This is page numbers 3161 - 3198 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was going.


Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon to the people from ECE. The Education Culture and Employment budget contains some promising initiatives. I am happy to see the additional investment in northern distance learning. The results from this initiative have certainly improved the completion rates for the courses, which I know is the purpose of this initiative.

I'm also pleased to see that there is now going to be additional money available for inclusive schooling for junior kindergarten students. The budget is somewhat ambiguous about whether this is one‑time‑only funding based on a lack of enrollment or whether this is funding that will be included in the base going forward. One of the things that comes out of the junior kindergarten experience is the need to revisit some of the formulas for funding things such as inclusive schooling, Aboriginal programming, and busing, all of which are being stretched to include an additional grade. So I'm looking forward to a conversation with the Minister at some point about the revision of the formulas to provide funding in these areas.

An area in which I have some concerns involves the Child and Youth Care Counsellor's Program. On the face of it, this looks like a great initiative to provide additional mental health support to youth and children in the communities. I am a little concerned about the roll‑out of this program; first of all, that the roll‑out is very lengthy, and secondly, that there be an assurance from the Minister that the money that is currently allocated to counselling positions remain in place until this new initiative is fully implemented. I understand that there will be an MOU created between the superintendents and the various boards and district education authorities and the Department of Health and ECE to guide the implementation of this program, and I look forward to hearing about the progress on that.

One of the things that counsellors do now that they may not be doing in the future because of the re‑direction of this program is provide advice to youth who are getting ready to apply for post‑secondary education opportunities. I know that there is a plan to create career and education advisors, but it doesn't seem as if that program is in sync with the child and youth care counsellors, in that the new education advisors won't be necessarily placed in the places where the career counsellors are being placed. In my mind, that program is not synchronized, and so I'd like to confirm that has been taken into account, when we get into the more detailed consideration.

Further, it's my understanding that the shared services study is now complete and that it has been reviewed by school boards and district educational authorities, and I'm looking forward to the Minister making this information available to us in advance of the next budget cycle, so that we can have a look at how shared services might impact the delivery of the administrative functions of the school boards.

I want to talk a little bit about childcare funding. The federal government, in its last budget, announced that there would be funding for affordable childcare, to make childcare more affordable and more available. We've talked a lot about affordability. I know the Minister is very focused on availability, but in any case it seems to me that it's time to have an update on the implementation plan for that money and how those two different issues are going to be resolved. I also want to caution the Minister that childcare is not education, and vice versa. So the fact that JK is in place now does not address childcare needs in the NWT; they address education needs. Childcare needs are something separate.

Mr. Chair, I am aware that the Aurora College Foundational Review is ongoing and due to wrap up at the end of March and is on schedule, according to the Minister's statement of last week. Recently, I also participated in a review of the Social Work Program. I appreciate the opportunity to do that, but I remain concerned that there is not money in this operating budget to resume that program in the next fiscal year. My concern is that, if the program doesn't take students in September, it will no longer exist, because it's a two‑year program and it won't have any new students in it. As a result, the staff will be given layoff notices and the program will collapse out of a lack of uptake. So I would like the Minister to make a commitment that he will, in fact, make money available for the Social Work Program, pending the outcome of both the foundational review and the social work review.

Finally, I just will talk a little bit about the performing arts. I know there was discussion last week about funding for the arts, and I feel this is an area of some confusion. There is performance for its own sake, and then there are arts for economic diversification. ECE houses the former; art for its own sake. As we heard last week, that budget hasn't been increased in 10 years; it's at $500,000, and clearly the demand for this money outstrips the provision of it very considerably. I would like the Minister to take a good, hard look at what he can do to augment the budget of the NWT Arts Council in the next fiscal year. Those are my opening comments, Mr. Chair. Thank you.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Ms. Green. Next, we have Mr. O'Reilly.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I'm going to raise a number of the same concerns that my colleague from Yellowknife Centre has already expressed. We did have a good briefing at noon today from the Minister of Education and his colleague the Minister of Health and Social Services on the youth mental health support investments. It will require transitioning some of the money that's now given to the district education authorities to support that work, and there is additional money that's coming in, and I think that's all a good effort, but there is still a number of outstanding issues with regard to qualifications of the 49 new staff that are to be hired over four years and whether, indeed, we can actually find them, the availability of those sorts of qualified individuals. There are also, I think, some issues around who they report to and what kind of accountability there is between the two departments and locally.

Communities will want to be able to express some views about whether those individuals would be best situated in the schools versus the health centre, and so on. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that they are prepared to look at the concept of a memorandum of understanding between the departments and the different regions to ensure that the money stays within those purposes and to help clarify relationships and so on. I think that's a good move, and I appreciate the commitment of the two Ministers to work together on that. There is to be a communications plan developed, and I think it will be important that that be shared with the standing committee, and that there be regular updates as this starts to roll out. Some more questions about this, but I think it's headed in the right direction, and I appreciate the work of the two Ministers on it.

There is to be a $200,000 reduction in school administration funding in this budget, and I guess it's being driven by a shared services concept. I really think this is more clearly linked to Cabinet's fiscal reduction strategy than good governance, but I'll hold my breath until we see the study on shared services. I understand that is available, and I would urge the Minister to share that with Regular MLAs now, not wait. If that study is finished, share it with us now so we can have a better understanding of whether these savings are really real or imaginary, and whether there is support from the district education authorities for those.

One area that I am concerned about that is presented in the departmental business plan is this notion of having four or five different streams for secondary school graduates, and I don't really understand it very well, and I think there needs to be a lot of public discussion around that. I wanted to encourage the Minister and his department to develop a better communications strategy and approach on this. I think we want to avoid some of the confusion and division that accompanied the STIP initiative, and this is really going to require a lot of proactive work on the part of the department. We want to make sure that our students are fully qualified to get into post-secondary education in other jurisdictions. This needs to be approached very cautiously and carefully.

On the junior kindergarten implementation, the Minister promised full funding, and it's still not there. It looks like there is going to be an increase in inclusive schooling funding, which is a good thing, and it looks like the Minister is prepared to consider some increases for Indigenous language and culture programming, but as my colleague said, what really needs to be changed is the formulas to make sure that junior kindergarten students are actually counted in those formulas for those types of school funding. The Minister himself tabled in the House last year a document that shows that, indeed, if the junior kindergarten students are actually included, it would be about $1.8 million extra going to the district education authorities for those school formula. If it is to be fully funded, the Minister needs to come up with that money and the Minister needs to come up with that money and change those formulas on a permanent basis.

I have some concerns about the status of the social work and teacher education programs, and the fact that it doesn't appear that there's going to be an intake of students coming up in the fall of 2018. If there is no student intake for two years, what are the teachers going to be doing? Sitting around waiting? I just can't see Aurora College waiting themselves, having teachers doing nothing. That needs to be sorted out very quickly, and if there are changes that need to be made to those programs, change the programs. You don't cut them.

I am concerned about the outcome of the foundational review. I did speak to the consultants myself. I am worried that the department is going to turn the foundational review into a way to implement the Skills 4 Success work that the department has under way. That's not what the foundational review should point towards, in my humble opinion. It needs to figure out what the position is of Aurora College with regard to post-secondary education in the Northwest Territories. How is Aurora College going to fit into post-secondary education? That's what that foundational review needs to assist us with.

The minimum wage was increased, or will be increased shortly. In my humble opinion, it's not enough. Come the fall, people in Alberta will be paid more for minimum wage than our workers here in the Northwest Territories, and we have to find a way to make sure that our workers are paid fairly. There are other ways to do this, including increasing the basic income exemptions and territorial tax incentives, and so on; looking at the concept of a living wage, as well. I'm going to be encouraging the Minister to consider additional ways to ensure that our citizens are properly recompensed for the work that they have to do.

I do want to point out that there is no increase in arts support in the ECE budget in 2018-2019. We've heard a lot about that in the last while with the review of Bill 1, and there's a petition that's going to be tabled in this House as well on this issue. If we're serious about economic diversification, we have to find more funding to support the arts. Structural changes, I said in the House last week, bring those efforts together under one roof with the Arts Council.

On early childhood and daycare, there is this agreement now with the federal government. I want to find out what's in that agreement, and whether, as my colleague said, it's really going to support affordability of childcare as well. Unfortunately, in our mandate, we've now moved away from universal childcare to something much more vague, and I'm not sure where we're really going with this.

The last thing, on a positive note, I want to say to the Minister and his staff that I've had very good reports about the staff working collaboratively with Ecole Alain St-Cyr on the expansion of the school. I know that's not really an O and M measure, but I do want to end on a positive note and say that I've heard very good things about the work that's going forward on the school expansion. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. O'Reilly. Next, Mr. Vanthuyne.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and to the Minister and your colleagues from the department. One thing I want to make sure that we are continuing to remain focused on, especially as it relates to the bigger picture, is that our entire education system from early childhood education on through to post-secondary and, of course, onto adult education and lifelong learning is that we are developing a system that works toward aligning our education system with those things which we value as a society. I feel that that kind of has gaps in it. I think we are making genuine attempts when I see programs like Skills 4 Success and what have you, but I just feel that there are some rather large gaps. In particular, it's in the middle grades. I feel we're doing good things in early childhood. We've made a lot of improvements relating to junior kindergarten. A number of the programs I'll allude to in a moment are looking positive and successful, but somewhere in that middle ground, in around the grades of 8 and onward, we seem to be kind of almost losing a bit of grasp on our students. By the time they reach graduation, they're not fully aware or understanding of what it is that they want to do. I think that that has a lot to do with us failing to identify as a society what it is that we value so that we're unfortunately sending students out to education, or even into the work force, not fully able to contribute to society. A lot of times, students are just going to university or college or what have you to just kind of put in time. Often, after one semester, they're failing. A lot of it simply has to do with the fact that they don't have that sense of direction on what it is that they want to do with life. Those are the gaps that I am talking about that we have to find ways in which to fill and start shaping and moulding our kids at those middle grades.

Just to touch base on a couple of things from last year, I have reached out, as many other MLAs have, to education districts, and we have been receiving some fairly positive feedback with regard to programs that were implemented. One of them was the STIP Program. Most districts seemed to have positive comments about it. I would like to see, and I would look forward to seeing, some more of the outcomes, some more of the measurables and statistical information so that we can understand the benefits of the STIP Program a little better.

Apprenticeship and trades, this is a difficult area. I respect that. I come from the trades background myself, and in many ways, it has not changed. We are really trying to make some improvements, but we do need to make some fundamental change as it relates to the undertakings of apprenticeship and trades and technology. I think our partnerships with groups like NWT Skills Canada are positives ones, and those are the things that we have got to continue to do.

When we look at employment opportunities in the Northwest Territories, and in particular I would like to point a finger at areas such as the Sahtu Region, they are certainly going to be slowing down on oil and gas, but they have an opportunity to exploit reclamation and remediation opportunities there for another generation or more.

Giant is similar, on our front door here in Yellowknife. This is generational work, and we have got to find ways in which today it might be a father who might get a job there that is just labour‑based, but then, that father's son needs to have a job that might put him into a supervisor's type of position, and the generation after that might have the opportunity to become an engineer. I want to see that kind of trajectory as it relates to how our generational skills are being broadened, not just labour opportunities generation after generation after generation. We have a lot of future infrastructure projects in the pipeline that can allow us to start thinking that way and taking advantage of those opportunities.

I will just touch quickly on innovation and technology, and what we are facing today. Obviously, this is a much faster‑paced world that we are living in because of innovation and technology. If we are not taking advantage of the opportunities to take up lifelong learning, then certainly the world can pass us by. The discussions that we are starting to have more recently are around knowledge‑based economy, expanding post-secondary opportunities, creating new governance for post‑secondary models, and even consideration for things like centres of excellence. This is now the right time to continue that discussion. We are raising it at a critical time, and it is the time in which we want to put the right support, both with funding and resources, towards those types of discussions. They will be critical within the next 10, 15 years. If we do not keep up those discussions then, again, we are going to create gaps, and we will be left behind.

To the Minister's comments, I just want to make some highlights and points that I am in favour of. The $2.1 million for junior kindergarten, and in particular the inclusive schooling funding, is well‑appreciated. I am looking forward to that being invested. Identifying that there were some inadequacies both in the student financial assistance as well as income assistance and putting a significant degree of funding towards that is a good improvement. Specifically, to junior kindergarten through grade 12, a renewal of the policy with regard to Indigenous language and education is something that we heard, talking to district educators, that they are going to appreciate. There are others already that talked about the child and youth care counsellor program, so I will leave that at bay for now.

As it relates to the foundational review with Aurora College, all I am really asking there now is, we are into it. Let's try to, at any cost, avoid delays, and you mentioned in your comments that there will be a strategic plan that stems from that. Again, I know how these things can take time and what have you, and we have got to do it right, but I think, for the interests of our students and post‑secondary students, that we have got to be timely and work expediently on that.

Maybe what I will do at this point is I will jump ahead to the arts for a moment, because you have indicated that there is going to be a completion of a new four‑year GNWT Culture and Heritage Action Plan. I raised it the other day with regard to a need for a review of the Arts Strategy. I hope that that is a piece of this. The Arts Strategy certainly is long overdue for a review. In the meantime, as many have indicated, and as the public has recently raised, there is definitely need for more support and resources for the arts. I certainly will be advocating during these deliberations for support for the NWT Arts Council, additional support, and also for the department to consider a touring grant in support of the arts. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Those are my comments.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Vanthuyne. Next, I have Mr. Thompson on my list. Mr. Thompson.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. First of all, I would like to congratulate the Department and Health and Social Services for working towards the new child and youth mental health workers. I think it is very important. In my riding, it has been a huge concern. Just in the past year, we have had a number of sad incidents and some tragic ones. I have got to thank the departments for working together for that, and I know, from talking with the people in my riding, they are very supportive of this direction of people working together on that.

I would also like to thank the department for continuing to expand the Distance Learning Program. It has a huge impact upon some of my smaller communities, and some of these small communities actually want to start looking at extending their schooling to kindergarten to grade 12, and so here is an opportunity with the extended learning education that we will be able to help them meet that goal. So I thank the department for that. I know, in some of the smaller communities, I have heard that a lot. They want to keep their children in the communities, and so I praise the department for doing that positive step on there.

As we have heard through some of my colleagues here, we talked about junior kindergarten and the funding. It is a concern for me that, again, it is funding as according to the formula. Again, it is not fully funded, but it is funded according to the formula, and that needs to be educated or brought out to the people so people are aware of that. The education formula is a formula. We do not fund any programs completely. It is from my understanding and looking at things, it is based on a formula. That needs to be educated, and that is how we need to be sending the message out to people. It is not fully funded, but it is funded according to the formula.

The career and education advisors, that is a huge concern for me. We are removing the counsellors, and I fully support that idea, but now you are putting these positions, three into Inuvik and three into Yellowknife. They are travelling, and yes, they are a team, but again, it's the face-to-face. It's the knowing the people and the students and understanding where it's going. When we talk about careers, we are starting at a younger age. It is just not grade 10, 11, and 12, because once they get to that point, you know, going into grade 10, they have already got a career. They already know where they are going. We need to make sure that we provide the proper system and education and support that the students need, and that is starting in grade 5, even in kindergarten, helping them get prepared.

Somebody talked about the five systems of education, the five streams that we are looking at. That there is a concern for me, especially if we are not educating the public about what it is, but it is not just about post‑secondary. It is about trades. It is about educating the parents and also the students of where they need to go. I am confused with the three streams we have right now, or the two streams depending on what school you are talking about. I understand the department is trying to work on this, but we need to educate people. People need to understand the direction we are going with this.

You have probably heard me say this numerous times. I talk about the social work program and also the TEP program. We are doing a foundational review. I appreciate the department is doing that, and I am hoping that some good results will come from it. Again, we are putting a nail in a coffin when we don't do an intake. When we don't have an intake, that means our students are starting to look at going elsewhere.

The department does a great job in preparing or supporting the students existing right now. I have no qualms about that. I say that the department is helping the people who are in the program and they are trying to get where they need to go. It is not about the help that we are challenging or questioning. It is about providing this service.

According to your Skills4Success, the top 20 jobs in demand, elementary school teachers and kindergarten teachers, 777 positions from 2015 to 2030. That is your result. That is what you are telling us. Now you are saying this department, this program is going to be removed from the college. That kind of goes against exactly what you are trying to say. One says, "here it is." The other side, "we are cutting it."

That is a huge concern for me. If there is something wrong with the program, then we need to fix the program. We can't be sending people always down south. In talking with the students, whether it is in the social work program or the TEP program, they go to school in the North because that is where their support system is. Going down South, I have talked with a number of social work students out there, and they are going, "Man, oh man, we don't have the support system we have up North." It is just not the department, but it is the family and the extended family. The department needs to understand that and needs to look at it. I seriously believe that is what we need to be looking at to improve on.

Small community employment fund, again, the department is talking about trades, the importance -- not trades, but training. I agree, totally support that. However, there is a catch here. It is about putting people to work. It is about how people right now need the economy to get some food on the table so they don't have to go on income support. They want to work on it. This is what I have been trying to say.

Yes, it is great that we do a portion of it for training, but the other portion is we need to put people to work. If we put people to work, they are going to feel better about themselves. If they are feeling better about themselves, they are going to advance and get better. Then their family environment is going to be better. I understand the department and what they are trying to do. I think it is a good vision. At the same time, we need to put people to work. We need to put people on the ground doing jobs. The struggle may be that the department is really good at developing the skills we need to do it, the training that we need to do it. Maybe we take part of that money and put it to ITI, who then does job creation. Right now, people want jobs, especially in the small communities. People don't understand a $10,000 or $15,000 job has a huge impact on their life. We need to promote that. We need to encourage that.

This is where I am coming from. We need to look at what is good for the small communities, as well. It is just not where the vision and the mandate from the government is. We need to look at what the small communities need. Sometimes, it is not the training. Sometimes, it is about giving them a paycheque and giving them a job. In saying all that, I have to give credit to your staff. The regional staff do an amazing job. They work well with the communities and they try to achieve. Every time I have talked to my communities about things, they have talked highly of the ECE staff, the Divisional Board of Education. The department is doing a good job regionally implementing your actions.

I would also like to thank the department finally, before my time is up. It is about social assistance and reducing the cost of living for seniors. That is probably one of the biggest challenges I have right now: trying to explain to seniors, "You make too much money, so you can't get subsidy." They are going, "I can't afford to live where I am if I don't work. If I don't work, I can't provide food on the table. If I work and provide food on the table, I can't access the department's funding to get the fuel subsidy."

When you talk to some of these elders about this situation, they are getting really frustrated. They are saying we -- I say "we." I am not blaming the department. We as government don't seem to care about them. They go, "We have an appeal process, but why? It is not going to work for us." It has a huge impact on them. It is really frustrating to hear their stories. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Those are my opening comments, with 22 seconds left.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Just under the wire. Next, we have Mr. Testart.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Over the course of this budget review, I want to be able to speak to some of the work standing committees did during the business planning process. We touch on this often in our sittings to benefit our constituents that MLAs are hard at work for the fall of every year, reviewing the departments' annual business plans. This takes a lot of time from the Ministers' offices, the standing committees, and from the departments and departments' staff. It is a significant amount of work, and it should not be understated how important this is in the functioning of consensus government.

One of my concerns, however, is, after the conclusion of these reviews, standing committees make numerous recommendations to government. The real test of that business-planning process is whether or not Ministers accept the recommendations and move to implement them. I think that is the true spirit of effective consensus government when that exchange over the business plan actually results in progress moving forward. That goes greatly to my disposition on these final budget documents.

First off, I will just speak to some of the highlights here that the Minister indicated in his opening remarks that I support fully. The $2.1 million dollars to offset the costs associated with junior kindergarten implementation and the additional inclusive education schooling, this is something that we have heard as Regular Members from our education partners and something that we have lobbied hard for on the floor of this House and behind closed doors. It is good to see this additional funding implemented.

My only concern around it is it is not fixed permanently. It is something that we hope will continue as there is a shortfall in enrolment. It is something that I hope continues so we have fully paid-for junior kindergarten going forward.

I think the new $1.6 million to expand distance learning program is also a welcome investment in education. $1.4 million to establish six new career and educational advisors, I have heard from colleagues that they have seen these officers working firsthand at schools and at job fairs and that they are very much welcome conduits for skills development for young people. The force growth spending, $1.7 million to address income assistance program and other income assistance program investments are good things. We don't want to fall behind with our social assistance programs.

I do want to look at a few of the concerns around the department's progress on mandate commitments. I will be quite clear from my seat, at least. Post-secondary is a real mess. It has taken a long time to get to a point where we can actually see legislation moving forward. There is a high likelihood that further delays will push this into the last year of our term or perhaps the next Assembly altogether. Meanwhile, there has been a huge push from the federal government to invest in post‑secondary infrastructure and programming that we have not fully capitalized on, and we do not have a concrete plan to really invest in post‑secondary opportunities.

Aurora College is, of course, the poster child for that lack of progress. We started with a strategic review, which turned into a foundational review, which, when complete, will become a new strategic plan, which was the plan all along. I think what I am expecting is that we see real change to Aurora College and real independence granted to the institution.

One of the fundamental problems with the college, from everything I have heard, is political interference with the operations of the college. I do not mean politicians are getting their friends jobs there. I mean the overall direction of the college is controlled by the department and the department's frameworks and strategies. It is being used as an instrument to develop on Skills 4 Success and other labour market strategies. That is not the role an independent post‑secondary institution should play. ECE's interaction with the college should be one based on funding agreements, but the college should ultimately be the ones to dictate programming choices and operational matters, and the college needs to start listening to students. They should be at every school at a younger age talking to students. This is standard practice for every post‑secondary institution, and they just do not do it. That is something I have heard about and was confirmed to me recently in the foundational review that is going on right now.

These are things that we do not need two years of work to figure out. These are very clear things. It needs an independent board. That board needs to be empowered to make clear decisions, and it needs to be severed from government. It should not be operating as a public agency. It should be operating as a public academic institution, and I am not sure if that is what is happening at all. The business planning process, which is more in depth than this, did not give me an satisfaction that that is, in fact, the direction we are moving, and we need clarity on this issue because time is a‑wasting, and people need those skills and development.

The standing committee, again, recommended that the Teacher Education Program and Social Work Diploma Program be reopened for enrolment. The department has ignored that recommendation, and I am not sure why. They cleave to the foundational review, but the issue is those programs are dead in the water if they cannot enrol new students. In effect, they are being bled dry by a lack of enrolment, and again, this is, I think, the second time the standing committee has made that recommendation and the second time it has been ignored.

The standing committee also recommended that childcare subsidies be made available to parents and families on income or means‑tested bases. That is echoing other previous recommendations. That is not indicated in this business plan, either.

The standing committee recommended that arts funding be increased by $500,000, doubling the current support to the arts council, and also that a touring grant be established for $100,000 to help NWT‑based performing artists in performance opportunities outside the Northwest Territories. I fully support these additional investments in our creative industries. Again, those recommendations were not taken up by the department.

I think this is troubling. These are significant areas where we can work together to improve the department's budget and the department's operations, and these recommendations that standing committees are making are modest. They are not exhaustive. They are not hundreds upon hundreds of minute details. They are high‑level policy recommendations that are not being taken on by this department.

As the Premier mentioned in his opening statement, employment in Yellowknife does quite well. We have very high levels of employment. It is really the smaller communities outside of the capital that suffer from very high unemployment, and that is something that this department needs to address. The Small Community Employment Strategy has stumbled to get off the ground, and I hope that we will see progress on that through the commitments made in both the business plan and this budget.

Finally, on to the issue of arts funding. The creative industry in Canada employs more people than forestry, natural resources, Canadian Armed Forces, and fisheries combined. There is nothing preventing us from developing an industry, not of that magnitude in the Northwest Territories, but certainly we could lay the foundation for it, and that starts with doubling the investment in the Arts Council. That will help creative professionals find more funding for their projects and develop their professional skills. We are talking about the whole gamut from filmmakers to architects to graphic designers. They are all involved in these creative arts projects.

Not only that, but it allows more wellness and vibrancy in our communities. It helps people take pride in themselves. It hits a whole number of areas of important public policy goals that this government has set for itself, and not increasing it because times are tough is not enough. We need to start an investment now so that investment will pay off in the future. The arts council and arts communities have been waiting 10 years for increased investment, and the fact that this department cannot see the wisdom in expanding not only arts and culture but employment in these industries is very disappointing to me.

With that, Mr. Chair, I will conclude my opening comments, but I will have more to say as our budget deliberations develop. Thank you.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Testart. Running the clock. Next, I have Mr. Beaulieu.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I want to speak on the items that appear to be most important to the communities that I represent. I have had many discussions over the years with various groups about all departments, and these are the items that were very specific to education.

The Indigenous language broadcasting, it is not an item here that I have an issue with the budget on. They have over a million dollars in Indigenous language broadcasting. It is the way in which more of the broadcasting can be spread throughout the NWT and how money could do a lot to support the communities where they need to have some language broadcasting.

I think CBC does a pretty good job of broadcasting Aboriginal languages, but there is another radio station, Native Communication Society, the CKLB. They often are not able to get their broadcasts out to the communities. In fact, looking at one of my communities, Lutselk'e, they do not have any radio at all. They do not have CBC, and they do not have any CKLB.

That is something that I think we talked about a bit when we had the Committee on the Sustainability of Rural and Remote Communities. We speak about that and how we are able to maybe train local individuals, which, again, would be a job in the small communities for somebody to take care of the technical aspects of what needs to occur in the communities to ensure that the broadcasting is continuing.

I don't know if this department would be solely responsible for it, but I think they would certainly have their hand in it as well, and I think that is something that I would like the department to start working on to try to assist the broadcasters or the radio stations in order to broadcast to all the communities in the territories.

Like most people, I do have an issue with the fact that there is no enrolment of students for the two programs. I felt at one time that maybe the TEP program, the Teacher Education Program, was sort of like the flagship program for Aurora College. I know that Aurora College now has a very good nursing program. I think that's going well. They're producing a lot of nurses. My understanding is they're not producing as many teachers. I'm thinking that instead of withdrawing from the program, that maybe they should try to improve the program if they have issues, that students are graduating from there and are not able to go right into a classroom to teach, then maybe what they should do is to make sure that the education is there for them; their own education, the teacher's education, so that they can go into a classroom and teach.

It's the same thing with the social workers. I know that some of the social workers, once they've gone through the program, don't have all of the requirements to be a social worker in the different fields, and so on. If that's the case, then I think the college should do something about making sure that the social workers have the education in order to do the job for us in the territories. I think that the value of local social workers is really underestimated by our government. I think that, when you look at social workers when it comes to Child and Family Services and other areas where the social workers interact with the community members, you would find that the social workers, the local social workers, are highly successful. I know many, many social workers, many of whom are retired after a long career, and from my community, my home town, ladies that I knew when I was a kid, who are retired social workers who have a very good reputation. I think if need be, maybe reach back to some of those social workers to try to improve the program, as opposed to discontinuing enrolment.

Just touching on a couple of other things that I think would be a big help to the small communities, and that is things like trying to run a breakfast program. For most communities where you have money, where people have money, and where the people are wondering even if they have food in the fridges, well, in our small communities, there are families that don't have food. It seems like it's a basic need, but they don't have food. Some of those kids will get up to go to school so they could have something to eat, and it's a pretty sad state of affairs when we have kids that don't have food, and that they're going to be not attending school because the parents are unemployed, or the parents are not employed, after trying to get the kid off to school day after day after day after year after year after year. It becomes something that we need to change, that we need to put the parents to work.

Some of the Members spoke of the small community employment program to be used for that. We get a hold of it. It appears as though the department's got a hold of it, and wants to turn it into a skills development thing. We put that program in place because of employment rates. The employment rates were so bad in the small communities that we needed to have people go to work, so that people could go to work. They could send their kids to school, so they don't have the situation in the future. Like 10 years from now, if people are working and the kids are going to school, we're going to have graduates. We're going to have people in, the students are graduating; that increases their ability or their possibility of getting a job. Even just grade 12 increases their possibility of getting a job by probably close to 30 per cent compared to somebody who doesn't have a high school education. I mean, that's quite a jump. If they were lucky enough or fortunate enough to end up in a post-secondary like trades, or university or college, then their possibilities of getting a job could jump by another 15, 20 per cent.

So I think this department has to be able to get people to work, hire people. There are a lot of projects on the go. I know that in my hometown right now, there are a whole bunch of people cutting trails as part of the community access road from the Department of Infrastructure and the assistance of the small community employment program combined together. It's put about eight or nine people to work. Those eight or nine people are going to be able to have not just an income but have ability, if they can't find other work, even to draw employment insurance.

I think those are the things I want to talk about. There's something that I think is old and way past due, but at one point, we used to have truancy officers. I talked about that in the House before, and I think that the department should look at something like that, or talk to DAs or something like that. It doesn't have to be specifically that, but developing a strategy to get the kids to go to school.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. Further opening comments? General comments, Department of Education, Culture and Employment. Mr. Blake.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just a few things that would be nice to see in the budget here. Many schools in my riding have issues in the fall, mostly the fall time with bears in the community, and especially when it's dark in the morning. It's a safety concern for children who have to walk to school, both in Aklavik and Fort McPherson. This fall, we had grizzly bears hanging around the community, and also in the springtime. People in the communities would like to see busing, but the truth is, funding that's given to the DAs isn't adequate to provide schooling. That is something that we really need here, and we're putting the safety of students at risk here. I think it's time we address that.

Also, from what I understand, the small community employment program is doing much better this year with a little help from the rural and remote communities participating in the process. I was hoping that whatever is not spent this year could be put in the community access fund, which is a big help to the small communities. Many of our communities have around a 36 per cent employment rate. It's actually gone up from the last numbers that I received. It's up to 40, but it would be great to see, 50, 60 per cent in the future here. I'm sure, if we work together, we could make that happen, maybe top off the fund here. Maybe even $5 million would be great, my Cabinet colleagues here. Those are the concerns that are brought up by myself here. I know in Tsiigehtchic as well there, they're looking to hopefully provide high school grades here in the future, and will be a challenge providing some subjects. That's something they are looking forward to in the future, how to make that work. Because we're seeing the dropout rate increase because of students having to go to Inuvik, and that's something we don't want to see. We want to see our children to succeed, and we have to figure out a plan here. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Blake. Further general comments on the Department of Education, Culture and Employment? Seeing none, as we've discussed, the Minister will have 10 minutes to respond, keeping in mind that as we go through the detail of this document, there will be plenty of time to respond to more detailed concerns that the Members have. Minister Moses, you have 10 minutes.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate all the comments and feedback with all Members of committee as well as the Assembly here. We've also heard from our education leaders. We do meet with them on a regular basis, and some of the concerns that were raised here today were some of the concerns that were brought forward with our education partners as well. So we definitely are listening and trying to make those changes that will be in the best interest of our staff as well as our students.

Beginning with the inclusive schooling for junior kindergarten, I know it was brought up by everyone here and you see in my opening comments and in the funding here that we did increase funding for junior kindergarten specifically around the inclusive schooling. I can confirm that it will be in the base moving forward, that this funding is going to continue.

We also had some comments around the child and youth care counsellors. We did do a really good presentation at lunch to standing committee, and I think we got into a lot of detail at that meeting, and that meeting was public. I'm sure it's going to be on the Legislative Assembly Facebook page, if you want to get into more detail on the questions there. That's just a great program, with the collaboration of working with the Department of Health and Social Services to address some of our biggest concerns and the community's on mental health, and I know there was discussions around addictions and suicides as well. Like any other program, we're going to monitor that and make sure that it's working well. As it rolls out, we'll be able to give better updates on how these child and youth care counsellors are working in the Deh Cho and the Tlicho, as we move into the next steps of implementing it throughout the Northwest Territories.

We also had the career and education advisors. There were some concerns there. Obviously, they are two different programs; one is focusing on mental health counselling in the schools, and I agree, I think we need to get some of this information out to our students at a younger age. Not as far as kindergarten, as I heard mentioned, but I think we do need that, to get that information out to the schools, and having these career and education advisors traveling throughout the North and helping students decide what career paths they want to take and education that they need to get to either a post‑secondary or to another career is going to be very important.

I know tying in with our high schools' pathways, pathways to graduation, as Members know, we did give an update to committee on this and we'll be looking at implementing the high school pathways in the 2019‑2020 academic year. So that gives us about a whole year to really get out and consult and work with our partners, work with our families and our communities, and get that information to them and get their feedback and input as well.

I know MLA Green mentioned the shared services report. Currently the steering committee that is working on that is developing a response to the report, and we'll be sharing that with committee as soon as that response comes out, just to have Members updated on that.

Early childhood funding, childcare, we did sign off on an agreement with the federal government, and we will be sharing that action plan with Members once that's all finalized. I know some of that funding was for this fiscal year. One good thing that came out of that is we are able to carry over funding that we're not going to be able to spend this fiscal year. I know it's late into 2017‑2018, and some of that funding is going to be available come April 1st, from this fiscal year, here.

The foundational review, I know that has been a big concern and has rendered a lot of questions in the House. We're still waiting on that report. I gave an update last week on where we are with the foundational review. I appreciate all the Members who took the time to give feedback and comment into that review, and once that review is completed, we will be making sure that we do a management response. Everything that I said on Friday's Minister's statement will continue, staying focused on that. With regard to programs, I think we're going to have to see what came out of that foundational review before we move forward, and working with the Aurora College.

I know one Member has brought up that it would be nice if Aurora College could work on their own, focus on their own path and doing things on their own, but this is public dollars that we do fund Aurora College with, so we do need to be a part of that process when we're looking at the programs and the way they run their shop, over at Aurora College. There are concerns about the level of our students when they're graduating. Back in the previous government, we started working on the education renewal process. We know that there are a lot of new programs, pilot project; we have a lot of working groups that have education leaders on there, as well as our partners. So moving forward with this renewal, we're going to see some positive things coming out and, as some Members mentioned, we want to make sure that our students have all the supports, the resources they need, so that when they graduate, that they would be able to go into further post‑secondary or get into a career that they need. As I mentioned, we'll continue to keep committee updated as we go out and consult on the Pathways to Graduation project.

I'm trying to see what else is in here. As you mentioned, Mr. Chair, as we get into the detail on the budget and go page‑by‑page, we'll get into more detail on some of the questions.

The arts funding, the strategy. As I mentioned when I got questions in the House, I will be working with the Department of ITI to look at what options we have moving forward to develop a strategy, but also looking at things as some Members mentioned with the structural side of things, and we'll have those discussions with the Minister of ITI. As I mentioned in the House answering questions, the Arts Council will be a big part of that. They are the experts and they do represent a lot of the organizations and some of our artists in the Northwest Territories.

I know trades was also mentioned. We just released that strategy, and I think we're going to see some really good things coming out of that strategy. As Member McNeely had mentioned last week: how are we getting support? How are we supporting them to push out the people in the trades area? I think that the apprenticeship trades and occupational certification strategies are going to address a lot of those challenges and gaps. The steering committee and working group, which are mainly comprised of industry personnel, they're the ones who are implementing it, so we're going to reach out and try to get an update from them on where we move forward.

Senior home heating subsidy, ours supports the seniors. We continue to make those supports and make the changes that are benefitting seniors thought the Northwest Territories, and we just made a couple of those changes over the past fiscal year.

We also heard a little bit about the childcare benefits. We made changes when the Canada Child Benefit came into place. We made changes, as well as making changes to the NWT Child Benefit, putting more money into the families of low to modest income, and we're going to continue to support them, as well as support our childcare providers.

The arts funding, as I mentioned, we're currently looking at all the funding that, collectively, all departments fund to the artists and the organizations throughout the Northwest Territories. In my department, we fund over $2 million, and I think it's sufficient in terms of how we support our artists throughout the Northwest Territories, as well.

In terms of support to local radio stations, the funding that we did get with the signing with the federal government, we do have allocated funding that's going to the local radio stations. So a lot of them got a bump up, and we want to continue to look at revitalizing our Indigenous languages throughout the Northwest Territories and we have an ambitious agenda to try to address that.

Small Community Employment Support Program, I tried to get into that, but we'll get into more detail. I know the rural and remote committee is doing a lot of good work providing direction and giving good feedback on how we roll out that funding. With the increase of $3 million, we've seen a lot of uptake right throughout the Northwest Territories, where, before, with that $1.2 million, it was not fully allocated, but with that increase, I am sure we can be spending that full funding by the end of this fiscal year. Thank you, Mr. Chair. As we get into detail, we will get into that.