This is page numbers 6353 - 6412 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was assembly.

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

Page 6374

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.

Committee Report 36-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6374

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.

Committee Report 36-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6379

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Committee Report 36-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6379

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.

Committee Report 36-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6379

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.

Committee Report 36-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6379

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.

Committee Report 36-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6379

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.

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

Page 6379

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.

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Nahendeh.