This is page numbers 3767 – 3794 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 community.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Hon. Alfred Moses, Mr. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne

The House met at 10:02 a.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good morning, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 57-18(3): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Mandate Commitment Update And Strategic Renewal.
Ministers' Statements

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I would like to report on the Government of the Northwest Territories' progress on its housing-related mandate commitments and on the strategic renewal process currently underway at the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

First, among the mandate commitments laid out by the Government of the Northwest Territories is a promise to address the cost of living, in part by continuing to implement northern solutions for northern housing and working to address homelessness.

Mr. Speaker, similar to the project that the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation delivered in partnership with the Yellowknife Women's Society that created eight new, semi-independent, safe and secure living spaces for homeless women, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is committed to expanding that initiative in Yellowknife by exploring a further partnership of comparable design for men who may require this support. Outside of Yellowknife, I am happy to report that the shelter unit in Fort Simpson is operational while the one in Behchoko is nearly complete, and we are working towards securing a unit in Aklavik. A four-bedroom unit was also provided to the community of Fort Good Hope for usage as a homeless shelter through the corporation's Community Housing Support Initiative.

Homelessness often arises after people have exhausted local housing options, and it becomes much more complicated to support the shelter needs of residents when they lose their housing stability through eviction. Focusing on prevention will ultimately lead to better outcomes for many, and, to this end, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation will be launching a new pilot program in Behchoko. This program will dedicate a housing support worker to assist families with challenges that are bringing them close to eviction.

Mr. Speaker, I am hopeful that some of the challenges in our market communities will be addressed through revisions to the rent supplement program and the introduction of the non-governmental organization rent supplement program. These programs should alleviate the large wait lists for public housing in our market communities and bring households out of core need by addressing affordability.

Addressing the cost of living and keeping elders in their own communities for as long as possible is a priority for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. In an attempt to address these concerns, we have removed the co-payment requirement for repair applicant households with incomes below $60,000 and have removed peripheral contractor costs such as travel and contractor fees from our repair programs. We are also offering additional repair programs specifically geared towards seniors and completed a seniors' nine-plex in Whati. Seniors' complexes in Fort Good Hope and Fort McPherson are expected to be ready for occupancy before the end of 2018.

Mr. Speaker, another one of our mandate commitments is to dispose of our surplus units. So far this year, 31 units have been sold or have sales under way. Of the units that are deemed unsafe to sell, 20 have been demolished or are approved for demolition. All of these actions are expected to be completed by March 31, 2018.

Beginning in the new fiscal year, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation will also pilot a community training program whereby the abatement of units will include working with the local housing organizations to hire youth to support the dismantling of buildings under the supervision of local housing organizational staff. The objectives of this initiative are to allow local residents to be able to salvage components of a house, thereby helping to address the cost of living, and to provide local employment that also promotes the construction trades to youth.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation cannot successfully address all of the Territories' housing needs alone. The new Community Housing Support Initiative uses joint investment from the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and Indigenous governments and community governments to support innovative housing projects. We have already seen this program at work with the Salt River First Nation, which has created two beautiful home ownership units, and we have had meetings with the K'atlodeeche First Nations to explore opportunities for home ownership programs and local maintenance opportunities. We have also committed to working with the City of Yellowknife as they work on their 10 year homelessness plan, and I attended an initial meeting where the city agreed to chair a homelessness committee. As well, we were pleased to provide support for the community housing plan developed by the Kasho Gotine Housing Society in Fort Good Hope and, as stated above, have provided them with a residence to be utilized as a homeless shelter. We have also received inquiries from other communities who have expressed interest in pursuing this program and were excited by the initiative and innovation shown by our communities.

In order to address our residents' housing needs, we also rely on effective partnership with the Government of Canada. I have met with federal officials to discuss the National Housing Strategy and the ongoing development of an Indigenous Housing Strategy. We are close to finalizing a multilateral agreement that will lay out the principles of the National Housing Strategy funding and how that funding will be used. I anticipate that program and allocation details will be available in the coming months, and I am hopeful that the unique context of the northern territories will be reflected in the national plan.

Mr. Speaker, discourse, sound analysis, and data need to inform our future direction. Therefore, the Housing Corporation will conduct a review of the public housing program, a seniors' planning study, an evaluation of the Government of the Northwest Territories' homelessness activities, and a review of the Housing Corporation rental rates for market units.

The Housing Corporation will also continue to support communities in the development of community housing plans, which will be a resource for stakeholders and decision-makers in shaping the future of housing in their communities.

Mr. Speaker, the Strategic Renewal process is not yet complete. I will regularly update this House on our research, policy and program changes, new initiatives, and achievements as we work toward providing the programming and supports so that residents can obtain, maintain, and retain housing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 57-18(3): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Mandate Commitment Update And Strategic Renewal.
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 58-18(3): Minister Late For The House
Ministers' Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Glen Abernethy will be late arriving in the House today due to a personal matter. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 58-18(3): Minister Late For The House
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Dialysis Treatment In The Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to speak about dialysis treatment in the Northwest Territories. For those who don't know, dialysis is a treatment that removes waste and fluids from blood for people whose kidneys have stopped working. People with kidney failure depend on regular dialysis treatment at least three times per week, and the process usually takes about four or five hours each time. While the process is a necessity for kidney disease patients, it is unfortunately not a treatment that is offered in remote communities. For the majority of dialysis patients in the Northwest Territories, people must travel to either Yellowknife, Hay River, or Alberta to receive regular treatments.

Mr. Speaker, there is a recent report done by the Canadian Institute for Health Information that provided some disconcerting statistics about Indigenous patients who rely on dialysis in Canada. The report determined that one in five Indigenous patients must travel more than 250 kilometres to receive treatment. The report also determined that Indigenous patients experience higher hospitalization rates because they must travel longer distances to receive dialysis. Indigenous patients also have lower survival rates than non-Indigenous patients. These facts are particularly alarming because, here in the Northwest Territories, half of our population is Indigenous and half of our population lives in remote communities.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories is not the only jurisdiction facing this issue. In fact, it's a nation-wide issue, which means that there are some ideas that we could utilize and implement here in the Northwest Territories. For example, in Alberta, people now have access to dialysis treatment on wheels, as their provincial government had the idea to retrofit buses and into a mobile dialysis units, where each unit costs about $2.1 million to convert and they travel to all remote communities and deliver treatment. Another idea is to provide people with the tools and capacity to deliver dialysis treatment within their own homes, although this might be difficult in remote communities, as it requires a constant supply of clean, running water and a reliable energy source.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Dialysis Treatment In The Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, ultimately no one, especially a sick and aging person, should face the options of either having to leave their home community for a life-dependent treatment or staying at home and dying. Our people should be given the opportunity to receive dialysis within their home communities, or at the very least closer than the centres of Yellowknife, Hay River, and Alberta. I strongly urge our government to examine mobile dialysis treatment centres in order to create better access for people who need it. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Dialysis Treatment In The Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Recognition Of Steven Squirrel
Members' Statements

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize a member of the community of Fort Simpson, Steven Squirrel. Mr. Squirrel has operated the water treatment plant in Fort Simpson for over 40 years. That's right, 40 years. He's committed to doing this job.

As of July 7, 2017, Steven has hit his 40-year mark and continues to work in the water treatment plant. He's currently training somebody to take over after he's ready to retire.

Steven's role as the water treatment plant operator is a 24/7 commitment. Beyond regular operating hours, Steve responds to call-outs at all hours of the night and day regarding frozen or broken water lines. Sometimes, individuals cannot contact Steve via telephone and have to go to his home at all hours of the night, but he is very quick to respond.

Considering Steven's 40-year history at the water plant from 1977 to 2017, he has had the chance to watch it grow and change with the times. From manual hauling and dissolving of chemicals in powder form, to now a fully automated system, Steven has done it all. He continues to update his certification and is always willing to learn new water treatment practices that have come available.

Mr. Speaker, Steve has won numerous awards for the quality of the water he's treated and monitored. I would have to say it's the best-tasting water from what I have tasted in my lifetime.

Steve is very career- and family- oriented. He has been happily married to his wife for 38 years, Loretta Squirrel. Steven and Loretta have five children and eight grandchildren. He spends most of his time off with them, whether it's visiting in communities around or the territories. Mr. Speaker, it is the commitment of residents like Steven Squirrel that has kept our communities running strong. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition Of Steven Squirrel
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Union Of Northern Workers Negotiations
Members' Statements

March 9th, 2018

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Today I would like to set out my position on collective bargaining, the Union of Northern Workers negotiations, and MLA compensation. Collective bargaining began to be used in 1891 to describe negotiations and agreements that were used in Great Britain following the rise of organized labour. Collective bargaining is recognized as a fundamental human right in Article 23 of the 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights.

Our workers thus have the right to organize and bargain collectively. I respect that right and truly wish for a freely negotiated agreement for the UNW. However, I also need to be clear that, as a Regular MLA, I have not been asked for my views and have not had any input into the mandate being put forward by Cabinet as part of the Union of Northern Workers negotiations. I have requested updates and generally been provided with information, but Cabinet has not sought my views, although I have expressed concerns. While I am pleased that a number of issues have been resolved, I must be clear that I do not support Cabinet's current wage offer, and the last adjustment of an increase in the offer of 0.1 per cent in the fourth year is a provocative move. Any offer that is significantly less than the Consumer Price Index increases is unfair and unlikely to get us any closer to an agreement.

Whenever the issue of the wage offer is discussed, the conversation inevitably turns to compensation for MLAs. Whenever politicians discuss their own compensation, it is a "no win" situation, which is one of the reasons why we appoint an independent commission to study the issue and receive a public report before decisions are made that then only apply to the next Assembly. While MLAs agreed very early in our mandate to a two-year temporary freeze on compensation, I cannot and do not support a continued freeze that would require an amendment to the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. For me, the issue is not one of self-interest, but a continued freeze would be an endorsement of Cabinet's fiscal strategy of cutting programs and services to fund infrastructure. If there had been a serious effort to consider the revenue side of the fiscal equation, I might feel differently. Cabinet has undertaken no serious efforts to review revenues, especially from our newly acquired authority under devolution. At least two independent experts have recommended a review of revenues from mining, but Cabinet has chosen to ignore these calls to action.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Union Of Northern Workers Negotiations
Members' Statements

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the House for permission to continue.

Constituents of Frame Lake have asked my position on these issues and I am now on the public record. I recognize this statement may not be popular with some of my colleagues in this House, but I owe it to my constituents and all of our employees to make my position clear. Mahsi Mr. Speaker.

Union Of Northern Workers Negotiations
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.