had a senior constituent in the south who had a $1,500 bill and was told just pay it and you’ll get reimbursed. Well, I have a news flash: Most people don’t have $1,500 sitting in their back account to pay for a health bill when they’re not expecting it. Most people don’t have that. A lot of people don’t have that kind of money, and health care procedures can be extremely expensive. Now, through a lot of phone calls and a lot of wrangling and stuff being faxed and phone calls back and forth, that situation was resolved, but that is a real life example.

I had a husband and wife in Hay River that both sent their applications out for renewal at the same time. The husband got his card back; the wife didn’t.

We have pharmacists in Hay River that are actually bankrolling, are carrying the costs of medication for people whose health care cards have not come in and, out of the goodness of their heart, are financing the pharmaceutical for the client. That’s not their job. We should not be asking them to do that.

I’ve heard rumors that maybe they lost some of the data in Inuvik. I don’t know about that, but I did make the same statement several weeks ago.

I will have questions again today to the Minister of Health and Social Services on the process for health care card renewal. Thank you.

Health Care Card Renewal Process
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. The honourable Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Highway No. 7 Conditions And Closures
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Transportation spoke today of a new road. I want to raise my issue of my own road, Highway No. 7. I asked Members to keep their hands on the steering wheels and eyes on the road. We need to focus our resources on Highway No. 7. This well used, unreliable transportation corridor failed again, mostly simply, with a common washout at kilometre 221.

These road failures are common and a huge inconvenience to business, industry and the general public. Even people who are not travelling suffer from the delays in the delivery of goods and services due to the road closures and poor highway conditions. It is a disincentive to development and a

barrier to what should be one of the most prosperous regions of the North.

I was recently in Fort Liard, on my spring visit, on the newly reconstructed portion of the highway from the border. There were dust clouds arising from vehicles travelling barely 20 kilometres an hour. Earlier this year Highway No. 3 was a scene of a tragic accident under conditions that were arguably better than what we often experience on Highway No. 7.

This terrible tragedy is avoidable. We cannot lose any more lives. Furthermore, industry plans to have at least 250 trucks moving between Fort Liard and the border this summer.

I call upon the Department of Transportation for a full dust control program for the safety of the residents of the Deh Cho communities, the travelling public, from the border all the way to Fort Liard.

I have made light of road conditions on Highway No. 7 many times as an MLA, from highlighting the attractions of bathtub-sized potholes, to comparing chipseal to pie crust made to be broken, but Highway No. 7 is our only road. It is a key piece of infrastructure just like any bridge, airport, ferry crossing or ice road. It is a gateway, a lifeline and a road home. People depend on this Highway No. 7 to make a living. To encourage companies to stay in the North, maybe we could build or even reconstruct, in this case, the highway that meets our national transportation standards.

Once again, on behalf of all the residents of the Northwest Territories, especially those in the Deh Cho, I call upon this government to get to work on Highway No. 7 and put its money where the rubber meets the road. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Highway No. 7 Conditions And Closures
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. The honourable Member for Weledeh, Mr. Bromley.