This is page numbers 4059 - 4102 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 cannabis.

Topics

Members Present

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

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

Page 4059

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 79-18(3): Aurora College Foundational Review
Ministers' Statements

Page 4059

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, expanding opportunities for post-secondary education for our residents is a priority of this Legislative Assembly. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment is pursuing an ambitious post-secondary agenda that is guided by the mandate of this government.

For more than 50 years, residents of the Northwest Territories have relied on Aurora College for their adult and post-secondary education and training. The college continues to be critical to our economic and social development, but we know we can and must do better.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has been mandated to conduct a foundational review of Aurora College. This foundational review will result in significant changes at Aurora College and provide a clear path for the college's future development.

The foundational review process has two parts. The first part is an independent review report provided by a contractor, MNP LLP, that I will be tabling later today. The second part will be the government's response to the recommendations in the review report, including a clear vision of the path forward for Aurora College.

Mr. Speaker, the work done by the independent contractor reveals a number of issues that we need to address, including the need for improvements in the areas of governance operations; academic program processes; accountability; and student recruitment and retention.

However, rather than simply pointing to what needs to be fixed, the report also recommends an ambitious path toward establishment of a new kind of institution that will better meet the needs of residents, employers, and communities. In particular, the report calls for the transformation of Aurora College into a Northern Canada Polytechnic University.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to establishing a stronger, sustainable, and more vibrant post-secondary institution that contributes to stronger communities, an institution that is built for the Northwest Territories by the Northwest Territories.

I have already shared the report with the Standing Committee on Social Development and look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a whole of government response to address the full set of recommendations made in the report, including the possibility of transforming Aurora College into a Northern Canada Polytechnic University. This response will be tabled in the House in the fall.

The path before us is of critical importance for the future of students in the NWT, and the journey must be collaborative. Therefore, I look forward to continued collaboration with the Standing Committee on Social Development around the government's response to the recommendations. We must work together to take advantage of this unique opportunity and ensure future generations have access to a world-class education in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the important contribution that a great number of stakeholders made in informing the recommendations. The independent contractor worked with Members of the Legislative Assembly, representatives from Indigenous governments and communities, Aurora College students and staff, northern employers, GNWT staff, and other key stakeholders from across the territory.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that some of the recommendations in the Aurora College Foundational Review Report propose significant changes to our territory's public post-secondary institution. We will weigh these changes carefully. I am committed to looking closely at each of the recommendations with the Members of this House and considering what we need to do for Northerners to have the best possible adult and post-secondary education and training here in the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 79-18(3): Aurora College Foundational Review
Ministers' Statements

Page 4060

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 80-18(3): Northern Pathways To Housing Pilot Program In Fort Simpson
Ministers' Statements

Page 4060

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is working hard to meet the commitments made by this government to advance affordable housing and address homelessness during the 18th Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, we know that some of our residents experience homelessness in communities outside Yellowknife. Meeting their needs helps us to address the issue of homelessness throughout the territory. The Housing Corporation is working with community groups to develop, design, and implement supportive housing for these residents through the Northern Pathways to Housing Program.

Research indicates that providing social supports alone is often not enough to change an individual's circumstances. The provision of housing plus supports has been documented as an effective method to stabilize a person who is homeless and then start to address needed life changes.

Mr. Speaker, the first of four Northern Pathways projects is now being implemented in Fort Simpson. Through the vision and commitment of the Liidlii Kue First Nation to support this vulnerable population, three people have been housed and supported, and one other homeless person is expected to be housed shortly. Indigenous and local governments know their communities best. The Housing Corporation supports their aspirations to address homelessness through this community-led housing approach.

Under the Northern Pathways to Housing program in Fort Simpson, the Housing Corporation provided four apartment-style housing units and land to support the project. The Housing Corporation also has a three-year funding agreement for participant housing support. This funding supports the community partner to pay for costs associated with the operation of a supportive housing program and to respond to needs of tenants.

The community proponent also provides assistance to program participants in accessing services and available resources from community agencies.

Another Northern Pathways project is starting soon in Behchoko. The Housing Corporation has been meeting with the community government and other community stakeholders to finalize the delivery approach there. In Aklavik, promising work continues with the Aklavik Indian Band and community stakeholders to develop a program that suits the needs of their community. The fourth project, which is in Fort Good Hope with the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society, is currently planned as part of their larger shelter project.

Mr. Speaker, the Northern Pathways program is intended to house people first and then to improve their housing sustainability by addressing the issues that contributed to their homelessness. Northern Pathways seeks to improve participants' social and economic well-being and independence, and to create new service pathways and working relationships with community service providers to address and end homelessness for these residents.

Mr. Speaker, partnership with Indigenous governments is an ongoing part of how the Government of the Northwest Territories does business. The Northern Pathways program is one more example of the kind of success we can have when we work together to meet the needs of Northwest Territories residents and implement northern solutions for northern housing.

Mr. Speaker, this is an exciting time in the Housing Corporation's history. Northern Pathways is just one of the new initiatives under the corporation's strategic renewal, but it shows the progress we are making toward fulfilling our mandate commitments and putting people first. I know how important housing is to our residents, and I pledge to work with all Members to meet our remaining commitments during the life of this Legislative Assembly. Mahsi Cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 80-18(3): Northern Pathways To Housing Pilot Program In Fort Simpson
Ministers' Statements

Page 4060

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 81-18(3): New Transportation Corridors
Ministers' Statements

Page 4060

Wally Shumann

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has been working hard to fulfill its mandate commitment to secure funding to advance planning and construction of new priority transportation corridors in the Northwest Territories, including the extension of the all-weather Mackenzie Valley Road, the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor, and the Tlicho all-season road.

Last fall, the Department of Infrastructure submitted two comprehensive proposals for funding to the federal government under the National Trade Corridors Fund. In March, I provided an update in the House on the status of our application for the development of the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor. Unfortunately, that project was not selected in the first round of approved submissions; however, we are continuing to pursue opportunities for funding for all phases of the project. It is expected that there will be an opportunity to resubmit an application for the project under a northern-specific call for proposals under the National Trade Corridors Fund to be issued in fall 2018.

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues on this side of the House and I have urged the federal government to issue the next call for submissions as soon as possible, in recognition that is it critical that we address the North's infrastructure gap, and a timely decision would allow us to make the best use of the short construction season.

As I have said before, the development of the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor will address the lack of access to this mineral-rich part of Canada. The project will also increase our resiliency to the impacts of climate change while significantly reducing associated additional costs and operational difficulties for the mining industry. Once federal funding is secured, next steps would include the application of the Land Use and Sustainability Framework, as well as planning for the protection of wildlife, economic opportunities, and the involvement of Indigenous groups.

Mr. Speaker, work to advance the next steps for construction of the all-weather Mackenzie Valley Highway would also bring important benefits to residents throughout the Mackenzie Valley, including the employment and training opportunities that build local capacity. The Canyon Creek all-season access road outside Norman Wells, which is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed this fall, is already seeing increased employment to Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents as well as skill development that will prepare residents to take advantage of the opportunities that would come with the extension of the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

Increased traffic volumes and weights supported by an all-weather highway would result in efficiencies in the delivery of essential goods that contribute to stabilizing the cost of living in communities. Economic development would be enabled by increased access to the mineral and petroleum resources in the region and reducing costs of production and exploration for industry. In terms of social benefits, we only need look to the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway to see how enhanced intercommunity mobility has increased access to healthcare, education, sporting events, and more.

Mr. Speaker, it is anticipated that the Government of the Northwest Territories will soon receive an update from the federal government on its application under the National Trade Corridors Fund for the extension of the Mackenzie Valley Highway. In the meantime, the Department of Infrastructure is continuing to pursue other federal funding opportunities for the remaining components of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, as well as the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor. Discussions have been ongoing with the Canada Infrastructure Bank to determine how the two transportation corridors could fit within their program. It is expected that the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor will be viewed favourably, as it is a large transformative project, a matter of public interest, and has revenue-generating potential.

Mr. Speaker, lastly, we are nearing a decision on the future of the proposed Tlicho all-season road. The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board has issued its report of the environmental assessment, and a decision from the responsible Ministers is anticipated in the coming months. On December 4, 2017, a request for proposals was issued and the three proponents that were identified through the request for qualifications were invited to submit proposals. Should the project be approved, the procurement process is expected to be finalized in the fall of 2018, which would allow for construction to begin as early as next winter.

Partnerships with our Indigenous organizations will be critical to ensuring the success of these projects. The Tlicho Government has been an active partner on the Tlicho all-season project since 2012 and has played a key role in managing elements of the project description report. Our government has also been working closely with the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated on the Mackenzie Valley Highway. The Sahtu Secretariat's efforts to help lobby for the advancement of the project through the Mackenzie Valley Highway Working Group has strengthened our case with the federal government. With regard to the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor, we look forward to continued discussions with Indigenous groups who have interest in the project on the various partnership models available to us.

Mr. Speaker, the hard work of the Government of the Northwest Territories has paid off so far, but there is still a lot of work to be done. As we wait for important decisions to be made, we will continue to work with its partners and to ensure the people of the Northwest Territories are in the best position to realize the benefits that these strategic transportation corridors will bring. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 81-18(3): New Transportation Corridors
Ministers' Statements

Page 4062

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 82-18(3): Minister Late for the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 4062

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources will be late arriving in the House today to participate in the Environment Minsters' teleconference. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 82-18(3): Minister Late for the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 4062

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Indigenous Elders in Tax Arrears
Members' Statements

Page 4062

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, across my entire riding of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, the land taxation and land-leasing policy has many elders convinced that they will never own their own homes or properties. At this time, some elders owe so much tax and lease debt that they believe that, when they pass on, GNWT would own their homes and that surviving members who move into their homes will not be allowed to remain in them and will have to move out. Many of these family members do not own homes and are reliant on social housing, therefore costing the government about $20,000 a year to house them.

Mr. Speaker, as the government of the people of the Northwest Territories, we must work diligently with elders and their families to help them resolve this huge systematic issue as soon as possible.

Mr. Speaker, the Lands division must not only look at this through the lens of legislation, policy, and regulations to determine the best course of action. Mr. Speaker, when the treaty in my riding was signed, the Dene people were left with the impression that the treaty was signed so that both the government and the Indigenous landowners would share the land as equal partners. How did we get to the stage where the original landowners are now being billed thousands of dollars for their own land? What has transpired to make this possible, and how did the ownership transfer to the GNWT? The GNWT was not present at the Treaty 11 signing.

Mr. Speaker, one elder told me it was like somebody asking you to provide them a place to sleep for one night, only to wake up to find that individual repairing their unit and suddenly starts charging you rent.

Mr. Speaker, Indigenous people have used this land for thousands of years. Within the last hundred or so years, the government has taken all of their land away and is charging to live on their lot, in their homes, in their communities.

Mr. Speaker, now we have come to a situation where a trapper must pay hundreds of dollars for a trapping cabin. If things do not change, the GNWT would own everyone's trapping cabin. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indigenous Elders in Tax Arrears
Members' Statements

Page 4062

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Land Lease Rate Changes
Members' Statements

Page 4062

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on being elected, we spent a good amount of time working together to come up with the mandate for the 18th Assembly. One of the mandates was to reduce the cost of living for the residents of the Northwest Territories. Well, I guess I must have missed something or did not understand what we meant by "reduction of cost of living." On March 15, 2018, during oral question period, I asked the Minister of Lands about the difference in lease rates between Commissioner's and NWT's lands. We were informed that the NWT's lands rates were going up to a minimum of $840 so there would be similarity between minimum rates on both leases.

On March 22nd, they sent a media notification that there was going to be a briefing about Commissioner's and territorial land payments. Commissioner's lands were going down by 5 per cent. This was a good-news story. However, NWT land lease payments were going up from $150 to $840 upon the renewal date. This is either a 336 to 560 per cent increase. There was no plan to implement an increase over a period of time. It was bang, here you go. The funny thing is that there is no reference to cutting the cost to seniors. They have a hard time paying $250 presently.

When I looked into this new directive and how it affected Nahendeh communities, especially designated authorities, there were going to be over 170 leases affected. This included traditional cabins that are part of residential traditional hunting and trapping areas. This could mean people would have to pay additional money to the government to hunt and trap.

In an interview, the Minister of Lands said that it was based on cost-of-living index the last time the payment was raised. I find it very interesting that this government is willing to use this formula when they want to generate revenue, but don't use this when they are calculating income support.

It is my understanding that it is common practice that these ideas are vented through Cabinet before coming to the floor. This makes me wonder if we truly care about small communities with these types of decisions.

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding after post-devolution a commitment was made to the Legislative Assembly and the people of the Northwest Territories that changes would not be made to the way leases were structured or lease rates were calculated. Unfortunately, this has changed.

Mr. Speaker, I have reached out to my residents and told them of this news. Not surprisingly, a lot of people did not hear about this and were not engaged about this potential increase. Later today, I will have questions for the Minister of Lands about this issue. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Land Lease Rate Changes
Members' Statements

Page 4063

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.