This is page numbers 4621 - 4676 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 communities.

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. 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
Prayer

Page 4621

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good morning, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 125-18(3): Growth of Tourism in the NWT
Ministers' Statements

Page 4621

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, the numbers are in and I'm pleased to say that the Northwest Territories tourism sector continues to lead our territory's march to a more diverse economy. Even on the heels of what was an extraordinary year of growth, in 2017-2018 we have once again seen our tourism numbers climb.

For the first time, over 110,000 visitors travelled to the NWT, spending over $203 million in the process. Overall, visitation to the Northwest Territories increased by 4 percent last year. While modest for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, it supports the much broader and steeper five-year trend of improvements that we are seeing in our tourism numbers.

Since 2013, visitation has increased by 19 percent. Spending has increased by nearly 50 percent and we are well on the way to achieving our target of $207 million annually identified in our Tourism 2020 plan.

Mr. Speaker, the most notable increase in our new numbers is found in Aurora viewing. Thirty-five thousand visitors came to our territory last year to see our northern lights, a 17 percent increase over 2016-2017. Those visitors spent almost $57 million, also a 17 percent jump.

Telling our story has been essential in getting us to this point. It will become even more important as we continue to grow our share of the international travel market. Central to these efforts is our partner, NWT Tourism, whose staff represent the Spectacular NWT brand and work hard to showcase our territory and all it has to offer to our potential visitors, across the country and around the globe.

2018 was a good year for us. The NWT's participation in the Canada-China Year of Tourism realized an unprecedented exchange of information between our jurisdiction and the world's fastest-growing tourist market. This included the federally led trade mission to China during which NWT Tourism solidified a partnership with Flow Creative Marketing Limited. The partnership gives the Spectacular NWT brand a consistent, locally relevant presence in the Chinese market. It was an important step and an opportunity to attract even more visitors to our spectacular territory.

The mission also highlighted Alipay as an important tool to encourage Chinese travelers to consider the NWT as their destination, purchase their tourism experiences, and spend money once they got here. At a follow-up event earlier this month, Yellowknife business owners got an opportunity to learn first-hand how this third-party mobile and online payment platform can benefit and grow tourism-based businesses in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, in September Industry, Tourism and Investment, along with NWT Tourism, ushered in a partnership with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada that will leverage investment in Indigenous cultural tourism in the Northwest Territories. This is a popular and unique element of our territory's tourism offering that gives our territory an edge in the competitive global tourism marketplace.

Next week, I look forward to attending Northwest Territories Tourism's Annual Tourism Conference, an event which will bring together the Northwest Territories' local industry, international tourism and travel experts, and government support networks to exchange ideas, learn, and celebrate tourism success across the Northwest Territories. The theme for this year's event is Change, Challenge, Opportunity. It is a timely and fitting theme, given the position of our industry today.

There is no doubt that the surge of tourism that we have seen in the past five years has brought unprecedented change to our business landscape. We're sharing the Northwest Territories with more people than ever before. Tourism has brought a great deal of opportunity for businesses; from charter fishing businesses to Indigenous tourism outfitters to aurora operators. The department's Facebook pages are full of stories about Northwest Territories residents and entrepreneurs using programs and supports to advance their part in our ever-expanding tourism sector.

While new products and services mean new opportunities, we are also experiencing growing pains. Our capacity to respond to increased infrastructure demands, enforcement, and administrative challenges is being stretched.

In the North our new highway has opened a new era of tourism. Preliminary numbers indicate that the number of park permits issued in the Beaufort Delta appears to have doubled. Visits to the Western Arctic Visitors Centre in Inuvik have increased by more than half. Meanwhile, three times more people popped in to the new visitors' information centre in Tuktoyaktuk than there are residents in the community.

Mr. Speaker, we are working with the hamlet, local entrepreneurs, and funding sources like CanNor to catch up with the many needs and opportunities that are being identified daily.

Here in Yellowknife we have added staff to facilitate the winter use of our parks by commercial tourism operators. We have also invested in staff and resources to address concerns about the administration and enforcement of tourism licenses.

Across the Northwest Territories we have instituted safety planning for tourism operators as a condition of their tourism license. We're continuing our investments of more than $5 million annually into the tourism-related businesses, infrastructure, and training under our Tourism 2020 strategy to ensure all tourism operators and their businesses are positioned to grow and benefit alongside our booming industry.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the contributions that this sector can make to our overall objective of greater economic development and diversity. The numbers that we are seeing, and even the challenges that we are addressing, are evidence of the fact that our approach is working and that our investments are paying off. Industry, Tourism and Investment is committed to ensuring that the right programs and supports are in place to capitalize on the growing demand that we are seeing for our spectacular Northwest Territories. I look forward to seeing even more growth in our territory's second-largest industry in the years to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 125-18(3): Growth of Tourism in the NWT
Ministers' Statements

Page 4622

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 126-18(3): Advancing a Northwest Territories Physical Activity Strategy
Ministers' Statements

Page 4622

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to provide an update on the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs' progress on our mandate commitment to develop and implement a Northwest Territories Physical Activity Strategy. This strategy will promote community wellness and encourage individuals and families to lead healthy lifestyles through the promotion of physical activity.

Earlier this year the South Slave communities of Hay River, Fort Smith, and the K'atlodeeche First Nation hosted a very successful Arctic Winter Games. They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our communities are capable of tremendous achievements when volunteers, organizations, and companies collaborate to support important sport and recreation projects.

I mention this major accomplishment because it lays the groundwork for an important principle, that being, when individuals, communities, organizations, and governments share a common vision and work together, our successes will be stronger, our actions will be more meaningful, and our results will have more impact. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs will use this principle as the foundation of our Northwest Territories Physical Activity Strategy and a broader Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Framework.

Mr. Speaker, earlier this fall the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs retained the services of an external contractor to help develop a framework that will support sport, physical activity, and recreation in our communities.

The development process will include engagement with the organizations most directly involved in sport and recreation, as well as the public and communities. We are aiming for a plan that will ensure our investments from funds approved by the Legislative Assembly and from the Western Canada Lottery Program are invested wisely and for the greatest benefit for our residents.

Mr. Speaker, by the spring of 2019 Members of this House will be able to review and comment on:

  • A Northwest Territories Sport, Physical Activity, and Recreation Framework, including our mandate commitment, the complementary NWT Physical Activity Strategy;
  • A funding policy for the utilization of Western Canada Lottery Program resources; and
  • An evaluation framework to measure progress in future years.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to hearing from residents and stakeholders throughout the engagement process. These important policies will help us make wise use of our resources for sport, physical activities and recreation to make our communities stronger and our people healthier. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 126-18(3): Advancing a Northwest Territories Physical Activity Strategy
Ministers' Statements

Page 4623

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister's statements. Colleagues, allow me to draw your attention to people in the gallery. We have with us here today Mr. Anthony W.J. Whitford. As many of you know, Mr. Whitford has had many roles in the past; former Commissioner, former Speaker, former Minister, former Member, former Sergeant-at-Arm, honorary Clerk at the Table, and a Member of the Order of the NWT. Welcome to our Assembly. In addition to that, colleagues, we have with us Mr. Yacub Adam, member of the NWT Human Rights Commission. Welcome to our Chambers.

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

Union of Northern Workers and Government of the Northwest Territories Negotiations
Members' Statements

Page 4623

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Mr. Speaker, as we are seeing, the threat of a work stoppage looms large every day. Four thousand workers across the territory have been without a contract for more than two years, and they are frustrated. On the other side is a government that is walking a very narrow line between supporting economic growth and pinching every possible penny.

Mr. Speaker, I am not one of those who will stand up and suggest the government has lots of money and should be ever more generous with our workers. I know we have all worked too hard in the 18th Assembly, keeping a careful eye on spending, and I know for a fact that every dollar is being stretched.

On the other hand, I see the UNW membership not as opponents but as members of the same team. Any good policy idea, program, or service that gets debated in this Chamber will one day need our highly skilled team of employees to make it happen. The union membership deserves our gratitude and respect for the contribution they make to our standard of living throughout the entire NWT.

It's not my place to comment on specifics, but the membership feels as though it's been given nothing for a long time. In this room, as I have said, we know how hard the pennies are to come by. As partners with them, we can see that is a problem.

However, the alternative, job action, is a blunt weapon. It will hurt everyone; the membership, the local businesses we all shop at, the rising debt of those temporarily out of work, and the clients of the many government programs that will have to be suspended or delayed. No one benefits from a job action in this case.

So, Mr. Speaker, I will echo the words of my colleague from Kam Lake earlier this week. I urge participants from all sides of these negotiations to not give up, to keep at the bargaining, and to continue seeking compromises that can lead to a resolution. None of us will be better off if job action takes place, especially with a fragile economy. Negotiations must not fail. We must reach a compromise that allows our professional, engaged public servants to go back to work, confident that their contributions are needed, valued, and respected. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Union of Northern Workers and Government of the Northwest Territories Negotiations
Members' Statements

Page 4623

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Mould in Housing Units in Nunakput
Members' Statements

Page 4623

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, mould is a persistent problem in northern housing, and it's one that can have potentially severe impacts on health and well-being. It's also a housing problem that's often not too well understood. Sometimes it can be addressed with a bit of focused cleaning. Other times, professional remediation is required, which is usually the case across the northern part of the territory.

Mr. Speaker, mould is a fungal growth that crops up in spaces where there is excess moisture in the air. That could be places like windowsills or bathroom walls or in materials that get damp, like carpet or drywall. As mould grows, it releases spores into the air. Breathing in these spores can cause health problems, aggravating pre-existing conditions like asthma or contributing to serious respiratory infections.

Now, how does mould happen? Well, it can have many causes. Overcrowding in homes can overwhelm houses' ventilation systems, bringing on moisture buildup. Mr. Speaker, poor construction is one of the contributing factors to mould in the Northwest Territories. Poor windows and insulation, insufficient heating, wet materials, little or no ventilation, and irregular maintenance can also contribute.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, how can we fix it? A Government of Canada paper called "Meeting the Northern Housing Challenge" made a number of suggestions for housing design itself: exterior porches; open-concept living areas; large south-facing windows; minimal corners and edges which encourage heat loss; and sealed roofs. Incorporating these things into housing planning, along with individual moisture management and maintenance practice, can help keep homes mould-free.

Mr. Speaker, mould problems can be very intimidating. People may be embarrassed or may not be able to identify whether the mould is a health risk or an easily solved matter. They may also be concerned for their health and the health of their families. I would like to see more public communication and public information on this subject, Mr. Speaker. Later I will have questions at the appropriate time. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

Mould in Housing Units in Nunakput
Members' Statements

Page 4624

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Colleagues, I would like to draw your attention to the gallery again. We have with us Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian. Welcome to our Assembly. We also have the presence of the mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, Merven Gruben. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Childcare Agreement
Members' Statements

Page 4624

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the high cost and limited availability of licensed childcare in Yellowknife. For young families in Yellowknife, the cost of childcare is the second-largest household expense. Parents are paying $900 per month on average to have one child in full-time care. The other issue is availability. The Yellowknife daycare, for example, has a waiting list of 151 children. They have space for 100 children.

These are basic problems, and they exist in other NWT communities, as well. Childcare is unaffordable, even for parents with two good incomes, particularly if they have multiple children in care. Eleven NWT communities do not have licensed childcare, at all. I made universal childcare a priority during the last election. Universal childcare was included in the mandate, but it was later watered down to read "creating an action plan for a phased-in approach to making childcare more accessible and more affordable."

There are so many reasons for the GNWT to invest in universal, affordable childcare. The first is child development. Second, women could choose whether to remain in their paid jobs or stay at home with their children, making a decision not solely driven by affordability or availability. Investing in universal, affordable childcare even benefits those without small children. It creates a demand for training and additional employment in the childcare field, itself. The NWT Bureau of Statistics estimates that the economic multiplier, a type of return on investment, for childcare services as 9.86 jobs for every $1 million invested, and parents who return to the workforce as well as the additional childcare staff are paying taxes and spending.

Mr. Speaker, in its mandate tracker, the government has marked this commitment as "fulfilled." This is ridiculous. Costs have not gone down, and accessibility has not gone up. While Cabinet wrings its hands about adding to the cost of living with a carbon tax; for example, they are okay to leave the high costs of childcare where it is.

The agreement with Canada does not address these issues. The plan I found online, it has not made its way to committee yet, says most of the money will be allocated to professional development. It will apparently create 100 spaces over the next three years; peanuts, even if it was all spent in Yellowknife, and there is no word on how the agreement will make childcare more affordable. I will have questions for the Minister. Mahsi.

Childcare Agreement
Members' Statements

Page 4624

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Colleagues, I draw your attention to the visitors in the gallery, as well. We have with us here the mayor of Paulatuk, Ray Ruben. Welcome to our Assembly. Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Fort Providence Fire Department
Members' Statements

Page 4624

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, earlier this week the Department of Municipal and Community Services recognized exceptional NWT firefighters through the annual Fire Service Merit Awards.

Collectively, the Fort Providence Fire Department received a merit award in recognition of the advancements they've made in achieving organizational excellence and safety compliance. I'd like to extend a congratulations to them.

Mr. Speaker, this is no small thing. I'm very proud of what the Fort Providence Fire Department has accomplished, especially after a recent reorganization. As with many local services, communities come together to get the job done.

New Fire Chief Andy Carpenter and along with Deputy Fire Chief Cameron Sapp lead a fresh crew of volunteers, and I know that a great deal of training and planning went into their reorganization. The team had to work through several levels of training before they could qualify to officially fight fires in the community, and I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the whole community is grateful for these volunteers' service.

While we're on the subject, I also want to leave Members and listeners with a few thoughts on fire safety. With winter setting in, it's more common for residents to burn wood at home. Extra attention must be paid to proper maintenance and care, including cleaning up chimneys and wood stoves and keeping an eye on all burning fires. Remember the ABCs: always be careful. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Fort Providence Fire Department
Members' Statements

Page 4625

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.