This is page numbers 5073 – 5106 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 school.


The House met at 1:31 p.m.


The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. Honourable Premier, Mr. McLeod.

Bob McLeod

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise this House that the government has listened to the feedback we have received to date from Members about Junior Kindergarten.

In an effort to respond to what Members have told us, while at the same time not wanting to disrupt parents and schools that are in the midst of delivering Junior Kindergarten, we have made the following decision.

Without changing the current funding approach to Junior Kindergarten, it will be completely voluntary for any of the 23 communities now offering Junior Kindergarten to continue with the program this year. If they choose, they will also be able to offer it in the next school year. Any of the 23 communities could stop offering the program now if they so choose.

The government will undertake a thorough review of the implementation of Junior Kindergarten in the 23 communities. The government will also reach out to all other education authorities, Aboriginal Head Start, licenced daycare and day home operators, parents and the general public to hear their views about whether Junior Kindergarten should be offered in the future and, if so, how.

The review will be undertaken over the next eight months and its findings will be summarized and provided to the 18th Legislative Assembly as part of


Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories will not offer Junior Kindergarten in any of the regional centres or Yellowknife until this review has been completed and presented to the 18th Legislative Assembly for their decision. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

David Ramsay

David Ramsay Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Mr. Speaker, wild fur from the NWT, branded and sold under our Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur label, is world-renowned for its high quality and obtains top prices at auction. Our trappers are experts in proper fur handling and preparation and have earned a reputation as some of the best in their trade.

I would like to congratulate the recipients of this year’s Trappers Awards. These awards include four categories: highest sales, most pelts, and the senior and junior trappers of the year. I would like to recognize the talents of the trappers who received the awards for the highest number of pelts in each region: Mr. Sheldon Boucher in the South Slave, Mr. Jimmy Pierre Mantla in the North Slave, Mr. Mark Kochon in the Sahtu, Mr. Alfred Nande in the Deh Cho, and Mr. Jim Elias in the Beaufort-Delta. I am also happy to share that this year we have also introduced a Return to Roots Award, which is presented to someone who is re-entering the trapping industry. The award recipient has not yet been notified and we look forward to making this presentation at a later date.

This year we also saw the premiere of the reality television series “Fur Harvesters NWT,” which follows Hay River resident trapper Mr. Andrew Stanley. This series showcases Mr. Stanley’s immense skill and increases awareness and understanding of our traditional economy.

Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes the importance of the traditional economy in contributing to a strong, thriving economy that provides opportunities and jobs for our people. We continue to support this sector by providing support to local trappers through programs and services like the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program, the Hide Procurement Program and the Take a Kid Trapping and Harvesting programs.

The Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program offers NWT trappers one-window access to the international fur auction market and ITI works

closely with the Fur Harvesters Auction to promote NWT fur.

Over the past year we have seen volatility in some of our major markets around the world, including Russia and the Ukraine. Market instability demonstrates why the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program and marketing service is vital to this sector and that it works as intended by absorbing losses when necessary.

This program consists of three elements to best support trappers.

The guaranteed advance ensures trappers have sufficient funds to continue trapping while fur is awaiting sale at auction. ITI provides trappers with advances based on anticipated market performance. If the furs sell for less than the advance at auction, the program absorbs the cost.

The prime fur bonus is an additional payment that trappers receive if their furs sell for more than the advance. It provides an incentive to deliver high quality, well-handled pelts.

Annual grubstakes are provided to defray start-up costs at the beginning of each trapping season. The amount provided to each trapper is determined by the previous year’s pelt numbers. This year over $100,000 in grubstakes was delivered to eligible trappers in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, with each passing year the Hide Procurement Program continues to evolve to better support our hardworking trappers. In May the program was expanded to include muskox hides and qiviut. More recently, we have increased the price paid for seal skins from $55 to $70 per skin.

The increased price paid for seal skins is in response to the recommendation in the Economic Opportunities Strategy to expand procurement to support growth in the arts and crafts sector. While the European Union has a ban on seal skins, here in the NWT we cannot keep up with the demand for seal pelts from our talented arts and crafts community.

In order to pass skills and knowledge on to the next generation, we are working to introduce youth to the traditional practices of hunting, trapping, fishing and outdoor survival. The Take a Kid Trapping and Harvesting programs, offered in partnership with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, were developed out of concern that the average age of a trapper/harvester was 60. Today we are proud to say that just over 1,700 students took part in these programs in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, our people have a long, proud history of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The sustainable harvest of renewable resources for domestic consumption and use is a leading economic activity

in the NWT. ITI continues to support and promote excellence in our traditional economy to strengthen and diversify our economy, a priority of this Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Before we go on, I would congratulate all trappers, too, but the one I really want to congratulate is Jim Elias, top trapper from last year and for all the great fur from across this territory. Not only that, he’s my relative from back home in Tuk.

The honourable Minister of Public Works and Services, Mr. Beaulieu.

Tom Beaulieu

Tom Beaulieu Minister of Public Works and Services

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As we head into this year’s heating season, I would like to take this opportunity to update Members on the energy conservation work that the Department of Public Works and Services has been doing.

As Members know, with our northern environment, energy conservation and management are important elements in controlling costs and supporting effective and efficient program delivery in all communities of the Northwest Territories. Our government’s investments in energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, lowering our operating costs and are helping us meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Public Works and Services helps the GNWT achieve its energy efficiency goals by leading the adoption of energy conservation and renewable energy technologies.

Earlier this year we published our 2013-2014 Energy Conservation Projects Annual Report and I would like to share some of the highlights from that report.

Last year, Mr. Speaker, the GNWT reduced its consumption of fossil fuels by over 2.8 million litres, with 33 percent of the total energy being used in public buildings managed by the department coming from renewable energy sources. We have done this primarily through early adoption and continued support of biomass technology.

In keeping with commitments to bring biomass systems to our communities and further support the sustainability of this emerging industry, I am happy to report that three new wood pellet boiler systems are now up and running in Norman Wells, including at the Mackenzie Mountain School, the air terminal building and the Department of Transportation’s combined services building. With these systems, the GNWT is ready for this year’s heating season and is supporting the adoption of wood pellet technology in the Sahtu region.

New biomass projects are in the design and construction phases for Hay River, Yellowknife,

Norman Wells, Fort Resolution and Fort Providence. In addition, the biomass systems approved for the Chief Albert Wright School in Tulita and the Chief T’Selehye School in Fort Good Hope are moving to the design phase while feasibility studies to identify other potential biomass projects are also underway at the ?ehtseo Ayha School in Deline and the Deh Cho region education building in Fort Simpson.

It’s not enough to switch to biomass, Mr. Speaker. We also need to conserve energy. To that end, we are doing envelope upgrades and energy-efficient lighting projects in schools in Ulukhaktok, Hay River and Sachs Harbour. We also just completed energy retrofits to the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School, the Milton Building and the Mackenzie Mountain School and have pilot projects for LED lighting at the GNWT warehouse in Yellowknife and LED runway lights in Lutselk’e.

I am pleased to advise Members that 40 percent of the utility savings generated in 2013-14 were a result of energy conservation and building retrofit activities completed by Public Works and Services under the GNWT’s Capital Asset Retrofit Fund program over the past five years. Permanent savings generated through these energy conservation initiatives will continue to be used to fund the Capital Asset Retrofit Fund program and future investments in energy reduction projects.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of our government’s continued commitment to pursue energy efficiency and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2007, energy conservation projects delivered by Public Works and Services have reduced the government’s need for the equivalent of 12.85 million litres of heating oil in total. This equates to a reduction of more than 35,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Conservation efforts have allowed us to re-profile $1.48 million in utility funding and we are projecting to reach $1.72 million by the end of 2014-15.

I look forward to building on this success by finding more opportunities to expand the use of renewable energy, such as biomass for space heating of public infrastructure, wherever feasible. Not only are we saving the government money but we are supporting the development of a viable market for alternative energy in our territory that could help to lower energy costs for the private sector and homeowners. We are also helping reduce the NWT’s dependence on expensive diesel and reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions. Our focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy makes the GNWT a more effective and efficient government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. Item 3, Members’ statements. Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Jane Groenewegen

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With all the challenges that we face, it’s a sincere pleasure when I have the opportunity to stand in this House and celebrate outstanding success and achievement.

Today I want to give recognition to the South Slave Divisional Education Council for taking top honours in the Education category at the National Public Sector Leadership Awards given out earlier this year for achievement in 2013.

These awards celebrate innovation and excellence in the public sector, and this achievement marks the first time a school board and an organization from the NWT has won an IPAC leadership award.

The South Slave Divisional Education Council took home this top honours award for its groundbreaking Leadership for Literacy Initiative which has increased academic results for students and resulted in leading-edge Aboriginal language instruction. This award was accepted in Toronto by SSDEC superintendent Curtis Brown and assistant superintendent Brent Kaulback on behalf of the staff, DEAs and council members of our region.

There is an overview of the Leadership for Literacy video available online, and I encourage my colleagues and the public to go online and see the work that’s being done in this area by the SSDEC. This is a very inspirational video – I watched it again today – and it concludes with commendations from the Governor General of Canada to our education council in the South Slave.

In addition to this recognition of excellent leadership at the SSDEC, I would also like to acknowledge Brent Kaulback, assistant superintendent for the SSDEC. He has been honoured by the Canadian Association of School System Administrators as both the NWT and Canadian Superintendent of the Year. This prestigious award, known as the EXL National Award, was accepted by Mr. Kaulback in Calgary this past July.

Brent Kaulback is an amazing individual who has designated 40 years to education. Most of these years have been in the North and most of his work has been in Aboriginal education initiatives on promoting resources for Aboriginal students to learn in their own languages.

Over the course of the past seven years, Mr. Kaulback has helped and organized the publication of over 250 Aboriginal language books, including dictionaries, children’s books, graphic novels and stories of legends as passed down by community elders.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Jane Groenewegen

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Mr. Kaulback was a keynote speaker at an educational conference in South Africa last year and is presently working on an iPad app, called “Bush Cree,” that acts as a First Nations storybook.

I want to ask Members of this House today to join me in congratulating Curtis Brown and Brent Kaulback for their achievements and thank them for their dedication to our students. When people of this calibre put their heart and soul into their work, it is our children that are the winners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. Member for Range Lake, Mr. Dolynny.

Daryl Dolynny

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today we heard from the Premier that a more thorough and rational approach for Junior Kindergarten is to be undertaken. I, like many in this room, welcome this more sobering and rational approach and question why did it take so long to realize.

That said, Mr. Speaker, I have spoken many times that this Junior Kindergarten approach had an ill-conceived funding model, and yet today, while listening very attentively, this very important issue was clearly pointed out as “no change in funding” approach. Mr. Speaker, I need to know why.

To remind the department as to this important question, we need to go back to the tug-of-war, or some of us called it the “poaching methodology,” used to take some hard-earned surpluses from mostly larger municipal school boards and authorities in order to fund the rollout of Junior Kindergarten.

We have heard from the department, they felt by reconfiguring the pupil-teacher ratio, they were well-justified to exercise their statutory authority under law to reclaim these surpluses. All along, this has been well-demonstrated. This PTR fiasco is going to mean an increase in class sizes and more job losses and increased pressure on special needs students for those boards and authorities affected. But most importantly, these documented shortfalls are going to forcefully trigger a higher mill rate for the larger taxed-based communities, and I can tell you this is not welcome at all.

So again, how does the department expect larger community taxpayers to have their taxable mill rates and their school board surpluses used elsewhere in the territory? This is the crux of the issue still left unresolved and is still a linchpin of concern.

This JK initiative, although brilliant in concept, has created unneeded strain with school boards, DEAs, DECs, licenced daycares, day homes, Aboriginal Head Start, teachers and parents. Today’s announcement does take some stress away and is welcoming. However, without a clear mandate for a new funding model, this momentary pause in program rollout is perceived as nothing more than a deferral tactic for the 18th Assembly to deal with,

and this does not sit right with me.

Since this recent JK message came from the Premier earlier today, I will be addressing this shortfall with him. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Robert Bouchard

Robert Bouchard Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to talk about a very exciting new office that’s opening in Hay River. Arctic Energy Alliance has announced the opening of a new South Slave regional office in Hay River.

Arctic Energy Alliance is a non-profit society mandated to reduce costs and environmental impacts of energy and utility services in the Northwest Territories, a very big subject that’s been going on through this session.

It’s very exciting that the Arctic Energy Alliance has announced the new person at this office will be Tom Gross, a long-time Hay River resident. This office will be serving the South Slave; the community of Hay River, obviously; Enterprise; Fort Providence; Fort Res; Fort Smith; K’atlodeeche and Kakisa. This is very exciting news for the South Slave area.

We need to look at the cost of energy, like we’ve talked about amongst ourselves here in this session. We’re going to have an Energy Charrette. It’s very timely with the announcement of this office opening up.

We’re looking forward to the new office there and we’re obviously looking forward to the efficiencies and looking at the cost of living in the Northwest Territories. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bouchard. Member for Deh Cho, Mr. Nadli.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. We hear a lot in the House about the need for better accountability mechanisms. With that in mind, I’d like to offer some observations on how the government is measuring up against its own priorities.

At the outset of the 17th Assembly, the government

identified the goal of having healthy, educated people free from poverty. It subsequently developed strategic initiatives in four broad areas: to alleviate poverty, to enhance early childhood development, to renew the education system, and to better address mental health issues.

Regrettably, actual spending on these initiatives is staying on the ground. All combined, the government has allocated about $6.5 million to the current fiscal year. I did the math and it amounts to about $150 for NWT residents. That’s equivalent to the cost of a child’s winter coat or a basket of groceries, or even half of the basket of groceries, depending upon where you live.

Far too many NWT residents are not healthy, well-educated or free from poverty, and yet looking at actual spending to improve people’s well-being, there’s not much meat on these bones. In stark contrast, let’s consider spending on a different 17th Assembly priority: making strategic infrastructure investments. If spending is a measure of success, then this area of the government is winning. One infrastructure project alone, the Inuvik-Tuk highway, will see the government spend about $110 million in the current fiscal year. Again, I did the math and it works out to $2,600 per NWT resident.

So a single highway, which won’t even be regularly used by most NWT residents, is gobbling up 17 times more than the combined new spending on poverty, young children, education and mental health.

On the matter of translating priorities into meaningful action, this government’s approach is not one to emulate. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. Member for Yellowknife Centre, Mr. Hawkins.

Regional Economic Plans
Members’ Statements

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to talk today about a very important subject, and that subject is jobs. Jobs are critical no matter where you live. They help your family, they help you and they make sure that the economy runs. Economic opportunities are absolutely critical throughout our Northwest Territories because they do bring those jobs so we can have Northerners working. A Northerner working is certainly a much happier one than one living on the system.

With true employment rates as low as they truly are, we cannot wait for the federal government to step in or some other person such as a false deity making uneducated promises that they really don’t understand. We must step down from these platitudes when it comes to economic investment. We must find a way to have a real impact. In a lot of ways, I actually really believe in the Economic

Opportunities Strategy because I truly think that that might be the right path. A lot of work has gone into developing that. Now it’s about the proper implementation.

This is work that can only be done by the territorial government, and I’m confident with the path led forward by the Economic Opportunities Strategy, this is one critical way that we can go that should deliver results. But knowing the right path often isn’t enough. It’s about real investment into the economy, supporting industries in a meaningful way, and meaningful industries that provide economic growth that drives new jobs. It’s also about a willingness to look into the regions and asking them what they want rather than this government or even the federal government telling them this is the way it’s going to be. Would the fishing industry work in Tulita? Probably not the same way it works in Hay River. That’s not to say they couldn’t have a fishing industry, it’s just it’s not a straight line application.

It’s easy to make slogans and statements by saying we need jobs everywhere, but the truth is it’s actually tough to do. I think that the reason we meet these challenges is not because they’re easy. We do them because they’re hard and they have to be done.

I look forward to talking more about the Economic Opportunities Strategy about how we get into the regions, because when I talk to Northerners in Yellowknife, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells and even Inuvik, they truly have the keys to what will make their region work. Again, we have to get the Economic Opportunities Strategy working from a territorial level into the region. Quite often I hear from businesses that it’s not just about money. Sometimes it’s about policy, and most of the time it’s about governments staying out of their way so they can get the job done.

Regional Economic Plans
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Wendy Bisaro

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yellowknife has a great legacy of mining. The city is here because of mining, particularly gold mines. With the two mines in our city limits now closed, we’ve been gifted with one huge liability at the Giant Mine site, and after the mine’s abandonment by Royal Oak Mines, the federal government took over responsibility for cleanup and remediation of that site. Their proposed remediation plan didn’t really address the problem. Not surprising, when the planners were thousands of miles away and the threat not in their backyard. But it is in our backyard and today I want to thank a Frame Lake constituent, Mr. Kevin O’Reilly, for his tireless

efforts to ensure the remediation of the Giant Mine site, including the thousands of tons of arsenic stored underground there. His work is going to be a reflection of what the communities of Yellowknife, Ndilo and Detah and their residents want and need.

Mr. O’Reilly has been in Yellowknife since 1985. His passion and commitment to the principles of accountability, transparency and sustainability are well known and respected. Perhaps the greatest of his commitments has been to the Giant Mine Remediation Project and the environmental assessment of that project by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board. He’s been at it, one or the other, since 1988.

During the development of the remediation plan for Giant, Kevin was an active participant in workshops and meetings. Along with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, he successfully encouraged the City of Yellowknife to make a mandatory referral of the Giant Mine Remediation Plan for an environmental assessment. During the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, MVEIRB, assessment hearings, Kevin was ever present, making submissions, asking hard questions of the proponents, supporting other respondents. His work on behalf of Yellowknife and our environment cannot be understated.

The review board made 26 recommendations for changes to the proposed remediation plan, recommendations which addressed many of the area’s residents’ concerns, and those concerns had been expressed at the hearings. With the decision last December by the AANDC Minister, Minister Bernard Valcourt, Kevin’s work paid off. Seventeen of the 26 mandatory measures in the MVEIRB report were accepted outright, with suggestions for minor changes in wording to the remaining nine.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Wendy Bisaro

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

AANDC has agreed, as well, to change the project time frame from perpetuity to 100 years and to investigate and report on long-term funding options. The acceptance of the AANDC Minister for the recommendations in the MVEIRB report confirm the public wishes and they signified a major change from the proposed remediation plan for Giant. That acceptance was due in no small part to the work of Kevin O’Reilly.

One Yellowknifer has commented, “Kevin really deserves widespread and heartfelt recognition for achieving the deal on Giant. It wouldn’t have happened without his initiative and tireless work.” I cannot do anything but agree, and I ask Members to join me in recognizing this huge contribution of Frame Lake resident Kevin O’Reilly. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, Mr. Moses.

Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to talk today about our attendance rates in our schools across the Northwest Territories. Recently, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment tabled and brought out this new Education Renewal and Innovation Framework document, called “Direction for Change.” Actually, when we look through some of the statistics, one of the reasons we’re taking a new direction in our education system is because of low attendance.

In 2011-12 the NWT average for student attendance was 84 percent and it was even lower in the smaller communities at 80 percent. That’s, on average, missing one day of school per week, and when you get to about Grade 10, a student might miss about two years of school. So that’s a lot of education that our students aren’t getting and we’re not having quality students graduate when they get through this school system.

We can have the best programs, we can have the best teachers running the best programs in the nation, in the territory in some of the communities, but if we don’t get those students in their seats, what good is it?

In the community of Inuvik, I know at the East Three Elementary School – I’m not sure what they do at any other schools across the Northwest Territories – students who get perfect attendance for the month get their names put into a draw where they end up winning a prize. It could be a lunch; it could be a video game or something. So there’s an incentive there for the students to make sure that they have perfect attendance for the whole month.

Most recently, we found out that Canadian North has incentives for schools as well. If a student has perfect attendance for the year, I believe, they get their names put into a draw where they get money, and that money can go into a school program or into a community program that that student chooses.

I want to ask the Minister today, what are we doing for our students in the Northwest Territories to get them into the seats, into the schools, and what incentives do we have planned in this new document “Direction for Change”? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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