This is page numbers 3723 – 3762 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 health.

Topics

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. I would like to welcome Mr. Tony Whitford, who has held every position here in our Assembly at one time or another.

----Applause

Welcome. Good to see you, Tony.

Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Mr. Ramsay.

Minister's Statement 28-17(5): NWT Fur Products
Ministers’ Statements

Kam Lake

David Ramsay Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Mr. Speaker, with its guaranteed advances, prime fur bonus and grubstake, the GNWT’s Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program is the envy of the Canadian trapping industry. The returns of this small but dynamic made-in-the-NWT program to our trapping industry continue to impress.

The Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program provides NWT trappers with one-window access to the international fur auction market. It works with the Fur Harvesters Auction to promote wild NWT fur, while educating and training resident trappers to maximize their returns with best practices for trapping and pelt preparation.

The results of this approach can be seen in last year’s trapping season, the best in over 30 years for NWT trappers with total returns to participants in our trapping industry exceeding $2.7 million and demand is expected to remain strong this year.

Of course, this success is due to our territory’s growing community of committed and hardworking trappers. Wild fur from the NWT is world renowned for its top-class quality and fetches the top prices at auction. NWT marten, which comprises almost 75 percent of our territory’s harvest annually, is in huge demand in all markets, including the European Union and now the Asia Pacific.

Recently a trade mission to China took a delegation from the GNWT to the 40th Annual Beijing Fur and

Leather Show. China leads the world in manufacturing fur garments and has a continuous demand for high-quality fur products. Currently 80 percent of all NWT wild fur ends up in China, indicating that our genuine Mackenzie Valley fur is recognized as a premium product that Chinese designers want to work with.

Last year a small amount of marten, branded with the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur label, fetched an astronomical $1,300 per pelt. But this type of success would not be attainable if trappers did not first learn and invest the time in properly handling and preparing their fur.

Our trappers are the very best in their trade and, as a result, so is the fur they ship to market.

Mr. Speaker, the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program was expanded a few years ago to address the long-outstanding challenge, faced by traditional arts and crafts producers in the NWT, of finding reasonably priced and properly prepared furs and hides to support their livelihood. The expansion diversifies our economy by encouraging trappers and craft producers in all regions to become more involved in their industries.

Today the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur - Hide and Fur Procurement Program provides producers of traditionally tanned moose and caribou hides with a market to sell their finished hides. It then re-sells these hides to NWT-based arts and crafts producers at the same price.

We also buy NWT seal and beaver pelts directly from auction, arranging for them to be tanned and dressed before returning them to the NWT to sell on a cost-neutral basis to NWT artists and producers.

Through this expansion of the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program, our government has been able to offer seal harvesters a precedent-setting $55 per pelt. While traditional markets for seal pelts have been wiped out by the European Union’s ban on sealskins, here in the NWT we cannot keep up with the demand from our arts and crafts sector and in the near future we will be increasing the price paid for seal pelts to increase our supply.

Mr. Speaker, it is estimated that fur bought and sold through this program last year generated almost $350,000 for craft producers in the NWT. Their beautiful creations promote our cultural diversity and are part of our socially responsible and environmentally sustainable Economic Development Strategy.

The release of the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy last year confirmed that we need to build on the success of our Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program and look to broadening its scope.

I am happy to advise Members today that the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment will be introducing a pilot project this year to purchase muskox hides from hunters and make these available for sale to leather and qiviut producers in southern Canada and abroad. The department also intends to expand the Hide and Fur Procurement Program to include more species of fur aimed at our traditional arts and fine crafts sector.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy, like this government, recognizes and endorses the important role of traditional pursuits in our economy.

By supporting the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program and the Hide and Fur Procurement Program, this government will continue to support and promote excellence in our traditional economy from the trapline through to the marketplace. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 28-17(5): NWT Fur Products
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Minister's Statement 29-17(5): Enhancing Accountability In The Health And Social Services System
Ministers’ Statements

Great Slave

Glen Abernethy Minister of Health and Social Services

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health and Social Services is committed to publicly reporting on the performance of the health and social services system and our progress towards achieving the Legislative Assembly’s goal of an effective and efficient government.

The Department of Health and Social Services uses a number of different reports to ensure we are accountable to this Assembly and to the residents of the NWT.

The Northwest Territories Health Status Report is published every five years and presents updated information on the health status of the NWT population. It is an important resource to help understand health trends, the changing burden of disease, and the effect of lifestyle choices on chronic disease and mortality.

Physician services and hospital utilization reports are also published every five years and provide profiles of the top five reasons or conditions for which treatment was required. This again helps to provide a profile of our population, the burden of disease and the system’s response.

An addictions and substance use report is published every three years and reports on behaviors in the population and the effectiveness of policy and programs in changing behaviors.

Health services client satisfaction surveys are conducted and reported on every two years. In 2013-14 we also undertook a client satisfaction survey of the Community Counselling Program.

The Health and Social Services Annual Report forms a significant component of our commitment to overall accountability. The theme of this year’s annual report is: 25 years of delivering health care in the North – recognizing the 25th anniversary of

the devolution of health care. The report measures progress in a number of key areas such as:

• leadership and financial stewardship;

• innovation in service delivery;

• progress in achieving the strategic plan

priorities;

• a report on the medical care plan; and

• an update on the performance measures

outlined in the strategic plan.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to highlight some of the work the Department of Health and Social Services is doing to improve accountability and reporting. We are updating our accountability framework.

Through this project, we have established an initial set of 25 system performance indicators that will publicly track and monitor the performance of the NWT health and social services system across a number of areas.

These include leadership, allocation of resources, access to services and utilization, satisfaction with services, the system’s response to population health trends, burden of disease, and changes in the behaviors of the population.

The Department of Health and Social Services is also working with the health and social services authorities to develop an NWT accountability framework for patient safety. The NWT Patient Safety Framework will ensure that residents of the NWT can expect consistent standards for patient safety, regardless of where in the NWT they access services.

Mr. Speaker, accountability is fundamental to establishing good management practices and the Department of Health and Social Services will continue to report on our actions and our performance.

At the appropriate time I will be tabling the 2012-2013 NWT Health and Social Services System Annual Report. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 29-17(5): Enhancing Accountability In The Health And Social Services System
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Abernethy. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Range Lake, Mr. Dolynny.

Passive Fiscal Restraint Policy
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I want to talk about two words and those words are...not Highway 7…

---Laughter

…passive restraint. I am not referring to a self-locking seatbelt but rather some very slick language used by our Finance department.

So, before we can get to passive restraint, we have to understand a bit of the context. For starters, if you have not noticed, many Regular Members are concerned at the number of job vacancies facing this government, and if you are from a small community, you should be paying attention.

Yet other Members have asked how the dormant or inactive jobs continue to get financed during the budget process year after year. To the crux of the issue, many have asked if specific jobs are deliberately left vacant so these wage dollar funds can meet other priorities or offset other operational pressures with the assistance of cleverly worded policies.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, many Members have tried to get resolve to these questions and the Finance curtain is slowly starting to open.

Compounding our deficit spending, also called our debt wall, or wall of worry, is the Finance department’s miscalculation of personal and corporate income tax revenues to the tune of over $30 million in this current budget.

If you add all this up and even without the resource revenue debt, you have yourself a perfect storm of financial concern. So in the past when our Financial Management Board found themselves in a sticky or tight situation, they initiated what they called a Passive Restraint Policy. Now, in my own words, it was a policy that directed departments’ restraint in operational spending to achieve savings. So I guess a sort of tightening of the belt, if you will.

How effective this tightening of the belt was is a mystery because nothing has ever been tabled in the House, reviewed by any third party, nor publicly discussed by anyone in Finance. So, in essence, for many Members of this House, passive restraint is on the same level as chasing Peter Pan. First, you have to believe and then you have to leave the real world to go to never-never land where the

passage of time is ambiguous to try to find answers. Unfortunately, some of us refer to this last step as what we do in the committee room every day.

Seriously, and in the face of our financial debt wall, I will have a number of questions later today for our Minister of Finance, so he can clear up what our Financial Management Board is doing to mitigate our losses in revenue and deficit spending and if he is using passive restraint protocols in his 2014-2015 budget. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Passive Fiscal Restraint Policy
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Dolynny. Before we go on, Members, I’d also like to welcome back former Sergeant-at-Arms and Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Ms. Nicole Latour. Welcome to the House, Ms. Latour.

The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Recognition Of Northern Entrepreneurs
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think Members of this House willagree that Hay River is nothing if it is not home to some very interesting people, some very innovative, entrepreneurial and very successful people.

Just briefly, I want to recognize a few of those people today. We have here in the gallery today Brad Mapes, who most of you know is doing a very cutting edge, leading edge entrepreneurial endeavour in Hay River, which we wish him well with and are honoured to witness a signing today, an historic signing today.

You don’t have to talk to very many people outside of Hay River, Northwest Territories, and you will hear them talk about Ice Pilots NWT. There again is a business that was started by a Hay River person over many years and then turned into Ice Pilots NWT and has literally put Hay River on the map as a destination for tourists and for people who want to see what Hay River is all about. There is that entrepreneurship again.

One other person I want to mention today, if I could, is the young gentleman who lives at our border, living in the bush taking advantage of a land-based activity. Our Minister of ITI today spoke about our famous furs from the Northwest Territories and that industry which maybe has not been all that it could be in recent years, but I would like to commend Andrew Stanley on a new TV series that’s being filmed about him about 60 kilometres south of Hay River. The company called Artless Collective has been down there and they have been videotaping Mr. Stanley in the bush. He is there trapping wolverine, marten, wolf, coyote and other animal pelts. This series will be broadcast on Wild TV,

which is a channel that people can tune into and watch, also through NorthwestTel Cable.

This again is yet another example of an innovative and interesting person from Hay River who has carved out their living in a very traditional way by harvesting furs just outside of Hay River.

I would just like to commend these individuals and ask the Assembly to join me in congratulating them on their work. Thank you.

Recognition Of Northern Entrepreneurs
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. The honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre, Mr. Hawkins.

Public Service Direct Appointments Process
Members’ Statements

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There has been a lot of discussion in this House about GNWT jobs as of late. How many are being created through devolution? Are they being decentralized? Are small communities getting their fair share? Certainly we’ve heard a fair bit about the advertisement about these mystery jobs out there. How many are truly vacant and certainly where is the money going?

I recognize, as do all my colleagues recognize, how important jobs are to Northerners. I wish this government would wake up and smell the coffee and stop hiding all of those jobs. On that particular point, we often talk about how important jobs are and not keeping them hidden from the public. Now I’m going to specifically use my Member’s statement today to talk about direct appointments.

As a Cabinet, we all know they have the prerogative, and they certainly reserve the right from time to time, to appoint someone to a particular position without running a competition. We all know a competition typically is based on merit, but Cabinet occasionally uses that in their favour of vaulting a particular anointed candidate to a particular job position.

I don’t take issue with the occasional prerogative of using that authority, it’s how often they do it and how often we don’t know they do it where I have greater concern. When we wonder about these situations of who jumped into and has been vaulted into these coveted GNWT posts, we really have no idea.

How do we hold this government accountable when they operate under the cloak of secrecy, the shroud of Cabinet? I say it’s time to pull back the curtain of these direct appointments and allow us to do an accountable job by keeping scrutiny high and intense on this McLeod government. They’re making decisions behind the scenes, as we all know it, but how do we know they’re making them? We just don’t know.

What I’m saying here is, on average, in some years the government appoints 100 direct appointments. We just don’t know how many they make. We have to ask them to table it. We don’t know who they appoint.

It is time that we start publicizing some of these direct appointments, if not every single one of them. Don’t hide behind oh, it’s a small territory. Be proud we have the confidence to appoint these people without competition. Show some courage.

It would be good to know that these people weren’t appointed because of who they were related to or certainly who they know. It would be great to know that they were appointed because of what they knew and what they could do. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Public Service Direct Appointments Process
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Hawkins. Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Roadside Assistance On Public Winter Roads
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

[Microphone turned off]

…peak of our season. People throughout the Northwest Territories are enjoying greater ease of travel between the communities along the winter roads, a key feature of our northern way of life and doing business. We all agree that public safety is a top priority on our winter roads. Roadside assistance is available on the public winter highway system through the Alberta Motor Association and the Ford Roadside Assistance, who contract the nearest local contractor on a driver’s behalf and within a short time help is on its way.

This service enhances public safety in a way the North has never experienced before. But it seems because the road north of Wrigley is called an ice road instead of a public winter road, the current roadside assistance contractor in Fort Simpson is not authorized to respond to calls on this section during these winter months.

We invest significant public resources into the construction and maintenance of our winter road system. The public also invest into these extra costs when they purchase these vehicles for roadside assistance.

I’m calling on the Minister of Transportation to contact the Alberta Motor Association and the Ford Roadside Assistance and let them know that the seasonal road north of Wrigley is a public winter road, not an ice road.

All travellers need to be prepared for unexpected events before driving on any of our highways, especially during the winter, but roadside assistance provides an added level of comfort and safety. It also helps people respond efficiently to major vehicle problems that are beyond anyone’s

control. All the Minister has to do is designate the winter road north of Wrigley as a public winter road and ensure that both the Alberta Motor Association and the Ford Roadside Assistance are aware of this designation.

The investments we make in our winter roads are worth it; our local contract service providers are worth it; and above all, the safety of the travelling public is worth it. Mahsi cho.

Roadside Assistance On Public Winter Roads
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. Member for Frame Lake, Ms. Bisaro.