This is page numbers 6353 - 6412 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 assembly.

Topics

Evolution of Aurora College
Members' Statements

Page 6357

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. One of the most remarkable transformations to take place in the life of this Assembly is the approach to post-secondary education, in general, and Aurora College, in particular. Our mandate directed us to expand opportunities for post-secondary education, not to dismiss the Aurora College board, order a foundational review, and make plans to establish a polytechnic university, but that's what has happened and we are better off for it.

The government's decision to cut the college's budget started this transformation. It took weeks of questioning to understand that this was a government decision following a college recommendation. The evidence supporting the cuts shifted several times from the cost of delivery, to the small number of graduates, to the quality of the programs themselves. It's worth remembering the college decided to evaluate the social work program after the decision had been made to chop it. I look forward to the day when it will be reinstated to help meet the objectives of the Child and Family Services Plan introduced this week.

Mr. Speaker, the foundational review was a good idea poorly executed. The consultation was wholly inadequate and, as a result, some of the conclusions were questionable; but it did plant a seed that a polytechnic university is the publicly funded post-secondary institution we both need and want. I want to say that it's unfortunate that the foundational review has caused so much distress in Fort Smith in spite of the Minister's efforts to reassure the community about its continuing importance to post-secondary education.

Since the report came out, many people have taken a turn watering the polytechnic seed, including the City of Yellowknife with its own study of the economic benefits of having a college here in the capital. Meanwhile the department has been busy with the strategic framework tabled this week, setting up an advisory council and preparing for a strategic plan.

Mr. Speaker, this week we passed the Post-Secondary Education Act. This is a solid achievement for everyone who wants to live and learn in the Northwest Territories. It sets us up to establish quality institutions offering transferable credits, and provide for the educated workforce we need now and into the future. It is the foundation of the knowledge economy that we want to continue to develop. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Evolution of Aurora College
Members' Statements

Page 6358

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. If anyone had told me all this good would come from all the disruptive and apparently arbitrary decisions made two-and-a-half years ago, I would have had trouble believing it. My hope is that the 19th Assembly will continue on the course now set for a promising future. Mahsi.

Evolution of Aurora College
Members' Statements

Page 6358

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Establishment of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve
Members' Statements

Page 6358

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Yesterday was a great day for the people of Lutselk'e, safeguarding our natural legacy for all NWT citizens, and development of the conservation economy. Leaders of the Governments of Canada, the Northwest Territories, and the Lutselk'e Dene First Nation officially signed the establishment agreements for the 26,000-square-kilometre protected area now formally known as Thaidene Nene. Mahsi cho for this important work.

This success came at the end of a long road that began in 1970, when land was set aside, and it was reignited in 2000, with the opening of negotiations towards the creation of a federal national park reserve. In 2004, the Lutselk'e Dene formally approved the boundary, vision, and name for Thaidene Nene, which means "Land of the Ancestors." Post-devolution, negotiations began to include the GNWT, leading to the agreements yesterday.

Continuing operation and management of Thaidene Nene will be through a consensus board shared by the Lutselk'e Dene and public government representatives. Industrial development is not permitted in the area. Infrastructure corridors may be allowed in the 9,000-square-kilometre territorial protected area, but they will require a rigorous process, including public comment and written reasons. A visitor, operations, and heritage centre will be built in Lutselk'e, creating initial direct employment estimated at 18 positions, including eight full-time jobs.

A regional management body including all Akaitcho communities, the Metis Nation, and federal and NWT governments must be set up, providing high-level collaboration on strategic and cooperative issues. In order to achieve the actual protection, the GNWT must now move swiftly to create the required regulations under the Protected Areas Act.

Then there is the money, Mr. Speaker. Canada will invest $40 million towards infrastructure national park reserve operations in the first 12 years, and $3.4 million annually for operations thereafter. Canada has even committed to invest $7.9 million towards the establishment and operation of the GNWT portion of Thaidene Nene. I haven't seen any firm commitments on investment from our government, not even a news release or a Minister's statement announcing this major event. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Establishment of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve
Members' Statements

Page 6358

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. It's not clear whether there is a territorial vision for protected areas and the conservation economy. Are protected areas going to be paper exercises, or is this government ready to embrace the opportunity to diversify our economy with commensurate investments? I'll have questions for the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Establishment of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve
Members' Statements

Page 6359

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Seniors Aging In Place
Members' Statements

Page 6359

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For seniors and elders, aging in place means having the health, social support, and services needed to live safely and independently in one's home or community for as long as one wishes and is able. There are many benefits for seniors and elders who are able to remain in their home and community as they grow older that helps them maintain as much independence as possible. They can continue to enjoy familiar settings and routines. As well, they can benefit from the friendships and relationships built over the years they have lived in their communities.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday both the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation talked about the work their departments are doing to help seniors age in place. This work is vital to the health and well-being of our seniors. As the Minister of Health pointed out, our seniors and elders will make up over 20 percent of our territorial population by 2035. We need to put the right supports in place now so we're ready to support our aging population.

I am pleased to see the "What We Heard Report on Continuing Care Facility Legislation" tabled yesterday by the Minister of Health. I support the idea of the legislation 100 percent, and I look forward to having the opportunity to review this report in detail. Many of our elders and seniors, especially those who are very aged or infirm, are among our most vulnerable citizens. We have legislation in place to protect the interests of our children, and I have long believed that we need have the same kind of protection for seniors. The sad fact is that some of the most elderly members of the population suffer financial, physical, and emotional abuse at the hands of family members and relatives. We need to ensure that they are able to access care and support to ensure that they are able to enjoy their senior years comfortably and free from worry.

I believe that members of our elderly population are entitled to a level of care that is set out in legislation, which is designed to have their best interests at heart. As I mentioned in my reply to the Commissioner's opening address, I feel strongly that this legislation should mandate seniors and elders advocate positions in each regional centre. They would be people who seniors could go to for help accessing programs. They would be the eyes and ears for the elders, making sure that they know what supports are available to them and helping them access these programs, especially their family.

I am hopeful that people in Nahendeh will return me to the 19th Assembly, and I will continue to look forward to having input into the continuing care legislation to ensure that the NWT's seniors are served by a seniors and elders advocate. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Seniors Aging In Place
Members' Statements

Page 6359

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Government of the Northwest Territories Government Service Officers and Service Canada
Members' Statements

August 22nd, 2019

Page 6359

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The GNWT has government services officers, or GSOs, working in 22 single-window service centres across the Northwest Territories. These GSOs help people in the smaller communities by helping them to access government programs and services and by putting them in touch with the right people to answer their questions or help them with their problems. I fully support this program, Mr. Speaker, which helps make the GNWT more accessible for my constituents and other communities in the NWT.

In March of 2017 the Premier announced a joint 12-month service delivery pilot project in Fort Providence, Fort Liard, and Tuktoyaktuk. Government service officers in these communities were trained to provide in-person services on behalf of Service Canada, the federal government's single-window service centre, in addition to their duties for the Government of the Northwest Territories. The government service officers were trained to help residents with applications for six federal programs; Apprenticeship Grants, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, Guaranteed Income Supplements, Old Age Security, and the Wage Earner Protection Program. Fifteen single-window service centres have now expanded their services to help deliver these federal programs and services.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I am hearing about the frustration that GSOs are experiencing with respect to providing access to the federal programs and services. They are having difficulty with the federal government's computer system. I am hearing that the system shuts down a lot, freezes, and that, even when it is up and running, it is slow to access. Considering that these are GNWT employees, I am wondering if it might not be better to have them stick to helping the people with GNWT programs and services. A lot of time and effort has gone into providing training to our GSOs, and would hate to see anyone leave their jobs because they are frustrated with the federal government's outdated software. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Government of the Northwest Territories Government Service Officers and Service Canada
Members' Statements

Page 6360

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our GSOs have been providing all these programs, federal programs, prior to having to just log into the software, and that's where the issue is. I'll have questions for the Premier later today. Thank you.

Government of the Northwest Territories Government Service Officers and Service Canada
Members' Statements

Page 6360

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Perspectives on Leadership and Governance
Members' Statements

Page 6360

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

[Translation] I want to talk in Slavey, my language. It's pretty hard for me to speak it, but it's my language. I want to know that it's good to speak my language if I have to. Many times, I have been in meetings, and we will talk about our government, talk about our leaders, and an elder said that: whoever is the boss of this land, who you call the boss of the land, is he looking after all the land? How come you guys, we don't see them very often? If we speak in Slavey, in our language, we say that we're looking at the land, the boss of the land. All the time, we look at the government that way. When we say something is the boss, he's looking after something. Many times, if you're looking after the House, it's looking at people who are giving you money. In our language, that's how it is. We as Dene people, we should look at saying our own boss, us, we being our own boss; but in the community, the moms, the dads, the elders, all those are the bosses of the community. If you look in the past, whoever is the oldest, the elder, that's the one you talk to.

In the community, the band council, the Metis, the government, you look at this self-government. The council, you look at that, too. Many times they work together. We call them regions. Look at the Deh Cho region, for example. There are about seven communities working together. Over here in the Northwest Territories, we look at this. If we look at who's the boss, they all talk the same language, and when you're the boss for the Dene people, it's you who is the boss. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Translation ends.]

Perspectives on Leadership and Governance
Members' Statements

Page 6360

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Tax Incentives to Support Economic Development
Members' Statements

Page 6360

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I rise to speak on the subject of tax incentives. Tax incentives are an effective way to stimulate and encourage certain types of economic behaviour for both the private sector and households alike. In the NWT, we have, on average, a 97-percent tax filing rate for residents, which means that any changes to the tax code will directly affect almost all Northerners, and if we do it right, tax breaks will put more money into the pockets of Northerners.

We, as a territory, need to address the deficiency of investment capital flowing into the jurisdiction, among other issues, if we are to reverse the down ward economic growth that still grips our territory. Appropriately targeted tax credits, if implemented by the next Assembly, can lay the foundation for a prosperous upturn in our economy.

Incentivizing research and development would encourage research institutions to invest and spend here in the NWT, giving the territory useful and long-lasting relationships with educational institutions from all around the world, in turn stimulating made-in-the-North innovations.

Increasing our competitiveness would bring in countless secondary and tertiary effects into our economy, allowing the NWT to stand its own against larger southern jurisdictions. It is expensive to live in the North, and employers will tell you that it can be frighteningly expensive to retain skilled employees.

Properly targeted tax incentives can help alleviate this burden, which, in turn, will pump more money into the local economy, in a way of reinvesting tax dollars into our communities.

Appropriately targeted tax credits can work to benefit investment, family finances, innovation, economic growth, and societal behavioural shifts. We are at a precipice. We, and the next Assembly, must take swift and concrete action to address our shrinking economy; otherwise, we risk seeing further cuts to services, a shrinking population, and an ever-growing higher cost of living, all of which needs to be urgently addressed by the future government.

Mr. Speaker, these issues I raise today in our penultimate session because I have been raising them for a long time, and it doesn't seem like the approach of the GNWT has been to pursue tax credits as a way to incentivize behaviour and to move things along in our economy. It needs to be done. We need to take a different approach, because what we are doing just isn't working. Thank you.

Tax Incentives to Support Economic Development
Members' Statements

Page 6360

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.