This is page numbers 4757 - 4776 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.

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 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4757

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 133-18(3): Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion
Ministers' Statements

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Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories made a mandate commitment during this Legislative Assembly to continue to develop and advance initiatives to displace diesel generation in the Northwest Territories, including advancing the Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion project.

With the Department of Infrastructure at the helm, the Government of the Northwest Territories has continued to work with the federal and Indigenous governments, provinces, territories, and Northwest Territories residents to promote a cleaner, more reliable energy supply in rural and remote communities, reducing pollution in Canada's North and creating new opportunities for social and economic development.

Mr. Speaker, last month the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, joined the Premier and myself to announce over $1.2 million in federal and territorial investments in the Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion project. This funding will advance technical aspects of the project and help support our Indigenous partners to develop a business framework for their participation in the opportunities the future expansion will bring.

This announcement demonstrates the Government of the Northwest Territories' ongoing efforts to work with the Government of Canada to realize our long-term vision and approach to energy and climate change and we will enable the Northwest Territories to transition to a strong, healthy economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels. It also supports our goals outlined under the 2030 Energy Strategy and is part of a full service infrastructure corridor that will provide clean energy to a region rich in materials required for low-carbon technologies, such as cobalt, lithium, and nickel.

The proposed initial expansion of the Taltson project will deliver 60 megawatts of clean energy to the North Slave hydroelectric system, more than doubling the current hydroelectricity capacity in the territory, while improving energy security and stabilizing the cost of energy for all NWT residents. This project will also contribute to a cleaner environment and stronger economy, as it will remove up to 240,000 tonnes of polluting emissions from the air each year, stimulate local economies, and provide employment opportunities for Indigenous and northern residents. Later phases of the expansion will connect the Taltson hydroelectric system with provincial electricity networks, creating a more integrated energy system that will allow for increased north-south energy trade.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, this federal support will help advance the Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion project in two key areas.

First, the funding provided will advance the technical aspects of the project, such as ensuring all previous engineering and design work is up to date, environmental baseline work is completed, an engagement strategy for all affected people is developed, and a business model framework is established.

Second, it will support our partners from the Akaitcho Territory Government, the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, and the Salt River First Nation to establish their business model frameworks to actively participate in the development of the project.

Partnering with Indigenous governments is an integral component of this project, incorporating Indigenous rights, knowledge, and cultural values into project design and implementation, and that all stakeholders experience its far-reaching benefits. The Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to engage directly with communities and Indigenous organizations on this project to ensure their participation, partnership, and empowerment.

Mr. Speaker, this funding announcement is just step one in realizing the full Taltson project. In addition to the announced funding, the Government of the Northwest Territories has also put in a request with the Government of Canada for additional financial support to further advance the project over the next three years. We are hopeful that we will have a response back from that ask in the coming months.

The Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion project is more than a transmission project. It represents a key element in the Government of the Northwest Territories' vision for a lower-carbon economy that will increase the availability of clean, renewable energy to help us achieve our mandate commitment of displacing diesel generation, as well as lowering the cost of living for residents, and allowing the territory to meet its commitments to address climate change. This project also reflects the important role clean energy infrastructure plays in growing and stimulating the economy.

Mr. Speaker, this is an exciting time. We are looking forward to working together with all our partners in this project to realize our vision of clean energy for our communities and our economy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 133-18(3): Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 134-18(3): Cannabis Public Education and Awareness Update
Ministers' Statements

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to update Members on our government's recent work on cannabis public education and community health engagement.

Northerners have told us that they want more evidence-based, culturally relevant information on the health effects of cannabis. In response to that call, the Department of Health and Social Services has been working in partnership with other departments and agencies, as well as the federal government, to ensure that NWT residents have access to the information and resources that they need in order to make informed choices.

When it comes to considering cannabis use, there are very real health considerations and risks, especially for youth, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those who experience struggles with mental health. To make sure residents have this information, public education efforts are under way in communities throughout our territory, and will continue over the coming years.

Since January 2018 a government working group has been working together on potential public education and awareness initiatives. The initial phase of the GNWT's cannabis awareness campaign was launched in April 2018 and included web content, a direct mailer to all households and businesses, parent talk kits, social media advertising, and in-school education events. Using traditional and modern forms of advertising, we've been able to bring this information to people throughout the Northwest Territories.

Educational events have been delivered in schools and to our frontline health and social services professionals. Part of this work included having our Chief Public Health Officer present a question and answer session to Indigenous governments. We've also hosted expert seminars, bringing national experts to share new research and information on brain development, stigmatizing language, pregnancy and fetal development, and more. These learning opportunities have given our healthcare providers the chance to explore these topics in depth and learn about best practices being used around the country and the world.

Mr. Speaker, just a few weeks ago, thanks to the support of federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and our Member of Parliament, Michael McLeod, Health Canada made an investment of $1.8 million to support community-based cannabis public education here in the Northwest Territories. This funding will support our approach for a harm-reduction model for cannabis that builds off Canada's Lower Risk Guidelines for Cannabis Use, developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Our harm-reduction approach and community-based outreach plan allows us to engage residents in a dialogue about the realistic impacts of cannabis and other substances. Our goal is to provide factual information that won't glamourize or instill fear, but will educate youth, elders, and families about substance use, allowing them to make informed choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Recently, I unveiled an exciting new augmented reality poster series as part of this campaign, designed by northern artist Cody Fennel, with input from youth and elders across the Northwest Territories. These posters are generating discussion, but their effect is clear; this new approach to messaging has a significant impact on how young people, and their communities, are reacting to and are engaging with cannabis education.

As our public education campaign continues, we will be expanding efforts into our communities. This will include an arts-based workshop series, in partnership with the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, that gives communities an opportunity to explore what substance use and abuse looks like to them, what resources they have, and their unique perspectives on health and wellness. These workshops will be adjustable for communities so they may create local content that focuses on their distinct needs and realities.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information about cannabis to our residents, in particular our youth and other people in higher-risk demographics, in ways that resonate with them. We have heard that, when it comes to meeting this commitment, that our residents want cannabis information from government that is interactive, honest, and balanced. We will continue to work with Northerners as we roll out the next phase of our cannabis public awareness and information campaign as it makes its way to every community in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 134-18(3): Cannabis Public Education and Awareness Update
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Binding Arbitration of GNWT-UNW Labour Dispute
Members' Statements

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, the public is clearly confused over the situation of binding arbitration. It seems that some in this Cabinet are unaware of how a strike will affect Northerners. It seems that some believe that everyday people should just get a loan to make ends meet, or just tighten their belts and cut back on their "luxurious" spending. These ideas are sadly out of touch with the concerns and realities of everyday people and businesses alike.

I've heard just in the last few days from so many concerned constituents; nurses, civil servants, business owners, and students, to name a few. Students of Aurora College have informed me that, if the strike goes through, they will be unable to complete their schooling in time to get back to their regular jobs, being left with incomplete credentials while still being saddled with the costs and debts of having attended course and programs. There are countless more stories, but I do not have time to go through all of them here today.

The Minister of Finance understandably worries about binding arbitration setting a dangerous precedent, yet the UNW has publicly stated, "This would be a one-time, non-precedent-setting offer." I urge the Members of this House to consider these words carefully.

Mr. Speaker, to quote the words of the Honourable Premier, "If you don't like the process, change it." Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe our constituents have heard this message loud and clear. They have heard Ministers say, "We are just following the process." They have read that the Premier hasn't been briefed on all the options available. They know that time and the process are running out, and they know that this process has been going on for years. They know that time is of the essence, and are afraid of the consequences of a looming job action.

I implore the Members of this House to heed the requests of our constituents and to remember that we are serving here at their pleasure. It is not only the union members who want to see change; students, families, business owners, the list goes on. Our constituents want to see a fair resolution to this dispute. Yesterday the vast majority of people made it clear to us that this process is broken, and it is now up to this House to step up to the plate and fix this broken process before the worst happens. Now is the time to act. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Binding Arbitration of GNWT-UNW Labour Dispute
Members' Statements

Page 4758

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Small Community Micro-Grids
Members' Statements

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I was happy to hear the Minister speak about energy today.

Mr. Speaker, for a lifetime in the North we practise just one way to power our thermal communities: fill up the tank farm with fuel; turn on the massive generator; and let it run and run and run.

That fuel costs a lot of money. Transporting it costs even more. Now, Mr. Speaker, there's a generator running full speed ahead even when its power isn't needed. Across the NWT, there are many communities running like that right now as we speak.

Diesel is very inefficient. As much as 70 percent of that burning fuel literally evaporates into thin air. Can you believe only 30 percent is used for energy?

Mr. Speaker, we need a better way; a way that doesn't break the bank, doesn't cost more every year, and won't hurt the planet. Thankfully, Mr. Speaker, there are ideas out there. One Northerner, Jeff Phillip, shared his new idea with our committee last fall. You might know him from his SSI Micro, but his new company SSI Energy is promoting new and efficient energy systems. His idea is based on his family's owned assets in Fort Providence that have been operating off grid for many years.

Mr. Speaker, it works like this. Instead of one big generator, hook up a series of small ones. They're easier to ship, easier to install, and easier to maintain. When you need less power, turn one off. If one goes mechanical, you've got backup. With a small network, it's easy to add another energy supply component: solar panels and a wind turbine. Burn less fuel, much cleaner energy.

What about the wasted heat? Use heat exchangers to send that heat to homes, schools, businesses, even a community greenhouse.

Mr. Speaker, critics say that sun and wind is great, but you can't reliably store the energy. New super batteries can store more energy. They charge fast and discharge slowly. They can work in the cold and are environmentally sound. They are made of grapheme. Now, join all these pieces together with an energy server and you have a district energy system providing power and heat to neighbourhoods, commercial ventures, and entire small communities.

Mr. Speaker, environmental factors aside, cost alone dictates that we must get off diesel. If thermal communities can be powered more cheaply, subsidies will not be required. All Northerners will pay less.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, as Jeff says in his presentation, "This is not rocket science." All of this technology exists and is being used in other parts of the world. I ask, why not here? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Small Community Micro-Grids
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Education and Succession Planning
Members' Statements

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Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, one of the gratifying experiences of this position is knowledge about programs and services and, coming from a small community, I can understand the need in designing funding applications for community development. Programs or initiatives tailored to our northern territory, more specifically education and training, is a fundamental process in management career security in our workforce readiness procedures.

Mr. Speaker, announced last October are two initiatives: number one, Indigenous Career Gateway Program; number two, Indigenous Management Development and Training Program.

Mr. Speaker, our youth is our greatest resource. Offering supports to this new and upcoming workforce on enhancing and promoting their skills and abilities, we must encourage succession planning of these two initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, as said in the news release, "The Government of the Northwest Territories was recognized as one of Canada's best diversity employers for the sixth consecutive year 2018."

Mr. Speaker, allow us to market and advertise employment opportunities through designed training plans. These plans can then be shared within our schools or regional agencies. Later, Mr. Speaker, I will have questions to the Minister of Finance. Mahsi.

Education and Succession Planning
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Consultation on Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax
Members' Statements

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, two years ago the Finance Minister made a commitment to explore a sugary-drink tax in the NWT. He is now making good on that promise, although the effort looks half-hearted. The discussion paper on the tax was posted on January 22nd. Consultations began five days later. Don't look for a news release. There wasn't one. Be prepared to dig around the Department of Finance website to find the online survey. The whole exercise feels less like fulfilling a promise and more like a cynical box-ticking exercise.

Here's why this discussion matters. I am going to repeat some of the facts and figures available in the discussion paper on the sugary-drink tax: 39 percent of NWT residents are obese and sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest dietary form of sugar, in the form of pop, iced tea, iced coffee, and energy drinks. They have no nutritional value, none at all. Children who experience high levels of tooth decay would benefit from a sugary-drink tax. A tax would also reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In other words, it would do us the world of good.

The challenge in this discussion is to find evidence that sugar taxes reduce consumption. The issue has not been well-studied. There is some concern that a sugar tax would steer people into spending their money on other unhealthy food that is not taxed. A sugary-drinks tax would be an experiment to encourage people to reduce consumption. Economists estimate that consumption will drop between 8 and 10 percent for every 10 percent increase in price.

This proposal is not about generating revenue for government, or at least it isn't in my mind. If there was no change in consumption, the tax would generate $2.6 million, but revenues would shrink if consumption fell, and that would be good. Businesses that sell sugary drinks would have more paperwork to do, as retailers do now who sell cigarettes.

The anticipated benefit of the tax is improved health for residents and decreased healthcare costs. The government has already acknowledged the harm inflicted by sugary drinks with its Drop the Pop Campaign. Drop the Pop would be more robust if there was a financial reason to reduce consumption. I believe more good than harm is possible from the introduction of a sugary-drinks tax. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Consultation on Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.