This is page numbers 43 - 80 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 going.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, 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

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 43

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Colleagues, on December 1, 2019, Persis Gruben of Tuktoyaktuk passed away at the age of 101 years old. Persis was a much-loved and respected elder to all the people of the Beaufort Delta. She was born on the Peel River near Fort McPherson on October 20, 1918. Although she was born Gwich'in, she was welcomed into the Inuvialuit culture with open arms. Persis was the oldest living person in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. When she was died, she was the last survivor of the Shingle Point residential school.

Colleagues, please join me in expressing the condolences of this House to the family and countless friends of Persis Gruben. She will be laid to rest today in Tuktoyaktuk. Please join me in a moment of silence.

---Moment of silence

Thank you, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 4-19(1): Economic Update
Ministers' Statements

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Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to take this opportunity today to update Members on our economy and to discuss some of the fiscal challenges that we will face as we work to deliver our Assembly's shared priorities.

As we move towards the first budget of this Assembly, we must be realistic in our expectations for how quickly we can make positive changes to strengthen our programs and services and deliver on our commitments to support the NWT's economy.

The Northwest Territories' economy has struggled to recover to a level comparable to where we were before the serious global financial and economic

recession now over a decade ago. Since 2014, our economy has stabilized, but remains stagnant with real GDP growth under 1 percent per year, which is

less than half the economic growth rate for the rest of Canada. Without the construction of the Gahcho Kue mine during that time, the NWT economy would indeed have shrunk.

We expect the final data to show that, in 2019, the economy was largely supported by the public sector's investment. While Norman Wells is producing oil again after the pipeline was repaired in September 2018, mineral exploration for 2019 is expected to be lower than 2018, delaying the discovery and development of the next generation of Northwest Territories mines.

Looking forward, our economic outlook is one of tepid growth, as diamond production has passed its peak, with weaker overall exploration investment in the mining sector. As it currently stands, none of the existing diamond mines have confirmed plans for production past 2034, and the Diavik diamond mine is scheduled to close in 2025. We remain optimistic about several smaller resource projects, but there are no projects in the immediate future that would completely offset the loss of activity of one of those diamond mines closing, and the timelines for these other projects may be years after the diamond mines cease to operate.

We all know that the resource sector is a key driver in our economy, and this House knows that the industry is faced with challenges. That is why Members have made increasing resource exploration and development one of our shared priorities. Low commodity prices and global trade fluctuations have introduced a degree of uncertainty for any long-term investments in the NWT resource sector. This risk, coupled with the production costs in the North, impacts the decision-making of our local businesses, especially those who depend on the mining sector for much of their business. Global market conditions will continue to present difficulties for the next few years and could have long-term economic implications.

This stagnant economic outlook means that we are starting the 19th Legislative Assembly largely in the same position as the start of the last Assembly. For the current fiscal year, we are projecting an $80-million revenue decline from the 2019-2020 budget. This revenue decline has increased our short-term borrowing, and slow economic growth means that our total revenue growth is expected to be a modest 3.5 percent over the next five years. As a result of this year's revenue decline, current levels of spending will bring us closer to our federally imposed borrowing limit next year, leaving a small fiscal cushion to weather any further shocks to revenues or expenditures.

Knowing where we stand, the real question becomes: what will we do about it?

The best way to improve the GNWT's bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is to support our residents and businesses to build a more robust and diverse economy that can better weather these fluctuations we have seen within our resource sector. As a government, we can provide this support by better defining what we need to provide as part of regular programs and services so that there are fiscal resources available to invest back into our territory.

Put more simply, we need to work together to make decisions that will restore sustainability to our finances. We need to remember that slower economic activity leads to slower overall revenue growth, at the same time as pressure for government programs and services increases. In good economic times, the demand for social programs slows. During a downturn, our fiscal resources are squeezed to address the growing expenditure pressures and challenges our ability to invest in our long-term future.

Mr. Speaker, Cabinet will be developing a fiscal strategy over the next couple of months, and that will help us balance our wish to invest in the territory and its people, while ensuring the programs and services that our government provides are sustainable. While we are already under pre-existing timelines to consider the main estimates for the 2020-2021 fiscal year early in the new year, Cabinet does value the insight and input of Regular Members in the GNWT's budgeting and planning process.

Our first budget will strive to be a collective effort to be accountable and efficient as we pursue our priorities and mandate. We look forward to reviewing the 2020-2021 main estimates with standing committees in the new year and to discussing them publicly during the upcoming budget session. In addition to this process, Members will also have an opportunity to help us develop and vote on supplementary appropriations in March that will provide new funding for initiatives linked to our shared priorities.

Looking longer-term into 2020, we also intend to engage with Members on the development of four-year business plans. Unlike the previous annual business plans, these four-year plans will help define a long-term agenda for departments, and Member input will be crucial to shaping the government's direction and actions for the next four years. It is through these efforts that we will meet our fiscal reality and chart a path forward in the best interest of the people we serve .

I look forward to working with all Members of the 19th Assembly to find creative and effective solutions to these challenges that we face, and to taking the steps we need to support an economy that will support our residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 4-19(1): Economic Update
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 5-19(1): Health and Social Services System Overview
Ministers' Statements

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Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to share with the Members of this Legislative Assembly my reflections as a new Minister of Health and Social Services.

I have spent my first few weeks as Minister receiving a series of comprehensive briefings from both the Department of Health and Social Services and the health and social services authorities. I have had the opportunity to meet with the Leadership Council, senior management, and staff.

One of my first thoughts after starting these briefings was how passionate and dedicated the staff and leadership are in the health and social services system. Everyone who I spoke to was there because they truly wanted to make a difference for the residents of the Northwest Territories. There is a deep-rooted, heartfelt belief across the system that we all play an important role in improving the lives of clients and patients. I am encouraged and inspired by having seen this and believe, if we harness this passion and dedication, we can make significant progress in tackling the health and social services issues our territory faces today.

As Members newly elected to this Legislative Assembly, we have all heard from our constituents about the health and social issues that our families and communities are experiencing. Many of us know first-hand what these issues look like and can draw from our own lived experiences. As Minister, I have been briefed on many of these issues and I am learning more about the challenges and about the work currently being done to address these issues. I am seeing the strengths and opportunities that we have to make progress on these issues over the life of this Assembly together.

As we work with Members to finalize the mandate in the coming weeks, we will be confirming how the government will address the Assembly's priorities and supporting all our people, including children, elders, and those struggling with mental health and addictions. These are also priorities for the department and I am confident they will share our commitment to deliver positive outcomes for all NWT residents.

Mr. Speaker, seeing what I have of the people working within the health and social services system, and learning what I have about the work currently being done and the opportunities and strengths we have available, I do believe that our health and social services system is well positioned to make progress on our shared priorities. I look forward to providing strong leadership over the next four years, reaching across the floor to work with my fellow Members colleagues, and with our Indigenous and community partners, on the important health and social services challenges facing our territory today, to make the Northwest Territories a better place to live for all residents in the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 5-19(1): Health and Social Services System Overview
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 6-19(1): Aurora College Transformation Progress
Ministers' Statements

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The transformation of Aurora College into a polytechnic university is a priority of this Legislative Assembly, and I am pleased to say that we continue to make progress. To be successful, we must focus investments in programs and services that lead to better education and employment outcomes for our residents, including through our post-secondary education system.

Mr. Speaker, success requires the right changes, in the right order, at the right time. Following from the government response to the Aurora College foundational review, one of those changes has been the recent establishment of an Academic Advisory Council to advise Aurora College through the technical elements of the transformation process. The Academic Advisory Council is made up of eight highly-regarded academic institutions from across Canada that will provide support and guidance on the technical aspects of the transformation.

The first meeting of the Academic Advisory Council took place on November 26, 2019. This meeting received national attention in the academic community. I was pleased to be a part of that first meeting, and I was impressed by the dedication and excitement around the table.

Mr. Speaker, to be clear, the Academic Advisory Council is a temporary measure to gain technical advice at this early stage. What is not temporary is this government's commitment to genuine engagement and ongoing communication with Northwest Territories Indigenous governments, industry stakeholders, and residents, both during the transformation and moving forward under a polytechnic university.

We have been working with Indigenous government partners, key industry stakeholders, and Aurora College staff on a variety of critical elements in the Aurora College Foundational Review, government response to the review, development of the Northwest Territories post-secondary education vision and goals, and, currently, a three-year Aurora College strategic plan. Staff involvement in the transformation will be increased with the establishment of working groups within the college in the coming year.

Mr. Speaker, I have also directed the associate deputy minister of Post-Secondary Education Renewal to take an innovative approach to Indigenous government engagement around the transformation process and with the evolution to a polytechnic university. We will soon be reaching out to Indigenous governments to establish a common understanding of what that approach will look like.

Members of this House will also play a role in the transformation process. I will be offering briefings to committee and will be providing quarterly progress reports throughout the process. My door is always open to Members of this House, and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to remember that, in the next ten years, we know that 78 percent of the labour market will require a post-secondary education, whether it is a certificate, diploma, degree, or a trade. Aligning with our labour-market needs ensures that our economy can develop and diversify. I want to ensure our education programs are aligned with the labour market and that Northerners are first in line for northern jobs.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the faculty and staff of Aurora College who are working with the Government of the Northwest Territories on the transformation. They continue to deliver quality programming, while at the same time developing and implementing a wide range of changes to create new opportunities for residents. My sincere thanks for their contributions and continued commitment to the students they serve.

Mr. Speaker, the transformation into a polytechnic university is a critical step in our economic and social development. Above all, we are working to secure a strong future for generations of Northerners. Their aspirations must be met with quality, accessible, and relevant education opportunities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 6-19(1): Aurora College Transformation Progress
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 7-19(1): Northwest Territories Sport Hall of Fame
Ministers' Statements

Page 46

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I am very proud to recognize three deserving individuals that have recently been inducted into the Northwest Territories' Sport Hall of Fame.

The NWT Sport Hall of Fame was created to celebrate NWT athletes and sport builders who attained a high level of excellence and brought recognition and honour to the Northwest Territories.

It is through this recognition and promotion of sports that we demonstrate the great achievements of our outstanding sport contributors of the Northwest Territories. The legacy of their stories and successes will last for years to come.

The 2019 inductees are: the late Roseanne Allen, Floyd Daniels, and John Tram.

Roseanne Allen was one of the first Indigenous women to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics. She was born in Aklavik in 1954 and made history in Sapporo, Japan, when she took part in Nordic skiing at the 1972 Winter Olympics.

Mr. Speaker, not only was Roseanne known for her incredible ability on her skis, but her resilience was second to none. At the age of just 13, Roseanne became the youngest Canadian to win gold in the 5-kilometre Nordic skiing category at the Canadian Junior Championships in Port Arthur, Ontario.

Amongst an abundance of gold medals, a standout performance for Roseanne came when she successfully completed the three-person women's 5-kilometre relay team to 10th place, beating out their close rivals from the United States.

Roseanne will be forever remembered in the world of cross-country skiing and will leave a lasting legacy for young athletes across the Northwest Territories with her achievements.

Floyd Daniels was renowned in the softball world for being a fierce yet quiet competitor when on the mound. With raw pace and incredible accuracy, he became one of the most well-known pitchers in the Northwest Territories.

Floyd played in various tournaments and settings, ranging from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Victoria, British Columbia; and Lethbridge; all the way to Australia and various cities within the United States.

Mr. Speaker, Floyd passed away on August 18, 2019, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. He was playing fast-pitch competitively and helping with minor league ball in Hay River up until the age of 60.

Floyd leaves a legacy of playing sports on and off the field. He was incredibly competitive but always respectful to his opponents. He would instill these values into his team and coaching throughout his career.

Mr. Speaker, the third inductee for 2019 is John Tram. John was a highly motivated athlete with natural raw talent in the sport of gymnastics. John celebrated over 39 medals, 12 of those being at international and national events throughout his wonderful career, and he continues to pass his knowledge on to the youth of the Northwest Territories to this current day.

Well known for his sportsmanship, John often got both the crowd and his competitors behind him at the numerous events he took part in. He is highly praised by previous coaches and Olympic medalists.

John dominated in the rings event. His score of 13.1 in the Western and Canadian championships has only been beaten by four other people in the last 20 years!

John now turns his focus into taking younger athletes to these events and does what he can to grow the sport across the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, all Northerners should be extremely proud of Roseanne's, Floyd's, and John's accomplishments. On November 9th, an event was held in their honour.

On behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories, I would like to congratulate all three inductees on this wonderful honour. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 7-19(1): Northwest Territories Sport Hall of Fame
Ministers' Statements

Page 46

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery
Members' Statements

Page 47

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to talk about the commercial fishery on Great Slave Lake. If you look at the various industries that have come and gone in Hay River, you will find that the commercial fishery has outlasted most of them. This is remarkable considering the harsh elements these fishers face, whether it be the winter fishery or the summer fishery. The financial return to these fishers is minimal when you consider fish prices have never kept up with the increased operating cost related to fuel, equipment, labour, and insurance.

Mr. Speaker, the fishery is constrained by government legislation and an overbearing government bureaucracy that is still operating using colonial methods. To make a living, these fishers need the time to ready their equipment and to be out in the lake fishing. Instead, they find themselves caught up in ever-increasing government red tape while being held hostage by government programs that are used to pit one against the other.

Mr. Speaker, when we hear fishers' concerns, our government's fallback answer is always that fishers are split on what direction to move, that they do not get along, and that there is no consensus among them. Just as the people of the NWT decided they want a change in this government, it may be time to change out some of our bureaucrats in this file and replace them with a fresh set of eyes, new ideas, and a new approach that will engage and empower the fishers and not diminish their trust in us.

Mr. Speaker, if this government wants to revitalize the commercial fishing industry, we need the fishers. We cannot do it on our own. Our role as government should be to support NWT fishers through ongoing and meaningful discussions with them. We should reduce and remove obstacles that hamper their ability to do their job. We should be assisting them in identifying practices that work to increase their return.

Mr. Speaker, this government over the years has spent millions of dollars, studying, reviewing, meeting, discussing, and travelling to look at ways to revitalize this industry. We continue doing the same thing over and over while piling up multiple reports and really getting nowhere. The reality of this industry is that fish prices are still low while equipment, equipment repair, labour, and insurance costs have all risen substantially, which diminishes the return to the fisher. We need to find a way to increase return to our NWT fishers through a combination of higher prices while reducing operating costs. Failing this, we may ultimately lose the commercial fisher. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I'll have questions for the Minister of ITI later. Thank you.

Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery
Members' Statements

Page 47

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Home Care and Support Services
Members' Statements

Page 47

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In my community, there are many elders and residents with disabilities, who continue to live at home. In Inuvik, we do have a homecare program with home-support workers who provide care for these individuals from Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 5:00. The problem with the service that works between these hours is people require help after these hours and on weekends.

Some clients have to look for others to care for them outside these hours, which can lead them to be at risk for elder abuse. Sometimes, they have to be admitted into hospital because there is no one to care for them.

This government has a priority: enable seniors to age in place with dignity. I believe anyone with a disability should be able to remain in their home with dignity, as well. We are in a shortage of long-term care beds in the NWT, and our future calculations show we will continue to have a shortage of beds.

What we should be focusing on is supporting the families and clients who require homecare and home-support service beyond the hours as the program currently runs, to ensure they can age in place and they are less likely to need a long-term care bed. If we focus on this not only in Inuvik but the entire Northwest Territories, our elders and our clients with disabilities could live longer in their homes and their communities with dignity instead of housing them in regional centres or, worse yet, out of the territory.

In my previous position, I was meeting with communities, and one of the elders—we were discussing long-term care. One of the comments that they made is: going to long-term care, they feel like we're sending them to storage lockers or storage units. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will have some questions for the Minister later today.

Home Care and Support Services
Members' Statements

Page 47

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.