This is page numbers 4215 - 4241 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 going.

Topics

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. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne

The House met at 1:31 p.m.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4215

Elder William Greenland

[English translation not provided] Thank you. Thank you, everybody, for inviting me to be here today. Before I begin, I just wanted to share a few of my words to welcome you all; welcome all of our visitors, as well. It's good to see you. I know most of you personally. It's an honour to see you again.

You know, when we come together, we work to help our people. We're in a field of helping each other. For us to help each other, to help other people, we need to help ourselves. I see you work together, the Regular MLAs, the Ministers, the staff. In order for us to do well for ourselves and our people, we need to listen to one another, to have respect for each other while we're speaking. When somebody is speaking, like the elders always said to me, when they are speaking, you listen. Though they may not be talking directly to you, but the messages that we hear could be useful for us somewhere down the road.

I ask that you be respectful of the land that we're on today, Drygeese Territory, people of the Yellowknives Dene. We have respect for these people here. We take care of this place while we're visiting from our own regions and our own communities.

I ask you to look after that place, look after each other while you're working, show respect, honour each other, like we do our families. Inside here, you're like a family. I just wanted to share that. I'd like to offer you a prayer today. [English translation not provided]

Creator, we thank you for this wonderful day. Creator, today, we ask you to be a part of our lives today, at this moment and this time. I ask you, Creator, to bless this place, this place of decision-making, this very place where our people come together to talk about our people. I ask that you bless each and every one of these Members of the Legislative Assembly, the Regular MLAs, the Ministers, our Speaker, our staff that work here. Each and every one of these people that work in this place, Good Father, we ask you to bless them, give them the strength each day as they come here to feel good about the work that they do, to feel good when they leave here at the end of the day. Good Father, we ask you to bless them, guide them and strengthen them.

I know, Good Father, when we're away from our home and our communities, it's difficult to be away, even for the day. The amount of time we spend here, Good Father, we ask you to look after our families back home, take care of them, watch over them, take care of our homes, bless our homes, keep them from any harm or danger, Good Father, while our leaders are away from their communities. Good Father, we ask you to bless this place again, to look after each and every one of these people. We ask you to bless our people at home, in our communities, the people that we work for. Take care of those that are sick at home and in the hospitals. We think about those that are struggling on the streets today, Good Father, and we ask you to bless them, take care of their health, watch them, watch over them, Good Father.

Creator, we ask you just to help your brothers and sisters here today in the Assembly that they have a good session, the third session of the 18th Legislative Assembly. Good Father, we ask you to bless each and every one of these people, as they listen to one another, make good decisions for our people out there today. [English translation not provided]

I'd like to offer you a flute song. This song, I haven't played yet. I don't know what it is, but what I feel in here today is really strong energy, an energy that we want to get something done. There's a lot on our minds and a lot in our heart. I want to put this song in here, I want to leave a song in here for you to help you and guide you in all that you do.

---Instrumental music

Mahsi.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4215

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Please be seated. Good afternoon, Members. Members, [Translation] on behalf of the Assembly, I'd like to thank the elder, William Greenland for joining us today and leading us in prayer. Masi.

I would also like to thank the Pages we will have with us throughout this sitting. We have students from:

  • East Three School in Inuvik;
  • Ecole Boreale in Hay River;
  • Angik School in Paulatuk;
  • Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Behchoko;
  • Ehtseo Ayha School in Deline;
  • Paul W. Kaeser School in Fort Smith; and
  • Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife.

They are here for the session. Welcome, and thank you to all the Pages who will be with us during this sitting. One day, these young people will be our leaders. They are the future of this great territory. Please join me in thanking them and welcoming them to the Assembly.

Our official languages are an important reflection of the culture and heritage of the Northwest Territories. Throughout the country and around the globe, Indigenous and minority languages are languishing and need to be preserved and celebrated. This is best done through the use of our languages.

I am pleased to advise Members of this House and the public that throughout this sitting we will be providing interpretation in the following languages:

  • Tlicho;
  • South Slavey;
  • Chipewyan; and
  • French.

Members, please remember to leave your dials on channel two for English.

I encourage everyone to use and develop your language skills to preserve and strengthen all of our official languages. Colleagues, it is my pleasure to welcome you all back to the Chamber to resume the 3rd Session of the 18th Legislative Assembly.

Colleagues, autumn is upon us and winter is just around the corner; too soon, some might say. I know that your summers were busy with work in your constituencies, work in your committees, and the ongoing work of government. Although we lead busy lives, I hope you were also able to find time for family, close friends, and yourselves.

With our summer behind us, it is time to look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie before us as individuals and collectively as Members of the 18th Legislative Assembly.

As we enter the final year of this Assembly, it is of the utmost importance that we consider why we are here. We were elected to represent and serve our constituents and all people of this territory. We can only achieve this if we continue to work together showing respect for this House, each other, and ourselves.

That is not to suggest that we will not have disagreements. We will, but we must be respectful and professional when we have these disagreements. This respect and professionalism is in keeping with the rules of our Legislative Assembly and our form of consensus government, and in keeping with the expectations of the people who elected us.

Now I wish to advise the House that I have received the following message from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It reads:

Dear Mr. Speaker,

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

  • Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), 2019-2020;
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2018-2019; and
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 3, 2018-2019.

during the third session of the 18th Assembly. Yours truly, Margaret M. Thom, Commissioner. [Translation ends]

Masi, colleagues.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 92-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

Page 4216

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome my colleagues back to the Legislative Assembly for the continuation of the third session. This will be a very active sitting for us as we continue making important decisions to create a strong future for the Northwest Territories.

With one year left in our term, we are getting into the home stretch for the 18th Legislative Assembly. At the beginning of our Legislative Assembly, all Members agreed to adopt an ambitious mandate based on our shared priorities. Our plan, the first of its kind produced by the Government of the Northwest Territories, included over 200 specific commitments that the government would undertake over its complete four-year term to advance the priorities of the Legislative Assembly.

Following a review of our progress and some amendments, the mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories now includes 233 commitments. To date, we have completed 104 of these commitments. We have made good progress in our commitments, Mr. Speaker. As we enter into the final year of the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Government of the Northwest Territories expects to complete many more.

Engaging with the government of Canada is an important part of how our government is fulfilling its commitments on behalf of the people of the Northwest Territories. Even after devolution, the federal government has substantial responsibilities in the Northwest Territories and an important role to play in working with Northerners to create sustainable, social, and economic development.

That is why the Government of the Northwest Territories has been working hard to ensure that Canada understands the needs and priorities of Northerners and the potential impacts of their decisions and policies on the North.

Our efforts have included clearly making the case for Northwest Territories' priorities like Taltson expansion, investments in transportation infrastructure, and assistance in getting our communities off diesel in our direct contacts with the federal government and in the media through vehicles like the red alert.

We have also taken advantage of our opportunities to engage with parliamentary committees to ensure parliamentarians in all parties understand what makes the North unique and its unique priorities. That has included presentations by our government, the Senate Committee on the Arctic, and the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples last month, and a meeting with the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development last week.

That work to raise the profile on the Northwest Territories and get our priorities on the federal government's radar is starting to pay dividends. At the end of June, our government and the Government of Canada announced a joint $140 million investment in the Mackenzie Valley Highway, including the construction of the Great Bear River bridge and the construction of an access road from Wrigley to Mount Gaudet. These are important projects for the Sahtu and Dehcho regions that will help support further economic development and advance our vision of connecting communities down the valley.

Just this morning, Minister Wally Schumann and federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced the approval of funding under the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund for several Northwest Territories projects.

Approval of these projects is an important part of fulfilling Canada's commitment to help the Northwest Territories implement the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and will improve energy security for our residents, stabilize the cost of living, and address the impacts of climate change.

Another positive step was announced by federal Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs Dominic LeBlanc and Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi of a path forward on Arctic offshore oil and gas development last week.

Resource development has been and will continue to be a significant sector of the Northwest Territories' economy, responsible for providing jobs and prosperity for our people. It has been no secret that the oil and gas sector has struggled in recent years, and that has had a negative impact on the people of the Beaufort Delta and Sahtu regions in particular.

The news that Canada is prepared to move ahead with a science-based review of their indefinite moratorium on Arctic oil and gas development and that the Government of the Northwest Territories will have a role in that review is an important step in the right direction for the territorial economy, and a signal that Canada has heard the message that Northerners must be involved in making decisions about the North.

We are also pleased that Canada has announced it will take steps to fulfill its commitment in the devolution agreement to negotiate co-management of offshore oil and gas development with our government, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and the Government of Yukon.

These two commitments, along with the resumption of production in Norman Wells following the completion of repairs to the Enbridge Line 21 pipeline, are positive developments for the NWT economy, and we are pleased to see movement in this important sector again.

While these developments are welcome, the Government of the Northwest Territories understands that promoting the long-term economic and social development of the territory needs to take a broad view that includes multiple sectors. It is also going to take a practical plan that will help focus efforts and investments into those sectors and projects that can create the greatest sustainable benefit for our people.

To be successful, that plan has to reflect the broadly held priorities of all Northerners, including the Government of the Northwest Territories and Indigenous governments. It will also have to be a shared plan that all our governments are committed to following and implementing.

At the beginning of last week, I invited leaders from all the Indigenous governments and their economic development arms to meet with Ministers Robert C. McLeod, Wally Schumann, and myself for an in-depth discussion about the future of the NWT economy.

Over two and a half days, we had some frank discussions about how we can work together to promote the economic development of the whole territory, not just our individual regions. We took a hard look at the challenges we face, including those we sometimes create for ourselves, and at the opportunities for economic development we think we can realistically pursue.

At the end of our discussions, leaders agreed that we need to take immediate steps to address the economic challenges the Northwest Territories faces, in order to ensure a sustainable future for the North and its residents.

Leaders also agreed that large-scale investment in northern energy, transportation, and communications infrastructure corridors is key to creating investment and economic opportunities in all sectors.

Our goal remains to create a prosperous, sustainable future built on the foundation of a strong, diversified economy, which consists of traditional sectors like tourism, agriculture, harvesting, cultural arts, and fishing, but also recognizes the large role that non-renewable sectors like mining and oil and gas have and will continue to play in our territory.

At the end of the symposium, leaders agreed to consider establishing a working group with representatives from the Indigenous governments and the Government of the Northwest Territories to identify economic opportunities and concrete next steps that we can take together to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for all Northwest Territories residents.

I have always said that partnership is an essential feature of how we do business here in the Northwest Territories, and I want to thank all the participants at last week's symposium for coming to the table with their ideas and a willingness to look for solutions. I look forward to continuing our work together in the coming months.

Identifying the shared economic priorities of our government and Indigenous governments will help us create consensus we need to move forward as a territory. It will also help our government as we continue to work with the federal government on completing an Arctic Policy Framework that will set out federal priorities and spending commitments for social and economic development in the North.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I do want to note that during this sitting we will be debating the Government of the Northwest Territories Infrastructure Acquisition Plan for 2019-2020.

Our government's capital budget is a significant investment in our communities and in the future of the territory, and this year we will be tabling the biggest capital plan we have ever proposed.

We often hear about the need for spending on transportation infrastructure, and it is true that that is a priority for this government, partly because we are able to leverage substantial federal funding for these projects with a comparatively small investment of territorial money.

We should not, though, let those projects overshadow the many smaller but equally important projects in our communities that provide housing for our residents, schools, and health facilities.

Mr. Speaker, as an example of this investment, in the past few months, we have been able to open the Woodland Manor extension in Hay River and new health and social services centres in Norman Wells and Fort Resolution. Other health infrastructure projects are on the horizon, including the completion of the new Stanton Territorial Hospital.

I look forward to discussing our proposed infrastructure budget with Members during this upcoming sitting, Mr. Speaker, and continuing to work with them to fulfill our commitments to create a strong future for all residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 92-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

Page 4218

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Colleagues, I would like to draw your attention to the people in the gallery we have here with us. I am pleased to recognize His Excellency Vikas Swarup, High Commissioner of India to Canada, and his wife, Mrs. Aparna Swarup here with us. Both join us here today from the Embassy of India in Ottawa. Welcome to our North. Welcome to our Assembly. Masi. And, of course, our very own Carmen Moore; thank you for all your excellent work. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Minister's Statement 93-18(2): International Day of the Girl Child
Ministers' Statements

Page 4219

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the International Day of the Girl Child. Plan International Canada, with all-party support from the Canadian Parliament, led global efforts to recognize this day. Their actions resulted in October 11th being recognized by the United Nations for the first time in 2012 as a day to champion the empowerment and rights of girls around the world. This is a powerful accomplishment, and I am extremely proud of our country's leadership in this effort.

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, our Prime Minister, put action behind the words and gave us Canada's first Cabinet with an equal number of men and women. Our Prime Minister took the lead in this and, as elected Members, we also need to stand and show our commitment.

Mr. Speaker, Members of the Canadian Parliament did not let party differences hinder their support for establishing this day. In a show of cooperation and serving as tremendous examples, they stood united in support of girls everywhere. Similarly, we, as elected Members within our consensus government, must stand together united in our support to improve the circumstances of girls in the Northwest Territories and beyond.

Mr. Speaker, do not get me wrong. I am not asking Members to give up their seats. I believe in allowing the people to vote for the Member they feel best represents them. What I am asking is that each Member show our support by working to empower girls, by questioning why certain situations impact girls more than others, by continuously looking at ways to break down barriers, and by using a gender lens that considers how each decision and every piece of legislation we pass will impact the diverse populations within our territory.

Mr. Speaker, with our support, shown by standing firm beside them and lifting as many barriers as we can within our power, we will all make a difference in the empowerment of girls and equality of humankind.

I invite each Member of the Legislative Assembly to join me in recognizing the International Day of the Girl Child. Mahsi cho.

Minister's Statement 93-18(2): International Day of the Girl Child
Ministers' Statements

Page 4219

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Climate Change and Clean Growth
Members' Statements

Page 4219

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as the Premier noted, we heard the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, this morning announce a new funding from the Government of Canada's Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund. That was a very welcome announcement, and it will go a long way in helping residents and businesses adapt to our changing environment. So it is fitting today to speak about the urgency of responding to climate change.

Climate change presents an existential threat. It causes more chaos and disruption, costs more billions, and more lives, every year. We humans have been taking resources out of our environment, while pumping pollution back in. Our ecosystem has been irreversibly changed and, as we know, climate change knows no borders.

It's urgent to move, Mr. Speaker. Last weekend, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a dire warning to the world: we have just 12 years to make significant changes in our carbon production that causes climate change, or face dire consequences.

The IPCC report says a 2 degree average rise in global temperature will cause extreme heat waves, wildfires, flooding, drought, sea level rise, and extensive poverty. Does this sound familiar? It says, "Every one-tenth of a degree is a choice between life or death." It's possible to slow this trend and limit temperature rise if we make tough decisions and take decisive action, now.

Mr. Speaker, the report emphasizes that the wheels of irreversible damage are turning fast. Climate change is a reality, and the world's scientific community agrees, human activities are a primary cause.

Here in the North, we are rapidly approaching a number of tipping points. Even if we stopped emitting carbon by 100 per cent tomorrow, it would not reverse the warming trend and avoid the impacts that come with thawing permafrost, melting icecaps, eroding shorelines, increasing winds, massive forest fires, and dissipating water levels that we currently experience.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I am more than pleased to see this government develop the 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework, and I commend them for that. It calls for action; to reduce our use of fossil fuels, broaden our knowledge and awareness, and build resilience and adaptation. For our sake, and future generations, action can't come soon enough.

At the appropriate time, I will have questions for the Minister of ENR. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Climate Change and Clean Growth
Members' Statements

Page 4220

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Frame Lake Constituency Report
Members' Statements

Page 4220

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Here is my annual "What I did for my summer holidays" report. Right after our last sitting, my wife and I went for a four-week holiday to Ireland to visit family and take in the Wild West.

Ireland has a vibrant economy that does not rely on non-renewable resources. Tourism is booming in Ireland. On July 12, the Oireachtas, or Irish Parliament, passed a law to sell off its investments in fossil fuels. I'm proud to be an Irish as well as a Canadian citizen, and wish our Cabinet was as forward-thinking.

It was very hot in Ireland, while the Northwest Territories was drowning in rain. I know the Finance and Environment Minister was chalking up the money saved on forest fire fighting, and urge him to reinvest it in renewable energy and economic diversification.

In August, MLAs met for a Caucus retreat at Lac La Martre Adventures Lodge. We shared our individual summer activities, how to improve consensus government, and our work at the Legislative Assembly. There was discussion around increasing the participation of women in the Assembly, and our transition to the next Assembly as well. Many thanks to Lac La Martre Adventures, and to the youth and elders who visited us from Whati.

For the third year, I hand-delivered newsletters throughout the Frame Lake riding. It's very helpful to meet many of my constituents at the door. Issues raised included:

  • the need for more investment into renewable and alternative energy and how this should be coordinated with carbon pricing;
  • our limited capacity for climate change research and planning;
  • the slow pace of land use planning;
  • economic diversification for life after diamonds;
  • more work needed to lower the cost of housing;
  • barriers to employment from the cost and complexity of getting federal pardons;
  • need for greater efficiency in government and investment into longer term, cost saving measures (e.g. early childhood development); and
  • opportunities for further development of a knowledge economy with post-secondary education.

I look forward to raising these issues again as part of our sitting and to having them addressed in the 2019-2020 budget. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Frame Lake Constituency Report
Members' Statements

Page 4220

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

State of the Territory
Members' Statements

Page 4220

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Monsieur le President, as the 18th Legislative Assembly enters the final year of its term, it is important to take stock of the state of affairs here in the Northwest Territories and the well-being of the people who elected us to serve them as decision makers and representatives.

Since taking office in 2015, the public has been led to believe by the Premier and Cabinet that the NWT is securely on the right path to a prosperous future. GNWT press releases and Ministerial talking points repeatedly insist that our fortunes continue to grow, despite significant evidence to the contrary.

Following current trends and measures, real economic growth is forecast to fall almost every year well into the 2030s. Unemployment is set to rise in the Northwest Territories, while wages are not expected to keep pace with inflation over that same period. As more and more Northerners move elsewhere to live and work, many homeowners are concerned as to the security of their investments and savings locked away in their homes.

Average working families are increasingly unable to make ends meet and, according to a report on NWT food insecurity and poverty, more and more families are becoming reliant on food donations. The rates of police-reported crime and the Crime Severity Index have reached record highs. In fact, we are number one, Mr. Speaker, in Canada, according to the most recent statistics released in 2017.

Despite these hard facts, the leadership of this government continues to dodge questions and avoid taking responsibility for the very real problems that demand real solutions. For example, recent media reporting on poverty in the Northwest Territories pressed a Minister of this government on the aforementioned statistics, and the response was all-too familiar, referencing of "strategies," "partnership," and the need "to see data over time."

Mr. Speaker, the data the Minister referred to is readily available through the poverty indicators from the NWT Bureau of Statistics, going back all the way to 1984. Income assistance cases have increased 23 per cent from 2009 to 2016. Mr. Speaker, there is sufficient data, and yet we are hearing the same delay tactics that we have always heard.

According to a recent plan review, only 37 per cent of mandate commitments can be considered substantially complete, with one department having zero mandate commitments after three years into our term. This government cannot continue to dodge questions and avoid responsibility when decisive leadership is required to meet the challenges of today and lead us into a stronger and more secure future.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Premier about his leadership over this government. Thank you.

State of the Territory
Members' Statements

Page 4221

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

National Coming Out Day
Members' Statements

Page 4221

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to celebrate National Coming Out Day. In fact, today is the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, which began with the March on Washington by gays and lesbians demanding equal rights.

Mr. Speaker, coming out as gay or lesbian, transgender or two-spirited, queer or bisexual is an important way to assert one's identity, to live freely and openly, and to seek support from allies. It is a milestone for every person who has ever done it, and the reaction from family and friends is a topic of conversation forever after.

Mr. Speaker, the reason I speak of this today, the reason there is an awareness day, is that there is still discrimination that must still be challenged and support offered to those who come out now.

I came out about 20 years ago. It took me a while to get there. I didn't have any role models that I knew of in my family, none in my peer group at school, and few in the public eye except for Ellen DeGeneres, who had come out the year before.

Living openly as a gay person in a small town in Labrador was daunting, but hiding seemed worse. I started by telling friends and, after getting a positive reception from them, I slowly moved on to my family. Nobody freaked out. It's also fair to say that not everyone was excited by the prospect. They feared I would face discrimination and bullying, as well as limits on my opportunities. The prevailing advice was to "keep this news to ourselves."

Mr. Speaker, when I arrived in Yellowknife in the spring of 2000, I connected with a queer support and advocacy group called OutNorth. There, for the first time in my life, I felt a sense of community and full acceptance. This was the time when gays and lesbians were lobbying government for equality rights, including the protection of sexual identity in the Human Rights Act, the right to adopt children, and the right to marry. It was not an easy journey, but we slowly, primarily through court action, got the rights we needed, wanted, and deserve.

I would like to think the coming out journey is easier for young people today. In Yellowknife, they have the Rainbow Youth Centre, a safe place to spend time, participate in programs, and use the centre's resources. Schools are now more welcoming, with gay/straight alliances or similar groups for queer youth to connect with.

One of the most important changes in the last 20 years is the emergence of role models who came out, live openly, and advocate publicly for equality and acceptance. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

National Coming Out Day
Members' Statements

Page 4221

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Here in the NWT, there are role models in every area of our community, including me. I am here today to say: come out when you are ready. There are lots of us here to support you in living your best and happiest life. Mahsi.