This is page numbers 5413 - 5452 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.

Topics

Members Present

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

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5413

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, colleagues. Colleagues, it is my duty to advise this House that I have received the following message from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It reads: "Dear Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 1, 2019-2020, during the 3rd Session of the 18th Assembly. Yours truly, Margaret M. Thom, Commissioner." Masi cho.

Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 173-18(3): Section 11 Agreement: Boreal Caribou
Ministers' Statements

March 13th, 2019

Page 5413

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Conservation of wildlife in the Northwest Territories is a responsibility shared by governments, boards, and individuals through our co-management system. This Legislative Assembly has made a mandate commitment to develop range plans for boreal caribou in the NWT. Today I would like to share some significant news about those plans and our made-in-the-North approach to protecting boreal caribou in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, boreal woodland caribou are listed as a threatened species under both federal and territorial legislation. These caribou are distinct from our nine barren-ground herds, which migrate above and below the treeline. Boreal caribou live in the forest, either alone or in small groups.

Our government, together with our co-management partners, has been working on a made-in-the-North approach to managing boreal caribou and their habitat in the NWT. This includes a framework for developing regional range plans, plans that will help us maintain adequate habitat across the NWT to support a healthy and sustainable population of boreal caribou.

Under the federal Species at Risk Act, at least 65 percent of the land used by boreal caribou must be maintained as undisturbed habitat. This is a requirement that we take very seriously. We do not want the federal government to step in and issue a federal protection order. This safety net order, as it is called, would give the federal government authority over our territorial lands, which are considered critical habitat for boreal caribou. We are working closely with the federal government to avoid this, Mr. Speaker.

That is why I am pleased to share with you today that our government has reached an agreement with the federal government under section 11 of the Species at Risk Act. This conservation agreement recognizes and supports our approach to boreal caribou and habitat management and reduces the likelihood of a protection order. The agreement sets out conservation measures to support boreal caribou in the NWT, including development and implementation of range plans to protect boreal caribou habitat.

As part of this agreement, the Government of the Northwest Territories and Environment and Climate Change Canada have also negotiated federal funding for range planning in the NWT. This funding is significant and will support our collaborative process to build regional range plans with our co-management partners.

Under this agreement, Canada will provide $3.255 million to the GNWT over the next five years to support the conservation measures in the agreement. In addition, Mr. Speaker, we have negotiated $1 million in funding to allow our Indigenous self-government partners to fully engage in the range planning process, to ensure these plans truly reflect the values and interests of Northerners.

Currently, about 69 percent of boreal caribou range in the NWT is undisturbed, and our boreal caribou population is considered self-sustaining. That is very good news. It means that we are in a good position to meet the 65-percent requirement for undisturbed habitat and continue to support conservation of this species.

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that, together with our co-management partners, we can help maintain our population of boreal caribou while ensuring continued opportunities for sustainable economic growth now and into the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 173-18(3): Section 11 Agreement: Boreal Caribou
Ministers' Statements

Page 5413

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 174-18(3): Primary Health Care Reform
Ministers' Statements

Page 5413

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our vision for Health and Social Services in the Northwest Territories is one of Best Health, Best Care, For a Better Future. Realizing this vision requires meaningful change at all levels; change within our systems, change within ourselves as individuals working in those systems, and change in the ways that we do our work together. Today I want to provide Members with more detail about the work that we are doing within the system to improve access and quality of care for all residents of the Northwest Territories.

We have made significant changes to the structure of the Health and Social Services system during this Legislative Assembly. System Transformation, which created the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, has given us the governance and administrative structures we need to improve services and to better support NWT residents.

With that foundation in place, the Department of Health and Social Services and the authority are now beginning a process to reform primary healthcare that will put the client at the centre of everything that we do.

This isn't about changing our system; that work is already under way. Rather, this is about changing the way that our system works. Through primary healthcare reform, we will shift our approach to planning programming and delivering services so that they are responsive and client-focused. The client, along with their families and communities, will become the orienting point and partner in every decision that we make as care providers and as a system of care.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that optimal health and well-being for all residents will be achieved by integrating the social determinants of health into our system, and by meeting each client where they are in their journey, to provide the right care, from the right provider, at the right time, and in the right place. To make this a reality, we are building a team and a relationship-based approach to how we deliver services and offer programming, which is driven by community priorities and data and grounded in trust and shared outcomes.

We have made great progress in partnering with communities to support community wellness planning and capacity building over the last several years, but we have not yet applied that same successful approach towards working with communities to define and implement their own health agenda. People and communities have wisdom about their own health needs, both the services they require and the way those services should be delivered. Through primary healthcare reform, we are going to increase community participation in the planning processes to ensure that we are delivering services that work in ways that make sense for the people and the place.

Mr. Speaker, we have exceptionally talented and dedicated people working throughout our system at all levels. They strive every day to provide the highest standard of care and service in challenging environments and circumstances. I have had the privilege of spending time with both staff and clients in every community of the NWT, and I know that they are excited about the possibility of doing things differently, of doing things in a better way.

Over the next few months we will begin rolling out demonstration projects to test certain elements of primary healthcare reform. To increase community participation in health planning, we will be developing a new piloted project for chronic-disease management in smaller communities, beginning in the Deh Cho region. To improve access, we will be looking at new service-delivery approaches to better serve Yellowknife's most marginalized populations. To improve continuity of care and support the development of relationships between clients and providers, we are developing multidisciplinary integrated care teams that will provide clients with ready access to a team of providers, all working at full scope of practice, who can be responsive to the client's needs in real time.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to a learning process as we take on this work. As we develop new approaches, we will test them and refine them before rolling them out across the system, to ensure that changes we make are the right ones. We are also committed to leading by example to do this work in a good way. This means that each of the demonstration projects will be developed in keeping with the principles of cultural safety and in accordance with the recently released Cultural Safety Action Plan. The staff involved in the demonstration projects will participate in cultural safety training as part of their work, to begin embedding cultural safety in our system and facilitating the cultural shifts required to make this our new way of doing business.

The Cultural Safety Action Plan implementation and the primary healthcare reform are in the early days, but the enthusiasm and commitment for these efforts within our systems are undeniable. I look forward to supporting these initiatives as they move forward and to providing updates to this House on our progress. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 174-18(3): Primary Health Care Reform
Ministers' Statements

Page 5414

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Deputy Premier.

Minister's Statement 175-18(3): Premier Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 5414

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to advise Members that the Premier will be absent from the House today and tomorrow to attend the Arctic Oil and Gas Symposium in Calgary, Alberta. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 175-18(3): Premier Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 5414

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' Statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Yellowknife Co-op Hydroponic Vegetable Garden Project
Members' Statements

Page 5414

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Food security is becoming the watchword of the 21st century around the world. Reliable food supply and the cost of shipping foods to markets are challenges that the world will be confronting in the years to come. In the North, our own challenges are every bit as complex. The social media movement Feeding My Family brought international attention to the high cost of food in the North. Our ability to rely on country food, food that sustained Indigenous people for thousands of years, is uncertain as the health and future of caribou herds is unclear, but it's soon to be getting better. Many of this Assembly's mandate priorities have a bearing on food security. We are moving ahead with agricultural and fishery strategies, things that relate directly to securing sufficient, healthy diet for residents.

However, recently, Mr. Speaker, I learned of a new initiative. The Yellowknife Co-op is investing in a new installation that will allow it to produce fresh food year-round, right here at home. It has partnered with a company called The Grocer that has created a transportable, hydroponic growing system. The Grocer is a Canadian company that is member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. It has developed an Arctic growing system that is specifically designed for low-infrastructure environments and temperatures as low as minus 52 degrees Celsius. It combines hydroponic technology with precision climate control and computerized operation.

The system is scalable to grow with demand. The basic system can provide up to 12,000 pounds of produce each year. The grower's system was tried in Churchill, Manitoba, after that community's rail line, its only land link to the south, washed out in 2016. Within weeks of installing the system, many varieties of produce were available in stores. In February 2018, temperatures went down to minus 58, and the system was still growing. Over time, the sticker price of leafy greens dropped from $7.25 with subsidized shipping to $4.99, and of course Mr. Speaker, it was fresher and tastier.

The Yellowknife Co-op's investment is an example of creative forward thinking, Mr. Speaker. It supports our mandate priorities of promoting agriculture, reducing the cost of living, and diversifying the economy, and it promises local control and decision-making around food supply for our communities and families. Colleagues, please join me in congratulating the Yellowknife Co-op on its exciting new initiative.

Yellowknife Co-op Hydroponic Vegetable Garden Project
Members' Statements

Page 5414

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation
Members' Statements

Page 5414

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. [Translation] The goals of the BDIC are noble ones, to help small businesspeople to address heavy bureaucratic requirements [translation ends]....territory, and this government's claim that diversification of our economy is a top priority, it would be reasonable to believe that this organization is pulling its weight and providing effective assistance to private enterprise. Yet I have been hearing from an ever-increasing number of small businesses that they have lost support from BDIC once the money has been lent. It seems that this organization has forgone its role in supporting the economic objectives of this government in encouraging business development in favour of becoming just another lender.

BDIC has the statutory power to adjust contracts, defer payments of the principal, and adjust interest rates. Yet I, too, like the honourable Member for Hay River North, who touched on this last week, am hearing that BDIC is squeamish to exercise all of the powers it has at its disposal. I am hard-pressed to believe that they have just become another monetary lender as a matter of policy. This is not a matter of law. I hope they begin to use every tool at their disposal and that the NWT will be able to get its economy back into a position of growth rather than the current state of contraction.

All this raises questions as to what is the long-term vision of the BDIC. Standing committees have heard from the BDIC leadership. We have heard about a desire to do more to invest in entrepreneurs, provide front-line services, and invest in developing sectors of our economy. I support this vision. It goes to more than just lending, but I am not confident that this vision is shared by this government. BDIC has seen its funding stripped away over successive budgets, and many of its front-line business support has been subsumed by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken on the need for greater independence of the GNWT Crown corporations and arm's-length institutions. BDIC's board and president must be empowered to chart their own course for the corporation, and the Minister must not see the important work of BDIC as just another fund or function of his ministry.

Mr. Speaker, I have called before for this government to let the private sector lead, and now I will call on this government to get out of the way and let the BDIC support the private sector on its own terms for the long-term vision for success. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation
Members' Statements

Page 5414

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Giant Mine Remediation Benefits
Members' Statements

Page 5414

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Earlier this week I attended the annual public meeting held by the Giant Mine Remediation Project staff. A lot of work was required to contain and manage arsenic trioxide waste for at least the next 100 years, to remediate soil, demolish buildings, build and operate a new water treatment facility, and more. A report on the water licence application and process was also provided.

A good deal of the meeting was taken up with discussing opportunities for northern benefits during the decade-long remediation. Contracts valued at $430 million have been let so far, but most of the remediation work is yet to be costed and contracted and will take years to complete. Giant Mine Remediation Project staff and the main construction management contractor, Parsons Incorporated, pointed to some vague principles and processes to foster northern benefits. Benefits are to be delivered through set-asides under something called the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Businesses, and there are also criteria for assessing valuation of bids based on Aboriginal training, labour, and equipment ratings under something called the Aboriginal Opportunity Considerations. A socio-economic working group has been established with Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Procurement Canada, Parsons as the main construction manager, and GNWT. They are also working on some sort of a socio-economic action plan. A broader socio-economic advisory body has also been established with similar membership, but it also includes the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the City of Yellowknife.

In a February 25 letter to the Giant remediation project, the Giant Mine Oversight Board points out the murky relationship between the working group, advisory body, and the action plan. Questions were also raised about membership in some of these groups, and whether the focus will be more broadly cast to include social matters and outcomes. I agree with their assessment, Mr. Speaker.

What is missing is the power to ensure contracts actually go to Indigenous and northern businesses. There are no binding targets for NWT and Indigenous jobs, contracting, or purchasing. There is a lot of effort to make contracting opportunities known, but no way to directly negotiate contracts with local businesses that have demonstrated capacity and performed the work. That's not good enough. I'll have questions later today for the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Giant Mine Remediation Benefits
Members' Statements

Page 5414

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.