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

Page 4640

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, clearly, it's not pleasant to be here speaking on this revocation motion today. It's clear that my colleagues have serious concerns about the performance of the Minister in question. It's a serious matter to bring a motion like this to the floor of the Assembly, but it's one of the few ways that Members on this side can call the public's attention to how serious the issue is and the question that it raises about the Minister's performance and the accountability of his respective departments.

However, while I experienced the concerns my colleagues shared today, I have to say that I still have the confidence in this Minister. Over the past three years, I have had many occasions to work with this Minister. The Minister has been forthcoming and collaborative in working with me. As the MLA for Yellowknife North, I have frequently raised questions of general concern and public safety on the Ingraham Trail and the Niven to downtown stretch of Highway No. 4. The Minister in both his capacities as Minister of ITI and of Infrastructure has addressed my concerns and provided answers to my constituents, and always in an efficient and effective manner.

Although I am very respectful of my Regular Member colleagues' positions, and their valid reasons for this motion, the Minister has not lost my confidence, and, therefore, I will be voting in opposition to the 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, Member for Sahtu.

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

Page 4640

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, feel saddened that we have come to this situation on siding one of our 19 Members in this House. This institution is led by the elected officials to best serve the residents of the Northwest Territories. In this part of Canada, we truly have many challenges, challenges faced by addictions, remoteness, isolation. Those are fundamental principles that are really facing the communities' endeavours to progress.

I had the opportunity in one of my positions in the 1970s to work for NTCL, a Crown corporation, later becoming a private corporation, and now a public corporation. Since then, I've experienced harsh conditions in the Arctic coastal communities having not been there, but knowing people who did, and explaining those harsh conditions which create barriers in front of the ships.

However, we are back to the issues at hand before us today, led by issues that are in question. As I reflect as a first-time MLA into this institution, operating underneath a consensus government style, I've learned to respect each and every individual in this House for the simple fact that they do work hard. I've seen it; I've witnessed it. My predecessor, I have often wondered, what did they do outside of the televised sessions. I've seen that first-hand through participation. The determination of other 19 MLA in this diversified, culturally-traditional environment should be respected, and I do respect the other 18 Members on the fundamental issue that you have chosen to represent people that really matter in your respective area. Again, as a first-time MLA, I've seen how Cabinet operates, family members themselves, limitations to the access of their families because duty calls first, and they serve those duties respectfully. Those duties can be seen by the images and the presentations they deliver when talking about the progression of our government, in Ottawa, more specifically.

More specifically, again, to the Indigenous partnerships that we are trying to engage in developing and build on the strengths of trust.

Through consultation with the people that I represent and what I've seen, we in the Sahtu will stand behind this Minister. Thank you very much.

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

Page 4641

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

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

October 31st, 2018

Page 4641

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, to this motion, I cannot support it after also speaking with my leadership in my riding. They feel that it's better to work with the Minister in any portfolio. You know, to get what we need in our ridings, we always have to work with one another, whoever the Ministers are, and at this point in this Assembly, we don't feel it's right to replace the Ministers. Say, if we were to replace one of the Ministers today, it would take anybody at least six months to nine months to get familiar with that portfolio. We're less than a year away from our next election, and we'd really waste a lot of time, especially in the portfolio the Member for Hay River South is facing that has many portfolios.

Sure, we don't always get the answers that we want on this side, and the other thing is, just because we're the majority on any side, we can't be controlling what Cabinet is doing all the time. In my riding, we don't always get what we want to get in our budgets, but we try our best to work with the Ministers.

I know that sometimes when we ask questions we always joke around with one another. Yes, sometimes it does upset us when the Ministers laugh, but we always do the same, especially after you keep bringing up different things through statements. How many times have I brought up Willow River? The Minister knows that file very well, and, sure, he might get a chuckle in there every once in a while when I bring it up.

To be serious, it does upset us once in a while when Ministers do that, but we all have to work together here, and I don't think it's right, just because we're a majority, to take out one of these Ministers with less than a year to go.

Mr. Speaker, in the early part of July, I had a feeling we were going to be in this situation because I live in Tsiigehtchic on the Mackenzie River and I saw buoys floating by the communities. So, of course, I was wondering to myself: how long will it take to get these buoys back in place? With updates from the Minister, it took 10 days to two weeks to get these buoys back in place. So of course that's going to have some effect on the barging system.

The other thing was: we had an extremely cool summer up in the Beaufort Delta. Of course, that is going to have an impact on the weather, you know, with ice conditions. The other thing is: I know it cost so far a little over $3 million, but it could have been worse. You know, if we didn't fulfill those other contracts -- just today, we had a briefing with the Minister. It could have been worse. It could have been in the $20 to $30 million range.

You know, I am not defending the department, but I am sure in the communities, like, I haven't spoken to any of my friends in those communities. I am sure this also created some employment. I mean, we haven't looked at that fact yet. You know, as we move forward, Mr. Speaker, I am sure we will get that information. For today, I cannot support this motion. Thank you.

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

Page 4641

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Frame Lake.

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

Page 4641

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I have tried very carefully to choose my words here today. I take the issue of removal of a Cabinet Minister very seriously.

There is nothing personal in how I have arrived at my decision on the two Ministers up for review. This is about getting results for NWT residents and whether we have the right team in place for doing this for the remainder of our term. I personally like the Minister under discussion. I believe he brings valuable experience to this Assembly and has made a valuable contribution. However, I must assess his progress objectively on mandate items and handling of several important files.

I supported the purchase of the NTCL assets and the formation of Marine Transportation Services. This was a necessary step to ensure that we can continue to resupply our communities for a reasonable cost. I have no problem with MTS competing for private shipping contracts to ensure an efficient use of our assets. That should drive down shipping costs for our communities. What I do have issues with is the lack of involvement of Regular MLAs in developing a long-term approach to MTS and accountability and transparency around MTS. I disagreed with the way the MTS revolving fund was fast-tracked, and decisions that any surpluses not be used for environmental remediation.

At the same time, I also have concerns about the way Cabinet continues to use appropriations for expenditures that should be rightfully assigned to the revolving fund and how large capital items are amortized over very long periods of time. Reporting to the public and MLAs definitely needs to be improved, and the recent shipping failure to coastal communities is a prime example of poor communications. I heard about problems through the media. I asked the Minister for clarification and had to wait days for a response. I don't think we are out of the woods yet, especially with very significant airlift costs yet to be assigned to at least two revolving funds without an overall plan for now and into the future.

I have worked very hard to convince the Minister that we need real economic diversification for the NWT that includes much greater investment in tourism. The Northern Frontier Visitors' Centre was in my riding. If the funds now being spent on that building had been invested even 18 months ago, I am convinced we would still have a functioning centre here in Yellowknife. I just don't understand why we spend more on a visitors' centre in Dawson, Yukon, than we do in our capital city.

I have openly criticized the overwhelming focus of the Minister on large infrastructure projects, roads to resources, and the lack of social infrastructure investments and submissions to the federal government, particularly in the areas of housing, tourism, culture, and building the knowledge and conservation economies. Roads scaled to our capacity to retain benefits and in areas with fewer serious impacts can provide economic development opportunities. However, the relentless pursuit of large projects such as the Slave Geological Province Road and Taltson expansion have not received adequate analysis and have precluded any serious efforts at diversification.

I am deeply disturbed by the so-called Resources and Energy Development Information, REDI, initiative that is more about promotion of resource development than about providing balanced information and tools to enable citizen participation in resource development decisions. It also includes the use of educational materials in our schools that are about promotion of mining rather than giving our students balanced information and skills to make informed decisions.

The Minister has also refused to carry out any kind of review of onshore hydraulic fracturing, even though it is part of our mandate and while our government has agreed to a science-based, life-cycle impact assessment review of offshore development.

The most serious issue with the leadership of the Minister, in my view, is the failure to undertake any review of the resource revenues that we now can control following devolution. Such a review was promised when I asked questions early on during the life of this Assembly and was even within the scope of the issues to be addressed in the Mineral Resources Act.

While billions of dollars of resources are extracted here each year, revenues to our government have been described by an international expert as paltry and our management as "one of the world's most charitable fiscal regimes for the mining sector." We need to start acting in the public interest and ensure there is a fair return for this one-time natural capital. I have recommended an independent review to the Minister on numerous occasions, but he has refused to do this during the life of this Assembly. I believe that refusing to even look at the idea in the face of learned evidence challenging the adequacy of our revenue regime is an instance of stubborn refusal on the part of this Minister, for which I hold him accountable.

If we are going to have a Minister who is responsible for both promoting and regulating resource development, we need that Minister to take a balanced approach where the public interest is put before the interests of the private sector. I want mining, too, as much as anybody else, but we must do a much better job at retaining the benefits and doing it in a sustainable way. We have failed to evolve after the devolve and truly demonstrate we can responsibly manage our resources.

Mr. Speaker, for all these reasons, I cannot support the Minister continuing in his current role. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

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

Page 4642

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

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

Page 4642

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, with the information that I now have, I am satisfied the Minister has managed an effective solution to the stranded cargo for the High Arctic, which will not increase the expense to customers. Further, he has taken steps to be better prepared in the future by stockpiling fuel in the Arctic communities. Therefore, I will be voting against this motion.

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

Page 4642

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

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

Page 4642

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in favour of this motion. I believe that there have been mistakes made in the delivery of goods to the High Arctic communities. Initially, when NTCL was purchased by this government, I was surprised. I believe it happened around Christmas a couple years ago. I was surprised that NTCL was purchased and then, further on, surprised that MTS was created out of NTCL.

At that point, I thought, well, I guess it would be a positive thing since NTCL may not be able to continue operations, but I also felt that, with our growing debt, I thought it would difficult for our government to buy all these things, considering that we often hear on small initiatives that we need, in our small communities, for employment.

Little initiatives like small roads, access roads, and things like that, docks, these are little items that we had requested in the communities. Often, I am not able to get it through the budgetary process. I think a Member has indicated that we ask for things and that our small items are often refused, while it was easy for the Cabinet to purchase NTCL and put it into operation.

I also know that some of the equipment that was purchased from NTCL was likely grandfathered and not something that we would be able to bring in new into the system at that point. We bought a lot of equipment like that that would probably not be usable the next time the regulations are upgraded or even maybe beyond use now. For that reason, I know that the federal government is supporting our government to buy new barges.

I thought that the shipment of the items into the High Arctic communities, I felt that was a mistake because I thought that then it happened so many times. This happened so many times by a company that was in the business of doing it and knew how to do it. They were successful in delivering the items into the communities.

We, on the other hand, had only the second opportunity this year, this summer, to be able to deliver the materials. At this point, we have essentially a 50 percent failure rate on delivering things to the High Arctic communities. Even that is, you know, there are a lot of factors involved in that. The solution, and what kind of got to me, I know that flying everything in would be expensive, but as another Member said, maybe there's a way. There are some costs offset and it may not be as expensive as possible.

The refusal for this Minister to actually listen to solutions was what kind of made me wonder if he was serious about trying to solve the issue or was just insisting on defending himself, or saying, "No, it's not my fault, so there's no reason for me to come up with a solution." You know, I had the question and I asked the Minister: how about a regional operation out of Inuvik as an example? An example, I thought that just pretty well all of the Mackenzie Valley communities could be serviced by winter road right up to Fort Good Hope. Then when you get to Tsiigehtchic, an all-season road and all-season road to Inuvik, all-season road to Tuktoyaktuk. The only other community on this side of the Northwest Territories that needed to have barge service is Lutselk'e. Lutselk'e, I believe, gets one, maybe two barges, but mostly one barge per year handles that community. I thought a small scaled-down operation in Hay River and then a smaller operation out of Inuvik to address the Arctic communities who had no other options. Lutselk'e and the Arctic communities that didn't get their items this year on a barge have no option except the barge.

The government spends a lot of money building winter roads. All of the Sahtu, all of the Tlicho communities are all winter road communities, and they don't barge in there, but they manage without a barge. I thought that a nice solution might be to set something up in Inuvik and then out of Inuvik to be able to barge out of there and have a small regional operation there. One in Hay River seemed like a good solution for me. I felt that it would also be a lower cost to the Marine Transportation Services. I guess there was the private business that that company was after, or the department was after that, you know, wanted to continue to barge out of Hay River all the way into the Inuvik communities.

I felt that the Minister could have listened and at least maybe given us a response to say, "Yes, I will look into it." That would have been essentially all that would have satisfied me, the idea of looking into it, the idea of having a small scaled-down operation in two locations and still run by the government and not compete against a private business of other people, needed items and private items. See, the items they could get a private shipper to bring the stuff to them.

Our reason for backing MTS was to provide a service to our citizens, citizens in the Northwest Territories at the best economic possibility, but the Minister indicated to me in the House here that wouldn't happen as long as he was still Minister.

For that reason, we are here today because we felt like we needed to find some sort of solution to the issues that were created. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

Page 4643

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Nunakput.

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

Page 4643

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, a lot of this has stemmed from the issues in, you know, the delivery to Paulatuk, Ulukhaktok got some of their goods. Paulatuk didn't receive a lot. A lot of my pressures on my colleagues and mainly to the Minister is coming from my constituents. I have had some difficulties working with the Minister on some of the issues. I'm sure one of the reasons might be they didn't have answers at the time. However, I believe that, you know, in this Assembly, we are all equals. What separates one side of the floor to the other is our roles as Regular Members and as well as our roles as Ministers and Premier.

Mr. Speaker, I believe, you know, when issues come like this, the Premier himself should, as well, too, look at his Cabinet and say, "Well, how can we make this better?" How do we make a system like this better where we have this many Ministers on this side and we have, there are a lot of portfolios that are actually very, very humungous in departments within the GNWT, and some that may need to be restructured so that they can be managed more effectively for the residents of the territory? At the end of the day, sometimes money loss or goods not delivered has social impacts on the people who depend on it; on, you know, receiving their snowmobiles, their vehicles, their quads, their boats, and all the things like that that give them the opportunity to go out and harvest. As well, maybe even take on contracts within the GNWT or the programs that are around the Northwest Territories.

I would like for the Premier to take a hard look at that. Mr. Speaker, I believe looking at that and restructuring the, you know, the current structure that it is right now. What seems to be failing is why we are right here right now.

Mr. Speaker, I won't take up too much time of everyone's here. This afternoon, right after the briefing, the leadership from my region actually came into my office and they said, "This is how you are going to vote and this is what you need to do to work with the Minister and Cabinet and the Regular MLAs." You know, I vote on behalf of my constituents who I represent, and I believe that's fair business.

Mr. Speaker, I didn't bring too many notes, but I believe that, you know, the current Minister and the other Minister who is in question today, I believe that we need to really work together to get things done. A lot of the times, we are the ones doing a lot of the groundwork with our constituents, you know, with the regions. The Minister, I think they need to be more open. I think that's where the Premier can give us better access to his Ministers, so that we are more effective in the work that we do. It takes teamwork to work together. It doesn't take one or two people. It doesn't take the Premier or it doesn't take the MTS Minister to get something done. It actually takes teamwork to plan. Sometimes, they have the expertise within their departments. We have the expertise on the ground. That's where we can actually work together and collaborate, and actually, you know, maybe even cooperate together. Sometimes, this is one of the reasons why we are here is a lack of cooperation on both sides and lack of accessibility to the Minister, and sometimes the Premier. I think we need to really structure this government, you know, going into the next year.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that I can make a good MTS Minister out of the MLA from Hay River South by working together and ensuring that we don't lose this last year and actually plan to ensure that we are strategic in accessing and looking at funds, federal funds. You know, we talk about sovereignty in the North. We talk about ports. We know that we are a long ways away from a deep sea port. That doesn't mean that we can't start now.

What we need to do is be forward thinking. Right now, we are looking back. Okay. How do we fix this? Let's use that, bring it forward and ensure that the Minister has everything that he has to work with to make a better plan.

I know there were multiple errors on this operation that brought us to where we are today. I think that's what we need to focus on and pinpoint those and really, really focus on how we can improve those and make them stronger, you know. Rather than firing, I think we can make a really good person out of them and really good team player and even a leader of a department. You know, we could actually really do that. I believe that we have that here in us today and looking forward.

We have a year left in this Assembly. I believe that, you know, after having a chat with the leadership from Nunakput, they were like, "Well, what are we going to lose? What's lost?" They are the ones who have a lot of knowledge on the ground, too. They have projects that are ongoing with the government as well as with the federal government, and as well outside of the country. I think we need to really, really sit back and look at this day and say, "Well, you know what? Let's make this better for everybody else."

I looked at this motion this morning. I was like, "You know what? Hey, I'm going to go for this," but now I'm like, "Well, after listening to my constituents, I believe that, you know what? What my job will be for the next, you know, the next two quarters is to ensure that the Minister is accountable and ensure that the Minister is working with the people from Nunakput to make a better plan for MTS. Not just for MTS, but being strategic about how we supply the northern part of the territory."

Mr. Speaker, Canada is so vast and wide. The Northwest Territories are vast as well, too; north and south. There is a system here on Great Slave Lake which is good, which is in the Minister's riding. There is also the Mackenzie River, which supplies the northern part of the territory.

Mr. Speaker, what if there is a drought one year and they cannot get the barges from Hay River down the Mackenzie River to the port in Inuvik or to the port in Tuktoyaktuk? We can have them as a logistical point. I believe I'm about logistics. I think we need to look at all of those hard and look at this mistake, which costs right now maybe $3.4 million, but what we know, it might up to five by the time you pay all of the subcontractors. I believe that the Minister has it in him to come to us and start to work with us. He serves our people all the time.

Mr. Speaker, he spends a lot of time with the leadership in our region as well, too. I believe that what we need to look at is the GNWT or Cabinet working more closely with Indigenous governments as well, too. There are oil and gas possibilities in my region. You know what, I have heard that some of those talks went awry, but also we need to look at the cost of living in the territory and really focusing on that. Not so much on the bottom line of the Government of the Northwest Territories, but the social impacts that it has for our residents.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to support this motion, just because I believe that I can work with the Minister. The Minister, I hope, is more and more willing to spend time with Regular Members, especially when he travels to Ottawa.

Sometimes, there are projects in some parts of the territory that are in Regular MLAs' regions. I think that the Ministers need to look at that and work together more closely, as well as with our mayors, as well as our Indigenous leaders. We really need to restructure how we work together, because right now, two week ago, I was upset. I was saying that, you know, Cabinet has become living in a cocoon. They are not really working outside of anything, but now we are sitting here. I believe this is our time to open them up and start to work together more and more closely. We all have our faults. We all have our strengths, but that doesn't mean that we don't work together. We are someone strong. We help where there is a weakness. I think that is how we need to kind of look forward together.

Mr. Speaker, even yourself as a Speaker of the House, you see that. You have been here a long time. I believe that we have a chance to work together. I am not demanding, but I am requesting that the Minister work more closely with Regular MLAs, so that we can be more effective for the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Page 4645

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Hay River South.

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

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Wally Schumann Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion of revocation today.

The first thing I want to get out there on the record is, you know, we have a democracy system here, and I believe it. The question I was asked by a number of people is: why? I said there is a process in place that allows Members of this Legislative Assembly to bring a motion like this forward to have this discussion. That is what we have done today.

Every Member has spoken on this issue across the floor. They have all voiced their opinion. They have all mentioned who they are going to vote for. This motion of revocation has brought up a bunch of issues today on the floor of the House; not just about what is happening at MTS.

MTS, I could stand here and defend it all day long as I have had in the House and where I have in the press. I encourage everybody in this Assembly today to go to the public briefing that will be posted by the Legislative Assembly. It clearly lays out everything that has everything and everything we plan on doing, so I am not going to get into that debate.

On the other side of it, the Members have also brought other issues forward of concern with not just myself, but with this Assembly and this Cabinet going forward. That is what this Assembly is for. It is here for the people of the Northwest Territories to have those public debates back and forth to come to some kind of consensus. Consensus doesn't mean everyone has to agree on it, to where we are going to take this government and our policies and legislations, and that is what we are doing.

Not everyone is going to be happy. To be in this business, you have to have thick skin, and I mean thick skin. Even to stand here today to defend myself, you have to be able to handle that.

I believe this Assembly is working hard for the people of the Northwest Territories. One of the greatest things that I think that has happened in this Assembly is the Premier clearly laid out that we had to go out and visit as many people as we can. I can stand here with true honesty and say I have been to all 33 communities in this Northwest Territories.

We have had an open and public process. We have had open public appearances by Cabinet with residents of the Northwest Territories in many communities. We get feedback on a regular basis. We have just had an economic summit with all the leaders of the Northwest Territories. We are continually reaching out. Collaboration is what this government is built on. We will continue to do that, but like I said, you have to have thick skin.

This is consensus. Not everyone in this room has to agree on a decision. I stand behind the decisions that I have made. Maybe they don't make everyone happy in this House, but I believe I get all the accurate information and make a decision based on what is presented in front of me. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.