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.

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Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Minister. Mr. Vanthuyne.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the Minister presenting this capital budget here today. In my time here in the Assembly, this is the largest capital budget that we've put forward. The previous speaker, my colleague from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, already spoke about some of the challenges as it relates to carry-overs. I know there are many facets to the challenges of carry-over. I, certainly, want to hope that the next government, we'd like to see maybe a bit of a call it a government-wide approach to try and overcome some of those challenges. I know a lot of them have to do with our relationship with the federal government as it relates to funding, and then, of course, there are capacity issues and many other types of concerns that are the root cause of carry-overs.

I do feel that we're putting out another $400 million capital budget. In our last year's budget, we had a tough time in delivering almost half of it. We don't want to see a continued build-up of carry-overs. The reason why I am very supportive of capital budgets by principle is that this is a lot of money that gets out into the communities, and this creates lots of opportunity in the communities and creates jobs and, of course, the dollars themselves result in building health centres and schools and roads and the like that support reducing the cost of living and lift up the standards of living. I'm always supportive of a capital budget.

Maybe more at the appropriate time, well, I'll make some general comments. I see in here that the Legislative Assembly, of course, is putting in $3 million to replace the water line, and that's long overdue. I would also hope that we could collaborate with our friends at the City of Yellowknife, the RCMP, and the DND to maybe have an opportunity that, while we are replacing that water line, there might be the opportunity to create a district energy system between ourselves and, say, the museum, city hall, RCMP, and DTFN building. I think that that would be a positive step, and I believe that the wheels are possibly in motion to start that undertaking. I hope that that can happen.

One thing that I will express a little bit of frustration about, that I was hoping I would be able to see in here, is a number of Members, and I'm quite sure another Member is going to raise this at some point, I wanted to see some form of investment in daycare infrastructure. I think, while it might have been just in these last six months to a year that we've really raised that as a higher priority, it wasn't necessarily brought in as a high priority for the mandate of this government. Although daycare in terms of supporting and funding daycare for allowing people to afford daycare has been in our mandate, but the actual investment in infrastructure for daycare has not. I would like to see that change in the future. I think that, when we start talking about building new schools or making major renovations to schools, we should be thinking about the design and development of daycares into those schools.

Community funding transfer gap, I won't speak to that too much because my honourable colleague from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh already spoke to that. I know the Minister respects and appreciates the challenges there, and that again, in the 19th Assembly, we're going to have to do some serious work. If that means advocating more at the federal level to get extra funds, then that might be what we might have to do. Even to go so far as to tying into the TFF or something like that; I don't know. There has got to be some way that we can get over this gap.

I do want to speak positively: I really like, again, what I've seen in here as it relates to the investments on Highway No. 4, which is Ingraham Trail. I'm always appreciative of the investments that go on out there. The residents of Ingraham Trail keep me well-attuned to any issues, and the Department of Infrastructure and this government have been fairly responsive in the four years that I've been the MLA for Yellowknife North in terms of making the right investments in Highway No. 4.

The one thing that I will say for the record, though, and I know that the Department of Infrastructure is aware of this and they have verbally given indication that they are working on this, but, in this particular capital budget, you don't see, for certainty's sake, an investment in the roadside pull-off at Big Hill Lake. I am aware that there is some work being undertaken. There's some pre-design stuff. There's some interdepartmental stuff being looked at. The government recognizes that this is a public safety issue. We're not supposed to be parking on Ingraham Trail, but a lot of people are in order to go to this new popular hiking area, so we've got to make sure that we're taking care of the public safety issue there.

For opening comments, Mr. Chair, that's about all I have, and then I will have a couple of questions as we move through the document. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Vanthuyne. Mr. Testart.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. When I ran to represent the people of Kam Lake, one of my commitments was to advocate for new infrastructure investment in all of our northern communities. At that time, I called for $24 million to be invested in community public infrastructure over a four-year period. Each capital budget, I recommended this funding be allocated to our municipalities.

Unfortunately, apart from an additional $2 million, $2 million in additional funding, there has not been much change in GNWT capital budgets, and communities remain under-funded to the tune of more than $30 million. This budget is no different, sadly, while investing in many worthy projects, and does nothing to contribute to the shortfall in municipal infrastructure funding.

Mr. Chair, after four years, I cannot accept that long-awaited action plans and strategies will solve a problem that only cash can fix. Our communities are tired of waiting for this government to live up to its own funding commitments and its own funding formula. This additional resource will create jobs, drive economic growth, and prevent local governments from raising taxes or reducing services for their residents. This budget is the last opportunity to invest in community infrastructure, and without any increases to CPI funding, I cannot support it on principle. Northerners expect their governments to live up to their commitments and keep their promises. This is our own community funding formula. This is no one else's. The fact that it remains, that this gap has not been plugged over our time in office, is unacceptable to me and unacceptable to my constituents.

The Minister knows he has the votes to pass this capital plan, but I will not be one of them. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Testart. Mr. O'Reilly.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. In all the capital budgets that I've been involved in here, there was no effort to reach out to Regular MLAs and talk about what the priorities should be. Unfortunately, the same old game.

I can say that Regular MLAs did request a number of changes, and those were rejected, as well. It is the largest infrastructure acquisition plan during my time in this Assembly, and probably the largest ever. I recognize that a large portion of this is probably coming from the federal government, but they seem to be determining our priorities now.

I am also quite concerned about the potential to increase our debt. As I understand, the debt limit is $1.3 billion. We're at $1.1, and this, I think, has the potential to increase that.

I'm not going to comment on some of the other items that I've heard from my colleagues, but I support everything that they've said so far in terms of needs that may or may not be reflected in the capital budget. I don't see anything in here that I can detect about the water line replacement. The City of Yellowknife, there was a request from the city for support of $8 million to assist with that extraordinary sort of one-time cost.

There is nothing in here that I can see in terms of a plan to lengthen the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link to our communities to provide for the promised increased or improved services for Internet in our communities up and down the valley.

There is nothing in here that I can see with regard to visitor services for new capital infrastructure, whether it's in Tuktoyaktuk, Whati, or even in Yellowknife, where the Minister has now made it public that the Northern Frontier Visitors' Centre will be demolished this winter. No new money go in the budget for visitor services, visitor facilities, for any of these three communities I've just mentioned.

I'm glad that the Minister compiled the information in his opening remarks with regard to the amount that is being spent on roads. It is basically 34 percent of the capital budget. The entire capital budget is for roads. I think that roads are important, but when they start to overshadow everything else that is in the budget, there is a problem, including decreased funding for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. How does that happen at the same time?

I think that that is a reflection of Cabinet's priorities. I have a number of questions that I wish to ask, particularly about at least a couple of the energy projects that are in here. There is a transmission line to be built to the community of Whati. I have some detailed questions that I would like to pursue at the appropriate time. I also have some questions about the replacement of the diesel plant in Lutselk'e. In both of those communities, there has been significant amount of work done in terms of many hydro potential for both of those communities, and I think even at a much reduced cost, but I guess that we will find out through questioning.

I, too, Mr. Chair, will find it difficult to support this capital budget without having had the opportunity to have any input into it, and the suggestions that have been made have been rejected, so I probably will not be supporting the capital budget. Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. O'Reilly. Mr. Blake.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

August 22nd, 2019

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Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am looking forward to the Mackenzie Valley Highway starting construction once again. We are sort of in the planning stages for the bridge still to be built, but the Minister is well-aware. He is from Inuvik, and I look forward to the day that that highway is actually built connecting right to Inuvik, because the Minister knows as well as I do how much money is spent in the Yukon at the moment. It's because everybody in the Beaufort-Delta region drives to Whitehorse to do their shopping: boats, Ski-Doos, trucks. It's all in the Yukon. There is a lot of revenue that could be staying in the NWT here. Unless you're from up there, you don't realize how much is spent in the Yukon.

I know that right now we are just planning to build to Norman Wells, but our government has to start looking forward. Just a few years ago, the plans changed to build it only to the Wells, which I still don't agree with. It's only right that it connects to Inuvik. A lot of our constituents in the Beaufort-Delta could be driving to Yellowknife by trucks, boats, Ski-Doos, you name it. There is a lot of potential.

Anybody who has driven from Whitehorse to Dawson has seen the hydro line that connects right from Whitehorse to Dawson. Any communities along the way are all connected to the hydro line, which this territory should be doing, looking forward.

There are a couple of projects here in the Mackenzie Delta. There should be more. There always should be more. I know that we do have some projects that are a little bit behind schedule that were supposed to be started last year. I am sure that this coming year will see our James Creek facility built, not quite at James Creek, but it is in the area. I still have my own concerns about that, but I am sure that we will make it happen with better planning.

Also, under airports, in the near future, we have to start planning to have emergency airstrips in each community. Tsiigehtchic is one that still doesn't have an emergency airstrip. We used to have a plane that landed there, but that is our bush pilot, Willard Hagen, you may all know as our deputy minister of Lands. He used to land in Tsiigehtchic and do the mail run. That is just on the shore of the Mackenzie River. There is a big need, and the community is always requesting an airport in the community for emergency situations, plus for when we're isolated. Those are the only comments that I have at this time. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Blake. Mr. Thompson.

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Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have a couple of concerns with this capital plan as presented here right now. There is a shortfall for municipal funding. It was an issue when I first ran, and I am hearing it again. I am hoping that the government was going to be able to try to help increase this. I know that the government is working with the federal government to try to get more money, but it has been a situation where the communities are asking for more money because they don't feel that they are getting enough.

The other concern that I have, and again, I am probably going to have some questions in regards to access roads, is that the three communities of Jean Marie, Sambaa K'e, and Nahanni Butte are talking about their access road. I know that we have put investments in it, but the communities are saying that we need better investment, because we are seeing potholes in that. That's something that the community is looking for support from the government for, as well as Sambaa K'e is looking for an all-weather road. They want to get access to what's out there. Right now, they are only accessible during the winter time by road. I am concerned, again, about the carryover. The Minister has talked to us about the carryover, making sure that we address that, and hopefully we don't see that being an issue moving forward.

The other concern that I have is about the geothermal. Again, we have this opportunity. In some of the communities that I represent right now, geothermal could be an answer to some of our power and employment issues moving forward. That there is a concern for me.

However, I have to thank the government for a number of positive things that I have seen. We are talking about the Fort Simpson long-term care unit, the 48 beds. I appreciate the government looking at that. The road to Mount Gaudet is part of the process of moving the Mackenzie Valley Highway forward, as well as the LNG power plant for Fort Simpson and some work to Highway No. 1 and the famous Highway No. 7. I do have one question for the Minister, Mr. Chair, if I am able to ask that question.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Minister McLeod.

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Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Yes, I believe the Member wanted to ask a question to the table, and I think that we are prepared to answer questions. If the chair chooses, then we will respond to the Member's question.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Minister McLeod. Mr. Thompson.

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Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's just one question. It's just in regards to designated authorities and their challenges of utilizing their CIP and gas tax money. It has been a challenge, I hear. Is the government, whether it's the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs or Infrastructure, willing to actually help support the community by managing some projects? Right now, their capacity is limited, especially in some of the smaller communities. They have been asking me about that.

I know that they understand that the new deal is out there, but for these small communities, it is a big issue. They can't access it if they don't have the capacity to deal with it. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Minister Moses.