This is page numbers 2289 – 2328 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.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, 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 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and its partners across government, in industry, and education are all working together to ensure that NWT residents have the information they need to be well positioned to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Our government made a commitment in its mandate to take steps to close the skills gap using the Skills 4 Success Strategic Framework. This framework focuses on ensuring Northwest Territories residents have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes for employment success. This strategy is part of the continuum of strategies at the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

Working with industry, business, chambers of commerce, municipalities, Aboriginal governments, and interest groups, Skills 4 Success has been designed to respond to the needs of students, workers, employers, and the labour market.

In April 2016, working with the Conference Board of Canada, we released the Northwest Territories Labour Market Forecast and Needs Assessment and companion documents, the Labour Market Information Resource and the NWT Jobs in Demand: 15-Year Forecast. This information paints the picture of labour market needs in the NWT; the current status, and the projection. This is the first time we have had this information, and it will help us focus our efforts in education, training, and employment opportunities over the next several years.

Strengthening the apprenticeship program is another part of our mandate commitment to close the skills gap. We have drafted an apprenticeship strategy focused on improvements to the Apprenticeship, Trades and Occupational Certification Program in support of this. The strategy complements and supports those of Skills 4 Success.

We have extensively engaged through one-on-one interviews and surveys with certified journeypersons who are working in trades, current apprentices, employers, business, and industry. We look forward to engaging with the Standing Committee on Social Development in the coming weeks to share our work on the Apprenticeship Strategy.

The government has also made a commitment in its mandate to develop and implement a strategy to increase employment in small communities. Education, Culture and Employment’s Small Community Employment Support Program funds projects in small communities for the development of workplace essential skills. Residents can participate through the Training-on-the-Job, or the Community Initiatives programs. In 2016-17, 269 individuals from all regions received support and training. In the next fiscal year, we will invest an additional $3 million dollars to develop a Small Community Employment Strategy and expand the existing program to better support small community employment and development of transferable skills across the NWT. In doing so, we will work with our colleagues in other departments to ensure that infrastructure and economic development projects create new opportunities for small community residents.

In partnership with ITI, ECE administers the GNWT’s immigration programs including the Employer Driven Program under the Nominee Program; part of our mandate commitment is to increase the number of immigrants working in the NWT. The program is comprised of three streams: Critical Impact Workers, Skilled Workers and NWT Express Entry. With extensive program improvements in 2014, there have been 340 nominees and dependents welcomed into the Northwest Territories over the past three years, and 128 in 2016 alone. It is through these streams that we are able to attract people with critical skills to the NWT.

ECE is also working with ITI to develop a GNWT Immigration Strategy aligned with both the Nominee Program and the Skills 4 Success strategy. Work on this strategy will include engagement with business, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, immigrant service providers and cultural groups. This new strategy will help the GNWT respond to labour market needs in a way that can be sustained through fluctuating economies while ensuring that job opportunities are safeguarded for Northerners and Canadians.

In the next few months, we will be engaging with the Standing Committee on Social Development to review the Immigration Strategy.

Mr. Speaker, across the territory, we all understand the importance of collaboration and working towards a common goal. Recognizing the unique characteristics and cultural mosaic of our region, coupled with the understanding that Northerners want to see vibrant communities and a productive economy tells us that our shared approach has us on the right path. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Wally Schumann

Wally Schumann Hay River South

The Government of the Northwest Territories made a commitment in its mandate to increase exports by promoting NWT products to international markets. I rise today to update my colleagues on recent activities supporting this commitment.

I am pleased to inform Members that, following a long and concentrated lobby by our government and its partners, the Inuvialuit have been formally recognized under the Indigenous exception to the European Union’s seal products prohibition.

This means that the immense purchasing potential of the European Union is now open to Inuvialuit-harvested sealskins and sealskin products.

It is a landmark agreement for Inuvialuit harvesters, and I would like to recognize the extraordinary role and partnership of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation in the work that has resulted in this exemption.

We will now get to work to realizing the long-awaited benefits of this decision.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment will incorporate the marketing of NWT seal products to the European Union under the existing Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur brand. Meanwhile, with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, we will be advancing a certification program to promote consumer confidence amongst European travellers who will now be able to return home with sealskin products purchased in the NWT.

I would also like to thank the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for their assistance in reaching this landmark deal. The settlement is timely, as NWT seal products can now also benefit from planned marketing by the Government of Canada under the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Mr. Speaker, this is big news and it is certainly not the only work that our government has done to promote the interests of NWT furs in international markets.

Genuine Mackenzie Valley Furs are currently on sale at the Fur Harvesters and American Saga Auctions in Helsinki, the world’s largest fur auction sale, and the largest event for our government-supported brand each year.

In preparation for this auction, we also ensured representation for NWT trappers at the China Fur and Leather Products Fair in Beijing. The tradeshow is a major international event, with buyers from Europe, Asia, and North America coming together to evaluate stock from producers. Our showcase, this year, included luxury garments custom designed to demonstrate what can be done with Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur alongside pelts at various stages of dressing.

Our investment was able to secure new buyers in Chinese and Russian markets, two of the largest markets for fur in the world, and markets we believe will come through with purchases in Helsinki.

Mr. Speaker, maintaining the globally respected and recognized Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur brand cuts through the noise of a worldwide marketplace for NWT trappers.

Through this program, which we deliver in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, we provide a guaranteed price for furs harvested and submitted for sale. It ensures trappers aren’t left in the lurch during the long gap between the bush and the auction hall. If the furs sell at a greater price, the difference is returned to the trapper. There are no losers: it’s revenue-neutral for our government, and it provides stability and certainty for our trappers and their families.

Mr. Speaker, all of this supports an industry worth more than $2 million dollars to our economy each year. It puts money in the pockets of our trappers and brings diversity to our economy. The social and cultural benefit it provides citizens across our territory is priceless and irreplaceable.

Expanding international market access will only serve to enhance all of these benefits. It is why our government has chosen to remain ahead of the curve with one of the world’s most comprehensive support systems for traditional economic activity.

We look forward to continuing to expand the international horizons for Northwest Territories fur to preserve and enrich the future of trapping in the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Public Engagement and Transparency.

Louis Sebert

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to again update this House on some of the work our government is doing to further enhance public engagement and transparency. When I last updated Members in early November, I announced that I would soon be engaging directly with NWT residents about open government. I also committed to provide this House with an update.

Mr. Speaker, in December I began public engagement sessions on open government, and I am continuing to travel to various communities to hear directly from residents. At each of these public sessions, I have asked the local MLA to accompany me so that we can hear from the public together.

Discussions have included a review of key principles on open government previously considered by Caucus and are being guided by a consistent set of questions, including: how can government better include residents in decision making; how do residents access information about the government; are there areas where residents would like to see more information made available; and is the information government provides easily accessible.

Sessions with the public have already been held in Fort Smith and in Hay River. Both sessions were informative and the people who attended were very interested in the discussion. We are planning further public sessions for Norman Wells, Inuvik, Fort McPherson, Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Fort Simpson, Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte, Fort Resolution, Behchoko, and Yellowknife after session, Mr. Speaker. We are also planning targeted sessions in Yellowknife for media and a session for non-government organizations and businesses to understand whether these groups have unique interests and needs with respect to open government.

Mr. Speaker, by asking residents how they interact with our government, we begin to get a better sense of how residents receive information from government, what type of government information is most valued, and -- most importantly -- how the government can improve two-way communications with residents. We will use this public feedback in the development of an open government policy to be implemented by all departments and to help guide the sharing of information, publication of data, and consistent approaches to engagement.

Mr. Speaker, even though this work is squarely focused on the needs and expectations of NWT residents, we realize that our work on open government is part of broader national and international efforts. In recognition of ongoing national dialogues about open government, last November I participated in a full-day roundtable hosted by Canada 2020, a national think tank, to seek input from non-governmental organizations, educators, business leaders, and students on the principles and practices of open government in Canada. Feedback from these sectors will also help in the formation of an open government policy, just as insights from the NWT will help in the formation of national ideas about open government.

Mr. Speaker, the development of an open government policy is just some of the work our government is doing to enhance transparency and engagement. This spring, in addition to a draft open government policy, I also expect to bring forward a legislative proposal to establish an independent parliamentary Office of the Ombudsman and a legislative proposal to amend our access to information laws. Later this year, the government will add an information portal about ways to appeal government decisions. We will continue to add open data sets, as we’ve already done with data on ministerial travel and meetings, board appointments, contract data, and environmental data. As well, the Premier and Cabinet will continue to hold open houses in various communities to hear directly concerns and questions from residents.

Mr. Speaker, improving the way that government provides information about its activities to residents and engages with citizens to help inform policies and decisions is an ongoing process, not a destination. We have begun that process and remain committed to updating the way that we do business consistent with our mandate and the priorities of this Legislative Assembly through the remainder of our term. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Wally Schumann

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, mining is the NWT’s biggest industry and the engine of our economy. For decades it has created opportunities for NWT businesses, provided Northerners with good, quality jobs, and contributed significantly to government revenues.

With rich reserves of minerals still to be tapped, there is every reason to expect mining will continue to provide the same kinds of benefits, but that won’t happen without an effort on our part, and our government remains committed to supporting an industry that is not just a part of our history, but which is also a part of our future.

In January, all Members of Cabinet and the MLA for Yellowknife North attended the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, along with a number of Aboriginal partners.

GNWT officials attend this year’s event as part of our ongoing work to support mining and demonstrate our government-wide commitment to protecting our largest industry. Our political show of force this year was an important way to underline our continued belief in mining and it was well received by many of our stakeholders and future investors.

Part of the objective of the trip was to draw attention to some important points that are at risk of becoming overlooked or forgotten. While our producers are working and investing to extend the lives of our territory’s operating mines, the reality is that every mine has a limited lifespan. Before long, we will face a time when those mines and their economic activity will need to be replaced.

That is not something that can be done overnight, Mr. Speaker. Exploring for a viable mineral deposit takes time and it can take at least 10 years for a project to progress from its discovery to an operating mine.

While there are some prospects on our horizon, Mr. Speaker, they are not a sure thing. Unless we do more today to facilitate the exploration and discovery of new projects in our territory, we could find a day with no producing mines in the NWT. The benefits from mining are not a given. They are reliant on the continuing business case for NWT mining; a case that is currently threatened by today’s difficult investment climate.

Exploration spending has decreased steadily since 2014. In the last two years, layoffs at our mines have left hard working men and women in limbo. Some have had to scramble to find new jobs. Some have left the territory entirely, taking even more from our economy.

These are real consequences, Mr. Speaker, and we are not taking them lightly. Our government recognizes what is at stake, and we are committed to improving the competitiveness of our jurisdiction.

We spent a great deal of time at Roundup speaking directly with members of the private sector about what can be done to revitalize and advance mineral exploration in our territory. Officials from ITI are continuing that conversation this week at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual convention in Toronto. It is a conversation that we see continuing for the foreseeable future.

We are prepared to look at every aspect of the NWT investment climate that we can influence. Tax incentives, royalties, regulations, everything must be on the table, and we must use the best knowledge available to guide our actions.

Last week, we committed to expanding the Mining Incentive Program, adding an additional $600,000 to our investment this year to qualifying exploration and prospecting projects.

In response to continuing challenges, we are also extending the Work Credit Program, originally introduced in 2015, to offset costs for mineral explorers during this downturn in commodity prices.

Our goal is to restore and maintain a cycle of exploration and development. As our current diamond mines close in the future, others need to be entering into production. Investing in the well-being of our single largest industry is really an investment in our people and the services, community investments, and well-paid jobs they deserve. More than 10 per cent of our workforce is directly employed by the sector, and many more depend on its spin-offs. We must lead the charge to protect their futures.

Mr. Speaker, during this session I have heard almost every Member talk about the importance of mining to the NWT. I look forward to working with my fellow Members on our approach. I believe we will all benefit from directly engaging with the challenges we are facing, and I am confident that we will succeed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Passing Of Jason Berens
Members’ Statements

Tom Beaulieu

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marci cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart I speak today about the passing of a young man, Jason Stephen Berens. While not related to Jason, I have strong ties with many of his family members, the Fabian, Berens, Russell, and Sanderson families.

Jason was born in Yellowknife on February 7, 1979, and sadly passed away on his 38th birthday. Jason is predeceased by his mother, Georgina Fabian, his grandparents, Albert and Rose Fabian, Billy Berens, Hervina Sanderson, and Joe Russell. Jason is survived by his father, Mark Berens, and his brother, Kyle Laviolette. Given the size of these families, I am sure you can imagine the number of aunts, uncles, and cousins who tragically lost a dear family member.

Everyone who knew Jason was immediately drawn to his naturally kind nature, which is something he learned from his late mother, Georgina. Much like Georgina, Jason would go without seeing someone for years and strike up a conversation as though they saw each other yesterday. He was a kind man who maintained strong and meaningful relations with those whom he held close. His family would joke he was like Polkaroo or Beetlejuice. You would just think about him and a few minutes later the phone would ring.

If you didn't know Jason, you would never expect it, but he could challenge you to a conversation with facts and a well-rounded point of view. He was naturally a brilliant young man with a photographic memory. What was even more amazing about Jason was that he could do this while he was making you laugh with his witty personality. Anyone who knew Jason would agree that he had one of those truly happy, contagious laughs, something that his friends and family will miss the most.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to Jason's family and friends. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Passing Of Jason Berens
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Our thoughts and prayers to the family, as well. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

2017 Beavertail Jamboree
Members’ Statements

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is that time of year again where we see communities hosting their spring carnivals. This past Sunday, Fort Simpson opened up the Beavertail Jamboree with a sliding party, outdoor skating party, chili cook-off, bonfire, and fireworks. Monday, they started their three-on-three basketball tournament, first games of the Beaver Cup four-on-four hockey tournament, the annual single crib tournament, which led on to Tuesday where they continued the hockey tournament and the doubles crib tournament. Wednesday saw bingo, family scavenger hunt, drum dance, and an Old-Timers versus Moosehide Mamas hockey game.

This evening, there will be a feast at the rec centre followed by the finals of the Beaver Cup tournament and the crowning of the Beavertail Prince and Princess. Closing off the evening will see a hypnotist, Scott Ward.

On Friday, the communities will be hosting the community barbecue, corporate challenge, games for youth and children, another bingo, youth talent show, and a family dance.

Saturday will start off with the council's hosting their annual pancake breakfast, snow drags, adult traditional game, the talent show, and for the first time a men's beauty contest, and an adult dance.

On Sunday, there will be a family fun run, a fish fry, and closing ceremonies where the king and queen crowning will take place. This year the crowning of the king and queen will be open to anyone over the age of 17 and will be based on points received for participation throughout the week.

I would like to thank the hardworking organizers for arranging a mixture of events for all ages and getting people outside in the fresh air. As well, I would like to thank all corporate sponsors for the many volunteer hours for making the jamboree a great event.

I encourage everyone in Fort Simpson and the surrounding areas to come out and enjoy themselves. I hope that the weather is great and that I get to see a lot of people. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

2017 Beavertail Jamboree
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

2017 Long John Jamboree
Members’ Statements

Cory Vanthuyne

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, want to speak about carnivals today. Mr. Speaker, last week I spoke about Snowking Winter Festival, a great unique winter event put on by a committed and creative group of Northerners. Today I want to congratulate another group of dedicated people who are working hard to put on another spectacular event. I am referring to the board and volunteers who are gearing up for the sixth annual Long John Jamboree, March 24 to 26.

Mr. Speaker, all around the North, communities get together this time of year to celebrate the lengthening of days, the return of warm sun, and the knowledge that winter is finally coming to an end. Yellowknife has a long and strong tradition of end-of-winter celebrations through Caribou Carnival. Sadly, when Caribou Carnival had to close down, the city was without a winter festival for a few years.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have been a member of a group of volunteers who came together to revive the tradition. In 2012, the first Long John Jamboree started out. We didn't know what the response would be, Mr. Speaker. Even at the end of March as we can see right now, it can be really cold, but Yellowknifers came out in droves to celebrate and support their new festival.

For five years, jamboree has celebrated the best parts of being a winter city. Games on the snow stage, live music in the carnival tent, arts exhibitions, the heritage tent, la Cabane a Sucre, the Burn on the Bay, curling on the lake, and the international ice carving competition have made the Long John Jamboree a winter festival this city and territory can be proud of.

Importantly, the jamboree never charged a penny for admission. It has always been open to all for free. In two weeks' time, the sixth annual Long John Jamboree will kick off. The organizers of the jamboree have been working hard for months, and volunteers are dedicating hours of hard work and resourcefulness to create a winter festival that is accessible, fun, and celebrates the departure of winter and the coming of spring.

There is the jamboree and the Snowking Festival and the longest-standing Yellowknife tradition, the Canadian Championship Dog Derby. Yellowknife Bay teems with activity, fun, and celebration in late winter, great activities for Northerners and visitors alike to enjoy.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in expressing our congratulations to the hardworking organizers and volunteers of the Long John Jamboree and all our northern carnivals. Celebrations like these make our communities great and they deserve our support and recognition. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

2017 Long John Jamboree
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Sahtu All-Season Road
Members’ Statements

Daniel McNeely

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

I, too, Mr. Speaker, will talk about carnivals, but it wasn't coordinated, just for everybody's reference.

Mr. Speaker, signs of spring are here, and longer daylight. The Sahtu residents are using this last month of winter ice road usage to visit friends and relatives outside the region, restocking of groceries and dry goods and materials, participation in other region's events, like the Hay River carnival, the Fort Simpson carnival, and the upcoming Hand Games Tournament in Behchoko this weekend.

Mr. Speaker, the same could be said by this government on fuel resupplies, project readiness, or completion of mobilization and demobilization of materials.

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Sahtu will experience the words "limited" and "isolation from road travel."

Mr. Speaker, store owners in the region can be assured to assess prices on the uncertainty of store product turnovers and expiry dates. This formula price setting can be assured that the client or customer will end up paying this cost.

As we draw closer to our budget session and wait for the federal budget announcement with optimism that the federal infrastructure funding will include the all-weather road application approval submitted by this government in 2014 for the section between Norman Wells and Fort Wrigley, Mr. Speaker, I, like many others, cannot wait for this favourable announcement with assumption.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I supported and will continue to support the Cabinet's initiatives on marketing, as they had done last November. Being proactive is an ingredient for success, and I only hope, in this case, we receive favourable results. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Sahtu All-Season Road
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statement. Member for Deh Cho.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, students in the Northern Community Leadership Program at the Aurora College Community Learning Centre in Fort Providence have taken on an interesting new project.

The Introduction to Leadership course was jointly developed by Aurora College and the NWT Literacy Council, and is being piloted this year in six communities across the territory, including Fort Providence. Students learn how to better engage with their communities, and then build on that knowledge to develop leadership skills and practices. The six-week course helps students to foster leadership qualities within themselves and how to use those qualities to make their communities a better place.

Today, I would like to share what the program participants have brought to my attention. Today, I will be sharing their views on the need for a youth centre in Fort Providence.

Mr. Speaker, the community of Fort Providence is in dire need of a youth centre. Our community has not had an activity centre for the youth since 2012, when one was run by the friendship centre. This lack has led to many youth being involved in illegal and substance abuse-related activities in the community.

Presently, the school and the friendship centre offer their programs only once or twice a week. A hundred youth were surveyed, and since Fort Providence has roughly 160 residents between the ages of 10 and 14, I would say that was a pretty good sample. These youth identified they would like an accessible space open in the evening and on weekends.

Mr. Speaker, having a youth centre would get the youth involved in recreational, life skills, and pre-employment programs. This space would foster leadership opportunities, increase the youth's self-esteem and confidence, as well as giving them a sense of responsibility and belonging. It would also promote physical activity and, in turn, all this would help to make the youth more respectable community members.

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs and the Minister Responsible for Youth to support this community initiative and assist the community in making this vision come to life. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. It's not wishful thinking for me to have a Minister's Statement. Last Friday, the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment released the first-ever NWT Agricultural Strategy. This in itself is a very good thing and has the potential to help build food security and diversify our economy.

I offer some observations and recommendations having reviewed the document. I had hoped to see a more substantive effort on presenting the history of agriculture and its contribution to the NWT economy. There is nothing I could find about traditional harvesting of berries or medicines, on the missionary farms, or the experimental farm that was located in Fort Simpson. I was surprised at the lack of analysis of soils, weather, and climate change. All of that would have been helpful to identify potential areas for future agricultural land use.

The focus of the document is largely on food production and agriculture as a business rather than food security. In fact, the only occurrence of the phrase "food security" are in the Minister's message and in the glossary. Perhaps, there is still a chance to broaden the focus of our efforts or at least identify a range of actions to meet the needs of the commercial sector, community-level agriculture, and household food security. For example, there is no mention of community food security plans or inter-settlement trade.

There is a lot of discussion of identifying legislation, regulations, and policies related to their implications for agriculture. I would have thought we could have done that work as part of the strategy itself and begin to identify priority areas for improvements and updating.

It is good to see that access to more land for agricultural purposes has been identified as an issue, but the discussion is at a rather high level with few solutions offered. There is nothing I could find in the strategy about research and development into northern agricultural techniques and technology or circumpolar cooperation or partnerships.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the strategy is the lack of any specific targets or goals, or actual resources to carry out any of this work. I had hoped to see something like "increase the value of agricultural production by 50 per cent in five years" or "complete food security plans for all communities in the NWT within five years" or something similar. Most importantly, no costs have been estimated in the action plan for any of the activities and, of course, no new funds are identified in the 2017-18 budget. How will this work be carried out if we are not going to devote any funds for it, and there are no estimates even if we wanted to attract potential partners?

I will have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. On Tuesday I spoke about the work the Standing Committee on Social Development will be doing during the break. We will be reviewing Bill 16, An Act to Amend the Education Act. In addition to reducing instruction hours, the amendments to the act will establish junior kindergarten as a territory-wide program.

Mr. Speaker in his response to my written questions earlier this week, the Minister failed to answer two questions. They concerned the viability of other, non-school-based programs that serve four-year-olds.

Mr. Speaker, the larger communities like Yellowknife, Hay River, and Fort Smith -- Fort Smith, yes, but I was thinking of Inuvik -- the larger communities have non-profits that offer parents options for educating their pre-schoolers outside the education system. Here in Yellowknife, that includes Montessori School and the Yellowknife Play School; and in lnuvik, that is the Children First Association. These are fee-based programs. The cost of a full-day Montessori program is $8,000 per year. That compares well with the cost of full-day childcare, but it is a lot of money for a low-income family, as you can appreciate, and many families who would like to send their children to the Montessori school cannot afford to do so. Of course, parents have to go with what they can afford, despite what they think is the best style of learning for their children.

Mr. Speaker, it does not have to be this way. The department could decide to fund individual four-year-olds rather than funding a whole program. What I mean is that the total money invested in JK, $5.1 million, could be divided among the total number of four-year-olds in the NWT, which is probably about 500 students, or 500 children, which I think is a bit of a generous estimate. The cost per student, then, is $10,200. In other words, it would cost less to attach the subsidy to the child than it would be to pay for the children to be in a school classroom. In fact, costs are less than half of those that are estimated by the department per child per year. I do not understand why the department would not consider this option; they have not given me a reason. It represents a real choice for parents about early childhood development, and it protects the financial viability of the non-profits.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, colleagues. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, how are existing pre-school programs going to stay in business without four-year-olds? This is a serious question. I am not aware that ECE is planning to increase early childhood development subsidies to these programs. A very real possibility from the introduction of JK is that parents will have less choice in the future than they have now, whatever their income. I will have questions for the Minister. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.