This is page numbers 4935 - 4980 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 going. View the webstream of the day's session.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Mr. McNeely, Hon. Alfred Moses, Mr. Nadli, 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 4935

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 148-18(3): Northwest Territories Regional Wellness Councils
Ministers' Statements

Page 4935

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Regional Wellness Council members are a critical part of our health and social services system. They are change leaders in their communities and a voice for residents in their regions. They champion the ideas and concerns of residents and are passionate about using that information to shape and improve our health and social services.

Mr. Speaker, as Members know, we have six Regional Wellness Councils across the territory, representing the regions of Beaufort-Delta, Deh Cho, Fort Smith, Hay River, Sahtu, and Yellowknife. Each council has six members and a chairperson.

Council members advise me, as Minister, on their council activities. They also provide advice to the Northwest Territories Leadership Council on the priorities for the health and social services system and play an active role in the promotion of health and wellness. Council members also seek out opinions and information from the public on local health and social services.

Regional Wellness Council members help to ensure our health and social services system is responsive to the needs of Northerners and their communities. They also provide input to guide the development of the territorial health and social services strategic plan to meet our goals for health and social services. They discuss and make recommendations on how to improve the delivery of services and better meet the needs of residents in their communities, based on local input and feedback. They also play an important role in guiding primary healthcare reform, community wellness activities, quality improvement, and other community-based initiatives. Council members have an opportunity to raise important community issues with the Health and Social Services Authorities through the Leadership Council and to communicate back to residents on those issues.

Appointments to Regional Wellness Councils are for terms of up to three years, and every year about one third of the appointments expire. Many council members apply to be reappointed, but we always have a few vacancies.

This year I am issuing several calls for nominations to fill vacant and expiring positions. I would like to encourage residents to consider applying to serve on our Regional Wellness Councils when nominations open. I would also like to invite my colleagues and fellow Members of this Legislative Assembly to nominate residents for any vacancies in their regions.

For those who are interested, the criteria and a handbook of responsibilities are listed on the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority website. Information on vacant council positions will be advertised and also posted on the Health and Social Services website.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome residents who are interested in these positions and in serving their communities, regions, and our territory to look at the information on our website and apply to become a Regional Wellness Council member. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 148-18(3): Northwest Territories Regional Wellness Councils
Ministers' Statements

Page 4935

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

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

Minister's Statement 149-18(3): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

Page 4935

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, a few months ago I had the pleasure of signing the bilateral agreement between the Northwest Territories and Canada on the National Housing Strategy. One of the first funding allocations that Canada proposed under the strategy was the Northern Housing Fund, which brought $36 million in funding to the Northwest Territories. However, this is just a starting point.

Through diligent work by both the Government of Canada and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, another agreement was reached that better reflects the housing needs in the Northwest Territories. The federal government saw that there was an opportunity under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund to expand the partnership between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

The National Housing Co-Investment Fund is application-based funding. The approach that we negotiated involves a dedicated "carve-off" of $60 million under the fund for the Northwest Territories. This $60 million is ours and ours alone. We will not have to compete with other jurisdictions or entities that have greater access to resources and a greater competitive advantage to see if we get approved for projects.

In addition, the federal contribution to a project in the Northwest Territories can be up to 75 percent. Further, we are still able to compete for funds above and beyond the $60 million at the national level, and if we are successful, we will still be eligible for that 75 percent contribution from the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, this arrangement recognizes northern needs, and it is unique. No other province or territory will receive a "carve off," with the exception of Yukon, and provinces only qualify for a federal contribution of up to 40 percent for approved projects. Through the life of the National Housing Strategy, which expires in 2028, this $60 million "carve off" and the co-investment fund as a whole has the potential to bring significant investments into communities all across the Northwest Territories, working in partnership with all governments, private market investors, and non-governmental organizations.

Now that we have the deal finalized, it is time to take advantage of it. We are already reaching out to stakeholders and have put forward a small number of initial projects. We are promoting this fund with our stakeholders, including community governments, Indigenous governments, and other partners. We are also working very closely with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to help stakeholders develop proposals for the co-investment fund. This outreach is critical so Northerners can make the best use of funds such as this co-investment fund.

Mr. Speaker, as we make progress with other initiatives such as the Community Housing Plans, we will be identifying opportunities for investment. The National Housing Co-Investment Fund allows our communities to bring their own assets to the table and partner with us and the federal government to meet local housing needs.
I cannot overstate the opportunity this fund gives us. This money will help address all aspects of housing in the Northwest Territories, from homelessness to affordable homeownership. Everyone will benefit, from businesses in communities to residents who need housing. I am very proud of the work that led to this new agreement. I am looking forward even more to the work ahead, as we endeavour to make the most of this fund and build new and innovative housing projects across the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 149-18(3): National Housing Co-Investment Fund
Ministers' Statements

Page 4935

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 150-18(3): Tlicho All-Season Road
Ministers' Statements

Page 4935

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, securing funding to advance planning and construction of new transportation corridors is a key commitment in this government's mandate. These transformative projects help to connect communities, support employment and training opportunities, increase our resiliency to climate change, and create new social and economic opportunities.

Today, I am pleased to provide an update on the Tlicho all-season road project, an exciting new 97-kilometre highway that will provide year-round access to Whati from Highway No. 3.

Mr. Speaker, the new road to Whati is being developed as a P3 project, much like the Stanton Renewal Project and the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link. As a performance-based structure, public-private partnerships are an effective way of delivering essential infrastructure projects by bringing private-sector expertise and accountability to the process while preserving government ownership of core public assets.

As part of the P3 approach, a request for proposals was issued in December of 2017. Our government then announced in November of 2018 that North Star Infrastructure was selected as the preferred proponent for this project. North Star Infrastructure is a consortium that consists of Kiewit Canada Development Corporation, the Tlicho Government, Peter Kiewit and Sons, Hatch Corporation, and Thurber Engineering Limited.
Mr. Speaker, in February, the GNWT signed an agreement with North Star Infrastructure to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the Tlicho all-season road. Construction is expected to start this fall and will take approximately two years, with the official opening expected to take place in 2022.

In signing this agreement with North Star Infrastructure, we have agreed to contractual requirements that will increase economic and employment opportunities. Minimum thresholds for construction and operations and maintenance will ensure significant involvement of Tlicho workers and businesses during both phases. These commitments will help to maximize benefits for Tlicho communities and will facilitate capacity building within its communities.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to our focus on local jobs for this project, we're also committed to protecting the environment. With the environmental assessment now complete, the project has submitted the required land and water licence applications to the Wek'eezhii Land and Water Board. The GNWT anticipates that permits and licences will be granted by September of 2019.

The Tlicho all-season road will bring many benefits to the region and the Northwest Territories. It will help us to reduce the cost of living for the region and create new social and economic opportunities and is expected to attract investment from industry in the exploration and development of natural resources.

Mr. Speaker, our government will continue to work closely with our stakeholders, including the Tlicho Government, through all phases of the project. Together, we will continue to build a safe, efficient, and resilient transportation system that meets the needs of Northerners for generations to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 150-18(3): Tlicho All-Season Road
Ministers' Statements

Page 4936

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Location of a Future Polytechnic University in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4936

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last month the City of Yellowknife released its university feasibility and benefits study. The purpose of the study was different than the Aurora College foundational review. It had a more general focus that looked at which post-secondary model would be most feasible for the territory and what benefits it could provide for the city.

The city study endorses the polytechnic university as a better choice for the NWT than a college. Some of the advantages are greater academic and governance independence, access to a wider pool of teaching talent, the ability to maximize enrolment by offering both theoretical and applied learning, and lastly, a better alignment with northern labour needs.

That is not all. Polytechnics have higher graduation employment rates than colleges and universities generally and attract more international students, given comprehensive marketing. All of these benefits would reverse the trends of declining enrolments and graduation rates that Aurora College is experiencing right now. A polytechnic is not only feasible; it is the best way forward.

Mr. Speaker, the elephant in the room is the question of where the main polytechnic campus will be located. Both the foundational review and the city study recommended that the campus be built in Yellowknife, because it has the greatest range of services. Of course, Fort Smith does not want to give up its place as the headquarters of Aurora College, along with all of the employment it provides.

In an effort to collaborate, the mayors of the three communities with Aurora College campuses issued a news release last month, endorsing the creation of a polytechnic university in the NWT. They also asked the GNWT not to make a decision that would be detrimental to any NWT community.

Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a challenge. There may be distance learning options that make a large central campus less relevant, but at the end of the day the new institution's administration and support services need to have a physical location. That means government has to make a choice, a political choice, and the stakes are high. It's my view that, the sooner this choice is made, the better. It's difficult for communities to plan their future, create additional housing for students, and for the territorial government to seek funding if the location of the polytechnic is unknown. I will have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. Mahsi.

Location of a Future Polytechnic University in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4936

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Establishment of a Polytechnic University in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4936

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I, too, am going to go down the path of the polytechnic.

Mr. Speaker, the future of education in the Northwest Territories lies in providing more options for our young people. I support the establishment of a polytechnic university, Mr. Speaker, but my reasons are not about new jobs and development, the investment, or the economic boost for Yellowknife. Yes, those things are certainly beneficial, but a polytechnic university represents so much more.

Mr. Speaker, what are the broad influences that will shape our territory over the next generations? We are an Indigenous territory on a journey toward self-determination. That requires all Northerners to take part. We need an economic engine that allows our communities to thrive and flourish while supporting diversification of our economy. We are no longer in a little glass bubble. Globalization is upon us, and we are affected daily by circumstances that play out around the world. Innovation and technology will bring forward numerous opportunities while also creating challenges and disruptions. Of course, climate change will continue to impact our lives in perpetuity.

We know these are the forces that will act on our society. How must we respond? Building our education system is about establishing our values as a society and infusing them through our system, including the post-secondary level. Our youth must have the greatest opportunities to succeed on a personal level and to contribute to society as they enter into the workforce that so desperately seeks northern-educated talent.

A polytechnic university will not only benefit our own residents, Mr. Speaker; an institution like this will establish a place for us in the growing field of circumpolar academic research and technical discovery. It will attract people from around the circumpolar world, coming to study, research, and teach. It provides us a foothold to participate at the frontlines of globalized knowledge and about the northern world.

Mr. Speaker, establishing this institution is about our self-determination as a territory, creating the kind of society we want the Northwest Territories to be. This is how we will truly realize our goal of a robust diverse economy. This is how we will make innovation possible and achieve authentic excellence. This is how Indigenous communities will set their own direction and flourish.

A polytechnic university may not hold the answers to every question facing our society, Mr. Speaker, but it will help prepare us to create inventive and original responses to the many challenges we face. Thank you, Mr. Speaker

Establishment of a Polytechnic University in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4936

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Public Trust and Political Appointments
Members' Statements

Page 4936

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, we privileged few in this House face no small amount of public scrutiny for the decisions we make, which is a fundamental feature of our democratic traditions. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that we all uphold the high standards Northerners expect from us in the decisions that we make.

Mr. Speaker, politicians as a whole never tend to poll well, except for a handful on election day. Earlier this year, a survey asked Canadians which jobs they trust and respect the most. While firefighters and nurses came out on top, politicians were found to be the least-respected jobs in the country for the third year running. Judges, on the other hand, consistently maintain a great deal of trust in the public's eye despite the fact that they are appointed by the same politicians who rank at the bottom of public opinion.

I wonder why this is, and the answer seems clear: a fair and transparent appointment process that is vetted by local experts who ensure that politicians make honest decisions about these appointments based on merit and experience, rather than patronage, favouritism, or ideology. In short, Canadians and Northerners tend to trust the judicial appointment process, even if they don't trust the politicians making the appointment.

Mr. Speaker, this now brings me to a recent appointment made by the Minister responsible for the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission. The workers' advisor is a political appointment made by the Minister who helps workers understand the workers' compensation system and is entirely independent of the commission. This is a very important and well-compensated position with a six-figure salary. In the past, Ministers have put the position out to the public in asking for an expression of interest from Northerners who wanted the job. That was not the case in this most recent appointment. Instead, the Minister appointed his long-time political aide to the post without any form of public process.

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly the kind of circumstance that make Northerners question the trust they place in elected officials. Important political appointments like this are entirely at the discretion of the Minister, but that does not mean he should ignore established processes. I want to be clear that I am in no way questioning the merits of the appointment or the person who occupies the position. I am questioning the appointment process and why an individual so close to the Minister's personal political career was selected without any concerns of personal conflict or a chance for a public expression of interest.

Later today I will have questions for the Minister, and I hope he can answer them satisfactorily. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Public Trust and Political Appointments
Members' Statements

Page 4936

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.