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.

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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, Minister Moses. You are right. We will have plenty of time to discuss this in the detail. If there are no further opening comments, we can consider the detail in the tabled document. Mr. Beaulieu.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

February 12th, 2018

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chairman, I move that this committee defer further consideration of the estimates for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment at this time. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. There is a motion to defer. The motion is in order and non-debatable. The motion is currently being distributed. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

We will defer consideration of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. Thank you to the witnesses. Sergeant‑at‑Arms, you may escort the witnesses from the Chamber.

Committee, we have decided to next consider the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs. I will turn to the Minister of the department, Premier McLeod, for any comments that he may have. Premier.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am pleased to present the 2018‑2019 Main Estimates for the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs. Overall, the department's estimates propose an increase of $1.5 million or 7.8 per cent over the 2017‑2018 Main Estimates. EIA's proposed increase is almost entirely related to strategic initiatives, which include the following:

• $595,000 in additional resources aimed at the finalization of lands, resources, and self‑government agreements;

• $250,000 in additional funding to the Northwest Territories/Nunavut Council of Friendship Centres to build capacity and strengthen program delivery;

• $387,000 in additional intergovernmental relations capacity and support out of the Government of Northwest Territories Ottawa office;

• $100,000 in funding to assist the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation implement their Strategic Direction Action Plan related to the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway No. 10;

• $101,000 in funding to host the Western Premiers Conference later this spring;

• $84,000 to assist in the delivery of campaign schools to further encourage women's participation in politics; and

• $50,000 in funding to the Arctic Inspiration prize.

These estimates continue to support the priorities of the 18th Legislative Assembly by continuing to successfully conclude agreements with Indigenous governments for lands, resources, and self‑government. There are currently 14 sets of negotiations at various stages, and these negotiations will continue to be a priority for this government as this budget ensures additional resources are dedicated to the furtherance and conclusion of these agreements.

In addition, Canada is setting significant new policy direction in many areas that directly and indirectly affect the lives and future prospects of the Northwest Territories and its people. The new Deputy Secretary of Intergovernmental Relations located in the Ottawa office will help ensure the Government of Northwest Territories' interests and perspectives are understood and considered by Canada in decisions regarding the environment, infrastructure, investments in our economy, and Indigenous rights, including any changes contemplated to the fiscal arrangements between Canada and Indigenous governments.

Finally, these main estimates continue to increase regional capacity by building partnerships with Northern friendship centres, encouraging women to participate in politics, and sponsoring innovation for the benefit of all Arctic communities, including the investment in socioeconomic opportunities related to the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway No. 10. Thank you. This concludes my opening remarks.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Premier McLeod. Do you have witnesses you wish to bring into the Chamber?

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Yes, I do, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Premier. Will the Sergeant‑at‑Arms please escort the witnesses into the Chamber. Premier, would you please introduce your witnesses for the record.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Chair. To my left, I have Mike Aumond, the secretary to Cabinet and the deputy minister of Executive and Indigenous Affairs. To my far right, I have Terence Courtoreille, the director of Shared Services, and to my immediate right, Shaleen Woodward, the assistant deputy minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Premier McLeod. I will now open the floor to general comments on the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs. Committee, I will remind you of the procedure. Each Member wishing to speak will have 10 minutes to do so. After every Member who wishes to speak has spoken, I will return to the Premier, who may speak for 10 minutes to make further comments or answer any committee questions if he so desires. Committee, general comments? Mr. Beaulieu.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I guess, in all fairness, we all have 10 minutes to speak and so does the Minister Premier. I guess I could speak for a few minutes on the main topic that I would like to cover in this area, and that is the lands and resource negotiations. I see that there are extra, additional resources that the Premier has spoken of, of $595,000 to the aim of finalizing lands and resources and self‑government agreements.

I just want to talk a bit about what I am seeing as I guess you would call it a bit of a deficiency in the process. The first one is the land use planning process. I know that Cabinet, or at least the Minister of Education, has talked about looking at funding job creation for Akaitcho in the area of land use planners as they are trying to put a group of people together.

I know that I have had some discussion with the Premier on what had occurred prior to devolution. Prior to devolution, there was money provided to other claimant groups, whether they be ones that were settled or ones that were not settled. All the same, there was money put towards the land use planning document that I will refer to it as for a couple of Aboriginal governments, but not for Akaitcho.

What, I guess, is something that I would like to see the Premier do in the area of Indigenous Affairs is to take a serious look at that. These are small communities that are represented here. If that means that we do some of the small community fund, small community employment program to provide so that they could hire some local land-use planner -- some of the young people that are already working in that area would be skilled with some direction from maybe a professional land-use planner to take a look at trying to put something together. I think it becomes an essential part of the negotiation process with Akaitcho.

I am not fully up to speed on whether or not the Metis have a land-use plan, but then it is a little bit of a discussion for me because the NWT Metis Nation spills into Hay River, your riding, Mr. Chair, and also in Fort Smith. It is not something I can take on my own and say this is what is needed, because I think it needs to be more of a joint effort and coming from them. Akaitcho clearly has come to me and clearly has asked that some money be provided for land-use plan so that they could put this big piece of the puzzle in place for potential settling of the lands and resource negotiations.

The other thing that has always puzzled me has been the self-government aspect of the negotiations. I don't see our government -- by "our government," I am referring to the Government of the Northwest Territories -- as being a big part of building capacity for potential or future self-government. I think that more effort must be put in there. I know they are at the table, and I know they are moving forward. I am not sure that once the agreement is signed, how quickly we could move to implementation.

Does that mean that, once the agreement is signed, it is at that point that we recognize the resources that need to transfer from the territorial government to the Indigenous governments of Akaitcho at that point? Then we start working on the building of the capacity? To me, looking at it from a perspective, although I am obviously not fully versed on what is going on at the negotiation tables and certainly not versed at what had gone on with the other places that were settled, the drawing down of the departments, the choices and how they draw down what the Akaitcho are drawing down and so on, that type of thing.

I am wondering if some of that work could be done simultaneously during negotiations, because it seems like it is done consecutively. It appears as though we are slowly moving towards developing capacity so that, when you sign an agreement that says lands and resources and self-government agreement, that is a step, and then the next step is to try to build the capacity. As I see it, a land-use plan for the lands and resources is something I think that is essential. It is difficult to move without it. Also, the self-government capacity-building would be something that would be difficult to engage the Indigenous governments if we don't work on capacity now.

I am essentially saying that I think that the government has to start to look at what resources are there, what will be drawn down by the governments, determine what will be drawn down, and allow them to set up a structure that can govern themselves. Right now, if we had wrote a cheque to the Aboriginal governments for all of the areas that will be drawn down, they would spend a lot of their money just building capacity and not delivering programs. I think we should be working with them as a territorial government, working with them to build that capacity so that, when the agreement is signed, they are ready to roll into self-government quicker. If that is their desire and if that is what they are negotiating, I suppose that we should be working with them to try to build up that capacity. Those are the two areas I speak of today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. Next, I have Mr. O'Reilly.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I would like to start off on the issue of the land rights negotiations. The Minister indicated that there is an additional $595,000 in this year's budget for it. That is likely a good thing, but this comes after two years of cuts within the department and its capacity to negotiate. It is good that we are trying to work towards that. I guess I'll have some questions about what that funding is really going to be used for.

The other thing I want to say about this is that there is a joint committee of Cabinet and Regular MLAs to talk about some of these issues, but it has never met twice. It didn't really have the kind of authority that the Premier committed to in his campaign speech to become the Premier. It doesn't provide any sort of oversight or real advice, as I understand it, in terms of those negotiations. We haven't seen much progress. There haven't been any completed agreements, and we are more than halfway through our term. I am very concerned about the lack of progress in this area. We need to set this as a much higher priority for this government.

I want to talk about government service officers. Regular MLAs on our side, we have tried to push, in the last two budgets, for some kind of a plan to complete the GSOs in all of our communities. Not all the small communities have GSOs yet. I don't believe there are any in the regional centres. There certainly aren't any in Yellowknife. There may be some opportunities for greater efficiencies, particularly in a place like Yellowknife where the federal government has sort of a one-stop shop. Perhaps we can be looking at partnering with them on that as well here in Yellowknife to get some efficiencies.

Without a plan, where is this going? It just seems that Cabinet throws a few dollars into this whenever it seems that it can afford it. I think we need a solid plan to know what the additional costs are to complete our network so we can improve our programs and services to our communities.

I have a place to find that, the money that the Minister wants to use to add extra capacity in the inter-governmental relations, as I termed it, the red alert office in Ottawa. That is where he can get that money. Let's talk a little bit about that office. It just sort of appears as a line item in the budget. There is not much detail in the business plan. Regular MLAs, including myself, have asked for a job description. We have asked for more details about what that position will actually do. The information we got back revolved largely around the red alert messaging that the Premier has talked about in this House, as well, about trying to overturn the offshore rights issuance moratorium.

I guess I had hoped to see much more of an emphasis on leveraging infrastructure funding for things like housing and renewable energy, rather than the large roads-to-resources projects that our government continues to submit. Maybe even an emphasis on the need to revise the territorial formula funding agreement so we can build more fiscal and economic sustainability here in the Northwest Territories, but that is not the information that we have got. I will have lots of questions for the Minister about that investment of money and whether it would be better spent on other initiatives.

There are some good things in here in terms of support for the friendship centres. I support that. The additional funding for the campaign schools to try to encourage women's participation in politics. Those are good initiatives. Ongoing funding for the Arctic Inspiration Prize; that is a good investment. Supporting the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway plan through the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation; that is good money spent as well, but there do not seem to be any rules around this funding. They all seem to be one‑offs without any sort of policy framework. I think that just leaves the door open to anybody lining up at the Premier's office and asking for money, and I think we are starting to see that here.

I don't understand why the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation has to go to the Premier's office to get money when those funds could and should be available as part of Infrastructure and ITI's regular planning for a major infrastructure project. That is not to say that their proposal isn't good, but that should be part of our regular project planning, not subject to one‑offs with the Premier's office. We need to have a policy framework for decision‑making around that sort of funding.

I want to talk a little bit about Nutrition North, which is one of the mandate commitments. I am not aware of really what our government is doing on Nutrition North. There was a federal task force that was set up to investigate Nutrition North and its future, and I am not aware of whether our government even participated in that and what our position is and what we are trying to do on Nutrition North. There have been ideas from this side of the House about making sure that local agricultural producers can access or use or be supported through Nutrition North, as well.

Net metering is another responsibility of the Executive. It is in the mandate as well to try to improve access to net metering and make sure that citizens who invest in renewable resources have a way to feed energy back into the grid and realize some benefits from their investment, but there is nothing that has been done by the Executive on this. There is nothing in the New Energy Strategy around net metering, and there is no direction on this. This issue has been raised in the House, not just by myself but by other MLAs, and I would like to see some real progress on this in the context of the energy strategy.

I guess one other thing here that I would like to ‑‑ Northern Residents Tax Deduction. That is in the mandate commitments that falls under the Executive, as well, although the Minister of Finance obviously has some responsibility here. We did make some progress on getting it improved. It needs to be indexed, and I don't know why we cannot work with the other Finance Ministers in the other jurisdictions that are Nunavut and Yukon and put a lot more pressure on the Minister responsible for the Canada Revenue Agency to get this indexed.

Lastly, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. There is some progress being made on implementation of this at the federal level. There is a private Member's bill that is going to come forward that is going to require a more systematic approach to federal legislations and policy, and I think that the ruling party has indicated they are prepared to support that initiative. That is something that our government needs to look at in terms of our legislation and policies to make sure that they incorporate things like free, prior, and informed consent, which is part of the declaration itself.

Just checking my notes here, I think those are the main things that I wanted to cover. Sorry, lack of progress on ombudsman legislation. I am not sure where that stands at. This is a commitment in the mandate again, and here we are more than two years into our mandate, and it still has not come forward. I am concerned about the progress on that initiative as well. Thanks, Mr. Chair. That is all I have on this department for now.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you. That's it, eh, Mr. O'Reilly? Next on my list, I have Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Tough act to follow.

A lot of these new initiatives that the department is speaking to are good things: additional resources for land rights agreements; $250,000 to the friendship centres; $100,000 for the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation; the Western Premiers Conference; campaign schools. I mean, these are all good things, but around what the standing committee deemed as extraordinary funding requests from the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation and the council of friendship centres, these are both issues that have been raised with Members of the Legislative Assembly as areas needing some additional investment. It is good to see them made, but my hesitancy with welcoming them too much is the lack of a clear policy framework around these.

During the course of the business plan review, at least as it relates to the friendship centre request, there is an existing fund called the NGO Stabilization Fund, which currently resides with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs but previously was with this department, and that is exactly its purpose, to stabilize the operational funding of NGOs that are experiencing those kinds of shortfalls and allowing them to continue to provide services to Northerners. Friendship centres do amazing things.

The committee has been recommending that this NGO Stablization Fund return to Executive for this exact reason, and one of the solutions to these extraordinary funding requests might be to do it this way. Unfortunately, the department has not agreed with that recommendation, and I cannot imagine why. I mean, it is good to support northern organizations and to provide this level of funding, but we need to ensure that it meets the rigour of public scrutiny, and just passing out cash, even if it's a good cause, there needs to be some policy guidelines around it, because there are a lot of good causes out there, not just these two.

As for GSOs, I think everyone here will speak to it. One of the most significant areas of this department's mandate is providing GSOs. From all of the Regular Members, it is very clear that there is a lack of front line services available to the people of the Northwest Territories. MLAs are handling a lot of requests from constituents on how to access government services. Those requests go straight to the Ministers' offices, and this could be done a lot more expeditiously if there were front line service officers in every community, including regional centres and including the capital.

Standing committees have repeatedly made suggestions and recommendations that this program be expanded and further that a funding relationship be entered into or explored with Service Canada so we can share resources when applicable. I know the department has been piloting that approach to provide federal services through GSOs, but we have a huge Service Canada centre here in Yellowknife, and I don't see why we can't convert that. Mr. Chair, if you speak French, of course, you can receive that here in the capital. You can go and get one‑stop-shop for government services, but only in French, and I think that is a disservice to our other official language communities. This is a crucial service. People should have a one‑stop-shop to go when they need assistance from government.

As to this deputy secretary position in Ottawa, I think staff to ensure we can achieve our strategies, goals, and public policy objectives is appropriate. I just wonder if, at a time with extremely diminished revenues and mounting expenditures and a need for enhanced public services, if it is really the time to roll out this position in Ottawa. We do have a seat at the table through our federal-territorial-provincial relations. Every department participates in those round-table discussions. Unfortunately, when the standing committee conducted its review and has been communicating with the department since, we have not had much clarity on what this position will do and exactly the parameters around it. I think we really need to consider carefully if we are going to establish a $387,000 position in Ottawa when there, again, are a number of important positions that we need here in the Northwest Territories.

My colleague the honourable Member from Frame Lake spoke of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is an international declaration that this Assembly has supported in the past. Canada, as a government and a parliament, is moving towards full support and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Committee was concerned at the time of the business plans that, if we move in a similar direction, which I think we all agree is important, we do not know the full consequences of doing that.

To ask the department to develop a policy lens for Indigenous rights that it could apply to all public policy undertakings and ensure that all departments are being consistent in their approach to Indigenous rights in Canada and through the lens of the UN declaration, unfortunately, we do not have a firm commitment other than they will keep an eye on it. There are a lot of things going on, and I know we have limited resources, but this one seems like an obvious one. I think events today, the public rally that was held outside, just again underscore how important it is that we make reconciliation a priority for this government and we ensure that our public policies and those who implement those policies fully recognize what reconciliation means from a public government. We have a long way to go. Every government in Canada does. We have made significant progress, but we need to go further. These kinds of steps, like enshrining the UN declaration in our public policy documents in every sense of our government, would make a big difference. It is unfortunate that we do not have a stronger commitment to move on this. I think we need to consider that moving forward as not just an area that we need to keep an eye on, but an area that we need to be the leaders on.

There are a number of other issues around the red alert, around the future sustainability of our fiscal framework, in the light of increasing costs, pressures, and a mounting infrastructure deficit, and now federal initiatives towards putting a price on carbon and the ongoing effects of climate change. I do think we need to take a stronger and more proactive approach in addressing these significant concerns with Ottawa, who control our constitution, more or less, Mr. Chair, and I think those need to be the core of this department's work as it moves forward.

Also, we need to put that renewed focus on self‑government and how self‑government is going to work. My colleague the honourable Member from Tu Nedhe‑Wiilideh spoke to this as well, that we need to have more than just agreements on the table, but real plans to implement those agreements within a realistic timeline and that we have the resources from all levels of government in order to finalize them and, finally, that we articulate a very clear picture of how the Northwest Territories is going to operate after self‑government is implemented across the board. If the territory is going to have all these different orders of government, constitutionally protected orders of government, this department needs to have a clear road map for what that looks like and how it is going to work. Quite frankly, I cannot understand at this point how we will be able to maintain an equity of service with different orders of government and different capacities in those orders of government.

Again, we owe it to the purpose and principles of reconciliation to clearly articulate that in a realistic and honest fashion so that everyone is on the same page moving forward, everyone can participate in their land rights, in their constitutional rights, and in their self‑government rights. Unfortunately, we still do not see a lot of that vision in these documents. We still see a lack of funding towards services to people, which is the most important role for this government to play. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 26-18(3): Tabled Document 63-18(3): Main Estimates 2018-2019 - Education, Culture And Employment - Deferral Of Further Consideration Of The Estimates For The Department Of Education, Culture And Employment, Carried
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Testart. Further to the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs, general comments. Mr. Thompson.