This is page numbers 11 - 42 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 1st 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 assembly.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Hon. Katrina Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Diane Thom, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 11

Elder Joanne Snowshoe

[English translation not available].

Speaker's Opening Comments
Speaker's Opening Comments

Page 11

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Ms. Snowshoe, for the prayer today. Ms. Snowshoe is one of my elders from Fort McPherson. Mahsi cho.

Members, interpreters, visitors in the gallery, and Pages, as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, it is my honour to welcome you here today during this holiday season.

It is the darkest time of the year, but I had the honour of lighting up the Assembly last week as part of Christmas Lights Across Canada. Thank you to all of the Yellowknife, Detah, and Ndilo kindergarten students who came to the Legislative Assembly to decorate the Christmas trees.

Also, thank you to the schools across the North that sent in decorations for the large Christmas tree in the Great Hall.

Today marks the first regular sitting day of this 19th Legislative Assembly. I know all Members are excited to begin the work of this Assembly. I hope the positive and respectful tone you take today will last the next four years.

I want to thank the Pages for joining us here in the Assembly. For this sitting, we have Pages from Yellowknife and Detah. Having you in the Chamber reminds Members that the decisions we make today will affect your future.

Members, our proceedings this week will be interpreted in French and eight of our nine Indigenous languages. Please join me in thanking the interpreters.

---Applause

As an early Christmas present to the interpreters, I remind you to speak slowly and take a pause to allow them to catch up.

Finally, Commissioner Margaret Thom has recommended the passage of Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2019-2020 during this first session of the 19th Assembly. Thank you.

Item 3, Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 1-19(1): Sessional Statement - December 2019
Ministers' Statements

Page 11

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome all my colleagues to this sitting of the Legislative Assembly. I also want to thank them on behalf of Cabinet and myself for selecting us for the Executive Council. You have chosen a hard-working, strong Cabinet that is committed to working collaboratively with Regular Members in the interest of all residents of the Northwest Territories.

I am proud to take my seat here in Canada's first and only gender-balanced Legislature. Women make up half the population and, now, half of our representatives in this Assembly. We have a responsibility to serve as a positive example to the rest of the country.

Our ground-breaking Cabinet includes four other strong, capable women in addition to myself. In the history of the Assembly, since 1999, only three women have ever served on Cabinet before, and they have each served in different Cabinets. In addition to being only the second woman to be Premier since Nellie Cournoyea, I am the first Metis woman to be Premier in all of Canada. Once again, we are making history here in the 19th Legislative Assembly.

We are also joined by two experienced and capable men at the Cabinet table, who I know are committed to serving the people of this territory. The Executive Council benefits tremendously from the diversity of voices and perspectives we have around the table.

Mr. Speaker, the results of the last election sent a clear message. People voted for change. They did not think that we were being heard, and they were not satisfied with the results their government was delivering. We can do better.

We are the servants of the people. Residents of the Northwest Territories have placed their trust in us to represent their interests and make their lives better, now and into the future. We need to listen to what they say, understand what they need, and take action to deliver results. It is critical that our focus be outside of this Legislative Assembly. What happens here is important, but, whenever possible, the decisions we make should come from our people.

Cabinet must focus on what matters to people when we make decisions. That is why our Cabinet has developed a set of principles to guide us in our decisions to ensure that our choices are in the best interest of the residents of the NWT.

Our principles include a commitment to support and enhance relationships with Indigenous governments and Indigenous people. We recognize that we are partners in governing this territory and that, if we want to deliver results for our residents, we need to work respectfully with our Indigenous government partners within the true spirit of government-to-government relationships.

We also recognize that it is more important to produce successful outcomes for people than to apply the same rigid procedures to everyone in every community. That is why our principles ensure that we will choose options that use an integrated, client-focused, and solution-oriented approach when we are making decisions.

We will work to ensure that our decisions promote personal and community self-sufficiency. We will do this by making sure that government policies, programs, and services help people and communities define their own needs whenever possible and that our work complements their developing their capacity and skills to choose their own futures.

We know that, to serve NWT residents, we need to understand and respect their cultures and languages, with a special focus on Indigenous language and culture. To enhance the experiences of people when they are dealing with us and to create a stronger territory, our decisions will respect diversity and embrace all of the territorial languages and cultures.

We also want to ensure that our decisions create economic and financial benefits for northern residents and businesses. We know that government spending, contracting, and procurement creates business and employment opportunities at the community, regional, and territorial levels. We are going to keep this in mind when we are making decisions, Mr. Speaker, and we will make sure that our decisions maximize benefits for our territory.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we are going to make it a priority to explain our decisions and the reasons for them clearly and proactively. We believe that people have a right to know and to understand what their government is doing, and we are committed to being more open and transparent. Cabinet will have to make some hard choices sometimes, and we know that people won't always like our decisions, but we will explain our decisions and the challenges that we face out of respect for the people who elected us to serve them.

In this spirit of respect and transparency, we will be tabling Cabinet's statement of principles today. It is important that the whole of the Government of the Northwest Territories understands the principles that we will live by.

Mr. Speaker, this is a new government, and we plan on doing business a new way. Our principles are one of those ways. Working more collaboratively with Members is another. There is a wealth of talent and experience in this room, and I believe that we are all committed to making a difference for our people.

Fostering relationships outside this room will also be a priority for us. The Government of the Northwest Territories does not govern alone, and we need the support and participation of many partners to achieve success. I have already reached out personally to Indigenous leaders in the territory, and we will start face-to-face meetings in the new year.

I have also recently returned from Ontario, where I took part in meetings of Canada's Premiers, met with the Prime Minister and federal Ministers, and attended the opening of Parliament. I am pleased to say that the North has a lot of support in the South and that the three territorial Premiers were successful in getting the support of our provincial colleagues to make northern priorities one of the four agenda items for the next First Ministers Meeting.

Following our meetings in Ottawa, I am confident that the Prime Minister and federal Ministers share our goal of creating a strong, prosperous Northwest Territories. I look forward to working closely with them as we finalize plans for both of our governments.

In conclusion, Cabinet looks forward to working closely with all Members of the Legislative Assembly, as well as all levels of government, as we move toward the priorities defined by the 19th Legislative Assembly. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 1-19(1): Sessional Statement - December 2019
Ministers' Statements

Page 13

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Youth.

Minister's Statement 2-19(1): Youth Ambassador Program
Ministers' Statements

Page 13

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the Minister responsible for Youth, I am proud to speak today about one of our most successful youth initiatives, the NWT Youth Ambassador Program.

From November 14th to the 18th of this year, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs hosted the NWT Youth Ambassador Program orientation and training event in Yellowknife. I was pleased to attend this orientation along with the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, the Honourable Ms. Chinna.

Participants from all over the Northwest Territories were involved. Their selection was based on community involvement, commitment to a healthy lifestyle, and reflection on how the NWT Youth Ambassador Program will help them in the future. The youth are between the ages of 16 and 22. These fine young people are the role models and leaders of tomorrow.

The NWT Youth Ambassador Program has been in operation for 12 years. I am pleased to be able to say that I was part of this program from the very beginning in 2007, when I attended the Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse.

The program offers a guided and structured volunteer experience for Northwest Territories youth at major territorial, national, and international events. Participants have the opportunity to develop life and job skills as well as to build the confidence necessary to deal with complex life challenges.

Youth who participate in the program emerge with an increased sense of pride in their culture and community. Participants have reported back that they have, with the influence of this program, experienced personal development resulting in improved self-confidence and better mental health. They have also reported that they feel that they are making healthier lifestyle choices, including healthier eating, increased physical activity, living tobacco-free, healthier sexuality, and greater awareness of injury-prevention strategies.

In anticipation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games hosted in Whitehorse, officials joined the ambassadors to highlight the key areas where the youth will be volunteering, the history of the games, and some of the changes that the 2020 host society is making to include more Indigenous culture.

A representative of the North American Indigenous Games also attended to build excitement around the games in Halifax. This included a session on the Mi'kmaq culture in Halifax. The youth were able to get their first task as volunteers and registered themselves in the online volunteer portal.

Mr. Speaker, the program has successfully identified 35 youth from across the Northwest Territories to travel and volunteer at either the 2020 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, or the 2020 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Twenty youth will attend the Arctic Winter Games, and 15 will volunteer at the North American Indigenous Games.

We know that for any program to be successful, especially when we are taking our youth in new and different locations, it requires the support of dedicated staff. I would like to thank all of the employees involved with this program from the Sport, Recreation and Youth Division, both past and present, for their hard work to coordinate the Youth Ambassador Program.

In closing, I would like to congratulate all the youth for a successful weekend. The NWT Youth Ambassador Program gives young people opportunities to travel, volunteer, meet new friends, and develop leadership skills. It has been life-changing for many participants. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 2-19(1): Youth Ambassador Program
Ministers' Statements

Page 13

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister responsible for Youth. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 3-19(1): Yellowknife Women's Society Shelter Grand Opening
Ministers' Statements

Page 13

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Partnerships between housing stakeholders and community partners is critical in supporting the housing needs of our residents. One such partnership has been between the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, the De Beers Group, and the Yellowknife Women's Society. Over the last year, all three partners came together to provide 16 single-room, semi-independent suites for homeless women.

De Beers has a long history in the Northwest Territories, including the development of its two mines. These investments have provided many employment opportunities for the residents of the Northwest Territories. In addition to the economic benefits, De Beers Group has indicated that they want to support lasting social improvements to communities.

The De Beers Group reached out to the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to discuss potential legacy housing projects, consistent with the De Beers Group's commitment to supporting Northwest Territories communities involved in diamond mining. The De Beers Group was especially interested in projects that address the long-term needs of vulnerable people in their operating region.

Mr. Speaker, the De Beers Group has made a generous contribution of $250,000 to the project, along with project management expertise. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation provided a $750,000 contribution under the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation's Community Housing Support Initiative. The Yellowknife Women's Society will continue to administer a smaller emergency shelter section of the building, but their operations will become more housing-focused. They will continue to provide supportive services to residents in the new suites.

These new spaces will provide better privacy, safety, and security for women. The shared living arrangement offers the safety of living with others, as opposed to being isolated in a market rental unit. Residents will have a safe, stable home where they can start to address some of the other challenges in their lives, without having to worry about housing.

I am also pleased to say that this project benefited the residents of the shelter beyond just meeting their housing needs. Incorporating a women-in-trades component, this project has employed women who were using the shelter. These women helped to construct the living spaces where they will be residing. Building skills and work experience is a great forward-thinking approach that will benefit these women as they go forward and possibly decide that they wish to pursue a career in trades construction, maybe one day setting up their own businesses.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation's partnership with the De Beers Group and the Yellowknife Women's Society is an excellent illustration of how all levels of our society can come together to meet the housing needs of our people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 3-19(1): Yellowknife Women's Society Shelter Grand Opening
Ministers' Statements

Page 14

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 4, Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Doreen A. Arrowmaker, Royal Roads University Graduate
Members' Statements

Page 14

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [English translation not available.]

Today, I would like to acknowledge the accomplishment of one of our very own constituents of mine who I'm very proud of.

In November of this year, Doreen Ann Arrowmaker from Gameti graduated from Royal Roads University with a master's degree in Global Management. She was awarded the Founder's Award from the university for exemplifying the qualities of leadership, sustainability, and personal development for her graduating class.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of Ms. Arrowmaker for not only this accomplishment, but also how she achieved it. Doreen is from a small outlying community. She was raised in the traditional lifestyle and speaks Tlicho fluently. She has three children, and has worked very hard, too, with her school process; she is a life-long learner.

Ms. Arrowmaker is a role model for her community because she puts value in her language and culture, but also continuously working through her community. She is a true leader, in my view.

Mr. Speaker, Ms. Arrowmaker is a role model for all NWT students. She is a testament to all the young people who walk in two worlds. She has proven that students in even the smallest communities have the ability and the chance to succeed in their education endeavours.

I stand here today very humbled and proud of Ms. Arrowmaker's achievement. I want to personally congratulate her and her family for their dedication to fulfil her dream. Masi.

Doreen A. Arrowmaker, Royal Roads University Graduate
Members' Statements

Page 14

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Next, we have Member for Frame Lake.

Climate Emergency
Members' Statements

Page 14

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. On November 29, 2019, I attended the climate strike organized by Yellowknife's youth. This enthusiastic group has now organized three events in Yellowknife, and a similar group has organized strikes in Inuvik, too. What people young and old want is actual action on climate change, something this jurisdiction has generally failed to address.

Clearly, climate change is a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity that impacts the environment, biodiversity, the economy, and human health. NWT residents are feeling the impacts of climate change today, from coastal erosion to wildfires, melting permafrost, heat waves, and other extreme weather events which are projected to intensify in the future. The impacts of climate change are being felt most profoundly in the polar regions of our planet.

The 19th Legislative Assembly has committed to strengthen this government's leadership and authority on climate change and to ensure climate change impacts are specifically considered when making government decisions. At least 473 Canadian jurisdictions, including national, provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments, have declared a climate emergency, and over 25 countries around the world have done the same.

It's time that our government declares a climate emergency in the NWT. We are obligated to meet international mission targets under the Paris Agreement, but we will need to make deeper reductions to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, which would result in irreversible damage.

So what would a climate emergency declaration actually do? In many other jurisdictions, a response plan is being developed, just as any other emergency would require, accompanied by concrete actions and expenditure of funds. Later today I will table a draft motion that would result in the declaration of a climate emergency in the Northwest Territories with a requirement for the development of a response plan by January 1, 2021, to be tabled in this House. I welcome any feedback and input from the public and my colleagues on both sides of this House, as I intend to bring back the motion in our next session in 2020. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Climate Emergency
Members' Statements

Page 15

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Improving Housing Programs
Members' Statements

Page 15

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Since coming to the office in this 19th Assembly, I have noticed a number of common issues that people seem to be encountering when dealing with the NWT Housing Corporation. In the multiple housing-related constituency issues I have already begun dealing with, it's become quite apparent that there exist some very noticeable cracks in the infrastructure of the NWT Housing Corporation, which many people, mostly vulnerable populations, are falling through.

I believe part of the reason for this, Mr. Speaker, is that too many of our government policies have become overly prescriptive and are not properly serving the people we're meant to protect and represent.

I have talked to many people how are in need, some in dire need, in cases, of certain housing programs for things like home repairs and renovations, basic home maintenance services, and better outreach when it comes to assisting the elders in applying for housing programs.

Mr. Speaker, our housing programs cannot exist only to serve our bureaucratic needs, but, in my view, that is what they have slowly become, whether we know it and whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Why do these programs exist if our most vulnerable citizens, like elders, low-income people, and young people cannot properly access and make use of them? We need to rethink how we are delivering programs and services through the Housing Corporation. We need to reduce barriers and be more flexible to people's circumstances, and be open to new ideas for ways to improve service delivery.

We also need to look after our elders. They deserve and should live in comfortable and affordable homes.

Mr. Speaker, among the 19th Assembly's mandate items is to increase the number of affordable homes and reduce core housing needs, so, if we want to make good on a commitment like that, we must work to improve aspects of the Housing Corporation wherever it is needed, including the areas I identified today. Our housing policies are outdated and are not working for everyone as they should. This is not sustainable, and we have a duty to change course if something is not working. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Improving Housing Programs
Members' Statements

Page 15

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.