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This is from 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 community.

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. Nadli, Mr. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne.

The House met at 10:00 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 152-18(3): New Federal Infrastructure Agreement
Ministers' Statements

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, over the past 15 years the Government of the Northwest Territories has worked in partnership with the federal government to help meet the infrastructure needs of community governments. These efforts have helped community governments access federal funding, in accordance with our current mandate commitment in this area.

Mr. Speaker, federal investments in community government infrastructure have been significant. Since 2005, the federal government has provided over $170 million in gas tax funding, supporting a total of 293 projects in our communities. As well, through the capacity building component of the gas tax funding, we have also been able to assist with the development of community capital plans and implement the current Asset Management Strategy.

Since 2014, under the Small Communities Fund of the New Building Canada Plan, a total of $38.7 million in infrastructure projects have been approved, supporting a total of 33 projects. This includes investments in recreation facilities, road upgrades, and the construction of water treatment plants.

Since 2016, the Clean Water and Waste Water Fund of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan has seen a total investment of $51 million toward 29 water treatment and sewage system projects in communities across the Northwest Territories.

Most recently, in March 2018, the Government of the Northwest Territories entered into an integrated bilateral agreement with the Government of Canada for Phase II funding under the Investing in Canada Plan. Through this agreement, a total of $119.2 million in federal funding over 10 years has been allocated to support community infrastructure projects.

The funding allocated to community and Indigenous governments under Phase II of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan will be provided through five programs. These programs include $37.5 million to assist communities in developing solid waste facilities, including fencing, cell development, and waste reduction initiatives such as composting and recycling infrastructure; $37.5 million to support community road upgrade and development projects within community boundaries; $15 million to support energy-efficient upgrades to community buildings and facilities; $8.2 million to the City of Yellowknife to develop public transit infrastructure; and finally, $20.5 million to develop or improve existing facilities to increase accessibility and create spaces for cultural activities and displays.

Mr. Speaker, in early January 2019, Municipal and Community Affairs released an initial call for applications for Phase II funding to community governments for the solid waste, road upgrades, and energy-efficient programs and to Indigenous governments for the cultural spaces program. Applications for the initial call must be submitted by March 1, 2019. Municipal and Community Affairs will review and process the applications received before submitting to Canada for final approval.

Municipal and Community Affairs will work with the NWT Association of Communities to ensure the application and selection processes are fair and consider the federal eligibility criteria along with territorial priorities.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is helping to address the infrastructure needs of Northwest Territories communities. The Municipal Funding Policy Review completed by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs in 2014 helped quantify the infrastructure needs of each NWT community government. We have increased the annual funding support provided to community governments for community infrastructure by $2 million, beginning in 2019-2020. We administer federal infrastructure programs, and we support community governments in asset management and capital planning so they can make the best possible use of the funding available. I look forward to working with Northwest Territories community and Indigenous governments to continue the administration of these critical federal infrastructure agreements, as well as moving forward on important initiatives such as the Asset Management Strategy. By working together, we will be able to meet more of our communities' needs for the benefit of all our citizens. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 152-18(3): New Federal Infrastructure Agreement
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Winter Road to Lutselk'e
Members' Statements

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I want to do a Member's statement on a winter road to Lutselk'e. I had just been thinking about it and thought I would talk to the Minister briefly and advise him that I would like to talk about the benefits of a winter road to Lutselk'e.

I recognize that we are getting late into this season to be able to construct a winter road. I think most of the winter roads are already constructed. A little bit different here, if there was an opportunity to put a winter road in next month, the situation is a bit different than other winter roads in that the majority or all of the entire road into Lutselk'e would be on the ice, on the Great Slave Lake.

I also recognize that there is a shorter time frame because of the size of the lake. We had looked at this previously, Mr. Speaker, and there are pressure ridges that do become created. Once the ice freezes, and because of the size of the lake, there are pressure ridges. At that point, it becomes unsafe to continue. For a period, Mr. Speaker, for a short period, maybe two, three weeks, maybe even as long as a month, there is a possibility to open up a winter road.

I wanted to speak to that, about the benefits to tourism. In fact, I find that, if there was a winter road into Lutselk'e and there were people who wanted to use that winter road, like the local community or even tourism, to drive down that road. The other factor would be that at some point, if this becomes part of the process, part of the winter road construction by the Department of Infrastructure, Thaidene Nene Park, once approved, there would be a good opportunity for a gateway.

There are many economic factors. There is the cost of air freight and also the large infrastructure, like the health centre, trying to get the foundational materials for the health centre in this winter so that there would be less to haul in on the barge going into Lutselk'e. Mr. Speaker, thank you.

Winter Road to Lutselk'e
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Retirement of Carl Lafferty from Public Service
Members' Statements

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is with great joy and sadness that I have learned of Carl Lafferty's retirement, the regional superintendent of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. His dedication and service throughout the past 16 years as an employee with the Government of the Northwest Territories has been greatly appreciated by myself, along with all residents of the Deh Cho.

Prior to his work with the Department of ENR, Mr. Lafferty worked as a park warden with the federal government for 12 years. Mr. Lafferty felt the need for a change, as being a park warden involved a lot of travel. Once he received a call to accept a position with ENR, he accepted the opportunity.

From April 2002 to October 2009, Mr. Lafferty worked as a renewable officer, too, as well as the manager of wildlife and environment. In late October 2009, Mr. Lafferty was asked by the deputy minister to take on the role of regional superintendent. With Mr. Lafferty's operation and field experience, accompanied by his First Nations status, a direct appointment to regional superintendent was offered in November 2009.

Upon completion of the past 16 years, Mr. Lafferty stated that his best times were conducting highway and river patrols and interacting with and meeting new people. What he will miss most is working with the GNWT staff and public. What really drives the work? Dealing with complaints and resolving issues to provide satisfaction to community members. When I asked Mr. Lafferty what his greatest accomplishment was, "I'm still here," meaning you need to have tough skin, as it is a difficult position to be a leader.

With his retirement date fast approaching, Mr. Lafferty has begun the process of obtaining his heavy equipment operator's ticket. His goal is to have an opportunity to work on a few big projects around the community, such as the Mackenzie Valley Highway, while doing small jobs around the community.

I want to thank Carl for his years of experience in the Nahendeh communities, the Deh Cho region, and the NWT. Carl will be sadly missed. Carl has set an example for all of his colleagues and staff throughout, with the exemplary work ethics, dedication, and commitment that he has shown in his career. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Retirement of Carl Lafferty from Public Service
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Regional Wellness Council
Members' Statements

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and Social Services spoke yesterday on the Regional Wellness Council and their continued efforts in shaping and improving our healthcare system. Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with this administrative structure. Who better to include, as community, parents, and public members, to improve healthcare but the people who reside in small, remote, urban communities?

Mr. Speaker, it is not expected of RWC members to possess medical qualifications, but as mentioned by the Minister and the roles and responsibilities as identified within the members' handbook, it is preferred. However, Mr. Speaker, there is always continuous room for education on the various systems and services available for healthcare. One suggestion is allowing routine Regional Wellness Council sessions in the surrounding communities that they represent.

Mr. Speaker, a campaign and positive initiative taken by the Sahtu Dene Necha Ko Long Term Care Facility in Norman Wells is sponsoring ASIST, or Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, an excellent suicide first aid development course advertised for March 12th and 13th of next month.

Mr. Speaker, later I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services on future operational campaign strategies. Mahsi.

Regional Wellness Council
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

2019 Northwest Territories Community Survey
Members' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the 2019 NWT Community Survey is now under way, and many residents around the NWT will either be getting a survey request in the mail or a knock on the door. The household survey covers topics such as housing, employment, education, and language, and I want to encourage everyone who is asked to participate in this valuable data collection event to do so.

The survey is being carried out by the NWT Bureau of Statistics. It will include a sample of households from the six largest communities, Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Inuvik, and Behchoko, and a census of all households in the other communities.

In Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, and Inuvik, letters were dropped at selected households, requesting them to complete the survey online or to arrange an in-person interview or a phone interview. Outside these four communities, interviewers are conducting the survey in person.

The survey intends to collect data from 8,000 of the 17,500 households in the NWT, a formidable slice, and the Bureau of Statistics hopes to have preliminary results at the beginning of November.

Why is this survey important, Mr. Speaker? It will yield valuable information than can be used for planning programs, identifying emerging issues, and monitoring progress on issues at the community level. In other words, this is the evidence for evidence-based decision-making.

This data is available for use by anyone; NGOs designing or evaluating programming and businesses doing market analysis for business planning. All levels of government, that is, federal, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous, can use the information to design and improve services for their constituents and clients, and this kind of high-quality detailed community data is vital for our access to federal funding.

Data collection is on now and continues into March, and I want to encourage all NWT residents who are asked to take part. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

2019 Northwest Territories Community Survey
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Income Security Review
Members' Statements

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Education, Culture and Employment offers a number of programs to support our residents in several ways. These programs include income support for post-secondary students and seniors and income assistance for low-income families and children, with additional amounts for people with disabilities. Many recipients of support programs say that accessing them can be difficult, discouraging, and demoralizing. The processes for income assistance, in particular, are very rigid and prescribed in regulations providing very little flexibility in response to client needs.

The Minister of ECE has committed to an administrative review of income security programs. Discussions with non-governmental organizations have begun. My understanding is that the review is to be completed and changes implemented before the end of this Assembly. To be clear, I support this approach.

One of the most significant issues with income support and income assistance programs is that the amounts offered to recipients do not keep up with the cost of living. Regular reviews of the amounts linked to the Consumer Price Index or some other method of automatic adjustments for the cost of living would be a far better approach.

A major issue that surfaces for me in my constituent work is the treadmill of debt that traps some recipients. In some instances, income assistance recipients work, then lose their jobs and are penalized with reductions in their rent, food, and other allowances. Recipients are left between benefit periods with nothing to live on and often fall behind in their rent. Structurally, the system fails these people and builds desperation and worse.

Some jurisdictions have tried a basic income guarantee approach. There are various ways to structure basic income guarantee and different ideas on who should receive these sorts of payments. One of the major benefits pointed out in these initiatives is the elimination of the clients' endless application and reporting requirements and a reduction in the bureaucratic superstructure required to administer all of this monitoring.

We need to look at a pilot project on basic income guarantee in the context of our overall efforts to reduce and eliminate poverty consistent with the Anti-Poverty Strategy. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for Income Security later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Income Security Review
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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