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 work.

Topics

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the information and I certainly look forward to it coming before the dissolution of this Assembly, because I’ll have to wait until next term, if things all go well. In all fairness and in all seriousness, I’m asking for an evaluation of the cost effectiveness of the Government of the Northwest Territories paying RCMP to do this as an overtime job, an extra duty job, finding a couple of them, when we could be using our own resources internally through the sheriff’s office, so an evaluation and a little bit of a strategic look needs to be done on this. It’s not just I’ll go look and get the numbers. Will he be willing to do an evaluation on this possibility?

David Ramsay

David Ramsay Kam Lake

To my knowledge, that type of evaluation hasn’t been conducted, but it may have and I may not be aware of that. Again, I’ll go back to the department, I’ll ask them and we’ll see what we can do. I know there are only 17 days left, so I will see what we can do.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Item 8, written questions. Item 9, returns to written questions. Item 10, petitions. Item 11, reports of standing and special committees. Mr. Hawkins.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to report to the Assembly the Committee Report 26-17(5), Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure Report on Transition Matters.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Nahendeh, that the Committee Report 26-17(5) be deemed read and reprinted in Hansard in its entirety.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Some Hon. Members

Question.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 26-17(5) is deemed read and reprinted in Hansard in its entirety.

Introduction

As the 17th Assembly concludes, the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure continues to monitor several issues and initiatives with long-term implications and to remain engaged with the vital themes of energy and devolution.

The next Assembly will be the first to inherit post-devolution responsibilities from territorial colleagues. These will require close consideration in the next committee. Energy and heating concerns also remain a priority, including costs of living and cost-effective power delivery, continuing low-water conditions and territory-wide dependence on diesel and other fossil fuels, the regulation of resource extraction, and the incorporation of renewable energies into our daily lives.

The committee recognizes challenges of the projected downturn in mining, prospecting and exploration. Going forward, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has the opportunity to use its legislative, regulatory and economic strengths to increase community sustainability and self-sufficiency through growth in “green” jobs and in traditional and conservation economies, in addition to established industries. This will empower current residents, encourage much-needed population growth and foster economic diversification.

This report informs the public and Members of the 18th Assembly of work in progress and highlights areas we believe will require the continued attention of our successor committee.

Background

The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure includes six Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly. The committee’s role is to consider the following matters with respect to the departments of Environment and Natural Resources; Industry, Tourism, and Investment; Municipal and Community Affairs; Public Works and Services; and Transportation:

1. review multi-year business plans and budgets, bills, and boards and agencies, including the Workers’ Compensation Commission of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, the Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation and the Public Utilities Board;

2. review departmental performance, including that of boards and agencies; and

3. consider any other matter referred by the House.

Legislation and Regulations

Hydraulic fracturing has been a matter of great public interest throughout this Assembly. Our successors are encouraged to consider the committee’s Research Summary and Report on Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing, and seek an update respecting ongoing developments.

The committee also encourages our successors to pursue the merger of the Territorial Lands Act

and Commissioners Lands Act and to ensure that mandatory financial security applies consistently.

Interdepartmental Matters

ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE:

Climate and Energy

Climate change continues to impact NWT people, landscape and wildlife, from shoreline erosion in Tuktoyaktuk to hunt-disrupting permafrost melt near Jean Marie River and from sweeping forest fire activity in the parched forests of the North Slave, South Slave and Deh Cho to record-low water levels across the regions. Climate change also impacts energy needs and capacity, affecting local and regional costs of living, barge transportation and community resupply, residents’ quality of life and GNWT spending and planning.

Energy charrettes held in 2012 and 2014 affirmed that stabilizing energy costs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring a reliable energy supply are among the top territorial priorities. It is necessary to continue the work of existing strategies and to develop an action plan specific to climate change. Such a plan would describe concrete actions and target dates toward ending reliance on and divesting from fossil fuels, implementing effective and enforceable renewable energy standards for industry and transportation, and assessing carbon pricing. While great strides have been made improving GNWT energy performance, further advancement is needed in helping residents, business and institutions make similar improvements.

Action is the order of the day. Recognizing the success of past energy initiatives (e.g., biomass capital projects and over-subscribed rebate programs), the committee stresses the immediate pursuit of initiatives with effects that can and will be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. Members also highlight improved energy conservation as a key continued pursuit.

The committee particularly notes its support of the proposed Energy Efficiency Act and forthcoming discussion paper, the GNWT’s proposal to develop a territory-wide system for fuel data, and the Colville Lake solar-diesel-hybrid system. We highlight the need for additional and continued funding to the renewable energies Net Metering Program and the Renewable Energy Technology Fund, which was over-subscribed four months into the current fiscal year. Much-welcomed work on community funding formulas, particularly capital funding, would also do well to assess and account for climate impacts on territorial infrastructure

In the past twelve months, the GNWT has twice expended tens of millions of dollars in one-time subsidies to the NWT Power Corporation, while subsidy programs to address energy needs in the long term, like the Net Metering Program, consistently run out of funding. Additionally, community renewable energy infrastructure has been excluded from GNWT planning. The GNWT has committed to supporting international efforts to limit the increase in global temperature to below two degrees Celsius and our successors might consider how these factors will impact territorial policy and development.

Strategies for the Future

Both the Biomass Energy Strategy 2012-15 and the Greenhouse Gas Strategy for the Northwest Territories 2011-2015 expire this year. However, the GNWT’s goal of success in a low-carbon economy is as yet unresolved, while biomass projects continue to show great promise, particularly in the South Slave and Deh Cho. Similarly, though the Solar Energy Strategyconcludes in 2017, several goals remain as yet unresolved, while solar projects continue to grow in popularity and practicality. The committee urges our successors to recognize various renewable energy opportunities to reduce energy costs and our dependence on diesel and other fossil fuels, and to press for updated strategies and action.

The committee suggests visiting NWT biomass operations. We also note the Inuvik Storm Hills Wind Farm and the Yellowknife wind feasibility studies, and point to our work on the successful use of wind energy at the Diavik Wind Farm. We also flag waste management, including industrial and mining waste, for further consideration.

Departmental Matters

Environment and Natural Resources (ENR)

FOREST FIRES:

While the 2015 season was not as severe as the previous year, it remains the second worst on record, with similar conditions experienced across Canada and in other nations. Forest fires are a natural part of our forests’ lifecycles, but fire severity combined with climate change, ongoing drought and severe environmental pressures on Boreal forests have serious implications for forest health and GNWT fiscal status. Approximately $99 million has been spent fighting NWT forest fires in the past two years, a total that does not account for related impacts, including human health, lost business, and service and transportation interruptions.

The committee encourages our successors to asses GNWT performance in the identified priority areas of public engagement, safety, and human resources, as well as the anticipated new air tanker fleet. Emerging opportunities associated with fires, including biomass operations, mushrooms and other non-timber forest products are also noted.

MUSHROOM HARVEST:

The 2015 morel harvest drew significant attention from pickers and buyers. The committee encourages our successors to actively foster these and other young, home-grown industries rooted in conservation economies and notes that future work on the Forest Management Act must address more than one type of mushroom or one category of forest resources.

Industry, Tourism, and Investment (ITI)

Abandoned and Suspended Oil and Gas Wells

The committee encourages our successors to press for further clarity on the number of abandoned and suspended wells under territorial jurisdiction, and to urge the development and implementation of an action plan for monitoring and management, including identifying and addressing leakages and site reclamation.

Members feel strongly that the number of wells and specific locations for each should be made public and further note the need to manage orphaned wells.

Commercial Fisheries

The next committee is encouraged to evaluate the Fresh Fish from Great Slave Lake

branding strategy and to seek an update on the fisheries business plan.

Diamond Potentials

The committee urges our successors to continue to press industry on socio-economic agreements and quotas for northern employment and contracting, and to monitor currently proposed expansions. Further, the committee has been eager for progress in the territorial diamond manufacturing sector, particularly Yellowknife-based processing plants, for some time, but with no result. Decisions must be made and action taken. NWT artisans and jewellery may prove a useful future focus for value-added diamond potentials.

THE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES STRATEGY:

The committee recommends that our successors pursue a thorough review of the Economic Opportunities Strategy (EOS) to clearly assess its costs, benefits and impacts.

Several other government strategies emerge from the EOS and the next committee will likely be interested in monitoring their progress, including but not limited to those discussed below. Notably, the committee’s review of the Mineral Development Strategy included a commissioned analysis by the Pembina Institute. We also encourage our successors to review the new China Strategy and Action Plan and to monitor the development of a new tourism plan.

Agriculture Strategy:

The committee highlights the matter of lease rates for Commissioner’s land used for agriculture and encourages our successors to press the department for timely development and implementation of the strategy itself.

Film Strategy and Action Plan:

The next committee is encouraged to meet with the new NWT Film Commissioner to discuss the commission’s direction and marketing strategies.

Oil and Gas Strategy:

This strategy is currently under development and the matter of oil and gas development, even during the current exploration downturn, is one of great interest to the committee and to the public, and with great potential impact on the NWT. The committee points to the report on public engagement on the strategy and encourages our successors to closely monitor developments, as oil and gas development carries great potential impact for the NWT.

Mines and Mining

Northern benefits are key: In 2014, fewer NWT residents held diamond mine jobs than those from other jurisdictions, increasing by nearly 50 percent, while the number of residents holding positions increased only 20 percent. The next committee may also wish to examine royalty rates and other opportunities for northern revenue. We also encourage our successors to pursue a full-cost accounting analysis of net benefits gained from NWT-based mines where the majority of wages leave the NWT.

Additionally, we recommend industry requirements for investment in and commitment to renewable energies to reduce diesel consumption. Wind farm technology has already been proven viable in the NWT.

Northern Workforce

Workforce readiness and GNWT worker retention are vital to territorial capacity for growth

The committee highlights NWT manufacturing and support for territorial businesses’ competitiveness in tender processes. We point to the NWT Business Incentive Policy and NWT-based providers of solar energy technology.

Northwest Territories Geological Survey

The committee suggests expansion of NTGS environmental geoscience projects, including baseline data collection; investigation of permafrost slumps, including resulting catastrophic lake drainage and water impacts; and petroleum work.

The Northwest Territories Mining Advisory Board

To maximize benefits to NWT residents, the next committee may wish to pursue further evaluation of the board’s composition and operation (e.g., expert representation in environmental regulation, poverty reduction, and Aboriginal affairs and governance).

Oil and Gas Exploration

The GNWT initiated its first call cycle for oil and gas exploration in October 2014 and lessons learned will likely be of interest. The committee also recommends a review assessing subsidies to industry, including a responsive action plan.

Lands

Recreational Land Use Framework

There is an ongoing need for a clear plan to address concerns with squatters in the Yellowknife River watershed and the Inuvik Airport Lake areas. Members also flag the ongoing matters of leases and sales along the Ingraham Trail and at Cassidy Point, and the collection of securities for all land-use sites.

Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA)

911 Services

The next committee is encouraged to explore service model options, inter-community disparity, costs and cost-management, and consultation with Aboriginal and community governments.

Sport and Recreation Funding

The funding structure for territorial sport and recreation is notably complex and the next committee is encouraged to seek a status update from the department.

Public Works and Services (PWS)

Departmental Reorganization and Energy Planning

The committee urges its successors to monitor the delivery of the department’s new responsibilities in energy planning, including the development of an Energy Efficiency Act, for which a discussion paper is expected near the end of the 17th Assembly.

Transportation (DOT)

Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway

We urge our successors continue to monitor the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway Project as it enters its third year of planned construction.

NWT TRANSPORTATION STRATEGY 2015-2040:

The committee highlights two long-standing infrastructure initiatives: the Mackenzie Valley Highway and potential infrastructure development in the Slave Geologic Province.

Additionally, airport repairs and the dredging of territorial rivers remain significant issues for several NWT constituencies. These include airports in Hay River and Inuvik as well as the Hay River and Tuktoyaktuk harbours. Loss of permafrost and storm surges are causing persistent damage, while drought and low-water conditions continue to impede marine transportation as well as the quality of the territorial waterways on which our small communities rely.

Conclusion

This concludes the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure’s Report on Transition Matters. Members respectfully suggest that our successor committee consider requesting updates on the above matters from the Government, and wish them the utmost success in fulfilling their mandate.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Mr. Hawkins.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know a lot of people are disappointed we didn’t read it in whole, but it’s now on the record in Hansard.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Nahendeh, that Committee Report 26-17(5) be received and adopted by this Assembly.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Some Hon. Members

Question.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 26-17(5) is received and adopted by the Assembly. Mr. Moses.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

CARRIED

Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to report to the Assembly Committee Report 27-17(5), Standing Committee on Social Programs Report on Transition Matters.

Motion That Committee Report 27-15(5) Be Deemed Read And Printed In Hansard, Carried
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

October 8th, 2015

Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Range Lake, that Committee Report 27-17(5) be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Some Hon. Members

Question.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called.

---Carried

Introduction

As the 17th Legislative Assembly draws to a close, the Standing Committee on Social Programs continues to monitor a variety of important programs and initiatives. Through this transition report, the committee wishes to highlight areas that are likely to require attention in the 18th Assembly.

Background

The Standing Committee on Social Programs is comprised of five Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly. The committee's role is to perform the following, with respect to the departments of Education, Culture and Employment; Health and Social Services; Justice; and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation:

1. review multi-year business plans and budgets, bills, boards and agencies, including the Status of Women Council and programs for seniors, youth and persons with disabilities;

2. review departmental performance, including that of boards and agencies; and

3. consider any other matter referred by the House.

Transition Issues

1. Service Delivery

The committee has long-standing concerns about limited access to services in small communities. The reason is often a lack of presence on the ground; for example, no local police officer, social worker, nurse, mental health worker or addictions counsellor. This weakens the effectiveness of government programs. It is especially concerning in light of evidence from the Early Development Instrument and other sources, which shows that small communities are home to a disproportionate number of vulnerable individuals and families.

Another long-standing concern is departmental silos that create fragmented experiences for people trying to access services. The committee has consistently urged the government to provide services in a more integrated manner and to revise policies that operate at cross-purposes. An integrated case management pilot project is underway in Yellowknife, and the government has committed to adopting integrated approaches in a range of other settings. The successor committee is urged to promote this way of doing business because of its proven success in other jurisdictions and its far-reaching potential to help our most vulnerable residents.

1. Inter-Departmental Strategic Frameworks

2. Anti-Poverty Action Plan

In response to a motion carried in the 16th Assembly, the government began working on an anti-poverty strategy. In June 2013 the government tabled an anti-poverty framework. In February 2014 the GNWT action plan followed. In June 2015 a territory-wide action plan was released. The action plans are based on five priorities: 1) child and family support; 2) healthy living and reaching our potential; 3) safe and affordable housing; 4) sustainable communities; and 5) an integrated continuum of services.

While the committee supports this initiative, it has urged the GNWT to allocate more funding to it. In 2014-15, $2.5 million – the equivalent of $60 per resident – was spent on a patchwork of activities. Moreover, the action plan contains no systematic approach for dealing with homelessness, a growing problem in the Northwest Territories. The successor committee is urged to track the progress of the action plan and to push for stronger, more comprehensive and longer term funding.

1. Early Childhood Development Action Plan

Scientific evidence shows that the degree of support and appropriate stimulation children receive before the age of four will have a crucial impact on their well-being and productivity in adulthood. Citing this evidence, the committee has repeatedly called for enhanced services for infants, very young children and their parents. A motion carried in May 2012 called on the Ministers of Education, Culture and Employment and Health and Social Services to develop a comprehensive plan. The Government produced a one-year strategic framework and a three-year action plan. While these documents were well-conceived, the government’s commitment was disappointing. In the budget for 2014-15, only $511,000 in new money was allocated, while the remainder of the budget was re-profiled from health promotion and prevention activities (Department of Health and Social Services) and the K to 12 school system (Department of Education, Culture and Employment).

A controversial component of the ECD Action Plan was the implementation of junior kindergarten. The rollout was to be accomplished by adjusting the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) just within the legislated threshold instead of infusing new money into the school system. Implementation was to take place over three years, beginning in small communities in 2014-15, and following in the regional centres in 2015-16 and Yellowknife in 2016-17.

The proposed rollout drew a number of criticisms. First, the committee felt that the adjustment had been made without due consideration to the impact on the overall learning environment. Second, the committee felt that the funding model was ill-conceived, as it unfairly impacted mill rate communities. Third, the committee was concerned about the quality of programming, noting that junior kindergarten is most effective when it is delivered by specially trained early childhood workers in well-equipped play-based learning spaces. The evidence shows that schools are often not the appropriate place for early childhood programs such as junior kindergarten. Fourth, the committee observed that developmental delays are already well underway by the age of four and asked why the government was not focusing resources on children aged zero to three. Regular Members also voiced concerns along these lines, as did numerous stakeholders, including representatives from the Yellowknife school boards and Aboriginal Head Start program.

The government subsequently suspended implementation in the regional centres and Yellowknife and agreed to complete an evaluation of the implementation that took place in small communities in 2014-15. The government has left it up to the 18th Assembly to determine whether or how to proceed. The successor committee is strongly urged to look for the government’s evaluation and review it carefully.

The successor committee is also urged to review the government’s feasibility study on universal daycare, which was prompted by a motion of the Legislative Assembly in 2013. The study compares the funding and policy frameworks of the Northwest Territories, Quebec and Scandinavia, and shows that our jurisdiction spends considerably less on early childhood development, including daycare, than other jurisdictions. As a percentage of GDP spent on early childhood development, the Northwest Territories allocates 0.4 percent, while Canada allocates 0.6 percent; Quebec 1.1 percent; and Denmark – the highest among countries belonging to the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – 2.2 percent. On average, OECD countries allocate 1.1 percent of their GDP to early childhood development.

A related topic is government support for daycare infrastructure. In the spring of 2015, Kids Corner Daycare in Fort Simpson asked for a contribution toward the cost of a new facility. The request was turned down, despite the fact that Children First daycare in Inuvik had received $1 million in 2013 for similar purposes. The GNWT has promised to produce a multi-departmental policy on infrastructure funding for non-profit and private-sector organizations, and the successor committee should inquire into its estimated date of completion.

1. Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan

Released in February 2014, the updated Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan combines the 2012 action plan with the recommendations from the 2013 Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness. The updated plan points to a range of government services across the continuum of care. However, as Members are repeatedly told by their constituents, the reality on the ground does not always match up with the government’s promises. The committee has asked for improvements in a number of areas, including withdrawal management services, community counselling and after-care. Members have also encouraged expansion of on-the-land healing programs. The successor committee is urged to push for stronger action in all these areas and request performance evaluations of pilot programs and established activities.

In addition, the committee has expressed repeated concerns about the closure of the Nats’ejee K’eh Treatment Facility in 2013. Members would like to see more northern-based treatment options and less reliance on southern facilities. Moreover, the committee has urged the GNWT to partner with Nunavut and the Yukon in establishing a pan-territorial residential treatment centre. The incoming committee is encouraged to pursue this proposal.

The successor committee is also encouraged to push for stronger interdepartmental collaboration on the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan. Three potentially fruitful collaborations are recommended. First, a stronger partnership between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Justice would allow offenders to address addiction and mental health issues more effectively and increase their chances of rehabilitation. Second, a stronger partnership between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment could pave the way for a mental health strategy specifically for youth, with schools serving as settings for service delivery. Third, a stronger collaboration between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation could set the stage for implementing the “Housing First” model in communities across the Northwest Territories. “Housing First” is an evidence-based intervention model whereby permanent housing is secured for individuals who are homeless and living with a mental illness.

During its review of Bill 55, which will replace the outdated Mental Health Act and come into force in the 18th Assembly, the committee made a number of recommendations, including developing a strategy for addressing the mental health needs of youth and adolescents, hiring staff to fill long-standing vacancies among front-line workers and expanding suicide prevention efforts. The successor committee is urged to track the government’s response to recommendations arising from the review of Bill 55 and the development of regulations for the new act.

1. Departmental Programs and Issues

Department of Education, Culture and Employment

Education Renewal and Innovation Initiative

During the 17th Assembly, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment launched the Education Renewal and Innovation (ERI) Initiative. Through a one-year strategic framework and a three-year action plan, the aim is to enhance relationships between schools and communities, promote student wellness, renew the K to 12 curriculum, and ensure that the education system is monitored, evaluated, and financially accountable. While Members are impressed with the scope of the initiative, they have expressed several concerns: first, the volume of new activities runs the risk of intensifying workloads for principals, teachers and support workers; second, the large number of working groups, operating simultaneously, seem to be making slow and unwieldy progress; third, not enough attention is being given to the problems of truancy and poor attendance; fourth, there seems to be a lack of focus on educational basics: reading, writing and arithmetic; and fifth, the amount of new funding is very limited so there is a danger of attempting to accomplish too much with too little. The successor committee is also urged to monitor the effectiveness of strategies to promote “self-regulation,” defined as the student’s ability to stay calm, alert and ready to learn. An update on the ERI Initiative should be requested early in the 18th Assembly.

Auditor General’s 2010 Report on Education

In 2010 the Auditor General’s report focused on education in the Northwest Territories and included nine significant recommendations for improvement. While the department committed to fulfilling these recommendations, it has made slow and uneven progress. For example, the Auditor General recommended that the department report regularly to the Legislative Assembly on key performance indicators, noting in particular that the department has not been tracking the extent of compliance with the directive on Adult Literacy and Basic Education (ALBE), which is run by Aurora College, or whether training is yielding the desired results. The department promised to evaluate the ALBE Program under the Accountability Framework for the Education and Training of Adults in the Northwest Territories, yet no results have been tabled. Thus, more than five years have passed since the Auditor General’s report and we are no closer to knowing the strengths and deficiencies of the department’s educational programs. The successor committee is strongly urged to look into the department’s readiness and capacity to generate results on key performance indicators. In addition, the committee should request an update on governance reform at Aurora College and on the department’s compliance with daycare legislation, including annual inspections of daycare facilities.

Inclusive Schooling

The Inclusive Schooling directive was reviewed during the 17th Assembly, and the government’s plan is to continue funding it through an enrolment-based formula. The committee believes this disadvantages “magnet communities” which attract higher numbers of students with complex needs. Moreover, the committee wants assurance that funding assigned to support any particular student will migrate with the student if he or she moves to a different school. Members have recommended an alternative funding formula, based on a blend of enrolment numbers and the actual number of students who have special needs. The successor committee is encouraged to pursue this line of reasoning and to monitor a number of related activities, including the department’s methods for identifying student needs and evaluating the true effects of inclusive-schooling expenditures on market communities.

Skills 4 Success

In the closing months of the 17th Assembly, the government presented its 10-year strategic framework known as Skills 4 Success. The goals of this initiative are to build residents’ skills and post-secondary credentials, enhance employment supports, improve the recruitment and retention of qualified workers, and provide Northerners with the information they need to make smart career decisions. In the 18th Assembly, the committee is encouraged to monitor this strategic framework for its effectiveness. The labour-market forecast and the territorial needs assessment, as prepared by the Conference Board of Canada, may also be of interest.

Auditor General’s 2013 Report on Income Security Programs

In 2013 the Auditor General’s report focused on income security programs. Deficiencies were identified in a number of areas, including the management of client files, financial oversight, program evaluation, staff training and staff safety. The department responded with an action plan, and the committee has been tracking the department’s fidelity to its commitments. The successor committee should continue tracking the department’s progress, including the corrective action plans for addressing deficiencies, the evaluation of five new employment transition officer positions, and the expansion of public housing units for clients on income assistance.

Enhancements to Student Financial Assistance

Since before the 16th Assembly, the committee has been asking for enhancements to the Student Financial Assistance program. Members are pleased that some enhancements are finally in place. Students can now give their consent to be connected with potential employers in the Northwest Territories. In addition, basic grant amounts have increased, and debts will be forgiven more quickly if students reside in the Northwest Territories. A northern bonus will also be offered to any student who settles here. As these enhancements are part of the government’s Population Growth Strategy, the successor committee should monitor data on key performance indicators, including the current proportion of students who have chosen to settle in the Northwest Territories upon completion of post-secondary studies and any subsequent increases. In addition, the incoming committee may want an update on the appeals process.

Anti-Bullying Legislation

During the 17th Assembly, a motion was passed urging the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment to address bullying in the schools. The government’s subsequent decision to amend the Education Act was also based in part on compelling independent research. A survey of 1,600 NWT students showed significantly higher levels of bullying here than in most of Canada. In addition, cyber-bullying has had tragic results across Canada, sometimes leading young people to take their own lives. Accordingly, the amendments to the Education Act sought to define bullying, including cyber-bullying, and provide, through regulations, for a territorial school code of conduct and safe school plans. The bill was passed on November 1, 2013, but the regulations have not been developed to date. This points, once again, to the department’s tendency toward slow progress. The successor committee is encouraged to request a status update on the development of the regulations, territorial school code of conduct and safe school plans.

Aboriginal Language Revitalization

Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories are struggling to keep their languages alive. This is largely due to the combined impact of colonialism, residential schools and the dominant use of English in the North. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of residents who speak their Aboriginal language has declined by nearly 20 percent. If this trend continues, the Northwest Territories may lose its Aboriginal languages altogether. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment, together with key stakeholders, has initiated a new approach to language revitalization. Funding has been allocated for five‐year regional Aboriginal language plans, including enhanced funding to help Aboriginal governments build capacity in implementing the plans. The department also recently reviewed its directive on Aboriginal Language and Culture-Based Education (ALCBE) under the Education Renewal and Innovation Initiative. The incoming committee is urged to track the effectiveness of the five-year language plans and the renewed ALCBE directive and to ensure that financial accountability mechanisms are in place for the five-year language plans.

Department of Health and Social Services

System Transformation

During the 17th Assembly, the Department of Health and Social Services began to modernize and streamline the health and social services system. Bill 44, the amended Hospital Insurance and Health and Social Services Administration Act, received assent in March 2015 and will allow the Minister to combine the regional authorities into a single territorial authority. The new legislation will also allow for the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority to be brought into the public service at a later date, but at considerable cost. The committee urges the Minister to continue communicating openly with the committee and the public on this important endeavour. The successor committee should request status updates on several activities, including contract negotiations with the Union of Northern Workers Local 21 in Hay River; the Privacy Impact Assessment, which is the formal process for identifying potential privacy risks associated with the amalgamation of regional authorities; and the implementation of new provisions pertaining to critical incidents.

Child and Family Services

In recent years, the child and family services system in the Northwest Territories has received significant scrutiny. The committee’s 16th Assembly report on the review of the Child and Family Services Act contained over 70 recommendations, and called for a less adversarial approach, including the use of least-intrusive measures.

Then in March 2014, the Office of the Auditor General released its audit of child and family services. The audit identified serious deficiencies in a range of areas, including accountability, investigations, risk assessments and screening of foster homes. The department responded with an action plan that promises to provide greater voluntary supports for families and to usher in a more collaborative approach. While some progress has been made, several initiatives are delayed or stalled, and the annual compliance audits have yet to be released. The successor committee is urged to assess the extent to which these audits replicate the Auditor General’s key indicators and thus provide a sound method for tracking improvements over time.

In addition, in the spring of 2015, the committee completed its review of Bill 47, the government’s long-awaited response to the committee’s 2010 report. The successor committee is urged to monitor the department’s response to the committee’s recommendations, including its recommendation to rewrite the Child and Family Services Act during the 18th Assembly.

Continuing Care

Over the next 15 years, the Canadian population is expected to age dramatically, and one of the highest proportional increases in the over-65 population is expected to take place within the Northwest Territories. This demographic shift will strain the health care system and increase demands for housing and infrastructure. Hundreds of new care beds will be required, and demands for home care services will rise. Indeed, the needs of seniors are already pressing, as there are waitlists for long-term care and concerns that home care services are too thin on the ground. The committee has urged the government to go beyond its preliminary framework entitled Our Elders: Our Communities

by establishing a comprehensive action plan. The lack of thorough long-term planning is a serious concern, and the successor committee is encouraged to pursue this issue.

Pharmaceutical Strategy

In 2012 Alberta Blue Cross prepared a report for the GNWT to look at cost-saving options for the management of drug benefits. A pharmaceutical strategy was subsequently initiated for the purpose of revising the GNWT’s policy and regulatory framework, establishing procedures for bulk procurement, introducing catastrophic drug coverage and considering alternatives to the NIHB formulary. A comprehensive rollout of the pharmaceutical strategy did not take place as planned in the 17th Assembly. Accordingly, the successor committee should request an update.

Medical Travel Policy

Since the 16th Assembly, the committee has been urging the government to modernize the Medical Travel Policy and address inconsistencies in its application. The committee asked the government to complete this task within the life of the 17th Assembly, but the goal was only partially realized. The incoming committee should ask for an update on the new ministerial directives in the first quarter of 2016.

Water Quality Testing

During the 17th Assembly, the committee repeatedly urged the government to improve its water testing regime through more rigorous standards and better public reporting. Concerns about water quality have been amplified by recent drought conditions and boil-water advisories. A new public website on drinking water quality was launched in 2015, and the successor committee is encouraged to monitor the website, the frequency of monitoring activities and overall compliance with national water testing guidelines.

Health Information Act

Bill 4, the Health Information Act, received assent in March 2014 and is expected to come into force on October 1, 2015. With this legislation, the Northwest Territories is joining several other Canadian jurisdictions with health-specific privacy legislation. The successor committee is urged to request an early status update on the implementation of the act, including the Health Information Act Manual; the risk-management tool kit; the delivery of staff training across the Northwest Territories; the communication plan, which should include broad circulation of plain-language materials; and measures being taken to ensure that Aboriginal language speakers understand their rights and what the legislation means.

Health Promotion and Prevention

Throughout the 17th Assembly, the committee has recommended more resources for activities that promote good health and prevent diseases or family dysfunction. The successor committee may wish to request an update on these activities, including how funding has been allocated and results from key performance indicators.

Chronic Disease Management

Many chronic diseases are preventable, yet they cause a lot of suffering and drive up health care spending. The committee urges a stronger response to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Diabetes is a particular concern, as more than 3,000 NWT residents have the disease and over 200 new cases are diagnosed every year. The committee may want to request an update, including results from the diabetes prevalence study, which is due in January 2016, and evaluations of the various prevention and disease-management programs.

Health and Social Services Professions Act

Once in force, the Health and Social Services Professions Act will enable the GNWT to regulate numerous professions under a single law and ensure that only qualified professionals are licenced to practice. The legislation will also empower the Minister to establish a mechanism for reviewing professional conduct. The successor committee may want an update on the drafting of regulations, including the extent of stakeholder involvement and an indication of the professions that are next in the queue for regulation. Fee amounts may also be of interest.

Department of Justice

Auditor General’s 2015 Report on Corrections

In 2015 the Auditor General’s report focused on the correctional system within the Northwest Territories. The audit found that the Department of Justice has not met its key responsibilities for inmates and has failed to comply with key rehabilitation and reintegration requirements. Deficiencies in case management were also found to limit the department’s efforts to rehabilitate inmates. The successor committee is strongly urged to track the department’s action plan for correcting deficiencies and to assess the extent to which the audit tools replicate the Auditor General’s key indicators and thus provide a sound method for tracking improvements over time.

In addition, during its review of Bill 63, An Act to Amend the Victims of Crime Act, the committee noted that corrections services division is struggling with capacity issues and that the changes associated with Bill 63 will place even greater strain on the courts and correctional resources when offenders cannot pay their fines. There will also be greater pressure to find work opportunities for offenders who participate in the territorial work/Fine Options Program. The successor committee should urge the government to track additional costs and fund the anticipated shortfall.

Wellness Court

In the previous Assembly, the Standing Committee on Social Programs conducted research on specialized courts which divert accused persons from mainstream courts and address underlying causes of criminal behaviour. During the 17th Assembly, the government responded by introducing the Wellness Court. This alternative court provides treatment and community support for offenders with addictions, mental disorders or cognitive challenges. The successor committee may want an update on the program’s effectiveness in providing timely and reliable supports such as counselling, housing and income assistance. The new committee may also want to inquire into the potential for expanding the program beyond Yellowknife.

Integrated Case Management Pilot Project

The Integrated Case Management (ICM) Pilot Project is adopting a client-centred, multi-departmental model of service delivery and is geared to clients with complex needs. The successor committee may want to inquire into the results of the first evaluation phase in Yellowknife, the number of clients in the program, the proposed expansion to Inuvik and strategies for overcoming barriers to multi-departmental program delivery.

Outdated Information Systems

The IT systems supporting the courts of the Northwest Territories, corrections services and legal registries are outdated and at risk of failure. Minor improvements and interim measures are no longer proving adequate and the committee believes these aging systems should be replaced. The incoming committee is encouraged to take up this concern and push for its inclusion in the 2016-17 operations budget.

Recalculation Services

Recalculation services allow for adjustments to court orders for child or spousal support, based on updated financial information. Most Canadian jurisdictions offer this service, but the Northwest Territories does not. The only recourse for our residents who fall behind on support payments or become unemployed is to seek legal counsel and have the matter resolved in court. This is expensive and inefficient. The committee has repeatedly asked the government to provide recalculation services. The Department of Justice completed a feasibility study in 2013 and has since advanced the policy work necessary to develop a bill. The successor committee may want a status update on the development of a legislative proposal.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation

Housing for Seniors

The committee’s view is that the government is placing too much emphasis on aging-in-place strategies and should do more to address seniors’ housing by retrofitting existing stock and constructing new facilities. Members believe that future housing needs of elders and seniors cannot be handled by the government alone. To this end, Members urge the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to engage in creative problem-solving with other GNWT departments, non-profit organizations and private-sector investors. Members also urge the successor committee to pursue this theme.

Core Need and Public Housing Quotas

The committee would like the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to review its method for evaluating core need. Members question the extent to which housing shortages throughout the Northwest Territories are accurately captured by the existing core-need template. The method for determining community quotas for public housing should also be revised in light of local needs and demand. With the recent decline in housing affordability in Yellowknife, the demand in the capital city far outstrips the supply, and this trend seems likely to continue. The successor committee is urged to pursue these concerns.

Recommended Actions

The Standing Committee on Social Programs recommends the following actions:

1. that the Government of the Northwest Territories focus on delivering services and monitoring performance in a more responsive and efficient manner, working against the current preoccupation with process and bureaucratic complexity.

2. that the successor committee strategically review the reports released by the 17th Assembly Standing Committee on Social Programs.

3. that the successor committee hold a two-day strategic planning retreat early in the 18th Assembly.

Conclusion

This concludes the Standing Committee on Social Programs’ Report on Transition Matters. Members extend best wishes to the successor Committee.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Mr. Moses.

Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Range Lake, that Committee Report 27-17(5) be received and adopted by this Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Some Hon. Members

Question.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Ms. Bisaro.