This is page numbers 5993 - 6030 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 work.

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 1:31 p.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

Page 5993

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 218-18(3): Minister Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

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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 218-18(3): Minister Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 219-18(3): Offshore Oil and Gas Negotiations
Ministers' Statements

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Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to update this Assembly on negotiations toward the shared management of oil and gas resources in the NWT offshore, along with our ongoing work to undertake a five-year, science-based review of the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas activity in Arctic waters.

Mr. Speaker, the devolution agreement commits Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories, with the participation of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, to undertake negotiations for the management of oil and gas resources and the sharing of revenues in the offshore. Canada made a similar commitment to the Government of Yukon.

Northerners should be in charge of decisions about the future of the North and need the opportunity to grow the Northwest Territories economy based on the responsible development of the Northwest Territories' rich reserves of natural resources.

As Members are aware, negotiations began in April of this year in Inuvik. Since that time, two additional negotiation sessions have been held, one in Yellowknife in May and one in Calgary in June. An approach to guide ongoing negotiations has been agreed upon and will anchor the negotiation across the federal and Northwest Territories election periods.

Negotiations are set to resume in January 2020, but work will continue with ongoing discussions and preparation for negotiations to continue until then.

Mr. Speaker, concurrent with negotiations, a separate table has been established to oversee the five-year, science-based review process for the federal moratorium on offshore activity in the Western Arctic, which was unilaterally imposed by Canada in 2016 without any consultation with our government.

Parties to this table include Canada, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. This provides the GNWT and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation with direct input into the science-based review and also the decision on whether or not the moratorium will be lifted following the completion of the five-year review.

This work is a priority of our government and is a mandate item. To show our commitment to this important work, we have established a small Office of Devolution Initiatives within the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs, comprised of three staff. This office will lead our work on this file, along with work associated with a review of the transitional provisions under the devolution agreement with respect to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT remains committed to ensuring that northern decision-makers have a strong role in resource management decisions that will directly affect NWT residents. Decisions cannot and should not be made unilaterally from Ottawa. Our work to negotiate an offshore resource and revenue-sharing regime in the Beaufort region is a tangible step towards empowering Northerners through self-determination.

I look forward to the work ahead and hope that this important work will be successfully completed early in the life of the 19th Legislative Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 219-18(3): Offshore Oil and Gas Negotiations
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 220-18(3): Property Tax Arrears Program
Ministers' Statements

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Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, the issue of property tax arrears has often been cited as a barrier for residents trying to purchase land, obtain a mortgage, or access various Government of the Northwest Territories programs. Frequently, a significant portion of these arrears are attributable to interest charged on outstanding debt. The impact of this interest compounds over time and can leave residents with significant challenges to recover.

To address the issue of accumulated arrears, the government has established the Property Tax Arrears Program. This program is designed to provide property tax interest relief to residents of the General Taxation Area who have property tax or residential lease arrears in excess of 24 months. This program does not apply to Municipal Taxation Area property taxes, as those are the responsibility of the tax-based municipal governments.

In order to qualify for interest relief through the program, applicants will be required to enter into legal agreements that require the property holder to make agreed-upon monthly payments on the principal owed on their property taxes. Remission or forgiveness of interest on arrears will be granted in instalments when the property holder has met their financial obligations under the agreement.

To be clear, there is no forgiveness of the principal owed for property taxes under this program, only on the interest calculated on arrears.

To illustrate an impact of the program, I will use the example of a homeowner who owes over $34,000 in property tax arrears. This is comprised of about $4,900 in taxes and approximately $29,000 in interest. Should the homeowner choose to participate in the Property Tax Arrears Program, we would enter into an agreement to pay the $4,900 in affordable monthly payments, and the $29,000 in interest would be forgiven. This is not a unique circumstance.

I believe the Property Tax Arrears Program will provide a path forward for residents who want to address their current property tax arrears. This program, along with the Standard Interest Rate Statutes Amendment Act, should ensure that these large accumulated property tax arrears are a thing of the past for most residents in the General Taxation Area.

The program is now being advertised and communication is being undertaken to advise residents of the program and how they can apply. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 220-18(3): Property Tax Arrears Program
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 221-18(3): Update on Marine Transport Infrastructure and Shipping Season
Ministers' Statements

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Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is following through on our mandate commitment to strengthen connections with our public- and private-sector partners in the transportation infrastructure.

Marine transportation is an essential lifeline for residents and businesses in many small communities of the Northwest Territories. Communities on Great Slave Lake, the Mackenzie River, and the Western Arctic coast rely on tugboats and barges for the resupply of essential goods and fuel.

With this in mind, the Government of the Northwest Territories continues work to develop, maintain, and improve marine infrastructure and services by exploring ways to increase economic benefits in this industry, minimize environmental impacts, train Northerners, and regularly address needs and gaps in marine infrastructure and services.

We continue to improve our capacity to operate a reliable, professional marine shipping service in a challenging Arctic environment and remain committed to providing the best service possible to all of our customers. To date, the Marine Transportation Services is on schedule toward a successful 2019 sailing season. This season's schedule was designed with substantial contingency to minimize risks and to avoid interruption to service.

We are working with our partners at the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Ice Service, and others to monitor water levels and ice conditions, and we will adjust the schedule if conditions demand. Marine Transportation Services has added a customer service position to answer questions from the public and advise customers of progress and of anticipated dates of arrival to each community.

Mr. Speaker, this sailing season, we anticipate the completion of more than $36 million in commercial marine services and maintenance contracts, and the delivery of 45 million litres of fuel and nearly 10,000 tonnes of cargo.

Five of our tugs are operating on Great Slave Lake, the Mackenzie River, in the Beaufort Sea, the Amundsen Gulf, and the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut. Two other vessels have been activated, one repositioning from Churchill to Tuktoyaktuk and the other operating on Great Slave Lake. We expect that 184 employees will be engaged to support the 2019 operations at peak season, 97 of them NWT residents, 33 of whom are local Indigenous persons.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that our activities proceed in a way that minimizes environmental impacts. The Department of Infrastructure continues to work with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to carry out environmental site assessments on sites operated by Marine Transportation Services. Assessments will continue at specific locations to determine if there is any risk of contaminants migrating off of site.

We also continue to explore opportunities to partner with other Government of the Northwest Territories departments, Indigenous governments, and development corporations to provide business opportunities, training, and employment.

Mr. Speaker, in the area of training, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport Canada, and the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium joined forces to establish what has become a thriving Marine Training Centre at the Hay River Marine Terminal, a facility that has now delivered hundreds of courses to Northwest Territories students. The expansion of the Marine Training Centre this year includes additional classroom space and course offerings, including a Bridgewatch Rating Program, Small Vessel Operator Proficiency, and a Fishing Master's Program.

The Marine Placement Program matches graduates from the Marine Training Centre with jobs and economic opportunities. In the 2019 sailing season, saw six graduates from the Marine Training Centre take deckhand positions with Marine Transportation Services, including one placement on each operational tugboat and two positions on the Hay River harbour tug. Graduates from the Marine Training Centre have secured employment with the Canadian Coast Guard, and some will sail on the icebreakers that will visit our coastal waters this season.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to training and employment opportunities, the Government of the Northwest Territories recognizes the need to support the marine industry by improving marine infrastructure and services. A great deal of maintenance and repair work has been done and continues to be done at the Government of the Northwest Territories Hay River cargo terminal and shipyard facilities, but much work remains to improve marine infrastructure and services in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, one of the ways the Government of the Northwest Territories will improve our marine services is by upgrading our fleet. Four double-hulled barges are being built for delivery to Tuktoyaktuk in August of 2020. An extensive overhaul is being performed on one of our own tugboats, the Jock McNiven. The Canadian Coast Guard vessel the Eckaloo will be undergoing major maintenance at the shipyard this winter. These initiatives will employ about 30 people throughout the off-season.

We also continue to pursue federal funding to support investment in marine assets and infrastructure. The Government of the Northwest Territories has applied for funding from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency for a study that would examine the impacts of climate change on marine assets and services in the Beaufort Delta. The study would recommend operational and infrastructure improvements to mitigate risks to community resupply, as well as potential economic, employment, and community development opportunities that could be leveraged.

Mr. Speaker, there is also work that remains to be done in support of marine operations in the Northwest Territories that requires the federal government to step up to the plate. Restoring the Hay River Harbour and other vital initiatives, such as icebreaking support and remote federal marine resupply sites, require action by the federal government, and I will continue to press my federal counterpart on the importance of working with us to find solutions.

Through our federal, community and industry partnerships, the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to strengthen and support the marine infrastructure and services in the Northwest Territories for the benefit of Northerners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 221-18(3): Update on Marine Transport Infrastructure and Shipping Season
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 222-18(3): Community Housing Plan
Ministers' Statements

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Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Ensuring that housing programs and services reflect community values and priorities has been a key commitment of this government. Implementing Northern Solutions for Northern Housing also means working in partnership with other orders of government to develop more affordable housing. To meet these commitments, we have been working hand-in-hand with local governments to develop community housing plans that will guide and support their housing aspirations.

Mr. Speaker, the community housing plan process is well under way, with 12 communities across the Northwest Territories engaged in this work. We are close to celebrating the establishment of a community housing plan for the community of Whati, as well as Paulatuk and Fort Liard close behind.

We recognize that we have set ambitious goals for ourselves with this initiative. It takes time to do these community plans right. We are committed to working with our partners and residents in a meaningful and respectful manner. It is important that we take the time to listen and learn from each other, and sometimes that means that we cannot rush things.

This respect will ensure that community leaders and residents have full involvement in the creation of these plans, feel a sense of ownership, use the plans, and see them as a great tool to guide housing decisions in their communities.

In that spirit of respect, community leadership is critical and we are working closely with local leaders. Chiefs, mayors, and their councils have recognized from the beginning how important it is for their communities' voices to be heard.

We have also hired local housing facilitators to assist with the community planning and outreach to community residents. These contacts have been invaluable, and we could not do this work without their help.

Housing is one of the most important aspects of our lives. Having a roof over our heads is the starting point for successful, healthy living. Historically, our territory has faced many housing challenges, and talking about those challenges can be tough. Despite that, the turnout when we have our community meetings has been huge.

I am impressed by the broad participation. I want to thank everyone at the community level for coming out and sharing their knowledge and for working with us to develop your community plans.

Mr. Speaker, when I say that these plans belong to our communities, I mean it. Without the investment of time from community leaders and the residents, this would be a top-down exercise. We are taking the time to make sure these plans reflect local wisdom, experience, and a vision for the future. Several community housing plans will soon be complete, and I am confident communities will use them strategically to help meet local housing priorities. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 222-18(3): Community Housing Plan
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Mahsi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Funding Support for the NWT SPCA
Members' Statements

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I want to talk about funding for the NWT SPCA. This organization serves 31 communities in the NWT, with the important mission of providing humane treatment of animals.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and want to offer credit to this government that it came through with $43,000 in stabilization for the NWT SPCA. It was a hard-fought achievement, and it is a good-news story. I appreciate that the government came around, and so will many Northerners. Everyone who worked to make this funding possible should be proud of the achievement.

Just last weekend, I was part of the SPCA's public fundraising event. Even with the one-time funding that was provided previously by the GNWT, the SPCA has to work constantly to find the financial resources it needs, and no wonder. It employs up to 12 people. It spends $30,000 a year providing dog food and straw to NWT communities. It spends $50,000 a year on medical supplies. It fundraised to buy its own piece of land and build its own new building, which it now pays to operate. It relies heavily on volunteers including its board members. These are people who volunteer their time because they care about the welfare of our animals.

I am proud that the NWT SPCA receive these funds, but I think this government has to go another step further and provide ongoing financial support. The City of Yellowknife supports the SPCA to the tune of almost $20,000 a year. Individuals and businesses contribute thousands a year. The territorial government needs to step up and provide ongoing annual funding to support the SPCA's important work through whatever means.

Mr. Speaker, 31 communities count on the services the SPCA provides. Those include the community spay-neuter program, the pet food and supplies for communities program, animal rescue and protection, and the animal health initiative program, and the demand is growing.

The SPCA has achieved a lot, and this territory needs its services, but it's warning us that it can't continue without the right support. Our government needs to commit to help relieve the burden with dependable, long-term financial support. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Funding Support for the NWT SPCA
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.