This is page numbers 5001 – 5032 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 communities.

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 Education, Culture and Employment, Mr. Lafferty.

Minister's Statement 106-17(5): Junior Kindergarten
Ministers’ Statements

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure you that I have been listening carefully to Members during the recent debate around Junior Kindergarten. I also want to assure you that the Government of the Northwest Territories remains committed to the principle that focused, targeted support during their first years of life will help our children reach their full potential and become healthy, educated, successful adults. Our government has introduced Junior Kindergarten, a program designed to achieve just this result, Mr. Speaker, and has already rolled it out successfully to 23 communities.

I believe that the people of the Northwest Territories agree with this government that our children deserve the best support possible to give them the right start in life. At the same time, I recognize that people have reservations about the way the program is being implemented. The Government of the Northwest Territories respects those concerns, and I want to reassure Members and the public today that we are listening carefully to what they are saying.

We planned for a phased rollout of Junior Kindergarten, Mr. Speaker, to ensure we would have the opportunity to review and adjust the program implementation, and that is what we will do. I want to be clear with Members that before our government goes ahead with years two and three of the Junior Kindergarten rollout, we will do a thorough review of our implementation plans.

That review will allow us to assess the success of the program in the 23 communities already delivering it and to address any issues identified

during the first months of program delivery. It will also allow us to hear again from parents, educators, communities and other stakeholders on their views and concerns. I commit to returning to the Assembly with the results of that review and any required changes to the implementation plans during the coming winter session.

Clearly, we need to do more for our children, Mr. Speaker, and Junior Kindergarten is the way to do it. But it is also clear from the current public debate that our government needs to do more in planning for the continued rollout of this program, particularly in the area of engaging parents, educators and the public.

We remain committed to Junior Kindergarten, Mr. Speaker. We still believe it is the right program for all those parents across the NWT who chose JK for their four-year-olds. We will look to move forward in a way that is sensitive to the concerns of parents, educators, daycare operators, Aboriginal Head Start programs and other stakeholders.

Implementing this program will require changes, we need to be clear about that, but the children of the NWT deserve the support and the advantages that Junior Kindergarten will give them. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 106-17(5): Junior Kindergarten
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. The honourable Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Mr. Ramsay.

Minister's Statement 107-17(5): Tourism Numbers Rise 20 Percent Across The Territory
Ministers’ Statements

Kam Lake

David Ramsay Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Mr. Speaker, in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, there was a tremendous increase in the number of visitors and visitor spending in the Northwest Territories, and today I would like to share details of this exciting growth with Members.

Last year we welcomed over 90,000 visitors. This is our highest number of visitors in the last decade and an increase of 20 percent from the previous year.

Visitor spending also rose by 24 percent to $132.5 million.

Tourism is this territory’s largest renewable resource-based sector and these numbers demonstrate that this government and our partners

are on the right track to promoting the NWT as a spectacular destination.

Last year the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment increased funding to NWT Tourism, the GNWT’s destination marketing organization, by $1.2 million. The visitor numbers I just shared with you demonstrate that increased investment in marketing achieves results.

The two largest factors for this increase are aurora viewing and business travel. The number of aurora viewing visitors has been on the rise over the last five years, with a substantial 38 percent increase last year.

The NWT is known as the Aurora Capital of the World and clearly this message is reaching far beyond our borders. Our marketing efforts overseas, particularly in China, Japan and Korea, are paying off, and we expect the demand for aurora tourism to continue to increase.

The number of business travellers also grew by an unprecedented 47 percent and the GNWT is well-positioned to strike while the iron is hot. As I shared with you last week, the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy recommended we establish a conference bureau to support business travel. We took action on this recommendation and signed a contribution agreement with NWT Tourism to establish this bureau last June.

NWT Tourism now provides support to conference planners looking to host events in this territory. Not only will this strengthen our business travel sector but it will provide spin-off benefits for all sectors, including transportation suppliers, hotels, restaurants, artisans and tour operators in all regions. NWT Tourism has already assisted conference planners who are interested in holding conferences here and is working to attract new ones.

We are also working with our partners and lodge operators to strengthen those areas of tourism that have experienced a decline, such as the number of fishing visitors from the United States. Through better research and the launch of a marketing campaign, we are working to improve these numbers.

Mr. Speaker, last year’s numbers bode well for the future of tourism in the NWT, and ITI is dedicated to seeing all sectors and all communities thrive. With a dedicated industry and focused strategies in place, tourism will continue to provide great economic benefits for the NWT and contribute to a diversified and sustainable economy for our residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 107-17(5): Tourism Numbers Rise 20 Percent Across The Territory
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. The honourable Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister's Statement 108-17(5): 2014 Forest Fire Season
Ministers’ Statements

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, the 2014 forest fire season is officially over.

This year a total of 3.4 million hectares of forested land were affected by 385 wildland fires. This was composed of six reported fires in the Inuvik region, 32 in the Sahtu region, 52 in the Deh Cho region, 143 in the North Slave region and 152 in the South Slave region. An estimated $60 million was spent fighting fires in the 2014 forest fire season.

In keeping with established policies, action was taken on 126, or 33 percent, of reported fires to protect values at risk. Wildland fire responses were required on eight large complex fires that had the potential to affect communities and other major infrastructure.

The 25-year average annual fire load is 262 fires affecting 528,000 hectares of northern forest lands.

Core support to the fire program this year included six helicopters and four air tanker groups from both territorial and other Canadian aircraft contracting companies. Several short-term casual helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were hired through the fire season to supplement the core program. Additional tanker groups were imported from other provinces through the Mutual Aid Resources Sharing Agreement, or MARS Agreement, to assist with the heavy fire load.

Twenty-eight type 1 government and contract wildland fire crews were located across the NWT to provide initial attack capacity. Another 175 seasonal and permanent personnel provided direct support to the fire program.

Several additional national resources were brought on over the fire season to help with ongoing fires and initial attack during severe burning conditions.

Four hundred eighty-five EFFs, or extra firefighters, were hired in 2014 for training purposes or in support of fire operations. This included the initial EFFs hired at the start of the season and the additional training camps held in various communities to bring more EFFs on board to cope with the length and severity of the season.

Four hundred sixty-eight type 1 wildland firefighting personnel were imported from outside the NWT under the Mutual Aid Resources Sharing Agreement. These imports consisted of crews, aircraft and overhead resources. These crews were composed of eight Canadian provinces and the State of Alaska.

In addition, nine incident management teams consisting of five to 15 people were necessary to coordinate the fire response. There were five from Ontario, two from Alberta, one from British Columbia and one from Nova Scotia/New Brunswick.

Several single resources were also imported to assist with the heavy workload. These included planning specialists, fire behavior specialists, warehouse personnel, two community protection specialist teams and five air attack officers.

Training for the 2014 fire season included seasonal refresher training of type 1 crews, S-100 basic firefighter training, fire line leadership, fuel system training, and fire reporting training for fire clerks, warehouse staff and duty officers as required.

As Members are aware, this was a particularly challenging season for fire crews. The NWT experienced long-term above average seasonal conditions including above average seasonal temperatures and below average precipitation. This resulted in extreme drought conditions that lasted much of the 2014 wildland fire season.

Given the extreme conditions, limited resources and large complex fires, Mr. Speaker, I would consider this a successful fire season in that there was no loss of life, no significant injuries and no significant damage done to any community.

As well as 3.4 million hectares of our northern forests affected, there were, unfortunately, some structural losses, Mr. Speaker. In early July a home on the Hoarfrost River was lost due to fire. High winds and extreme fire conditions caused the fire to switch directions and destroy a home and some outbuildings on the Hoarfrost River.

Again, during the weekend of August 16th , strong

southwest winds and explosive fire behavior conditions caused a fire to jump Moraine Bay and resulted in the loss of the Moraine Point Lodge on the west side of Great Slave Lake. While the Moraine Point Lodge and outbuildings were lost, the fire did not reach the commercial fish processing plant on Moraine Bay.

While the above losses were significant, we must not overlook the effects and losses traditional harvesters are bearing from this past season: approximately 15 cabins including a community complex at Lake 690 north of Fort Providence, and trapping areas removed from use for five to seven years while the land recovers. Our government expects to assist a number of harvesters under our Harvesters’ Fire Damage Assistance Program.

Fires of note in 2014 include the Kakisa complex, which began in late May. This fire was very difficult to contain and spread to 100,000 hectares. The fire caused the voluntary evacuation of the community in July and help from several crews from Alberta, NWT, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Ontario managing this complex over a two-month period.

Due to the community’s significant work FireSmarting around Kakisa and the commendable efforts of the firefighters and air tankers, there were no structural losses and residents were able to return to their community with little to no damage.

The Birch Lake complex, composed of over six fires between Behchoko and Fort Providence, resulted in periodic closure of Highway No. 3 mainly due to extreme smoke conditions. Most of the work on this fire consisted of the construction of dozer guards on the south side of the fire to restrict growth towards Fort Providence and the Forest Management Agreement areas. Four different incident management teams from the NWT and Ontario managed this complex over a two-month period. The Birch Lake complex is estimated to be 650,000 hectares in size.

The Reid Lake complex started from a fire in the Consolation Lake area. The fire was first actioned by fire crews to protect values in the area. It eventually threatened values in the Highway No. 4 Ingraham Trail area and caused the closure of the Reid Lake Territorial Park for a few weeks while crews were stationed at the campground. Incident management teams from Ontario, Nova Scotia and the NWT managed the complex over a six-week period from mid-June through to the end of July. The fire is 365,000 hectares in size.

ZF-085, the fire that was approximately 30 kilometres from Yellowknife and seven kilometres from Highway No. 3, caused the voluntary evacuation of residents along the Yellowknife Highway and a number of public safety updates. The fire burned approximately 15,000 hectares.

Mr. Speaker, over the coming months, ENR will be engaging stakeholders to determine stakeholder values and priorities. FireSmart and value protection is part of our annual comprehensive review. The department will also administer applications for compensation to renewable resource harvesters with re-establishing their livelihood under the Harvesters’ Fire Damage Assistance Program for possible replacement of lost cabins or for clearing trails affected by wildfires.

The department conducts maintenance activities for air tanker and fire bases, fixed detection sites, fuel systems, the lightning detection network, the automatic fire weather station network and radio communications.

Environment and Natural Resources also completed construction of the Enterprise fixed detection tower which will be operational in the summer of 2015.

Under normal seasonal fall weather, cooler and wetter conditions would wet the deeper forest layers and reset drought values. Without sufficient fall rain as well as significant over-winter precipitations, drought conditions may persist into the 2015 fire season.

I would also like to take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thank you to the men and women from the Northwest Territories, across Canada and Alaska who fought fires on the ground and in the air this

summer. They worked tirelessly to protect us, our homes, our communities and our values during the toughest fire season on record. They faced intense, often grueling conditions, and I am very proud of the professionalism and courage they displayed in our time of need. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 108-17(5): 2014 Forest Fire Season
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Prairie Creek Mine Remediation Securities
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. My colleagues here today have worked hard in organizing a theme day, but it’s important for me to respond to issues raised in this House about securities to the Minister of Lands in respect to Canadian Zinc’s Prairie Creek Mine.

It is important that our government ensure that adequate security for reclamation is in place before the proposed mine starts its activities. These securities are important to protect the health and safety of our public and the environment. Securities are important tools for government to address potential for environmental damage. At the same time, sustainable land use can support strong and responsible economic development in the territory. It can bring new employment and resources that will have real benefits for all residents of the Northwest Territories.

The proposed Prairie Creek Mine has been subject to the rigorous regulatory environmental assessment process under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. Aboriginal governments, regulatory authorities, government departments and the general public participated in the review of the proposed mine. Those views and concerns were considered by the independent board before approving the project.

Canadian Zinc requested the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board adjust the timing schedule for the posting of security under its operating permit to reflect the actual timing of construction activities and planned mining operations. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, Canadian Zinc has committed that they won’t start development authorized by operating permits until this security is in place. It’s important to point out that Canadian Zinc Mines is not requesting any change to the total amount of security and it’s not disputing the security amount.

The Prairie Creek Mine will be an important source of new jobs and wealth for people in my riding and bring new economic activity that will benefit the residents of Nahendeh through infrastructure initiatives and spin-off activities. These activities will

not just be limited to Nahendeh but will also benefit the whole of the Northwest Territories as new resource royalties will support strong economic development for our territory, help diversify our population and strengthen our economic future. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Prairie Creek Mine Remediation Securities
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. The honourable Member for Sahtu, Mr. Yakeleya.

Relief From Rising Homeownership And Household Costs
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Money ain’t for nothing, cheques for free. That’s according to Dire Straits. Whether it be those lyrics or the band’s name, Mr. Speaker, we’re all, indeed, in dire straits across the Northwest Territories when it comes to the cost of living.

All the great minds in the world should be able to come to the conclusion of why is the cost of living in the Northwest Territories so high. Some of the question my constituents are asking: When will we catch a break? When will the middleclass or the elders catch a break?

Well, Mr. Speaker, when one of the Members is planning to visit the Sahtu, here’s some of the food prices we pay. In Fort Good Hope two litres of milk costs $5.49, and it’s a little more in Tulita at $5.99, and in Norman Wells it’s $6.59. If you’re going to shop in Deline, a dozen eggs will cost you a little more than the Independent store at $3.99 a dozen in Yellowknife. If you’re going to go in the bush, you want some bannock. If you get a can of Klik, that will cost you $5.49. Right there you can see putting meat on the table in the Sahtu costs you a few more dollars than in the capital of Yellowknife.

What if you decide to live off the land and be a trapper? Well, it’s not an easy life, Mr. Speaker, but it’s a good life, especially when you have to go on the land and pay for gas, like in Colville Lake at $2.99 a litre. Perhaps we’ll see more people going back to the dog teams.

But there’s a catch. The barge didn’t make it up the Mackenzie, so food and other goods will have to be flown into the region, and further down the valley, extra costs will fall on consumers when they fly it in.

My colleague from Hay River, Mr. Bouchard, raised a good point about dredging the Hay River. Why aren’t we seeing NTCL barges bringing goods and supplies down the Mackenzie River in the spring when the river is running high, instead of waiting until the fall when the levels are so low?

High gas prices, low oil prices and inflated costs and climate change are putting extra pressure on our household budgets. Half the household earnings are spent on keeping the house warm.

When will we in the North, especially in the small communities, get a break?

I’ll have questions for the Minister. Thank you.

Relief From Rising Homeownership And Household Costs
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Sustainable And Renewable Energy Infrastructure Subsidies
Members’ Statements

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Residents of the North are clearly burdened with astronomical costs: power, heat, food, and gas for cars, ATVs and snowmobiles, transportation to other communities. Nearly everything costs significantly more here than elsewhere in Canada and the world. For many this burden is manageable. They make a good wage, often two in the same family. However, this is not the case for everyone, and a significant number of Northerners struggle to make ends meet, often losing the battle. Our social service and income support statistics bear this out.

Government has gotten into the habit of responding with millions of dollars in subsidies, particularly in the area of power generation. While attractive politically in the short term, subsidies have not addressed the underlying systemic problems yielding ever-rising costs and causing the true costs associated with diesel power generation to be hidden.

For us, this has meant ever-larger debts and requests to big daddy to increase our borrowing limits. Key funds desperately needed for services are vaporized with ever-more-expensive fossil fuels for electricity generation or heating or food.

Environmental and social costs mount both directly and indirectly. We must stop this policy of failure and begin moving towards an economically and environmentally sustainable model.

From now on, if any new energy subsidies are contemplated, they must be matched by an equal and rigorously justified investment in renewable energy infrastructure for heat and power. In addition, we need to begin a schedule and steady replacement of current subsidies with the provision of energy infrastructure that stabilizes and reduces costs and that through its implementation provides local and lasting jobs in every community.

A concerted and focused policy is essential to address our costly, damaging and undermining reliance on diesel. This shift will pay dividends in cleaner energy, reduced costs across our economic sectors, a reduced cost of living and many new long-term jobs, jobs that will have positive effects on every community at every level.

But what’s required, Mr. Speaker? A key feature of this approach, however, must be community

participation that accrues benefits to communities. To achieve this, we must invest in community-owned distributed energy systems or energy systems…

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Sustainable And Renewable Energy Infrastructure Subsidies
Members’ Statements

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you. A key feature of this approach must be community participation that accrues benefits to communities. To achieve this, we must invest in community-owned energy systems if we want to build local economies, address cost of living and restore the environment. The time for a serious renewable commitment has come. If not now, when? If not us, who? Mahsi.