This is page numbers 2829 – 2866 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 road.


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 1:30 p.m.


The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Glen Abernethy

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last November I tabled Mind and Spirit: Promoting Mental Health and Addictions Recovery in the Northwest Territories, our government’s strategic framework for addressing critical issue for Northerners.

This past February I advised Members that the Department of Health and Social Services would be developing a child and youth mental wellness action plan as part of our implementation of the strategic framework. I am pleased to tell Members that at the appropriate time later today, I will table the Child and Youth Mental Wellness Action Plan.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that continued work and improvements are needed to ensure appropriate, specialized services are available to our children and youth when they need it the most. This action plan was developed in close partnership with the Departments of Education, Culture and Employment, Justice, and Municipal and Community Affairs, as well as the Health and Social Services Authorities, but perhaps most importantly, it was developed with the input from youth from every region of the Northwest Territories.

Insight we received from our youth engagement, along with research into leading practices, guide the development of five key areas for action that will improve and promote wellness of children of the Northwest Territories.

The Child and Youth Mental Wellness Action Plan addresses the full continuum of services that need to be in place to ensure optimal mental wellness, such as prevention, promotion, early identification, treatment, and ongoing recovery supports. Mr. Speaker, the development of this action plan is one of the milestones under our government’s mandate commitment to prioritize improvements to the outpatient mental health services, with a particular focus on youth mental health services in schools and the broader community.

The Child and Youth Mental Wellness Action Plan demonstrates our commitment to providing residents of the Northwest Territories with comprehensive and innovative mental health services that support them on their path to wellness. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' Statements. Minister for Justice.

Louis Sebert

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we want the NWT residents to thrive in a strong and healthy society, and there is no place in strong and healthy homes for family violence. In response to this goal, our government made a mandate commitment to strengthen initiatives and partnerships to prevent and respond to family violence. By working together we have made real progress in creating and supporting the programs that will help us achieve healthier communities and families.

The Department of Justice, along with the Departments of Health and Social Services, and Status of Women, all have important roles in supporting this mandate commitment. The Department of Justice, through initiatives designed to combat family violence and provide protection to victims, works to hold violent people accountable for their actions and support those who are the most vulnerable.

It takes courage for people to step forward and disclose family violence. It is our responsibility to work closely with the RCMP and our communities to ensure that the most appropriate supports are available when victims need them. It is also our responsibility to provide an opportunity for perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions.

Mr. Speaker, each year I provide annual policing priorities to the RCMP. This year these priorities included continuing to enhance their response to violence against women and families. This has been reflected in the Policing Priorities Action Plans developed in partnership with each community in the Northwest Territories. The Commanding Officer of "G" Division has assured me that family violence remains a priority, and that members will continue to do their part to foster changed attitudes towards family violence in NWT homes.

The RCMP serve as an important contact point for referrals to Victim Services workers. These workers are based in eight communities throughout the NWT to provide emotional support, information, and referrals for victims of family violence. They help victims with safety planning, emergency financial assistance, and provide information about the court process.

Another support to victims of violence when they need it the most is Emergency Protection Orders. These orders, as provided for in the Protection Against Family Violence Act, are a tool available to victims of family violence as part of their safety planning to protect themselves from abusive family members. They are available at any time of the day or night.

The Department of Justice also continues to provide training, public information, and outreach on the protections provided under the Protection Against Family Violence Act to RCMP detachment commanders, shelter staff, community justice coordinators, and victim services workers. Public information and outreach events are held in partnership with other GNWT departments throughout the year.

We are on the right track with the RCMP policing priorities and other initiatives to support victims of family violence, Mr. Speaker. I applaud the work that the RCMP, the department, and our communities have done over the past years to enhance the services and the quality of life in our communities. Mr. Speaker, our government also made the commitment in its mandate to continue the support for a healing program for men who use violence in intimate relationships, such as A New Day healing program.

As evidenced from the discussion in this House, in public, and in the community, it is clear that support for this program is strong. I share that sentiment. That is why our government has made the decision to transition A New Day from a pilot project to a long-term program. We have worked to improve the program and ensure that there was no disruption in service delivery during the transition.

A New Day uses the same curriculum that was used in the pilot, with scheduling changes to make it easier for men to get into and stay in the program. Groups meet weekly, and men who want to participate can start whenever they are ready. If they need to take a break for any reason, they now have the ability to quickly re-join group sessions at a later time instead of having to start over.

The transition from pilot to long-term program has been smooth. All supports to men who are ready to take responsibility for their actions and make changes in their lives are in place, including well-qualified, culturally competent, and experienced facilitators to properly assess clients and safely run groups. The program contractor has been accepting registrations at their office every weekday.

We also committed in our mandate to continue to look at ways to expand the Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court, an option for those who have been charged with an offence. In 2015-2016, the DVTO Court was expanded from Yellowknife to Hay River, and is now available to offenders from Behchoko, K'atlodeeche, and Enterprise. Low- to medium-risk offenders who take responsibility for their actions must agree to attend an eight-module "Planning Action Responsibly toward Non-violent Empowered Relationships," otherwise known as the PARTNER program.

The Department of Justice provides support in the areas of assessment of offenders, bail supervision, program delivery, support for victims, and referrals to outside agencies. Those who successfully complete the program have this taken into account during sentencing in recognition of the work they have done to reduce the likelihood of violence in their relationships. Earlier this month, as one PARTNER program was concluding in Yellowknife with five graduates, a new program was commencing in Hay River, demonstrating that Northerners want programs to support healthy family choices.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, within our correctional facilities, programs have been created to allow offenders to address the root causes that lead an individual to criminal behaviour, including violence. Programs are delivered in a way that recognize the importance of culture and take into consideration the short time that most territorial inmates are incarcerated for. In support of this, we will be launching the Respectful Relationships program in our correctional facilities. Inmates will learn to examine the values, beliefs, and behaviour that form the foundation of respectful relationships through this program. They will also learn specific tools and techniques aimed at ending their use of abuse in relationships. Staff has already been trained to start delivering Respectful Relationships this fall.

Later this fall the Department of Justice will also be engaging stakeholders on its proposal to modernize the Corrections Act. There will be provisions that will strengthen the requirement for culturally appropriate programming and foster an environment that responds to offenders’ needs for risk reduction and rehabilitation.

Mr. Speaker, we need to work together to make our communities safer and change attitudes towards violence in our homes. Family violence is not a private matter. It devalues everyone, primarily women and girls, and keeps people from leading full lives. It shatters the bonds between generations, dishonouring our elders and breaking traditions. It is important that, as leaders, we continue to stand unified in denouncing family violence in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Wally Schumann

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, strong economies must encourage economic diversity. While our economy relies on the resource sector as its foundation, our government has committed to fostering an economic environment in which small business can grow and thrive. Today I would like to highlight some of the commitments that have been met by the ongoing work of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Mr. Speaker, we committed to increasing the number of immigrants working in the NWT and to increase investments by immigrants. Together with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, we have done that, with the release and implementation of our Immigration Strategy. More importantly, we have streamlined our processes and strengthened the profile of our Nominee Program’s business stream to ensure that immigrant investment will continue to grow.

Two years ago, we committed to developing and implementing an Agriculture Strategy to encourage local food production and shepherd this budding sector towards commercial viability. Mr. Speaker, we released this Agriculture Strategy in March. We now have the foundation to guide the expansion and growth of the business of food in our territory.

We also committed to finalizing the Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery Revitalization Strategy, and we did. We introduced our strategy in the spring alongside funding to build a new fish processing plant that will allow us to export fish to southern and foreign markets. As we work to implement our strategy, changes in our Fishers Support Program have increased catch volumes on the lake; we are working on a marketing strategy for Great Slave Lake fish, and we are supporting the NWT Fisherman’s Federation on a number of recruitment initiatives to encourage young people to consider commercial fishing.

Two years ago our government committed to investing in artist-to-market and product-to-market opportunity chains to build the profile of NWT art both at home and abroad. Our re-vamped NWT Arts website now includes a Where to Buy feature, which connects regional, national, and international customers to NWT-made art like never before. Airport exhibits, including two at the Edmonton International Airport, are helping us to build a profile and demand for NWT art. As we celebrate NWT Arts week this week, Mr. Speaker, I invite my colleagues to connect with the pop up art gallery in Yellowknife’s Centre Square Mall that displays and celebrates Northwest Territories art and artists.

Our support of Northwest Territories art also extends to the commitments we have made to grow our territory's film industry. Since the launch of the Northwest Territories Film Rebate Program, we have invested approximately $280,000 in seven productions. Moreover, we have provided funding for producers to market and promote their creations. We have also provided opportunities for filmmakers to attend workshops, organize festivals, and showcase their films around the globe, and today the Northwest Territories film sector is reaching new heights.

Mr. Speaker, our tourism sector has also reached new heights, both in the number of visitors that we have welcomed to the Northwest Territories and the amount of money they have invested in our economy. Recent numbers from 2016-2017 show visitors spent over $200 million in the Northwest Territories last year, a 21 per cent increase from the previous year. We have also passed 100,000 visitors for the first time ever. In part, this is a reflection of the ongoing commitment we have to investing in world-class tourism and parks facilities. In the first two years of our mandate we have invested close to $7 million in improving and expanding our facilities with a variety of new playgrounds, camping loops, marinas, washrooms, and shower facilities.

On a larger scale, we have just completed a three-year partnered initiative with the federal government and the Doi T'oh Territorial Park Corporation to remove steel telephone wire from along the Canol Heritage Trail.

Elsewhere, Mr. Speaker, we committed to expand exports to international markets, and we were pleased to welcome Almod Diamonds to the Northwest Territories last year as the Northwest Territories' newest approved Northwest Territories diamond manufacturer.

We committed to connecting our furs with international markets to help encourage the traditional economy. With the leadership of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the support of the Government of Canada, we succeeded earlier this year in opening the European Union to seal pelts, a new opportunity for Inuvialuit sealers to access a multi-billion-dollar market. Meanwhile, our continued investment in the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur brand also realized resurgence in fur sales earlier this year.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we committed to working with industry and the Northwest Territories Manufacturers Association to expand manufacturing by developing a manufacturing strategy. This work will formally begin next month with the release of a discussion paper intended to begin a conversation about manufacturing that will guide and inform our government's development of a manufacturing strategy for the Northwest Territories. The release of this paper will kick off a series of public and stakeholder engagement sessions that will include opportunities to engage in person, online, by email, by phone, and by mail. We look forward to completing work on this strategy in a timely fashion and moving to the implementation stage.

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to diversifying our economy to ensure residents have a fair and equitable chance to create strong communities with stable and diversified economies. Our residents deserve the opportunity to achieve economic self-determination, and we stand committed to taking action to build a diverse economy for the benefit of all residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Labour market outcomes in small NWT communities continue to lag. At the beginning of the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Government of the Northwest Territories made a commitment to develop and implement a strategy to increase employment in small communities.

The Small Community Employment Support program provides $4.2 million in GNWT funding to expand employment and training opportunities in small communities. This includes an additional $3 million we agreed to put into the program when the last budget was approved. I want to state for the record, Mr. Speaker, that this is money for small communities, and that is where we are going to spend it. That is not spending in Yellowknife and not in the regional centres.

Program uptake has been slow, Mr. Speaker, and we were starting to take steps to ensure this money meant to create employment would be spent by extending it to regional centres. We have since heard from Regular MLAs that they want to see the money refocused on small communities, and that is what we will do.

Our commitment to creating jobs and training opportunities in small communities remains strong, Mr. Speaker, and we will be much more proactive in finding ways to spend this money in the communities that it was intended for.

Earlier this year we announced that our government would establish a Committee on Rural and Remote Communities that would include six Regular MLAs who represent the NWT's small communities. This committee, which will also include three representatives from Cabinet, will be an important source of advice and ideas on how the GNWT can better support and help residents in our small communities.

We will be looking to this committee for innovative and proactive ideas about how best to use the money identified for small community employment to make a real difference for the communities and the people they represent, Mr. Speaker. We will also make more efforts to work with community leaders to find out what needs to be done in their communities and how we can use this funding to do that.

Mr. Speaker, creating jobs and employment is an issue that all Northerners care about. This program targeted at small communities is just one of many initiatives and programs our government has in place to support job growth and employment. Federal labour market agreements offer an additional $7.2 million to support employment, training, and skills development across the NWT, including in small communities. As part of our current discussions with the federal government, ECE will continue to focus on ensuring that renewed bilateral agreements provide enough flexibility to support labour market development programming and initiatives in small communities.

By working together with all our partners, we can make a difference for the unemployed residents of our small communities. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about a great organization that I have been involved with for the past 10 years. In the winter of 2008 I received an email to see if I would be interested in facilitating the Northern Youth Abroad program. I will not go into the details about our conversations on how I ended up facilitating for them.

Since being selected to be a facilitator, I have worked with 14 international teams, two Northern NYA Next teams, and Canadian program teams. I have personally worked with 155 youth participants from the NWT and Nunavut in these 10 years, as well as another 323 youth during this time. Some of these youth are here today, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I also had the honour to group lead in 2011. This involved spending eight weeks with my team and co-leaders, including Murina Sabourin from Fort Providence. Mr. Speaker, NYA was created in 1996 and was first offered in 1998 pre-division. The Government of Northwest Territories was one of the organization's first funders. It expanded to serve youth in NWT beginning in 2005. To date 180 youth from the NWT have participated in the Canadian programs, and 68 have gone on to do the International or NYA Next program.

Last year they received 280 applications for 58 spots. Two youth from the NWT, Steven Nande from Fort Liard and Murina Sabourin from Fort Providence, have won the Outstanding Alumni Award, and today they will be joined by Janelle Nitsiza from Whati at the NYA anniversary celebration. Mindy Willett, John Stewart, and Lois Philipp received the NYA's Outstanding Volunteer Award and will be joined by Robert Warburton and Sarah McLeod tonight.

They have strong support from businesses in NWT. This includes Canadian North, the Tlicho Government, Dominion Diamonds Corporation, the Sahtu Dene Council, the MS Naidoo Memorial Trust Fund, and Nunastar Fund for Northern Children. Mr. Speaker, more than 80 per cent of past participants went on to graduate high school.

There are three phrases in the NYA program; the Canadian, NYA Next, and International. Mr. Speaker, I have witnessed this organization grow in the past 10 years. It is about what is good for our youth and how they help them. It is amazing that this organization and staff are so committed to our youth. I would like to thank them for their commitment.

I would also like to thank the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and Municipal and Community Affairs. I would just seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement, Mr. Speaker.

---Unanimous consent granted

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. As I was saying, the Departments of Education, Culture and Employment and Municipal and Community Affairs have been working with this organization for a number of years and have been able to come up with a multi-year funding agreement this year. I would like to thank the organizations, the youth who are here, and thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Often in this House we have talked about a knowledge economy, but it occurs to me today that we might need a refresher on what exactly that means, as it is a relatively new concept as a source of economic focus. The knowledge economy today is recognized as a major driver of productivity and economic growth in Canada and all across the world.

It is defined as an economy in which growth is dependent on the quality, quantity, and accessibility of the information available rather than on the means of production. Employment in this economy is characterized by strong demand for highly skilled workers.

A major player in Canada's knowledge economy is the information and technology sector, which has generated more than 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs, according to last year's figures from the Information and Technology Association of Canada. This sector invests almost $5 billion a year in research and development. The Northwest Territories can play an important role in the growth of Canada's knowledge economy, because we have unique northern knowledge of great value, including Indigenous and local knowledge. Our government must lead the way in making sure that our knowledge is recognized, grown, and shared to benefit all of our residents and communities.

That means investment in education and training, as well as research and development. It also means creating formal and informal networks to ensure that knowledge flows to where it is needed. On the national level, the Government of Canada is building relationships among industry, government, and academia. The Prime Minister has committed to shifting Canada from its resource-dependent past to a more knowledge-driven future in his innovation agenda. The NWT can benefit from infrastructure funding linked to that agenda. Canada is also supporting these efforts through its Networks and Centres of Excellence program.

I want to pass on a bit of wisdom from Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto who took part in an analysis of the knowledge economy in Ontario. They learned that the knowledge economy is really a collection of local economies and that clusters of talent, companies, universities, and other knowledge-based institutions are increasingly local challenges. To be effective, federal, provincial, and territorial policies must bolster, build from, and strengthen these concentrated local assets.

Our government must take action, Mr. Speaker. We have much to do. Thank you, 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, starting next year we are going to be implementing legislation to enact a carbon tax. The GNWT has signed off on the federal plan called the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. We know it is going to affect our constituents, households, families, and businesses, but there is a lot we do not know. How is it going to work for us? How will we pay for it? How much will it cost? What are we going to do with the money?

Mr. Speaker, I credit the government for its early steps to engage the public in discussion and in an exchange of ideas, but, with respect, I think people should have been offered more. As a government, our job is to lead, to present a direction and options. For people to have meaningful input, they need to be offered a solid, well-structured plan. The government's Have Your Say website includes a general discussion paper on the carbon tax, but it does not include the climate change framework or an energy strategy. It does not offer proposed goals. It does not explain the impact of signing on with the federal strategy. Without these places to start, how can people exchange in a meaningful public debate about the carbon tax?

Mr. Speaker, now that the government survey has closed, I wonder what the next steps are for Northerners to offer informed opinions and input. There are important questions where we need input, Mr. Speaker:

• How will the tax reduce carbon usage without increasing the cost of living?

• How will lower-income Northerners be protected from that financial hit?

• How will the money raised by this tax be directed?

• How will it help mitigate the costs of dealing with the increasing impacts of climate change?

Mr. Speaker, the carbon tax will be on us before we know it. In the spirit of openness, the government has tried to consult residents. However, to achieve real engagement and gain real meaningful input and ideas, residents deserve some real content to consider and discuss.

Mr. Speaker, later I will have questions for the Minister of Finance. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day. It has become an annual opportunity to recognize the survivors of residential schools, to acknowledge the harm the residential school system did to children's self-esteem and wellbeing, and to affirm our commitment to ensure that every child matters. Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 with the events organized by Chief Fred Robbins of Alkali Lake, BC, to recognize the residential school experience and to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families.

One of these survivors is Phyllis Webstad, who attended the St. Joseph Mission residential school in Williams Lake, BC. Phyllis was just six years old and was excited to start school wearing her bright new orange shirt that her granny had managed to afford. When she arrived at the mission school, they stripped her and took away her orange shirt, which she never got back. The colour orange, she says, reminds her of how she was made to feel that she did not matter, how all the children were crying and no one cared.

Mr. Speaker, like my parents before me, I, too, am a residential school survivor. I attended Grandin College boys' residence for five years in Fort Smith. My parents attended the Sacred Heart Mission school, which operated in Fort Providence from 1867 to the 1970s. My late father was forced to learn French and punished for speaking his own language. It saddens me to think of his experience when he left Mission School after two years and could no longer speak his own language. His older brother had to translate for him so he could communicate with his mother. A hand gesture to the mouth meant he was hungry.

On the other hand, my mother's experience was okay. She learned moose hair tufting from the nuns, an art that became renowned. Most of my relatives have gone through the residential school system. Some survived, and some are not with us anymore. Mr. Speaker, I hope that my colleagues in this House and the people of the NWT will wear the orange this weekend to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. Please do it as a way to honour the memory of yesterday's children, those who survived and those who did not, and to acknowledge the courage of the adults they have become. Please do it as a way to thank residential school survivors for sharing their stories so that others can understand. Let us not forget this dark chapter in our history. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Herbert Nakimayak

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the other day I spoke of infrastructure enhancement opportunities in the Nunakput region, focusing on possibilities for a deep-water port in the area. Today I would like to continue that theme, moving forward from the water to the sky or, rather, our small community airports, Mr. Speaker.

There are four airports in the Nunakput region, Mr. Speaker. Flights typically run between these communities and Inuvik, though with some flights to and from Kugluktuk and Yellowknife. Something they all have in common, though, is their runways, native gravel. In fact, just 10 airport runways of all three of Canada's northern territories are paved. In comparison, Mr. Speaker, Alaska hosts more than six times as many paved airstrips.

A 2015 article in Northern Public Affairs highlighted some of the problems caused by or exacerbated by gravel runways. Most significantly, gravel limits the types of planes that can land safely and use the airport, risking rocks drawn into their engines. That means remote northern communities are restricted to older planes, which are getting more expensive to operate all the time, or newer smaller planes that cannot carry as much cargo or travel as far. There is another problem. These newer planes often need runways that are longer than much of what is available right now.

Mr. Speaker, this makes it more difficult and more expensive to move people and goods. That means people have to draw from their already limited budgets to travel or move freight or buy groceries and other household supplies whose costs are driven up by the cargo expenses. At the territorial level, these kinds of expenses make it cost-prohibitive to work in the far North, hampering local people who want to grow a small business and dissuading larger southern companies from exploring our northern potential.

Mr. Speaker, paving or chipsealing Nunakput airport runways has the potential to make a big difference in our communities. Like all infrastructure work in the North, it is expensive and challenging, but the government has shown what it can do with the construction of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway. If we are willing take on this challenge, I believe the payoffs will be worth it. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Cannabis Legalization
Members' Statements

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I attended the Department of Justice's public engagement meeting in Yellowknife on September 14th on the legalization of cannabis. First of all, I want to say it was one of the better GNWT consultation meetings I have ever attended. Thanks to the Minister. Publicity produced a good turnout; it was well organized and facilitated. The discussion was respectful and informative, with good opportunities to provide informed input and have it recorded for consideration. I won't try to summarize the input, but I will comment on what I heard and see as some of the key issues that we need to address.

Of course, GNWT has a limited range of areas that are under our control, including age of consumption, the distribution system, possession limits, and ability of communities to set their own restrictions. Science indicates that brain development continues until individuals are about 25 years old and that it can be impaired through use of cannabis. We'll need to set our consumption age with this in mind, and ensure that legalization is accompanied by strong public education to inform users of risks and precautions. Likewise, action to properly test, discourage, and penalize impaired driving and restrictions on workplace usage must be developed and publicized.

We have a highly decentralized population with many small communities. Some have set their own additional restrictions on alcohol. I believe communities should have similar authority over cannabis, but should also be provided with balanced information on cannabis risks and benefits. The current alcohol distribution system would seem to be the best method for the NWT and with some allowance for mail sales and the potential for private dispensaries with knowledgeable and trained staff. Whatever system we establish, it will need to be flexible and adaptable, and also allow for local production of cannabis.

The legalization of cannabis is being driven by our federal government. I believe this is the right direction. We face a serious and complex set of challenges that must be addressed in a coordinated fashion within a short time frame. I have confidence that the public engagement exercise will provide a forum for a variety of concerns, issues, and solutions. I look forward to the compilation of comments, the legislation that our government will develop, and further public review. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Cannabis Legalization
Members' Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to talk about the condition of Highway No. 3, especially about the 100 kilometre section from Behchoko to Yellowknife. People in Yellowknife complain about this section of the road all the time, but by the reckoning of many drivers, the road was at its worse this summer since it was paved.

Highway No. 3 is not just another NWT highway. Forty per cent of all the kilometres driven in the NWT are driven on this section of Highway No. 3, or about 70 million kilometres a year. The drivers are residents, tourists, trucks resupplying the diamond mines, and commuters between Behchoko and Yellowknife, among others. What they experience is a road that has frequent and unmarked dips, potholes, and loose gravel. Even drivers who slow down and drive less than the 90 kilometre-an-hour speed limit report broken shocks, struts, and trailer hitches, as well as flat tires and cracked windshields. It's not just vehicle damage. The road is a hazard to personal safety.

Mr. Speaker, Spectacular NWT doesn't say a word about this segment of the highway. Tourists who drive it are appalled not only by the terrible condition of the road but by the lack of warning from the GNWT or on the road itself. Many of the people who make it to Yellowknife with their campers and motor homes vow never to come back. So much for growing our tourism sector.

Thousands of truckloads of fuel and supplies come over the road to Yellowknife in preparation for the trip to the diamond mines. They, too, have to put up with the damage inflicted by the road. The government describes mining as the most important segment of our economy, but you wouldn't know that from the segment of this road.

Mr. Speaker, capital investment on Highway No. 3 is pitiful, amounting to 10 per cent of all road expenditures in this capital budget. In the last capital budget, it was less than 5 per cent. That's despite the volume of traffic and the importance of the road to residents and industry alike. The Department of Infrastructure has acknowledged that "the road needs strengthening and drainage improvements to provide a safe operating surface." Now would be a good time to implement a solution. Mr. Speaker, before they start budgeting for new roads, the government needs to improve maintenance on the roads they have, starting with Highway No. 3. Thank you.