This is page numbers 5945 - 5992 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

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 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5945

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 213-18(3): Minister Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

August 13th, 2019

Page 5945

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the Members that the Honourable Glen Abernethy will be absent in the House today due to illness. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 213-18(3): Minister Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 5945

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 214-18(3): Income Security Programs Update
Ministers' Statements

Page 5945

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is responsible for ensuring that Income Security programs respond to the needs and realities of residents. I am proud of how this government has increased its financial support to those in greatest need.

Income Security programs help residents bridge gaps in their ability to support themselves and pursue their personal, educational, and career goals. They are a vital part of our social safety network. During the life of this Assembly, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment has implemented numerous enhancements to its suite of Income Security programs.

In 2016, the department changed the way Income Assistance payments were calculated and restructured the program to ensure that income intended for children was no longer included. These changes resulted in more families with children being eligible to receive assistance and increase their monthly household income.

The high cost of living disproportionately affects our low- to modest-income residents. Our government increased the Northwest Territories Child Benefit to provide additional support to families. As well, we increased the Senior Citizen Supplementary Benefit and the supports available through the Seniors Home Heating Subsidy to support low- to modest-income seniors.

The department reviewed and increased the amount available through the Income Assistance Program to cover rental costs. We also increased the funding available to emergency shelter operators. Together, these improvements help address homelessness, and all of these improvements together support this Assembly's mandate to reduce the cost of living, foster healthy families, reduce poverty, and help seniors age in place.

Mr. Speaker, I am accountable for ensuring that the programs and services offered by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment are helpful to the residents they are intended to serve. I want to make sure that we improve quality of life and expand opportunities for our residents.

The best approach to achieving this is through working together. This past December we convened a meeting that included those who access our programs, non-governmental organizations, and those who provide services to income support clientele. We also solicited input from Members of this House and other orders of government. By working together, we have identified 27 priority actions to further improve the Income Assistance Program. I am pleased to report that we have already started on actions to improve the timeliness of payments, communications materials, and the client experience.

A new client-focused income assistance handbook has been developed as a key resource for those accessing the program and their supporters. The handbook provides a user-friendly, plain-language explanation of the program, with helpful tips and resources. It is currently being finalized. Both online and paper copies will soon be available in all regional offices across the Northwest Territories to empower and equip clients with the information they need.

We recognize that knowledgeable and well-trained front-line staff are critical to delivering programs that respond to the needs of our clients. As a direct response to feedback from our partners, the department will ensure that trauma-informed and disability-sensitivity training is added to the required training that staff currently receives. Through this required training, client services officers will continue to build on their professional development and enhance their client-centred services.

We have also introduced departmental service standards for the Income Security and Labour Branch, which will provide a benchmark for the quality of service that clients can expect of employees and senior managers. Materials to make this information readily available has been developed. They will be accessible online in every regional office, and will also be shared with all clients.

We heard from our partners that they want to be just that, partners in supporting people who need it most and working towards solutions that provide better-integrated services. The department is continuing to connect with non-governmental organizations. We will establish regular meetings to share information, learn from each other, and advance our collective goals.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of internal administration, and significant work has been done to ensure Income Security programs meet the needs of residents, but we still have work to do. Change does take time. Through solution-based discussions with those who understand the issues, ongoing evaluations of our programs, and building strong community partnerships, we are making positive steps to reach our goals. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 214-18(3): Income Security Programs Update
Ministers' Statements

Page 5946

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 215-18(3): Environmental Monitoring and Research Projects Funded
Ministers' Statements

Page 5946

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the Northwest Territories Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program is providing $1.7 million this year to support 28 monitoring and research projects. Funding recipients include Indigenous governments and organizations, universities, and territorial and federal government departments.

This year, seven new projects are receiving funding over three years to address key cumulative impact monitoring priorities for caribou, water, and fish. Results will provide valuable scientific and traditional knowledge for resource managers, governments, and communities to use for decision-making.

Mr. Speaker, recommendations on project funding were made by a steering committee comprised of representatives from Indigenous governments and organizations and territorial and federal governments.

Northwest Territories Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program results are available online and at an annual results workshop later this year. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 215-18(3): Environmental Monitoring and Research Projects Funded
Ministers' Statements

Page 5946

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice.

Minister's Statement 216-18(3): Improving Programs for Inmates in NWT Correctional Facilities
Ministers' Statements

Page 5946

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. During my time as Minister of Justice, I have often spoken about the Corrections Service and the important work they are doing to improve the programming and supports available in our facilities to help address the needs of individuals in our corrections system.

I know that Members of the Legislative Assembly share with me the hope that people in our care are able to return to their communities on their way to becoming healthier members of our society. Over the past four years, we have made fundamental changes to the programs available to inmates, have been investing in our correctional facilities, and have been advancing legislative changes to better position inmates for success.

Knowing that some of the most prevalent risk factors for incarceration are substance abuse, violence, and relationship violence, evidence-based programs have been implemented that address these root causes of why some individuals find themselves in contact with the criminal justice system.

By working in close collaboration with elders, traditional liaison officers, and Indigenous staff, our Corrections Service continues to take special care and attention to ensure that programs delivered in our corrections facilities recognize the importance of Indigenous cultures and traditions. We are also delivering a suite of programs aimed at supporting inmates to become better aware of the triggers that lead them to engage in unhealthy and unsafe behaviours. Specific programs include Substance Abuse Management, Living without Violence, and the Respectful Relationships programs.

More recently, the Corrections Service has implemented the Northern Addictions Sessions at the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre. Work is also under way to develop a northern module to be included as part of the Living Without Violence and Respectful Relationships programs, as well.

Mr. Speaker, changes have been made to the release planning process to ensure that case managers are considering which community programming options for inmates are available upon release. Where possible, clients are matched with similar programming that they received while in custody so that they can continue to build the skills that they need to become successful once at home.

We also recognize the importance of offering programs and opportunities to inmates so that they may advance their educational goals while in our corrections facilities. Inmates have access to adult literacy, basic education and upgrading, high school and exam preparation, trades exam preparation, life and employment readiness skills, and assistance with pursuing post-secondary studies.

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the critical role that the men and women working in the corrections field do to provide the high-quality correctional programming and care to inmates we have put so much effort into developing in the Northwest Territories. The reality is that there are few others in our society who are closer in contact, on a prolonged basis, with members of our society who are facing such challenging and complex social issues than those working in the Corrections Service. As the NWT Corrections Service has evolved to find new and innovative ways to better support inmates, it is the dedication and professionalism of our corrections staff that has been, and will always be, key to our current and future successes.

Hand-in-hand with modernizing our legislative framework and improving our programming and supports, we have also focused on modernizing our correctional facilities. Later this month, the grand opening of the newly constructed women's unit of the Fort Smith Correctional Complex is planned, with building occupancy scheduled for later this fall. The design for this facility reflects the current and future needs of adult female offenders in the Northwest Territories. Access to family support to aid the healing process and to improve reintegration of inmates into their communities; access to northern-developed and northern-specific programming; and limiting access and connection with southern inmates, where gangs, drugs, and organized crime are prevalent, are all factored into the design and creation of the new women's unit.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to advise that our government is moving forward with work to transition the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre in Hay River into a facility that operates under a Therapeutic Community model. Under this model, substance abuse is seen as a symptom of much broader problems and, as such, a holistic approach is used that touches on every aspect of an offender's life. With an emphasis on social learning and mutual self-help, individual participants take on some of the responsibility for their peers' recovery. Providing help and support to others is seen as an important part of changing oneself under this model.

The transition of the facility to this new model is anticipated to take place in the spring of 2020 and, in the coming weeks, officials with the Department of Justice will be making presentations on the Therapeutic Community model to the Town of Hay River, Indigenous governments, and community groups.

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Northwest Territories have been clear. They want inmates prepared and ready to rejoin their communities. The programming, facilities, and legislative changes that we have worked hard to advance during the 18th Legislative Assembly have laid a strong foundation for an improved NWT Corrections Service. Through the efforts of our dedicated staff and the continued partnerships that we have with other departments and stakeholders, our Corrections Service is making a difference in the lives of Northerners and helping to create safer and healthier communities throughout the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 216-18(3): Improving Programs for Inmates in NWT Correctional Facilities
Ministers' Statements

Page 5947

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 217-18(3): Diversifying the NWT's Economy
Ministers' Statements

Page 5947

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Strong economies must encourage economic diversity and, while our economy relies on the resource sector as its foundation, our government has committed to fostering an economic environment where our residents can find success across a variety of sectors.

It is also this government's view that true economic diversity for the Northwest Territories also means getting the most out of secondary industries arising from our diamond sector, while also working to branch out and encourage the responsible development of new resources.

Through the life of this government, Mr. Speaker, I can say that we have made strides towards building this kind of strong, diverse economy. I would like to highlight some of the commitments that this government has met in that area.

Our tourism sector has reached new heights, and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2017-2018, visitors spent more than $203 million in the Northwest Territories, more than $36 million in gains since this government took office. Over the same period, we welcomed more than 112,000 visitors to our territory, roughly 25 percent more than we did at the start of our mandate. This is, in part, a reflection of the ongoing investments that we have made in world-class tourism and parks facilities and the destination marketing work that we have invested in through Northwest Territories Tourism.

By working together, our government has welcomed new entrepreneurs to our territory through the Nominee Program and implemented the Government of the Northwest Territories Immigration Strategy, which included streamlining the application for those looking to make the Northwest Territories their home. People in Hay River and Yellowknife have seen the positive effects of those efforts firsthand.

We have developed and are implementing an agriculture strategy to encourage local food production and shepherd the sector towards commercial viability. We have since leveraged the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership and other funding programs to support growing agriculture businesses.

We are implementing a strategy to revitalize the Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery. Since the release of this strategy, we have secured funding and went out to tender to build a cutting-edge fish processing plant in Hay River, worked closely with the Northwest Territories Fishermen's Federation on laying the foundation for a sustainable business, and taken leadership in representing the Northwest Territories' interests as the federal government sets a new path for the freshwater fishery in Canada's North.

We have committed to investing in building the profile of Northwest Territories art, both at home and abroad. Our revamped Northwest Territories Arts website now includes a Where to Buy feature, which connects regional, national, and international customers to Northwest Territories-made art. Together, the Departments of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Education, Culture and Employment engaged the public on putting the Arts Strategy into action with the principles of the Northwest Territories' arts community in mind.

Mr. Speaker, our support of the arts extends to the commitments that we have made to grow our territory's film industry. Eleven film projects have received support under the Northwest Territories Film Rebate Program since the program launched in 2015. Those rebates have leveraged around $1.5 million in economic investment by film projects in the Northwest Territories.

We have connected the local industry with new opportunities to develop below-the-line skills and build a future in film. Just last year I was proud to announce our investment in the Northwest Territories Professional Media Association's apprenticeship pilot program. We have invested in shining a light on producers, their films, and our industry more broadly through national and international marketing efforts.

We worked with industry to expand manufacturing by developing a Manufacturing Strategy. We released this strategy with partnership from the Northwest Territories Manufacturers Association this year, and work is already being done to reach our ambitions.

We have worked to advance the knowledge economy in this territory, and we have once again seen results. We supported the establishment of the exciting Arts, Crafts, and Micro-manufacturing Centre in Inuvik, along with other partners. I am pleased to report that ITI has been asked to sit on the board of directors for this initiative to help ensure its continued success in the Beaufort Delta. A number of agencies from other countries are working in Inuvik and benefitting from the region's geographic advantages for satellite transmissions, made possible from the investment in the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Optic link. The resources are now in place, and work has already begun to develop a strategic framework to advance the knowledge economy in the Northwest Territories.

We have committed to connecting our furs with international markets to help encourage the traditional economy. Our continued investment in the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur brand has brought trappers' goods to market throughout the life of this government.

Mr. Speaker, we have also done a great deal to diversify our resource sector. First and foremost, I am pleased to say that Almod Diamonds, one of our approved Northwest Territories Diamond Manufacturers, has announced that their factory has established its team, and its first diamonds are now being polished right here in our capital. I encourage everyone to look for their grand opening in 2020.

This good news comes in the wake of our changes to the Northwest Territories Diamond Policy Framework, which is designed to encourage diverse investments from businesses looking to generate local benefits from the diamonds that our mines make available for local manufacturing.

Throughout this government, we have delivered on our commitment to implement the Mineral Development Strategy and our Petroleum Resources Strategy to build a stronger resource sector, and I am pleased to say that we have seen progress that will build on what we already have with our strong, resilient diamond mines.

Our Mining Incentive Program has leveraged millions in additional work from commodities running the gamut from precious metals, like gold, to technology metals, like lithium or cobalt. We are also seeing exciting results coming to light in regions like the Sahtu for gold, where bigger players are now getting involved. Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to conclude my Minister's statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Minister's Statement 217-18(3): Diversifying the NWT's Economy
Ministers' Statements

Page 5949

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, we have also committed to working to diversify our resource mix by developing a long-term strategy for oil and gas in our territory. We have delivered, releasing our Petroleum Resources Strategy with two key outcomes in mind: local benefits, like heating and power generation; and a healthy export market in the future. We have made progress since.

I am pleased to see the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation defining a way forward for their regional natural gas heat and electricity initiative, which has a vision to provide reliable, affordable energy in the area. Our government has supported this project since its conception and looks forward to exciting things in the future. We have also received positive feedback from the global industry as we tell a new story about future of our territory's export natural gas sector.

Mr. Speaker, as this government's tenure draws to a close, I can say with confidence that we have laid the groundwork for the future governments to achieve even more. I am proud of the actions that we have taken to build a broad, diverse economy for the benefit of all Northwest Territories residents and conclude this Assembly feeling positive about our territory's economic future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 217-18(3): Diversifying the NWT's Economy
Ministers' Statements

Page 5949

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Grizzly Bears in Aklavik
Members' Statements

Page 5949

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We have a grizzly bear problem in Aklavik. Like last year when I brought up this issue, at the moment, we have up to 13 grizzly bears hanging around at the dump site. Also, as it is starting to get dark now, the bears are starting to bother around the community. This is a threat to the community, as bears are very unpredictable.

Mr. Speaker, my constituents want some action taken to either relocate or put some of the bears down to detour the bears from hanging around the community. In the past, the NR officer was able to put down problem bears and hire residents to keep them out. From what I was told, this can only be done when the bear is a threat.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I think it is pretty clear that 14 grizzly bears are a threat. Let's not wait until something serious happens. Let's take some action to keep Aklavik safe. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions later today.