This is page numbers 5085 - 5134 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. View the webstream of the day's session.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, 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 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5085

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice.

Minister's Statement 157-18(3): Combatting Cyber-Bullying in the NWT
Ministers' Statements

Page 5085

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, today is national Pink Shirt Day. I applaud all Members for wearing pink in the House today to symbolize that we will not tolerate bullying of any kind.

The Internet has opened an invaluable connection to the world by allowing residents of all ages, in even our smallest communities, access to information and opportunities easily. Sadly, it has also allowed bullying to move online.

Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. The intention is to cause harm or distress to the victims. Most often, it is sustained and repeated over a period of time and can damage a person's feelings, self-esteem, reputation, and mental health.

Cyber-bulling includes:

  • Sending mean or threatening emails, texts, or instant messages;
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online;
  • Creating a website to make fun of others;
  • Pretending to be someone by using their name; and
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.

Mr. Speaker, cyber-bullying affects victims in different ways than traditional bullying. Unlike face-to-face bullying, cyber-bullying can be relentless and can follow a victim everywhere 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because cyber-bullying can spread quickly to a wide audience, most teens today have been involved in some way or another, either as a target, as a bully, as a silent observer, or as someone who participates on the sidelines and becomes part of the problem without realizing what they are doing.

As well as being traumatic, people need to know that forms of cyber-bullying can be illegal. There are repercussions to these actions. Repeated tormenting online can amount to criminal harassment. Threatening to share someone's personal information with others can be extortion or uttering threats. Fake profiles created to ruin or damage someone's reputation could result in charges of identity theft or fraud, while spreading untrue rumours may be defamatory libel. The sharing of intimate images of people may be illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada. The sharing of intimate images of youth, even solely among youth, may also fall under the Criminal Code's provisions relating to child pornography.

I encourage anyone who is experiencing these types of incidents to report it to your local RCMP or to Cybertip.ca. If you are being bullied online, know that every social media site has the ability to report and block the culprits. Phone service providers will take reports of unwanted text messages. Don't respond to the cyber bullies, but don't delete their messages, either, as these will be useful to the service providers and the police as evidence. Be sure to talk to a trusted person or get any help or support you might need from those able to assist you.

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP plays an integral part in combatting cyber-bullying in our territory. I am proud of the efforts that the RCMP and its members have made in building relationships and trust in the communities they serve. In addition to investigating reports of cyber-bullying to determine if charges should be laid, RCMP members are also available to visit schools to speak to the youth about cyber-bullying.

Mr. Speaker, cyber-bullying is continually changing as new technology and social networking sites emerge. All residents need to stay alert to the presence of cyber-bullying. If you know someone who is a victim of cyber-bullying, talk to them and let them know that they can trust you and that they shouldn't deal with the bullying alone. Help them to report cyber-bullying to their telephone service provider or social media site, school administrators, or to the RCMP. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 157-18(3): Combatting Cyber-Bullying in the NWT
Ministers' Statements

Page 5085

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister for Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 158-18(3): Developments in Early Childhood Programs and Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 5085

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, many factors impact a child's life, both negatively and positively. As a parent, I understand some of the struggles parents face, and as a social worker, I adhere to the principle that all of us, parents, family, friends, community members, and governments, have a role to play in ensuring children have the supports to succeed in life.

Upon assuming the position as Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, one of my first priorities was to ensure we were doing our part to meet the developmental needs of children and having measurable outcomes to assess if our programs and services are effective. The 2015-2017 Early Development Instrument results and a national 2017 Early Childhood Education Report confirmed that my concerns had merit, and, although we are working in the right direction, we still have much to do.

The Early Development Instrument, or EDI, is a nationally utilized tool, administered prior to grade one, that provides a snapshot of five-year-old children's developmental vulnerability rates. The most recent data available shows that vulnerability rates of Canadian children are increasing. This is reflected in the results for the Northwest Territories, where vulnerability rates have increased from 38 percent to 42 percent, as compared to the 2012-2014 results. Unfortunately, the EDI results alone do not identify specific causes for vulnerability that we can easily address. They reflect the accumulation of early childhood experiences within the family, community, and wider society.

Education, Culture and Employment and Health and Social Services will continue to work together on initiatives in the Right From the Start Framework and Action Plan to address areas of vulnerability in the Northwest Territories. This action plan will be renewed during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, and the EDI data will be used to inform the new action plan and any initiatives included in that plan as we move forward. As part of this work, we will renew our joint Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Plan to ensure that we are looking at the impacts of initiatives over the longer term and adjusting as necessary.

As well, we will work in partnership with the federal government through the Early Learning and Childcare Agreement, and we will work closely with education bodies and licensed childcare operators to support healthy early childhood development. Only by all of us working together can we provide a comprehensive set of programs and services to better support families and young children.

Mr. Speaker, the effects of junior kindergarten across the Northwest Territories continues to be monitored and has been one of our early successes. Although junior kindergarten is optional, 552 children are now enrolled in this early childhood programming. Not only is this helping to address the cost of living for families with small children, it is also ensuring more children have access to play-based early childhood programming. Preliminary analysis of the Early Development Instrument shows that children who attended junior kindergarten during the implementation in small communities were showing fewer vulnerabilities than children who did not.

During this 18th Legislative Assembly, we have developed a curriculum for our junior kindergarten programming and resources to support schools. In the coming year, we will also be introducing an early learning framework and, through federal funding, providing resources, including music, books, and other play-based materials, that reflect Indigenous beliefs and culture for licensed centre-based programs. A strong relationship with a child's own culture boosts a child's self-esteem, mental health, and general wellness.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that access to licensed-based childcare supports healthy child development, as does junior kindergarten, and reaches even younger children. However, we still have 11 communities without any licensed childcare programs. This continues to be a priority. During the coming year, we will be completing the mandate to develop a comprehensive plan to make childcare more accessible, affordable, and inclusive. As well, where communities identify a need and interest in operating licensed early childhood programs, ECE will work with the community to support their establishment. We will also be placing a stronger emphasis on reaching out to communities lacking licensed childcare programs to increase awareness of the start-up and ongoing funding available, as well as other supports we offer.

Mr. Speaker, to assist in the cost of living and encourage more licensed operators, we also have made increases to the licensed childcare operating subsidy rates beginning in October 2016, which were further enhanced in 2017-2018 through federal funding. These increases, as well as the grants for health and safety, start-up funding, provider enhancement funding, and the Early Childhood Staff Grant program, will hopefully assist in making this opportunity more attractive to potential operators and early childhood educators.

Accessing qualified early childhood educators and ongoing training was a concern that we have also been able to address though the Canada-NWT Early Learning and Childcare Bilateral Agreement and its three-year action plan. With this federal funding, Aurora College has expanded its certificate program and is now offering a full-time, two-year diploma in Early Learning and Childcare. As well, we have increased the scholarships available for students in early childhood programs from 10 to 30 scholarships. Over the coming year, we will also be developing an ongoing training plan for flexible and sustainable training for staff of licensed childcare centres and family day home programs.

The Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, released its 2017 Early Childhood Education Report. This report assesses early childhood education programming in Canada by province and territory. From 2014 to 2017, the Northwest Territories' rating increased from 6.5 to 8.0 out of 15, which places the Northwest Territories exactly in the middle of all of the provinces and territories. This ranking shows that, as a government, we have made early childhood development a priority and are investing in our youngest residents, a commitment that must continue.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that it takes a community to raise a child, and we are doing our part to assist in this. We have made some great progress to date, and although we have a lot of work ahead during the rest of the 18th Legislative Assembly, we know how critical our work is, and we welcome the challenge, knowing that our efforts will assist our most valuable resource, our children. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 158-18(3): Developments in Early Childhood Programs and Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 5086

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Colleagues, I would like to draw your attention to the visitors in the gallery. We have with us students from the grade nine social studies class from Ecole Sir John Franklin High School. Welcome to our Assembly. Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 159-18(3): Supporting Early Childhood Development
Ministers' Statements

Page 5086

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, this Legislative Assembly has committed to support early childhood development, and today I want to provide Members and the public with an update on our work to provide equitable access to a range of inclusive, culturally-informed programs and services for and children under five years of age and expecting parents.

In June 2017, our government tabled a renewed three-year Early Childhood Development Action Plan designed to help us take action at several sensitive times of a child's development. For the past two years, we have worked with parents, elders, healthcare practitioners, community partners, and research organizations to improve services to young children and their parents and caregivers in order to improve developmental outcomes.

Mr. Speaker, to support the best health and social outcomes for children under five, the Department of Health and Social Services has been doing work in a number of areas, including maternal-child health.

The department has been advancing work to establish a territory-wide program to enhance access to midwifery services, including safe options for birthing as close to home as possible. The NWT Midwifery Practice Framework has been updated, and we are acting on the recommendations of the NWT Midwifery Stakeholder Engagement Report. Prenatal care and education is available to expectant mothers through several programs, including the Midwifery Program and the Northern Women's Program and during one-on-one appointments with community health nurses. As part of the Early Childhood Development Action Plan, the department is taking steps to improve the delivery of prenatal education by developing a standardized prenatal program.

Related to this work, officials met with Indigenous community partners in Fort Smith to pilot the first Indigenous Doula Training course in the Northwest Territories. This training can strengthen the capacity of the community to support pregnant mothers and their partners. An evaluation of the pilot course will inform our next steps.

Since 2016, expectant mothers who travel to one of the NWT birthing centres receive the essential items that new parents need for the wellbeing and safety of their newborn, as well as information about the programs and services that they can access in their communities when they return.

The Baby-Friendly Initiative is our government's approach to maternity and community services that focus on providing quality care and enabling supportive environments in the Northwest Territories.

In order to better understand infant feeding practices in the Northwest Territories, the department commissioned the Aurora Research Institute and an Advisory Circle of Knowledge Keepers. This partnership resulted in a report that includes many stories discussing traditional knowledge practices and has generated new knowledge that will contribute to the advancement of the Baby-Friendly Initiative.

In December 2018, the Inuvik Regional Hospital received official designation as a baby-friendly facility, becoming the first hospital in the Arctic, and the most northern hospital in Canada, to receive this designation. Four other healthcare facilities in the Northwest Territories are currently working towards their Baby-Friendly designation.

We also funded Moms, Boobs and Babies to develop a volunteer peer support breastfeeding program to help build local breastfeeding support and capacity in all regions.

In addition, we are working with Hotii ts'eeda to renew the Healthy Family Program. Hotii ts'eeda is a research support centre for community members, organizations, and researchers involved in Northwest Territories health and health research. To support the renewal, the project team is visiting nine communities in five regions to research and design an innovative model that reflects the unique needs and features of communities. The team is learning about specific needs and cultural practices related to parenting which are unique to Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents, newcomers, families in smaller communities, and parents without family support. They want to hear the views and perspectives of communities where the Healthy Family Program is not offered. Hotii ts'eeda will make recommendations this spring to pilot a new program design.

Mr. Speaker, the department has made significant progress to identify resources available to children and families to enhance healthy growth and development. When developmental delays occur in a child, it is important for these concerns to be identified early, so that interventions can begin as soon as possible, and before school entry.

All parents and caregivers can schedule Well Child Baby visits for children between the ages of zero and five with community health nurses and public health nurses to ensure early detection and referral to appropriate services, such as rehabilitation services.

Mr. Speaker, since the inception of the Early Childhood Action Plan, our government has made strategic investments to better meet the needs of children with specialized needs. We are improving access and follow-up to rehabilitation services for children ages zero to five in small communities and enhancing diagnosis and case management services for children with autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Children and parents who need specialized services will be supported by the Stanton hospital child-development team with a satellite team in the Beaufort-Delta.

We are currently in our second year of the three-year action plan, and we are making significant progress. We will continue to implement the Right from the Start Framework and action plans and use data from the Early Development Instrument to help update the action plan when it is renewed in 2020. We will also renew our monitoring, evaluation, and accountability plan to ensure that we are looking at the impacts of our actions in the longer term.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that it takes a community to raise a child, and we are doing our part to assist in this. We have made some great progress to date, and although we have a lot of work ahead during the rest of this 18th Legislative Assembly, we know how critical our work is, and we welcome the challenge, knowing that our efforts will assist our most valuable resource, our children.

Mr. Speaker, supporting early childhood development is critical work for our government. We are committed to working with families and communities to ensure that they have the tools and resources to support the best outcomes for their children. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 159-18(3): Supporting Early Childhood Development
Ministers' Statements

Page 5086

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 160-18(3): Community Government Funding
Ministers' Statements

Page 5086

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Community governments are an important partner for the Government of the Northwest Territories, and we continue to be one of the only jurisdictions in Canada that provides ongoing funding to this level of government. While we recognize that community governments have many financial needs that exceed current funding levels, we remain committed to supporting them and have made considerable gains in closing the community government funding gap during the 18th Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I do seek unanimous consent to conclude my Minister's statement, even though I just started.

---Unanimous consent granted

Minister's Statement 160-18(3): Community Government Funding
Ministers' Statements

Page 5087

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Addressing the financial needs of community governments is a long-term project that has to include clearly understanding what exactly those needs are and how effective our policies are in meeting them. That is why, Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories did a comprehensive review of its community government funding policies in 2014. The review was initiated, in part, because existing funding policies were difficult to understand and defend, in terms of the amount of funding any one community received. In addition, there was no direct linkage between the operations and maintenance funding policy and the infrastructure funding policy. The department felt there were significant gaps in understanding this relationship and the cost drivers related to infrastructure.

The 2014 review allowed a broad spectrum of community government officials to voice their concerns and help shape policy decisions. It started us on a path towards more accurate and detailed information for both the department and community governments and a clear and defendable approach to calculating community government funding needs.

The review also identified a large difference between current funding levels and full needs-based funding. This Legislative Assembly has made a commitment to close that funding gap, Mr. Speaker, and we have been making progress on that commitment.

Mr. Speaker, at the start of this Legislative Assembly, the Minister of Finance said the Government of the Northwest Territories would increase community government funding as its own revenues increased. Our government continues to keep that promise. In spite of our challenging fiscal environment that required our government to examine its spending closely, we have managed to not only protect community governments from funding reductions, but have actually increased base funding to them.

Over four years, we have succeeded in obtaining a total of $8.3 million in increased funding, closing the gap by almost 50 percent in both the community governments' operations and maintenance funding and environmental services, also known as water and sewer services funding. Over the same period, the increase in revenues for the whole Government of the Northwest Territories, when you exclude specific project funding from the federal government, was just $49 million. That increase had to pay for all the forced growth demands and initiatives of the government, including addressing the municipal government funding gap.

Mr. Speaker, as well as allocating new funding to community governments as it becomes available to us, in accordance with the results of the Municipal Funding Policy Review, we also continue to update the existing community government funding policies to meet the needs of community governments and ensure the funding is distributed with a fair, clear, and understandable policy base. This work will provide an update to the calculations used in each of the funding models and support specific actions that the department will take in partnership with community governments to make sure that we continue to have current data that can be used over time to defend future funding requests through our forced growth and budgetary cycles.

A key source of the data used in the funding-model calculations is the infrastructure valuation provided through a third-party source, the Northern Communities Insurance Program. As Members of this House may recall, the base for our funding models is the infrastructure information, and that is why the valuation from the insurance data is so important to this analysis. A new annual insurance cycle starts with renewal on April 1, 2019, and will provide us with the most current and critical information on the common infrastructure in each community, its valuation and condition.

Over the four years since the initial research was completed, I would also like to acknowledge that we have continued to work with the insurance program and invested in asset management with communities. These efforts have resulted in better quality data on infrastructure than we have ever had before.

We will ensure that this data is available to provide more regular updates to the formula calculations as well as for supporting requests on future federal funding programs.

Mr. Speaker, I believe in the direction that the department has taken since the completion of the Municipal Funding Policy Review in 2014. We have made solid progress in closing the municipal operations and maintenance funding gap by almost 50 percent over the last four years. We have also worked hard to improve funding policies so that they are clearer and better account for community needs. We intend to continue this work and will prepare a plan that will allow the Government of the Northwest Territories to increase community government funding as our own revenues increase based on good data and improved policies for the next Legislative Assembly's consideration.

We are well-positioned to advocate for community governments to receive their fair share of any new funding that becomes available. I look forward to discussions with stakeholders and Members of this House on community needs as a priority during the remainder of our term. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 160-18(3): Community Government Funding
Ministers' Statements

Page 5087

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Minister's Statement 160-18(3): Community Government Funding
Ministers' Statements

Page 5087

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre, that Minister's Statement 158-18(3) be moved into Committee of the Whole for consideration. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 160-18(3): Community Government Funding
Ministers' Statements

Page 5087

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Motion is in order. To the motion.

Minister's Statement 160-18(3): Community Government Funding
Ministers' Statements

Page 5087

Some Hon. Members

Question.