Debates of Feb. 6th, 2019
This is page numbers 4731 - 4756 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 support. View the webstream of the day's session.
- Oral Questions
- Members Present
- Budget Address
- Binding Arbitration of GNWT-UNW Labour Dispute
- All-Season Road to Avalon Nechalacho Project
- Natural Resource Development
- Bilateral Housing Solutions
- Arctic and Northern Policy Framework
- GNWT-UNW Collective Agreement
- Future of Bluenose East and Bathurst Caribou Herds
- Deh Gah School Youth Centre Movement
- New Housing Units Issues in Aklavik
- Emerging Leaders for the Northwest Territories
- Eulogy for Flora Cli
- Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
- Acknowledgement 17-18(3): Jeff Seabrook - Canada's Outstanding Principal Award Recipient
- Question 507-18(3): Bearnet Communication Email regarding Strike Notice
- Question 508-18(3): Arctic Policy Framework
- Question 509-18(3): Regional Wellness Councils
- Question 510-18(3): Bilateral Housing Solutions
- Question 511-18(3): Consultations on Bathurst Caribou Herd
- Question 512-18(3): Binding Arbitration for UNW Negotiations
- Question 513-18(3): All-Season Road to Avalon Mining Project
- Question 514-18(3): Fort Providence Youth Centre Programming
- Question 515-18(3): Housing Units in Aklavik and Fort McPherson
- Question 516-18(3): Marine Transportation Services
- Question 517-18(3): New Mine Potential Resource Revenues Forecasting Analysis
- Tabled Document 322-18(3): Main Estimates, 2019-2020 Tabled Document 323-18(3): Bearnet Communications to the Employees, February 5, 2019
- Tabled Document 324-18(3): Follow-up Letter for Oral Question 417-18(3): Supporting Small Business in Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh
- Motion 31-18(3): Request for Government of the Northwest Territories to Enter Binding Arbitration with the Union of Northern Workers
- Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
- Report Of Committee Of The Whole
- Orders Of The Day
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 1:30 p.m.
The Speaker Jackson Lafferty
Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, budget address. Minister of Finance.
Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and welcome to all those in the gallery.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present the 2019-2020 budget for the Government of the Northwest Territories. This budget continues to invest in our people and our territory to achieve, as set out in the very first sentence of the 18th Legislative Assembly mandate, our vision of a territory where all our people, communities, and regions share in the benefits of a healthy, just, sustainable, and prosperous society.
In presenting the final budget of the 18th Legislative Assembly, I want to thank Members for their collective efforts over the last four years to address the mandate priorities within a less than ideal fiscal situation. Our choices have not always been easy and we have not always agreed, but together we are all trying to do what is in the best interest of all residents.
At the start of this Assembly we knew we had an unsustainable fiscal situation. Our revenue growth was slowing, our operating expenditures were continuing to grow at a high rate, and our short-term debt was accumulating rapidly. It was clear that, if we wanted to invest in our priorities, we would have to do a better job managing our existing expenditures. We rose to this challenge with a fiscal plan that required accepting difficult but necessary steps to manage expenditures and find savings while also protecting our existing programs and services so that we could invest in our other priorities in support of this Assembly's mandate.
The fiscal plan we have followed over the last three budgets has allowed us to achieve substantial progress on the Assembly's priorities and make inroads in our long list of infrastructure needs. Our measures to reallocate resources and find savings have let us build for the future, even with the $81 million decline in our revenue over the last two years.
Fiscal Strategy and Budget Highlights
Each budget talks about our fiscal strategy, which, simply put, is to not spend beyond what we can afford. Today's programs and services must be paid for by the revenues that we have today and should borrow responsibly for infrastructure that delivers benefits for our residents today and tomorrow, with a clear plan to repay that debt.
Aligning our revenue growth with expenditure growth has been particularly challenging over the past two years where revenue has declined by $81 million. Managing this type of decline required taking a longer-term view of our fiscal plan. If we were to have taken more drastic steps, it would have compromised our ability to maintain existing programs and services. However, even careful expenditure management was not enough to prevent the decline in our operating surpluses and increase our short-term debt over the life of the 18th Legislative Assembly.
This Assembly has met our Fiscal Responsibility Policy guidelines to ensure that we are borrowing wisely while we start to address our infrastructure gap. We have the oldest infrastructure in the country and a significant infrastructure deficit that creates challenges for economic growth and contributes to our high cost of living. Our careful financial management has provided the means to partner with the federal government on cost-shared opportunities. By the end of this Assembly, we have invested $1.1 billion in the territory's infrastructure, to help deliver government programs and services, support the economy, and leave a legacy for future generations.
Mr. Speaker, in 2019-2020 we propose to invest $70 million for new initiatives and $17 million to enhance or maintain existing programs. The new spending will be offset through $20 million in savings and $30 million in new revenue from federal sources and the new carbon tax.
We propose in this budget to spend a total of $1.873 billion in 2019-2020, of which $1.1 billion is directly invested in our people through education, health care, social services, housing, policing, and corrections. We will pay for our operating budget with an estimated $1.933 billion in revenues, leaving a projected $60-million operating surplus to directly fund a portion of the 2019-2020 infrastructure budget approved last October.
Community Wellness and Safety
In the first three years of this Assembly, we have invested almost $64 million in the health of our residents and to enhance safety in our communities.
We have to do better to support children and families, and this budget proposes to accelerate plans already in place to improve the Child and Family Services program by investing an additional $3.3 million to add 21 new positions. This investment will improve our children and family services program's ability to meet our responsibilities by reducing caseloads and improving capacity to provide better support for children and their families.
We propose to continue our efforts to reduce poverty and address its consequences by adding $4.9 million targeted for our people that need help. This includes $2.6 million to establish a day shelter and sobering program, to hire more support personnel, and to increase emergency shelter funding across the territory. We propose to strengthen Income Assistance with an additional $1.7 million and to provide $615,000 in additional support for low-cost housing.
Non-governmental organizations are important partners in the delivery of services to residents of the Northwest Territories. Funding of $350,000 proposed in this budget will double this Assembly's support for the NGO Stabilization Fund and will bolster non-governmental organizations' ability to serve our communities.
We are including $15.2 million in this budget to operate the new Stanton Territorial Hospital that will open in May of this year. This new hospital will better serve today's residents with modern, state-of-the-art healthcare and diagnostic services, and it is intended to meet the demands of our health care needs for the next thirty years.
We propose to invest a further $5.9 million for other health services to support Northwest Territories residents and their families. These new investments will further enhance rehabilitation services for children, enhance support for children with autism, expand the midwifery program, and improve chemotherapy service delivery at the Stanton Territorial Hospital. This investment will also provide increased funding for benefit programs, diagnostic laboratory services, and medical supplies, and will cover increases in the standard physician contract for 2016 to 2021.
Strong communities look after their elders and disabled residents. This budget includes $2 million to better fund long-term care facilities and to increase income support for disabled and aged residents, including $1 million to operate the new health centre and long-term care facility in Norman Wells. Following the first review of maximum allowances since 2002, this budget provides for increasing the allowance rates for disabled and aged residents from $300 to $405.
Addressing mental health issues is one of our territory's biggest public health tasks. To better meet this challenge, we propose investing $1 million to continue implementation of the Mental Health Act and provide increased contribution funding to Indigenous governments for mobile addictions and substance abuse treatment and aftercare for individuals and families through the On-The-Land Healing Fund. This collaborative effort helps support Indigenous governments to deliver culturally relevant and safe healing programs to their residents.
Work to support our children's mental health is more effective when tied to education programs and services. The $2.1 million proposed in this budget to implement the second phase of the Northwest Territories School and Community Child and Youth Care Counsellors initiative will add more counsellors and mental health support services to support mental health wellness for children, youth and their families in the Beaufort Delta and Sahtu regions.
A further $379,000 is recommended in this budget to establish a specialized territorial support team to help teachers and school administrators use clinical assessment information to create learning support for students with complex needs from conditions such as autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
This budget proposes to continue investing in initiatives that have demonstrated their effectiveness, including $432,000 to further expand the Northern Distance Learning Program, which has proven successful in helping students to gain more credits and achieve academic success. This budget also enhances the Northern Studies program with a $315,000 investment in a made-in-the-Northwest Territories curriculum to broaden grade 10 studies and to develop programs for grades 11 and 12.
Building on the work started in 2017-2018 to implement a territory-wide 911 service, this budget proposes a $1.3-million investment to complete its rollout in 2019.
The budget proposes to shore up its support to the RCMP, to continue to deliver quality protection service to our communities, with an additional $1.4 million for mandatory training and to cover unavoidable administrative cost increases.
Economic Growth, Labour Development and Land Management
Over the last three years, in order to develop the economy in an environmentally sustainable way, the 18th Legislative Assembly has made diversifying our economy and supporting new industry that provide good jobs a priority with over $29 million in new investments. This Assembly has also made labour development a key long-term mandate priority with $22 million in new investments over the last three years towards early childhood development, post-secondary opportunities, cultural and Indigenous languages programming, and skills capacity building in our youth. Over the past three years of this Assembly we have protected our economy by investing $21 million to reduce the cost of living and avoiding major tax increases.
Budget 2019 looks to continue this investment with another $14 million to support the economy, labour, and land management.
Recognizing that resource development leads to opportunities for well-paying employment and supports local businesses, we will be investing $1.7 million in new funds to encourage increased investment by the resource sector. This investment includes $1.2 million to increase our knowledge of the mineral potential in the Slave Geological Province through new high-resolution airborne magnetic data and funding geophysical studies.
These funds also include $375,000 to take action under the Northwest Territories Petroleum Resources Strategy to sustainably revitalize the petroleum sector. The Mining Recorder's Office will receive more support to help mining prospectors and developers with information on mineral rights, maps, and legislation and regulations.
We are continuing our efforts to diversify the economy and reduce our reliance on the non-renewable resource sector by proposing an additional $375,000 to support activities related to the knowledge economy. We must make better use of the incredible amount of knowledge and expertise that resides in the Northwest Territories to transform our economy into one that relies on its people, rather than non-renewable resources, to provide a good quality of life and healthy communities. Funds in this budget will help develop a knowledge economy strategy and explore the feasibility of building a centre of excellence for northern research and development that generates revenue and jobs through production, distribution, and use of knowledge and information.
Building our economy also requires a strong commitment to developing our workforce, and this budget includes $3.6 million in investment for labour market development.
This includes the support related to the Canada-Northwest Territories Workforce Development Agreement, including improving literacy and work-related skills, providing a suite of needs-based services to maximize the effect of training, working with employers and other stakeholders to promote job opportunities, and tailoring skills development programs to employer demands. We are continuing our support for our post-secondary students by increasing the Student Financial Assistance course reimbursement rate from $500 to $800 and increasing the lifetime limit on course reimbursements from $5,000 to $8,800.
The growth in the number of visitors to our spectacular territory over the past five years has been an outstanding testament to the efforts of our tour operators, tourism associations, and local governments. Building on these efforts, we propose to add $1.2 million to support our tourism industry, including an $800,000 increase for large-scale tourism marketing and resources for the Northwest Territories Film Commission to market and promote our territory's stunning scenery to film and video producers and $208,000 to maintain the quality of our territorial parks.
We propose to continue our support for the arts and culture sector with $689,000 in maintenance funding for the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre and $200,000 in ongoing funding for the Northwest Territories Arts Council to promote creative artistic projects.
A total of $1.3 million in operating expenditures is proposed to support the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan in 2019-2020. The Government of the Northwest Territories has a long list of capital projects of all sizes across the territory, and this additional funding will ensure that we have the right information to put our infrastructure dollars where they will provide the most benefit and will also help expedite the opportunities to take advantage of federal funding.
We have to ensure that we have the resources to maintain our new infrastructure so it lasts as long as possible. To that end, this budget includes an additional $2.1 million to protect new capital projects that are coming into service this year, to increase maintenance and dust control measures for roads, and to add funding for ferries on the Mackenzie, Peel, and Liard rivers.
Uncertainty over land use rules is a major obstacle to getting anything done and is hindering economic development. We propose to support land management with a further investment of $2.6 million. This investment includes $753,000 to support a government-to-government Wek'eezhii Land Use Planning Committee that will lay the groundwork for a land use planning process for public lands in Wek'eezhii. This investment will also support other land use planning, including increased geomatics analysis and increased capacity to manage equity leases and address untenured and unauthorized occupancy.
Environment and Climate Change
Mr. Speaker, we are seeking to turn the rapid changes to our environment caused by climate change into economic development opportunities as we help guide the territory to a high-tech, low-carbon future with a diversified economy and healthy environment. Budget 2019 provides $21 million in spending to support our efforts to transition to a low-carbon economy. This support reflects our commitments under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and continues the work of this Assembly to address our mandate obligations.
Last July we released our proposal to participate in national carbon pricing with a carbon tax starting July 1, 2019, on all petroleum and natural gas fuels except aviation fuel. This carbon tax is intended to provide a price incentive to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels and not necessarily to raise revenues for government programs.
Therefore, our carbon tax proposal includes returning most of the carbon tax revenue into the economy in an approach that attempts to encourage carbon conservation and substitution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while minimizing the effect on the local cost of living or creating additional barriers to economic development.
Of the $16.2 million in carbon tax revenue expected in 2019-2020, this budget proposes to return almost $7 million to residents and business through a 100 percent rebate of the tax paid on heating fuel and fuel used to generate electricity and cost of living offsets for individuals and families. Large emitters will receive about $5 million in carbon tax rebates and through individualized trusts that can be used to make investments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Administration of the tax and benefits will cost about $600,000, leaving $3.7 million for greenhouse gas emission reduction investments, which in 2019-2020 is proposed to be used to support the Inuvik Wind project.
Carbon pricing is not expected to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Northwest Territories over the short term to medium term because the incentive to limit fuel use already exists due to high energy costs. As the carbon tax rate increases over time, further reductions will be increasingly difficult without considerable technological improvements that allow economically viable reductions in fuel use. Through the 2030 Energy Strategy, the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to make investments in alternative energy options for territorial residents and businesses a priority. The 2019-2020 Capital Estimates includes more than $40 million in funding for energy-related capital projects.
We expect to continue to work closely with the federal government in efforts to provide reliable, affordable alternatives to carbon-intensive fuels for communities and businesses. The majority of the $8.7 million proposed in this budget for lowering emissions comes from the federal Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund.
Of this, the budget proposes to further support the Arctic Energy Alliance with an additional $2.5 million for new and enhanced programs and services to improve energy conservation in commercial and residential buildings.
Another $3.8 million is allocated in this budget for large-scale commercial, industrial, and government organizations to support larger, energy-efficiency retrofits. Other investments support actively trapping carbon in our trees through forest regeneration actions and improving energy efficiency and substituting heating fuel in public housing through retrofit upgrades.
This budget proposes an additional $555,000 to implement the 2030 Northwest Territories Climate Change Strategic Framework. These funds will be used to support data management, reporting, and outreach so that the Government of the Northwest Territories can build its understanding of climate change within the territory, build resilience and adaptation, and transition to a low-carbon economy by 2030.
This budget also provides $381,000 for an environmental assessment of the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway that will provide further information to improve our knowledge of the effect of climate change occurring in the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, over the past three years Members of this Assembly have worked hard to strengthen our consensus government, and we have actively pursued fostering collaborative government-to-government relations with Indigenous and community governments, including much work to support the negotiation of self-government agreements and settle land claims. In the first three budgets of this Assembly we have invested $22 million in new funding for governance priorities as we strive for better transparency and accountability and strengthened communication.
Budget 2019 proposes to continue this work by investing a further $2.1 million to improve overall service delivery. These funds will be used to strengthen online service delivery, establish the Ombudsman Office, create an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy unit, and strengthen the Legal Aid Commission.
This budget proposes to close the funding gap for community government with an additional $1.9 million for their operations, maintenance, water, and sewer expenses. This investment is in addition to $2 million in incremental infrastructure contributions. We recognize the funding gap, and over the four years of the 18th Legislative Assembly we will have added a total of $8.2 million in additional community government funding.
The Government of the Northwest Territories and Indigenous governments work closely together to support human resource development and build capacity in their organizations by providing temporary work opportunities for each other's employees.
To support and enhance this capacity-building through temporary work assignments, this budget proposes a $400,000 investment to directly offset expenses such as travel, accommodation, and compensation.
Our mandate calls for advancing self-government agreements and promoting women in politics. Budget 2019 proposes $288,000 to support self-government implementation negotiations and to continue promoting women in politics through continued development of a communications campaign by the Women's Advisory unit.
We are committed to our public servants and propose to invest $5.1 million, including an additional $2.0 million for medical travel and dental programs for Government of the Northwest Territories employees, and $3.1 million to pay for the collective bargaining increases for teachers and for pay increases to the non-unionized Government of the Northwest Territories employees that were set in 2018-2019.
Mr. Speaker, we are all aware that we are continuing to negotiate with the Union of Northern Workers for a new collective agreement that will cover the majority of our employees. These negotiations are being undertaken with a backdrop of a particularly challenging fiscal environment.
Total revenues, once we adjust for increases in federal funding for targeted projects and the new Northwest Territories Carbon Tax, have increased by 2.7 percent over the four years of the 18th Assembly, for an annual average of 0.7 percent to pay for our expenditure increases. Every year sees new fiscal pressures as program costs increase for reasons beyond our control, such as rising healthcare costs caused by an aging population. This 0.7 percent annual increase must pay for these pressures as well as support investment in the Assembly's priorities and resources to maintain our existing programs and services, including collective agreements.
The balance between these various demands can't be ignored. We value the public service that delivers our government programs and services. All of us in this Assembly have friends and family who are part of our public service, and no one wants to see job action. However, our fiscal reality can't be ignored. Increasing spending beyond our revenue growth would mean we would need to reduce spending in other areas, increase our revenue through additional taxes, or increase our debt that future generations will have to pay. There are no other choices.
To our residents, I commit to you that this government will do everything within our power to reach a fair collective agreement without abandoning the needs of our residents or compromising the future of the Northwest Territories. This is a difficult choice, but one we must achieve.
Mr. Speaker, total revenue is forecast to increase to $1.933 billion in 2019-2020 following a two-year revenue decline of $81 million. The 2019-2020 increase is largely driven by federal transfers for infrastructure projects and targeted programs, by the introduction of the Northwest Territories Carbon Tax. Excluding the impact of this revenue, the government is left with $50 million in increased revenue over the four-year period or an average of $12.5 million per year.
As announced last July, we are honouring our commitments to carbon pricing under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change by proposing a made-in-the-Northwest-Territories carbon tax at $20 per tonne starting July 1st of this year. The legislation to levy the carbon tax and provide offsets to mitigate its effects on the cost of living and doing business will be introduced in this session. The Northwest Territories Carbon Tax is expected to come into effect on July 1, 2019, and will generate $16.2 million in revenue for 2019-2020.
With cannabis legalization in October of last year, we are projecting $747,000 in additional revenues from the Northwest Territories share of the federal Cannabis Excise Tax in 2019-2020 and expect some revenue from cannabis sales. Supply shortages are impacting cannabis sales and revenues, and we are hopeful that the national supply issues get resolved over the next few months. This budget does not contain any increases in our existing tax rates.
Mr. Speaker, our overall economy held its own in 2018 and we expect economic activity to increase 2.1 percent in 2019 because of good news last year, such as the restart of oil extraction in Norman Wells and steady diamond production.
In recent years the Northwest Territories economy has been supported by diamond mine construction and over $786 million in public infrastructure investments, including large projects, such as building the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway and Stanton Territorial Hospital.
We are continuing to build the territory with $343 million in infrastructure investments, including new projects, such as construction of the Tlicho All-Season Road, public infrastructure to support program delivery to Northwest Territories residents, and low-carbon economy capital projects.
We are continuing to use public investment to support local economies and set the foundation for future economic development. At the same time, we also need to have a frank evaluation of our various economic strategies to pave the way for a more sustainable and robust economy. Despite years of trying to diversify, we remain dependent on the non-renewable resource industry for its high-paying jobs and local business opportunities.
We expect the resource sector to continue to perform reasonably well over the next five to 10 years. However, there remains no oil and gas activity in the Beaufort Delta, and in 2019 mineral exploration is expected to be lower than 2018, adding uncertainty for developing the next generation of mines.
None of our existing diamond mines plan production past 2034, and one mine is scheduled to close in six years. The lead time for a deposit discovery to become an active mine is measured in decades, and we need mineral exploration now if we want to have replacements for the maturing diamond mines.
Ultimately we need economic diversification to strengthen the sustainability of our economy. We compete in a global market, whether it is exporting resources or attracting tourists. Changes in the global economy are directly transmitted to ours through resource prices and the demand for our products. To be clear, just because, overall, things are not so bad does not mean that there are not cracks in the foundation.
Mr. Speaker, our final budget puts the finishing touches on a mandate that has built a solid platform for the next Assembly and a legacy that will provide positive returns for the people of the Northwest Territories for generations.
The 19th Assembly will have a new territorial hospital and improved long-term health facilities to provide better quality healthcare for residents. We have expanded transportation infrastructure by connecting Tuktoyaktuk to the rest of Canada by road, and are furthering this expansion by building an all-season road to Whati. These new roads open up these regions to new economic opportunities. We have started to close the gap between what community governments need to provide community services and their ability to fund these services. The next Assembly will be able to build on our investments in new and innovative programs in education, including junior kindergarten and northern distance learning, which are already helping more children achieve academic success.
I believe that we have provided the foundation that will allow a transition to even more quality public services for Northwest Territories residents while revenues recover sufficiently to start to reduce our short-term borrowing.
I believe Members of this Assembly should be proud of the work we have done to invest in our priorities in a fiscally responsible manner. The choices and decisions of this Assembly will be our legacy in support of a vision for this territory where people can thrive in a strong economy that provides jobs and opportunities in safe and vibrant communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker Jackson Lafferty
Masi. Colleagues, at this point I'm going to call for a short break, and the public are invited to join us in our refreshments downstairs in the gallery. Masi.
The Speaker Jackson Lafferty
Colleagues, we left off after the budget address. We are moving on to Ministers' statements. Item 3, Ministers' statements. Item 4, Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.
Binding Arbitration of GNWT-UNW Labour Dispute
Julie Green Yellowknife Centre
Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the negotiations between the Government of the Northwest Territories and its unionized workforce represented by the Union of Northern Workers. The union is in a legal strike position. Rather than wait for the results of mediation scheduled for this weekend, they served a strike notice yesterday for next Monday. This is a deliberately provocative move that increases the stakes for this weekend.
At the end of the day yesterday the government responded with a provocative move of its own. The deputy minister of Finance noted that strike notice had been served and essential and emergency services are in place. He then went on to lay out the process for union members to work during a strike. The result has been the same as throwing gas on a smouldering fire.
Mr. Speaker, Yellowknife has its own painful experience of having workers cross a picket line. The temperature of the Giant Mine strike rose as people returned to work or accepted jobs as replacement workers. People said and did things that ruptured relationships permanently, but worse, much worse, nine people died in what many believe is cause and effect.
Constituents have been in touch with me to suggest that the government's tacit encouragement to cross the picket line is the wrong move. I agree. It will turn up the temperature in this dispute and create a toxic environment, not just in the workplace, but throughout the community. I don't want to see this happen in Yellowknife Centre or anywhere else.
I believe there is a way out that allows both the UNW and the GNWT to call this dispute a draw, and that is to agree to enter into binding arbitration in the event that this weekend's mediation fails. There is no point in keeping arbitration as an option once the strike has begun. The damage will have been done. My constituents have been clear. They do not want a strike. They believe it will harm their businesses, damage our economy, and prompt some of them to leave the Northwest Territories for good.
Mr. Speaker, this worst-case scenario is avoidable. The union has said it will agree to binding arbitration. I want the same commitment from the government. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance, and I will not accept answers that he cannot talk about negotiations. What I want is a proven alternative to move forward. Mahsi.
Binding Arbitration of GNWT-UNW Labour Dispute
The Speaker Jackson Lafferty
Masi. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.
All-Season Road to Avalon Nechalacho Project
Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh
Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. [English translation not provided.] Mr. Speaker, yesterday in my Member's statement I spoke about Avalon, a company that owns rare earths deposits at Thor Lake. Today I wish to expand on my statement and talk about the benefits of building an all-season road that would run from Ingraham Trail to Thor Lake.
Mr. Speaker, the all-season road I speak of does not necessarily have to be one of an NWT highway standard. It can be designed to a haul-road standard, for example. Even a road of this standard will help the mining company to attract investors and will be a project that can be completed working in conjunction with members of YK Dene First Nations. Furthermore, it would be a road that could be used by people travelling from Lutselk'e or to Lutselk'e and further to the east arm of the Great Slave Lake.
I spoke to an elder from Yellowknives Dene, and he saw some employment opportunities right away. He thought that, once a road was constructed, there would be a need for security for the equipment that is left behind when people are travelling, and security that could eventually lead to a working relationship in the security area with the mine.
Mr. Speaker, during the construction of this road there will be multiple years' worth of employment opportunities for Northerners. Once completed, there will be other opportunities for maintaining the road. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, a right-of-way will be established by the road, but in addition to road construction there is also potential for hydropower transmission lines to Nechalacho, which would connect the project to a clean, low-cost source of energy. This, however, would require an expansion of transmission lines from the existing Bluefish hydro dam.
Mr. Speaker, there can even be a dock built on the shore of the Great Slave Lake, just a few kilometres away from Thor Lake.
Mr. Speaker, an all-season road to Thor Lake would have many benefits, more than I can mention in a short Member's statement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
All-Season Road to Avalon Nechalacho Project
The Speaker Jackson Lafferty
Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.
Natural Resource Development
Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Members of the 18th Assembly made a commitment in our mandate to expand and diversify the economy of our territory. Some of the newer areas of the economy are booming, such as tourism. Others are growing more slowly, but show promise. We can expect recent investments in film, agriculture, and fisheries, among others, to pay off in the future.
However, as we move forward we cannot forget the riches we have right beneath our feet, Mr. Speaker. Our territory is blessed with generous mineral resources, including many that will be increasingly needed in the new green global economy. Natural resource development can provide good, stable, and generational jobs for our residents and fuel growth and stability in our communities and regions.
We are improving our investment climate. Investors are looking more and more favourably at our resources as a safe bet because we are doing good things. In the North, we have decades of experience of responsible and safe resource extraction. We have the tools and the know-how to continue to lead the country in innovation in cold-climate resource development. Mineral development will also support the growth of a central infrastructure. The growth of power and transportation systems like Taltson, the Mackenzie Valley Highway, and the corridor to the Slave Geological Province can only be supported by large-scale development of natural resources, and that is infrastructure that will support our communities into the future, well beyond the life of any one project. These projects are needed to create wealth that will support our communities and provide prosperity for all Northerners, their families, and communities.
Mr. Speaker, the mining industry is becoming a world leader in championing responsible, sustainable, and carbon-free practices. That is especially important to us as we live in the part of the world that is most drastically affected by climate change. We can be partners with this new green, progressive, and responsible sector in ways that create wealth, good jobs, and security for our citizens. A diversified economy is important, Mr. Speaker, and it is important to continue to develop new initiatives, but it is equally prudent to continue with the sector that has consistently and reliably provided wealth and growth to Northerners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Natural Resource Development
The Speaker Jackson Lafferty
Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.
Bilateral Housing Solutions
Daniel McNeely Sahtu
Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Housing solutions and bilaterals. Mr. Speaker, firstly I would like to recognize the many bilateral funding resources secured by the Government of the Northwest Territories through the previous timelines of FPT sessions held with the Government of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, it is a mandate of this government to build stronger families and stronger communities. One aspect of achieving this is through affordable housing. Then there are the many opportunities during construction.
In November 2018 the NWT Housing Corporation concluded bilateral negotiations for a 10-year agreement. Under this agreement, there is a number of resource programming. One can say this is a financial case in the contributions to our NWT core need. The success to the objectives underneath this strategy is and will be measured by the affordable units provided in the communities. This can be achieved by essential planning.
Mr. Speaker, a primary first step is reviewing the expense taken in drafting and tabling the core need assessment survey tabled during the spring of 2016.
Mr. Speaker, to further extend our secured resources and the principles of best value the NWT Housing Corporation should include the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund as criteria to assisting our communities with affordable energy-efficient homes as part of the community development sessions.
Mr. Speaker, this initiative would not only provide meaningful needed homes while showcasing low-emission, energy-efficient programs. Later, Mr. Speaker, I will have questions to the appropriate Minister of Housing. Mahsi.
Bilateral Housing Solutions
The Speaker Jackson Lafferty
Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.
Arctic and Northern Policy Framework
Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the new Arctic and Northern Policy Framework is being advanced by the Government of Canada in cooperation with Indigenous governments and northern territorial governments. I see this framework as an opportunity for Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories to work with Indigenous governments to develop policy together that will benefit every northern region in the country.
Mr. Speaker, one of the main goals should be to build capacity and use Indigenous and local knowledge to develop our regions.
The timeline Canada publicly set for completing the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework has slipped a bit, Mr. Speaker. Many people might say, "Oh, another government policy with a fancy name." However, it is important and, like any land claims, we are all accountable to implement such agreements. I am worried about the delay because it is supposed to be the policy on which Canada's support and funding decisions will be based. We are talking about money for housing, healthcare, education, and infrastructure. We are talking about empowering our communities and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are talking about living up to the promise of our land claims agreements.
Mr. Speaker, I hope our government is putting pressure on the federal ministers to complete the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework as soon as possible and with full participation of Indigenous governments.
Mr. Speaker, it would be refreshing to see a federal policy framework with a perspective that is truly Arctic and northern, and I look forward to the respectful engagement and collaboration for all Inuvialuit beneficiaries, especially constituents in Nunakput. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.
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