This is page numbers 4743 – 4770 of the Hansard for the 17th Assembly, 5th 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 community.

Topics

The House met at 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Welcome back, colleagues, as we reconvene the Fifth Session of the 17th Legislative Assembly.

Another beautiful autumn is upon the Northwest Territories. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to get out and enjoy it. As we return from a summer spent reconnecting with our communities, our constituents, our families and our land, we prepare for the busy session that lies ahead of us.

Members, on September 19th the Legislative

Assembly concluded our 20th anniversary

celebrations with the burial of a time capsule in front of the beautiful building that we call home. The capsule is scheduled to be opened in 30 years, during the building’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Please join me in welcoming our Pages for this sitting. We will have students from Hay River, Inuvik, Yellowknife, and the Sahtu, Thebacha and Deh Cho regions joining us in the House. It is always a pleasure to have them here.

Members, October 15th is recognized as a Day of

Remembrance and Awareness of Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Although the House did not sit yesterday, I ask all Members to join me in honouring those taken from us far too soon.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my personal condolences, and the collective condolences of the House, to all families who have suffered the death of a small child, infant or preterm baby.

Members, today I would like to extend condolences to families and communities who have lost loved ones in recent weeks. When we lose a loved one in our small communities, it is felt by all. I am sending thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of Troy Taylor, Joe Roy Kimiksana Jr., Sue Keevik, Martha Kudlak, John Gruben Jr. and Eddie Bourke.

Colleagues, it is now my duty to advise the House that I have received the following message from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It reads:

“Dear Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of •

Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), 2015-2016

Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 4, 2014-2015, and

Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 2, 2014-2015

during the Fifth Session of the 17th Legislative

Assembly.

Yours truly, George L. Tuccaro, Commissioner.”

Thank you, colleagues. I know we are all eager to tackle the work at hand, so let us begin.

Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. Honourable Premier, Mr. McLeod.

Minister's Statement 88-17(5): Sessional Statement
Ministers’ Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker. I would like to welcome all Members back for the resumption of the Fifth Session of the 17th Legislative Assembly.

Last month the Government of the Northwest Territories announced that it would cover the expected $20 million in increased operating costs that the Northwest Territories Power Corporation faces due to extremely low water levels in the Snare Hydro system.

Our government took this extraordinary step because we are serious about addressing the high cost of living people in the Northwest Territories face. Without this decision, the added cost of using diesel to supplement hydro generation on the Snare system would have been paid by electricity users in every community of the Northwest Territories.

As an Assembly, we share a vision of a strong, environmentally sustainable and prosperous Northwest Territories that provides opportunities for all its residents. Making the Northwest Territories an attractive place to live, work and do business is an essential part of achieving that vision. We

cannot achieve that unless we address the high cost of living and doing business in our communities. Energy is one of the biggest components of that cost and we have to do what we can to make it more affordable.

But we have to be clear that subsidizing consumers by taking on the additional costs of generating and distributing energy is not an effective, or affordable, long-term solution. If we really want to address the high costs of energy in the Northwest Territories, we need to make fundamental changes to how we approach energy specifically and how we think, more generally, as a government.

Identifying and harnessing new ideas is why the Government of the Northwest Territories will be hosting a second Energy Charrette early next month. The first Energy Charrette brought a broad range of energy experts and stakeholders together, including representatives from communities and Aboriginal governments. Together they discussed a long-term energy future for the Northwest Territories that resulted in an Energy Action Plan and a Power System Plan released late last year.

While those documents set out a long-term energy vision for the Northwest Territories, it is clear from recent circumstances that we also need to identify some more immediate and less expensive actions for addressing the high costs of generating and distributing energy right now. Our communities and businesses need the relief, and it will be critical to growing a strong, diversified economy.

A second Energy Charrette will give us the opportunity to identify those solutions, while accessing the input of stakeholders and good advice of energy experts. To help focus the discussion on finding practical solutions, we will be putting three questions forward: • Is there more that the Government of the

Northwest Territories can do in the short term to help Northwest Territories residents and businesses cope with rising costs?

• Are there new projects, programs or

technological solutions that could be effective in the immediate term?

• What should be the approach to transforming

our energy systems to ensure they are affordable and sustainable in the long term?

This charrette will look at generation options, rather than the large-scale transmission projects that emerged from the last one. We need to find ways to meet our energy needs closer to home, making better use of alternative energies like wind, biomass and solar. With ongoing advances in alternative energy technology, small-scale generation projects in communities, and even homes, are an affordable and feasible way we can help meet some of the demand, particularly in the North Slave where our current systems are at full capacity.

We need to do things differently, and the charrette will give us an opportunity to make a start in an area that is of great concern to all Northerners.

Mr. Speaker, energy is not the only area where the Government of the Northwest Territories needs to be doing things differently. We continue to face challenges that limit the choices we can make as an Assembly and hamper our ability to create the prosperous future we want for our residents. Even with devolution, the unpredictability of resource revenues will always affect our fiscal plans. Climate change will continue to affect our infrastructure and create challenges like longer fire seasons and low water levels at hydro facilities, placing more demands on our budgets and our people. Personal challenges like irregular school attendance leading to low educational attainment levels and mental health and addictions will continue to hold our people back.

We will only be able to realize our vision of a strong, sustainable and prosperous territory if we make some fundamental changes that free us from these external limits. We need to grow GDP and government revenues by transforming the territorial economy, creating something more diversified and less dependent on volatile resource revenues. We need to address the high costs of factors like energy that continue to be a drag on our economy and affect the standard of living of our residents. We need to effect social change that creates an environment our people can thrive and prosper in.

More money is not the answer. Increased flexibility in the form of a higher borrowing limit or more revenues would help address these challenges, but we cannot simply depend on finding more money that just may not be there. Increasingly, we need to realize that we will have to make managed and strategic investments calculated to make the fundamental changes we need for a successful future. At the same time, we need to maintain fiscal discipline, ensuring that we are not mortgaging our future at the same time as we are trying to transform it.

The growth and health of our economy depends on many factors. It depends on a skilled and educated workforce. It depends on competitive tax and royalty rates. It depends on affordable housing, energy and other costs that make it attractive for businesses to locate and stay here. It depends on vibrant, sustainable communities offering the kind of infrastructure and services residents and businesses need.

With so many factors in play, it is clear that we need to think creatively and broadly if we want to promote the kind of change in our economy that will create long-term, sustainable prosperity for our residents.

That is the kind of thinking that underlies our decisions to develop and implement an Economic

Opportunities Strategy and Mineral Development Strategy. It informs our decision to make strategic investments in infrastructure like the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway and Mackenzie Valley Fibre Optic Line that will help support economic growth and development. It is what is behind our decentralization initiative and our objective to grow the Northwest Territories population to help sustain economic growth in all communities and regions.

At the same time, we continue to actively seek partnerships, recognizing that economic development is broader than just the Government of the Northwest Territories alone. We are particularly interested in seeking the opportunities that might come from engaging with forums that link governments and businesses with a shared interest in sustainable economic development and prosperity in our region.

Examples include the Arctic Economic Council, recently established by Minister Leona Aglukkaq in her capacity as chair of the Arctic Council, and PNWER, or the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. The Northwest Territories recently took over the presidency of PNWER, giving us a unique platform for promoting the economic potential of our region to a broad range of business and political leaders from several US states and Canadian provinces and territories in the Pacific Northwest and to gain the benefit of their experience.

New thinking and new ways of doing things are not just being applied to the economy. Our government is also taking new approaches designed to promote the same kind of fundamental, positive changes for the territory and its residents in the areas of education and health and wellness.

If we want the people of this territory to live healthy, educated lives free from poverty, we cannot simply address symptoms, we have to address causes. We have to create change at a fundamental level that positions our residents for success and we have to do it early on.

That is why our government has introduced the Early Childhood Development Initiative, Mr. Speaker. We know that the right kind of support provided to children in the years before they are five will pay off exponentially with long-term success in later years and reduce demands for more intensive and expensive interventions later.

The need to do things differently is also driving education renewal across the territory. We need to ensure our youth are prepared for the challenges of the future and ready to take advantage of the opportunities that a thriving economy will provide for them. Education renewal is working with our citizens to re-imagine the structure of the education system so it better reflects northern realities and leads to improved student achievement.

Our government has also been talking about the need to make fundamental change to the Northwest Territories health and social services system. We need to make sure that we are providing the best care possible to the residents of the Northwest Territories and that we are doing everything we can to encourage them to make healthy choices. We also need to make sure that we are using our resources wisely and that our system is as effective and efficient as it can be. We have been talking to people around the territory, outlining our vision for an improved and integrated system that will help ensure best health, best care, for a better future.

Our government has also been pleased to support the establishment of a Wellness Court by the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories. This alternative to conventional court has been created to help offenders deal with the underlying mental health, addictions and cognitive issues they struggle with. By addressing causes and contributing factors, we hope to create lasting change that will allow offenders lead healthier lives.

Mr. Speaker, these are just some examples of how the Government of the Northwest Territories are doing things differently to help create long-term social and economic prosperity for all the people of this territory. It is going to take sustained and focused effort to do things a different way, but it is what we have to do if we want to achieve this Assembly's vision of a prosperous and sustainable territory with healthy, educated people and a healthy environment. As we prepare for the remaining months of our term, I invite all Members of the Legislative Assembly to join with us in creating a better future for the people we serve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 88-17(5): Sessional Statement
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Minister's Statement 89-17(5): Building Stronger Families: An Action Plan To Transform Child And Family Services
Ministers’ Statements

Great Slave

Glen Abernethy Minister of Health and Social Services

Mr. Speaker, later today I will table “Building Stronger Families: An Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services” as well as the formal response to Committee Report 6-17(5). This government is committed to a fundamental shift in how we deliver child and family services in the Northwest Territories. The action plan will guide necessary and transformational changes to improve the overall quality of these services and achieve better outcomes for children and their families when they require services under the Child and Family Services Act.

In the past four years, over 100 recommendations have been made with respect to legislation, policies

and practice in child and family services. The Standing Committee on Social Programs of the 16th Legislative Assembly undertook a comprehensive review of the Child and Family Services Act, and in March 2014 the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly. This was followed by the report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations, which was tabled in the last session.

“Building Stronger Families: An Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services” forms the government’s comprehensive response to the Auditor General of Canada’s report on Child and Family Services and the report from the Standing Committee on Government Operations.

The action plan outlines three overarching goals of increasing accountability between health authorities and the department, improving service delivery, and better assisting children and families in our communities. The plan identifies three significant areas of reform. The first will be to make changes to service delivery and child protection practices. The second will focus on risk management and quality assurance, and the third will be to improve program administration and management.

We need to find ways to reduce the number of children taken into care, and at the same time we need to protect children and put their interests first. To accomplish this, child protection workers will receive additional training to assess risk, determine the strengths and needs of each family and develop responses that are appropriate to each individual situation. This fundamental change to child protection practice will ensure that children and families are provided with appropriate support.

To improve risk management and quality assurance, the department has already completed and implemented a number of items outlined in the action plan. The 2013-2014 Report of the Director of Child and Family Services will be tabled later this session. The format for new quarterly performance reports from authorities to the department has been designed, and reporting activity begins this month. The quarterly report covering October through December 2014 is due in January 2015. We have developed audit teams and a common audit tool for use by both the department and authorities when auditing child protection and foster care files. Annual auditing of each authority starts in January 2015.

Information is key to case management and service delivery planning. This year $3.5 million in capital funding was approved to replace the Child and Family Services Information System. This project spans three years, and the department is currently engaging professional services to oversee the development and implementation of a new electronic case management, information and data system.

Changes to program administration and management include the development of an improved accountability framework and the appointment of all health and social services authority chief executive officers as assistant directors under the act, creating clearer accountability in the system. The CEOs were trained and appointed in July 2014. We have also undertaken legislative amendments to the Child and Family Services Act that will support more community and Aboriginal involvement in child protection matters, including prevention and the development of a plan when we need to step in and assist families under the act.

In addition, the department has contracted the Child Welfare League of Canada to undertake a review of child protection caseloads and workloads in order to ensure we have the resources needed to provide adequate and essential programming across the NWT.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, “Building Stronger Families” acknowledges the role Aboriginal governments play in the delivery of programs and services and recognizes their future interests in this program area. We are committed to working together and to understanding the unique interests and challenges of each region and community as we improve our delivery of child and family services.

I look forward to working with Members as we transform child and family services in the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 89-17(5): Building Stronger Families: An Action Plan To Transform Child And Family Services
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Minister's Statement 90-17(5): Minister Absent From The House
Ministers’ Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable David Ramsay will be absent from the House today and tomorrow to attend the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers responsible for Justice and Public Safety meeting in Banff, Alberta. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 90-17(5): 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.

Municipal Service Costs In Fort Mcpherson
Members’ Statements

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The extremely high cost of municipal services in Fort McPherson is ridiculous, Mr. Speaker. Over the past few years, the Hamlet of Fort McPherson incurred a deficit of over $2 million. The hamlet council took this expense upon itself to better the community services, only to be pulled deeper into

debt. The cost of municipal services dramatically increased. The average cost of water, septic and garbage services in March 2014 was $150 per household. Come April of 2014, the cost went through the roof and now Fort McPherson homeowners are paying, on average, $425 every month and upwards of $1,400 per month.

Constituents call me, asking why they now have to be the ones to pay back the amount the council overspent. The local housing authority is not getting an extra subsidy for the increase in water. Elders on a fixed income are not compensated for extra costs, and homeowners barely making it now have to pay almost three times what they were paying normally.

As it stands, we have a hard enough time keeping food on our tables for our children, let alone trying to keep up with paying sky high water prices.

I want to ask the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, where is the control? At what point does the department step up and say there’s something wrong here? Where are the auditors? Who authorizes funding to councils under such a deficit? The department needs to realize that the responsibility is shared.

My question to the Minister is: At what point would you step in again and revisit the situation? Clearly, something is not working.

The community members call me on a regular basis on the same issues over and over again.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Municipal Service Costs In Fort Mcpherson
Members’ Statements

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Is there a way the department can work with the community to lower the municipal services bills so that the residents can gradually adjust to the increase? The department and the hamlet should consider a five- to 10-year payback to the deficit, not try to recover it in one day and on the backs of community members.

There has to be a common goal of both the department and for my constituents. They are not happy paying such high prices to the hamlet. They are going into arrears and are given warnings that services may be discontinued, and some people have been refused water delivery.

Aside from the department coming into my community and telling people what will happen, can we sit down and come to an agreement to bring municipal service rates to a level where my constituents can hope to keep up with their bills? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Municipal Service Costs In Fort Mcpherson
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Blake. Member for Range Lake, Mr. Dolynny.

Northerners Working Together
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it’s good to be back in the House with you and colleagues.

As we heard from our Premier today on all our accomplishments, it’s imperative that we take stock as we embark on the tail end of our journey of the 17th Legislative Assembly. However, in the midst of

human tragedy, such as the hangover effect of residential schools and the more recent call for murdered and missing Aboriginal women, we need to take stock of another kind.

Now, more than ever, we need to commit ourselves to our communities – all communities, big and small – because in the end, all politics are local. We need to meet our responsibility toward our fellow citizens with equal measures of restraint and passion for all needs. As a territory of new-found powers, we need to control who we are and who we can be. We know we need to overcome the shameful behaviours of our past, yet we need to stop the patronizing as a nation with the wooden spoon of ignorance and we must embrace the modern reality we live with today.

It’s imperative, more than ever, to create an environment of true belonging, a territory of achievement and a North capable of harmony. If we are to move forward in such fashion, as one territory, as brother and sister, with true forgiveness at heart, I ask my colleagues here today, let’s show it with the remaining time in this Chamber.

With that, I’m calling on all leadership, all community governments and all organizations in the Northwest Territories, to put differences aside and work together so we can achieve this greatness.

In closing, I reach out for the wisdom of a great leader of our generation, Nelson Mandela, who said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Mr. Speaker and colleagues, I challenge you today, for the time remaining in the 17th Legislative

Assembly, let’s get these initiatives done for the residents we serve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Northerners Working Together
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Dolynny. Member for Hay River North, Mr. Bouchard.

2014 Forest Fire Season
Members’ Statements

Robert Bouchard Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I too would like to welcome everybody back to the Assembly. It’s been a busy summer throughout the North, and with the record fire season this year, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of ENR, the firefighters on the front, all the workers put together that helped protect this territory.

We had over 385 fires and three million hectares of forest destroyed. These people have been working hard for the public of the Northwest Territories, and I know the public appreciates them, especially in areas such as Kakisa and Reid Lake where the fires were right close to the facilities.

Other departments throughout the government need to be thanked as well: the Department of MACA for some of the services that they provide, as well as the Department of Transportation. I know some of the motor vehicle guys were on the lines for long hours controlling traffic, closing the roads. They were not popular at times, but I would like to thank them for their hard work.

As well, I’d also like to thank the departments. I think the departments all had to learn how to deal with certain situations, communications, getting out to the public.

While we’re speaking of fires, I’d like to congratulate Vince McKay of the Hay River Fire Department for receiving a Volunteer Firefighter’s Award this past week. Thank you.