This is page numbers 81 - 106 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 work.

Topics

Value of the Public Service
Members' Statements

Page 87

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to end the first session of this new Assembly by thanking the public service. In this House, part of our job is to be critical of government, but I want to assure everyone who works in our public service that we are grateful for the work they do, and being a government worker can often be a thankless job.

We elected officials must remember that the GNWT is not some amorphous, impersonal machine, but it is made up of hard-working people who take pride in their jobs. It is our nurses who heal the sick. It is our teachers who are raising the next generation of strong minds. It is social workers, policy wonks, scientists, firefighters, road maintenance workers, and so much more.

To all of the members of the public service, I know, at times, that the demands of this House can be difficult. Sometimes you just get that program finally implemented and working, and some MLA tells you to change it, but I ask you to be patient. This leads me to my next point.

We in this House are not the experts. We are elected to lead, but we can only do so if provided advice from those in government who are the experts. We can only make truly informed decisions if we are provided all of the facts and options for solving our territory's problems.

To our public service, I encourage you to know that this is a new Assembly, an Assembly willing to do things differently, and know that we want new ideas. In fact, we want old ideas, too. Perhaps that program that was denied by the last administration, perhaps this is the time to push it through.

I am reminded, when we met our new ombud, that a Member wanted to thank Wendy Bisaro, who served as a Member two Assemblies ago. This is a recognition that progress is often slow, and all of our progress is built on the Members who served before us.

To our new Ministers, I encourage you to get into your regions, talk with your front-line workers, hear their concerns, and let's give them a few early wins. You must trust your senior management, but you must also remember that a department is so much more than its headquarters. It is more than its senior bureaucrats, who often have a lens that may be risk-adverse and not exactly a reflection of what is happening on the ground.

I ask all of us, and mostly, I thank the public service, and I encourage them to feel bold, feel empowered, and let's deliver programs and services that our Northerners need. Thank you.

Value of the Public Service
Members' Statements

Page 87

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

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

Need for Adequate and Affordable Housing
Members' Statements

Page 87

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As you are aware, housing is a basic necessity that everyone needs, especially here in the North, where temperatures swing dramatically. Recently, we received the NWT Bureau of Statistics 2019 Housing Indicators Community Survey. Shortly after that, CBC released a new story in which it was outlined, and some have called housing here in the North a crisis. This is not the first time in recent memory that this term has been used or hinted at to describe our housing situation. Last year, a housing summit was held in Inuvik where similar issues were raised.

Housing in every community throughout the Northwest Territories is getting worse, Mr. Speaker. The 2019 NWT Community Survey says that 42 percent of all houses in the territory have at least one major problem, and this is up from 20 percent in the 2016 federal census.

CBC compared the results of the 2019 NWT Community Survey with the 2016 census results and found a dramatic change in the number of households with core housing needs, a term used by national housing authorities to determine the number of households that are too expensive for residents and are not suitable in other ways, like overcrowding or the need for major repairs.

In Inuvik, we have had some new additions to housing that was done in partnership with the Inuvialuit, but this was just replacements. It was done with the Inuvialuit, but this is a far cry from what the actual need is in my community. This is a great example of GNWT working with Indigenous governments to bring more housing online in the communities. More of this type of collaboration needs to occur.

We have had people waiting for housing and have been on housing lists for years because the demand for housing is simply too much for our current allocations. We also have prices of homes in Inuvik that simply put owning a home out of the reach of many of my constituents. We need to find creative ways to help address this issue and help our residents have adequate affordable housing.

We need to fix this, Mr. Speaker. Later today, I will have questions for the Minister responsible for housing as to what this government is going to do to address this issue, because it is clearly getting worse. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Need for Adequate and Affordable Housing
Members' Statements

Page 87

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

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

Yellowknife Day Shelter Policy
Members' Statements

Page 88

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I live downtown in my constituency, and the operation of the combined day shelter and sobering centre is a focus for many of my constituents and, indeed, for Yellowknifers in general. I am committed to making downtown a safer place for everyone to be.

I have spoken in this House about the gains made downtown by having both GNWT and the City of Yellowknife invest in programs for people who are intoxicated and/or homeless. These programs have produced good outcomes for clients, including keeping them safe and connecting them to housing and treatment services, but, as a recently completed evaluation shows, the day shelter's mandate is unclear.

Mr. Speaker, the operator of the combined centre, along the territorial health authority, has attempted to answer this question by banning people with homes from the day shelter. This change was poorly communicated, with a sign on the door a couple of days before the new rule was to come into force last month.

Clients and other service providers responded negatively to what they perceived as a surprise change, and one that may be dangerous to clients, especially in the winter. In the latest attempt to get the messaging right, the operator paid for two full-page ads in the newspaper to make its case.

Mr. Speaker, there are some simple lessons to learn here. The first is to share and discuss the evaluation findings and proposed changes with other service providers. I am unclear of why that didn't happen, but it obviously should have.

Second, service providers need some kind of forum to discuss services for clients because, in many cases, there is an overlapping client group who access a number of different agencies. Other communities have interagency committees. Why doesn't Yellowknife? Is this work that the Health and Social Services authority could facilitate?

Third, people who have housing shouldn't be treated as if shelter is their only need.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Yellowknife Day Shelter Policy
Members' Statements

Page 88

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. I have met people at the day shelter who go there to socialize, to take a break from escalating violence at home, or to get something to eat. I am unclear how these needs are going to be met now. Having made this change at the day shelter, the department needs to come up with a plan along with the new interagency committee about how to meet the complex needs of people who do have housing.

Mr. Speaker, this change comes at a time when the weather is a serious risk to those without homes. I appreciate they can go to the day shelter for warmth and safety. Now, we have to turn our attention to the population who are no longer welcome there. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Yellowknife Day Shelter Policy
Members' Statements

Page 88

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Members. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Community Empowerment
Members' Statements

December 12th, 2019

Page 88

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to focus on how we should empower our communities and our people. This is part of the discussion we had on our priorities and mandates of the Northwest Territories. We need to allow communities to build capacities and start making their own decisions.

Mr. Speaker, I represent the largest Indigenous community in the NWT. The population of Behchoko is around 2,500. Over 90 percent are Tlicho citizens. Behchoko is a fast-growing community, with highly educated community members. More than 200 individuals have post-secondary education. These statistics show that Tlicho people have the education and ability to take on positions within the GNWT. We have the ability to assess our own community needs and manage programs based on those needs.

Twenty years ago, Mr. Speaker, I was a community empowerment coordinator in Behchoko for MACA. At that time, all the MACA positions were housed in Behchoko, including the superintendent. This department was working at full capacity, with all positions situated in Behchoko. Twenty years later, there are seven positions serving the North Slave region. North Slave includes all Tlicho communities. Four of these positions, three of the most senior positions, are based out of Yellowknife. Headquarters is making all of our decisions about our communities, from Yellowknife.

How is this decentralization? How is this community empowerment?

Not only this, Mr. Speaker; I have been told that, in the past, the North Slave superintendent rarely came to Behchoko and local staff were required to accommodate him in Yellowknife for meetings. It is my understanding that there is a new superintendent also working in Yellowknife today. Perhaps she will be able to spend more time in the community.

Mr. Speaker, if we are serious about communities taking ownership and being their own decision-making authorities, we have to start empowering them. GNWT positions need to be in a community or regions to serve the needs of our communities. We have to move away from a top-down approach and allow grassroots people to make their own decisions. This will be a true reconciliation. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Community Empowerment
Members' Statements

Page 89

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

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

Recognition of 2019 Aboriginal Sports Circle Award Recipients
Members' Statements

Page 89

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. For my Member's statement today I'd like to recognize three constituents of mine who were recently awarded the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT for their achievement in sports.

The name of the first individual is Bayleigh Chaplin of Deninu Kue, who won the Langugae and Culture Award. Cabin Radio wrote a great story about each of the winners, and wrote this about Bayleigh:

Bayleigh is always willing to lend a helping hand and, despite hard times in life, she always puts on a strong face and takes part in cultural activities and events. When she isn't on the field, training in her own sports and activities, such as archery or Dene Games, she is constantly making an effort to be out on the land. She also loves to participate in cultural events such as bannock making, assembling fish nets, cultural crafts, making dry meat, and storytelling.

Mr. Speaker, the second individual I'd like to recognize is Dianna Beck of Ndilo, who won the Community Builder Award. Again, a piece was written about Dianna and had this to say:

Dianna Beck and her family are well known in the dog mushing community. She is recognized for her hard work, dedication, and active involvement with the Canadian Championship Dog Derby in Yellowknife. Dianna does a lot of work with the Dog Derby, namely her efforts behind the scenes that often go unnoticed, until now. Dianna's efforts keep this tradition alive. All of her success and accomplishments are a result of her incredible compassion and love for sport.

The third constituent I'd like to recognize is Aaron Plotner, who works at Ndilo's K'alemi Dene School and won the Coach Award. Once again, this was said about Aaron:

Aaron Plotner plays a huge role in the after-school activities by coaching a variety of sports teams. He recognizes the importance of building relationships with students and encouraging them to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Aaron attends every day with a goal to make a difference for the students at the K'alemi Dene School. Aaron is an outstanding coach and a fantastic role model through his actions and encouragement for students to live their best and healthiest lives.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to congratulate these three constituents for their outstanding contribution to the communities and the world of sport. I hope to see each of you continue to prosper in these areas and beyond. With that, I'll have a few questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services later. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition of 2019 Aboriginal Sports Circle Award Recipients
Members' Statements

Page 89

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Recreational Land Lease Fee Increases
Members' Statements

Page 89

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, today I'd like to talk about the issue of recreational land lease rental fees being increased on cabin owners who reside on territorial land in the NWT.

On April 1, 2018, the Department of Lands increased the minimum land lease rent fees on all cabin owners and subsistence harvesters who have recreational land leases on territorial lands. The fees went up 560 percent, going from an annual amount of $150 up to $840. This is an extraordinary fee increase to impose all at once. These fee increases have disrupted many people, not only in Fort Smith, but people in all regions across the territory, as well.

I know that our new Minister of Lands is well aware of this issue, because he made numerous Members' statements on it and asked the former Minister of Lands about these fee increases many times during the previous Assembly. In fact, I counted at least 31 occasions during the 18th Assembly where the Member for Nahendeh spoke and asked questions about land leases, so he is familiar with the file and the issues these increases bring to people. Having said that, now that he is Minister of Lands, I am wondering if he is going to make any changes regarding these large fee increases for recreational territorial leases.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister holds considerable discretionary power over these types of issues, and, with this being a new Assembly with different priorities, I see potential for a change in course on this file, so I urge the Minister of Lands to reconsider these exorbitant fee increases and to instead modify the increases to a lower amount. I'm not asking the government to scrap the increases altogether, but rather listen to the people and make responsible decisions, because this decision affects all the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will have questions for the Minister at the right time. Thank you so much.

Recreational Land Lease Fee Increases
Members' Statements

Page 90

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Strategic Oil and Gas Ltd. Liabilities in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 90

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. On August 20, 2018, I made a Member's statement on the environmental liabilities related to the Cameron Hills oil and gas field owned by Strategic Oil and Gas Limited. From the questions I asked the then Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, it appears the GNWT is on the hook for any shortfall between the roughly $3 million in financial security currently held and the unknown liability which the court-appointed monitor appears to have estimated at over $12 million, and possibly much, much higher.

Despite having a clear mandate from the 18th Assembly to develop "a sound financial security system to prevent public liabilities," this shortfall happened under our watch and there does not appear to be any way to turn this back to the federal government, as we accepted the site under the devolution agreement.

How many more contaminated sites are lurking out there, where there is a significant shortfall between what we hold in financial security and the actual cost of environmental remediation? Such shortfalls amount to public subsidies that place the taxpayers of the NWT at unnecessary risk. So much for responsible development, Mr. Speaker.

What has happened since I last raised the issue in August? The GNWT appears to have legal counsel participating in the receivership proceeding, which is a good thing. The company has again applied for an extension to its creditor protection, until January 31, 2020. Efforts to sell the Cameron Hills property and assets have not produced a buyer to date, so the future of the operation continues to be in considerable doubt. The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board is now reviewing a long-overdue fourth version of a conceptual closure and reclamation plan finally submitted by Strategic Oil and Gas. The company now says that it will not be submitting a revised cost estimate for reclamation of the area until June 2020. This is a field that has not operated since 2015. Although GNWT has raised the issue of the need for a revised cost estimate, it has not made that as a direct request to the board itself.

Needless to say, I will have questions for the Minister of Lands on why GNWT's post-devolution resource management failed to protect the taxpayers and the environment in the case of Cameron Hills. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Strategic Oil and Gas Ltd. Liabilities in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 90

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.