This is page numbers 5877 - 5944 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 report.

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 1:31 p.m.

--Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5877

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi Colleagues. Welcome back. I would like to welcome and thank the Pages we will have with us throughout this sitting. These Pages, many of them returning to the Assembly, are giving up the final days of summer to support Members as we finish the important work of this 18th Assembly. It is our privilege to share this Chamber with these young people, our future leaders.

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
  • South slavery.

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

Colleagues, it is my pleasure to welcome you all back to the Chamber to resume the third session of the 18th Legislative Assembly. I know Members have been hard at work all summer with the ongoing work of committees and government.

Colleagues, we have begun the final sitting of the 18th Legislative Assembly. I recognize there is much work left to do, but I encourage Members to reflect on the work we have accomplished since we first came together almost four years ago.

While completing the work we have left, we must continue to hold ourselves and each other to a high standard of conduct and decorum. I look forward to the debates and discussions that will take place over the next two weeks; however, I encourage everyone to choose your words carefully, thoughtfully, and respectfully.

Now, it is my duty to advise the 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:

  • Appropriation Act (infrastructure expenditures), 2020-2021

during the 3rd Session of the 18th Assembly.

Yours truly,

Margaret M. Thom, Commissioner

Masi, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers' statements.

Minister's Statement 212-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

August 12th, 2019

Page 5877

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to welcome my colleagues back for the final sitting of the 18th Legislative Assembly.

The past four years have been busy, and we have done a lot of good work together. We have also had a few spirited discussions about how to decide what is best for the people who we serve as Members of this Assembly.

Throughout our term, our decisions have been guided by the mandate we adopted unanimously at the beginning of this Assembly and revised in October 2017.

As we come to the close of this Assembly, I am pleased to report that through our work together, we have fulfilled 202 of the 230 mandate commitments. We have another 10 commitments currently in progress that we expect to complete by the end of this month, for a total of 212 completed commitments.

Our commitments were organized into five categories that matched the priorities of the 18th Legislative Assembly: Economy, Environment and Climate Change; Education, Training and Youth Development; Cost of Living; Community Wellness and Safety; and Governance.

Under Economy and Environment, we have completed or are working on 57 of 68 commitments, including major strategic investments in transportation infrastructure like the Mackenzie Valley Highway, Tlicho all-season road and Slave Geological Province access corridor that will help support the continued development of our economy and prosperity of our residents.

We have completed 20 of 22 commitments under Education, Training and Youth Development, Mr. Speaker, including supporting quality early childhood development, working to improve educational outcomes in JK to grade 12, expanded opportunities for post-secondary education, and enhanced and promoted capacity-building programs for our youth.

We have completed or are working on 36 of 37 commitments intended to address the high cost of living that all Northerners frequently have to deal with. Among these are actions to increase the availability of safe, affordable housing, steps to improve food security, and work to make childcare affordable and accessible. We have also addressed the high cost of energy, by supporting the use of energy efficient technologies and by increasing the production and transmission of renewable and alternative energy.

A strong territory begins with strong people and strong communities, Mr. Speaker, and our government has completed or is working on 63 of 64 commitments under the theme of Community Wellness and Safety. We have taken action to focus on mental health and addictions, ensured seniors have supports to age in place, fostered health families, taken action on the crisis of family and community violence, and created opportunities for healthy lifestyles and community leadership for our youth.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we have completed 36 of 39 commitments related to governance, including strengthening our relationships with Indigenous governments, and working to finalize and implement land, resources and self-government agreements. We have made significant steps towards increased transparency and accountability, built stronger relationships with community governments, and supported initiatives designed to increase the number of women running for elected office.

All told, Mr. Speaker, the Government and Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories completed over 90 percent of its mandate commitments. That is an achievement we can all be proud of, especially when you consider that ours is the first ever government to have a mandate like this.

Later in this sitting, I will be tabling the final report on the implementation of the mandate that will contain more detail about each of our completed commitments.

While I think we should be proud of our past accomplishments, Mr. Speaker, we also have to consider the future and what it holds for our territory. Advocating clearly and strongly for federal attention to the needs of the Northwest Territories and its residents is an important part of our job as a government, and one that I have taken as a personal priority during my term as Premier. I also believe that we have a duty as leaders to intervene on national matters that have implications for our territory, like recent changes to federal legislation that could affect the development and transportation of northern oil and gas resources.

I have always said that the Northwest Territories has all of the right ingredients to be a major contributor to our country and its future, including natural resources to rival any other region and a strong, dynamic population ready to take advantage of opportunities for success.

Turning that potential into prosperity for ourselves and all Canadians requires sustained effort and planning on the part of our government and the Government of Canada. That is why I have taken steps to focus efforts to secure Canada's attention and support for our government's priorities. Those steps have included initiatives like NWT Days, the Red Alert, and the ongoing implementation of our government's Federal Engagement Strategy.

I am pleased to say that we have seen great success since taking a more deliberate approach to relationships with the federal government.

Budget 2019 included $18 million, over three years, to support planning for the Taltson hydroelectricity expansion project.

A number of other budget announcements for the North will benefit the NWT, including increased allocations to the National Trade Corridors Fund for transportation infrastructure, the Investing in Canada Plan for alternative energy projects, funding to improve the climate resiliency of northern infrastructure, and a commitment to complete the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.

Other notable successes include funding for the Snare Hydro project, the Mackenzie Valley Highway, double-hulled barges, the Hay River fish plant, and the marine training program, as well as access to early learning and childcare.

We were also successful, Mr. Speaker, in our efforts to commence negotiations on a co-management regime for oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea offshore, along with a greater role in the five-year science-based review of the offshore moratorium, which has also started.

Our strategic approach also enabled our government to achieve positive outcomes for Northwest Territories residents on files that are important to the federal government, like carbon pricing. Canada gave all provinces and territories a choice, Mr. Speaker, to either design their own approach to carbon pricing or to have the federal approach imposed on them. Through our federal engagement efforts, our government was able to have Canada agree to a made-in-the-North carbon pricing plan that is superior to the one Canada will impose if the Northwest Territories does not implement its own approach.

Mr. Speaker, by taking a more planned and focused approach to federal engagement, we have achieved our priorities. The strategy had three clear objectives, the first and most important being to focus our efforts on specific priorities to realize before the end of mandate. It also included other activities to help ensure that we had broad support for the priorities within the federal government and that we were also setting the stage for future years and relationships.

Ensuring that we had support from Indigenous governments and partners was a particular focus for the strategy. Outreach, education, and making full use of all opportunities to publicize our interests and priorities, both at home and across Canada, required attention and coordination across departments and portfolios.

Last, but not least, we placed priority on developing broader and stronger working relationships with senior federal officials in support of ministerial relationships, as well as better decision-making by influencing policy and program development earlier in the process.

Our strategy worked because we had a plan and were focused and disciplined. It is only fair to point out, however, that some luck contributed to our achievements. I would note in particular the appointment last summer of Dominic LeBlanc as Minister of Northern Affairs, which was a welcome surprise. He listened and helped get action on a number of issues. Since his appointment, the new legislation formally creating the new department of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs now provides for the appointment of a separate Minister of Northern Affairs, should a future Prime Minister so choose.

Raising support for Northwest Territories priorities at home and in Ottawa is important, but it is not the only way to achieve success as a territory. Canada's Premiers are also important potential allies. Support from them can help to mobilize support from Ottawa, and I have made it a point to reach out to them individually and in more formal settings, like the Northern Premiers' Forum, Western Premiers' Conference, and the Council of the Federation.

Looking ahead to the next mandate, it is too early to say what the priorities of a new federal government might be. No matter who it is, we must not let up in our efforts to ensure that Northern perspectives and priorities are understood by the federal government and all Canadians, and that the Government of the Northwest Territories is in a position to leverage opportunities and respond to emerging challenges.

As we come to the end of this Assembly, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the House for their hard work and dedication to the people of the Northwest Territories over the past four years. This is a great territory, and it has a bright future ahead of it. I continue to believe in its potential and the critical role that we, as Members of the Legislative Assembly, have in making that future a reality. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 212-18(3): Sessional Statement
Ministers' Statements

Page 5879

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

State of Downtown Yellowknife
Members' Statements

Page 5879

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I live downtown in my constituency. That is my choice and my pleasure, and there are many advantages to doing so, but it is not always easy. I pick up beer cans and liquor bottles almost daily, I have helped clean up after someone senselessly smashed a car window, and I assisted a man injured in a fight, and that is just in the last six months.

Despite these issues, I think that life downtown is better than it was four years ago, and here is why.

The previous mayor of Yellowknife created a working group to respond to the needs of people on the street; people who may be intoxicated or have mental health issues or may simply be homeless. The idea was to take the pressure off the RCMP, first responders, and the hospital, all of whom use substantial resources to meet the needs of people on the street. The city's plan was developed to provide services that recognize and respond to the complex needs of this population. This government has enabled that work with money, staff, and expertise, and I have been a leading supporter all along.

Mr. Speaker, the Street Outreach Program has been a huge success. Staff respond to public calls for assistance that might involve taking someone home, to assess services, or to any other place that they might want to go. Most importantly, the staff deliver clients to the sobering centre so that they can sleep off intoxication in a safe environment.

The sobering centre is the second major improvement in services downtown, now located in a space renovated for the purpose, with trained medical personnel on-site. Neighbours have been vocal about the need for a good neighbour agreement to protect their interests. I am hopeful that negotiations will soon produce an agreement that meets everyone's needs.

The sad fact is that this group of clients isn't welcome anywhere else, because their intoxication usually means trouble, but having this service available is better for everyone than returning to the time when drinkers passed out anywhere and everywhere and died of exposure.

Mr. Speaker, there is more work to do.

The fact is that alcohol is doing us more harm than good. It is costing the healthcare system tens of millions of dollars, it is robbing people of productive and happy lives, and it causes no end of trouble. The next step is to respond to alcohol as the root cause of many of the issues downtown with an action plan. This is a priority job for the next Assembly, in partnership with the city, businesses, and anyone else who wants to help. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

State of Downtown Yellowknife
Members' Statements

Page 5880

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife

Child Care Funding
Members' Statements

Page 5880

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to speak again about the need for daycare spaces in NWT communities. Being able to take care of their young children is an essential and basic need of families and communities. This government has been proactive in providing funding for child support, but funding alone doesn't do much good if there are no physical spaces and facilities to provide childcare in.

Many people would like to create daycare spaces in their homes, but the code requirements for safe childcare can make that unaffordable or simply impractical. Most people can't afford the cost of home renovations to bring their home up to the required code. We just experienced that when my colleagues and I made a request for one-time funding of $37,000 to the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment to upgrade the Yellowknife Women's Society home office to be converted into a daycare, and I want to say thank you to the Minister for making that happen.

That's on the day home side. In the case of licensed daycares, the Yellowknife Daycare that opened just over two years ago already has 170 kids on its waiting list. If parents and families of those children cannot find safe and secure daycare spaces, they can be compromised in finding work, creating income, and realizing their goals as families, and unable to contribute to the community and help support the economy.

So, Mr. Speaker, I believe the government must step up and make it a standing policy to create the infrastructure for the care of our youngest citizens. Spaces for our newborn to three-year-olds must be included as part of our long-term infrastructure acquisition planning.

I believe it's crucial that, whenever territorial schools are built or renovated, part of the design must include daycare spaces. This is an essential need for any community in the territory.

The demand for daycare spaces is high, and it's not going away anytime soon. Many of our goals as families and communities depend on Northerners being able to work. That requires a safe and secure caring environment for their young children.

Mr. Speaker, daycare infrastructure should be a priority in our communities and needs to be a priority of future Assemblies going forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Child Care Funding
Members' Statements

Page 5880

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Hay River North.

Health Care System in Hay River
Members' Statements

Page 5880

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The residents of Hay River are gravely concerned about the state of the healthcare system in our community, and many believe that the situation is worsening. People are afraid to get sick or injured in Hay River. It's hard to blame them; we've all heard the horror stories.

I know people who are living with the ongoing and, in some cases, lifelong effects of serious injuries like fractured skulls, broken necks, and broken backs, because, despite their best efforts, these injuries were not properly diagnosed in Hay River and they were eventually forced to seek care outside the territory. I know people who have been diagnosed with life-threatening conditions, but weren't informed until years later. I know people with serious but manageable medical conditions who have uprooted their lives and moved out of town because, based on their experiences with the healthcare system, they felt like they were playing Russian roulette by living in Hay River.

In fact, many people who live in Hay River don't actually use the local health services; they have family doctors in Alberta that they see on a regular basis. That seems to be the only way people can see the same physician more than once, and that lack of continuity contributes to the problems that we're facing.

We actually have some great permanent physicians in Hay River who are loved by the community. We've had some in the past, as well, and the same goes for nurses. The problem is that they never seem to stay. As a result, we're always understaffed and, instead of having established medical teams who know patients' histories and who can play off each other's strengths, we're forced to rely on a revolving door of locums and temporary employees.

While recruitment of health professionals is difficult across Canada, our problem is not so much recruitment as retention. We seem to be able to attract doctors and nurses, but we can't keep them. What's so frustrating is that I often hear that they would love to stay in Hay River, but they don't want to work at the Health Authority.

As an MLA, I don't get to see the internal, day-to-day workings of the organization, but I've heard enough from past and present employees, and from the public, to know that the ongoing problems at the authority need to be addressed before anything will change.

These issues are not insurmountable, but they will take a concerted effort on the part of this government and on the part of this authority and, while time might have run out for this Assembly, I'm confident that, in the future, we can make the changes necessary. I'll have some questions for the Minister of Health. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Health Care System in Hay River
Members' Statements

Page 5881

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Nursing Services in Tsiigehtchic
Members' Statements

Page 5881

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In some communities, the residents look forward to the end of break-up or freeze-up, as it means normal transportation can begin again; but for my constituents in Tsiigehtchic, break-up and freeze-up means they can see a nurse in the community on a regular basis.

Members are well aware by now that there is no permanent nurse in Tsiigehtchic. I have raised this issue many times over the last eight years, and we have seen little progress. A nurse is stationed in the community when it is not possible to cross the river, but for the rest of the year a nurse only comes into town once a week.

One day a week may sound like enough, especially for an eight-hour shift, but the problem is that they drive from Inuvik, at least an hour and a half each way, as part of that shift, plus one to two hours for the ferry wait. So the nurse is in the community for only a couple of hours, instead of a full day. My constituents have heard all the reasons why a nurse can't be placed in the community permanently, but at the very least we would like to have a nurse who spends an entire day seeing patients. We have housing available for a nurse to come in the day before and have a full day's shift at our health centre.

Residents in small communities already face challenges in healthcare by not having full-time staff available. I hope the government will be willing to work with me to ensure residents can at least access a nurse for a full shift once a week. I will have questions for the Minister later today. Thank you.

Nursing Services in Tsiigehtchic
Members' Statements

Page 5881

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Strengthening Democratic Institutions in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 5881

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to discuss the important steps this Assembly has made to strengthen our democratic institutions in the Northwest Territories.

During the 18th Assembly, we should all be proud of our shared record towards this end. We have made all committee meetings public by default; we have ensured that important votes of this House are recorded; we ensure that there was time for the public to comment on choosing the Premier during the Territorial Leadership Committee before this House voted on that outcome. The Legislature has improved its broadcast of proceedings, both in the House and in the meetings of standing committees, on more platforms than in previous Assemblies. We have taken steps to strengthen the Members' Code of Conduct and pass new Ombuds legislation to give another accountability mechanism to the people of the Northwest Territories. This Assembly has taken concrete steps to work on transparency and accessibility, and I hope that the 19th Assembly will continue to carry this torch.

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of decisions in this Assembly have been unanimous. Mr. Speaker, I caution those who might exaggerate those select instances when this House stood divided; division in an institution such as ours is a sign of healthy discussion and debate. I doubt anyone truly wants an Assembly where disagreements are unable to be voiced or one where the unity of the Assembly is maintained publicly while remaining divided behind closed doors. The public wants to know that the government they elect, which is responsible for overseeing and administering the programs which are important to them, is accountable, accessible, and remains responsive to their interests.

In our remaining two weeks, the 18th Assembly has many pieces of legislation to address, and very little time for debate. Every decision we make now will create consequences for the next Assembly that it will be left to deal with, good, bad, or indifferent. I hope that the 19th Assembly will heed the lessons of this one, learn from our mistakes, take from our successes, and improve where we were unable to do so, and chart a clear path towards a prosperous future for all residents of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Strengthening Democratic Institutions in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 5882

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.