This is page numbers 5529 - 5552 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 housing.

Topics

Members Present

Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, 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 1:29 p.m.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5529

Elder Sarah Cleary

[English translation not provided.]

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5529

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you to Elder Sarah Cleary for offering today's prayer.

Colleagues, it is my pleasure to welcome you all back to the Chamber to resume the third session of the 18th Legislative Assembly.

I would like to begin by recognizing the Pages this session, who will come from Fort Smith, Norman Wells, and Yellowknife. Welcome and thank you to the Pages. It is our privilege to share this Chamber with these young people and our future leaders. Please join me in thanking them and welcoming them to the Assembly.

Our Assembly was recently home to another group of future leaders, the participants in the annual Youth Parliament. Thank you to all the youth who participated and to all those who worked hard behind the scenes to make this event a success.

Colleagues, I wish to highlight the participation of young women in Youth Parliament. As an Assembly, we have set a goal of increasing the representation of women in the Legislative Assembly. In our Youth Parliament, more than 80 percent of the Members were women, and all Members of Cabinet were women. I hope this is a sign that our call for more women to sit in the Assembly has been heard and that, one day, these young women will return to this Chamber as Members.

I would like to advise Members of this House and the public that, throughout this sitting, we will be providing interpretation in the following languages:

  • Tlicho;
  • Chipewyan;
  • French; and
  • North Slavey.

I want to thank our interpreters for their work in making our proceedings available in our official languages. Mahsi.

For Members who wish to listen in English, please remember to leave your dials on channel two.

Finally, colleagues, I would like to welcome to the floor of the House Mr. Glen Rutland. Mr. Rutland is no stranger to this Assembly. He has spent many hours in this Chamber as a law clerk, but today is his first day on the floor in his new role, Deputy Clerk, Procedure and Committees. Welcome, Mr. Rutland.

Mahsi, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Premier.

Minister's Statement 177-18(3): Minister Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 5529

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I have two Minister's statements, one short and one longer.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Glen Abernethy will be absent from the House today to attend the Seniors' FPT meetings in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 178-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

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Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome all Members back to the continuation of the third session of the 18th Legislative Assembly. As we near the end of our term, our government continues to focus on advancing the priorities of the Assembly and fulfilling remaining mandate items. These are intended to help create a better future for all residents of the Northwest Territories, including the advancement of outstanding claims and self-government negotiations.

For almost four years, Mr. Speaker, our government has put a great deal of effort into raising the profile of the Northwest Territories at the national level. Our territory does not exist in isolation, and the choices and decisions of other governments in neighbouring provinces and territories, and at the federal level, can have a significant impact on what happens here at home.

Last week I was in Ottawa with Tlicho Grand Chief George Mackenzie to appear before the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs in support of Bill C-88. This bill seeks to advance numerous amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. These were first passed as part of the federal legislation that established devolution and include the continuation of regional land and water boards as established in the land claims.

Passage of this bill will help ensure our residents have the tools and legislative authority needed to effectively make decisions about responsible resource development and increase certainty. Coming together to speak up on behalf of the Northwest Territories when important decisions like this are pending is one way we are having a real impact on national affairs.

We have been successful at putting the Northwest Territories on the national agenda and leveraging that attention for investments in territorial priorities throughout the term of this Assembly. Most recently, that has included commitments in the last federal budget to invest $18 million over three years in the Taltson Hydro Expansion project and $5.1 million for planning and surveys to support the development of the Slave Geological Province Corridor.

Effective cooperation and partnerships with our provincial and territorial counterparts has been another important part of how we have placed, and kept, the North on the national agenda. My colleagues on the Council of Federation were particularly effective, for instance, in helping secure special recognition for the unique challenges that the three northern territories face as part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

While we have achieved a lot, we cannot take our achievements for granted. Recent months have seen significant turnover among Premiers across the country, and we are all aware that there is a federal election this fall.

In this climate of change, it will be more important than ever to educate and engage governments at all levels so we can ensure the North continues to be a priority on the national agenda.

Our efforts should not end there. We also need to start thinking globally, not just nationally.

The Arctic has always been an important symbol for Canada, a geographic statement of our place and status in the world as a northern power. Unfortunately, Canada's interest in and attention to the Arctic has often been symbolic at best. Generations of southern Canadians and their governments have grown used to thinking of the North as a vast and inaccessible place valued most for its emptiness. This, however, is not a view of the Arctic shared by other nations.

In recent years, I have spent a great deal of time making connections with other leaders and promoting the Northwest Territories. I can tell you from the conversations that I have been having that interest in the North, in the Arctic, is immense.

Canada is alone when it comes to inaction in the Arctic. China and Russia, for instance, see enormous opportunity in the Arctic. They are moving fast to ramp up their presence and level of activity within their borders and across the circumpolar world. This is an effort to both secure opportunities for themselves and to influence the international rules and policies that will set the terms for what happens in the Arctic.

Russia sees the Northern Sea Route as an essential maritime opening for its country. Russia has a fleet of 20 icebreakers capable of traversing the Northern Sea Route; more than a dozen ports, including two deep water ports in their Arctic; and have committed to increasing investments to attract more shipping traffic through the Northern Sea Route.

China released a whitepaper on its Arctic strategy last year, is investing heavily in infrastructure around the world, and certainly has its eye on Arctic shipping and research. They were recently in discussions with Greenland about investing in three airport projects and have their own nuclear icebreaker under construction. They have one polar research vessel in service and a second one expected to enter service this year.

Despite the 1998 agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America on Arctic Cooperation, the United States has started to renew assertions that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway, rather than internal Canadian waters. New legislation proposed by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Arctic Policy Act and the Shipping and Environmental Leadership Act, may be seen as a renewed will in the United States to set the terms for the Arctic.

Mr. Speaker, in the face of this international activity, I think it only makes sense to ask: where is Canada? Does Canada want to remain a leader in the Arctic? What is Canada's vision for the Arctic? What is Canada prepared to do to make sure it has a real say in setting the terms of engagement for all nations?

I also think it makes sense that residents of Canada's three northern territories have a leading say in determining Canada's plan for the Arctic. We are the ones who live here. We are the ones who are repeatedly affected when decisions are made for us, rather than with us. We are an obvious partner for Canada when they begin to discuss what should happen next.

As international interest and activity in the Arctic accelerates, it is important that Canada is not left behind. There are some clear areas where Canada can concentrate its focus and attention. Positioning Canada's northern territories as a hub for trade and transportation is one of these.

The circumpolar route can cut as much as 20 days off the time it takes to reach Asia from Europe via ship. Other countries know this, and they have already been making moves to secure control over these routes, both through their active use and by advancing claims over their status as national or international channels.

Canada's North is closer to key markets in all the major global trading blocs, including Europe, Asia, and Russia, than most other regions of North America. It would be a shorter trip from Yellowknife to Moscow than it would be from Toronto. We are also closer to European centres like Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Helsinki.

Heading east, a 10,000-kilometer-plus trip from Toronto to Tokyo or Beijing would be less than 8,000 kilometers from Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, Canada should be leveraging this comparative proximity to these international markets and investing significantly in transportation infrastructure in all three northern territories. Growing and expanding territorial airports can make them a major trans-shipment point for goods moving between Asia, North America, and Europe, especially if there is supporting investment in connecting infrastructure like roads and railways linking us to southern Canada.

Similarly, investments in deepwater ports and marine facilities along Canada's Arctic coast can help to capture trade already travelling the polar route, which is sure to increase in coming years, as well as tourist and scientific traffic that is also sure to grow.

Another area Canada will need to look at as it considers what it wants to achieve in the Arctic in coming years is its physical presence. Simply put, Canada needs to be in the Arctic if it wants to have a say in what happens in the Arctic.

Economies are driven and sustained by people, and Canada is very much lagging in this regard. It is hard to achieve the economies of scale that can truly drive growth and prosperity when our population is a sliver of the population in the rest of the circumpolar world.

Our small population also limits our ability to effectively monitor activity in the Arctic. How effectively can Canada monitor the Arctic coastline and shipping passages with only a single Coast Guard station in Iqaluit, and search and rescue resources located at southern military bases?

How long will it take Canada to even learn of a maritime or environmental incident, and then effectively respond to and manage it? What effect would such a delay have on the Arctic, its people, and its environment?

Finally, Canada needs to know the Arctic, Mr. Speaker, not just know about it, if it wants to have a meaningful say in decisions about the Arctic in coming decades.

As a northern nation, Canada should make it a priority to ensure that more of its citizens have an opportunity to experience the Arctic and learn what it really means to be "northern." Policy and decision makers need to have experience in and understand the territories, where they can gain the direct, first-hand knowledge and experience to make good evidence-based decisions.

Knowing the Arctic also means significantly ramping up Canada's scientific research capacity and Arctic academic infrastructure. If Canada wants to understand how climate change affects the North and how to adapt to it, we need significant investment in scientific research programs and facilities to support that. If we want thriving territorial economies, it also makes sense to educate the next generation of business and civic leaders here, including professionals like doctors and lawyers who will support communities.

Mr. Speaker, we must lead the conversation to determine what Canada wants for the Arctic. We must also lead the conversations about establishing and implementing Canada's Arctic priorities. As the world's attention continues to shift towards the actions and politics of the circumpolar north, Canada's need for a meaningful Arctic plan is only going to become more important. With the Arctic figuring ever more prominently in the plans of other global powers, we need to know that Canada has a plan. Territorial residents will need to be confident that their priorities are found in this plan and that it will benefit them.

Northerners setting the terms for the North has been a significant priority for the Government of the Northwest Territories for years. Devolution was all about Northerners being able to make their own decisions about how the land, environment, and resources of the Northwest Territories are managed.

Mr. Speaker, our government continues to pursue this priority in the 18th Legislative Assembly, with a number of proposed bills that improve on the legislative authorities for managing land and resources that were transferred from Canada at the time of devolution. These include the Mineral Resources Act, Environmental Rights Act, Protected Areas Act, Public Lands Act, Petroleum Resources Act, Oil and Gas Operations Act, and Environmental Rights Act.

Defining the future of the Arctic and Canada's three northern territories will require a bold vision and an ambitious plan. Mr. Speaker, Northerners need to have a role in shaping that plan. The upcoming federal and territorial elections provide us with an opportunity to continue a broad conversation about the long-term future of the North. This work to advocate for the people of the territory will build on what we have achieved during the life of this Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing that advocacy and to working with all Members in our remaining months here to help make the North a priority for Canada. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 178-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

Page 5532

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Arctic Sovereignty and the Northwest Passage
Members' Statements

Page 5532

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the statement from the Premier. Mine is very similar.

Mr. Speaker, Europeans started looking at the Northwest Passage in the 19th century. Explorers and their governments thought it would be a shorter route for ports of trade in Asia. No thought was given to the Indigenous people who had been living on the Arctic coast long before time was recorded.

This state of mind still exists today. At the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Finland earlier this month, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech where he said that the United States has a longstanding feud with Canada over our illegitimate sovereign claims to the Northwest Passage. This statement may have opened up the Arctic more so than ever before for activity that we are not prepared for environmentally, socially, or infrastructure-wise. More vessels and cruise ships are travelling through the passage in the summer months, and this is increasing, making this a major issue for many reasons.

The Polar Code came into force in 2017, which is mandatory for all ships operating in the Arctic, with the intent to protect the unique environment and ecosystems of the Arctic.

The development of marine passageways, trade, and other activity will have a major impact on the Inuit way of life. Climate change is already having a drastic effect on the Arctic environment, including the Inuvialuit and the wildlife. If the Northwest Passage is made in international waters, there are no controls over who may traverse this sensitive ecological area. The damage to the environment that sustains us will be certain and immediate. There is much, much risk to the lands, waters, and animals that are central to our way of life. Unregulated marine traffic through the passage will irrevocably change both environment and Inuit who rely upon it.

Other countries are rapidly expanding their expense in the Arctic. Russia is building more than 15 deepwater ports along their Arctic coast and icebreakers to navigate their waterways. China refers to itself as a near-Arctic country and, a few months ago, announced that it would be building a nuclear-powered icebreaker that is bigger than Russia's largest icebreaker.

Mr. Speaker, our infrastructure is eroding almost as fast as we build it. Canadian ships can't make it through the heavy sea ice. Our sovereignty is being ignored, which will have profound implications for Inuit and all Canadians in the years to come. We must encourage our Indigenous, our territorial, and our national governments to work together, especially where our priorities align. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Arctic Sovereignty and the Northwest Passage
Members' Statements

Page 5532

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Members' statements. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Impacts of Ice Conditions in Mackenzie Delta Communities
Members' Statements

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Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. I would like to welcome everyone back to the Assembly for our spring session.

Mr. Speaker, one of the communities in my riding of the Mackenzie Delta, Fort McPherson, is situated right along the Peel River. The Peel River ice reports state that the ice first started moving on Monday of last week and was clear last Thursday. The ice conditions in Tsiigehtchic reports say that the Red River is clear, the Mackenzie ice is thinning, and the water levels are quite low.

At the end of April, both ice crossings on the Peel and Mackenzie Rivers closed for the season. I have been on record stating that the extreme cost of food, gas, heating, and fuel increases with isolation.

Mr. Speaker, our people suffer with the high cost of food. Hunters who want to gather ducks and geese have to burden the high cost of gasoline. Although the warm weather is upon us, there are days when we still need to adjust our furnace thermostats to keep our homes heated. Also, one of our businesses in Fort McPherson is out of gasoline due to the ice conditions this spring.

Mr. Speaker, with the Peel River clear of ice and debris, community members are excited that the Abraham Francis ferry will be launched in the Peel sooner than later.

The Mackenzie River also connects to the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway, and it is important to note that, last summer, we had record numbers of tourists to the region. The faster we get both ferries operational, food prices will decrease and tourists will take advantage of the early season and come north.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will have questions later today.

Impacts of Ice Conditions in Mackenzie Delta Communities
Members' Statements

Page 5533

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Support for Youth
Members' Statements

Page 5533

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You spoke eloquently about youth in your opening comments. The question is: what should we be doing for northern youth so that they are supported in ways that allow them to flourish? A recent Conference Board of Canada report identified youth as one of the three key areas of northern policy.

As a society that will depend on our youth in the future, we need to help and support our young people. We know that they face disproportionate challenges growing up, educational and cultural, economic and social, but we also know that our youth are strong, intelligent, capable, and resilient. Support for young people will help them, their families, and Northern society overall.

Mr. Speaker, we must lead the way with public policy initiatives that will create positive outcomes for young people.

A strong sense of cultural identity and belonging builds strength and independence amongst young people as they navigate a changing world. Land-based cultural programs in all grades, like the one founded at Deh Gah School in Fort Providence, lead to young adults who are better adjusted to confront life's challenges.

Community-based healing is consistent with the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A whole-community approach to wellness will build resilience and nurture youth. Traditional healing practices and healthy coping mechanisms encourage and support resilience, leadership, and personal achievement.

We must encourage youth participation in public dialogue and decision-making. Civic engagement in youth leadership at all levels will support youth to become role models for their younger peers and help build community relationships, positivity, and trust.

Mr. Speaker, our youth will come through, if provided the chance, but it is on us to create the framework where that can happen. For them to succeed, we need a growing economy that provides opportunity. We need affordable housing and reasonable costs of living. We need educational opportunities that encourage them to be doctors, electricians, or traditional harvesters, as they choose; and, of course, they need a clean and protected environment that enables them to thrive.

Mr. Speaker, saying "the youth are our future" is true, but it isn't enough. We owe our young people concrete action that will make their world a place of opportunity. Let's support our youth in every way possible. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Support for Youth
Members' Statements

Page 5533

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Divestiture of Public Housing Units
Members' Statements

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Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. In 1974, the NWT Housing Corporation was formed, and one of the principles in forming the Housing Corporation was to develop markets in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, funded the capital construction costs of new public housing, either 90 percent or 75 percent, depending on the section under which the units were built. In addition, CMHC paid for 75 or 50 percent of the operating costs and the mortgage costs, until the CMHC mortgage of 25 to 35 years was paid off. At that time, the NWT Housing Corporation would make the houses available for home ownership. The houses would be priced based on what the market could bear in each community.

An example would be that, if the NWT Housing Corporation divested a house in a strong market like Yellowknife, the house could be sold at the appraised market value. However, in communities where no market or very little market exists, the house could be discounted to what the market could bear. In communities where no market exists, the house could be transferred to the new homeowner for a nominal amount, even one dollar. When the units are transferred to home ownership, the operational and maintenance costs of those units would no longer be the responsibility of the taxpayers or the government.

Mr. Speaker, the current system allows the NWT Housing Corporation to retaken all of its public housing units and continue to keep public housing tenants within the GNWT social net. However, if the NWT Housing Corporation was to divest themselves of the houses, the cost of our entire social housing system would be reduced substantially, and markets would be developed in other communities. People who own their own homes are more apt to maintain their properties, which would benefit all residents of their community.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation must move on this initiative as quickly as possible. If we keep doing the same thing over and over, there will be no community housing development and the cost to the GNWT will continue to grow. The core need will also continue to increase across the entire NWT. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Divestiture of Public Housing Units
Members' Statements

Page 5534

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Mackenzie Valley Highway Environmental Assessment Engagement Opportunities
Members' Statements

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Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Welcome back, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, this past April 10, 2019, the Sahtu Secretariat incorporated and the Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Infrastructure signed a milestone MoU in Norman Wells to engage collaboratively for the Mackenzie Valley Highway environmental assessment, a commemorative day for the quest to an all-weather road connection.

This partnership presents yet another unique opportunity, an opportunity for the Tulita youth community to appoint a representative to actively witness and experience the NWT regulatory system on a megaproject such as the application to connect Fort Wrigley to Norman Wells, a corridor of 330 kilometres.

Mr. Speaker, it is not often an opportunity of this experience presents itself on public engagement process to experience the early stages of superior projects such as the Mackenzie Valley Highway and the public involvement.

Should our government support this initiative, engagement sessions in the impacted right-of-way communities during the process would certainly allow our public to better understand the true meaning of engagement supported by this government by the attendance of the youth representative.

The experiences captured by the youth during this process would be outstanding. Imagine carrying on the Mackenzie Valley Highway from the initial days of John Diefenbaker in today's regulatory and land-claim systems.

Mr. Speaker, later, I will have questions to the appropriate Minister. Mahsi.