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.

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Motion 23-18(3): Revocation of the Appointment of the Honourable Member for Hay River South, Defeated
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife South.

Motion 23-18(3): Revocation of the Appointment of the Honourable Member for Hay River South, Defeated
Motions

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Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, in December of 2015, through a territorial leadership committee, all 19 Members voted to select a Premier in Cabinet. During the mid-term review, I said that the whole of Cabinet is greater on the sum of its parts, Mr. Speaker. As a Cabinet, we challenge each other to perform to a high standard for the people of the Northwest Territories. We are able to put our political and philosophical differences aside to focus on what is best for the people, regardless of what we may believe personally.

Regular Members have a similar role, and have also worked to keep Cabinet accountable for their decisions. Accountability and democracy are inseparable. The people who elect us to exercise power on their behalf place enormous faith in each one of us. Collectively and individually, we need to earn and maintain that trust by submitting our decisions and actions to the judgment of the people we serve openly and transparently.

Every four years, the people of the Northwest Territories have the opportunity to directly convey their judgment about our actions in a territorial election. This is accountability at its most immediate and direct. There is nothing like facing an angry voter on the campaign trail to remind you who is boss and how hard we need to work to earn and maintain the trust our constituents place in us.

Accountability between elections is no less direct and no less real. As a government, we are accountable to the people in the Northwest Territories through their elected representatives in this House. Every time we are asked a question, we are being asked to account for our decisions and actions. Every time our budgets and plans for implementing them are examined and debated in committee or in this House, we are being asked to account for our decisions and actions. Every time government legislation is introduced for debate and disposition by this House, we are being asked to account for our decisions and actions.

At almost any moment on every day that this House sits, Regular Members have ample opportunity and the tools to hold Ministers to account for living up to the expectations of the Assembly and the people who elected us, including the ability to remove anyone one of us from Cabinet at any time. Accountability needs to be about more than personality, Mr. Speaker. Accountability is about keeping our promises. For the 18th Assembly, our mandate is our promise to the people of this territory.

I believe Minister Schumann has been doing a good job and should remain as Minister. Minister Schumann has worked hard to fulfill the mandate commitments his departments are responsible for, including critical commitments to bring federal investment to the Northwest Territories and grow and diversify the economy to create a strong future for our residents. He has also led planning work to transform our energy system so that we can reduce our reliance on diesel in our communities, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and address the high costs of living residents face.

Minister Schumann has also been one of the most effective advocates for the Northwest Territories and his people as a Minister. During this Assembly, he has helped deliver hundreds of millions in federal investment to our territory and secure close to $1 billion in federal funding, including over $115 million for road construction projects, like the Canyon Creek access road, Wrigley to Mount Gaudet access road, and Great Bear River Bridge, as well as funding for environmental and planning studies for the Mackenzie Valley Highway, a long-standing priority and one of our mandate commitments. He recently announced the federal investment of $23 million under the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund with Minister McKenna. This money will support energy efficiency retrofits, renewable energy, and carbon sequestration through forestry regeneration. He has also secured a $19.5 million investment in marine infrastructure improvements and almost $800,000 towards phase 2 of the transportation monitoring program to study the effects of climate change on permafrost and transportation infrastructure.

In the life of this government, he has also worked to secure a total of almost $13 billion in federal investment in economic development for the territory through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and programs like Growing Forward 2 and the strategic investments in northern economic development.

Minister Schumann, like each Member of Cabinet, has brought valuable strengths to the collective whole. He is a strong and decisive leader who makes the decisions in the best interests of this territory, based on strong principles. He takes his job seriously and works hard for our residents, Mr. Speaker, and Cabinet will be voting against this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 23-18(3): Revocation of the Appointment of the Honourable Member for Hay River South, Defeated
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. I will allow the mover to make quick closing comments on the motion.

Motion 23-18(3): Revocation of the Appointment of the Honourable Member for Hay River South, Defeated
Motions

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to all of the honourable Members of this House for weighing in with their thoughts on this and on what is by its very nature a divisive issue but a conversation that we must have from time to time.

I wanted to address some of the thoughts and comments that were made here and one that members of the public have also been talking about keep coming back to. It's this notion that now is not the right time for a Minister to be removed from the privilege of serving on the Executive Council because there is only one year left. Well, Mr. Speaker, the mid-term review people said, "We can't do it now. There's only two years left." When do we remove Ministers in a consensus government, after six months? What is the window? Because that is not in our protocols.

When there is a significant issue and a significant crisis of confidence in a Minister's performance, that's when the motion comes forward. Every Minister on that side has just spoken or, sorry, the Premier has spoken about the hard-working nature of his Cabinet. I can certainly stand up and speak to the hard-working nature of my colleagues over here. There are many files and pieces of legislation that we work on, that we tend to know more of the intricate details than the Minister sponsoring the bill or the Minister bringing forth the proposal because that is our job, to scrutinize and to hold to account. Anyone, anyone who is elected by their constituents, by voters, is capable of taking a seat on the other side of the House, so I reject the notion that there is a time-bound requirement and that elections are the only proper time to allow for a Minister's performance to be judged.

It's part of our system of government. It's part of responsible government, which is a founding principle of consensus, and it dismays me that the issue at play here, which is a clear, factual performance issue that the Members have talked to, and, more importantly, how it was handled. Still, I half expected an apology today or at least a recognition of contrition around how this has been handled, and still nothing. We have a guarantee that things are on track. Millions and billions of dollars the federal government has put in their budget are flowing into the Northwest Territories.

These are real issues that still remain unaddressed, and I hope that this motion is a wake-up call as my honourable friend from Hay River North said, that this is a wake-up call, that eventually this will hit the floor, and, even if these motions do not pass, they are taking time away from the rest of the business of the House because they need to be heard. They need to be brought forward so our constituents can have their concerns raised around accountability, and Ministers who continue to refuse to answer questions, to dismiss the concerns that are brought up time and time again as we sit in this House year after year, that this will be the inevitable consequence. Even if that motion does not fail, it must be heard. Accountability is demanded of us in our roles, and I still stand in support of this. Mr. Speaker, again I request a recorded vote so the record will show who else stands in support of this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 23-18(3): Revocation of the Appointment of the Honourable Member for Hay River South, Defeated
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Member has requested a recorded vote. All those in support of the motion, please stand.

Recorded Vote
Motions

October 31st, 2018

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

The Member for Kam Lake, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, the Member for Nahendeh, the Member for Frame Lake, the Member for Deh Cho, the Member for Hay River North.

Recorded Vote
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

All those opposed, please stand.

Recorded Vote
Motions

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

The Member for Yellowknife Centre, the Member for Nunakput, the Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, the Member for Range Lake, the Member for Great Slave, the Member for Yellowknife South, the Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, the Member for Hay River South, the Member for Thebacha, the Member for Mackenzie Delta, the Member for Sahtu, the Member for Yellowknife North.

Recorded Vote
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. All those abstaining, please stand. The results of the recorded vote: 6 in favour, 12 opposed, zero abstentions. The motion is defeated.

---Defeated

Motions. Member for Nahendeh.

Motion 24-18(3): Revocation of Appointment of the Honourable Member for Great Slave to the Executive Council, Defeated
Motions

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

WHEREAS pursuant to Section 61.(1) of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, the Legislative Assembly recommends to the Commissioner the appointment of Members of the Executive Council;

AND WHEREAS pursuant to Section 61 .(2) of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, the persons appointed hold office during the pleasure of the Legislative Assembly;

AND WHEREAS the Assembly, pursuant to these powers, has chosen the honourable Member for Great Slave to sit as a Member of the Executive Council;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife North, that this Assembly formally revokes the pleasure of the Assembly from the appointment of the honourable Member for Great Slave as a Member of the Executive Council;

AND FURTHER, that this Assembly recommends that a Member be chosen to be a Member of the Executive Council. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 24-18(3): Revocation of Appointment of the Honourable Member for Great Slave to the Executive Council, Defeated
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Nahendeh.

Motion 24-18(3): Revocation of Appointment of the Honourable Member for Great Slave to the Executive Council, Defeated
Motions

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is a serious matter before us today, and I do not approach it lightly. Since we became colleagues in the 18th Assembly, the Member for Great Slave has been responsive and supportive to me as an MLA. I have been able to work with him on concerns for my constituents at all hours of the day, and I greatly appreciate that as well as the good work that he has done for his own constituents. By its very nature, the Standing Committee on Social Development, which I chair, works very closely with the Member in his roles as the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last year, we even travelled together, exploring ways to improve addiction treatment in the NWT.

However, this is not about a personal relationship with the Member. The recent report from the office of the Auditor General, or the OAG, has revealed terrible truths about the treatment of children and young people who are under the care of the government. Even more troubling, these problems are not new. Where the Department of Health and Social Services should have been making strides since the OAG 2014 report, performance has instead largely worsened. It is clear that the status quo is not working.

Standing up to move this motion today is difficult, Mr. Speaker. It's not personal, but it's not something I enjoy, but something from the report really stuck with me. OAG wrote that, when Child and Family Services intervenes on a child's behalf, especially when a child is taken into care, the department "becomes in essence the parent." Think about that for a minute. This is an awesome responsibility. We need to do it justice.

This motion is not about what we are hearing from our residents. It's about the needs of our most vulnerable people, and it is about what's good for the territories. It's about accountability for this government's legal responsibilities. Mr. Speaker, the OAG findings were devastating. Being respectful of time, I will let just a handful speak for themselves.

A young person went missing; staff could not figure out who was responsible for finding them.

In 95 percent of the files reviewed, the children are Indigenous, meaning Indigenous children are disproportionately affected by performance failures.

Children were placed under permanent guardianship agreements without screening. One of these children was later assaulted and has been moved to another home, and again without screening. These findings are so serious that the auditors interrupted their work to notify the department.

A new tool was introduced to guide decision making on children in care, but the experts who designed it disagreed with one in every two decisions NWT staff made. Staff turnover and chronic understaffing have disrupted long-term planning and contribute to burnout, and the employees are doing their best.

An assistant director was appointed to improve accountability after the 2014 audit; they weren't trained, weren't adequately supervised, and in some cases, didn't even have access to the Child and Family Services information system.

In considering the motion before us today, what we have to confront is that the problem putting NWT children in care, at least at risk, are problems within the department itself. We know from the OAG reports that the department committed to make critical changes to Children and Family Services, and that these changes were not made. I have also heard from residents and from fellow Members that, despite major changes to the Child and Family Services Act, the legislation isn't what we need it to be, and it needs more work to properly suit northern communities.

All this says to me is that the chain of accountability is broken. Regular Members have repeatedly showed that they are interested in this work. The Standing Committee on Social Development has pursued performance issues in Child and Family Services for the past two years. Why weren't we made aware of the seriousness of these issues until the OAG issued its report?

Back in 2017 when the committee pushed for more information about internal auditing, we found that the department struggled with a broken audit tool. We were told that the data was unusable. New action plans and new systems followed, but we didn't see meaningful change. An annual report for Child and Family Services provided limited information.

Now, the most recent report calls for "further analysis to determine the issues that are leading to the lack of compliance." With respect, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada has already done that analysis. The time for analysis has long passed. What we need now is leadership, action, and the immediate dedication and resources; not further studies, and not more action plans. In fact, less talk, more action is exactly what committee recommended 21 months ago, and yet here we are today.

Another area of Health and Social Services' portfolio also comes into play. For example, the OAG reports that 80 percent of the reviewed files pointed to drugs and alcohol issues as the risk factor; and that domestic violence put children at risk in 50 percent of the files reviewed. This tells me that, to help NWT children in care, we need targeted support to deal with addictions and to reduce violence against women and children. Most of these files are that. Most of these files also fall under the Minister's stewardship.

This is my challenge. This is a source of Regular Members and residents' frustration. We are just not seeing meaningful progress on these incredible important files. I know that several of my colleagues have planned to speak on this motion, so I will wrap up my remarks by acknowledging that this is a complex and difficult file and a heavy responsibility for a Member to carry, but, Mr. Speaker, that simply highlights how serious this action is needed. That's what I want this motion to convey. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 24-18(3): Revocation of Appointment of the Honourable Member for Great Slave to the Executive Council, Defeated
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife North.

Motion 24-18(3): Revocation of Appointment of the Honourable Member for Great Slave to the Executive Council, Defeated
Motions

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Mr. Speaker, clearly, this is not a happy day nor a happy debate for anyone here. When you become an MLA, you never envision calling any of your fellow Members' conduct into question, much less your friend's conduct.

Yes, the Minister in question, I consider a friend, and I know he is a friend to all of us in this House. However, I believe that this is a very important motion, and we must engage in this debate with courage and conviction. Like others, I was deeply concerned to hear the Auditor General's report on Child and Family Services last week. I have heard from a number of constituents who are equally concerned. Some are very angry, Mr. Speaker. Sadly, the children and families who find themselves in the care of the Department of Health and Social Services are often the most defenseless and exposed people in our society.

Out of all of our citizens, it is these people who require and deserve the best service, care, and protection that our system can offer. Yet, the opposite has happened. The most vulnerable of us have fallen through the cracks, and the cracks themselves have grown wider and deeper. It's absolutely unacceptable for this to have happened, Mr. Speaker, and since it has, we have to now insist on the highest level of accountability from the Minister and his department, and that leads us to today's motion and debate.

I've said many times, Mr. Speaker, that I support building critical infrastructure for our territory. I will support measures to bolster our economy, create wealth, and allow our communities to grow, but I will not ever, Mr. Speaker, invest in bricks and mortar over investment in our people. Now, it's clear that our people have fallen by the wayside.

Many people have been referring to the 2014 Audit of Child and Family Services which found many of the same problems that still exist, but I'd like to go back further, Mr. Speaker. The responsibility for heath was devolved to the GNWT from 1982 to 1988. Like many things that came to us from the federal government, the devolved healthcare system was a product of old colonial times. The act has been amended more than a dozen times since, but those changes, obviously, haven't brought our system into the 21st century.

Today's debate convinces me of that. Surely, the laws on our books should reflect the Indigenous character of our population and reflect the conclusions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but that has never happened. Instead, most of what we've heard from the Minister, for years, has been about the new Regional Wellness Board, the super board with its super powers that's going to fix all the problems, Mr. Speaker, but org charts and job descriptions don't mean much to kids in trouble. So we fail to overhaul antiquated laws, to recognize our Indigenous state. We have failed to take seriously the need to move toward reconciliation and self-determination. The fact is, this government's laws don't recognize the social and cultural reality of our citizens. What was needed was less time with org charts, and more time with real children and real families.

Mr. Speaker, for additional context on where I am coming from, when the community of Deline was negotiating its self-government agreement, the GNWT wanted to devolve our existing childcare system to the community. Here's our system. Do it this way, and over time, we will grant you full authority to manage it on your own. Essentially, Deline said, "No way. We don't care for our children that way. We won't swoop in and pluck a child away from here. We look after our children as a community." Surely, that should have been a lesson for this government.

After the grim results of the Child and Family Services audit in 2014, we were told by this Minister that heads were going to roll, that the highest level of accountability would be executed, but obviously no heads have rolled and no accountability was taken because four years later, circumstances have not changed. Actually, I stand corrected, Mr. Speaker. They have changed for the worse.

Now, in 2018, the Auditor General says that all the responsibility for making changes was offloaded onto social workers without resources to solve the problem. There were no new social workers, no funding for more social workers, and no new training to implement new processes. Mr. Speaker, that's a complete and utter failure. Instead, the top priority of our Ministers when they started this term was to cut $150 million in spending. No matter what it takes, we must get our fiscal house in order, was the repeated message to the public. No wonder we have lost sight of human needs out there, Mr. Speaker.

If our government machine is so big and expansive, if our laws are out of date, if we're focused on cutting spending while people and families are suffering, then it's time for a fundamental shift. Accountability has been the catch phrase of the whole 18th Assembly, yet it seems there is little interest in it. Maybe it's not surprising that, three years later, things haven't gotten better. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I hope the Minister responsible for accountability and transparency will actually analyze this situation as a case study and help the government learn lessons from this unacceptable failure.

Now, we're speaking to a motion to revoke a Minister's appointment because he has lost the confidence of the Members of the House. Just introducing such a motion is a serious step and one that Members on this side of the House do not take lightly. Like many things we do in this Chamber, removing the Minister probably won't have much direct impact on vulnerable children and families who need our help.

Mr. Speaker, it saddens me to say, but as we speak, children are at serious risk.

This motion to remove the Minister is about accountability. The Minister has accepted the Auditor General's report, but in my view, not the responsibility that goes with it. Without taking responsibility, there's no accountability, and there is too little will to really the help the children in this government's care.

Again, it is a sad state of affairs. Mr. Speaker, Regular Members have resorted to a revocation motion today because all other efforts have failed to bring about desperately needed change. We have tried working with the Minister to make sure the Auditor General's past recommendations were followed. Standing committee have had meetings after meetings on strategies, and frameworks, and business plans, and Members have raised these issues time and time again.

We are taking this action today because we will not accept putting children's lives at risk due to the negligence of this government. The Minister needs to hear this message loud and clear, and so does the public.

Perhaps the voices of the people added to our Regular Members will light the fire of change to protect children in our government's care. Whether or not our vote allows the Minister to keep his job, he must take full responsibility for his department's wrongdoing and inaction, not to us in this House or to his colleagues in Cabinet; he must make a public apology to the children, families, and foster families who are struggling through a broken system, and not allow it to break down even further under his watch. He must also make the department accountable, not in the government boardrooms, but in the classrooms, kitchens, and living rooms, where people actually live their lives.

As the recent audit makes clear, the children, the most innocent, vulnerable, and precious among us, will remain at risk until the promised changes are made. That must be the Minister's next job, or the next Minister's job. He or she must not rest until it's done.

Mr. Speaker, my comments and position today are on behalf of those whose voices have not been heard. I will be voting in support of the motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 24-18(3): Revocation of Appointment of the Honourable Member for Great Slave to the Executive Council, Defeated
Motions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion, Member for Sahtu.