This is page numbers 5601 - 5648 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 public.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Julie 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 5601

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 185-18(3): 2019 Wildfire Season Outlook
Ministers' Statements

Page 5601

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Although last year's fire season was a significant break from years past, we know that each fire season brings its own unique challenges.

Over the winter, most of the territory experienced below-average precipitation, and the few weeks of record-breaking warm temperatures we saw earlier this spring caused snow to disappear weeks earlier than usual in some areas.

Although parts of the Northwest Territories received snow earlier this month, much of the NWT remains very dry, especially in the South Slave and Dehcho regions. Weather predictions for the summer indicate hotter-than-average temperatures and below-average precipitation for all regions over the next three months.

Mr. Speaker, this could be a very active wildfire season for our firefighters. As of this week, there have been 14 wildfires in the Northwest Territories. Twelve of these fires are believed to be human-caused. Typically, we see an average of 20 human-caused fires each year, so the fact that we have already seen 12 this year is a concern. Several of these were ignited while there was still snow on the ground, and all of them were preventable fires that required government resources to extinguish.

Mr. Speaker, it is critical at this early stage of the season while fuels are still dry that residents use extreme caution with campfires while out on the land. It is everyone's responsibility to ensure their fires are fully extinguished before leaving them. Residents are advised to soak the ashes, stir, and soak them again.

People planning to do spring brush or grass burning are required to get burn permits from their local municipality or Indigenous Government office. If burning is done outside of municipal limits, permits must be obtained from their local ENR office. Of course, anyone doing controlled burning should ensure they have enough water and hand tools available to put out the fire.

Mr. Speaker, fires are a vital part of our forests. They have very real and direct impacts on people and communities. That is why we continue to work with communities on wildfire prevention and risk mitigation planning and activities.

Staff from our Forest Management Division and in the regions continue to work with local governments to update and implement Community Wildfire Protection Plans, and to apply the principles of FireSmart to their cabins, homes, and other property. Over the last few months, the department has met with 15 communities to discuss these important topics, and will continue to engage the rest of the territory as we move forward with protection planning.

Mr. Speaker, three NWT communities were recently awarded funding for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day to assist them with FireSmarting. Congratulations to Fort Good Hope, Whati, and Wrigley on taking the initiative to prepare their communities for the risk of wildfire.

We know that managing fires is becoming more complex as a result of climate change. More than anything, the 2014 fire season underlined the need to improve our knowledge as forest managers to keep up with the predicted trends of increasingly intense fire seasons as our climate warms.

In the last five years, our government has been working closely with research partners at various universities, federal agencies, and even NASA to identify gaps in our knowledge and to learn more about the changing fire environment to help us with our decision-making. This continuing collaboration between fire managers and researchers is critical in helping to ensure our fire management decisions are based on the best available information, allowing us to achieve our number one priority, keeping our residents, communities, and front-line firefighters safe.

Mr. Speaker, our residents and firefighters are our most important values-at-risk. I wish everyone a safe fire season and encourage all of our residents and communities to do their part in preventing and preparing for wildfire. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 185-18(3): 2019 Wildfire Season Outlook
Ministers' Statements

Page 5602

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 186-18(3): Celebrating Tourism Week
Ministers' Statements

Page 5602

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, this is tourism week in the Northwest Territories and is an opportunity to celebrate the unprecedented growth that we have nurtured and witnessed during our time as the 18th Legislative Assembly. During the life of this Legislative Assembly, visitor numbers in the Northwest Territories have increased by more than 30 percent. This includes a 61-percent increase in Aurora tourism. Our tourism sector is now worth over $203 million, a 48-percent increase in spending over the last five years, and led by a 75-percent growth in spending by leisure tourists, travellers.

As our government continues to support a more diverse economy, this is great news, and it is the kind of success that we look forward to highlighting and celebrating each year at this time.

Mr. Speaker, we are able to celebrate extraordinary growth in our tourism sector because of the commitments that have been made investing in it.

In the 2018-2019 alone, the Government of the Northwest Territories has invested approximately $5 million to support our destination marketer NWT Tourism, tourism operators, Indigenous partners, and community groups in their work to attract and cater to visitors to our spectacular territory.

In the Northwest Territories, our parks play a significant role in attracting summer visitors, and we are set to invest $7 million this year in parks infrastructure and improvements, but tourism infrastructure, marketing, funding supports, training, and a spectacular product only make up a portion of our formula for success. Year in and year out, the people who visit our territory tell us that the best part of their trip is the people.

For this reason, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is once again celebrating Tourism Week with a campaign recognizing NWT residents who personify the qualities of a northern host and ambassador for our territory. Our campaign encourages residents to nominate people on social media who exhibit the warm, welcoming spirit of northern hospitality that our tourism industry is built on. Nominated individuals are eligible for prizes, with two winners awarded in each region.

Last year's campaign unearthed a ton of amazing stories about NWT residents going above and beyond to make folks feel welcome. Nominations have already begun rolling out this for year's campaign and will continue to be received through the end of the week.

I would encourage all Members to join our celebration by sharing a story from their constituency using the hashtag #NWTHost on Facebook or Twitter.

Mr. Speaker, while we celebrate northern hosts, the department will be also offering free Northern-Most-Host workshops throughout the week for tourism operators, hospitality employees, and vendors who interact with the tourism industry. These will be supplemented by networking activities, community barbecues, and other events celebrating tourism across the Northwest Territories. Again, I encourage Members to support events in their riding and join events here in the capital between attending the business of our Legislative Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 186-18(3): Celebrating Tourism Week
Ministers' Statements

Page 5602

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 187-18(3): Income Security Program Improvements
Ministers' Statements

Page 5602

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Income Security programs are a vital part of the social safety network that helps Northwest Territories residents by bridging gaps in their ability to support themselves and to pursue their personal, educational, and career goals.

Residents who have accessed our Income Security programs and have lived experience are important partners in developing program improvements. Their voices are essential, and I have sought their feedback. I have also welcomed input over the last few months from non-government agencies, Members of the Legislative Assembly, and Indigenous governments. By taking the time to listen and hear suggestions from our partners, our work to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents is better informed. Achieving change takes time, but building relationships and having solution-based discussions with those who understand the issues is a positive step.

Our partners identified 27 ways to improve our income assistance program. I heard very clearly that, in order to build responsive income security programs, we must look at more than just benefits levels. Residents need to have the tools to access and understand the programs available to them, and right now, they don't have those tools. I've heard from all partners that clear communication products are immediately required to help fix this information gap.

As one of our first priorities, we are updating the Income Assistance Handbook, available to clients and their advocates. The new handbook will be client-focused, user-friendly, and written in plain language. We are engaging the Literacy Council to assist with this work. The revised handbook will be completed and available by this summer. This tool will provide residents with a better understanding of the Income Assistance program.

We recognize that our programs can sometimes be complex, and the department is looking at ways to streamline administration and simplify the public's interactions with the program. New approaches include simpler reporting requirements, redesigned forms, and client-focused service standards. In the coming weeks, I will be reporting our progress to the non-government organizations and residents that provided input on our programs.

We have retained the services of an outside consultant to help us redefine our business processes and achieve the outcomes that have been asked for us. We have also reviewed the income assistance payment process and implemented a clearer process to ensure clients are receiving timely payments.

The changes we are now making will build on past program enhancements, such as the recent increase of up to $105 per month to the income assistance allowances for seniors and persons with disabilities. This increase came into effect on April 1, 2019. It provides additional financial support to help with the costs of supplies and services required as a result of age or a disability. This is one of the ways we are meeting our commitment to help NWT seniors age in place.

Also on April 1st, we increased the maximum course reimbursement for part-time post-secondary students from $500 to $880 per course, with a maximum lifetime limit of up to $8,800. This change will support residents in making choices that work for them to advance their education.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has an obligation to assist vulnerable residents and to help people across the NWT achieve as much education and economic security as they can. We are making changes and investments that will improve the quality of life and opportunities for everyone, in partnership with clients, non-governmental organizations, Members of this House, and other levels of government. I am proud of the way we are working together to create positive change for the people who need our help. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 187-18(3): Income Security Program Improvements
Ministers' Statements

Page 5603

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 188-18(3): Northern Housing Summit
Ministers' Statements

Page 5603

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had the pleasure of hosting the Northern Housing Summit on April 23 and 24, 2019, in Inuvik. The summit's theme was "Northern Solutions for Northern Housing," reflecting the mandate commitment of the 18th Legislative Assembly, and its purpose was to encourage new partnerships in housing.

We brought leaders from across the Northwest Territories to Inuvik to share their experiences in a wide variety of housing matters. There were also presenters from the Yukon and Nunavut. Topics ranged from territorial and federal funding opportunities to local capacity development, green building practices, community housing planning, and housing for healthy communities.

The Northern Housing Summit featured two distinguished keynote speakers. Former Premier Nellie Cournoyea provided her unique perspective on housing, both as a political leader and from her own lived experience. Douglas Cardinal is one of North America's pre-eminent architects. Mr. Cardinal gave an engaging presentation on his mission to incorporate Indigenous concepts, values, and respect for local Indigenous traditions and cultural practices into design and architecture.

Mr. Speaker, the Northern Housing Summit provided communities, Indigenous organizations, industry, non-government organizations, and other housing stakeholders with the information to access new investment opportunities, such as the Government of the Northwest Territories Community Housing Support Initiative and the federal National Housing Co-Investment Fund.

The Northern Housing Summit empowered individuals, organizations, and communities to engage on key housing issues and initiatives. It has already resulted in the expansion of partnerships among housing stakeholders.

The summit also encouraged stakeholders to plan for the future through the training of tradespersons, participation in community housing plans, the development of green energy solutions, and by contributing to healthy communities.

Further, this event provided an opportunity for Indigenous leaders to express their thoughts on the federal Indigenous Housing Strategy. Northwest Territories Indigenous leaders were unanimous in stating that southern-based models often do not work in the North and that access to federal housing funds must allow for equality and fairness among all Indigenous groups across Canada, including the Northwest Territories.

The report on the Northern Housing summit will be released in June.

Mr. Speaker, the Northern Housing Summit was a success on many levels. It allowed communities and stakeholders to come together, learn from each other, and build a shared path toward northern solutions for northern housing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 188-18(3): Northern Housing Summit
Ministers' Statements

Page 5604

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Marine Training Centre
Members' Statements

Page 5604

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I want to mention the Marine Training Centre in Hay River. This centre has proven successful achievements for a few of my constituents with the training they received. No doubt this will improve safety and security of NWT marine operations.

This has a very positive outlook for the Mackenzie Delta. We have two ferries that operate in my riding, the Abraham Francis on the Peel River and the Louis Cardinal on the Mackenzie River. The way I look at it, the more participants we can encourage to take this training means more employment for local and regional residents, not to mention the positive outlook on their jobs and more confidence, knowing they can work safely transporting vehicles back and forth on both rivers.

Marine training in the North is definitely one step forward. Let's continue to support this training initiative. Residents rely on the safety and security of marine vessels. With the continuous efforts of everyone involved, we can only hope for better things to come for the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will have questions later today.

Marine Training Centre
Members' Statements

Page 5604

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Personal Wellness in Communities
Members' Statements

Page 5604

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I am challenged in making statements in my language. I could only talk about what I know from the heart.

Today is a good day and, once again, another spring season has dawned upon us. "We only live once a day," a late relative would say. This led me to ask: as Dene, how can we make things better?

[Translation] Our elders stated, "We are born. Then we die. Our hope is that we leave a good trail for another generation to follow. How we think, how we feel is critical. We think good, then we also feel very good for ourselves and others." [Translation ends.]

Mr. Speaker, alcohol and drugs cause many problems for Dene. Maybe it is the feeling of despair and a sense of futility that cause us to feel that something is holding us back. Seeing our communities from a Dene perspective, we believe our home is in the community when our heart tells us that our true home is on the land.

[Translation]. We have fallen and can't get up. There is upheaval in the communities. It is hard to live like a Dene. From stories of the past, our ancestors were very healthy and strong people. That's the kind of people we come from. We have to honour our ancestors and take care of ourselves for those who are following us. We thank them for that. That is why we work this way, and we use the strengths of some people to do that, and some people who do that, who help them. We Dene, we want to live good. We want to think better and to help others who are coming to look after ourselves. Our land, ourselves, same thing. We need to do that. It's very important to us to do that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Translation ends.]

Personal Wellness in Communities
Members' Statements

Page 5604

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.