This is page numbers 3089 – 3112 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was work.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Julie 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
Prayer

Elder Sarah Cleary

[English translation not provided]. Thank you.

Prayer
Prayer

February 7th, 2018

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Members, on behalf of the Assembly, I would like to thank our elder, Sarah Cleary from Yellowknife, for joining us today and leading us in prayer. I would like to thank her for that. Masi cho. I am pleased to welcome you all back to the House to resume the third session of the 18th Legislative Assembly. I also want to welcome our visitors to our gallery, as well. Colleagues, I know that you have already met together in committees last month, but this is the first time in 2018 that we have come together in the Chamber. I wish to extend my best wishes to all of you and all of the residents of the Northwest Territories for a happy and healthy 2018.

On behalf of this House, I would also like to express my sincere condolences to all of those we have lost, the loved ones we have lost over the years, over 2017, since we last got together. I would also like to welcome all of the Pages that we will have with us throughout our sitting here. We have students from across the Northwest Territories. It is always a pleasure to share this Chamber with the future leaders of our territory.

As we begin the budget session, I would like to acknowledge on behalf of the Legislative Assembly the tireless efforts of the government employees, the officials, the Ministers, Assembly staff, MLAs, and standing committee members in contributing to the budget development process. I know the months since we last met have been very busy for all of you.

I look forward to our session over the next few weeks. I also look forward to hearing good debates on issues that are important to all people of the Northwest Territories and to having a good discussion that leads to positive, informed decisions. It is through our choices and our actions that we all have the ability to influence our futures and take steps to create a meaningful and prosperous future for our people and also for our land.

As we turn our minds to the hard work ahead of us, I ask that you conduct yourselves, each and every one of you, within the rules that we have set for this House and, through your words, continue to show your respect for each other, this House, and also for our unique form of consensus-style government.

Now it is my duty to advise this House that I have received the following message from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It reads:

Dear Mr. Speaker,

I wish to advise you that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of:

• Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), 2018-2019;

• Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 4, 2017-2018; and

• Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 4, 2017-2018

during the third session of the 18th Assembly.

Yours truly,

Margaret M. Thom, Commissioner

Masi, colleagues. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 15-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to welcome Members back to the Legislative Assembly as we continue our work to create a better future for the people of the Northwest Territories. Time is passing quickly, Mr. Speaker, and we are past the halfway point in the mandate of the 18th Legislative Assembly. There are just 20 months left until the end of our term, and there is still a lot of important work for us to do.

One of the most important challenges we face is securing a strong and sustainable economic future for the people of the territory. The people of the Northwest Territories want jobs in their communities and regions. They want to be able to look after their families and themselves without depending on the government. They want to participate in the benefits of a strong national and territorial economy that gives them the financial security and personal independence that all Canadians strive for. Our job is to deliver on those aspirations.

A few months ago, I called for a national discussion on the future of the Northwest Territories. I received many messages of support for taking this strong stand for our territory and its people. A few people have also expressed surprise. I agree that such strong statements in defence of the territory are rare, but sometimes they are necessary.

Good jobs start with a strong and vibrant economy in all of our regions and communities, and there are some challenges that we need to understand and overcome if we want to grow a strong economy for a secure future. The Northwest Territories does not exist in isolation. We have a small, open economy that is subject to external pressures. In 2007, the territorial economy was worth $4.5 billion. The global financial crisis and weak commodity prices in subsequent years took a significant portion of that value away. As of 2016, the Northwest Territories economy still only stood at $3.7 billion.

Mr. Speaker, a smaller economy means fewer jobs and economic opportunities for Northerners. Figures from last year show there are 2,000 fewer people working in our territory than there were in 2007, even though our population of working-age people has increased. Unemployment in the territory was still higher, at 6.6 per cent, in 2017, than in 2007 when it was 5.7 per cent. We need to reverse this trend by regrowing our economy, especially in communities and regions. Mr. Speaker, it's no secret that the health of the economy in the Northwest Territories rests with resource development right now. In 2016, resource development contributed $938 million to the economy of the Northwest Territories, with over $650 million of that coming from mining. While that is good news, we also have to remind ourselves that in 2007 resource development was contributing $1.8 billion to the Northwest Territories economy.

Mr. Speaker, seeing our most important economic sector decline by approximately half over the course of nine years should tell us that we cannot take our economic future for granted. Economies need support and strong leadership; a wait and see approach will not do. That is one of the reasons why I called for a national discussion on the future of the Northwest Territories last year, and why I continue to deliver that message. I have frequently argued that Northerners need to be the ones who make decisions about the North, and that was why devolution was so important. Indeed, a basic principle of the Canadian federation is that provinces and territories should have the ability to direct the development of their economies to best benefit their residents. Unfortunately, the national commitment to that principle seems to be slipping in recent months. We in the Northwest Territories have seen it in unilateral decisions of the federal government that directly affect our interests. Alberta is seeing it now, too, in recent announcements from British Columbia that will effectively place limits on their economy.

I want to make it clear that it is the principle of the matter that I am concerned about here. I am less interested in advocating for any specific sector of the territorial or national economy than I am in ensuring that residents of all provinces and territories have equal opportunity to benefit from being part of a thriving prosperous country.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that resource development is primarily a business decision. I also understand that individual governments have their own views and preferences about what kinds of economic development are best. I also think that, if those governments are going to impose their own preferences on other ones, they need to be prepared to step in with plans to put something else of equal value on the table. So long as decisions made somewhere else have an impact here in the Northwest Territories, we need to be making sure northern voices are part of those conversations.

We need to make sure that northern views and priorities are understood and respected, and that there is some national consensus on how Canada will ensure a strong and prosperous North. Mr. Speaker, while other arctic nations are proceeding with ambitious plans for social and economic development of their northern regions, there is no similar vision for Canada.

Canada should have its own plan, one that is developed by and for Northerners. The people who live in the North are the ones with the most to gain or lose under such a plan, and our priorities and values have to be front and centre. That plan needs to include the best ideas from Northerners for developing new and promising sectors that have the potential to contribute a billion dollars or more to a vibrant territorial economy.

Mr. Speaker, it needs to identify the kinds of investments and decisions our government and the government of Canada need to be making to help us manage the transition into a new, green economy. It also needs into account that growing another billion-dollar sector of the territorial economy will take time, and that we cannot simply discard those economic activities that are the source of jobs and good middle-class incomes to thousands of residents.

We also need to be sure that our plan takes into account the economic realities of the whole territory. While Yellowknife had an unemployment rate at 3.4 per cent in 2017, the rate in the rest of the territory was 10.9 per cent. That is a significant disparity that suggests that the benefits of economic development are not being shared equally throughout our territory. That is something we should all want to fix.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to say when I am in the South that Northerners should not be punished because of where we live. The same holds true here at home, too. The people at Tsiigehtchic, Sachs Harbour, and Colville Lake should not be punished because they live in remote, small communities.

Mr. Speaker, we need to renew our focus on providing jobs in communities outside Yellowknife by growing strong and diversified economies across the Northwest Territories. There is no question that the Northwest Territories has great potential. We used to talk about how our territory could make a meaningful contribution to the national economy based on our world-class resource potential. We still have all the ingredients for success as a territory, but we are going to have to work together to capitalize on it. We can't take it for granted or let ourselves get complacent; we need to make it happen.

As leaders, we have an important role to play in bringing forward the ideas and priorities of the people we represent so they are part of the plan. We also have an important role to play in advocating for the best interests of the whole territory here at home and around Canada. I've said many times before that one of the best social programs is a good job. A good job is a path towards self-reliance, personal financial security, and hopes for a better future for our residents and their families. Our work isn't done. We have done much to stabilize and regrow the Northwest Territories economy as a whole. It is now time for us to complete the task and make sure that the benefits of jobs and a strong economy extend to all our residents thought the territory. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 15-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 16-18(3): Notice Of Budget Address
Ministers' Statements

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will deliver the Budget Address on Thursday, February 8, 2018. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 16-18(3): Notice Of Budget Address
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Colleagues, please allow me to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery today of Mr. Anthony W.J. Whitford. As most of you know, Mr. Whitford is a man of many roles. A former Commissioner, former Speaker, former Minister, former Member, former Sergeant-at-Arms, honorary clerk at the table, and member of the Order of NWT. Please join me in welcoming Mr. Whitford to the house this afternoon. It's always a pleasure to have you here with us today. Item 3, Members' statements. Member Beaulieu.

Long-Term Care Nursing Training Centre At Stanton Hospital Facility
Members' Statements

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to welcome everyone back to the house for 2018.

Mr. Speaker, [English translation not provided].

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to propose an idea to the government to turn the Stanton Hospital into a Long Term Care (LTC) school for nurses and long-term workers. Mr. Speaker, we all know that there is a plan to turn the current hospital into a long-term care facility and an extended care facility. What better opportunity would exist in this territory than it to create a nursing school right on site?

Mr. Speaker, students and teachers would provide the necessary care to run the facility. As a by-product, we would be creating a field of home care workers and resident aides who can go back to their communities to care for their elders and keep them out of long-term care as long as possible. As I have said in this House many times, every senior that we are able to keep out of long-term care, we would be avoiding spending $140,000 annually. Recent surveys indicate that the NWT needs 258 long-term care beds. Our current plan may provide about 200 long-term care beds spread out around the NWT. If we are strategic, perhaps we would only need those units and no more.

Mr. Speaker, our small communities would be in a better position to employ these students, whether they be nurses, licensed nurse practitioners, or resident aid workers. Either way, Mr. Speaker, it would have a positive impact on our small communities. Mr. Speaker, this will have an effect of creating good employment opportunities for small communities where employment is needed most. Mr. Speaker, should we not need the additional long-term care beds, the capital cost of the construction of those units plus an annual cost savings of just over $8 million could be realized moving forward.

Mr. Speaker, the students would have many options after they graduate. They can work in the various long-term care facilities across the NWT, or work in home care allowing seniors to age in place in their own homes in their home communities, and this will make for a much happier and healthier population of seniors in the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Long-Term Care Nursing Training Centre At Stanton Hospital Facility
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members’ statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Impact Of Collapse Of Carillion On Stanton Renewal Project
Members' Statements

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Stanton Renewal Project is the most expensive project in the history of the Northwest Territories financed by the GNWT. So, news that one of its key private partners might be in financial trouble is naturally causing serious alarm among residents and colleagues.

The government has established the practice of creating P3 relationships for its recent major infrastructure projects. P3s are a common practice intended to help bring private sector money and expertise to a project while increasing accountability, protecting from cost overruns, and reducing the risk to taxpayers from things possibly going wrong. At least, that's what we're led to understand.

What happens when one of the private partners is unable to meet its commitments? We were faced with that question recently when the partnership undertaking the Mackenzie fibre optic line had internal troubles, and now we face that question once again. The Boreal Health Partnership, or BHP, is the private consortium responsible for the construction and management of the Stanton Renewal Project. The P3 partnership covers not only the design and construction of the building, but the financing and operating of the hospital for the next 30 years. That's a considerable investment that NWT residents have made in this project and this partnership. A 50 per cent partnership in BHP is held by Carillion Plc, a company with considerable project experience in the health sector, but now Carillion Plc is under liquidation. This raises serious concerns and questions about our public investment and the future management of our health services.

Mr. Speaker, even if the NWT taxpayers are shielded from financial risk by the terms of the P3 agreement, they deserve to be assured that our health services are secure and in good hands. So, how will we mitigate the loss of Carillion's known expertise in health services management? What is the contingency plan, if any? How much oversight will the government have in selecting new partners? These are critical questions.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, the Stanton project is not only the most expensive public project undertaken in the North; the health services it will provide are an essential "public trust" between Northerners and this government. Our residents require certainty that financial events across the ocean will not place that public trust at risk. At the appropriate time I'll have questions for the Minister of Finance. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Impact Of Collapse Of Carillion On Stanton Renewal Project
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members’ statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Impact Of Collapse Of Carillion On Stanton Renewal Project
Members' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the collapse of Carillion Plc, based in England, grabbed international attention in early January. The subsequent application of its subsidiary, Carillion Canada, for creditor protection brought the issue to our door here in Yellowknife. Carillion Canada has, as my colleague said, a 50 per cent stake in the Boreal Health Partnership, the consortium that is financing, building, and maintaining the new Stanton Hospital.

The question of what will happen to Carillion Canada has a direct impact on the 30-year contract to operate and maintain the hospital. The Department of Finance has produced two briefing notes that are aimed at reassuring us that it's business as usual for the Stanton renewal project. Construction is said to be 75 per cent complete now and on track to be finished in November this year.

Carillion Canada has $750 million in debt and cash to last until February 17th, according to court documents. It is now trying to raise cash by selling its assets, such as an oil sands-related business. The Financial Post quoted a Canadian construction analyst as saying, "I would expect that, over time, all of their assets are going to come up for sale. I don't expect that Carillion Canada will re-emerge as an operating company down the road." It's time for the GNWT to start telling us about Plan B.

I am aware that, under the terms of the contract between the government and Boreal Health Partnership, BHP is required to provide a new service provider in the event that Carillion Canada is unable to follow through its operation and maintenance role. I understand Bird Capital and HOCHTIEF are massive companies. They are also part of the Boreal Health Partnership, but Carillion has the biggest stake in this project. What is Plan B for Boreal Health Partnership to fill the gap that Carillion Canada will almost inevitably create? The Department of Finance has said only, "The GNWT has raised the concern of a compressed commissioning schedule if the worst-case scenario unfolds and Carillion cannot meet its obligations and a new service provider needs to be provided. BHP acknowledges this concern and again confirmed they are taking proactive steps to stabilize the situation and uncertainty." Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the Department of Finance is watching this situation closely. I will also be seeking assurance from the Finance Minister that he is planning for the worst-case scenario so that there is no delay in opening the new hospital. Mahsi.

Impact Of Collapse Of Carillion On Stanton Renewal Project
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members’ statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Premier’s Red Alert On Economic Future Of The NWT
Members' Statements

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the final months of 2017, the Premier took to the national stage to declare serious allegations towards all of southern Canada concerning the economic future of the NWT. The Premier has said that "the dreams of Northerners are dying." Mr. Speaker, the dreams of Northerners are not dying. They are renewed by the next generation who want a prosperous future for their communities with a sustainable economy that provides benefits to all of our residents. This is why I take issue with the Premier's rhetoric, and most recently his position that the NWT cannot have a strong economy and a strong environment. This backwards thinking is a relic of the past.

Northerners know that this government is not only capable of responsible resource development, but that our citizens demand it. The very mandate of this government is based on this idea, and the Premier is unwise to make such proclamations. Here in Yellowknife the toxic legacy of Giant Mine is more than enough evidence to support sound environmental regulations that prevent billion-dollar liabilities for future governments, especially in light of devolution where this government will be solely responsible for remediation.

Mr. Speaker, despite the intentions of the Premier, it is clear to me that this red alert is nothing more than a political ploy to stoke economic anxiety in Northerners and to pin the lackluster economic performance of this government on someone else. After two years of austerity budgets, is it any wonder why the NWT's economy continues to lag behind the rest of the nation? I think not. We need bold thinking and ambitious initiatives to boost economic performance, not time on national television to broadcast our disputes with Ottawa. If there was any real substance behind this red alert, such as a blueprint for economic development, then perhaps I would think otherwise about the Premier's agenda, but as it stands Northerners have nothing to consider apart from fear that future prosperity is falling out of reach.

As for the supposed "re-emergence of colonialism" from Ottawa, I am surprised the Premier would make much a claim when this government has so much work to do in reconciliation. I am shocked by the outrageous labelling of nation-to-nation relationships between Canada and Indigenous government as "divisive" and "colonial." This new relationship and approach from Canada has been applauded by numerous Indigenous leaders, including here in the NWT. I am just as concerned about the limited progress that has been made on pending land rights agreements. It is clear to me that this government takes issue with the advancement of Indigenous self-government, and I will have questions for the Premier on how we are fulfilling our constitutional obligations towards Indigenous self-government in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Premier’s Red Alert On Economic Future Of The NWT
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members’ statements. Member for Frame Lake.