This is page numbers 4059 - 4102 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 cannabis.

Topics

Recognition of Fort Providence Fire Department
Members' Statements

Page 4063

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, fire protection services in the NWT are reliant on volunteer firefighters. The dedication, time, and effort that volunteers invest in keeping our communities safe are invaluable.

The Fort Providence Fire Department currently has 14 active and engaged volunteers. I am pleased to see community members stepping up to take the new positions with the fire department, and have no doubt that they will continue to protect the community from harm.

Mr. Speaker, new volunteers have had three team meetings to clean and organize the fire hall. Firefighter Level I training took place May 25th to the 27th. Firefighter Level II training is scheduled for July 6th to the 8th. Plans are in place for air brakes training and first aid courses.

Pending the successful Firefighter II training in July, the volunteers will be ready to return to a response community. Until that point, we are still a non-response community.

Mr. Speaker, as a new group of volunteers come in, we must also say thanks to those who served before them. Previous fire chief Andy Sapp, Malcolm Tosh, Kelvin McLeod, and Jimmy Nadli have invested years of service in keeping Fort Providence safe. Thank you to those who have served in the past. I wish the best to the new intake. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition of Fort Providence Fire Department
Members' Statements

Page 4063

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Education Renewal
Members' Statements

Page 4063

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I rise to speak to an important issue that is integral to the development of our territory: the education of our children and young Northerners. Earlier this month, in a CBC article, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment confirmed that the educational achievement of our school children is lower than hoped for.

The article reported that just over half of grade 6 students and about 47 per cent of grade 9 students met an acceptable standard in English. While, in math, this was shown to be worse than 43 per cent achieving acceptable standards in grade 6 math and 39 per cent in grade 9.

Mr. Speaker, underperformance in student achievement is a long-standing issue in the NWT. As far back as 2010, the Auditor General of Canada indicated that, between 2004 and 2008, there was limited or no progress in grades 3, 6, and 9 in math and in grades 6 and 9 in language arts.

As an MLA but also as a parent, I find the lack of progress on this issue deeply troubling. Mr. Speaker, the Education Renewal Initiative was launched in 2013 to much fanfare. From the outset, the initiative specifically identified student achievement as an area that required improvement and even noted that the existing approach to student achievement wasn't producing the desired results.

Well, here we are five years later, halfway into the 10-year cycle of education renewal, and still we hear that the results are not up to the department's expectations. I understand that many of the actions take time to bear fruit. However, after five years, I would think it is safe to say we should be seeing at least modest improvements. Instead, we appear to have stagnated at roughly the same levels we had in 2013.

On top of that, evaluation and reporting on the goals of education renewal is scant to non-existent, in spite of the department's own website claiming that results need to be shared with the public and different interest groups. This leads many members of the public wondering what fundamental impact the Education Renewal Initiative has had on the school system to date.

Mr. Speaker, the goals of the Education Renewal Initiative are commendable. I admire them for setting such ambitious goals. We need to empower children and young Northerners and provide them with the tools to succeed, not just in academia, but also in life. Later today, I will be asking the Minister responsible what she is doing to make this vision a reality. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Education Renewal
Members' Statements

Page 4064

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

2030 Energy Strategy
Members' Statements

Page 4064

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we approach the last few days of our spring session and starting our summer season until our next October sitting. Mr. Speaker, planning is an essential and prudent principle to any initiative, program, or project, given this fundamental component and potential overlapping idle summer time.

Mr. Speaker, I'm encouraged by the Department of ITI 2030 Energy Strategy or plan when consideration is given and taken into account energy planning, developments, and security. This past Monday, Enbridge Pipelines held a public meeting to update the community of Norman Wells for the Line 21 Segment Replacement Repair.

Mr. Speaker, one proposal in advancing our NWT energy strategy and post-devolution responsibilities is in supporting a Post-Devolution Summer 2018 Sahtu Energy Conference. This will only add to other existing NWT Regional Strategies.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the timing is appropriate for all stakeholders in sponsoring a strategic discussion for the resource legislation amendments on engagements for unlocking the Sahtu energy potential.

Mr. Speaker, we can no longer sit idle, but rather encourage and initiate engagements of support for the Northwest Territories in becoming a major contributing player in both non-renewable and renewable resource developments. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Later, I will have questions for the appropriate Minister.

2030 Energy Strategy
Members' Statements

Page 4064

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Federal Government Engagement
Members' Statements

Page 4064

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Minister of Infrastructure's optimism in his statement earlier today, but 75 cents of every dollar we have comes from the federal government. In this Chamber, we are all aware of the dependence on the federal purse.

For years we've been working with Ottawa, Mr. Speaker, signing on to devolution and managing more of our own affairs here at home. We're trying to be fiscally responsible while moving forward on our mandate priorities. We've been focusing on land rights to provide certainty for all levels of government and potential investors in our resources.

We even signed on with the federal carbon tax, even though there are lots of reasons not to do that. We do these things because we are team players. We want to work collaboratively with our friends in Ottawa. What are we working toward? I go back to the words of Arthur Laing, a previous federal Minister of Northern Affairs. In the 1960s, he articulated a vision of northern economic, social, and political development with the goal that "the territories underwrite their own expenses, and eventually contribute to the economic growth of Canada." He wanted to convince industry that northern investment was "no long-shot, but rather a sound investment in Canada's future."

Mr. Speaker, the 60s was the old days. A lot has changed since then, mostly for the better, but we should realize that we still hold the goal of growing and developing our territory to be able to pay our own way. In order to do so, we are still in the business of attracting investment to our territory. Berger told us to settle land rights, and we have made significant strides in that regard. McCrank told us to get our regulations in order, and again, we have made significant improvements that Northerners and industry see as fair.

The recent federal decision to delay support for some of our crucial infrastructure projects is disheartening, Mr. Speaker. Those projects could have set us up to attract new investment in exploration, new developments in tourism. These would have helped create the base we need on which to continue building toward self-reliance.

Mr. Speaker, we've worked in good faith towards our own self-reliance, but at times, it seems our federal partners aren't completely on board. To continue to lessen our dependence on Ottawa, we need confidence that we are sharing the same vision, and are equally committed to a strong and respectful relationship. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Federal Government Engagement
Members' Statements

Page 4064

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Yellowknife Sobering Centre Operations
Members' Statements

Page 4065

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the efforts by the City of Yellowknife and the GNWT to tackle social issues downtown. The Safe Ride Program and the sobering centre together reduce the harm intoxicated people may do to themselves, and they have made the downtown a more hospitable place for all of us to live and work. These initiatives respond to requests by residents of Yellowknife Centre to take action on what seemed to be then an ever-expanding problem.

Today, I want to focus on the operation of the sobering centre. The NWT Disabilities Council operates the centre on contract with the GNWT at the Salvation Army. The contract for the sobering centre and the day shelter together is worth $1.4 million a year. Both are expensive and essential services. Mr. Speaker, my expectation of the sobering centre is that it would be a destination of last resort for intoxicated people, an alternative to going to the hospital emergency room, a stairwell, or a heating vent, but the reality is that not everyone is welcome there.

The NWT Disabilities Council has been known to ban people from the sobering centre. Clients may be banned for yelling, possession of alcohol, and physical aggression. At the staff's discretion, each action is accompanied by escalating penalties that range from being directed to go for a walk to a three-month total ban from the premises. Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge there's a fine balance between protecting the staff from the harm by clients and protecting clients from harm by staff by being kicked out, especially in the cold weather. The NWT Disabilities Council has a special duty of care to ensure their staff are trained in harm reduction for this group of clients, and they deliver services that are trauma informed, from a trauma informed perspective that views addiction as a disability. Surely it comes to no surprise that clients who are drunk are often difficult. It is the nature of this service.

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that the NWT Disabilities Council is struggling with this balance, and the most vulnerable people, those who are intoxicated and have no other resources, are at risk of further harm because it turns out that the sobering centre isn't a destination of last resort, but yet another place to get kicked out of. I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services about how to get the sobering centre back on track. Mahsi.

Yellowknife Sobering Centre Operations
Members' Statements

Page 4065

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Fire Break Funding to Communities
Members' Statements

May 30th, 2018

Page 4065

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as summer approaches, concerns over this year's fire season start to emerge. We are already seeing conditions getting dry, so the chances of having a busy fire season are higher. Last year, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic experienced a few local fires, but luckily, the wind pushed them away from the communities. Mr. Speaker, my constituents are concerned about the current status of firebreaks in their communities. Over the last few years, we have observed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources put the onus of fire smarting on communities. This means that ENR has stepped away from maintaining firebreaks. Communities have had to spend their own funds on fire smarting. This takes away from other community needs, leaving them with fewer opportunities to improve critical infrastructure.

In February, when we reviewed ENR's 2018-2019 Main Estimates, I raised similar questions, noting that only $75,000 was available for fire smarting for all communities in the NWT. This is not enough, and the Minister confirmed that this fund has been oversubscribed in the last few years.

Mr. Speaker, capital funds should be for capital projects. Forest management is the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and as such, with their expertise and operations budget, they should be the ones maintaining firebreaks in our communities. I will have questions for the Minister of ENR later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Fire Break Funding to Communities
Members' Statements

Page 4065

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Carbon Pricing
Members' Statements

Page 4065

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. The federal deadline for a carbon pricing plan has come and gone, and the public has heard almost nothing from our Cabinet colleagues on an issue commanding priority attention everywhere else. I pointed out this gap in this House on February the 12th. Nothing meaningful has been revealed since. On July 26th of last year, the Minister of Finance released a discussion paper and public comment on carbon pricing, and that public comment period closed on September the 15th. A public survey was also conducted.

Where are the results of the public engagement? Here we are, eight months later, and our government hasn't even bothered to compile a "what we heard" report. There has been no policy direction, no legislative proposal, nothing in the budget. There is hardly a mention of carbon pricing in the Northwest Territories Energy Strategy or the Climate Change Strategic Framework, which makes no sense at all.

The federal government released its proposed legislation for carbon pricing on January 15th of this year. Letters were also sent to all the provincial and territorial Premiers on December 20th, setting a March 30, 2018 deadline for choosing the federal backstop, or developing their own system to be in place by the end of 2018. The federal government backstop in carbon pricing will kick in on January 1, 2019, and we still don't even know whether our government has responded yet.

The federal carbon pricing system has two elements:

  1. A charge on fossil fuels (e.g. gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas), which would be paid by fuel producers or distributors; and
  2. An output-based pricing system for industrial facilities with high levels of emissions.

What will our government do with regard to carbon pricing? Earlier in this sitting, I called on the federal government to reject Cabinet's climate change plan that is masquerading as an infrastructure proposal. Is this government finally committed to accept our responsibility, live up to our national and international obligations, and act on climate change through a carbon pricing system? I will have questions later today for the Minister of Finance. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Carbon Pricing
Members' Statements

Page 4066

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Nunakput Housing Issues
Members' Statements

Page 4066

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, housing continues to be a large issue affecting the remote northern communities of Nunakput. In the Northwest Territories, reducing core need in housing is vital to reducing the many social problems associated with the poor quality of housing.

The previous Housing Minister stated that, although the yearly decline of the CMHC funding will end by the year 2038, CMHC will provide no funds to Northwest Territories for maintenance and operations. Mr. Speaker, it is important that we stay on top of housing, and that we act strategically so that there is sufficient housing support, especially for those who are at risk of homelessness, as well as for those who are struggling in their current homes.

Mr. Speaker, evictions are not the answer, and we need to take care of our residents during the times they struggle, especially with the high cost of living in the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, the recent work that led to the corporation's report On Level Ground was a great start. Now, the government must plan for the strategy to interact with the federal National Housing Strategy, which is where new funds and new opportunities will be in the years to come.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories must continue to strengthen its working relationship with the federal government, as well as Indigenous governments, to mitigate housing issues and improve the quality of life for the residents of the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, later, I will have questions for the Minister responsible for Housing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.