This is page numbers 4881 - 4900 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 budget. View the webstream of the day's session.

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Mr. Beaulieu's Reply
Replies To Budget Address

Page 4887

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mr. Speaker, I reviewed the budget and heard the Minister of Finance speak on all of the initiatives. I agree that there are many good initiatives in the field of wellness and many initiatives overall in the budget. I felt that, from the first budget that this government presented to us in the House here, we were quite a few million dollars apart in what we thought a good budget was and what they thought a good budget was. This last budget, I think we were so close that I think that this time, when we get back into the budget deliberations, it will be easy for us to achieve the budget that the whole House would like to see. I thought that the items that this government put forward in the budget was positive.

I have some concerns with some areas that I just wish to highlight on a bit as I go on to talk about my address. I felt that there should be more money spent in the smaller communities. The government already has programs in place for addressing some issues. I have always said in the House and I think the Minister of Finance has always agreed with me that the best social program that the GNWT could have was employment. There are several areas, but I just want to highlight some of the areas that I felt were what I would refer to as low-hanging fruit, where it was easy for the government to spend money in the small communities in these areas. I felt that the access roads program, which is an O and M program, was somewhere where the government could have easily expanded that program by 50 percent without too much difficulty, and the results were quite significant and the positive results were quite significant for these small communities.

I felt that there would be more money put into educating and delivering homecare services across the territory. I know that, this budget, at the time the budget was done, there was some money moved out of homecare and put into another area of great importance, the Child and Family Services, which I support, but I have always advocated for more education for individuals who would be working in the field of homecare. I felt that was lacking in the budget, that there would be more education, more homecare workers. I know that there are some difficulties in actually getting people who were willing to work in that field. I have talked to the Minister of Health and Social Services many times about this and his desire to see a new workforce in homecare services, so what I am saying is that maybe a different approach, an educational type of approach to that, would have been where we would have spent some money in there.

I felt that the conservation economy could have used more funding. I felt that the conservation economy had tremendous returns, that there are a couple of programs across the territory, a couple of guardianship programs across the territory, that were benefiting the community and that they were seeing a reduced amount of spending in social programs, that this money was good value, good value for the GNWT, was money that was spent and then the returns over a longer period of time. Mind you, Mr. Speaker, you can't get the returns the same year that you are putting the money in, but you were getting returns. The returns were quite tremendous. The returns were maybe two and a half percent, two and a half to one. In other words, for every dollar spent, you would save $2.50 in the social end of it, so I thought that more money could have gone into conservation.

That kind of leads me to another thing that I thought would be important. That was how we handled the whole issue of Fort Smith and Inuvik in as far as the whole discussion about the university here in Yellowknife. I thought that this government could have put money into Fort Smith and that they could have gained friends in Fort Smith and friends in Inuvik. I felt that it was the delivery of that. I felt the idea of the university, written by the consultant, kind of pitted Yellowknife against Fort Smith. It kind of pitted Yellowknife against Inuvik. That shouldn't have happened. I think this government should have indicated clearly how the money was going to be laid out. You know, I felt that it was an ideal, perfect opportunity to develop Aurora College in Fort Smith into a conservation school or a trades centre, and a trades centre. You know, there is some opposition to it being a trades centre because there wasn't a continuous flow of students because they would come for three months, four months at the time and whatnot.

There are also so many trades that were not being addressed in the Northwest Territories that can be. I think becoming a cook, some sort of technicians and things like that, that are tradespeople, that would benefit from having a trades centre in Fort Smith, and a conservation school is ideally located. It was ideally located to be a conservation school because the park is right there. They could train park officers, renewable resource officers, guardian programs, rangers, the Canadian Rangers. Canadian Rangers could be a part-time job. That is a job for small communities. Again, those types of returns will be seen in those types of jobs.

I felt that the government could have put more money into small community employment. I felt that that was something that was a no-brainer. You put money in, and you are seeing immediate returns. You are putting money in, and you are getting it back almost immediately because you are taking people off income support. Right now, the government is willing to pay income support. They got money into income support, but putting enough money into the employment side of it to reduce income support, use that money, bridge people to EI if that is what it takes, you know. All of a sudden now, the government is drawing on the federal government purse and legitimately so, so I mean those types of strategic spending that I have always spoken about in the House.

I thought that more consultation money should have been put in by this government in the area of lands, whether you are going to be leasing lands, taxing lands, charging leases to individuals in the communities and outside the communities, leasing cabins, charging taxes on cabins, and all of those things. I thought that money should have been put in there so that the government could sit down with the communities, sit down with the people who really had issues with this. People really have issues with having their cabins taxed. You know, people have been living in these cabins for a long, long time in these communities where you have people gathering, harvesting.

This is a program, and ENR has a tremendous program, I think, with ITI. They have a program for the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program. These things, where supports should be given to the harvesters, not charge them taxes. They complain about it. They want to go out there, just to be on the land. People, you know, they're saying, "Well, if you're not using it for harvesting, then you have to be taxed for it. If it's recreation, you have to be taxed for it." But just being on the land is very healthy. Being out there. You don't have to be trapping martin. You just have to be out there, and these are the benefits. It benefits the youth. A lot of people, young families, going out on the land and not have to be burdened with the fact that you have to pay for the taxes on that property.

Mr. Speaker, we have had a lot of discussion in the House over the years about strategic spending. All of these things with money going into the small communities, for me, it doesn't make sense that we don't do it. Not to do it means that we are rolling further and further into debt. By continuing to support programs that have no returns, we are going further into debt, when you could use that same money to invest in the people and get tremendous returns.

I don't want to end on a negative note. I would like to say that I thought this budget was very, very close to what the people on this side of the House had, and it has gone a long ways. I told the Minister of Finance that this has gone a long ways, the budget. When we sat down four years ago, we were $150 million apart. That is a lot of money.

We have worked together. We have worked hard. Everybody on this side of the House and everybody on that side of the House worked hard to get it down to a budget that we thought would benefit the majority of the Northwest Territories, and we are getting close. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Beaulieu's Reply
Replies To Budget Address

Page 4888

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Replies to budget address. Member for Hay River North.

Mr. Simpson's Reply
Replies To Budget Address

Page 4888

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, at the commencement of the 18th Legislative Assembly just over three years ago, our economy was facing hard times, and we set ourselves on a path with the intent to strengthen it, so that future generations could benefit from the potential of this land.

Within the first months of the Assembly, however, we were struck a blow when Snap Lake Diamond Mine shut down. With that closure, an economic contribution to our economy as big as the entire tourism industry disappeared practically overnight.

The remaining diamond mines are all scheduled to end production one by one over the next eight years, and there are no new diamond mines being contemplated. Even if there were, given how long it takes to bring a new mine online, any new mines wouldn't be operational until long after the current ones shut down. While some smaller metal mines may begin production within the next decade, none will come close to replacing the economic contributions that we will lose.

The glory days of diamond mining are coming to an end. It is reminiscent of the fall of the NWT's oil and gas industry in the 1980s, which has drastically altered our economic landscape. With the more recent global decline in the oil and gas industry, we can rest assured that we won't see a revival in that sector any time soon either.

What all of this means is that, in the coming decade, we will be without any industry capable of supporting the needs of the NWT. We are headed for a recession. There will be job losses in the thousands, an exodus of skilled workers, and tens, if not hundreds, millions of dollars in lost government revenue. This isn't conjecture; these are the facts. Times are hard for many people, and they are going to get worse.

As the Minister of Finance stated in his budget address, "There are cracks in the foundation." That is a powerful statement, Mr. Speaker, and unfortunately I have to agree with it. The social services that we provide today are already underfunded, and many are underperforming. An aging population and worsening economy will mean that costs will continue to rise. Our ability to provide services like healthcare, housing, and education is built upon our faltering economic foundation, so it must be addressed.

The proposed 2019-2020 budget contains $1.8 billion in spending proposals across eleven departments and the Legislative Assembly. Given the scope of this budget, it undoubtedly contains many proposals that I support and some that I disagree with. However, the overarching criteria that I have to use to assess this budget is whether or not it does enough to put us in a position to weather the upcoming economic storm and to take advantage of opportunities for growth.

As the Minister stated in his budget address, we need economic diversification to strengthen the sustainability of our economy. Mr. Speaker, I agree. My constituents agree. Everyone I have talked to across the territory agrees. Diversifying the economy is how we can patch those cracks in the foundation. However, Mr. Speaker, the budget that this government has put forward, and the associated policies it continues to follow, do not go nearly far enough to diversify our economy.

I support many of the government's efforts to expand our transportation and power infrastructure and to encourage investment in the NWT by industry. I have made statements in this House about the need for the Mackenzie Valley Highway, the road to Whati, and the Slave Geological Province. I began pushing the government to expand Taltson Hydro System at the beginning of this Assembly. Unfortunately this government seems to be exclusively focused on advancing these types of projects at the expense of diversification, and I can't understand why. I think the government is perfectly capable of doing two things at once, and I don't think it is too much to ask that we ask them to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.

This government pays lip service to economic diversification, but this budget and the associated business plans show no indication that they are deviating from their singular focus. The needed investments in education and training, small businesses, and communities that are critical to diversification are absent.

During every sitting, Regular Members raise the importance of investing in these areas on the floor of this House. When Regular Members meet with the Ministers to review the budget behind closed doors, we raise the importance of investing in these areas. We continuously push for investments because we know that just talking about economic diversification doesn't make it happen. We do it because it is one of the priorities of this Assembly. We do it because our constituents have made clear that they are tired of being at the mercy of the boom-and-bust commodity cycles. However, Mr. Speaker, this Cabinet has repeatedly ignored those recommendations and continues to do so. The voices of our constituents are falling on deaf ears.

Mr. Speaker, this is our last budget. It is our last kick at the can. It is a culmination of the work that we have been doing for the past three years. That is why it pains me to say that we are a far cry from where I hoped that we would be at this point. Industry is disappearing. Small businesses are struggling. We have over a billion dollars in debt, and we are right up against our borrowing limit. We have set the next Assembly up with a monumental task.

As we debate the budget over the coming weeks, I look forward to going into more detail about my concerns, and I will give the Cabinet a chance to change my mind and convince me that this budget can save the Northwest Territories from its economic future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Simpson's Reply
Replies To Budget Address

Page 4889

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Replies to budget address. Item 12, petitions. Item 13, reports of standing and special committees. Item 14, reports of committees on the review of bills. Item 15, tabling of documents. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Tabled Document 341-18(3): Waste Reduction and Recovery Program 2017-2018 Annual Report
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4889

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following document entitled "Waste Reduction and Recovery Program 2017-2018 Annual Report." Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 341-18(3): Waste Reduction and Recovery Program 2017-2018 Annual Report
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4889

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Tabling of documents. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Tabled Document 342-18(3): Follow-up Letter to Oral Question 522-18(3): Diamond Policy Framework Analysis
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4889

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to table the following document entitled "Follow-up Letter to Oral Question 522-18(3): Diamond Policy Framework Analysis." Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 342-18(3): Follow-up Letter to Oral Question 522-18(3): Diamond Policy Framework Analysis
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4889

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Tabling of documents. Member for Frame Lake.

Tabled Document 343-18(3): Excerpt from Gerein, Hal J. 2018, Negotiating the NWT Devolution of Lands and Resources: An Insider's Story, Privately Published
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4889

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I wish to table some excerpts from "Negotiating the Northwest Territories Devolution of Lands and Resources: An Insider's Story," by Hal J. Gerein, 2018, Tellwell Talent Publishers. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 343-18(3): Excerpt from Gerein, Hal J. 2018, Negotiating the NWT Devolution of Lands and Resources: An Insider's Story, Privately Published
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4889

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Tabling of documents. Item 16, notices of motion. Item 17, notices of motion for first reading of bills. Item 18, motions. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Motion 32-18(3): Extended Adjournment of the House to February 20, 2019, Carried
Motions

February 14th, 2019

Page 4889

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Great Slave, that, notwithstanding rule 4, when this House adjourns on February 14, 2019, it shall be adjourned until Wednesday, February 20, 2019, and further, that, at any time prior to February 20, 2019, if the Speaker is satisfied, after consultation with the Executive Council of Members of the Legislative Assembly, that the public interest requires that the House should meet at an earlier time during the adjournment, the Speaker may give notice, and thereupon, the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as it has been duly adjourned to that time. Mahsi.

Motion 32-18(3): Extended Adjournment of the House to February 20, 2019, Carried
Motions

Page 4889

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. To the motion.

Motion 32-18(3): Extended Adjournment of the House to February 20, 2019, Carried
Motions

Page 4889

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Motion 32-18(3): Extended Adjournment of the House to February 20, 2019, Carried
Motions

Page 4889

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed?

---Carried

Masi. Just reflecting on one area that we skipped on is notices of motion for first reading of bills. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Bill 36: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Resources Act
Notices Of Motion For First Reading Of Bills

Page 4889

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice that, on Thursday, February 21, 2019, I will move that Bill 36, An Act to Amend the Petroleum Resources Act, be read for the first time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.