This is page numbers 4437 – 4466 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.


Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Hon. Tom Beaulieu, Ms. Bisaro, Mr. Blake, Mr. Bouchard, Mr. Bromley, Mr. Dolynny, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Hawkins, Hon. Jackie Jacobson, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Mr. Menicoche, Hon. Michael Miltenberger, Mr. Moses, Mr. Nadli, Hon. David Ramsay, Mr. Yakeleya

The House met at 1:33 p.m.



The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

It finally looks like spring has come to the Northwest Territories. I know we have all been very busy since the House adjourned in March, but I hope you were able to spend some time with family and friends, to get out on the land and maybe even take part in a spring hunt.

This spring is of particular importance to the Northwest Territories for another reason. April 1st marked the long-awaited transfer of the authority to govern our land and water resources from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories. We begin a new era for our territory and our government.

As part of that process, I am pleased to advise this House that I have been informed by Madame Clerk that the Honourable George L. Tuccaro, Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, assented to the following bills on March 26, 2014:

• Bill 1, Reindeer Act;

• Bill 2, Archaeological Sites Act;

• Bill 3, Surface Rights Board Act;

• Bill 10, Northwest Territories Lands Act;

• Bill 11, Petroleum Resources Act;

• Bill 13, Devolution Measures Act;

• Bill 14, Waters Act;

• Bill 15, Oil and Gas Operations Act;

• Bill 16, NWT Intergovernmental Agreement on Lands and Resources Management Act; and

• Bill 17, NWT Intergovernmental Resource Revenue Sharing Agreement Act.

Colleagues, I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge two of our territory’s greatest assets: our elders and our youth.

First, I had the pleasure of hosting the third Elders Parliament, which took place here at the Assembly from May 5th to 9th. Elders from across the territory met in the capital and shared their experiences, their stories and their concerns. Our elders were eager to tackle the big issues of the day and provided much food for thought. In spite of the serious work that was done, I have to say that our hallways and committee rooms also rang with laughter. There may be a lesson there for us.

Thank you to the participants for contributing to such a meaningful event, to our sponsors for assisting us, to the staff for organizing the event and to those Members who also participated. I hope the elders enjoyed the event as much as I did.

Moving on to the youth, please join me in welcoming our Pages for this sitting of the Assembly. It is always a pleasure to have them in the House. We have students from Sachs Harbour, Wekweeti and Yellowknife joining us during the next two weeks.

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

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

• Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2014-2015

• Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditure), No. 1, 2014-2015

during the Fifth Session of the 17th Legislative Assembly.

Yours truly, George L. Tuccaro, Commissioner.”

Thank you, colleagues.

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

Minister's Statement 65-17(5): Sessional Statement
Ministers’ Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome Members back to the continuation of the Fifth Session of the 17th Legislative Assembly.

This is our first session since the transfer of authority for public land, water and resources from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories. Devolution was the most significant development in the political evolution of the Northwest Territories since division, and I want to again thank Members for their support and participation in making this long-held goal a reality. We will continue to look to Members for support and input as we implement devolution. This includes a review of legislation already underway that will give all stakeholders the opportunity to provide input into how our territory will refine its regulatory regime and land and resource management system.

Devolution is a work in progress, Mr. Speaker; it was not a one-time event. Devolution has given this government and this Assembly new powers and created new opportunities for us to partner with Aboriginal governments on protecting our environment, managing our land and responsibly developing our resources. We will continue to refine and improve the way we use those powers and work with our partners to create a brighter future for all our residents.

Our partnership grew earlier this week, when I was pleased to welcome three more signatories to the Devolution Agreement: the Acho Dene Koe First Nation and Fort Liard Metis Local No. 67, Salt River First Nation and Deninu Kue First Nation. These are the first Aboriginal community governments to become parties to the Devolution Agreement. They join the five regional Aboriginal governments that had already signed on: the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, NWT Metis Nation, Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, Gwich’in Tribal Council and Tlicho Government.

Our government is committed to ensuring all the people of the Northwest Territories benefit from devolution. As the public government for all the people of the Northwest Territories, we have the primary responsibility for ensuring that devolution has a positive impact on all residents and communities in the territory. But ours is not the only government that has a role to play.

From the start, the participation of Aboriginal governments as our partners was a priority. As large land owners in this territory and holders of unique constitutional rights, it was important to have their involvement in negotiations and planning. It will be equally important to have their partnership as we implement devolution.

That is why we are establishing the Intergovernmental Council, where all participating governments will have an opportunity to identify and work together on common interests relating to the management of northern land, water and resources. That is why we have agreed to share a quarter of the new revenues we will receive from resource development with participating Aboriginal governments.

Devolution has the potential to create a strong, prosperous territory, Mr. Speaker, one that provides opportunities for its residents to succeed and supports those who need our help. We can better realize our vision of that territory when capable, well-resourced governments are working together, sharing a common understanding of, and commitment to, the best interests of all our people.

Our government has committed to keeping a seat at the table for all Aboriginal governments that want to participate in devolution. We understand that they have their own priorities and respect the independent decisions of each of them. But we do continue to engage with all remaining Aboriginal governments in the spirit of respect, recognition and responsibility to find ways that they can participate. Sometimes that means a new approach, as we have taken with the communities that signed on this week. I remain hopeful that we will eventually see full participation, and we will continue to work towards this goal.

This government committed to a smooth transfer of responsibilities, Mr. Speaker, and we have achieved that. With the help of the Government of Canada and our Aboriginal government partners and the hard work of our staff, we were ready for business when doors opened on April 1st. That day, we welcomed 132 former federal employees to our government, many joining our new Department of Lands, where their knowledge, experience and commitment to the public service is greatly appreciated. The Department of Lands plays an important role in administering public land in the Northwest Territories, land use planning and sustainability and coordinating our government’s review of development proposals.

Responsibilities for mineral and petroleum management have been assumed by Industry, Tourism and Investment. The new NWT mining registrar registered its first mineral claim, the first claims registered under territorial, not federal, legislation, on April 1st. The oil and gas regulator is processing applications from operators in a timely fashion and moved quickly to inspect Strategic Oil’s Cameron Hills operation, finding everything in order. Staffing of the petroleum resources division in Inuvik has been very successful, and we will be moving to initiate a call for bids in the very near future.

Environment and Natural Resources has also taken on its new responsibilities for managing water and cumulative impacts monitoring. During April, Minister Miltenberger approved two amended Type A water licences, demonstrating our capacity for undertaking new responsibilities in a thorough and timely fashion.

Mirroring existing federal legislation governing land, water and resources in the Northwest Territories was an important part of having a smooth transfer. That did mean that several pieces of devolution legislation were enacted by this House without the usual opportunity to hold public meetings on the bills. We appreciated the agreement of the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning to let these bills move quickly through the system so we could meet our target effective date of April 1st.

At the time, I committed to undertake a public review of devolution legislation, and I am pleased to advise that we have begun this review. Beginning last week, a new section of our devolution website was launched that will help Northwest Territories residents to better understand the new devolution legislation and give them the opportunity to ask questions and share their views about it.

Links to all the new devolution acts and regulations are available on the site and there is an explanation of the legislative process and how the devolution legislation was developed. There is a form for asking questions, and all questions and answers will be posted to the site.

The review will run for the next three months and will be promoted throughout the territory. In the fall we will report back to the Assembly and the public on what we have heard. While we do not anticipate immediate changes to the framework of devolution legislation that we have just established, our government will use the feedback to inform decisions as we implement devolution and consider options for future improvements.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other benefits of devolution is consolidating the Northwest Territories’ position within Confederation. The prosperity that can and will flow from the responsible development of Northwest Territories resources will not only benefit our residents, it will also create new economic opportunities for the rest of Canada and make ours a “have” jurisdiction contributing to national wealth. Politically, acquiring province-like responsibilities and powers puts this territory on a more equal footing with other jurisdictions and positions us to play a more prominent and active role on the national and even international scene.

Nationally, our leadership role was already growing: Minister McLeod chaired last summer’s meeting of Canada’s Housing Ministers and Minister Ramsay co-chaired the annual Energy and Mines Ministers Conference. Minister Lafferty is also leading work on Aboriginal educational achievement on behalf of the country’s Education Ministers.

We look forward to continuing to increase our national profile and role. Earlier this month I attended a meeting of the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group in Winnipeg. This important group was established by Canada’s Premiers and includes the leaders of the five national Aboriginal organizations. Together we work to address issues of importance to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Following the next annual meeting of Canada’s Premiers in August, I will assume the chair of this group on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

I believe other jurisdictions can learn from the respectful government-to-government approach to Aboriginal relations that we have developed in the Northwest Territories. I look forward to working with this group over the next two years and hosting them here in the North, where they can see first-hand the positive effects of the partnership approach we have pioneered.

Later next month I will have the honour of co-hosting meetings of Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for the Status of Women with Minister Kellie Leitch. This will be an important opportunity to share our experience dealing with issues like violence against women and women in resource extraction, an area in which the Northwest Territories is a leader.

This summer I am also looking forward to representing the people of the Northwest Territories at the Western Premiers Conference and the annual meeting of the Council of the Federation.

Internationally, Minister Ramsay will be assuming the presidency of PNWER, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. This group works to promote regional collaboration and enhance competitiveness in international and domestic markets. Participation in this forum is a continued opportunity to promote the Northwest Territories and its economic interests.

This summer will also see Inuvik playing host to the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s 12th General Assembly. This event takes place every four years and brings together Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia to discuss Arctic issues and address developments affecting the Inuit world.

The timing of the ICC General Assembly during Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council underlines the increasing importance of the Arctic. There is great potential in the North, particularly for resource development. As the world’s eyes turn in our direction, we have to ensure that development is sustainable, respects traditional lifestyles and manages the risks associated with challenges like climate change and increased traffic and activity in Arctic waters. Our government is working closely with Canada to promote Northwest Territories interests during its chairmanship, and we have been pleased to host a number of Arctic Council meetings already.

Mr. Speaker, I have said many times that the future belongs to the Northwest Territories. Devolution has put us on the path. With new responsibilities and a growing role nationally and internationally, we are ready to make our mark. It will take work and cooperation to turn northern potential into prosperity for our people and communities. We cannot take our advantages for granted or sit back and let others do the work and lead the way. We need to make prosperity happen; we cannot just “let” it happen.

Our government has a balanced agenda focused on people, the environment and the economy. We will create opportunities for our people and ensure they have the support they need to take advantage of them with initiatives like Early Childhood Development, the Anti-Poverty Strategy, the Mental Health and Addictions Framework and Education Reform. We will manage and protect our environment according to northern priorities and values with plans like the Land Use and Sustainability Framework, Water Strategy and Energy Conservation and Alternative Energy initiatives. We will promote the long-term growth and stability of our economy with investments in transportation and communications infrastructure and plans like the Economic Opportunities Strategy, NWT Power System Plan and Mineral Development Strategy.

Now is the time for Northerners to join together and decide together what kind of territory we want this to be, how we want to support our people, manage our environment and grow our economy. Putting Northerners in charge of the decisions that affect them was the purpose of devolution. We have made a good start in the past two months and I am pleased that partners continue to come to the table. Our government is committed to continuing to work diligently to advance a dynamic agenda on behalf of the people of this territory. We will not be resting on our laurels or slowing down in our remaining months. I look forward to working with our partners and with Members on fulfilling the promise of devolution together and creating a strong North where individuals, families and communities share in the benefits and responsibilities of a unified, environmentally sustainable and prosperous Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 65-17(5): Sessional Statement
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Item 3, Members’ statements. Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Blake.

GNWT Medical Travel Policy Escort Provisions
Members’ Statements

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have some serious concerns about the medical travel escort system that our government has in place. Clearly, it is not working. We have medical patients who are travelling whose request for escorts are being denied by this government.

I have spoken to this issue in the past and I’ve brought it to the Minister’s attention and heard promises to make changes. Today I’m speaking for my riding and other people in the Northwest Territories.

We need to get the system right and make our patients comfortable while they are away from home, while they are undergoing surgery and other medical issues that would be less stressful to manage if they have an escort.

Right now I have a constituent who is in Edmonton undergoing chemotherapy for the next four weeks. My constituent has a letter from her doctors, stating that she requires an escort. She was ready to travel from her home community. Days before going to Edmonton, she was told that her escort was denied by medical travel.

This news was shocking, disturbing and emotionally traumatizing for my constituent. She is a very young lady, unsure of how chemotherapy will affect her body, and depressed over the fact that she will be away from her home for four weeks.

We need to do more for our people. We are continually asking for help from the Minister, pleading for our people and wanting to reassure them that we are doing the best to represent their needs.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions later today.

GNWT Medical Travel Policy Escort Provisions
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Blake. Colleagues, before we go on today, I’d like to welcome back into the House a former Speaker and former colleague, Mr. Tony Whitford. Welcome back to the House, Tony.

Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Increasing Fuel Prices In Remote Communities
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It is only getting more expensive to live and work in our remote communities in the Northwest Territories. Fuel prices are the main driver of the cost of living. Many of our remote communities, like Trout Lake and Nahanni Butte, are supplied with fuel through the petroleum products division of the Department of Public Works. They have once again increased the fuel prices.

Elders in my riding tell me they are very concerned about the most recent increase in the fuel prices. Most elders are on a fixed income, and fuel prices have a direct impact on the quality of life. They love getting out on the land with their boats and quads; they also need to heat their homes, along with all constituents.

The situation of higher and higher fuel prices is unacceptable. The government must find ways to reduce the cost of fuel to our small and remote communities. Small communities should not be penalized because of their remoteness.

Earlier this month elders from across the Northwest Territories stood in this House and voiced their real concerns about the cost of living and the quality of life of the people of the Northwest Territories. Many elders are caring for grandchildren that do not receive financial support that foster parents do. Increases to the cost of living affect their ability to provide for themselves and for children. The government should immediately commit to reviewing subsidies like the Seniors Fuel Subsidy program every time there’s a rate increase and seek ways to reduce prices. Seniors in our communities get asked for a lot of things: vehicle use, money, time, food and shelter. We simply must bear the reality of small community residents in mind when prices go up. We need to invest in alternative energy projects that make a real difference in our communities and have a noticeable impact on the cost of living and even return to the barging of fuels for those on the Mackenzie River.

Our people know about living off the land. Communities in the Deh Cho have good conditions for small scale agriculture as well as leading technologies like solar energy. We need to combine traditional knowledge with the modern world to make a difference in the North, and in the meantime, I urge the government to stabilize energy costs in the remote and small communities before we think of ourselves and our people. Thank you very much.

Increasing Fuel Prices In Remote Communities
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Community Solidarity During Times Of Loss
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I also want to join you in welcoming back the Members from a good spring and from a good spring hunt if you went out and did some spring hunting and come back to work. I want to use this Member’s statement, as I did in my last sessional statement, to offer my condolences on behalf of the Sahtu region to all people who have felt loss in their communities of their loved ones. From time to time, as I said in my last statement, we get so busy with our jobs and as we do many things in our small communities, especially when we have close relationships with our family members, it gets pretty hard when a person leaves us.

Like my father-in-law has said, when the good Lord wants you, then the Lord will take you no matter what you do. It leaves us in our communities with a sadness of a loved person leaving our community and the impact it has on our lives.

The beautiful thing in all the Northwest Territories, we even see it in larger centres, is that people pull together, strangers pull together no matter what and offer condolences to the families, to the grandparents or aunties or uncles, but people come together. That’s the beauty of the humanity of the people of the Northwest Territories. I should say that in small communities, because it’s more intimate, that we put aside our differences for the day for the family and we support the family.

That’s what I wanted to say, how much the people of the Sahtu have done this in their communities, in Colville Lake, Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Deline and Tulita. Even the community in Tuktoyaktuk, or here in Yellowknife, people in the Deh Cho, the Beaufort-Delta, Akaitcho, right down the valley people pull together in hard times and I want to say how important it is to teach those types of traditions and values to our children.

I wanted to say and offer to the families who’ve lost loved ones since the last time we had a sitting, and I’ll get back to business tomorrow on the Sahtu needs. Thank you.

Community Solidarity During Times Of Loss
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Funding For Yellowknife Education Authorities
Members’ Statements

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yellowknife Education Districts 1 and 2 are not receiving the funding or support they need to deliver the education that the students of Yellowknife deserve. The edict requiring that pre-kindergarten be delivered by Yellowknife authorities without being funded by ECE places an unfair burden on the budgets of these two districts. It lessens the quality of the education they can provide to the students of Yellowknife. Already teachers are being laid off and student-to-teacher ratios are increasing.

A service previously provided by local daycares and schools on a user pay basis must now be funded from strained budgets with no plans for recovery in the coming years. It is another case of this government robbing Peter to pay Paul. We fund competing priorities through a merry-go-round of cuts.

Teachers’ pensions are another case of failure. The teachers of Yellowknife deserve the same pension plans as other teachers across the NWT, yet the Minister refuses to provide the GNWT’s fair share of money, according to his formula, as required by their funding formula of 80 percent GNWT to 20 percent taxpayers of Yellowknife, a formula, again, that the Minister claims to subscribe to. The work of teachers across the Territories through ECE should be equal, but apparently in the eyes of the government some teachers are more equal than others.

If the GNWT is serious about attracting families to the Northwest Territories from southern Canada, or retaining them, they must provide quality education everywhere in the Territories, including Yellowknife. If the GNWT wants to add programs that they feel need to be offered in all territorial schools, such as pre-kindergarten, they must fully fund them in all territorial schools. If the GNWT wants to attract and keep qualified and gifted teachers to work for its largest school districts, it must make sure that the terms of employment are attractive.

To download these financial responsibilities to the Yellowknife school boards and the taxpayers of Yellowknife completely is unfair and short-sighted and against policy. Support for all of the school boards in the North is essential and should not be done at the expense of or on the backs of students in Yellowknife. Mahsi.

Funding For Yellowknife Education Authorities
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. The Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, Mr. Moses.

Adjustments To Northern Living Allowances
Members’ Statements

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On March 27, 2014, employees who are members of the Union of Northern Workers received a notice regarding the 2014-2015 northern living allowance rates that were going to be implemented on April 1st. In that message that they got the notice there was a link showing which communities increased and which ones decreased. As a result, we had numerous communities across the Northwest Territories who are employees of the GNWT decrease in the amount of northern living allowance, one of them being my community of Inuvik. Employees ended up losing about $383 at the end of the day when these negotiations happened. Now, that might not seem a lot when you compare it to other communities such as Aklavik or Tuktoyaktuk, which decreased by about $2,600, but that $383 in the community of Inuvik when fuel costs are going high, gas prices are very high, electricity costs are going up, child daycare has just increased in our Children’s First Centre, that $383 does play a big difference.

The way the northern living allowance is calculated is based on two components, and that’s transportation and the cost of living. However, in the NWT Public Service Act, under Section 41.(7), it states that it prohibits the GNWT from negotiating terms in the Collective Agreement which deal directly or indirectly with payments to employees relating to owner occupied or rent or leased premises, and it includes utilities such as fuel, electricity, water, rent and mortgage. Anybody that lives up in the Beaufort-Delta knows that there is a high cost of living, and once this notice came out we did get a lot of e-mails sent to my office, a lot of phone calls in regards to why is this happening when we know that we have a high increase in the natural gas.

We are working on an Anti-Poverty Strategy here with the 17th Legislative Assembly, and when we decrease the northern living allowance for people across the Northwest Territories, it just goes against the fact that we’re trying to keep people over that poverty line.

I will have questions today for the Minister of Human Resources and talk about how we can mitigate this, how we can change it, what actions do we need to take as a government. I just want to say the good thing is that these northern living allowance rates are updated and negotiated annually, and I think that we need to make those changes now so that in future we don’t have to deal with these kinds of situations.

Adjustments To Northern Living Allowances
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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