This is page numbers 5453 - 5490 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 assembly.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, 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

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Elder Mary Kudlak

[English translation not provided.]

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 176-18(3): Foster Families Partnership with the Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to speak about foster care and the important role of Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories has played, and will continue to play, in partnering with Child and Family Services to improve recruitment, training, and support for foster families.

Foster families perform a vital service to children that must be placed in care. I want to recognize and thank all foster families from across this territory for the valuable support they provide to our children and youth.

Mr. Speaker, for the past several years, the Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories has worked to recruit foster families, has offered support, assistance, and training to foster families, has organized summer camps for foster children from across the Northwest Territories, and represented the perspectives, needs, and concerns of foster parents in meetings and conversations with the Child and Family Services System.

The Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories was established by concerned foster parents from across the territory and provides an important voice for those foster families. Today, the coalition is releasing a new recruitment strategy and video to recruit new foster and adoptive parents across the Northwest Territories. This initiative is in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Services.

Using the catchphrase "we need you," the coalition wants to send the message to prospective foster families and adoptive families that they will not begin their journey as foster or adoptive parents alone. In fact, they will become a part of a large team that is working together to ensure children are receiving consistent and quality care with a goal of family reunification and permanency. It is vital that we have more foster and adoptive families in the Northwest Territories so our children have the chance to be placed in a home that suits them best, when they need one.

Mr. Speaker, foster care is one of the key areas identified by the Auditor General of Canada in their report, tabled this past December as needing to be improved, and it is a priority area for the Department of Health and Social Service's quality improvement plan. As part of our quality improvement work, the department has established a foster care quality working group.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to advise that the foster care quality working group will be co-led by the Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories.

The working group will recommend improvements to the foster care system, addressing the need to provide more consistent support to foster parents across all regions, and to improve foster care training for all NWT foster parents, so that foster families have better information and strategies as they respond to the important needs of children in care of the child and family services system.

Mr. Speaker, I want to formally acknowledge our partnership with all foster families, and with the Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories that represents the interests and concerns of our foster families. We look forward to continuing to work together with them through the foster care quality working group to improve support, training, and services to foster families so that we can make sure that every child and youth in the NWT stays safe. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 176-18(3): Foster Families Partnership with the Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River North.

The Legislative Process
Members' Statements

March 14th, 2019

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One of my favourite things about this job is that every day I learn something new. Obviously, I have had to learn a lot about how laws are made. The specifics of the legislative process aren't as widely known as they could be, so I thought I would share what I have learned with the public.

It all starts with an idea about how to make things better. That idea is developed, expanded, refined, or combined with other ideas, into a bill. Just because an idea gets turned into a bill doesn't mean that the idea was good to begin with, so the legislative process helps us improve worthy ideas and weed out bad ones.

The first mention of a bill in the Legislative Assembly is when the sponsor, which is either a Minister or a Regular Member, gives notice of first reading. Two days later, the sponsor makes a motion that the bill be read for the first time, and Members vote as to whether or not the bill should proceed further.

If it passes, then the bill is reprinted and members and the public can see its contents. Prior to the vote, no one other than the sponsor actually knows what is in the bill. If defeated, the bill never sees the light of day, and its merits are never publicly debated.

Mr. Speaker, because Members don't know the contents of the bill, what they are really voting on is whether or not they want to be exposed to a new idea.

Because it is commonly accepted that the ability to present and debate ideas is an indispensable cornerstone of democracy, first reading is usually just a formality, and many legislations don't even bother with a vote.

However, new ideas can be scary. They can pose a threat to the status quo and to existing power structures, so those who fear change may prefer to censor new ideas.

The ability to kill a bill at first reading is a wonderful tool for partisan governments where suppression of a minority is the key, but I find it oddly out of place in our consensus model.

Perhaps the power to put people back in their place when they step out of line is just part of the colonial baggage that we inherited as part of the Westminster system.

Mr. Speaker, I am optimistic that eventually we will shed that baggage yet, because like I said at the beginning of this sitting, change is on the horizon.

Uh oh, Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to explain the entire legislative process, but I have run out of time. I guess I won't make it past first reading, but I appreciate the common decency and commitment to free speech that you have displayed by allowing me to speak. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Legislative Process
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Licensed Day Care Facilities
Members' Statements

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One of the basic needs of families and communities is to be able to take care of their children.

Currently, a number of families in Yellowknife are facing a difficult situation. Mr. Speaker, just before Christmas, the Kids Corner daycare in my riding closed its doors. With only two weeks' notice of its closure, about 30 families of kids aged one through four were sent scrambling to find alternative care.

However, they don't have any options, Mr. Speaker. There aren't enough spaces to meet the demand. The Yellowknife Day Care Association, which recently opened its new building, already has a waiting list of nearly 150 kids.

Working with the Yellowknife Women's Society, the affected parents have come up with a solution, but it requires renovations to bring the Yellowknife Women's Society's building up to code for daycare operations. That requires significant capital funding, but the parents have been told that there will be no government support for capital investment. The department has stated in the past that it doesn't want to interfere with a private market-driven industry.

However, Mr. Speaker, the private market isn't providing daycare spaces. Our communities are simply too small to generate a business case for the private market to invest in new infrastructure. There is no return on investment.

Mr. Speaker, we have hit a wall. There won't be more daycare spaces without a government commitment to new capital infrastructure funding. Families will go without an essential service. The department needs to step up and get these facilities built. Once the facilities are there, NGOs or parent cooperatives can take it on management and operations, but, without the actual bricks and mortar, that can't happen.

This lack of infrastructure is also leading to a rise in the number of unlicensed day home operators. That can result in more children being put at risk, and that is not acceptable by any definition.

Mr. Speaker, for young families, it is essential to have access to reliable, safe, progressive childcare. Without it, their ability to pursue a career, achieve financial security, and allow their family to grow and prosper is compromised. That goes directly against our mandate priorities for stronger communities.

Mr. Speaker, a reliable childcare system is an investment in our future. I urge the Minister to consider stronger support for childcare infrastructure. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Licensed Day Care Facilities
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Colleagues, I would like to draw your attention to visitors in the gallery. Colleagues, please allow me to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery today with us Mr. Anthony W.J. Whitford. As many of you know, Mr. Whitford is a man of many roles: former Commissioner, former Speaker, former Minister, former Member, former Sergeant-at-Arms, honorary Clerk at the table, and member of the Order of NWT. Please join me in welcoming Mr. Whitford to the House this afternoon. It is always a pleasure when he visits the House.

At the same time, Members, I would like to recognize some of the visitors in the gallery, as well. First, we have with us Julia and Max Trennert of Hay River, parents of Brendalynn Trennert, who works in the Clerk's office. Join me in congratulating them on their 58th wedding anniversary, which they just celebrated last month.

Secondly, please welcome, Janek Nowicz, who joins us from the land down under. He is visiting from Elizabeth, South Australia. G'day, mate. Welcome to our Assembly.

Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Reflection on Budget Session
Members' Statements

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Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today is our last winter sitting with the budget and legislation deliberations, Mr. Speaker, as we heard from yesterday's retirement announcement from the Honorable Finance Minster R.C. McLeod.

Mr. Speaker, as a first-term Member of this institution, I certainly witnessed many sacrifices made by public officials, endless time away from home, families, friends, for contributions in making a difference to this territory.

Given my experiences on how government operates and the many challenging decisions that must be made in achieving prosperity in all areas such as high cost of living in the family home, the business environment, the classroom, and more importantly, demonstrating to our federal counterparts that we are ready and our ability self-determination.

Mr. Speaker, yes, over the past several financial budget deliberations, we did not always agree. However, the Minister, being from a small community, understands small-community limitations, challenges, and family hardships, due mostly to a lack of jobs in most cases. Along with his career experiences, he has provided knowledge on balances needed in the best interest for the Government of the Northwest Territories and the residents.

Mr. Speaker, we now have the last 2019-2020 budget that will produce meaningful change in job creation while maintaining operational and maintenance delivery of programs and services. In the very near future, Mr. Speaker, when I come to see construction site jobs at the Great Bear River bridge, Tulita health centre, and the children's Colville Lake School, I will certainly think on the past and reflect on the statement, "The best social program is a job."

Mr. Speaker, in building on similar relationships to the principles as set out in the co-management land claim agreements and Intergovernmental Council, I look forward to our committee's community consultations on the pre-approved legislations passed during this sitting.

In closing, I want thank the Minister of Finance for his public contribution and dedication. Now, Mr. Speaker, he can enjoy quality time with his family. Mahsi.

Reflection on Budget Session
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Red Alert Part 2
Members' Statements

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Yesterday, the Premier gave the keynote speech he called "Purgatory and Persistence: The Case for Economic Self-Determination in the Northwest Territories" at the Arctic Oil and Gas Symposium in Calgary. "Purgatory," really? This red alert part 2 negative messaging won't encourage investment in the NWT and the transformative change we need. The Premier is stuck in a time warp where fossil fuels dominate the NWT and world economy. This is not going to happen, given climate-change realities, commodity prices, and technological change. Blaming the media and southern Canada won't change history.

The revisionist version of the Mackenzie gas project is also not helpful. GNWT bent over backwards to give away our resources. We signed letters locking in royalty rates for the anchor fields at the pathetically low federal rates, signed an unenforceable socio-economic agreement, and rejected most of the joint panel review recommendations to maximize benefits for Northerners. In the end, it was the developers who caused most of the delays. Market forces are what sunk the joint venture. If it had gone ahead, taxpayers would undoubtedly be subsidizing it now and for years to come.

Mr. Speaker, my patience is wearing thin with the megaproject approach to economic development put forward by the Premier and his Cabinet. This only makes us more dependent on non-renewable resource development, vulnerable to commodity prices, open for more control by external corporate interests, and subject to further boom-bust cycles.

An all-weather road into the Slave Geological Province to subsidize mining during a caribou crisis is no example of sustainable or responsible development. Mr. Speaker, there is always money for roads but nothing for the caribou crisis. Despite having a multi-party range plan for the Bathurst caribou developed over more than four years, we seem to be waiting until the caribou are gone, removing obstacles for the road.

Taltson expansion will be a billion-dollar boondoggle, based on the experience of many other major hydro projects across this country. It's not clean power. Just ask people in Fort Resolution about the impacts of today's Taltson.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Red Alert Part 2
Members' Statements

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

A project based on unconfirmed and hypothetical buyers will divert funding and effort away from building real energy self-sufficiency, especially in our smaller communities.

If the Premier and his Cabinet want transformative change, the message to Ottawa and the world should not be more of the same. We must build the knowledge economy through a polytechnic university, push energy self-sufficiency, and invest in the conservation economy. Non-renewable resource development can and should still play an important role, but, when this overshadows everything else, that's purgatory. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Red Alert Part 2
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Government of the Northwest Territories Legislative Agenda
Members' Statements

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today marks 201 days until the next election, six months until a new government takes its place to set the priorities for the 19th Legislative Assembly. It is also the last day of our winter sitting. We have passed the last operations and maintenance budget and set the course for the final stretch of this Assembly.

This government has made progress on many issues: mental health programs, housing, 911, an office of the ombud. These past weeks have demonstrated that this government is willing to move, if it is only on the terms of the Cabinet regardless of the consensus of Regular Members.

This government's seemingly number-one priority has been to make political expediency its goal over allowing the necessary time for effective and properly consulted, considered, vetted, and then and only then implemented legislation.

There have been many changes to precedent in the 18th Assembly; our first two-term Premier, a formal mid-term review, a mandate for the government, and now the size and complexity of the bills before committees that is also unprecedented.

This government's work of setting up new regimes for control over this territory's land and resources must not be rushed. It is far too important to the economy, for future generations, and for Indigenous Nations that this House not rush to the finish line and claim "mission accomplished" just in time for the writ to drop on September 1st.

I have no doubt that there would be room for compromise, for compromise lies at the heart of the democratic process, but the rules of this institution give Ministers an absolute veto over any proposed amendments. This, combined with a rushed committee review process, will directly impact the effectiveness of Members to bring improvements to complex and lengthy bills.

Cabinet has the deck stacked in its favour. They are the banker, they are the dealer, and they have ensured they hold all the best cards up their sleeves. I believe my honourable colleague from Yellowknife Centre framed our current situation best in a recent Facebook post: "Consensus is out the window, replaced with a government overloading committees so they can check commitment boxes. [...] This is not how good legislation is made. [...] In a consensus government, wouldn't the government work with committees to achieve that end? Not in this consensus government."

Mr. Speaker, politics is about people; the people who are elected to this House and the people we all serve. Northerners or Members want a better government; they only need to take action to achieve it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.