This is page numbers 4571 - 4620 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 yellowknife.

Topics

Broadband Connectivity
Members' Statements

Page 4575

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Unlicensed Tourism Operators
Members' Statements

Page 4575

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, tourism is big business in the Northwest Territories. Last year more than 100,000 visitors travelled to the NWT, and spending also reached an all-time high at $200 million. The results are expected to be even higher for this past year. It's unsurprising that many entrepreneurs are building businesses based on the success of our tourism market. Unfortunately, not all these individuals are playing by the same rules.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard several complaints from licensed tourism operators in Kam Lake who raise serious concerns around illegal outfits exploiting tourism opportunities in the NWT. More light has been shed on these illegal businesses in recent days with reporting from the CBC supported by internal government documents obtained through access to information requests.

What these complaints and documents reveal is a business environment with little to no consequences for illegal tourism operators, with fly-in, fly-out operations exploiting a lack of readiness on the part of this government to ensure that all operators are held to the same standard.

Mr. Speaker, under the law, an operator must have a licence issued by the GNWT. An unlicensed operator is not obliged to follow safety rules nor have proper insurance for their activities, putting tourists at risk and legal operators who pay these costs at a disadvantage.

Internal documents reveal that this government is struggling to keep up. An official wrote, "There are so many operators lately, it's hard to keep track of them all." Compare this to public concerns from legal, northern-owned and operated businesses. To quote one of these operators, "These guys are coming in and doing what they want. They're cutting corners."

Mr. Speaker, a licensed operator must pay for proper insurance and renew their licence every year. In addition to these expenses, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars more for insurance. Illegal operators claim none of these costs, and there is ample evidence that they're not being held to account to the laws of the NWT by its own government.

Since 2013, there have only been nine investigations into illegal tourism operators, with two charges being brought forward under the act, and only a single fine issued, along with six compliance orders that do not level criminal penalties against these illegal businesses.

Despite the concerns raised by northern tourism operators who are paying their dues and operating within the letter of the law with legal licences, the GNWT says this is not a systemic problem. Departmental officials have said, "We will address it as we find out about it," and, "we're doing the best with the resources we have." Perhaps that's because they do not have the adequate resources to operate.

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue, and I will have questions for the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment later today to see what he has done to address the issue of illegal tourism operators in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Unlicensed Tourism Operators
Members' Statements

Page 4576

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Member's statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Carbon-Free Energy for Resource Development
Members' Statements

Page 4576

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as the Minister noted in his statement, we are all aware of the forthcoming slowdown in the NWT's economy from diamond mines winding down, and we're also well aware that it will take several new metal mines to replace the socioeconomic benefits of a single diamond mine.

Mr. Speaker, this summer I had the opportunity to meet with a number of representatives from world-class mining companies considering investing in the NWT. In general, we are seen as a favourable jurisdiction. We have world-class rock and proven resources. Most of the experts agree that our regulatory regime is improving; they agree that the diamond mines proved that development can succeed while working on land rights. As we know, the carbon tax is not a problem because it is, in fact, a rebate.

However, Mr. Speaker, they are concerned about one major barrier to investing, and that is carbon-based energy. That's right: burning diesel. In 2016, almost half of our carbon emissions came from mining, but the world is changing, Mr. Speaker. Today, for global mining companies to maintain their social licence to operate, they must avoid producing greenhouse gas emissions.

Believe it or not, in 2018, investment decisions on mineral development are not driven by economics alone. Issues affecting social and environmental impacts, climate change chief among them, are equally prominent considerations.

As there should be, Mr. Speaker, there's a growing intolerance among financial institutions, investors, mining companies, and the public for projects that have large carbon footprints. It is simply smarter and safer for them to invest in places with competitive carbon-free energy.

If the NWT is to open its world-class Slave Geological Province to exploration and development, we must bring Taltson hydro power to the region.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is undertaking the Great Slave Lake Submarine Cable Concept Study. That will inform us how we can supply competitive-priced, carbon-free hydro power to the Slave Geological Province. Our potential partners in mining are applauding this step, as it holds great promise for growth and for reducing the NWT's greenhouse gas emissions, while providing socioeconomic benefits for our people.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT must address the risks of carbon-based energy if we want to attract major mining interests to develop multi-generational projects.

While I can, Mr. Speaker, I'd just like to let folks know that, in case they're trying to change their plans, the Geoscience Forum is November 20th to the 22nd, and not next week. At the appropriate time, I'll have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure responsible for energy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Carbon-Free Energy for Resource Development
Members' Statements

Page 4576

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Emergency Response to Accident at Nahanni Butte Airport
Members' Statements

October 30th, 2018

Page 4576

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As Members in this House heard, we had an accident at the Nahanni Butte airport on August 15, 2018. I'm very happy to say that all the individuals directly involved with the crash are safe and were discharged from the hospital. I'm very happy to hear the collaboration between the community health representative in Nahanni Butte, and the healthcare practitioners in Fort Simpson and Yellowknife work very well together. It is good to hear that telehealth and our telephone systems work well. The community of Nahanni Butte and the GNWT health staff did an amazing job and should be recognized for their help and support throughout the event.

Unfortunately, the smoothness of the response time and the process for medevac is a concern. It is my understanding that at approximately 13:16 the accident occurred. At approximately 13:45, one of the local airline companies contacted the Fort Simpson Health Centre and they said they were willing to take two Fort Simpson firefighters trained in primary care, paramedics who are trained to deal with packaging and transferring of injured people, to Nahanni Butte to assess injuries and to help out the local staff.

Unfortunately, at 14:05 the local company was told that the health centre would not be sending support staff, and that a plane was going to be dispatched from Yellowknife. At around 15:56, a King Air and two Twin Otters left for Nahanni Butte. Unfortunately, the King Air could not land in Nahanni Butte and had to go to Fort Liard. They needed to use a helicopter to take some of the passengers to Fort Liard to get on the King Air. The whole process took a long time, approximately seven hours, for the medevac to leave for Yellowknife.

One of the injured passengers was horrified that it was going to take more than two hours to get help in the community. Community members tried to be supportive and calm her down, but you can imagine her frustration and fear.

In speaking with the community and people from Fort Simpson, we were confused that there was an islander plane and a helicopter in Nahanni Butte and it was not used. They would also like to know why the support team from Fort Simpson was not dispatched. They were only 30 minutes away. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Emergency Response to Accident at Nahanni Butte Airport
Members' Statements

Page 4577

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. The feeling is that policy and procedures outweighed the care of residents. What would happen if a very serious or fatal situation occurred? Would they have to wait at least seven hours to get the necessary transportation out to get help? This would not happen in bigger centres. They feel it is an uneven playing field, and I cannot blame them. I will later have questions for the Minister of Health. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Emergency Response to Accident at Nahanni Butte Airport
Members' Statements

Page 4577

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Socio-Economic Agreements and Benefits
Members' Statements

Page 4577

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Yesterday I tabled a 2017 report contracted by the Industry, Tourism and Investment Department called "Policies for Generating Socioeconomic Benefits from Natural Resource Extraction Projects." This report shows how jurisdictions around the world make sure their citizens get a fair share of benefits from non-renewable resources extraction.

Unfortunately, this report received by the ITI 18 months ago was only recently posted deep on the department's website because I forced this government to make it public through an access to information request. Committee was not even informed of the existence of this report until the Minister disclosed it in an April 17th public meeting where he presented on socioeconomic agreements.

The report examines exactly the issues that play in our development of a Mineral Resources Act. Public groups asked for this type of information during the MRA consultations process. Regular MLAs have repeatedly requested the Minister share the extensive cross-jurisdictional research his department claims to have done, but he has refused to provide this information.

The 2017 ITI-commissioned report is packed with detailed information on the types of instruments jurisdictions used to capture social and economic benefits for their citizens. It analyzes the different types of benefits, employment, contracting, capacity development, impact mitigation, new infrastructure, and does a provincial-territorial-international scan of other approaches. Why was this information suppressed?

This report is a good one, and I call on this government to pursue much stronger socio-economic agreements. These improvements should include requirements for binding and enforceable employment in contracting targets with penalties, locating offices and professional support in the Northwest Territories, and investments in research and development, training, and post-secondary education. Other jurisdictions tie the provision of such benefits to security of tenure and approvals for development. We should and must do much better.

The development of a new Mineral Resources Act and the amendments to our oil and gas legislation provide an ideal opportunity to build the framework of improved retention of benefits for our residents.

I'll have questions for the Minister of Industry on what other materials may be outstanding, and how these recommendations will inform our post-devolution resource management moving forward. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Socio-Economic Agreements and Benefits
Members' Statements

Page 4577

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Energy Efficiency Initiatives in the Sahtu Region
Members' Statements

Page 4577

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, energy initiatives in the Sahtu. As of this morning, Imperial Oil started supplying gas powered electricity to the community.

Mr. Speaker, energy has been on my mind lately, with the reopening of the Enbridge pipeline and the announcement of the new funding by the federal government for energy programs in the Northwest Territories.

I understand that, back in March, the GNWT secured $570 million from the Investing Canada Plan, and more recently, this government secured the first $23 million of its $31 million allocation from the federal Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund.

Mr. Speaker, these new program dollars have come out around the same time as the GNWT Energy Strategy and Action Plan. The people of the Sahtu are interested in the details, how this money will be spent, and more importantly, how we can be involved in the transition to more efficient and cleaner energy systems in our communities.

Mr. Speaker, in the last few years, we have seen real progress in the Sahtu on the use of biomass heating. Cord wood has been an important source of heating in the Sahtu for generations, and the introduction of wood pellet heating has brought a new source of high-efficiency wood heating to our region.

Mr. Speaker, most of our communities have begun a transition to the lower-cost wood pellet systems and high-efficiency wood stoves. Heating with wood has many benefits, including being carbon neutral. As the supply chain for wood pellet improves, we hope to see it being more used in the Sahtu.

Mr. Speaker, we have also seen the installation of a state-of-the-art solar diesel plant in Colville Lake that has reduced the use of diesel fuel and reduced the emissions. Other efficiency upgrades were also made on the electrical side. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Mahsi.

---Unanimous consent granted

Energy Efficiency Initiatives in the Sahtu Region
Members' Statements

Page 4578

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, the Sahtu itself is a leader in energy efficiency, and we want to continue down this road so that all our residents can benefit from the new federal money. I will have follow-up questions to the Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Energy Efficiency Initiatives in the Sahtu Region
Members' Statements

Page 4578

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Poverty in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4578

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, at the end of August the Government of Canada introduced its long-awaited and first-ever poverty reduction strategy. After years of telling advocates that poverty reduction was a provincial and territorial responsibility, the federal government has finally stepped up.

In 2015, one in eight Canadians lived in poverty, about 5 million people; a shameful number for a wealthy country like ours. The federal government has set a goal to reduce that number by 20 percent in the next two years, and the government's long-term goal is to further reduce poverty by half by 2030. This measurement boosts the credibility of the strategy, and it gives hope to those who want to exit from the poverty track.

Mr. Speaker, the federal strategy introduces a poverty measurement. It's called the Market Basket Measure. The MBM puts a dollar figure on a basket of goods and services for a family of four. The MBM for Yellowknife in 2015 was about $56,000. The problem with the Market Basket Measure as a general measure of poverty is that it isn't calculated for any other NWT communities.

The NWT has had a poverty reduction strategy for five years. Its vision is that Northerners will have access to the supports they need to live in dignity and free from poverty as active participants in community life. This vision still resonates, but the GNWT didn't establish a definition of poverty or a goal for its reduction, so it's difficult to say whether Northerners are less poor than they were five years ago.

A group of non-profits recently published a poverty update to show what poverty in the North looks like. Here are a few of the results. Twenty percent of households earn about $25,000, one in seven residents faces moderate to severe food insecurity, and there are almost 2,000 people on income assistance in the NWT. It's a grim picture.

Mr. Speaker, it's understood that children who grow up in poverty are likely to live in poverty as adults. This fact underlines the importance of providing resources to families to move them out of the poverty trap. The federal and territorial child benefits are a good start, but income thresholds must be raised, and we need greater investments in housing. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Poverty in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4578

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. The National Poverty Reduction Strategy challenges provinces and territories to do better and provides the opportunity for a partnership to assault poverty in the GNWT. It's time to establish a poverty measurement, set goals for poverty reduction, and make a commitment to tracking results over time. I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mahsi.