This is page numbers 6391 – 6418 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 services.

Topics

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 1:29 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Minister's Statement 214-17(5): 2015 Premier’s Awards For Excellence
Ministers’ Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I had the opportunity to recognize award recipients within the Government of the Northwest Territories and their collaborative partners from outside the public service with the Premier’s Awards for Excellence and Collaboration in a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Legislative Assembly.

These innovative, engaged staff are essential in providing the best possible service to the people of the Northwest Territories, and I am pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Premier’s Awards.

Award for Excellence – Individuals:

• Dr. Sarah Cook with the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority.

Award for Excellence - Employee Teams:

• The Government of the Northwest Territories Deline Final Self-Government Agreement Ratification Team; the Incident-free Highway 3 Forest Fire Traffic Management 2014 Team; the Wellness Court Program Implementation Team; and the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Optic Link Project Development Team.

Award for Collaboration:

• The Lutselk’e Dictionary Project; and the Education Renewal Innovation Education Partners.

Dave Ramsden Career Achievement Award:

• Sabrina Broadhead with the Department of Health and Social Services.

Government service officers from across the Northwest Territories were also recognized for the

important work they do in providing day-to-day services to our residents in the communities. Recently they, as part of the Single Window Service Centre model, were the recipients of the Bronze Award in the Federal/Provincial/Territorial category of the national IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Award for 2014.

Also presented this morning was the Commissioner’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration. This new award was created by the Northwest Territories Regional Group of IPAC, with the Commissioner as its patron. Each year it will recognize a public sector practitioner whose career exhibits the highest standard of excellence, dedication and accomplishment. The first-ever recipient of this award was the deputy minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Mr. Peter Vician. Thank you to IPAC NWT for establishing this new award celebrating excellence in public service and for recognizing a very deserving recipient.

Mr. Speaker, as we near the end of our term, I invite Members to join with me in thanking our public service employees for a job well done. Their energy, drive and commitment to implement and achieve our priorities are evident throughout the entire public service and together we have accomplished much. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 214-17(5): 2015 Premier’s Awards For Excellence
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Honourable Minister of Transportation, Mr. Beaulieu.

Minister's Statement 215-17(5): NWT Transportation Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

Tu Nedhe

Tom Beaulieu Minister of Transportation

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to announce that later today I will table an updated territory-wide, multi-modal Transportation Strategy, entitled “Connecting Us: Northwest Territories Transportation Strategy 2015-2040.” This important document will guide further development of our integrated air, road, rail and marine systems over the next 25 years. With this strategy, the Department of Transportation will work towards a vision of “Northerners connected to opportunities,” based on three key strategic objectives.

The first, Strengthening Connections, represents the department’s dedication to continuing to improve the existing transportation system. The second objective is Capturing Opportunities, signaling the department’s intensions to expand the system. The third objective is Embracing Innovation, through which the department strives to improve its operations and the way it delivers its services to the public.

Our strategy was developed with substantial public and stakeholder input. Over the last year, staff with the Department of Transportation worked to ensure this strategy reflects the priorities identified by residents and users of the NWT transportation system.

Mr. Speaker, these objectives support the goals identified by Members of this Assembly. Supporting a diversified economy while providing communities with opportunities through better connections is necessary for a prosperous future for our territory.

The department anticipates the release of two additional documents related to the strategy this fall. A transportation report card, the evaluation framework for the strategy, will include statistics that provide a benchmark to measure the department’s success. In addition, the department will develop a four-year action plan for implementation beginning in 2015-16.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all those who participated in the development of the NWT Transportation Strategy by providing their input. The department will continue working hard to meet your expectations and to deliver an enhanced transportation system in the NWT over the next 25 years. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 215-17(5): NWT Transportation Strategy
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Private Sector Aerial Fire Suppression Fleet
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In follow-up to my statement yesterday, my theory about trends coming forward in this government, the private sector is taking a hit at the hands of this government. Yesterday I talked about including stakeholders in private industry who have been on the front line of these sectors for years. Today I want to offer my observations about our government’s latest direction in fighting forest fires.

Buffalo Airways has been involved in that industry for 45 years. Twenty of those 45 years with the CL-215s, named the ducks, and you only have to see them parked on the tarmac to see why they are called the ducks.

Over those 45 years, Buffalo Joe has done everything from smoke patrol, Single Otter water bombing, helicopter water bombing, 10 years of birddogging and 20 years with the 215s. Based on that history, let me go out on a limb here and suggest this is a person and a company that may know a bit about aircraft and a bit about fighting fires.

We heard in Committee of the Whole, the last time we considered the capital infrastructure, all of the things that are wrong with the 215s such as access to avgas, an aging fleet, the turnaround time if they’re too far from a sufficiently sized body of water. We heard that the new proposed fleet of 802s would be the ideal solution for fighting fires here in the North.

A government-owned solution grounding a fleet of privately owned aircraft, we made every argument we could think of to dissuade this government and this Minister from dismantling this tried and proven fleet in our northern arsenal from fighting fire. We even suggested a hybrid approach: add the 802s but keep the 215s, as each aircraft has a very different capability and application. But no, this Minister will hear nothing of it.

Fast forward one year and already Alberta has lost two 802s. Two accidents, two planes down. One fatality in these single-manned 802s with floats that were never intended for the task of fighting a big fire with smoke updrafts and the restricted maneuverability of adding floats to an aircraft designed for fair-weather crop dusting, short hauls and small fires. But the 215s, like the DC3s and DC4s, are flying tanks meant for heavy payload and can fly into the kind of atmospheric conditions that are created by a large fire.

I want to ask if anyone else sees a trend here, Mr. Speaker.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Private Sector Aerial Fire Suppression Fleet
Members’ Statements

June 3rd, 2015

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

I want to ask if anyone else sees a trend here. This disregard for a private sector company with years of experience and knowledge to bring to the costly and complicated science of fighting fires. This is the mindset of a government bent on increasing government while throwing out the private sector with potentially dire and irreversible consequences.

I pose the question: How does that jibe with the GNWT is open for business? The Northwest Territories is open for business investment and we travel all over the world with that message. How do these actions jibe with that? Mr. Speaker, there’s only 173 days left in this Assembly and all I can say is thank God.

Private Sector Aerial Fire Suppression Fleet
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Northern Residents Deduction
Members’ Statements

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With another tax season behind us, I’m reminded that the northern residents deduction has not changed since 2008 when it went up a paltry 10 percent. A lot of things have changed through the years, particularly the cost of living in the country, and this is one thing that seems to go up and never seems to come down. To think about it, taxes often defy gravity in the same way.

Yes, I know our Finance Minister is not responsible for the federal taxes we pay, nor can he increase northern residents deduction on his own, but he could use his persuasive power to sway his federal colleagues. I will offer a few good reasons why he should do just that.

Increasing the northern residents deduction would keep more dollars in the NWT economy, benefiting northern residents’ businesses. The northern residents deduction was implemented to stimulate growth in the Northwest Territories by helping compensate for the high cost of living. It is not delicious irony that the deduction has not kept up with inflation, not even close. If we want to increase our population, raising the northern residents deduction should be part of our plan.

We know the cost of living is a big problem, so let’s put a little bit more cash in Northerners’ pockets. Businesses will be on side. Boosting the northern residents deduction helps northern employers, including big employers, such as the mines and our own government, to attract the skilled people we so desperately need. We do compete in other jurisdictions for people, and even some of our own students go work down south. So let’s turn that around.

These are just a few reasons, and I can go on and on, but I bring this because the Finance Minister has not mentioned northern residents deduction when he talks about our government strategy for growing our population. Our government seems pretty shy about taking the case to the federal government, but this is an election year, a time for opportunity, for persuading our federal politicians to do the right thing and I hope the Minister is listening. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Northern Residents Deduction
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Income Assistance Issues
Members’ Statements

Robert Bouchard Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I’d like to talk about a subject that I’ve been seeing difficulties with over my term as MLA. We as MLAs get concerns from all kinds of industry, all kinds of individuals, all kinds of groups, but some individuals come to us with a concern. I’ll talk to you about some of the income assistance clients that I’ve seen over the last year who have come to me and talked to me about an injustice.

These income assistance individuals receive some sort of small payment – a GST cheque, income from RWED for fur – and these are small amounts of dollars. We’re talking about $40, or $80. Because they receive this amount of money and they don’t declare that money, then their income assistance for that month is docked. They lose all the income for their family for that whole month.

I’ve brought it to the attention of the department and staff. Normally, staff are able to help me out and say, “Yes, there’s flexibility here. Maybe we could deal with it this way.” But they said, “The act is clear; this act doesn’t allow us to just deduct that amount from the next payment,” so that that family has income for the month, they don’t have to beg or borrow money to survive for that month.

We need to change this act that allows us, as a government, to be responsive to our citizens and say, “Yes, you received a $40 GST cheque and we understand you didn’t recognize it. We’re going to just deduct that from your next income.” That’s a reasonable approach.

The unreasonable approach is that we remove all that income from that family for the whole month. I’ve discussed it with the Minister today, and we may not have questions today because of time, but I know the Minister here is listening and I know the Minister has committed to me to looking into changing inequality in our system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Income Assistance Issues
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Morel Mushroom Harvest Concerns
Members’ Statements

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mahsi. As we all know, last year’s fires signalled a bumper crop of morel mushrooms for this year. Our public information sessions have been extremely popular and people are eager to get involved and get picking.

One Fort Providence resident, Ms. Jessica Minoza, even won a $5,000 prize for her smart start-up: training local people in ethical picking, keeping profits in the NWT. But we’re still facing challenges and it seems like some of them we didn’t anticipate.

First, morels need warm, wet weather to grow. Our hot, dry weather keeps the pickers waiting, potentially straining the resources of small communities. Dry weather also increases fire risks. Morels may thrive on burned land, but fires can also destroy new growth, sending money up in smoke.

Second, the NWT is Canada’s prime spot for morels, but prices fluctuate based on harvests around the world. Experts suggest that this year’s prices could be as much as 50 percent lower than last year. That’s five to eight dollars per pound. Past projections from government had hinted at revenues of $10 million, but we don’t know how much would stay in the NWT.

With the rush of prospective pickers, there are also risks for people who are unfamiliar with the land. One picker was lost for nine hours.

I hope that the government will work with the Deh Gah Got’ine Dene First Nations’ recommendation, and that is to establish local monitors that should be appointed to improve safety and to enhance the current enforcement plan.

Because right now morel regulations are still being developed, leaving a “hands-off” approach for this season, this means that the government must be vigilant, making sure that each buyer has the required business licence and that all commercial pickers have the correct permits. Rules like these make sure that all pickers and buyers are on a level playing field and protect the land that produces morels.

I hope to see the morel season pick up and I wish all pickers and buyers the best, reminding them to consult the public handbook, take safety precautions, stay fire smart and keep the land clean. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.