This is page numbers 4901 - 4934 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 work.

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. 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.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4901

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 145-18(3): Self-government Agreement-in-Principle for the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Norman Wells
Ministers' Statements

Page 4901

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, on January 16, 2019, I had the honour of signing the self-government agreement-in-principle for the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Norman Wells, alongside our negotiating partners, the Government of Canada and the Norman Wells Land Corporation.

Reaching this Self-Government Agreement-in-Principle represents a significant step in the journey toward fulfilling the obligation to negotiate self-government in the 1993 Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. More importantly, this agreement-in-principle represents a key milestone in the journey towards self-government and self-determination for the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Norman Wells.

Mr. Speaker, the work of negotiating and concluding land, resources, and self-government agreements can be challenging, but it is essential if we are to build the Northwest Territories and Canada that we all want to be a part of. A territory and a country where our long history of working and living together is protected, and where the rights of Indigenous peoples are protected for future generations.

While there are similarities between self-government agreements in the Northwest Territories, there are also many unique aspects that take into account the different needs and self-government priorities of the communities. Simply stated, a "one size fits all" approach does not work here in the Northwest Territories.

The agreement-in-principle for the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Norman Wells is a good example of our commitment to negotiating self-government agreements that reflect the unique realities of each community. The agreement-in-principle considers how to implement the inherent right for the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Norman Wells in a community where they comprise a smaller proportion of the overall population. This agreement-in-principle is flexible and forward-looking, in that it allows for changes in the governance model, as the population demographics change in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud that in the Northwest Territories, we have a shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living, working, and governing together. This is reflected in the fabric of our communities, in the languages we speak, and in the cultural and business decisions we make.

This milestone achievement is something that should be celebrated by all Northerners, not just residents of Norman Wells and the Sahtu region. That is because we know and believe that completed agreements are the basis for realizing our true social and economic potential by clarifying and providing certainty with respect to Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

With one milestone reached, the parties are already looking ahead and have commenced negotiations on a final self-government agreement for the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Norman Wells. Completing these negotiations continues to be one of the most powerful and meaningful ways that we can demonstrate our commitment to reconciliation and to empowering our people to be self-sufficient and self-determining.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge the hard work by the negotiating teams who have helped get us to this important moment in history. Congratulations to all of the parties on this momentous achievement, and most importantly, congratulations to the Sahtu and Dene and Metis of Norman Wells. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 145-18(3): Self-government Agreement-in-Principle for the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Norman Wells
Ministers' Statements

Page 4901

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 146-18(3): Cannabis Conference for Community Governments
Ministers' Statements

Page 4901

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, from January 16 to 17, 2019, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs brought community government leaders together to discuss cannabis. This was our first opportunity for such a gathering since cannabis became legal in Canada on October 17, 2018.

Mr. Speaker, the legalization of cannabis presents challenges for northern society. The purpose of this conference was to look for local solutions for community governments as they deal with this new reality. Our focus was presenting as much information as possible for local leaders with the right experts available to answer as many questions as possible.

The first part of the conference addressed the legislative framework for the management of legal cannabis. I wish to express my thanks to the following departments or agencies who made their officials available: the Department of Finance, who presented on their legislation and the new retail process; the Department of Health and Social Services, who presented on cannabis smoking control and health promotion efforts; the Department of Infrastructure and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who presented on changes to the Motor Vehicles Act and associated efforts to manage impaired driving; the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission and the law firm of McLennan Ross, who led an excellent session on labour relations and human resources; and the Municipal and Community Affairs' staff, who presented on community-based planning, zoning, and bylaw-making authority.

The conference included a keynote speaker from Manitoba who brought a national perspective, as well as a speaker from Colorado with an international view. In addition to the presentations, our conference organizers also provided a wide range of resources for delegates to take away and continue their learning.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there are lessons we can take away from this conference. First, despite the state of Colorado legalizing cannabis many years ago, they are still dealing with the effects of this change today, and there will be more for us to learn going forward. Second, we know that, despite providing considerable information and resources to community leaders, there is a thirst for even more information and a need to continue this discussion locally in our communities. Finally, we heard from communities that, while cannabis is now legal, there are still many impacts of drugs and alcohol that are having a continued effect on our communities and our residents, especially our youth.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that our government is continuing an aggressive public awareness campaign in the coming year. I especially commend the efforts of the Department of Health and Social Services, with community-based workshops, as well as social marketing efforts using cutting-edge techniques, such as augmented reality. All of this is aimed at supporting our youth as they deal with this change, and I am grateful for these efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I believe community leaders were pleased with the information that they received. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs will assist communities on issues related to community planning and local controls and from a human resources perspective as they establish proper policies for their workplaces. We have only had legal cannabis for a little over five months. We cannot expect to have all the answers today, but Municipal and Community Affairs will continue to support our communities and our residents as we all adapt to the reality of legal cannabis in the coming months and years. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 146-18(3): Cannabis Conference for Community Governments
Ministers' Statements

Page 4901

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 147-18(3): Barren-Ground Caribou Numbers
Ministers' Statements

Page 4901

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I know you and all the other Members here understand the importance of barren-ground caribou to our communities. Caribou are central to the way of life in the North and have sustained people here for many generations. This is why, together, this Legislative Assembly made a mandate commitment to improve food security in the Northwest Territories through the effective co-management of wildlife, including caribou.

Part of achieving this commitment requires recognizing that caribou are a shared resource and we need to work with our co-management partners, including the federal government, Indigenous governments, regulatory boards, industry, and other stakeholders to make shared decisions.

Mr. Speaker, last year the Government of the Northwest Territories carried out population surveys on five of our territory's barren-ground caribou herds: the Cape Bathurst, Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, Bluenose-West, and Bluenose-East, and the Bathurst caribou. The results of those surveys were not favourable, and in November I shared the details of those results with Members and the public.

What we learned was that, while populations of the three northern herds have stayed relatively stable, unfortunately, the Bluenose-East and Bathurst caribou herds continue to experience significant declines.

These results were alarming in that both of these populations have been reduced by half or more over the last three years, despite extensive co-management actions between the GNWT and Indigenous governments and renewable resources boards to support Barren Ground conservation and promote herd recovery.

Mr. Speaker, we know that these results were concerning to the public, and the GNWT shares this concern. We know that our communities are struggling without caribou and that many families have already sacrificed a lot to help the herds recover. As you know, there has been no harvest of Bathurst caribou since 2015, and harvest of the Bluenose-East herd has been significantly reduced. However, the caribou continue to need our help.

In the months since I shared these results with our co-management partners and the public, I have been meeting with Indigenous leaders and affected communities to talk about the low caribou numbers and hear their ideas for how we can work together to take care of the herds.

I want to particularly thank the Tlicho leadership, who have emphasized the importance of strong collaboration with the GNWT to address this urgent situation. Our two governments have been working very closely together over the past few months to consider what we can do to help support the caribou.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of ENR and myself are committed to meeting with as many of our co-management partners and Indigenous governments as we can to discuss this issue. At the end of January, I travelled with Tlicho leadership to Whati, Wekweeti, Gameti, and Behchoko. I also met with the chiefs of the Yellowknives Dene, and my officials met with First Nations and Metis leadership in Fort Smith. Earlier this month, ENR also held meetings with Lutsel K'e First Nation and the North Slave Metis Alliance on February 18, 2019.

One of the suggestions that we continue to hear at these meetings is that more needs to be done to deal with predators, namely wolves, and I agree. That is why the GNWT has increased the incentives that we offer to wolf harvesters in the North Slave region, specifically on the wintering grounds of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou. The enhanced incentive program is meant to encourage harvesters to take more wolves on the ranges of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou. At the same time, we are also looking at what more we can do together with the Tlicho Government to reduce the impacts of predators on caribou populations.

Predators are only part of the picture, Mr. Speaker. For the last few months, the GNWT has been working closely with the Tlicho Government to draft two joint management proposals: one for the Bathurst caribou herd and one for the Bluenose-East.

These proposals lay out the actions that our two governments are proposing to take to help the herds recover, including harvest management, habitat protection, and increased research and monitoring. The proposals also reflect the recommendations in the Bathurst Caribou Range Plan. This plan is in the final stages of approval and will ensure that we are managing activities on the land in a way that supports the recovery of our caribou herds.

Both proposals are now with the Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board for review.

Mr. Speaker, in the Sahtu, the GNWT continues to support a community-based approach to conservation planning for the Bluenose-East caribou herd, centred around Deline's caribou conservation plan. This is a plan that has been endorsed by both the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board and the GNWT.

This is the process outlined in our established co-management system, and we have complete confidence in both boards to make smart, effective decisions in the best interest of caribou and the people of the Northwest Territories.

I have also been speaking with my colleague in Nunavut, as the calving grounds and important post-calving areas for both the Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou are in Nunavut. I am making arrangements to meet with Premier Joe Savikataaq this spring, who is also the Minister of Environment. My hope is for us to sit down with Indigenous leaders from both sides of the border to talk about what steps we can take to help our shared caribou herds.

Mr. Speaker, I know this is a passionate issue for many. We need to avoid the temptation to point fingers and, instead, focus on working together to make decisions that support the caribou.

We know from both science and traditional knowledge that caribou populations have undergone sharp declines and rapid increases in the past. We all have a role to play during this current low, and the GNWT will continue to work with all of our co-management partners, through established wildlife co-management processes, to help ensure that caribou can continue to sustain present and future generations of Northerners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 147-18(3): Barren-Ground Caribou Numbers
Ministers' Statements

Page 4902

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Dehcho Divisional Education Council Funding
Members' Statements

Page 4902

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the divisional education board office has two fewer staff supporting the schools than in the Sahtu. In the Deh Cho proper, eight communities, we have two support staff for nine schools, whereas the Sahtu has four support staff for five schools. It is my understanding that the Sahtu board has two IT support staff, while the Deh Cho has one. This doesn't seem right. We need to address this, or we are going to see more vulnerable children in ongoing decline in the EDI and MDI results for the Deh Cho. It is my position that the base funding based on the number of students doesn't work.

I would like to suggest a new base formula that guarantees a minimum staffing regardless of the number of students. This would be based on the understanding that it does not matter how many students you have in the school; you need a part-time custodian, principal, secretary, program support teacher, and teachers. There are districts in BC that use this approach, with better results for the students. For example, a principal has reports to write for the central office and for ECE, no matter how many students are in the school, but we have some administrators who teach all days. They have no time for administration. Once this basic funding is in place, other formulas should kick in based on the number of students, with the understanding that you will need two teachers, no matter what.

I recommend to the staff of the department that we see additional funding for the Deh Cho divisional education council in the following areas:

  • A language support person to help with translation; as well, this position will help promote the revitalization of Indigenous language in the region;
  • An intern program support teacher, whose focus would be to step in where school has a vacancy or where there is an illness;
  • A position focused entirely on curriculum support; she or he would ensure that the students are not falling behind and would build an education program; and
  • A curriculum support advisor; this person would carry the profile of literacy, numeracy, and writing, ensuring that the students get the support that they need.

I will have questions for the Minister of ECE later today, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Dehcho Divisional Education Council Funding
Members' Statements

Page 4902

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Hay River North.

Divisional Education Authorities Funding Formula
Members' Statements

Page 4902

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the framework used by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to fund schools is not working in the Deh Cho, and it is not working in Hay River. We are lucky that, over the years, the schools in Hay River have had many skilled and dedicated principals, teachers, and support staff and have been governed by equally dedicated education authority members. It is because of all of them that Hay River has had better educational outcomes than most places in the territory.

However, Mr. Speaker, this success has come despite ECE's funding framework, which has proven itself too rigid and not responsive to our communities' changing demographics. Every year, we see cuts to funding that are out of line with the actual needs of schools and students.

As I have said, we have been fortunate that our education authorities have members who are very engaged and who are willing to put in the time and effort to make the tough decisions about how to allocate the ever-dwindling funds. We are also lucky enough to have principals who have the ability to stretch those funds further than we should reasonably expect them to.

However, Mr. Speaker, neither the education authorities nor the principals can multiply bread and fish, and so, eventually, even their skill and dedication will not be enough to stave off the damage from never-ending budget cuts. A system can only bend so far before it breaks, and we are already starting to see stress fractures.

Schools are increasingly having difficulty affording enough staff to provide the level of education that our students deserve and are having to make cuts in areas that they know will directly affect educational outcomes. They have no choice, though, Mr. Speaker. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money.

What worries me is that, at some point, the people who have been holding everything together are going to get fed up and move on, and the students will suffer. I have raised these concerns with the department before, and they have been raised by those within the system for years. However, nothing ever seems to change.

I have never really heard any complaints about the funding formula coming from Yellowknife, with the exception of junior kindergarten debates, and the capital seems to have excellent educational outcomes. If there is resistance to changing the formula because it works well for Yellowknife, then keep it the same for Yellowknife, but change it for the regional centres so that our youth are also provided with the best possible opportunities to achieve success.

Mr. Speaker, it's time that the department responds to these growing concerns and develops a funding formula that works for all schools. I'll have questions for the Minister of Education at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Divisional Education Authorities Funding Formula
Members' Statements

Page 4903

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Yellowknife Airport Security Line Wait Times
Members' Statements

Page 4903

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it has been two and a half years since the implementation of the new Airport Improvement Tax. MLAs were told that tax revenues would be used for capital improvements that would improve the customer experience. Now, during peak tourism season, is a good time to take a close look at the results.

In March of 2017, the Minister said that the new fee would support improvements at the airport to help "create benefits for all travellers." Specifically the Minister claimed that, again, "Improved security services and expanded holding areas that reduce congestion, along with improved amenities, will improve traveller experience and comfort."

Now, after millions of dollars collected in user fees and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on renovations to the security screening area, the key complaint of constituents is that security line wait times are unreasonably long. Why? Because there is still only one security line at the airport.

Mr. Speaker, one of the objectives of those renovations was to increase security screening throughput, but clearly it doesn't seem like things have improved at all. In fact, some people believe the situation is much worse.

So what went wrong? Where is the new CATSA Plus screening equipment that was supposed to be included in the renovations? Airport management, during a presentation at City Hall, told council that CATSA Plus would increase throughput by up to 60 percent. This system looks nothing like CATSA Plus systems in other airports.

Does the YZF management even track security line wait times? How do they expect to be able to manage the problem if they aren't measuring it?

Mr. Speaker, stories of missed boardings, and even entire missed trips, have now become legendary on social media. When the process is so inept that people are missing flights or flights are being delayed, that's not an acceptable practice.

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister created the revolving fund and introduced the new tax, he chose not to go the full distance and establish an airport authority, which, as we've seen elsewhere, would have introduced a very business-like approach to managing the airport. Instead, he opted to maintain government control of the airport, but has it worked? An airport authority surely would have done something about an obvious problem like security wait times by now.

I will have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yellowknife Airport Security Line Wait Times
Members' Statements

Page 4903

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.