This is page numbers 3763 – 3804 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 land.

The House met at 1:31 p.m.


The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Mr. Lafferty.

Jackson Lafferty

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mr. Speaker, earlier today the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development, and I signed a Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities. Under this agreement, the Government of Canada will provide up to $1.25 million in federal funding each year for four years to the Government of the Northwest Territories to improve employment prospects for Canadians with disabilities and better meet the needs of Canadian businesses. The Government of the Northwest Territories presently contributes over $2.7 million, part of which will be used to cost match the federal government’s contribution to deliver employment-related programming for persons with disabilities.

This is the first time that the Government of the Northwest Territories has entered into a Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities. Funding through the agreement may be used for education and training, to promote employment participation and opportunities, to connect employers to persons with disabilities and to build knowledge of the policies and programs that can best support persons with disabilities in the workplace. We look forward to working with stakeholders that support persons with disabilities to maximize the benefit of this agreement for Northerners.

This agreement will help us to improve the employment prospects of Northerners with disabilities and at the same time support the needs of the Northwest Territories labour market.

Minister Kenney and I also announced a new project under the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers that the Tlicho Government in Behchoko is currently preparing to deliver. It will be a 12-week older worker upgrading program to train on-the-land instructors. This project will be delivered in partnership with the Tlicho Government, the NWT Literacy Council and Aurora College.

Together, the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories are investing over $285,000 in this project. It will provide participants with skills upgrading, hands-on experience, and safety training and certification. Graduates are expected to get jobs, such as instructors and guides, in the tourism industry.

Mr. Speaker, the economy of the Northwest Territories is growing, and we expect new jobs and opportunities in the coming years. Both of these initiatives will allow our government to focus our efforts to ensure Northerners have access and training opportunities in our territory’s workforce. They allow us to provide targeted supports for seniors and persons with disabilities, both of whom are key groups within our population. They will help our government to work with our many partners to build on our existing programs and services to achieve our goal of ensuring that NWT residents have the skills, knowledge and opportunities to participate fully as productive citizens in the northern economy.

I’d like to thank the Government of Canada and in particular Minister Kenney and Employment and Social Development Canada for their special efforts to ensure both the Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities and the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers meet the needs of our territory. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

David Ramsay

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The development of the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy was an important step in setting the stage for the pending devolution of responsibilities for lands and resources to the GNWT. It is through its implementation, in part, that

the benefits of our new authorities can be realized in the form of jobs and business opportunities.

Putting the recommendations set forth in the strategy is key to its success. I am happy to advise Members today that the partnership established to develop and author the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy will continue to serve as its governance committee in order to oversee its timely and effective implementation. The partners include the NWT Chamber of Commerce, the NWT Association of Communities, the Northern Aboriginal Business Association, Canada’s Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), and the Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

The committee’s extended role includes identifying and facilitating opportunities to promote or advance the implementation of the NWT EOS as well as any tracking and monitoring initiatives undertaken by partners to implement the strategy. Collectively they will champion the implementation of the EOS within their respective memberships, and maintain an on-line and social media presence to support ongoing public awareness of the strategy and its implementation.

Our work continues to diversify our economy away from a dependence on non-renewable resources. The department is proposing $1.2 million in new funding to initiatives supporting the Economic Opportunities Strategy. Each of the proposed initiatives provides the GNWT with the opportunity to make immediate investments in areas that directly impact NWT residents, businesses and communities.

Mr. Speaker, this includes a considerable investment in tourism initiatives that will attract new markets, develop new tourism products and engage more NWT residents in the tourism sector. It also includes an initiative to establish a convention bureau for the NWT. Together, this will build a more viable regional tourism industry throughout the territory.

The NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy also highlighted the impressive potential that exists for commercial fishing, especially on Great Slave Lake. In the coming year we will work to identify and leverage new capital. When combined with the Northern Food Development Program, this will lend support to attracting new entrants, provide capital investment and facilitate options for marketing and distribution to both the domestic and export commercial markets.

The Economic Opportunities Strategy highlighted the importance of regional economic planning, and in the coming year we will engage residents in the Inuvik and Deh Cho regions in this important economic planning process. We have also earmarked a program to support regional

entrepreneurs and small businesses to draw professional business personnel and service providers to our smaller communities where these specialized services are so desperately in demand.

Mr. Speaker, the Economic Opportunities Strategy will support this Assembly’s long-standing priority to increase economic diversification in our vibrant grassroots sectors. We will develop an agriculture strategy and associated policy instruments aimed at realizing recommended actions to formalize our territory’s rapidly evolving agricultural sector. As recommended, we will provide additional support for the NWT film industry in the form of a pilot program aimed at addressing some of the competitive disadvantages we face when compared to adjoining and competing jurisdictions.

Almost 70 percent of the recommended actions identified in the Economic Opportunities Strategy will fall to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment to lead. We are committed to working with our partners to put these recommendations in place that will strengthen and diversify the economy across the territory.

Mr. Speaker, we have an extraordinary long-term opportunity in devolution to steer and direct our economic future, but that is only half of the challenge.

We must also connect the opportunities that result from our decision-making to our businesses, our communities and our people, which is the main focus of the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Mr. Lafferty.

Jackson Lafferty

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Junior kindergarten for four-year-olds is recognized across the country as one of the best ways to provide quality, free and optional care for our children. Junior kindergarten is especially beneficial for parents and caregivers in 10 of our smallest communities where no licenced child care exists. Junior kindergarten will provide young children with a hands-on play-based program offered in our schools to support their development and learning.

Since junior kindergarten was announced at the start of this session, some questions have been raised about how junior kindergarten will be funded. Mr. Speaker, as with all government programs, we must be fiscally responsible in how we make investments in important and necessary programs such as junior kindergarten. As previously stated,

the department will be re-profiling existing K to 12 school contribution funding in order to implement junior kindergarten. This re-profiled funding will come from readjusting the current K to 12 pupil-teacher ratio, or PTR, for communities that have more than 120 full-time students.

We chose this approach to ensure that our smallest communities do not experience a reduction in their overall funding for teacher staffing because of junior kindergarten. This is important because small communities already experience unique challenges that are not as common in our larger communities, like having one teacher teaching multiple grades in one classroom.

Mr. Speaker, the legislated territorial PTR is 16 to 1. Over the past several years, the K to 12 education system has been funded above this level by approximately $11 million annually. This represents a territorial PTR of approximately 13 to 1. This means there is already flexibility that will allow education authorities to redirect funding to implement junior kindergarten without significantly affecting the K to 12 education program. We project that once junior kindergarten is fully implemented across the territory in 2016-2017, the territorial average PTR will remain under the legislated 16 to 1 and will be closer to 14.5 to 1.

As is to be expected in a territory with widely varying community sizes, the proposed changes will not impact all education authorities the same way. The two Yellowknife education authorities – Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and Yellowknife Catholic Schools – were projected to have their respective funding reduced in a way that would mean they, individually, would exceed the territorial average PTR level of 16 to 1. It is important to note that the Education Act speaks to PTR at a territorial level, not at an education authority level. But it is true that Yellowknife schools would have a greater challenge than other schools in implementing junior kindergarten.

Mr. Speaker, in an effort to make the implementation of junior kindergarten a success in all of our communities, this government will commit to ensuring that the funding provided to each respective education authority meets or exceeds the territorial PTR level of 16 to 1. Anything above and beyond the 16 to 1 PTR level will be subsidized by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. This will ensure that the introduction of junior kindergarten does not threaten the success of our K to 12 education program. We will continue to work with our education partners to make the implementation of junior kindergarten a success in all our communities.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to doing what is right for the children of this territory, and junior kindergarten is clearly the right thing to do. We all agree on that. This government is also committed

to operating in a fiscally responsible manner, because even doing the right thing costs money. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Jane Groenewegen

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are three weeks into what is our traditional annual six-week budget session. It’s not one of my favourite activities, I must say. Our Finance Minister goes out there, he stands up in this House, he makes a budget address. We all go out in the Great Hall; we have a media scrum. They say, what do you think of the budget? What, like as if we didn’t know, what was in the budget?

The way consensus government should work is that way before the budget address is given, we, as committee members, who oversee different departments of this government, have an input into the budget through business planning, through a review of those business plans and those main estimates before it ever gets to the floor of this House. However, on a $1.6 billion budget, there are things that we would like to highlight, profile and give some enhancement to, which represents a very, very small fraction of the budget. I won’t state the exact amount, but it’s less than 1 percent of the whole budget.

To achieve that end, we are prepared to defer, hold up, stall this process so that we can make our point. My point is we have so many other ways to do that. I would seriously rather stand up here and devote an extra hour of question period on every department in the government and let the Minister stay there and answer the question to the benefit of the public so the public can know what the issues are.

What we do in Committee of the Whole, as you know, is we spend hours and hours and hours… I mean, even the media goes home. They don’t even stay in the media booth when we go into Committee of the Whole. I mean, let’s be honest.

I don’t know; I’m a get ‘er done kind of person. Not to take away from the hard work of some of my colleagues on this side of the House, but you know we can’t add to the budget, and even if we could, we’re not in a fiscal position to add to the budget right now. We know that, we all know that. Let’s be real.

So if you have something to say, stand up and say it. If you’ve got a question to ask, ask the question, but this haggling over half of a percent of the total

$1.6 billion operating budget, I just think we could be doing something better with our time.

If I had my way and it wouldn’t offend the Members on this side of the House, I’d stand up and move a motion to accept the full budget as it stands. Let’s get on with it. Let’s talk about some things that are important to the people of the Northwest Territories, but this ain’t happening in Committee of the Whole. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Daryl Dolynny

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. How do you follow that Member’s statement?


Mr. Speaker, in support of this government’s aggressive plan to increase our population base over the next couple of years, one must start to gaze into our future, and this future begins with our children, but more importantly those about to embark on their post-secondary education journey.

For years the Government of the Northwest Territories has praised its Student Financial Assistance Program as the key in supporting northern students’ return to the NWT upon the completion of their post-secondary education.

So one must ask, if these various grants and competitive interest rate loans are so compelling, why then do so many of our students choose not to return to the Northwest Territories? The answer is relatively simple. We are no longer competitive as we once were and the rest of the world has become more aggressive at building what I call better mousetraps. Let me explain.

If we look at the basic grant of $5,400 to $8,600 a year a student receives, which is referred to as a non-repayable benefit to assist with the cost of tuition, books and travel, this would barely cover 60 percent of the post-secondary schools in today’s dollars.

Now don’t get me wrong, we are still talking about a large sum of money here, but when it truly costs most students from $12,000 to $35,000 a year to go to school, the premise of $5,400 to $8,600 falls into perspective rather quickly.

I know that repayable loans are available at rates of 1 percent below the Bank of Canada prime business rate, but keep in mind that our very own students, many who are in hard to find positions in our territory, are being wined and dined by private industry and other very creative jurisdictions around the world.

Many private industries and creative jurisdictions offer full repayment of student loans, offer one-time bonus situations, cars, home down payments, spousal hiring guarantee, free daycare, vacation travel allowances and bonus weeks of vacation, just to name a few.

Let me use one example to illustrate my point. So ask yourself, you’re a student who goes to school for four years and gets a degree, you rack up a non-repayable benefit of $21,600 and a repayable loan of $20,000. Then you sit on the sideline waiting for a full-time position to open in the GNWT for six months, all the while picking up causal work not even remotely related to your field of study. You get a call that this full-time job is in a remote community with no housing and you have to get yourself there.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Daryl Dolynny

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Or this same student, headhunted for their marks and skill proficiency, is offered a hot market employment agreement and a signing bonus during their third year of school from a private company. This hot market agreement means they agree to go anywhere this company places them. Upon graduation, they are guaranteed a full-time job at comparable earnings of what they would have received in the Northwest Territories, is offered a clean slate for their outstanding NWT loans for a return of work service agreement of two years, is given a signing bonus of $10,000 and two flights out a year anywhere in Canada and is placed in a province where the cost of living is 25 percent lower than that of NWT. Oh, and by the way, they are guaranteeing a job for your soon-to-be spouse as well.

The question is: What option would you choose?

These are the realities we face as a territory. Yes, at one time our non-repayable benefits were very attractive incentive for our students, but today we are facing pressures to stay competitive and a work that has lapped us many times over.

Clearly our HR department has work to do to keep our current academic students here in the Northwest Territories and it starts with what I consider a revamp of our SFA program. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Robert Bouchard

Robert Bouchard Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Dolynny did a great speech.

I believe, as well, that we need to increase our population with our students, the students who are out at post-secondary education.

In 1993 I returned back to the Northwest Territories after finishing my degree and I had a guaranteed job to come back to in the Northwest Territories. I have stayed here since then, but colleagues I went to school with had an opportunity to stay in the South and some of them have never come back.

We need to find jobs for our students who are coming back from post-secondary education. We need to find and set up interim positions for them, knowing when they are going into their last year of education that they will have a job coming back. That will draw them to come back to the Northwest Territories, find spouses and start to increase the population of the Northwest Territories.


Mr. Speaker, we need to support these students. We need to find them jobs. As we know, a lot of the vacant positions we’ve talked about over the last two weeks need skilled individuals like these students that we have. These students need our assistance.

As my colleague talked about, other jurisdictions are doing this. They are supporting them financially. We know that financially we are getting somewhere around $25,000 per person, that comes to the Northwest Territories and stays here, through our federal funding agreement. So we need our students to come back and stay in the NWT. It’s easy to draw them because they know how great it is here. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bouchard, and good luck.


The honourable Member for Deh Cho, Mr. Nadli.

Dehcho Land Use Plan
Members’ Statements

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I also wanted to rise and talk about the population of the Deh Cho First Nations. I wanted to talk about the commitment of the federal government and the Government of the Northwest Territories to work with the Dehcho First Nations to develop a regional land use plan.

People might be aware the Dehcho has been working towards advancing work towards the completion of a land use plan for some time, since 2001. The committee is a tripartite committee and it’s trying to balance the efforts towards setting the stage for development and then balancing it out with conservation mechanisms to ensure that we have a legacy at the end of the day for future generations.

Also what’s important is the region or tribal alliance comprises about 10 communities. There’s a common language that links all those communities at the same time. There is a cultural affinity of people working with each other, intermarriages, families, just a kinship and culture that profiles the region such as the Deh Cho.

In 2001 the Government of Canada and the GNWT signed an interim measures agreement that set forth to establish a tripartite process. Prominent was the traditional land use and occupancy map that was laid out as the foundation by the elders of the day.

Elders such as Joaa Boots, Paul White, Gabe and Mary Cazon and Leo Norwegian, to name a few, worked on that land use plan. They believed in the work they were doing to ensure that the past was never forgotten. The elders passionately laid their imprints of traditional knowledge which is encapsulated now into the Deh Gah Got’ie language as Nahe Nahodhe gondie.

Through the work of all parties, including this government, a draft land use plan was developed in 2006. That plan was rejected by both governments because there wasn’t a balance. Consequently, the federal government pushed to eliminate the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee altogether. However, a last minute effort to restore the work was put together through a terms of reference, which now guides the process to revise the regional land use plan.

My purpose in highlighting this is to point out all parties agreed to work together to ensure that work continues. I hope that that work will continue and the good relationship will also at least guide the process. Mahsi.

Dehcho Land Use Plan
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, in the wisdom of this government, they developed a unit called shared services for financial transactions and procurement in the wake of implementing the new financial system.

When the government announced this initiative, they said it would be a positive benefit that would flow from this model such as the department being able to focus on core business and people will be able to receive high quality and timely services. They also said employees will benefit from a shared service organization by clearly having the career progression path developed for them and they can enjoy special new skills. Employees’ contributions are critical to the success of the services, and the

employees will be trained to match these needs for the future.

But instead, I’m hearing from places like Yellowknife and certainly Fort Simpson where several dozen of these real employee-shared services are being affected and the latest reorganization out the door. Many of them are only being given a few hours to sometimes make life-altering decisions on where they will go by this government. Certainly their being affected really hurts them very deeply.

Approximately half of these, who have a quarter century of dedicated service in this government, were notified in writing three weeks before Christmas. I’d like to know who that Grinch was and talk to them. They were told that this government, even though you have a quarter century of dedication to the government, will only search for possibilities for you for eight weeks. Boy, is that disheartening. After 10, 20 or 25 years of dedication, it’s all boiled down to an eight-week search to try to find a placement for you.

A few weeks ago we heard the words from the mouth of the Finance Minister that this government is looking for 571 positions. They’re actively searching. Well, my goodness, here they are. Look no further. However, most of these people were given grim, if not pathetic, choices or options and they’re scrambling to decide how to put their life together and save some dignity. Some have been given all this on short notice, then others were told that they have short-term training, but of course, there’s no promise of a job.

The truth is this is a terrible way of treating people who have many decades of service to this government and to the territory as a whole. Many employees would describe it as they now have carpet burns because it was pulled out from under them so quickly.

I want to finish by pointing out some of the words highlighted to me in a particular constituent’s own voice. They said it feels like they’ve been tossed out of a plane without a parachute, but told to flap their arms. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Wendy Bisaro

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, like some of my colleagues, I want to address something mentioned in the Finance Minister’s budget address, and that’s the government’s plan to attract and retain 2,000 new residents to and in the NWT over the next five years.

Youth are a very important segment of our NWT society. I hear that said all the time in this Assembly. When we’re looking for skilled workers

for the GNWT, who better to serve our residents than those who have grown up here and know the issues and the culture?

The GNWT has had varying degrees of success in attracting and retaining our youth to the public service. There are some wonderful successes and I’m looking at many of them here in the House. Over half of the Members of this Assembly are homegrown. But there have also been significant losses as our bright and talented youth are denied in the North, take up positions in the South and then are lost to the NWT.

The government has to review the practices we’ve used over the years, look back to see what particular strategies have been successful in the past and that we no longer use. In years past the GNWT had liaison workers on several university campuses, the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan, to mention two. Those people were there to specifically look after NWT students. It helped keep them in school, keep them in touch with family and, yes, keep them in touch with jobs at home while they were away from home.

One of the biggest reasons our young people return to live and work in the NWT is because family is here. We need to ensure that the connection to family is maintained while they’re away at school.

We have considerable data about students available to us through Education, Culture and Employment through the SFA system. SFA currently tracks students in terms of loans, when they’re due, when they’re in arrears and so on. Surely we can also track them for employment purposes. We can know their field of study, when they will be finished their schooling, and match them to job vacancies in the GNWT public service at graduation.

Creating mentoring relationships has proven to be another effective strategy for supporting new young staff in a variety of workplace settings. It currently exists in both nursing and teaching and it allows us to hire our smart, knowledgeable but inexperienced young people and mentor them into a position that called for experience when it was vacant.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Wendy Bisaro

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

I’ve mentioned but a few of the tactics that we should be putting in place if we’re serious about keeping Northerners in the North.

The Finance Minister has said that the government is working on some things already to accomplish the 2,000 in five years goal. The Minister has today been given a number of suggestions by me and others which can be incorporated into whatever plan the government has. Members need to hear just what that plan is and we need to hear it sooner

rather than later. I look forward to critiquing that plan, hopefully in the near future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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. In the budget address the Minister of Finance states that the most effective way we can grow our revenues is to grow our economy and our population. He also states that over the next five years he wants to grow the NWT population by 2,000 people.

I also agree that our economy does need to grow and develop, but I also have a suggestion here that maybe over the next five years we invest that into the people of the Northwest Territories by investing in their education and training in the small communities and the regions where a lot of the economic things are happening. Right now we’re not meeting the economic agreements with our northern workforce in some of the diamond industry as well as the oil and gas, and this is an opportunity for the next five years to train our northern residents so that they become taxpayers and we get some of those tax revenues back. Also, there’s an opportunity that some of these guys will have to go off social assistance, so we will be saving some money there that can go into other areas to the people who do really need it. It will also reduce poverty because, obviously, healthy people, educated people who are trained and in the workforce will become taxpayers, and it will also boost the economy of the people in their communities and in the North.

It all leads to a goal of a self-sustaining Northwest Territories where we have everybody in the NWT working, being a taxpayer and being a member of society. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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