This is page numbers 6757 – 6826 of the Hansard for the 17th Assembly, 5th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was health.


Daryl Dolynny

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Committee proposed to the Minister to allocate a percentage of government liquor profits from the Liquor Revolving Fund to addictions and awareness treatment. This action was equally supported by the chief coroner. As was put by committee, the perception of people is that the GNWT puts liquor profits ahead of concerns with public welfare.

Again, has the Minister rethought his approach to supporting targeted funding? Thank you.

Michael Miltenberger

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you. This is a long-standing issue as well. The health budget is the largest budget in the territorial government and it’s the fastest growing. We put in millions, tens of millions of dollars a year in dealing with a lot of the damages caused by alcohol and alcohol abuse. So from a political optics point of view, I know the discussion has been there that we should take the money from liquor proceedings, fines and those types of things, to put them towards a special fund. That discussion is going to be ongoing, but at this point the money goes into consolidated general revenue and we continue to spend, as this House will know from the number of supplementary appropriations we do for health, significant amounts of our money on health care, most of it tied or a good chunk of it tied to the issues related to alcohol abuse. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. The Member for Deh Cho, Mr. Nadli.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just following up on my Member’s statement on homelessness in the NWT communities, my questions are for the Minister of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Shelter is a critical need in the hierarchy of needs of people for them to lead productive lives. At the community level we are confronted with some realities. One of them, of course, is homelessness, and in some communities there are program initiatives to provide lunch and trying to help out people as best as we can.

So the question I have is: Is there any funding under the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation homelessness support program provided to any communities in the Deh Cho to combat homelessness in 2014-15? What about for the 2015-16? Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. The Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, Mr. McLeod.

Robert C. McLeod

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would have to confirm if there were any applications received from the Member’s constituency and I will do that and I will share those with the Member. Just offhand I do know that we have helped, we have given money to a lot of those that have applied from across the Northwest Territories. As for the specific breakdown, I don’t have those with me right now, but I will get those and share them with the Member. Thank you.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Recently the community of Fort Providence, the leader had recognized that there needs to be something done with homelessness. So he had proposed to the Minister’s office, the department, of seeking assistance in terms of purchasing woodstoves and, at the same time, lumber to establish tent frames and I wanted to see if the Minister could explain to the community why that proposal was rejected. Mahsi.

Robert C. McLeod

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you. When you talk about homelessness in the community, we have 2,400 public housing units across the Northwest Territories. All we ask people to do is honour the commitment that they’ve made to pay their rent and they won’t be evicted. In some cases we do have people who are evicted and they’re looking for other opportunities to try and house themselves.

As far as the Member’s specific, I don’t recall seeing a request for lumber. I do know that I replied to a letter from the chief of Fort Providence. As far as a request for the lumber goes, I’m not sure if it came from his original correspondence to us, but again, I will follow up on that and see if there was a specific request for lumber and, again, through many of the programs we offered, I’m not sure if there are opportunities there for lumber to be supplied to the community. Thank you.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

One of the dilemmas that we have is that when it comes to providing housing to homeless people, usually a person that’s a bachelor that doesn’t have any children is perhaps 60 years old. Another person who likely has children equally gets the priority and in some instances in communities we have people that are basically fending for themselves and couch surfing.

How can the department assist those people in finding housing or shelter, especially those who are falling between the cracks and sometimes are basically left homeless? Mahsi.

Robert C. McLeod

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Again, we operate a number of public housing units across the Northwest Territories. People get evicted for different reasons and they have to work out an agreement to repay their arrears, if there are any, to get back into public housing, and if they honour that then they would get on the waiting list and possibly back into public housing. However, in some cases where there are folks out in the Territories who don’t meet those commitments that they’ve made, we do have a pilot project that we’re starting, called Northern Pathways to Housing, and it’s four communities we’re piloting the project in right now. We will provide a unit in that particular community or smaller communities across the Northwest Territories. We will work with a local group, local government, local group to watch over the unit for us and we’ll enter into an agreement with them. We’re early in it. Right now we do have four communities that are getting this program off the ground. Depending on the success of this program, there’s a possibility that it could be expanded to include more communities in the Northwest Territories because we are hearing that in many of the communities, those that have been evicted from public housing are having a difficult time finding places to sleep. So this is one of the ways that we are going to try and address that challenge. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Time for oral questions has expired. Mr. Hawkins.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to return to item 7, oral questions, so I can have an oral question. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent denied

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Item 8, written questions. Item 9, returns to written questions. Item 10, replies to opening address. Mr. Bromley.

Mr. Bromley’s Reply
Replies to Opening Address

Bob Bromley

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the sessional statement, the Premier asked three questions: Do we have the right vision? Can it be improved? What else can we do to make it a reality?

Those are big questions. I’d like to address at least some material around those. As far as the vision goes, the problem is it’s typically generic and can be interpreted in so many ways. Many say that this government lacks vision and though we have a brief vision statement that I don’t disagree with at all, I have to agree that we seem somehow to lack vision.

We talk about the need for inspiration and motivation here. For me, it’s something along the lines of I see our vision as healthy families and communities with a fully restored and healthy land with each of our residents supported in their pursuit of meaningful lives and achieving their full potential.

We face many challenges, indeed: poverty, lack of services, accelerating climate change, benefits of resource extraction going only to a few, unemployment and the need for local employment opportunities so people don’t have to leave their home communities, social measures, we know about mental health and addictions, diabetes and so on, the chronic diseases, physical activity levels, suicide and criminal activity and so on. The last time I looked, the income gap here in the Northwest Territories was the largest in the country – the poorest 20 percent, the richest 20 percent – and no indication that we are addressing that.

Our housing waiting lists grow longer and longer and our cost of living increases steadily. If not for millions of dollars in subsidies, our energy costs alone for families and homeowners would be even more unaffordable than they are, but ongoing, ever-increasing subsidies are really doing in our fiscal health and ability to efficiently provide services.

Certainly jobs in our small communities are scarce. We need an opportunity for people to find jobs in their home communities. This government continues to build very expensive roads for industry under the auspices of economic development. This is wrong and a misdirection of scarce financial resources. It is done with the hope that it works and is motivated politically through federal influence, rather than based on any real analysis, and again, such an approach is not serving us well.

Our subsidies to multi-nationals through crude infrastructure is wrong-headed and puts us into the hole financially with very little return and often more cost without the means to support them. Large costly infrastructure to support dreams and megaprojects just benefits shareholders far away and does little to the people of the North other than short-term, temporary jobs and part-time work. “Better than nothing” some people say, but is that the approach we want? Are we satisfied with crumbs rather than an intelligent locally appropriate and capacity-building investment in localized economic development that provides for meaningful and long-term jobs for people in their community rather than far away?

The Inuvik-Tuk Highway is a good example. Part-time seasonal jobs for a few years for a piece of infrastructure that industry has expressed no interest in that is hugely expensive, that is posted as economic development, a clear farce and possibly the opposite because it will be a very expensive piece of infrastructure to maintain, if not impossible in the face of climate change.

In contrast, think of the extraordinary benefits of a similar scale investment in moving the community of Tuk to safe ground, those willing to. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that that is a sad reality for people to face and perhaps it will not be done.

As an example, building wind generation in the Storm Hills for Inuvik, done with largely local resources, or addressing the billions of dollars in infrastructure damage anticipated over the next decade with permafrost thaw.

Continuing to support fossil fuel extraction when the science says it will only contribute to threatening human civilization from climate change is also a misuse of scarce government dollars and capacity. We say we agree with the science. It is leaving stranded assets and exacerbating our fiscal status by again wasting significant dollars, moving around the globe making promises to anybody about free access to these damaging resources. When we have dug ourselves into a deep hole, the first step is always stop digging and then figure out how to get out of it.

Our Greenhouse Gas Strategy recognizes the science and explicitly acknowledges that we must transform our economy so it is no longer dependent on fossil fuels. Along with the decision to act consistent with this requirement comes many opportunities for local economic development in every community. We must start requiring the use and development of renewable energy by territorial industry which, as in the case of Diavik Diamond Mine, as the Minister mentioned in the past, will place them at a competitive advantage.

Education, our Aboriginal graduation rates seem to be stuck mired in the 50 to 55 percent range and this is totally unacceptable to everybody in the House I know. Our kids in small communities are entering school with delayed development issues, again something that is really intolerable. We are doing some good work with a new emphasis on self-regulation, but the single biggest opportunity we have, as I just heard my colleague mention, is early childhood development, the first three years of life when the brain is growing and life-long capacities are being established. Those capacities enable multi-language development, life-long health, life-long avoidance of crime and addictions and they say investment in early childhood development is actually the greatest single economic development investment that we can make.

I’m not saying we have been inactive, Mr. Speaker. We have an Anti-Poverty Action Plan, wellness court in Yellowknife, a minimum wage increase and GNWT energy management. We have worked on education infrastructure and other infrastructure, worked on catching up on our maintenance deficit, mental health legislation, energy efficiency and government operations and so on. Now, albeit belatedly, we are looking at expressions of interest for 10 megawatts of renewable energy. We are finally starting to get there. There are many others that I’m not able to mention here. Yet there remains a huge opportunity for improvement in almost every area.

As I have probably mentioned before, we need to consider how we do things as much as what we actually do. We can be confident that we have non-renewable resources like minerals and plenty of them and there will always be interest in developing them when global economic conditions are strong. What would be a comprehensive response to our extreme income disparity and poverty, our serious environmental issues, our low population and migrant workers from afar, a high and persistent need for housing support, our multi-generational social issues of addictions, cultural loss and so on?

Here I shift from building into these challenges – we all understand them – and seeing what a new approach could be. The first aspect of that is we need a holistic shift in our thinking and focus. We need to focus on triple bottom line, full-cost accounting, prevention first, dealing with the basics that enables our potential in all of these areas. We need to shift away from the megaprojects and multinational stakeholders and towards serving the local needs and establishing strong local economies as foundations on which to build capacity, self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship, and on which communities can then seek out the non-renewable resource development that they want to see.

This can be done in a practical way by simply serving the immediate needs of Northerners. That is the basic needs: jobs, food, shelter, health, art and entertainment, all of which can be, to some degree, and often largely, derived from local and largely renewable sources. We need to localize our economies to provide the economic foundation on which communities can choose to participate in resource protection and the management of our land.

Our huge subsidy budget, and we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars, used to support people through income assistance and so on, and communities through income support, energy and housing subsidies and so on can be used much more effectively to contribute to this transformation in ways that resolve issues rather than simply maintain people in a depressed economic and social state.

In such an approach, early returns and achievements can be found through emphasizing, first of all:

• Local food production and processing. We still await our agriculture strategy after my modest eight years in politics.

• Local energy production, and there are lots of examples of that. Again, we need the policies that enable that.

• Sourcing local building materials for local projects to the extent doable.

• Breaking down territorial infrastructure projects to allow local contractors to take on certain aspects of the projects, something, again, we’ve talked about but we don’t seem to get on with.

• Local political employment and decision-making.

• Fostering a sense of community cooperation and collaboration amongst residents and communities.

How would we deal with some of the specific issues under this approach? Let’s start with housing. We know that’s a big one.

Housing units can be very modest in size. They can be small, and they can be in multi-unit buildings, as we are now doing, with common spaces to promote community benefits to residents, and these, I’m thinking of entertainment spaces and even kitchen spaces, communal kitchen spaces, super insulated and energy efficient, locally built, locally built even if time to build them needs to be relaxed from our normal expectations of a fast schedule, a one-season schedule, and initial costs may be a bit higher, but the benefits are improved local skills, local knowledge, and improved local knowledge for efficient and effective maintenance of those same structures, and of course, Housing First needs to be implemented so that people can start with a roof over their head, and again, we need to complement that with community pairings of families and Housing First clients to help provide such supports.

What about the issues of income? What are some alternatives to income assistance? Again, a number of us have made statements on consideration of basic income guarantees. I think it offers some real benefits through reduced administrative costs and complaints and much more reliability in the system. In fact, studies have shown that whenever they’ve tested these things, the benefits have been dramatic and very long lasting. We need to determine community living wage with known standardized processes, and that’s becoming well established now, and promote the living wage programs amongst employers who are able to adopt that policy, and perhaps recognize the need for youth wages for those who are just entering the market. For able-bodied, unemployed housing clients, we need to provide a range of opportunities to work and require some participation having given them a selection of opportunities. It might be 10 hours of work in the community garden, providing a cord of wood a week to the distributed energy facility in the community, perhaps some time doing housing maintenance work or whatever. This, of course, would not only be productive work, it would instill a sense of pride, hone skills and, indeed, likely sponsor a spirit of entrepreneurship when people recognize these skills are important and valued.

Governance. We have some real opportunities in strengthening our community governments and local decision-making. We have a start through some of our MACA program, but again, we need to increase our work to raise capacity but also shift to a collaborative, cooperative, sustainable community theme that involves community members more with obvious returns. At the territorial level, politicians need to listen to people, share decision-making and improve transparency, and perhaps we’ll hear more about that.

Education. Again, our single biggest opportunity is significantly enhanced effort on early childhood development needs to be NWT wide and start with small communities. The universal child care is a program that if well-conceived and implemented would be an important opportunity for improvement. It requires well-trained early childhood educators, and we need to bring our Aurora College programs up to standard for that. Understanding of play-based learning and quality spaces for program delivery. Again, this has been recognized as the biggest opportunity to invest in economic development.

The resolution of trauma. Because of our history of residential schools and high crime rates and suicide and so on, our people face many serious realities and experienced trauma that affects them throughout their lives. Along with early childhood development, there are amazing advances happening in the resolution of trauma that people carry often unconsciously but often also very obvious. There is much history to this and it has resulted in debilitation and also multi-generation impacts. The first approach, of course, is to prevent to the extent possible, and I think early childhood development, the extension of our health family programs through communities and so on are going to help with that. But again, the major advancements in treatment and resolution of trauma issues is something this government needs to get on top of and progressively go after. Again, results freeing up our potential, dealing with our issues in a holistic way and always with prevention at the forefront.

We are indeed showing interest in these approaches and we’re playing around the edges of them, but we seem to have unbounded tolerance for spending big bucks with little return and we have little will to really commit and shift resources toward these new approaches so that we can really progress and advance and realize the opportunities that we have. Again, these are real with real potential, and I remain an optimist that our government will get in gear and move on these progressive actions, starting with the 18th Assembly, and recognition that the old ways are not working. We know that our biggest resource, as my colleague from the Sahtu has mentioned here, is our people, and I remain convinced that that’s true, but we need to provide the support and enabling structures to make sure that they can realize their full potential and contribute to these holistic solutions.

On that, I will finish.

Mr. Bromley’s Reply
Replies to Opening Address

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. Ms. Bisaro.

Ms. Bisaro’s Reply
Replies to Opening Address

Wendy Bisaro

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It’s my next to last opportunity to address this House. My almost last chance to say what I want, how I want, with no worries of repercussions. Parliamentarians are so lucky to have the privilege we do in regard to speaking in the House. It seems a bit strange that I will not be back in this Chamber after tomorrow except as a visitor, but you should all know I am quite comfortable with that. I’ve made no secret that I am looking forward to retirement, and I will definitely not miss the 14-hour session days.

So I want to subject you all to a look back to my perspective on the good, the bad and the ugly from my time as an MLA, well maybe not the ugly. But where to start on my retrospective? There have been many positive moments and events, but I’d be lying if I did not also say that there have been times when this job and all that it entails has had a negative impact on me and on the Assembly.

I find it interesting that four years ago as the 16th Assembly was closing, I said this, “It’s been an interesting four years to say the least. I came to start this new job full of optimism and hope. I thoroughly enjoyed the strategic planning session and came away from that feeling positive, ready to tackle all the problems of the NWT and government. There certainly have been ups and downs during this Assembly’s life and I may not be so optimistic and positive today, but in general it’s been an enjoyable experience.” It’s very interesting to me that I feel much the same today after eight years.

I’d like to think that I’ve made a difference in my time here, whether it’s been small or large depends on the observer. So, what are the things I would change if I could? What are the negatives that I mentioned? Foremost and top of mind has to be the different understandings of consensus government by the executive and Regular Members. Not long ago I was frustrated enough to write an e-mail to the Premier, entitled “Are we still a consensus government?” Many decisions by Cabinet are made and publicized without any or adequate opportunity for Regular Members to provide input. Admittedly, we elect Cabinet Members to manage and oversee the work of government, but Regular Members deserve to be consulted enough in advance so that any input will actually have some impact.

An example: a brief comment in committee one day from a Minister that Cabinet would be considering a large subsidy for NTPC due to low water to a press release the next day advising it was a done deal. Not my idea of consensus.

As I wrote to the Premier last month, “Cabinet may not consider these omissions a big deal, but it clearly demonstrates the lack of respect for Regular Members that they feel. It clearly demonstrates the low regard Cabinet has for us as we go about our jobs. It says to me, “don’t worry, boys and girls, the government is in good hands, you don’t have to worry about a thing, we’ll take care of everything for you.” That’s a bit caustic perhaps. I was a little frustrated at the time, as you can imagine, but it conveys the message that if Cabinet wants to live the true spirit of consensus, they need to work harder at it. Consensus government is only as good as the actions of the people using it. Over the last year and a half, I’ve come to feel that Cabinet has little interest in real consultation.

Another negative: in regard to legislation, two things: At the start of this and the 16th Assembly, Regular Members were asked to provide our priorities for legislative change and then all input seems to be ignored. I’ve also been disappointed with the glacial pace of government for amending of old and implementing of new legislation. There have been a couple of major pieces of legislation in government over four years, but in my mind, other than that, most bills that have come forward have been fixes, small bits, when I feel that there is so much real work on legislation that’s been left undone.

Talking of pace, the amount of time required to get a response on an inquiry from an MLA to a Minister could definitely be better. True, it’s as good as the Minister and his or her staff, but in general it takes far too long to get an answer on an inquiry on a constituent’s behalf and it’s often when the matter is seen as urgent by the constituent and doesn’t seem to be seen that way by the Minister.

Many times, committees and Members have asked the government to review all policies for conflicts between departments. The impacts that the conflicting policies have on our residents are huge, but we have yet to see any real change which will have an impact on the day-to-day lives of NWT residents. It is imperative that the government do that government-wide analysis on policies and amend policies accordingly.

On a personal note, there have been a number of issues that I have personally pursued or supported during my time here, issues that I did not see finished or accomplished either wholly or in part, and issues, which other Members championed, which I supported, but did not come to fruition. 911. I fully hoped that in the 17th Assembly, now it’s going to be the 18th, but I fully hoped in the 17th Assembly that we would see the establishment of 911 in the NWT and it’s been rather frustrating for me that we continue to see I guess it’s foot dragging or putting up of blocks on the part of the government to the establishment of 911. It should have happened in Yellowknife by now.

Access to information and protection of privacy legislation for municipalities is something else which should have happened by now. It has been called for by the Information and Privacy Commissioner for probably 10 years now, and yet, again, the government does not seem to want to move forward on it. We’ve done investigations, we’ve consulted I think probably several times now, and nothing. Again, I have to say that it is something that should have happened over the last eight years and yet it has not.

A standalone campus for Yellowknife for Aurora College. This is something which is desperately needed. It is something which all Yellowknife Members have spoken of in the last eight years and certainly well before that, but it is something which has yet to make its way to the capital budget. It doesn’t seem to be an urgent matter for anybody on the Executive because they’re the ones who present us with the capital budget and I sincerely regret that we weren’t able to get that project into the budget to get it at least on its way.

Homelessness. I pushed homelessness quite a bit for a period of time and I thank Mr. Nadli for speaking about homelessness today because it is an issue and it is increasing in communities outside Yellowknife. It’s definitely an issue here in my home community, but it’s an issue in other communities, as well, and I don’t think that there is enough of a focus from government on dealing with homelessness. It’s a housing issue; it’s an income support issue; it’s a health issue; it basically cuts across all departments because people are homeless for any number of reasons. It is something that needs to be addressed.

An ombudsman. I am sincerely sorry that we did not get an ombudsman act legislation put forward in this 17th Assembly. It is something which I firmly believe is necessary. I know the government says that there are lots of appeal boards, there are lots of opportunities for somebody to appeal, that you can go to court. I’ve said many times that’s not enough. We need to establish legislation for an ombudsman office and we need to get it established soon. I hope the provision of a draft Ombudsman Act to the Minister of Justice will enable the Minister of Justice in the 18th Assembly to bring forward that legislation as the first piece of legislation in that Assembly.

This is not something that’s reared its ugly head too much in the 17th Assembly, but in the 16th Assembly we had a huge, huge fight over supplementary health benefits and in the end not much changed, but we still have no supplementary health benefit coverage for some of our residents. They’ve been referenced as the working poor, a term that I hate, but we do not have all of our residents eligible for supplementary health benefits.

A hotel tax. That’s something else which I thought was fairly simple to establish. It didn’t have to be a change to legislation even. It could be something that could be set up or it could be a simple legislation to just apply to municipalities that wanted it. Again, we’ve investigated that I think to the nth degree and it has yet to come to fruition. It doesn’t have to be mandated for all communities, but for those communities that want it. Yellowknife wants to advance their tourism industry. Yellowknife wants to use the funding from a hotel tax to advance their tourism, to advance their conference industry and the opportunity has not been given to them.

A fairer policy on student housing for Aurora College. I think all of us, as Members, have probably heard from somebody at Aurora College, particularly here in Yellowknife, who have had difficulties with student housing. I pushed to get a policy amended. The policy was evaluated by the college and they came back and said that everything was okay, and I really regret that we could not have established a fairer policy for student housing for students in Yellowknife going to Aurora College.

A lack of greater provisions of housing for seniors and residents in transition from homelessness to their own home. We definitely need, in these two areas, as I spoke in my statement today, we need housing in a number of areas and we need housing in general across all of the Territories. Here in Yellowknife, the seniors’ housing situation is pretty desperate. Here in Yellowknife the transition housing situation is pretty desperate and I regret that we weren’t able to put the infrastructure in place or to put something in place to allow these people to go from homelessness to transition housing to get themselves established and then from transition housing to get into their own home, or seniors who need to go from their own home to supported living or to independent living or perhaps to extended care. It is something which has been talked about a long time but we haven’t, unfortunately, seen the advances we should, particularly here in my home community.

I am very regretful that we did not end up with a better formula for funding for inclusive schooling. There was a review, albeit I have to grant the department kudos for holding a review. After all the work that was done, after all the input that they got, they said, “No, we’re going to stay with what we have,” and it unfortunately does not fund education boards as it should in terms of students that are being inclusive schooled. Particularly the magnet communities, and Yellowknife is a magnet community. We have services here that don’t exist in other communities, so people with disabled students or students who are intellectually challenged bring their children here and we have people moving to this city to take advantage of the services here and to take advantage of the schools here and yet the magnet schools and magnet communities are funded to the same level as any school anywhere in the territory and it’s unfair. It’s something which I’m really regretful we weren’t able to change.

The amount of action we’ve had on renewable energy projects, in my mind, is regrettable. In eight years I expected we would have a major energy project, something like a community biomass heat and electrical system somewhere in one of our communities in the territory. I think it was seven years ago we had a delegation that went over to Europe and came back and said, “These things are all over Europe,” and I thought, oh great. Yes, we can do it here. No, it hasn’t happened and we are still talking about projects. I admit, yes, there’s a little bit of progress, but by now we should have had a major energy project. We all know the cost of our power is pretty horrendous and it has a huge impact on our cost of living.

I need to talk about land claims. There’s an absolute need to settle our land claims and I don’t imagine anybody in this House would disagree, but it is beginning to impact our economy. It’s beginning to impact our governance and it’s something which definitely needs to be done sooner rather than later. A tough job, but it needs to be done.

I must also comment on climate change and the lack of action that we’ve taken on climate change in recognizing that climate change is an issue and recognizing that we need to put money into it and in recognizing it is a policy issue that we have to take everything we do and look at it in the light of climate change. We’re not doing that, I don’t believe.

So, some of those things are big, some of them are little, and I regret that they didn’t get accomplished, but I hope somebody in the 18th Assembly will take up each and every one of those and as, Mr. Speaker, you would say, “get ‘er done.”

Mr. Speaker, I have deplored the lack of effectiveness of Regular Members of Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning in this 17th Assembly. We can accomplish so much through cohesiveness and support of each other, but it was not to be in this Assembly. But, being the optimist that I am, I hope that the 18th Assembly Priorities and Planning committee can wield the power that they have in an effective manner and for the betterment of our residents and our territory.

A few words of advice to the next Assembly: please take more time when setting up standing committees. The division of committee work amongst Regular Members was not evenly done in the 17th and some Members felt the strain of that. I know it impacted my work and my attitude of my colleagues.

But enough of the negative; it’s not been all bad. There were a number of issues that I pursued and I have a good sense of accomplishment about those. First and foremost for me is the Donation of Food Act. It was a private member’s bill that I brought forward in the 16th. I really had no idea what I was doing. I was really new at the game, but with the help of staff and with the help of my colleagues, we established the Donation of Food Act which was pretty much the “let’s get going” for the Food Rescue Program which operates here in Yellowknife and it had a huge impact on them. I have no idea now how many hundreds of thousands of tons of food we’ve saved from the landfill, but it’s a lot.

The NEBS legislation was another positive for me. In 2007 when I was campaigning, I stopped at the door of Mr. Dennis Adams and sort of said, you know, the usual, “Well, I’m campaigning and have you got any issues and what can I do for you and I want your vote,” and he said, “Yes, there is something you can do for me.” He, at that time, was the executive director for NEBS. “You can get legislation for us that’s going to take us out of the situation that we’re in.” I said, “Oh sure, fine. I’ll work on that.” Well, it took us until – where are we, 2015 – from 2007 to 2015, but it’s done, Mr. Speaker, and it is an excellent piece of legislation and I want to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations for the work they did. The same for the committee in Nunavut who did the same work and it ended up being a very long process but I think we came out with a very good piece of legislation.

I’m quite proud of the fact that I pushed the 16th Assembly to establish Caucus Protocols and Conventions. They have shaped how we work, how we govern ourselves, how Caucus works and how consensus kind of works. Consensus is a very strange animal. It helps that we have these guidelines to move us along. They are guidelines, right, so we don’t always obey them. But consensus, our consensus, is a work in progress and I hope that it continues to develop protocols and conventions as things crop up.

I’m very happy that we finally, and we’ve now just had a second set of amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act with respect to distracted driving. I feel extremely strongly that we have a major portion of our population who don’t yet realize the dangers in driving and texting, and I urge all Members, if you ever see anybody texting and driving, pull them over and tell them to stop. They are accidents waiting to happen and we are lucky we haven’t had anybody killed because of it – yet. So I’m very pleased that we were able to get… Initially the act was changed to put in fines and then just recently we’ve increased those fines and added suspensions, as well, so that’s awesome. I’m very glad for that.

I’m pleased that I was able to take a small part in establishing the Anti-Poverty Action Plan. The Anti-Poverty Coalition enlisted me to present their petition to the Premier in the 16th Assembly. I would have been happier if we had had anti-poverty legislation, but the fact that we have an Anti-Poverty Action Plan and that we’re getting updates on that, I’m very pleased with that. We’re started down the right road. I would hope that legislation would be the next step.

The Child and Family Services Act: that consultation when we reviewed that act and the consultation for the Mental Health Act. Both those consultations were probably highlights in terms of bills and reports that I was involved in. They were both extremely involved. They were both really quite emotionally draining because we were talking about people’s lives, but I’m very pleased that we were able to get excellent recommendations to the Child and Family Services Act, some of which have happened. Lots more needs to be done, but we’ve had some take place, and the Mental Health Act, which we’re going to be discussing later, is going to be a huge improvement on the Mental Health Act that we have at the moment. So I was very happy to be part of those.

The establishment of the Order of the NWT… It was a great ceremony today and we had great recipients today and, for me, I was pushed by a constituent to bring that forward and I was pushed, probably three or four times; every three or four months I’d get this e-mail or question, “Where’s it at, where’s it at?” So I took it to Caucus, and Caucus, in their wisdom, decided this was a good thing that we should do. It has now been established and it is an excellent addition to the awards that we have within our territory.

Devolution, how could I forget devolution? That we have devolution is an excellent accomplishment and I supported it and I have to give kudos to the Premier and his staff who managed to get everybody on board to get devolution to happen.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, it’s been my honour to represent the constituents of Frame Lake these past eight years. The constituents’ concerns that regularly came to my office fall into four categories and I’m sure it’s pretty much the same for all of us: their health, social services, housing, and income support, and being able to help people with those kinds of problems is very gratifying. I very much enjoyed that part of being an MLA. I very much enjoy being able to help people to fix their problems, sometimes. We run up against roadblocks quite often and it goes back to the policies which inhibit us from helping people as opposed to assisting us to help them.

Mr. Speaker, I like watching people – and goodness knows there’s lots to watch here – in committees and hearings, in the House. The relationships that develop here, or don’t, are quite fascinating. I appreciate the friendships and relationships I’ve made during my time here. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to travel our beautiful territory to get to know it better and to meet many of our people, as Mr. Yakeleya would say.

I wish each of you in this House success in your upcoming job interview. You need to know that I will be watching with interest on election night to see how you do. Thank you to the people of the NWT for letting me have such a great last job before I retire. Thank you to the Members of this and the 16th Assemblies for your support, your counsel and your friendship. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Ms. Bisaro’s Reply
Replies to Opening Address

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. Mr. Moses.

Mr. Moses’ Reply
Replies to Opening Address

Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I understand, you can take as much time as you want to speak to anything you want to. I will reply to the opening address. I know this is the final day in the 17th Assembly. I just want to take this opportunity to recognize two Members in the 17th Legislative Assembly who made my time as a first-time Member very enjoyable, in most cases, I guess you could say, and help me become a better Member throughout the four years, and they are Mr. Bromley and Ms. Bisaro.

Over the four years they have definitely been educators, not only to myself but to all Members of this Legislative Assembly. They have been role models, mentors and definitely leaders in this House and committee rooms, in Caucus. I thank them for asking the tough questions. I know sometimes it is a pretty daunting task on some late nights asking the tough questions, but those are tough questions Members need to know so we better understand creating legislation, putting programs, initiatives and action plans together for the people of the Northwest Territories.

All of these educators, mentors and role models have demonstrated this through their dedication, commitment and hard work to the work that is done in the walls of this legislative building, Mr. Speaker.

I would also like to say that they have been excellent ambassadors for the people that they serve and also the people of the Northwest Territories. Ms. Bisaro just mentioned action plans and initiatives that she has been very happy to be part of. I have helped with implementation and creation of these action plans, along with our government. I just have to say it was an honour to be able to work with Mr. Bromley and Ms. Bisaro as it was my first term. I learned a lot. I learned about the hard work and dedication to make change and make things happen. I know they have been part of that. I know Ms. Bisaro, in her opening comments, asked a question about whether or not she did anything for the government. I can say to both Mr. Bromley and Ms. Bisaro, you have made positive changes during the life of this government. I know outside of this government you will continue to do good work for people of the Northwest Territories. You helped me understand, as I said, hard work and dedication can actually make changes for the people that we serve in the Northwest Territories.

This is a special thank you for their hard work and commitment to the formation of the Mental Health Act, the Anti-Poverty Strategy and early childhood development. All of these things that came through during the life of the 17th Assembly. Without both of them being part of the equation, we wouldn’t see the end product that is definitely going to benefit the residents.

With that, I just wanted to use my reply to opening address to address two of our hard-working colleagues who will be retiring and having a good life after this government is done. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. Thank you, Mr. Bromley.


Mr. Moses’ Reply
Replies to Opening Address

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Moses. Item 11, petitions. Item 12, reports of standing and special committees. Mr. Dolynny.

Daryl Dolynny

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to present to the Assembly, Committee Report 22-17(5), Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the Office of the Northwest Territories Languages Commissioner Annual Reports for 2011-2012, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

Daryl Dolynny

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Frame Lake, that Committee Report 22-17(5) be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Some Hon. Members


The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. Motion is carried.


It is the mandate of the Standing Committee on Government Operations to meet annually with the statutory officers of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories to publicly review the annual reports of the statutory officers.

The Northwest Territories Languages Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2011-2012

was prepared when Ms. Sarah Jerome was the Languages Commissioner for the Northwest Territories. Although the report was signed off on October 1, 2012, it was not tabled until June 4, 2014 [TD 106-17(5)], after Ms. Jerome’s term was completed on May 10, 2013. This prevented the Standing Committee on Government Operations from meeting with Ms. Jerome to discuss her report.

There was a vacancy in the office from May 10 to December 1, 2013, when Ms. Snookie Catholique’s term as the new Northwest Territories Languages Commissioner took effect. The annual report for 2012-2013, prepared in the absence of a Languages Commissioner, constitutes a summary review of the operational budget for the office.

The Office of the Northwest Territories Official Languages Commissioner Annual Report, 2013-2014 was signed off by Ms. Catholique on October 1, 2014, and tabled on November 5, 2014 [TD 181-17(5)]. The departure of the Languages Commissioner from office, coupled with logistical challenges presented by the demands on the standing committee’s schedule, rendered it impossible for the standing committee to meet with the Languages Commissioner to discuss the 2013-2014 report.

Owing to the unusual circumstances surrounding the production and tabling of these three reports, the standing committee opted not to conduct public reviews. The standing committee is confident that, with the appointment of a new Languages Commissioner, routine reviews of the annual reports of that office will resume during the 18th Legislative Assembly.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Mr. Dolynny.