This is page numbers 2165 – 2190 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 2nd 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 program.


Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Mr. McNeely, Hon. Alfred Moses, Mr. Nadli, Mr. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne

The House met at 10:00 a.m.


The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good morning, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

Louis Sebert

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, this morning CBC published an article quoting from oral questions yesterday. The article repeats a misstatement that I made during my reply to oral question 670-18(2). I would like to take an opportunity to correct the record. Quoting from unedited Hansard, I said:

“I understand that there was a careful evaluation of the bid made by the Power Corporation. The bid from Virdi was the lowest rated, and among the factors looked at was price.”

What I should have said was that Virdi were the highest rated, lowest bidder. I apologize for any misunderstanding this has caused. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Robert C. McLeod

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide an update on the progress to approve the 2017-2018 Main Estimates. Since the Budget Address on February 1, 2017, we have seen significant debate on specific elements of our annual budget and an extensive review of the main estimates in Committee of the Whole.

It is fair to say that all Members of the Legislative Assembly are passionate in their desire to address the challenges facing the Northwest Territories. Our reality is that we need to take action in a fiscally responsible manner and we are operating in an environment of limited revenue growth and an uncertain economic future.

Cabinet has listened carefully to Members and to the concerns of our constituents, as this budget has been debated. As a result, we are committing to the following adjustments to the 2017-2018 budget.

• We will increase the budget for homecare by $2,500,000.

• Funding of $500,000 will be provided for the Youth in Crisis program.

• The funding available through the Anti-Poverty Fund will be increased by $500,000.

• There will be an increase in support for freight costs associated with the fishing industry by $225,000.

• We will increase the funding available through the Mineral Incentive Program by $600,000.

• We will increase funding for the Community Access Road Program by $500,000.

Mr. Speaker, we have also heard the concerns about the reductions related to the Teacher Education Program and the social work program at Aurora College. While we believe these were appropriate decisions, given the cost of delivery and program outcomes, we also recognize that a more fundamental review of Aurora College is an important and necessary step to guide our actions. Minister Moses will be speaking about this in greater detail.

We will, however, make the commitment at this time to defer Aurora College reductions related to the Teacher Education Program and the social work program identified for 2017-18 pending completion of the review. There will be no additional intake for the social work program or the Teacher Education Program while the review is taking place.

I will follow through with these commitments in the Supplementary Estimates (Operations Expenditures), No. 1, 2017-2018, which will be tabled in this House within the next few days.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Members for all their input and discussions around the 2017-2018 budget. Our debate in the House is only the most visible part of a lengthy process of engagement and discussion with Members to establish each year’s budget. Throughout the process, beginning with three weeks of business plan reviews last fall and review of the draft main estimates in standing committees, Members have provided feedback and suggestions that have led to the final budget we hope to pass shortly.

Based on what we heard from standing committee in discussions on the business plan, Cabinet agreed to make $15.4 million in adjustments before the budget was even tabled. Changes included eliminating some of the proposed expenditure reductions and identifying investments in priority areas like fully-funded junior kindergarten, 911 service, more money for small community employment programs and homelessness.

We have added to those early adjustments with the additional changes announced today, Mr. Speaker. We are confident that the final package of investments and ongoing spending we have settled on through our discussions is in the best interests of NWT residents, and look forward to receiving the support of MLAs.

In the sessional statement, we heard that staying true to the spirit and intent of consensus is a challenge that all Members of the Legislative Assembly are responsible for, Mr. Speaker. Meeting that challenge does not always come easily, particularly when we are asked to give and take on issues that we care about personally. We have faced that challenge during this session, and I am convinced that we have found a path forward based on the commitment of all Members on both sides of the House to doing what is best for the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice

Louis Sebert

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as a government we have committed in our mandate to improve access to justice for the residents of the NWT. Today, I am pleased to announce an initiative that will assist residents involved in civil or family justice matters.

Members are aware of the Legal Aid Commission’s initiative to provide free legal advice through its Outreach lawyer. This service has proven to be very successful. It has been piloted for the last several years and has provided on-the-ground services in 19 communities. Residents accessing the service do not have to make an application and there is no means test. Anyone who would benefit from speaking with a lawyer on issues such as housing, landlord and tenant disputes, disability or employment issues, child protection, or elder’s wills is eligible. With this success, it has become very clear that there is a greater need for this service than could be addressed in the 15 hours per week available under the pilot project.

Today, the Legal Aid Commission is launching a full-time Outreach Legal Aid Clinic. Staff at this new clinic will continue to offer legal advice, but will also provide duty counsel service in family law matters, and coordinate public legal information on behalf of the Legal Aid Commission. Again, these new services are available without the requirement to make a formal application and are at no cost to those using the service. This expansion was made possible by a careful restructuring of resources and an enhancement of the federal funding provided for the Aboriginal Court Work Program.

Throughout Canada and here in the Northwest Territories, courts have been seeing an increasing number of people who are "self-representing," or appearing without legal representation in the civil and family courts. There is a growing understanding that self-represented litigants face barriers, and many do not receive equitable access to justice. People coming before the courts are often experiencing their first interaction with the justice system, and it is not surprising that they experience difficulties stemming from a lack of understanding of potential remedies or court processes.

By providing expanded hours, separate office space and a dedicated court worker and outreach lawyer, the Legal Aid Commission is helping clients to access summary legal advice and referrals more quickly from the Outreach Legal Aid Clinic. With the introduction of family law duty counsel, residents who attend court for family law matters will receive advice when they need it the most.

Much like the duty counsel provided to those criminally charged, this additional service will allow the Outreach lawyer to attend as duty counsel for appearances on family matters in the Territorial and Supreme Courts. We expect that the number of court appearances required to complete a case will be reduced as a result of these changes. In addition, staff will be utilized more efficiently, and technology will be better leveraged under this new model. Finally, better legal education and information for residents will lead to better outcomes for all involved.

While the office will be physically located in the Yellowknife Centre East building, the Outreach program will continue its commitment to all regions of the Northwest Territories. Over the next few months a schedule of regional clinics will be developed in partnership with the communities and the court workers of the Legal Aid Commission.

Mr. Speaker, when a pilot project is a resounding success, it only makes sense to incorporate it into best practices. This initiative not only continues to deliver legal outreach services to our residents, but it also represents a significant step in meeting our commitment to improve access to justice. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to rise to speak to the Finance Minister's recent statement on cooperation in the 2017-18 budget. It is no secret that we have had a very spirited debate in this House over this very important issue of our fiscal and strategic priorities moving forward into the 2017-18 year.

I am very pleased today to share in the announcement that we have achieved a compromise on the budget and that Regular Members, working together, have found a way to express their concerns both publicly and privately through the established practice of consensus government to make a better budget. That is exactly what we have seen, Mr. Speaker. I am very pleased to say that I am now able to support this budget and will do so.

I am very pleased to see the additional spending on both our social needs and on our economy. The additional Mineral Incentive Program, community access program, these will create jobs. These will create economic opportunities for our residents. Additional social spending with allow us to offset increased spending in later years.

You have to start with a strong foundation, Mr. Speaker. Our economy needs that boost, our people need that boost, and I am glad that the government has heard our message and has clearly signaled that they are willing to work with us in the spirit of consensus government. I know not everything that we worked for and our joint recommendations were accepted, but I think that, ultimately, we have a better budget and, ultimately, we have found a way to end this impasse and come together on behalf of our people for the benefit of all of the Northwest Territories.

I will be continuing to support this budget and continuing in my role to hold Cabinet accountability and make the best possible decisions for all the people we serve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Daniel McNeely

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Deline is the birthplace of hockey. I would like to recognize the community of Deline for their first Deline Men's Hockey Tournament this weekend. Deline is also known for birthplace of hockey and proud to announce that we have Bryan Trottier, who played 1,279 games in the NHL and is a member of seven Stanley Cup teams as well as a player and a coach and was also elected to the National Hockey League Hall of Fame. He played for the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tyler Kennedy played 527 games in the NHL with Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, San Jose, and New Jersey. He was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup team in 2009. Aaron Asham, Shaun Van Allen, Ric Nattress, Dan Frawley, Larry Melnyk, John Chabot, and Tom R. Williams will be goalie for the game.

Good luck, participants. This event is open and the invitation is extended to everybody in the House. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and I hope they enjoy a festive weekend. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Welcome to our Assembly. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. About two years ago a new teacher arrived in Fort Liard and noticed the youth lived, ate, and breathed soccer. As she got to know the students and the community, she realized one of the students had the opportunity to go to England for a soccer camp and a tour the previous summer. This seemed to be the talk of the community and the school.

Mr. Speaker, this led to the idea of a school trip outside of Canada. After checking with her fellow teachers, the DEA, the DDEC, community members, and the older students, it was decided that this would be a great idea. After a lot of discussion with the students, they decided that they would go to Spain, and more specifically Barcelona and Madrid. This is where some of the students' idols lived and played soccer.

This meant they had to raise over $50,000. They started fundraising in September 2015 until just recently. They were able to raise over $25,000 by doing numerous movie nights, bingos, concessions at community events, special dinners, a haunted house, and other fundraising ideas the community was able to support. On top of this, the Hamlet, Acho Dene Koe Band, MACA, Acho Dene School, Community Justice, and corporate groups chipped in over $30,000. This is truly a community effort.

Mr. Speaker, on March 22, 2017, the 12 original students who signed up for this adventure and two chaperones will be leaving Fort Liard to Madrid via Edmonton. They will return home on March 31 via Barcelona.

The group has selected tours around Madrid and Barcelona, which will include art galleries, churches, memorials, and other popular attractions of each city. They have added a tour of Real Madrid football stadium and Barcelona FC stadium.

Mr. Speaker, this trip would not be complete without going to a professional soccer game. They will be attending a Tier 2 game on March 26th.

Mr. Speaker, this is a great opportunity for students to see what the world has to offer them. They have worked hard to accomplish this trip and have been pushed and encouraged to make positive choices for their participation. Like all things, there have been bumps along the way, but this trip helped them make better choices when confronted by a negative environment. For the students, this is the first time that they are leaving the country at any time.

Mr. Speaker, these students have surpassed all expectations from the start of the project. They showed incredible dedication to all events related to this project. As the organizing teacher said, "These events have really given them purpose and they can say that they accomplished this amazing goal together." All I can say is job well done, and enjoy your trip. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Cory Vanthuyne

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday we learned through a CBC news report that the NWT Power Corporation has contracted for four generators worth about two and a half million dollars with an American company. At the time, in mid-2015, Virdi Power of California indicated delivery in six months. According to the Minister, the company received a $1 million deposit from the NWT Power Corporation.

It is now 18 months later, Mr. Speaker, and only some of the components have been delivered. The Power Corporation can't provide details on which components have been received.

There have been 25 visits to the company by a consultant checking in on behalf of the Power Corporation, including one less than two weeks ago. The report indicates that some of the units are still in the stages of being painted and sheet metal siding installed, but in the areas of major component assembly -- installation of conduit, lights, and receptacles; installing major components; and load testing -- there is no progress.

Virdi Power indicated that a delay was caused by a record storm that flooded the shop. Mr. Speaker, that storm was two weeks ago today. These generators are over a year behind schedule.

Mr. Speaker, as an MLA who has been concerned with the ever-rising increases for power, this situation makes me uneasy in a number of ways.

Why did we go to a company in California when two other bidders on this project, reputable companies in Canada, also submitted bids? When a much smaller, lesser-known company bids significantly, didn't that raise some red flags for the Power Corporation?

These generators were purchased in order to replace aging generators already at the Jackfish Power Plant. The new generators are a year past the delivery date, and the Minister acknowledged that the Power Corporation has had additional expenses for rental generators. One can only wonder if there have been yet more costs to the NWT taxpayer in repairs, upkeep, and maintenance. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement at this time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Unanimous consent granted

Cory Vanthuyne

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, if I ordered a piece of equipment for my business and it was promised in six months but had not shown up for a year and a half later, you can bet that I would be all over that supplier, I would have gotten my money back, and I would never have ordered from that supplier again.

The Power Corporation is working with the company and says it has negotiated compensation that is fair. Mr. Speaker, one thing is for sure. This circumstance is not inspiring confidence in the ratepayers of the North. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Hay River North.

R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, change is in the air. The light is coming back, the days are getting longer, and things are heating up in the Town of Hay River. March is a busy month back home, so I would like to take a minute to feature a few upcoming events.

First, the K'atlodeeche First Nation is hosting the annual K'amba Carnival this weekend on the Hay River Reserve. Festivities kicked off last night with the crowning of this year's K'amba Queen, Michelle Lafferty. Anyone nurturing a hidden talent and a bit of a competitive streak will find something to try with snowmobile and dogsled races, hand games, talent shows, and more all unfolding this weekend.

Next weekend, the polar pond hockey tournament returns for its eighth season.

Who needs an indoor rink, Mr. Speaker? The river in front of the fisherman's wharf will host the biggest hockey tournament in Hay River this year. The organizers have lowered the sign-up age to give as many people as possible a chance to play. Last time I checked, there were 14 teams registered, including seven women's teams and six from out of town. Organizers hope for 40 teams in total. Best of luck to all of the players, and my thanks to the organizers. I look forward to seeing the teams compete and welcoming everyone from out of town.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, a party that is always a good time, the Chamber of Commerce Gala. It will be held this March 31st. In past years, the gala has featured a life-sized Hay River-opoly board game, an Elvis impersonator, and of course there are always fantastic meals and great company.

How could the chamber top it this year? Well, Mr. Speaker, they are hosting "NWT's Got Talent." The chamber is encouraging any and all comers to sign up for the talent show and a chance to win a cash prize.

The gala will also see the presentation of three annual awards including Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year, and the Customer Service Award of Excellence.

So, Mr. Speaker, if you are looking for something to do this month, jump in your truck and head down to Hay River. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. On February 6th, I made a Member's statement about the Giant Mine Oversight Board and its office opening here in Yellowknife. I described the two main functions of the board, sound technical oversight of the Giant Mine Remediation Project and a research program.

This project was sent to an environmental assessment based on public concerns. One of the main issues was the absence of any commitment or funding for ongoing research and development to find a better solution than simply trying to freeze 137,000 tons of toxic arsenic trioxide underground forever. The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board recognized this public concern and recommended measures to require ongoing research and development into emerging technologies for a permanent solution at Giant Mine. Those measures were accepted by federal and territorial Ministers and are now legally binding. The details of the active research program were left to the negotiation of the legally binding environmental agreement.

I am proud to say that I was involved in those negotiations that created the Giant Mine Oversight Board, with its role in coordinating a research program into a permanent solution. The funding for the research program comes from the federal government, and work has started to identify opportunities and priorities for the research. A very important part of the negotiations and the ultimate agreement was the need for funding for the research. Every effort will be made to leverage and partner, but there must be money to invest. Everyone agreed that unused funds from the oversight function would be rolled into the research program and that any unused funds would be carried over to build a critical nest egg for the research program. Without knowing what the research might be, but certainly understanding how expensive it will likely be, all the parties, including the federal government agreed the funds should be allowed to accumulate over time to support this work. This is money that will be managed and spent in the NWT to the benefit of all Yellowknifers now and into the future.

The board had a surplus of $65,000 in 2015-16, largely the result of a late start in getting set up partway through that year. It looks like the board may have a surplus of about $100,000 to $200,000 this year. These funds should be rolled into the research program, but there seems to be a roadblock with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. The rollover is not happening. This a very serious breach of the spirit, intent, and letter of the Giant Mine Environmental Agreement.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to my colleagues. I wouldn't raise this issue in the House if it were about a few thousand dollars, but this goes to the very heart of why Yellowknifers lost confidence in how government was attempting to remediate the Giant Mine. I trust that our government is working diligently behind the scenes to ensure that the federal government lives up to the promises it made to invest in a permanent solution for Giant Mine. I will have questions later today for the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007 by a majority of 144 nations voting in favour. There were 11 abstentions and four votes against this historic declaration, and I am sorry to say that Canada, along with the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, was one of the "no" votes.

The declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as our rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and other issues. It recognizes that, as Indigenous peoples, we have been deprived of our means of subsistence and development and that we are entitled to just and fair redress.

It also emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen our own institutions, cultures, and traditions, and to pursue development that is in keeping with our own needs and aspirations. It prohibits discrimination against Indigenous peoples and promotes our full and effective participation in all matters that concern us. It also promotes our right to remain distinct and to pursue our own visions of economic and social development.

Mr. Speaker, why would Canada, a leading first-world country with a significant Aboriginal population, refuse to endorse the UN declaration? The Canadian government said that, while it supported the "spirit" of the declaration, it contained elements that were "fundamentally incompatible with Canada's constitutional framework, which includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982,which enshrines Aboriginal and treaty rights."

Mr. Speaker, Canada's rejection of the UN declaration was seen by its Aboriginal peoples as evidence of this country's continued failure to meaningfully recognize the rights, culture, needs, and aspirations of its Indigenous peoples. This perception was captured by Canada Research Chair and faculty member at the University of Saskatchewan Research Chair Ken Coates, who argued that "UNDRIP resonates powerfully with Indigenous peoples, while national governments have not yet fully understood its full impact."

Perhaps Canada is slowly beginning to realize that impact. In November 2010, Canada officially endorsed the declaration but without changing its position that it was "aspirational." In 2016, Canada officially adopted and promised to implement the declaration fully. Speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced, "We are now a full supporter of the declaration."

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Mahsi.

---Unanimous consent granted

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Speaking at the UN Permanent forum on Indigenous Issues, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced, "We are now a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification. We intend nothing less than to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution." Bennett described the Declaration as "breathing life into Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and recognizing it as a full box of rights for Indigenous Peoples in Canada."

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the words of Minister Bennett. I believe that this development may positively impact on the process of settling outstanding rights for the Deh Cho and Akaitcho. I will speak further on how this might happen. Thank you Mr. Speaker.