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

Bob McLeod

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

We are not out there looking for business; it's generally the federal government found out about our GSO program. They approached us to see if we can help them provide better service to the communities. Certainly their objectives are the same as ours where we want to make sure that seniors in the communities get full access to whatever benefits they are entitled to. That is the premise of the program. The pilot projects showed that there is not a lot of demand for federal services. I don't know what areas we would expand to, but certainly, I think that the federal government felt that it was sufficient for them to want to expand the program. We are quite prepared to continue working on that basis. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Oral questions. Item 8, written questions. Item 9, returns to written questions. Item 10, replies to the Commissioner's opening address. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Mr. Beaulieu's Reply
Replies To The Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 6367

Tom Beaulieu

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have served 12 years in the Legislative Assembly. For people who don't realize how long that is, I will tell you a little story.

Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to work with a well-known MLA named Tom Butters, and Mr. Butters said to me, "I want you to go to Kugluktuk, and go talk to the MLA up there about housing." One thing led to another, and Mr. Peterson and I had a discussion about many things, one of which was the length of time that MLAs spend in the Legislative Assembly.

This, I would say, was in about the mid-1990s at that time, maybe a little bit earlier, but Mr. Peterson said to me, "Did you know that the average time that an MLA spends in the Legislative Assembly is four years?" He said, "Not much longer than four years." I didn't know that. At that time, I thought it must be longer than that; there are guys who have served forever. He said, "I'm not saying that it is four years because that's generally the term, but some people serve less than that, and overall, the average is not much longer than four years."

You look around the room. I mean, there are people in here who served four years, but there are people in here who have served a long time. I am one of those people. I had the opportunity to serve the people of Tu Nedhe for 12 years, and I had the opportunity to serve the people of Wiilideh for four years. At that time, I thought that that would be an easy job to do, working in the Legislative Assembly for four years, 10 years, 12 years, whatever it takes. It is a great job, but it is also the most difficult job I think that anybody could have.

People who serve in the Legislative Assembly know what it is like to be able to advocate for your people and do work for your people. At the end of the day, you still have to go back four years later. No matter what a good job you have done, you are still going to have opposition; you are still going to have people who are not happy with you; you are still going to have people who don't want you in the Legislative Assembly, whether you address every issue or not. I'm not trying to be ungrateful, Mr. Speaker, but to say that the reason that this job is so difficult is because it is so thankless.

We do what we can to help people, and then, at the end of the day, there are a lot of good things that we do with each other. We meet a lot of friends in the Assembly, but at the end of the day, it is something that I find quite difficult. I am not going to stand up here and be negative, but I would like to touch on some of the issues that I have encountered during my 12 years in the Legislative Assembly.

I would like to talk a little bit about the issues that I encountered 12 years ago. Twelve years ago, when I got here, I thought, "What are the main issues?" I had a background in housing, and I worked for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well, before I came here. I realized that working in social housing was a difficult job. That was the most difficult thing to do, because I had been there so long, and I had been working on it. I thought about the whole idea and the plan, and what the idea of housing was, was that the Housing Corporation was put in place in 1974 to be able to house the people of the Northwest Territories who could not afford to house themselves. At some point, Mr. Speaker, the Housing Corporation was to divest the housing that they were renting out through the public housing program.

I thought, "Well, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me," until I started working in it, and started to realize, yes, it is designed that way for a good reason. The good reason is that, if a Housing Corporation continues to retain its public housing inventory and does not divest the public housing once the CMHC mortgage is paid off, then they will have to come back to the GNWT for more money. I don't think that that was the intent. I think that the intent of divesting public housing was so that the communities could have a market.

At some point, whether we call it a quasi-market, no market, a strong market, or a weak market, it would have a market. What you have in a market, Mr. Speaker, is you have investment, personal investment. When you own a house, as many of us do in this Assembly, you take care of your house so that you don't have huge bills. You make sure that the house is something that you can pass on. You make sure that the house remains in the family, and when there is something that needs to be done, you go down to the hardware store or anywhere else, or order materials if you are in a small community, in order to make sure that the house is maintained, and that you are continuing to build a market. I thought that the Housing Corporation should go in that direction.

Many years ago, as I said, when I was in the Housing Corporation, I thought, you know, the Housing Corporation would have huge economic spinoffs if we were able to divest ourselves of the public housing that we no longer need as public housing. It wasn't like we were reducing the amount of housing that we had for the people. Mr. Speaker, we were going to maintain the same amount of houses, but instead of the people of the Northwest Territories paying for 2,400 public housing units, they would be maybe paying for, at the end of the day, 1,400 public housing units, because there are people in public housing that could afford to operate their own houses.

Also, I thought, "Well, if the people in public housing were to own their own houses, what would be needed?" That is something that I stood up in this House and talked about a lot, and that is employment. I thought, well, how do we as the Government of the Northwest Territories create employment? Well, there's a lot of employment in fixing up houses, for example. By giving people in the Northwest Territories the programs and the contribution agreements and fixing up the houses, that would create a bit of an economy, and dividing the difference between what the core need of housing is and what the affordable housing is. So many people have the two mixed up completely.

I asked the Minister, the previous Minister, in this Assembly if the Department of Infrastructure could solve housing issues, if they could eliminate core needs, and she said no, it's the responsibility of the NWT Housing Corporation. However, if we have housing that you can't afford, and yet it's got all the adequacy and it's suitable for your family, and then you got a better job, and I was just thinking of one particular example, and that was to talk about a job as an equipment operator on a highway. That solves the core need issue, because the guy can now afford his house. So that just kind of proves that was never a core need issue; it's an affordable housing issue.

Other issues that I have encountered were health issues. When I talk about health issues, I'm not just specifically talking about the physical health of an individual. I'm talking about everything that the Department of Health is to the people of the Northwest Territories. The Department of Health is probably, I would say, the most difficult department that we have in the Northwest Territories. There's no question in my mind. If you look at the fact that Health is involved with individuals from before they are born until they pass away, there's no break. That's the way it is. The Department of Health has a prenatal program; they have programs that assist young women when they are carrying; then right up until they're born, and they continue on, to continue to support the individual as they age, and they go right up until the individual is sick, gets into the hospital, and passes away. That department has to take care of all of that.

I thought about that a lot, and I thought, "That's a very, very expensive department." Yellowknife, I stood up in the House here and said, "We spend over $1 million a day on the Department of Health." Well, it's well over that. The government knows; they're spending maybe $1.3, maybe $1.4 million a day on healthcare. I thought about something that a former Member had often spoken about in the House, and that was prevention. Why is it that we are so caught up in trying to help people get healthy that we're not preventing them from getting sick? I know there's work on prevention. It's not like nothing happens, but it's to think about something. To think about stop treating people who are sick and prevent them from getting sick.

One of the main sicknesses, I found as I came into the Assembly, was alcoholism. To be able to take alcohol out of our communities and prevent people from becoming alcoholics would be some very, very important and very strategic work.

At one time in my 12 years, for a short time period, I served as the Minister of Health and Social Services. I travelled to the communities. I wanted to go to the communities and talk to the staff. So I went to the first community I arrived in, in a small community. I talked to a nurse, and I asked the nurse what she thought. What she thought was the greatest cost driver in the system, and it's in all of the system. I know that aging people are a great cost driver, and the Minister knows that, and everything, but something that can be prevented. She said it was alcohol. She said, in her community, there is a tremendous amount of money paid out in overtime to the staff, and a lot of money just paid out shipping individuals, medevacing people, sending people on medical travel, and so on, because of alcohol.

I thought, well, maybe we need to start working on alcohol and start to prevent people from it, and talking about alcohol, and discussing it and being open about it, and not being afraid to confront it. Not being afraid to say, "Your main issue in your community is alcohol." That's what we have to do, Mr. Speaker. We need to be upfront and say, "This is your issue, and people have to do something about that." That's hard work, and that's going to be something, I'm sure, that our government is working towards, and has made strides, Mr. Speaker.

Some of the contracts that our Minister was able to negotiate in other jurisdictions are good. The treatment facilities that we have contracts with are very good. I think there are more treatment facilities that we could sign up with; well, we can't sign up with every one, so once we've picked them, are good, but to try to prevent people from going there, I think, is very important.

I always felt that early childhood development was the greatest investment that anyone could make anywhere. One time, I went to Saskatoon, and we were at a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder conference. I was talking to some of the people there, I guess the practitioners that were in there, and it was universally accepted knowledge, across our country, anyway, that spending on early childhood development had returns of 7:1 and as high as 10:1, depending on what happens. I know that's long-term. It's difficult for a government that is in place for four years to begin the process to put lots of emphasis on early childhood development so that kid who is entering kindergarten ends up graduating, increasing the opportunities and the chance for that individual to graduate. For the individual who graduates compared to one who doesn't graduate, the opportunities for employment go up by 25 percent; and that's only grade 12. You can't get higher education if you don't have grade 12.

So that becomes, basically, the most important job, the most important function, was to get the individuals into early childhood development; make sure you start at junior kindergarten; make sure you start prior to junior kindergarten; going back to prenatal spending, and so on, to be able to, at the end of the day, 12 years later, as long as I've been in the House, when I entered the House, the kids who were going into grade one have just graduated last June. So, had we had that type of thing in place and a heavier emphasis on spending the money on them when they were first entering school, spending the money on them before they enter school, before they hit junior kindergarten, we would see the results today, huge results, but our graduation rates have not gone up significantly, and that is something that we need to start working on.

If I have a message for the next Assembly at all, it would be that we need to start working on early childhood development so that the money we spent on those individuals who graduate, who go on to higher education, the return on that is 10:1.

For me, I say that could be one of the most important work that we have. There are huge economic spin-offs, just to the spending of early childhood dollars. When we go to spend money on early childhood, then we have, again, some economic spin-offs like we would if we were spending money on the NWT Housing or on housing, period.

I would like to talk a bit about employment, like I said. I talked about employment a lot in the House. Over my 12 years, that may be one of the topics I spoke most of, was employment, because it is so important. We put it in our mandate this time around to say we are going to put an emphasis on an area which needs employment the most. That is small communities.

I have often said that all boats shall rise. I have used that term in the House. All boats shall rise. When you start putting money in small communities, you see the impacts in the regional centres. Then you see the impacts in Yellowknife. I have seen that. I have seen the community of Lutselk'e. Many times, I have been in Lutselk'e. I have gone there by snowmobile many times. When you see what is going on in the community, when the area around Lutselk'e is packed with skidoo tracks, the spin-off is felt here in Yellowknife. People here in Yellowknife are selling snowmobiles to those people. People here in Yellowknife are selling boats and kickers to the people of Lutselk'e when there are jobs there. When there is employment in Lutselk'e, the whole NWT benefits fiscally. Our government benefits fiscally, as well.

Employment in all areas, housing, we have a small community employment support program that we have put together, I think, over the last six years. Maybe there is a bit of money there. Then this government has put more money into it, and more money is needed in that area.

I would like to talk a bit about the Home Care Program. When the federal government was elected, one of the things the Liberal government did was they paid particular attention to homecare. It was interesting that people who looked at this and thought, "Well, what is that? We are putting money into homecare?" People don't realize the huge spin-off benefits of homecare along with the Housing Corporation introducing aging in place, which there is not enough money in there to keep people in their homes. At some point, there are programs that can do that.

I had always said that, as soon as the federal government started talking about the Home Care Program, I thought, "Yes. These guys are going in the right direction." I think we should put, as a government, our government, more money into homecare to prevent people from going into long-term care. I know that the government has looked at long-term care and has factored in homecare, but not enough. There is not enough of a factor going into homecare.

For every individual, even if it is a couple, who goes into long-term care, it costs the government, it costs the long-term care facility $140,000. I use the number $140,000. It could be up from that by now. I just use the $140,000 all the time just to emphasize that, if a couple went from their home and they are forced into long-term care because they don't have homecare services and the home is not equipped for them, they haven't made it barrier-free so individuals had to go in there, then, over 10 years, our government will spend $2.8 million in housing those two individuals. It will cost a small fraction of that to keep them in their homes.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to just touch a bit on another economy that is going to go hand-in-hand with something that is going on this week. That is the opening of the national park, Thaidene Nene. In the Thaidene Nene National Park, it is not just the Parks Canada, it is also the GNWT. The GNWT took its tools and attached sections of land on to Thaidene Nene, and the GNWT passed a Protected Areas Act. Working with the Protected Areas Act, Parks Canada, and everything, I think there is a huge opportunity for conservation economy. A conservation economy is a good, clean economy that the people of a small community can do, the people of small communities love.

We have Canadian rangers in almost all of our communities. We have some Guardians in Deh Cho. I believe we have some Guardians in Sahtu. I am not 100 percent sure about that, Mr. Speaker. I do know we have Guardians in Thaidene Nene, called Nihat'Ni People. When you apply a socio-economic model to the spending that goes to employing the Nihat'Ni Dene, the socio-economic model set the return to 2.5:1 right now on the social spending. For every dollar that you spend on Nihat'Ni Dene people, you are returning $2.50 in social spending. To me, it doesn't make any sense not to support that.

It doesn't make any sense for us not to go the Government of Canada and talk about the money they put into a conservation economy. They put $1.3 billion into a budget on a conservation economy. The very first time this was announced, there was, I think, $500 million put in the first year. Of that, $25 million was carved out, given to the Guardians in the National Guardian Network of Indigenous Network. That money was put there to develop a plan for Guardians all over the country. Those Guardians are very important to people. They are very important to the land, very important to industry. It has tremendous economic spin-off factors.

It also has an opportunity to allow industry to work with the Guardians and work with the communities in order for them to continue to provide some economic benefits to the Northwest Territories as is the settlement to the claim or the lands and resources agreement with Dehcho and Akaitcho. We have had people tell us here from the Chamber that to settle the Akaitcho claim would be worth $100 million to the economy right now, just in this area. I know the government has worked hard to try to get the claim settled. I am not saying that it is an easy job. I am say that is an important job, and it is an essential job. Not an easy job but an essential job to be able to work on signing that agreement and getting the resources agreement signed with Akaitcho, with Dehcho, and move on to allow the people of Deh Cho and Akaitcho to work with industry, to be able to have the NWT benefit from it.

Our biggest economy right now appears to be the diamond mines. They have a life. They have a finite life. There is talk about maybe 15 years, maybe 10 years, 20 years. At some point, they will stop producing. At some point, that economy will go down to virtually no economy at all in the diamond industry. Unless there are tremendous fines and so on, that is probably going to disappear. However, there are other opportunities in there, and one of the big ones is the conservation economy. There are a couple of other mines that would likely open up.

Some of us don't support the huge infrastructure, like highways and so on. I support highways. I have talked about that. I don't talk about it in the House, and I don't talk about it, because I need to discuss that with the leadership. It is something that is in the future.

For me, even the management of caribou, when we build an all-season road through the Slave Geological, we have often talked about that. What will happen? How will we manage the caribou? Well, the people up in the Beaufort Delta know that it is a lot easier to manage the migrating caribou herds on the all-season road. There's no question. You could close down the road, because there are no pressures to have one vehicle hauling to the diamond mines every 10 minutes in the wintertime during the short window, and if that is the time when the caribou are crossing, too bad. They have to go. If they don't go, they are not able to get their supplies and their fuel in there.

If you had an all-season road, which already would have shown some economic spinoffs, it's not as great as putting money into housing, but it also has some huge economic spinoffs, and it is also is very good for the caribou. Once the road is built, if the caribou are crossing, the people that built the road, our government, could close the road. We can close the road when the caribou are moving to their calving grounds, and we can close the road when the caribou are coming back. That would be less disruptive than having a vehicle on the winter road every 10 minutes for as long as the mines exist, and there may be more mines.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to just talk a bit about some of the work that I have done, and I would like to maybe send a message to somebody that may be the next MLA from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, because it's not going to be me, Mr. Speaker. Capital projects are very important to our people in small communities, infrastructure going into our small communities. In Fort Resolution 12 years ago, when I started, I was going down the highway, and I brought my two children with me. They weren't children, but they were young. They were teenagers at that time, 12 years ago. My kids are both adults now, but they were teenagers then. I asked them a question: "What do you think is needed?" My daughter, who had been in school in the south, said, "You know, Dad, I found something really interesting, and it was the youth centres." She said, "Youth centres and programs at youth centres seem to be really well-utilized by individuals." One of the first things that I started working on was to construct a youth centre in Lutselk'e, and we have one now, and we have a highway.

In my very first Member's statement, standing up in this House, I talked about the highway that goes into Fort Resolution. At that time, I think I may have referred to that highway as a "goat trail." I was probably overly critical. However, it was a highway that was built by the army. The army hasn't been around for a while, and they pushed the trees down and put some dirt and gravel on it and started driving on top of it. As the trees rotted, that highway was full of holes, but now, Highway No. 6 is paved or chipsealed, right from the beginning to the very end, into the community.

It was interesting, because one day, I went to see this guy. He doesn't like too many visitors. He's a busy guy. He works. He's an elder. He can do all kinds of things. He's an amazing man. I went to see him, and as I walked in the door, he was busy making something on metal. He stopped, and he said, "If you're here to campaign, you don't have to campaign in this house." He said, "All you have to do is make sure that this community has a highway, a good highway, so that we don't have to buy new vehicles every couple of years, bouncing over that road."

Mr. Speaker, I know that your riding has a rough highway. A lot of people damage their vehicles going between here and Behchoko. It's just the nature of the beast. In Fort Resolution, we were able to resolve that issue. That rough road is now a beautiful highway. I spoke to an old friend of my mine from Fort Smith. I met him in Fort Providence, and he said to me, "You should be proud of what happened going into Fort Resolution." He said, "That highway is like a superhighway." If you've driven it, especially when it was first done, it was beautiful. Now some of the growth has come back, but it's a beautiful highway into the community.

We came that close to having our highway chipsealed all the way before Fort Smith. I find that funny because Fort Smith was the first capital of the Northwest Territories. Maybe Fort Resolution was the first capital of the Northwest Territories if you go back far enough, Mr. Speaker, but in any event, Fort Smith is a big community. It's a regional centre, and if the parks didn't get their paving done right at the time that they did do their paving, we were half a season away from having a chipsealed road into Fort Resolution before Fort Smith. To me, that is quite an accomplishment. Fort Resolution is a small community. It's out of the way, and the highway ends there. Now we have an all-paved highway.

Mr. Speaker, in Lutselk'e, we had built a new community learning centre, but the biggest project in that community, the most important project in that community, was the school. The GNWT had the health centre as a priority, and the community had asked if we could switch the projects. Now they don't have a new health centre, but it's in the books, and it is something that is coming. I think that the government recognizes that that will be the next health centre that is replaced, but the school, it was amazing, Mr. Speaker. That school is absolutely beautiful. It went from a school that was a log school, old school, issues in the school, to something that was a beautiful school. There is a beautiful adult learning centre, brand new, in Lutselk'e.

That's one thing that I worked on all the way through, and that was because I spoke to an elder who I eulogized here this week, the late Edward Catholique, and he said to me, "Tom, we slashed that road. We slashed that road to Austin Lake many years ago." It was only 50 years ago, you know. I guess, at the same time, they started talking about Thaidene Nene. They were going to build roads into Thaidene Nene, as well, and they slashed that road all the way in. He was a young man. He was working on that, he indicated to me. He said, "That is very important." I talk about Austin Lake Road all the time in the House, because I felt it was very important to the people.

Yesterday, while we were in Lutselk'e, a guy walked up to me and said, "Tom, I'm working on Austin Lake Road. I have equipment on the Austin Lake Road, and that's where I am working right now, and we are going to continue to work on Austin Lake Road until we have an all-season road in there."

Getting back to Elder Edward, he told me, "Build that road, because that road connects the lakes to the east. It's fantastic for us to be able to go over there, pull our boats or our snowmobiles over there and start there to hunt caribou. It also connects us to the west where there's lots of moose."

It's become very important for our traditional, the hunting and so on. Even people who are still trapping, they use that road. That road's continuing. I thank the government for that. Each year, this government has put a couple of hundred thousand dollars into that road. I made a request, and they supported it. It's going to continue, and I'm very pleased, and the people are very pleased. I say, thank you. Thank you from the people of Lutselk'e.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank some people. Like I said, you're here for a while, work with a lot of people. I start off by thanking the people who I worked with here, in all three terms. Every term, we have people leaving. The first time I came, I came with six new people. The second time, there were five new people elected. This time, there are 11. I spoke to a lot of different people, Mr. Speaker, in the House as MLAs and as Ministers, and I'd like to thank them.

Certainly, there have been a lot of occasions when I've just gone in to see one of the Ministers or one of the MLAs to sit down and speak because sometimes, if you don't do that, it's a pretty hard burden to carry by yourself. I have a lot of people to thank. I can't mention them all here, but those are the first people I'd like to thank, Mr. Speaker.

I'd also like to thank people who I work with at the community level, and I'm going to name them, Mr. Speaker, because I have the time to do it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to thank from Lutselk'e. In Lutselk'e, there's one designated government, the Dene band. When I started, the chief was Adeline Jonasson. I worked very well with her. Followed by Steve Nitah, an excellent working relationship with Steven Nitah.

The late Antoine Michel was the chief after that. Antoine was an amazing guy. He loved the land. I never quite understood why Antoine was always talking about land, land, land. "Our land," he always used to say to me. That means our land is very important to us. Until I went to Fort Reliance by boat, and I went along McLeod Bay, Mr. Speaker, it's so beautiful that you cannot watch where you're going. It's not important, anyway. It's a boat. You're in the middle of nowhere, but you can never take your eyes off the shorelines. It is so beautiful. That's Thaidene Nene. That's what Antoine always talked about.

The day before we went to Thaidene Nene celebrations in Lutselk'e, we went to Fort Resolution. They're having a service for the late chief Dora Enzo. Dora was a true leader in that community. She was young, smart, and was well-respected in that community. Now, I think maybe she was sick. That's why she did one term, and she didn't repeat. I don't know. All I know is that unfortunately, she passed away.

That was followed by Felix Lockhart, Chief Felix Flockhart. A well-respected man. I eulogized his late wife Sandra Lockhart in the House. Felix was very supportive of me, very good.

Now, they have a young chief, Darryl Marlowe. I'd like to thank all of those guys. Darryl Marlowe. Darryl was young, wasn't sure. When he got in there, it didn't take him long. It didn't take him long for him to show what a leader he is, and I know Minister McLeod talked to me about him even on our way back that he's a true leader for a young man. I'm proud of Darryl. He's a relative of mine. He's actually got many relatives in Fort Resolution. He comes from King Beaulieu clan. I don't know if it's his great, great, great, grandfather, or his great, great, great grandfather, was Joseph King Beaulieu the First.

In Fort Resolution, for my entire term as MLA, they've had one chief, and that was Louis Balsillie. Louis Balsillie has been very supportive of me. Louis Balsillie has been somebody I worked very well with. I'm very impressed with what Louis Balsillie was able to do in his community. He's one of the main, if not the main, reasons that the employment rates in Fort Resolution have gone from the mid-30s to the mid-40s in his time there. He does anything to try to find money to employ people. He's got projects all over. We've got a sidewalk from Fort Resolution to Mission Island because he thought it would be something that would be good. It takes 45 minutes to walk to Mission Island on the sidewalk. It's beautiful. As you're walking, you're along the bay of Fort Resolution, and he's got cabins, and he's got the whole of Mission Island built up to a beautiful place where you can go and you can stay there if you want. You go see the band, and you could rent one of those cabins. When he's having events, cultural events, he's got those cabins available.

The past presidents of the Fort Resolution Metis Council, I'd like to thank, starting with Garry Bailey who is now the president of the NWT Metis Government. When I first started, he was the president of the local council. Gary is quite a guy. He, often, will call. I found out when we were in Fort Resolution a couple of years ago that he doesn't call just me to make sure that we continue to do what we're supposed to do, for me to do what I'm supposed to do as an MLA to represent his community. He called an MP, even called some federal ministers. Doing his job.

After that, there's Kara King. Kara King served as the president, very good president. Had good relationships with the band, followed by Arthur Beck who now, there's Lloyd Cardinal who is the current president.

In Detah, Ndilo, I worked with those guys for only four years and, of course, there's just the one chief in Detah and the one chief in Ndilo. I'd like to thank both Chief Edward Sangris and Chief Ernest Betsina for their support.

Over the years, I've had many constituency assistants. The first constituency assistant was Joe Bailey. Joe had come here and worked, sometimes with Ministers around the Legislative Assembly, and spent some time in here working as a CA, and maybe even as an executive assistant. He came, and he taught me a lot about some of the work that goes on at that level in the Assembly, so I thank him. Followed by Edith Mack, Beverley Catholique, and Lisa Colas after this term. When I started this term, Lisa Cola was someone who was recommended to me, and she was incredible. She's very good. I knew it would be difficult for her to remain here because of her skills, and she ended up I think she's the manager of Giant Mine remediation, or something like that. Pascal Erasmus, I'd like to thank.

During the years, because I'm serving here, I always felt I could use a CA in other communities, so I have CAs in Fort Resolution and Lutselk'e, Velma Delorme and James Marlowe. In order to do all that, you have to get elected. The people who, I guess the one person who has helped me get elected two times, I was acclaimed once, but two times, was Warren Delorme. Warren Delorme had helped me tremendously. It made my life easy when I was campaigning. I had to worry about many, many things. He took care of them. I know Warren had approached me again when I was in Fort Resolution to run again. If there was one person who I would listen to, it would be him, but unfortunately, I think that it is time for other people to fill this seat.

James Marlowe, who served as my CA, helped me as a campaign person. When I got here, a couple of the guys here, Rodney Norm and Rhonda Erasmus, able to help me.

I would like to thank my family. My brothers and sister and my mother have been a tremendous support me. My mom thinks we're arguing in the House here. She asked me one time, "How come Alfred always argues with you?" I said, "He's not arguing with me, Mom. He's asking me questions." That was last government. Yes, and Alfred answered me and asked a lot of questions. She said, "Why is he arguing?" So I said, "Mom, not arguing with me," but she has been a real support for me.

I have an interesting story about her. I guess I could sit here and talk about anything that I want. I found it very interesting. This weekend, actually, my mother woke up very sick, and she was medevaced. She was actually put on a plane and medical travel, and she came here on her own. They gave her papers, and she came here. I met her at the airport and brought her to the hospital.

The work that was done by the doctors in Hay River was tremendous. The doctor here in emergency said, "We have everything we need right here." They asked the questions, sent her for a CAT scan, gave her a clean bill of health, and she stayed with me for the weekend overnight. We started talking, and I realized that what we do for our people is quite tremendous. What we do for our elders is quite tremendous.

She said something to me. I know she is not going to be happy with me, but she said, "You know, Tom, I sign my name, and I get free fuel for a whole year. That's what I do. I have to sign my name. So I sign my name, and somebody from the Housing Corporation comes over here and makes sure that my furnace is operational, my windows are good, my doors are good, and that's what happened," she said. She's signing her name more. She said that when she gets sick like that, she said, "That's what happens. Medical travel." She said, "They bring me here, I sign my name, they bring me here, and they take care of me."

She said to me, "One time, my furnace broke down. I didn't know what to do," she said. "I knew it was going to be in the thousands of dollars, so I went to the furnace people." The young man sat down with her, filled out the forms with her, and told her what was needed, when they could do it and everything, and so my mom said, "Well, I'm going to pay you half now and half when you get the job done," and the guy said, "Oh, you don't have to do that. We're going to go see the Housing Corporation, and the Housing Corporation will put a new furnace in your house. All you have to do is apply for another program." She said she signed her name, and she got a new furnace.

I thought that was pretty interesting. My mother is pretty happy with the way that the government treats her in Hay River. She is 85 years old, and she has never been treated like that by strangers before. It was always that she'd rely on our own family to help each other.

After all of this, and after all of this time, it is important, I think, to be able to not just be critical, but it's to say thank you. You know? Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Mr. Beaulieu's Reply
Replies To The Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 6374

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Thank you for your service, as well. Twelve years. You have done a lot, and you have had an impact on the whole Northwest Territories, as well. Masi for your service over the years. Replies to the Commissioner's opening address. Item 11, petitions. Item 12, reports of standing and special committees. Member for Yellowknife North.

Reports Of Standing And Special Committees
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6374

Cory Vanthuyne

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Your Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment is pleased to provide its Report on Transition Matters and commends it to the House. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Sahtu, that Committee Report 36-18(3) be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Reports Of Standing And Special Committees
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6374

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 36-18(3), Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters, is now deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Introduction

The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment is one of the standing committee of the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories charged with the consideration of matters with respect to the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources; Industry, Tourism and Investment; Lands; and Infrastructure.

The purpose of this report is twofold:

  1. To briefly highlight the work completed by the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment during the 18th Assembly; and
  2. To identify outstanding issues SCEDE's successor committee in the 19th Legislative Assembly may wish to consider.

Mandate of the Standing Committee

The mandates of the Legislative Assembly's standing committees are set out in Appendix 3 to the Rules of the Legislative Assembly. The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment is responsible for:

  • review departmental performance, including that of boards and agencies;
  • consider matters related to infrastructure;
  • consider matter related to climate change; and
  • consider any other matters referred by the House.

Work of the Standing Committee

Standing Committee by the Numbers

13 - Bills reviewed

54 - Public hearings held on bills

33 - Communities outside Yellowknife visited by Committee

108 - Motions passed at the Committee stage to amend bills

48 - Recommendations made

10 - Committee reports issued

166 - Committee meetings held

Highlights

During the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment undertook work ranging from reviewing strategic policy documents, providing comments and recommendations to departments, to reviewing proposed legislation and developing amendments for improvement, and conducting a survey to identify issues and solutions regarding public procurement.

Committee wishes to highlight the work undertaken in the following four areas:

Agriculture Strategy

Committee provided substantial recommendations and proposed actions for improvement to the drafts of the foundational document to encourage the development of an agricultural industry in the NWT, the "The Business of Food: A Food Production Plan 2017-2022," tabled in the Legislative Assembly on March 3, 2017. During 2018, the committee continued to encourage the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment to improve performance measurement planning to arrive at meaningful information on the strategy's implementation.

Fisheries

Committee made recommendations on the development of strategic policy direction to guide the revitalization of the commercial fishery on Great Slave Lake. The committee highlighted the importance of implementing a strategy that has the support of the Northwest Territories Fisherman's Federation (NWTFF) and the Tu Cho Fishers Cooperative to the fullest extent possible. The Strategy for Revitalizing the Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery and its 25 recommended actions contributed to the existing support programs for small and large commercial fish harvesters, and the revival of the Great Slave fishery.

Procurement

The Standing Committee of Economic Development and Environment contributed to strengthening the Government of the Northwest Territories' (GNWT) professional public procurement system by identifying areas that would benefit from improvement. Based on the concerns heard from Northwest Territories business owners and operators, Committee undertook a confidential survey asking businesses for their opinion on various types of procurement and their experience as vendors to the GNWT.

Considerable work needs to be done to diversify the NWT economy. The committee recognizes that, since the GNWT started procurement in the 1980s, the principal driving operation was achieving the lowest possible cost. Existing procurement policies do not fully achieve their intent and do not allow procurement practices to contribute to economic diversification or growth. We recommend that our successor committee monitor the contribution of public procurement to the NWT economy.

Based on business feedback, committee identified that several current procurement practices do not align with the intent of the GNWT's Business Incentive Policy; and that large capital projects and public-private partnership agreements are not subject to any checks or controls to ensure that the Business Incentive Policy is applied throughout project contracts.

Committee's report includes two recommendations to the GNWT: to establish an advisory panel advising on improving government's procurement processes; and to undertake a public review of all procurement policies to ensure that NWT businesses can benefit from government tenders.

Review and Improvement of Legislation

During the 18th Legislative Assembly, committee reviewed 15 legislative proposals, 13 bills, successfully moved 108 amending motions to proposed legislation, and made 31 recommendations for further improvements.

The most important aspect of legislation during this Assembly was a group of bills that was created as a result of the devolution of authorities over land, water, and resources from the Government of Canada. The GNWT introduced seven bills in the winter sitting of 2019 pertaining to land and resource management. Some of the bills updated federal legislation that was inherited by the GNWT, and passed with virtually no changes (also referred to as "mirrored") during the implementation of the 2014 Devolution Agreement, while others updated older statutes that had not been examined in many years.

The following bills were referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment for review:

  • Bill 7: An Act to Amend the Revolving Funds Act (Yellowknife Airport Revolving Fund),
  • Bill 21: An Act to Amend the NWT BDIC Act,
  • Bill 25: An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act,
  • Bill 26: An Act to Amend the Revolving Funds Act No.2 (MTS Revolving Fund),
  • Bill 27: An Act to Amend the Environmental Protection Act,
  • Bill 34: Mineral Rights Act,
  • Bill 35: Supply Chain Management Professional Designation Act,
  • Bill 36: Petroleum Resources Act,
  • Bill 37: Oil and Gas Operations Act,
  • Bill 38: Protected Areas Act,
  • Bill 39: Environmental Rights Act,
  • Bill 44: Forest Act (with drawn), and
  • Bill 46: Public Land Act.

Committee prepared a separate report on this devolution-related legislation, with recommendations for future legislative reviews on the sequencing of reviews, timing of processes and consideration of co-development of legislation in the Northwest Territories.

Transition Matters

Committee takes this opportunity to highlight ongoing and outstanding Committee business matters for consideration by our successor committee in the 19th Assembly. We provide the following suggestions in the hopes that our successor committee finds them informative.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Climate Change

During the 18th Assembly, the GNWT grappled with developing policy directives on climate change and how to implement recommendations from the 2017 Report of the Auditor General of Canada on Climate Change in the Northwest Territories. In 2018, the Standing Committee on Government Operations responded to the Auditor's report, making further recommendations for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to consider.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the government lead on climate change and developed a Climate Change Strategic Framework and a Climate Change Strategic Framework Action Plan. Committee was challenged in its review of the climate change documents and made best efforts to improve clarity and bring focus to the need of strategic oversight in the policies.

Committee critiqued both documents as being too ambitious, not addressing the Auditor General recommendations sufficiently, and not providing structure and clear leadership to other departments and within the NWT. The policy directive and action plan documents both lack identification of the relationship between climate change and energy and, therefore, Committee suggests that its successor committee give attention to this particular area and its implementation.

The policy framework and the action plan are intended to guide the GNWT through the coming five to 10 years. We recommend to our successor committee to monitor the implementation of the action plan, with particular consideration of whether the recommendations made in the Office of the Auditor General's report are being implemented successfully.

Caribou

Committee reviewed several strategic documents related to the protection and recovery of both Barren-ground and Boreal caribou. Caribou are threatened in the NWT and the GNWT has a legal obligation work collaboratively with Indigenous governments and co-management bodies to develop actions to recover the species. The Bathurst herd in particular is in a desperate state with only 8,200 animals left, a decline of 98 percent since the 1980s. Committee acknowledges the work undertaken by the department to continue monitoring caribou populations and working with others to develop plans and strategies. However, most of the efforts to date have focused on harvest restrictions, further research and, more recently, predator control. Habitat protection and a trans-boundary agreement with Nunavut for Barren-ground caribou are essential to address the caribou crisis and should be monitored carefully by our successor committee.

Knowledge Economy

In 2019, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources presented a GNWT Knowledge Action Plan (2019-2023) that proposes to implement goals established in the GNWT Knowledge Agenda: Northern Research for Northern Priorities (released in May 2017). The overall approach is to increase the government's ability to lead, conduct, influence and promote research in the territories. The GNWT Knowledge Agenda is meant to greatly contribute to, and influence, building a knowledge economy in the Northwest Territories.

We encourage our successor committee to monitor how the linkages between the Knowledge Action Plan, the knowledge economy, and increased economic opportunity are achieved.

Committee encourages the Members of its successor committee to stay apprised of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment's work on implementing the Polytechnic University and opportunities becoming available through the new Post-Secondary Education Act.

Contaminated Sites Management

The GNWT was mandated under commitment 1.3.1, to "develop an integrated comprehensive approach to the management of contaminated sites, including prioritizing, sharing of responsibility in collaboration with other governments, monitoring, and a sound financial security system to prevent public liabilities."

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources committed to establish a consistent, uniform, and cost-effective approach for the GNWT to manage contaminated sites for which the GNWT is responsible. Cross-jurisdictional reviews and other research are underway to position supporting policies.

A Waste Sites Management Committee is an intergovernmental committee created under the NWT Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement to review, discuss and consider, and provide advice and recommendations to Canada on the management of federal waste sites. The Contaminated Sites Council is an advisory body to the GNWT that provides input on traditional knowledge and improving management of contaminated sites in the NWT.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations has made recommendations to the GNWT on its management of contaminated sites, which are reported on in the public accounts. Committee recommends to its successor committee to monitor management of contaminated sites inherited from the Canadian government and observe how the GNWT will develop capacity to prevent, manage, remediate and pay for contaminated sites.

Northwest Territories Power Corporation

In the past, the Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) committed to providing committee with the corporation's capital plans upon finalization. Committee includes the NTPC in this report, because of the impact its operations can have on the mandate areas of this committee such as infrastructure, energy and climate change. The NTPC has begun preparing a 20 year strategic plan to align the GNWT's energy and climate change policy frameworks and create a large-scale capital program increasing capital spending. In light of the NTPC's operating in a continued deficit and having to replace aging infrastructure throughout the NWT, committee recommends that its successor committee in the 19th Assembly, offer review of NTPC capital plans and strategic documents.

Our successor committee may consider ways in which to discuss climate change in the context of NTPC and its mandate. A structural, organizational and operational review of the NTPC was identified as needed by committee. We therefore recommend to our successor committee to encourage this government corporation to undertake a comprehensive organizational renewal with the goal to enable application of technology innovations, consideration of potential partnerships and strategies to avoid rate increases for the end-users, and build energy self-sufficiency.

Committee noted that the Minister's decision to replace the corporation's independent board of directors with deputy ministers impacts the independence of the board and potentially impairs the public oversight of the corporation.

Department of Lands

Land Use Sustainability

Using the Land Use Sustainability Framework (LUSF) to be clear and transparent was one of the Department's mandate points (1.3.1) for the 18th Assembly. The commitment was not completed. The Committee encourages our successor committee to review and monitor progress on implementation of the LUSF.

Contaminated Sites Management

The committee encourages our successors to monitor further improvement of the Public Land Act, and to ensure that mandatory financial security is consistently applied. We recommend to review how securities are determined and formulas are applied; and to determine collaborative efforts with other departments in establishing a financial security system within the GNWT.

The GNWT is member of the Waste Sites Management Committee and receives advice from the Contaminated Sites Council; both operate in collaboration with the Departments of Lands; Industry, Tourism and Investment; and Environment and Natural Resources. Committee encourages its successor committee to monitor the efficiency of the activities in the management of inherited contaminated sites and in preventing public liabilities.

Department of Infrastructure

Oversight on Infrastructure Projects

The GNWT has identified four large infrastructure projects that incoming members may wish to observe. In particular, the committee encourages its successor committee to monitor the level of oversight and public reporting that is applied to large infrastructure projects.

Carry-overs

Committee has identified as a challenge that large amounts of funding for departmental infrastructure projects have been left unspent repeatedly, and as a consequence required transfer into the next year. While this type of budget procedure is common in public government, the continued use of this type of capital carry-over results in the accumulation of large amounts being moved from one fiscal year to the next, creating potential challenges in the allocation and efficiency of expenditure. Committee recommends to its successor committee to monitor capital carry-overs for potential consequences such as lack of capacity to execute a large number of projects, and potential loss of policy control.

Marine Transportation Services

Past experiences of unreliable service delivery have caused budget overruns and delays in delivery to remote communities depending on essential goods to be shipped. The GNWT purchased NTCL's assets after bankruptcy for $7.5 million in December 2016. This purchase stemmed from the recognition of the essential services provided to remote communities, and the fact that NTCL's biggest customer was the Petroleum Products Division (Department of Infrastructure). The GNWT created the Marine Transportation Services Division to operate the services.

Committee encourages our successor committee to monitor financial performance and projections of the Marine Transportation Service, and consider reviewing governance and operational structure with the goal to avoid financial inefficiencies, improve reliability of operations, and minimize disruption of private market operators.

Procurement Policies and Process

Committee's report based on feedback by NWT businesses revealed inconsistencies and contradictions in the public procurement system. We recommend to our successor committee to consider the report recommendations for creation of an independent review panel to advise the GNWT on how to improve procurement processes, remove contradictions between policy direction and administration of contracts and ensure that all tender types, including Public-Private Partnership agreements and contracts, comply with the GNWT's policy directives.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Oversight on Policy Implementation

The 18th Assembly required preparation of several high-level policy directives. Committee encourages our successor committee to investigate and monitor how the Department maintains oversight in the implementation of the Northwest Territories Manufacturing Strategy and the Commercial Fisheries Revitalizing Strategy. Both policy directives are critical to growing and maintaining a healthy NWT economy and their successful implementation will require monitoring and continuous feedback with the respective industry and businesses.

The Northwest Territories Arts Strategy 2020-2030 is a most recent strategy led by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, and implemented in collaboration with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment. The strategy is ambitious, overarching and will require coordination and support from both Departments. We encourage our successor committee to monitor and encourage the continuing collaboration between the departments in the implementation of the strategy.

Mining Fiscal Regime Review

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, in partnership with the Department of Finance, is coordinating the valuation of minerals mined in the NWT and the receipt of payments and reporting on royalties. The department has indicated that while a royalty review was not part of the legislative initiative of proposing the Mineral Resources Act, the new legislation will set the stage for a detailed fiscal review. Reviewing mining royalties would include review of a multitude of taxes, including the new Carbon Tax. Committee has maintained that such a comprehensive review be undertaken by independent third party expertise, rather than by departments of the GNWT.

Committee encourages our successor committee to monitor the completion of a mining fiscal regime review, amendments to the Mining Regulations and ensure public engagement in the process.

Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC)

The BDIC's funding flows through the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and not directly to the corporation. Concerns about the effectiveness of the organization remain and we recommend to our successor committee to consider a foundational review of the BDIC's strategic mandate and governance.

Despite past reviews such as a 2015 report, and a more recent 2019 review of the past five years of BDIC operation, this committee has not been left with the confidence that the department nor the corporation have undertaken serious efforts to understand if the organization meets its goals and purposes.

Statutory Reviews

Several pieces of Northwest Territories legislation require a review at certain points in time after the act has come into force. The following three acts contain requirements for review to be undertaken during the 19th Assembly, and may find consideration of our successor committee.

The Wildlife Act requires review as per section 171, within five years after coming into force and no later than seven years after the previous review. This provision requires the review to be carried out before November 2019.

The Species at Risk Act requires review according to section 147, 10 years after coming into force. This places the review to be completed by February 2020.

The Northwest Territories Heritage Fund Act, according to section 10, requires review of the provisions and operation of the act at the first session following the expiry of ten years after the coming into force of the act. This would require review in the first session after August 1, 2022.

Conclusion

This concludes the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters. Members respectfully suggest that the members of our successor committee consider requesting updates on the above matters from committee staff and from the appropriate Ministers in the 19th Assembly, and wish them the utmost success in their service to the people of the Northwest Territories.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Yellowknife North.

Cory Vanthuyne

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Sahtu, that Committee Report 36-18(3), Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters, be received and adopted by the Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 36-18(3), Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters, is received and adopted by this Assembly. Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Kam Lake.

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, your Standing Committee on Government Operations is pleased to provide its record on transition matters and commends it to the House. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River North, that Committee Report 37-18(3) be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 37-18(3), Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on Transition Matters, is now deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Introduction

The Standing Committee on Government Operations (SCOGO) is one of the standing committees of the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories charged with the responsibility of providing oversight over the ongoing business operations of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

The purpose of this report is twofold:

  1. To briefly highlight the work completed by the Standing Committee on Government Operations during the 18th Assembly; and
  2. To identify outstanding issues that will require consideration by SCOGO's successor committee in the 19th Legislative Assembly.

Mandate of the Standing Committee

The mandates of the Legislative Assembly's standing committees are set out in Appendix 3 to the Rules of the Legislative Assembly. The Standing Committee on Government Operations is responsible for:

  • Reviewing the departmental performance, budgets, and multi-year business plans of the departments of Executive and Indigenous Affairs, Finance, and Municipal and Community Affairs, and their boards and agencies;
  • Considering legislative proposals and bills sponsored by these departments;
  • Undertaking a statutory review of the Official Languages Act once every five years, as required under section 35 of the act;
  • Reviewing the annual and special reports of the statutory officers of the Legislative Assembly, including the Languages Commissioner, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the Equal Pay Commissioner, and the Human Rights Commission;
  • Examining the annual public accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the annual reports of the Auditor General submitted to the Legislative Assembly; and
  • Considering any other matter referred by the House.

Work of the Standing Committee

SCOGO by the Numbers

186 - Number of meetings held

29 - Number of bills or reports reviewed

56 - Number of public hearings held

19 - Number of communities outside Yellowknife visited by committee

82 - Number of motions passed at the committee stage to amend bills

73 - Number of recommendations made

19 - Number of committee reports issued

Highlights

During the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Standing Committee on Government Operations undertook work ranging from the review of the Auditor General's annual reports to the Legislative Assembly and the annual review of the GNWT's Public Accounts, to the review of a number of significant pieces of legislation.

Committee wishes to highlight the work completed in the following four areas:

Renewed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Legislation

According to the mandates of the Standing Committees, as agreed to by the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Standing Committee on Government Operations, which reviews the annual reports of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC), has a working relationship with the Information and Privacy Commissioner. This provides Committee with the opportunity to become familiar with the workings of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) Act and aware of the issues that surround the administration of the legislation. For this reason, although the Standing Committee on Social Development has oversight for the Department of Justice and normally reviews bills sponsored by the Minister of Justice, Bill 29: An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, was referred to SCOGO for review.

Committee put a great deal of work into the review of Bill 29, including undertaking a jurisdictional review of the operation of access and privacy legislation in other provinces and territories, to better understand their legislation and how it compares with the Northwest Territories'. Committee also received a comprehensive submission from the Information and Privacy Commissioner for the Northwest Territories, Ms. Elaine Keenan Bengts. Committee again thanks the Commissioner for her input, which was vital in assisting the committee to determine how it wished to amend Bill 29.

Committee's report on the review of Bill 29 was delivered in the Legislative Assembly on May 28, 2019 and is available on the Assembly's website. Committee moved 25 motions to amend Bill 29, all of which were concurred with by the Honourable Louis Sebert, Minister of Justice. Committee encourages all interested members of the public and the incoming Members of its successor committee in the 19th Assembly to review the Committee's findings and recommendations.

One of the most notable changes to Bill 29 made at the committee stage was to significantly strengthen the powers of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. For the 20-plus years that ATIPP legislation has been in force in the Northwest Territories, the IPC has operated in a manner akin to an Ombud, with powers to investigate complaints and to make non-binding recommendations to government. As the act was originally conceived, a person who is unhappy with a government decision related to an access request may appeal to the IPC. Once the IPC has ruled on the matter and made a recommendation to government, should the applicant be unhappy with the GNWT's response, the only remaining recourse would be for the applicant to file an appeal with the NWT Supreme Court. This is an expensive and daunting last resort for most people.

Once the new act comes into force, the IPC will have order-making power, as do the Information and Privacy Commissioners in Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. This power will make the IPC's recommendations mandatory for GNWT departments, boards, and agencies and will give the public body in question 40 days to comply. The revised act also includes a new section, similar to that found in the Northwest Territories' Health Information Act, making it mandatory for a public body to notify affected parties whenever there is a breach of privacy respecting personal information held by the public body. The act also provides for municipalities to become subject to the requirements of the ATIPP Act once they are prescribed in regulations.

Cannabis Legislation

In April 2017, the federal government introduced Bill C-45 and Bill C-46 to legalize cannabis in Canada. This required the Government of the Northwest Territories, like other provinces and territories across Canada, to introduce legislation to govern the control, administration, sale and consumption of cannabis within its borders. Bill 6 -the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act proposed two new laws in the Northwest Territories for cannabis control: the Cannabis Products Act, administered by the Department of Finance, sets out authorities for the transportation, distribution, possession, importation and sale of cannabis; and the Cannabis Smoking Control Act, administered by the Department of Health and Social Services provides the authority for the Cannabis Smoking Control Regulations, which set out where cannabis may be legally consumed. These regulations also provide for signage by vendors advising of risks related to cannabis use, and allow for the inspection of cannabis stores or other places where cannabis may be being sold or consumed. To address drug-impaired driving, Bill 6 also proposed amendments to current provisions of the territorial Motor Vehicles Act.

Because Bill 6 was an omnibus bill, creating two new acts and proposing to amend an existing one, it was sponsored by the Minister of Justice. In this instance, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and the Standing Committee on Social Development agreed to establish a joint committee for the purpose of reviewing Bill 6. This collaborative approach worked well in this instance, as it allowed a larger pool of Members to participate in consultations on the bill, which in turn enabled the joint committee to travel to more communities than would have been the case had the bill been reviewed solely by the Standing Committee on Social Development. Collectively, the joint committee visited and held public hearings in 16 communities and visited six secondary schools.

The joint committee moved 22 motions to amend Bill 6 and made eight recommendations to government related to cannabis legalization. The committees' work was responsible for ensuring that cannabis legislation in the Northwest Territories provides for the sale of cannabis by private vendors, not just through the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission. The committees' work also ensured that Bill 6 was amended to ensure a one-time review of territorial cannabis legislation, to take place within one year after the start of the 19th Legislative Assembly.

Renewed Human Rights Legislation

Just as SCOGO has a relationship with the Information and Privacy Commissioner, committee also has a relationship with the Human Rights Commission, which is also a statutory office of the Legislative Assembly.

In 2014, to recognize the 10th year of human rights legislation in the Northwest Territories, the Human Rights Commission contracted an independent review of the Human Rights Act, conducted by a panel of three experts in the field of human rights. One of the key recommendations coming from this review was that the Human Rights Commission move from an adversarial approach to one that is restorative in nature. The review informed subsequent discussions between the Department of Justice and the Human Right Commission, which culminated in the introduction of Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, which was sponsored by the Minister of Justice.

In its report on the review of Bill 30, Committee recommended that the Human Rights Commission develop an evaluation framework for assessing the efficacy of moving to a restorative process, which includes in its methodology a gender-based analysis and an assessment of the impacts on Indigenous people. Committee further recommended that the findings of this review be tabled in the Legislative Assembly in the first sitting following April 1, 2021, at which time the amendments to the Human Rights Act made by Bill 30 will be fully implemented.

During the clause-by-clause review of Bill 30, on March 7, 2019, committee moved eight motions to amend the bill, of which Minister Sebert concurred with seven. The motion the Minister declined to concur with was a motion to add genetic characteristics to the list prohibited grounds of discrimination under the act.

Committee supported the inclusion of genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination, noting that it was a recommendation made by the NWT Human Rights Commission to the Department of Justice when it was developing the bill. Committee learned through its own research that discrimination on the basis of genetic characteristics is prohibited under the federal Human Rights Act, and that Canada was the last G7 country to add genetic characteristics to its list of prohibited grounds when federal Bill S-201 received assent on May 4, 2017.

Committee understands that the Minister's reluctance to concur with this proposal was based, in large part, on a letter the Department of Justice solicited from the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. This led to what could arguably be characterized as one of the most important and least reported debates to take place in the Legislative Assembly in recent memory. In Committee of the Whole, the chair of the committee again moved the motion to include genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the NWT Human Rights Act. This motion was defeated by a vote of nine to seven. The Chair also tabled documents, supporting Committee's position, which interested members of the public and Members of SCOGO's successor committee are encouraged to read.

When Committee toured on Bill 30, it heard unanimous support from members of the public for the inclusion of genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Human Rights Act. Committee was disappointed not to have the Minister's concurrence with this proposed amendment, but does not believe that it signifies the end of this debate. Committee encourages incoming Members of the 19th Legislative Assembly to continue to keep apprised of legal developments related to genetic non-discrimination.

Establishment of the Office of the Ombud for the Northwest Territories

At the start of the 18th Assembly, committee members were aware that SCOGO's predecessor committee had tabled a report in the 17th Assembly supporting the appointment of an Ombud as an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly, with a mandate to investigate complaints about the administrative fairness of the Government of the Northwest Territories' operations and practices.

Committee believes that ensuring the public has access to an independent office, to provide assistance to citizens who feel they have not been treated fairly by government, is an important element of an open, transparent and accountable territorial government. Committee, therefore, acknowledges the Government of the Northwest Territories for including this initiative in its mandate and for meeting its commitment to bring forward legislation governing the Ombud's work.

Committee is pleased to have played a part in the establishment of the first Office of the Ombud for the Northwest Territories by reviewing this draft legislation, Bill 20, which was introduced by the Minister Responsible for Public Engagement and Transparency. Committee held public hearings on Bill 20 in Inuvik, Norman Wells, Fort Resolution, Hay River, Behchoko, Ndilo, and Yellowknife, and subsequently moved 19 motions to amend Bill 20. Sixteen of these motions were passed with the concurrence of the Minister.

Committee congratulates Ms. Colette Langlois on her appointment by the Legislative Assembly as the first NWT Ombud and wishes her well as she takes on her new role.

Transition Matters

SCOGO Public Hearings on Reports of the Auditor General

At present, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada undertakes one compliance audit per year of the Government of the Northwest Territories, which assesses the performance of the audited department with respect to the administration of the existing legislative and policy framework for which it is responsible. It has been the mandate of SCOGO to review the Auditor General's report and to hold a public hearing with the deputy minister of the affected department, as her or she is the most senior official responsible for departmental administration. It has been the mandate of the standing committee which has oversight responsibility for the affected department to carry out any subsequent, follow-up reviews.

Any department that is called to appear before SCOGO as a result of a compliance audit by the OAG, should be prepared to provide the standing committee with a draft of its action plan in response to the audit, so that the standing committee may have input into this plan before it is finalized.

The Legislative Assembly has in place a process convention for communication between Cabinet Ministers, standing committees, and Regular Members, requiring that all presentation decks and briefing materials be provided to the appropriate standing committee at least three days prior to the scheduled date of delivery. Despite this, for the last three reviews SCOGO has not received the department's action plan in response to the audit within the time allowed by the process convention, which has limited the committee's ability to have meaningful input into the plan.

For future hearings, committee recommends that its successor committee reach out to the audited department at the earliest possible opportunity to set out its expectations with respect to the public hearing.

It should be further noted that the Special Committee on Transition Matters has considered the establishment of a public accounts committee in the 19th Legislative Assembly. Committee endorses this proposal, which will result in significant change to this committee's mandate, as the review of all reports of the Auditor General would become the purview of the Public Accounts Committee, along with the annual review of the GNWT's public accounts.

ATIPP Implementation

As previously noted, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was amended in the 18th Legislative Assembly to allow for municipalities noted in the regulations, to be subject to the requirements of the act. The committee supported the inclusion of municipalities under ATIPP, which the IPC has long called for, but recognizes that there is considerable trepidation on the part of municipal governments about what this entails. Committee supported designating affected municipalities in the regulations, because this mechanism allows for municipalities to be phased in after a period of time to allow for preparation.

Considerable work needs to be done with respect to the implementation of ATIPP for municipal governments. The committee made the following recommendations to help guide this implementation:

  • That the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, working with the Department of Justice, develop a detailed and costed plan to guide the implementation of ATIPP for municipalities.
  • That the plan identify: i) time lines for the inclusion of different categories of municipalities in the ATIPP Regulations; ii) the resources needed by each municipal government to comply with ATIPP, to ensure adequate funding for initial implementation and ongoing operational requirements; along with iii) any other significant considerations as determined through consultation on development of the plan; and
  • That, before being finalized, the plan be provided in draft so that input may be obtained from: the appropriate standing committee; the NWT Association of Communities; and the local government administrators of the Northwest Territories.

Committee encourages its successor committee to watch for this draft plan and to follow up with the Departments of Justice and Municipal and Community Affairs on its progress.

Statutory Review of the Official Languages Act

Section 35(1) of the Official Languages Act requires that "the Legislative Assembly or a committee of the Legislative Assembly designated or established by it shall review the provisions and operation of the Official Languages Act at the next session following December 31, 2007, and subsequently at the next session following each successive fifth anniversary of that date."

The 17th Assembly Standing Committee on Government Operations completed a review of the Official Languages Act in 2014. The next review should commence during the first full session of the 19th Legislative Assembly. The standing committee has a great deal of latitude as to how such a review is structured. Committee encourages the Members of its successor committee to look at the past recommendations of the Languages Commissioner and to engage her early in the process to seek her advice on setting out a process for the review.

911 Emergency Service Implementation

When Committee reviewed Bill 31, Northwest Territories 911 Act, committee was concerned that, through no fault of its own, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs could not, at the time, access all of the information necessary to fully assess the potential monthly costs to residents for this service. This is because certain proprietary information would not be developed by NorthwesTel until the company had the certainty of 911 legislation. It was also because CRTC hearings had yet to take place to determine charges that NorthwesTel could levy for the use of its equipment in the delivery of 911.

To address this concern, committee amended the bill to include a limit setting the monthly cost recovery fee at no more than $1.70 per month per phone, for the first three years after the bill comes into force.

Committee encourages the Members of its successor committee to stay apprised of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs' work on the implementation of 911 emergency service in the Northwest Territories, particularly as it pertains to the amount of the CRTC approved levy and the cost-recovery fee set by the GNWT, as based on actual operational data.

Heritage Fund Act

In its mandate, the GNWT committed to "review and develop amendments to the Northwest Territories Heritage Fund Act in light of devolution to ensure a defined revenue stream and stronger public governance." This is a mandate commitment is one that the GNWT failed to complete in the 18th Legislative Assembly.

The purpose of this commitment, which regular Members requested be included in the mandate, was to ensure the act is amended to incorporate a legal commitment with respect to the amount of revenue that the GNWT is required to set aside annually from resource revenues. With respect to putting aside resource revenues for future generations, the only commitment in place right now is one that was made by the Finance Minister in the 17th Assembly that 25 percent of the net fiscal benefit from resource revenues would be deposited in the Heritage Fund. Regular Members wanted to see this commitment entrenched in the act that governs the fund.

Members also wanted to see the act amended to address the governance of the fund which, at present time, is administered by the Department of Finance.

Small Business Tax Relief

This is another mandate commitment that the GNWT failed to meet, which has been a source of frustration for Committee members. After promising the committee a copy of a paper on small business tax filers for more than a year, committee learned through the business planning process that this paper had been completed and the Department of Finance had come to the conclusion that there would be no tax relief measures for small businesses. When Finance engaged with committee on the carbon tax, committee again asked for special measures for small business, to no avail. The deputy chair of the committee even introduced a private Member's bill, Bill 49, Small Business Tax Relief Act, in the hopes of introducing measures to make things easier for small business owners in the Northwest Territories. When the Member moved that the bill be given first reading, the committee chair seconded the motion, which was subsequently defeated.

Conclusion

This concludes the Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on Transition Matters. Members respectfully suggest that the Members of our successor committee consider requesting updates on the above matters from committee staff and from the appropriate Ministers in the 19th Assembly, and wish them the utmost success in fulfilling their mandate.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Kam Lake.

Committee Report 37-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

August 22nd, 2019

Page 6384

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River North, that Committee Report 37-18(3), Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on Transition Matters, be received and adopted by the Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 37-18(3), Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on Transition Matters, is now received and adopted by this Assembly. Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Nahendeh.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Your Standing Committee on Social Development is pleased to provide its Report on Transition Matters and commends it to the House. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre, that Committee Report 38-18(3) be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 38-18(3), Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Transition Matters, is now deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Introduction

The Standing Committee on Social Development (SCOSD) is one of the standing committees of the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories charged with the responsibility of providing oversight for the ongoing business operations of the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).

The purpose of this report is twofold:

  1. To briefly highlight the work completed by SCOSD during the 18th Assembly; and
  2. To identify outstanding issues that may require consideration by SCOSD's successor committee in the 19th Legislative Assembly.

Mandate of the Standing Committee

The mandates of the Legislative Assembly's standing committees are set out in Appendix 3 to the Rules of the Legislative Assembly. SCOSD is responsible for the following matters with respect to the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of Justice and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation:

  • reviewing multi-year business plans and budgets, bills, boards and agencies, including the Status of Women Council and programs for seniors, youth and persons with disabilities;
  • reviewing departmental performance, including that of boards and agencies;
  • considering issues related to homelessness; and
  • considering any other matter referred by the House.

Work of the Standing Committee

SCOSD by the Numbers

23 - Number of bills or reports reviewed

55 - Number of public hearings held

22 - Number of communities outside Yellowknife visited by Committee

78 - Number of motions passed at the Committee stage to amend bills

6 - Number of Committee reports issued

197 - Number of Committee meetings

Highlights

During the 18th Assembly, SCOSD undertook work ranging from the review of departments' budgets and performance and the holding of public hearings on issues of interest to residents of the Northwest Territories (NWT) to the review of legislation.

SCOSD wishes to highlight the work it has undertaken in the following three areas during the 18th Assembly:

Legislation

In the course of the 18th Assembly, SCOSD reviewed 23 bills and moved a significant number of motions and recommendations to improve these pieces of legislation. The highly collaborative effort between our committee, ministers, and our respective officials in the review and amendment of Bill 40, Bill 41, Bill 45 and Bill 48 is particularly worth highlighting. These coordinated efforts, combined with the submissions and testimony provided in the course of our reviews, resulted in statutes that received overwhelming support in the House and that better serve the residents of the NWT.

Children and Youth

The GNWT committed in the Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories 2016-2019 (Revised) (Mandate) to work towards transforming child and family services, including by conducting audits to ensure compliance with the Child and Family Services Act and developing caseload and workload measures for child protection in order to monitor and track the resources required to ensure compliance with the act. The undertaking and completion of annual compliance audits of Child and Family Services conducted by the Department of Health and Social Services were of particular interest to SCOSD, as was our oversight of any subsequent responsive actions from the department and the health authorities.

A priority of this Assembly was to make childcare available and affordable. In the Mandate, the GNWT committed to implement Right from the Start: A Framework for Early Childhood Development in the Northwest Territories, by working with stakeholders and communities to ensure the NWT has free play-based care for four-year-olds. A controversial component of the Early Childhood Development Action Plan tabled in June 2017 was the implementation of the Junior Kindergarten Program (JK). The rollout was to be accomplished by adjusting the pupil-teacher ratio just within the legislated threshold rather than infusing new money into the school system. Implementation was to take place over three years, beginning in small communities in 2014-2015, and following in the regional centers in 2015-2016 and Yellowknife in 2016-2017.

Bill 16, An Act to Amend the Education Act proposed to enshrine JK and to regulate entitlement of access for JK students, who could be as young as three years and eight months. In addition, Bill 16 also proposed to reduce the mandatory minimum for school instructional hours.

In the course of our review of Bill 16, SCOSD heard significant frustration about the proposed rollout of these significant policy changes and the bill's progress from parents and guardians, educators, school boards and education authorities, as well as childcare and early childhood education providers. Committee provided substantial recommendations to improve the approach being taken by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, including that the department review and adjust its school funding formulae to account for new JK students, report annually on implementation of the Strengthening Teacher Instructional Practices pilot project and JK, and account for after-school care in its ongoing analysis of daycare in the NWT.

After Care

The 18th Assembly prioritized the delivery of locally and culturally appropriate methods to address mental health and addictions. In the Mandate, the GNWT committed to develop a comprehensive mental health and addictions framework enhancing access to culturally appropriate programs and services to, for example, address gaps in integrated community-based services, evaluate addictions healing programs, and enhance treatment options including aftercare. The GNWT also committed to explore innovative ways to prevent and reduce crime that take into account mental health and addictions, such as culturally appropriate correctional programs.

In December 2017, Committee visited the adult residential addictions treatment facilities in British Columbia (BC) and Alberta where NWT residents attend for residential treatment as well as a unique program for offenders with addictions within BC's corrections system to better understand the options available to Northerners. The tour showed us that the current use of southern residential placements is effective, but the Department of Health and Social Services and its partners must strengthen complementary services at home if the NWT is to be adequately served. Based on our tour and study, we developed several recommendations intended to enhance territorial addictions treatment and form a critical part of the department's action plan on addictions recovery, including in relation to the need for enhancements to community-based aftercare services and for a pilot program to connect those discharged from treatment with housing opportunities.

Committee also worked in collaboration with the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice to make several important amendments to Bill 45, Corrections Act to ensure that case management initiatives and programming needs are tailored to the unique needs of our inmate population, to assist with their successful rehabilitation and community reintegration and reduce recidivism.

Transition Matters

SCOSD wishes to bring the following matters to the attention of incoming committee members:

NWT Housing Corporation

Housing

Another priority for the 18th Assembly was increasing the availability of safe, affordable housing and creating solutions for addressing homelessness. The territory's high cost of living is experienced most intensely by those residents who are homeless or unemployed. The GNWT has a long way to go to address the need for adequate and affordable housing, including commitments it made in the Mandate.

In particular, SCOSD was troubled by the significant wait lists for public housing and the challenges associated with core housing need that persist across the NWT. Market housing remains out of reach for many. Without new public housing, the housing need in our communities cannot be reduced meaningfully. There is a need for prompt and adequate investment in a community-based approach to housing in the NWT, and the need for flexibility in determining local priorities and housing initiatives. Local governments are best positioned to understand and deliver solutions for local housing needs. The development and implementation of a territorial housing strategy, including for increasing the public housing stock and addressing homelessness across the NWT may be an avenue worth pursuing by our successor committee.

The federal government's continued prioritization of on-reserve housing in its approach to Indigenous housing interests may be an ongoing concern. SCOSD has urged the NWT Housing Corporation to work cooperatively and swiftly with the Indigenous leaders of the NWT to advocate as partners for federal funding that is equitable and fair for all Indigenous communities in Canada. Federal funding for Indigenous housing should reflect the large size of the NWT's Indigenous population, our high costs of housing infrastructure and our complex and evolving governance landscape.

Committee also wishes to point out that residents may be better served if the NWT Housing Corporation were to invest less time and energy on developing new plans and policies and more time on execution of those plans and policies. Only through concrete actions will the NWT achieve real progress towards ensuring all residents have access to adequate, affordable and suitable housing.

Department of Justice / Department of Health and Social Services

Intimate Partner and Family Violence

Given the alarming rates of intimate partner and family violence in the NWT, committee recommends this issue be a high priority for the next Committee. In particular, we encourage the next committee to ensure the GNWT is working to elevate the status of all women across the NWT, and to observe the performance of the A New Day Men's Healing Program and correctional programs aimed at rehabilitating perpetrators of violence and healing their victims and communities. We also encourage the committee to advocate for improvements to victim services, particularly in light of the recommendation we made in our report on Bill 45, Corrections Act that victim services be adequately resourced to raise awareness of the program and victims issues and to ensure victims are served appropriately.

Department of Health and Social Services

Child and Family Services

SCOSD recommends the incoming committee ensure that staffing in Child and Family Services reflects the core issues identified by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada in their 2018 report, and monitor the development and implementation of caseload and workload standards to ensure compliance with the Child and Family Services Act. We recommend the incoming committee urge the department to go beyond a "holistic approach" and pursue a comprehensive approach through a pilot project aimed at achieving integrated case management within Child and Family Services.

Seniors

The GNWT committed in the Mandate to support seniors and elders to live in their own homes for as long as possible and ensure adequate supports are available for those who can no longer do so. Seniors and elders are a major growing demographic in the territory, and the GNWT must engage in thorough long-term planning to meet their needs and address the impacts that an aging population is having on our systems. New care beds will be required, and demands for homecare services will only continue to rise.

A new framework for long-term care is overdue, as is the construction of a sufficient number of seniors' supported independent living units across the territory. We also wish to highlight our concerns about the timeliness and lack of availability of renovations programs for improving safety and accessibility for seniors and elders. The next committee may wish to encourage the NWT Housing Corporation to increase its efforts to raise awareness and help elders and seniors access the Seniors Aging-in-Place Retrofits Program, including by making its website more navigable. Implementation of plans such as the Continuing Care Action Plan and the development of continuing care facilities legislation should be monitored with an eye to supporting seniors and elders to age in place and optimize their health, wellness and quality of life.

Anti-Poverty

The GNWT committed in the Mandate to work collaboratively to reduce poverty. The next Committee is encouraged to track the progress of implementation of a renewed Anti-Poverty Action Plan, expected in August 2019. In particular, the committee may want to work to ensure that collaboration is realized, that efforts are streamlined to focus on core poverty issues such as food security and childcare, that direct support is offered to people in poverty, and that small communities receive the support they need to meaningfully participate in anti-poverty initiatives and access anti-poverty funding.

Mental Health and Addictions

Committee believes another focus for the incoming Committee should be on monitoring implementation of the Mental Wellness and Addictions Recovery Action Plan released in June 2019, including interdepartmental collaboration on delivering a range of government services across the continuum of care.

Department of Education, Culture and Employment

Childcare

The GNWT committed in the Mandate to improve the accessibility, affordability and inclusivity of childcare. We encourage the next committee to monitor implementation of actions to make childcare more accessible and affordable.

Children and Youth

We urge the next committee to monitor the implementation of JK as well as the impacts of the reduction in school instructional hours and of efforts to train early childhood workers and educators. Members may also wish to continue the push for affordable and accessible, if not universal, daycare for all caregivers, and for investments in daycare infrastructure.

Service Delivery

Limited access to programs and services in small communities is a long-standing concern. The lack of presence of frontline service workers on the ground weakens the effectiveness of government programs.

Another long-standing concern is the continued operation of government departments in silos, which creates fragmented experiences for people trying to access services. We urge the government to provide services in a more integrated manner and to revise policies that operate at cross-purposes. Committee is pleased to see the success achieved through the integrated case management program operated by the Department of Justice in Yellowknife. This way of doing business has had proven success in other jurisdictions and has far-reaching potential to help our most vulnerable residents. Our successor committee is urged to promote the adoption of an integrated approach in other settings, including child and family services.

Statutory Reviews

Several pieces of legislation contain requirements for review after they have come into force. During the 19th Legislative Assembly, the successor committee may expect to review the following statutes, among others:

  • Subsection 126(5) of the Education Act requires a review by the Minister, in consultation with the Legislative Assembly or a committee designated or established by the Assembly, of the hours of instruction within six months of the conclusion of the 2019-2020 academic year;
  • Section 88.1 of the Child and Family Services Act requires the Legislative Assembly or a committee designated or established by the Assembly to conduct a comprehensive review of the Act and any other related subjects before April 1, 2021; and
  • Section 105 of the Mental Health Act requires the Legislative Assembly or a committee designated or established by the Assembly to conduct a comprehensive review of the Act and other related subjects before September 1, 2023.

Conclusion

This concludes the Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Transition Matters. Members respectfully suggest that the Members of our successor committee consider requesting updates on the above matters from committee staff and from the appropriate Ministers in the 19th Assembly, and wish them the utmost success in fulfilling their mandate.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Nahendeh.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife Centre, that Committee Report 38-18(3): Standing Committee on Social Development Report on Transition Matters be received and adopted by this Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 38-18(3) is now received and adopted by this Assembly. Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Tom Beaulieu

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mr. Speaker, your Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning is pleased to provide its report on transition matters and commends it to the house. Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Kam Lake, that Committee Report 39-18(3) be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 39-18(3) is now deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Introduction

The Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning (SCOPP) is one of the standing committees of the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories charged with the responsibility of providing oversight over the ongoing business operations of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

The purpose of this report is twofold:

  1. To briefly highlight the work completed by the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning during the 18th Assembly; and
  2. To identify outstanding issues that SCOPP's successor Committee in the 19th Legislative Assembly may wish to consider.

Mandate of the Standing Committee

The mandates of the Legislative Assembly's standing committees are set out in Appendix 3 to the Rules of the Legislative Assembly. The Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning is responsible for:

  • review issues which have government-wide implications, including the overview of the budget and fiscal framework;
  • review Government of the Northwest Territories reports on financial and performance results and program and policy evaluations to ensure anticipated outcomes are being achieved and accountability is maximized;
  • coordinate sessional business scheduling and planning in cooperation with appropriate ministerial representatives;
  • coordinate committee public consultation efforts with respect to budget and fiscal matters;
  • coordinate committee strategic planning efforts;
  • monitor and evaluate Ministerial performance issues;
  • consider the budgets and financial management of any boards and agencies that are outside the responsibility of any standing committee; and
  • Consider any other matter referred by the House.

Work of the Standing Committee

Highlights

During the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning undertook work ranging from strategic planning, review of government budgets, a comprehensive review of the mandate midway through our term, and public hearings on issues of interest to residents of the Northwest Territories.

Committee wishes to highlight the work undertaken in the following three areas:

Amendments to the Mandate

The Mandate of the 18th Legislative Assembly was the most ambitious of any Assembly, with over 200 specified actions. The Mandate was debated at length first in February 2016, then again in October of 2017. There were 26 motions to amend the mandate moved by committee members in 2016, with a further five motions in 2017. Of particular note, the committee amended the mandate to include the development of legislation establishing the Office of the Ombud, and was pleased to review the legislation and see it passed in the House. We wish the new Ombud well in her role.

Adjustments to the budget

There were particular divisions over the direction of the Northwest Territories early in the life of the 18th Assembly, which came to the fore during the debates over the budgets. Several programs that were initially not deemed as priorities ended up receiving increased funding due to the advocacy of committee members, notably junior kindergarten and 911 services.

Accessibility of Committee Meetings

Openness and transparency are often cited as key hallmarks of democratic governance. The standing committee was pleased to amend the operating procedures of the Committees to ensure that they are now open by default, as well as finding new ways to broadcast committee proceedings via Facebook Live, Twitter, and the Legislative Assembly website. This ensures that as many people as possible can access committee proceedings, an essential requirement in a territory as vast as ours.

Transition Matters

We provide the following suggestions based on our experience as a committee, in the hopes that our successor committee finds them informative.

House Planning

Early in the 18th Assembly, the chair and deputy chair of the committee began a House planning exercise during each morning meeting during session. The deputy chair attended the daily meetings with the Speaker and Government House Leader, where government business was shared with Members, and Members statements and questions were shared with government. The committee found that this resulted in a better flow of information, and encourages its successor committee in the 19th Assembly to consider a similar protocol.

Public Consultation by SCOPP

The 18th Assembly has made strides in improving transparency and accountability to the public. Committee meetings are now open by default, with set reasons to go in-camera. We would encourage our successor committee to consider how to continue to make meetings more public, and adopt a protocol early in the life of the 19th Assembly to open the work of government to public scrutiny.

Ongoing Training on Procedure and Rules

Our Committee has seen a lot of turnover in staff, with four clerks and two advisors over the course of the last four years. This has affected the corporate memory of the committee, and impacted our ability to advance priorities. We recommend to our successor committee to consider ongoing training to committee chairs and deputy chairs on procedure and rules of the Assembly. We further recommend that all Members receive a more comprehensive education on the powers and privileges of committees, so that they may be used more effectively, with a particular focus on the investigative powers of committees.

Political Advice to Regular Members

While Members appreciate the services provided to the committee by the clerk and advisor, their advice is limited and apolitical, as befits their positions as employees of the Legislative Assembly. The committee notes that each Minister is assigned a ministerial special advisor who can provide political advice, independent of the apolitical advice provided by departments. Cabinet as a whole is served by the Principle Secretary, a deputy-level position responsible for advancing the political priorities of Cabinet. Regular Members do not have access to the same level of political advice, which has hampered our ability to advance our priorities. Our successor committee may wish to establish a role independent of the Legislative Assembly to provide political advice to committee and to individual Members.

Committee Cohesion

There will always be differences of opinion when 11 independent politicians are working together. However, our committee found that public reporting on our differences often overshadowed the highly collaborative work that was under way. For example, almost all Members worked on the cannabis legislation, under tight timeframes and punishing travel to consult with as many communities as was possible. We would also note that the vast majority of bills, including budgets, passed with overwhelming support in the House. We would encourage our successor committee to fully embrace the Code of Conduct that was adopted at the end of the 18th Assembly and to use its provisions to ensure all Members are fulfilling their duties.

Regulations

Most proposed bills undergo public review by a standing committee, with the possibility of extensive hearings where public interest warrants. However, many important matters of concern to the public are addressed in regulations, which typically are approved by a Minister or the Cabinet without the involvement of Regular Members. The Mineral Resources Act and the Corrections Act are examples of bills that originally proposed leaving substantial matters to regulations. Members worked hard to incorporate more in the body of the act; however, much is still to be determined in regulation. The 19th Assembly may wish to consider instituting processes for standing committee review of such regulations.

Conclusion

This concludes the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning Report on Transition Matters. Members respectfully suggest that the members of our successor committee consider requesting updates on the above matters from committee staff and from the appropriate Ministers in the 19th Assembly, and wish them the utmost success in their service to the people of the Northwest Territories.