This is page numbers 6827 – 6882 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 assembly.

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Motion 53-17(5): Language Training For Senior GNWT Managers, Carried
Motions

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Motion 53-17(5): Language Training For Senior GNWT Managers, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Mr. Bromley.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

October 8th, 2015

Bob Bromley Weledeh

WHEREAS the 17th Assembly’s Minister’s Committee on Energy and Climate Change failed to make any evident progress on planning for climate change;

AND WHEREAS the GNWT’s estimated annual costs associated with the impacts of climate change have increased rapidly to hundreds of millions of dollars;

AND WHEREAS the projected costs in public infrastructure damage caused by climate change through the loss of permafrost in the next 15 years is projected to be in the order of billions of dollars;

AND WHEREAS there is every reason to expect equally severe costs to private, commercial and institutional infrastructure as climate change impacts accelerate;

AND WHEREAS there continues to be a lack of understanding and acknowledgement of the ongoing and worsening impacts of climate change to infrastructure, health, economy, food security, community viability in coastal and low-lying regions, community resupply and energy security in our fiscal and operational management planning;

AND WHEREAS we are leaving the 18th Assembly with restricted financial potential in large degree due to unanticipated and unplanned extreme costs to manage climate change-related events;

AND WHEREAS acknowledging, anticipating, planning for and being prepared for climate change impacts can substantially reduce costs and enable actions that benefit our residents and communities associated through jobs and locally focussed activity;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Frame Lake, that the Legislative Assembly strongly recommends that the Government of the Northwest Territories develop a comprehensive and long-term climate change mitigation and adaptation plan in anticipation of the projected effects of climate change;

AND FURTHER, that this action plan include a strategy for shifting the Northwest Territories from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, including targets recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050, each from 1990 levels;

AND FURTHERMORE, that the government provide a comprehensive response to this motion to the 18th Legislative Assembly by June 2018. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. The motion is in order. To the motion. Mr. Bromley.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Recently, I think it was on the 5th of October, Minister Miltenberger said, and I quote from Hansard: “Most of us would accept the reality that extreme weather is now upon us. Indeed, in fact, the science of climate change is firm, unwavering and conservative.”

Over my eight years in office, I have been a keen student of climate change and I’ve had a particular interest in seeing how it is reflected on the ground here in the NWT. It behooves good government to face the realities of what is happening and to face issues frankly and to deal with them.

As I go over my observations of NWT impacts from climate change, the exercise is not meant to be fearmongering, but rather to motivate clear thinking and thoughtful response to help mitigate and adapt the serious impacts upon our people and the society we live in. Here are some of the real events and costs we are experiencing as a result of climate change, impacts, at least events clearly aligned with climate change science. The community of Nahanni Butte was almost completely flooded after record- setting downpour and snowmelt in the mountains, costing millions in damage and having impacts on people’s homes and lives. The loss of the store led to impacts on people’s diets and access to groceries.

We are going into our fourth year of extreme drought, as low water levels have cost $50 million in diesel subsidies – on top of normal diesel budget – for electricity in Yellowknife alone over the past two years, with no sign of relief.

Recording-setting severe forest fires claiming huge swaths of boreal forest and caribou winter habitat in the North and South Slave and Deh Cho, costing almost $100 million over the last two years, have emitted millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Just this fall, Tuktoyaktuk was again battered by storms and rising sea levels, damaging infrastructure and leaving a GNWT building hanging out over the sea, with unknown and ongoing costs to infrastructure. The island protecting the community harbour is rapidly disappearing and despite pouring resources into shoring up the land against this erosion, the loss of permafrost has meant the land is being easily washed away by these new unleashed forces of nature. The shoreline loss of some nearby areas is some 10 metres per year.

The Mackenzie River, the major artery to bring needed annual resupply to communities, has become less navigable each year due to periods of low water, causing delayed resupply or substantial cost for air resupply and increasing cost of living in already expensive communities. This represents a stressful lack of security for community well-being in the lower Mackenzie River Valley.

Melting permafrost is causing millions of dollars in public/private commercial and institutional infrastructure annually, with exponentially more to come. A startling example was the $14 million Arctic Tern Youth Facility in Inuvik that we wrote off after only a few years of use. As I mentioned, great new impacts are substantially greater by an order of magnitude.

Caribou numbers fail to recover and even continue to decline, undoubtedly at least partially related to climate change, with serious generational impacts on our cultures, food security and community self-sufficiency. These impacts reverberate throughout the ecosystem and are emotional and tragic in the lives of many people.

Highway and airport impacts from loss of permafrost, Highway No. 3, for example, has cost millions of dollars per year for a decade. Ongoing damage to the Inuvik and Hay River airstrips have cost us millions. The shorter construction season and permafrost challenge in a warming climate have added tens of millions in original cost estimates, most recently increased by up to another $32 million of the Inuvik-Tuk Highway at the halfway point in construction. The long-term viability and maintenance costs for this fragile road are in question given the projected impacts of a warming climate.

Mr. Speaker, the one thing we can be certain of is there are impacts everywhere we look for them. In some areas, they may not be apparent yet or they may be the opposite impact from an adjacent area in our large jurisdiction. For example, one area may suffer extreme drought and an adjacent region extreme precipitation and flooding. One area may have no impacts apparent, yet wake up the next day to find their world vastly changed. This is consistent with the science which shows a high variability in how impacts are expressed in any one area. It also means impacts are difficult to predict and forecast, with the exception that there is no normal anymore.

This means that actions to prepare for impacts must be well thought out and must take into consideration high variability and weather that comes with climate change. Clearly, in recent years, the dollar and human costs of impacts have soared to hundreds of millions of dollars annually and much anguish with costs forecast to increase exponentially over time.

In Paris this December, governments and other entities from all over the globe will gather to decide on required action, but as the Minister has said, every jurisdiction must do its part, and we are no exception. Things can happen much more effectively and quicker at the level of subnational governments. The challenge is how to be effective and efficient in both mitigating, adapting and planning for unavoidable impacts of climate change. We are no longer in a position to avoid some of these substantial impacts.

As we know, climate change affects every aspect of our lives: food and security, cost of living, housing, energy, jobs, public and private infrastructure from homes to hospitals. A thorough and comprehensive plan for mitigation, adaptation and dealing with the unavoidable impacts is now overdue if we are to minimize impacts and cost to our people and our government. Within that, a detailed strategy giving specific targets, actions and a schedule for weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy is required, as acknowledged but not acted upon in our Greenhouse Gas Strategy.

Such a process requires work to thoroughly understand at the community level what the science tells us, what our vulnerabilities are, and how we are going to address them. It requires working with all entities to determine implications to our public, private and commercial infrastructure, to the health of our citizens, to food security, to economic development, and to the roles that each entity can play in addressing these. It means wrestling with the realities of the costs that we are experiencing and that we know will increase in bringing those into our fiscal planning.

In 2008 the Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report was written, I believe, by ENR, and concluded with a short, very brief three paragraph summary on planning for the future. It was what I would call a very light document. This is now woefully inadequate, as I’m sure we all understand.

Mr. Speaker, colleagues, I hope you will support the call to bring this understanding to a comprehensive plan that will serve our public by minimizing and managing costs and impacts of climate change to the extent possible and preparing effective efforts to best deal with unavoidable impacts that we know will come.

I will be calling for a recorded vote, and I thank you, colleagues. Mahsi.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. I’ll allow the seconder, Ms. Bisaro.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to make some brief remarks.

The fact that we need to have this motion indicates that the GNWT, the government and the Cabinet, have not recognized that climate change is having huge impacts on us as residents and on the territory in terms of environment and our lands. I would say we’ve paid lip service to climate change. We have reacted to climate change. But this is asking for us to plan for climate change, and to plan for climate change and mitigation of the effects of climate change, and it’s long overdue.

Mr. Bromley has laid out a number of the things that have occurred within the territory that have been caused by climate change. We’re going to get more. Fires is one, the low water is another that we have, over the past couple of weeks in discussing our budgets, said, yes, these things are going to happen again and again. As a government, we don’t have a plan to deal with these sorts of events. We react to them but we don’t have a plan to be proactive in recognition of them.

The second operative part of the motion talks about reducing our targets and moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and I am totally in support of that. We rely far too heavily on fossil fuels. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m very disappointed that we don’t have large energy projects that have come to fruition in my time here.

I’ll just leave it at that. I also, as Mr. Bromley has done, urge my colleagues to be in support of this motion. It’s something that is forward looking and I think we, as a government, need to recognize that we need to be proactive and look forward as opposed to reactive and in the now.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. To the motion. Mr. Blake.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I don’t know if Mr. Bromley is rubbing off on me, but I stand here to support this motion today, mainly because in my travels on the land, I see all the erosion happening in the last number of years, especially over the summer with all the rain we’ve had in our region in the Beaufort-Delta.

It’s very important that we start planning all our major projects to do with erosion and all the other effects of climate change, water levels rising, dropping in many areas, like Mr. Bouchard of Hay River mentioned, the dredging that’s needed. Also, along the Mackenzie River, as well, the water levels are extremely low. A barge had to turn around on its way down the Mackenzie River due to low water levels this fall. I’m sure we’re going to hear about that this winter, all the added costs to that. It’s time we start preparing, building the infrastructure that’s needed, whether it’s a highway down the Mackenzie Valley, to prepare and come up with other options that are needed due to climate change.

With that, I’ll be supporting this motion.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Blake. Mr. Miltenberger, to the motion.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to thank the Member for raising this issue yet again here in a very clear way. As I indicated in the House, we are revising our Greenhouse Gas Strategy and we’re going to convert it to a climate change strategy. That document will be out in the next couple weeks as a discussion document. I can assure the Member that regardless of who’s in this House, in these chairs, the issue of climate change is going to continue to play a major role.

I would, as well, point out that in the last eight years, if you added the money we’ve spent on low water, not even counting the fires, but the money that we’ve invested into projects, into energy, into solar, into rebate programs, into biomass, we’d be well over $200 million. That is very, very serious investments. I agree that we have to have a long-term plan, but we cannot avoid, as well, the need to respond to things that we don’t control or we can’t really anticipate, like the magnitude of fire season, for example.

His motion is helpful. It brings attention to the issues. I just want to make the point, as well, that while we talk about it in this House, the Environment and Natural Resources, the government is at work on a climate change strategy. This motion binds or suggests that we somehow could bind the next Assembly through this motion. It will be there for advice and direction, of course, and when the incoming government is in place, they will look at all the work that’s been done as a government and determine what steps they’re going to take.

But I can assure the Member that his motion and the work he’s done in the last eight years have helped push this forward significantly.

As this is direction to Cabinet, Mr. Speaker, we will be abstaining from the motion.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. To the motion. Mr. Yakeleya.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I do want to thank the mover, Mr. Bromley, and seconder, Ms. Bisaro, for this motion here. I’m going to just make a few points.

I had an earlier conversation with Mr. Bromley and I wanted to say to the House that, certainly, this issue is up in front in a lot of people’s minds in our communities, and at points of our discussion that Mr. Bromley and I agreed to disagree in how we looked at these issues. I’ve mentioned to Mr. Bromley that I probably needed some more time to understand what the issues are, and I appreciate his openness and willingness to hear me out.

I disagree with the fossil fuels. It’s something that we depend on in our region, and until I see some real dollars coming into our region that would offset the fossil fuels, that is our workforce, that is the fuel that drives our economy, those are areas that we know that fossil fuels could be something that we do not want to get away from until we start seeing some areas where we could look at changing it over. Gas emissions, that’s something that we’ve got to study.

So this would be a good motion to bring to our region to look at the long-term effects of our weather and our land. I’ve stated that there are areas where there is a dry area and our region has suffered that somewhat; however, I have to make sure that we specifically ask and make statements that some areas being affected. Water is one, and in our region there seems to be different opinions. So I just want to say that I will not be voting against this motion, I’ll be abstaining from this motion. I think that there are some pretty good points in here but I’m not there yet to lend my support until I bring this back to the region to look at this and study it. Certainly, it will be on the radar for the 18th Assembly and I wish we had more time to look at something like this in our region. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Yakeleya. To the motion. Mr. Nadli.

Motion 54-17(5): Climate Change Planning, Carried
Motions

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I stand in support of the motion and I would like to thank my colleagues, Mr. Bromley and Ms. Bisaro, for putting this motion forward. A couple of years back I had the opportunity and the honour to work with some elders. The elders were talking in their language, and this must have been about 20 or so ago. They were talking about phenomena that will happen in the natural environment when the sun floods, and today the motion speaks to those natural phenomena that have impacted several of our communities. Somehow those disasters that we face, fortunately, there weren’t any human fatalities, but there was a cost to infrastructure. You know, the governments, at some point, have to try to assist communities, and this puts the government in that position to seek the federal government to look at perhaps an increase in the operational budget of the governments so communities that face disasters will be assisted somehow. So that motion perhaps would set an opportunity in stage for that to happen. With that, I’ll be supporting this motion. Mahsi.