This is page numbers 1413 - 1442 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd 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 health.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:35 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, please be seated. Mr. Clerk, will you ascertain if the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Margaret Thom, is ready to enter the Chamber, and to assent bills? Thank you.

Prayer
Prayer

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Commissioner Of The Northwest Territories Hon. Margaret M. Thom

Thank you. Please be seated. Mahsi. Mr. Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly, good afternoon, and good to see all of you.

Assent To Bills
Assent To Bills

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Commissioner Of The Northwest Territories Hon. Margaret M. Thom

As Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, I am pleased to assent to the following bill:

  • Bill 11, Legislative Assembly Officers Standardization Act

Mahsi cho, thank you, quyanainni, merci beaucoup, koana.

Assent To Bills
Assent To Bills

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Please be seated. Colleagues, I would like to extend the appreciation of this House to the Commissioner, Margaret M. Thom. It is always the pleasure to have her in the House.

Colleagues, before we begin today, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge three of our statutory officers as they prepare for their upcoming retirements.

Ms. Elaine Keenan-Bengts was appointed as the first Information and Privacy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories in 1997 and has held the position for 23 years.

Ms. Deborah McLeod has been with the Human Rights Commission since its inception in 2004, first as the deputy director and then as director. Her retirement marks 16 years with the Human Rights Commission.

Ms. Shannon Gullberg is retiring after 15 years of involvement with the office of the Languages Commissioner. Ms. Gullberg acted as legal counsel for the Languages Commissioner from 1996 to 2000 and became the Languages Commissioner in 2005. Unfortunately, Shannon was unable to attend the sitting today, but we wish her all the best in her retirement.

To each of you, thank you for your many years of dedication and service to the people of the Northwest Territories. Mahsi.

Colleagues, please join me in thanking our statutory officers for their service and wishing them all the best in their retirement. Mahsi cho, thank you.

The Member for Frame Lake has requested to address the House this afternoon on a matter of personal explanation. Mr. O'Reilly, please proceed.

Assent To Bills
Assent To Bills

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I rise pursuant to Rule 21(1) of the Rules of the Legislative Assembly to make a personal explanation. During the debate on Motion 12-19(2), revocation of appointment of the Honourable Member for Great Slave to the Executive Council on August 26, 2020, I made the following statement, "The Yellowknives First Nation publicly withdrew their support for the SGP Road on August 1, 2020, given that the GNWT contracted another southern company for up to $20 million worth of work."

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation issued a news release dated August 1, 2020, that included the following, "The most significant of these contracts was a standing offer agreement which was recently awarded to two large multinational consulting firms." I will table this news release later today. I have been asked to clarify my remarks made on August 26th by the Association of Consulting and Engineering Companies NWT in a letter dated October 23, 2020. I will also table that letter later today. I will speak to the particulars of my remarks and not the merits of the Slave Geological Province road as my views on this subject are well known. I do not support that project.

In July 2020, Stantec Consulting Limited and Golder Associates Ltd. were awarded standing offer agreements for the provision of environmental and engineering support services for the advancement of the Slave Geological Province Corridor. The contract values were $9.9 million and $7.4 million respectively. Of the two firms, Golder Associates is registered for the business incentive policy. Both firms have offices in the NWT, Stantec for over 30 years and Golder for 25 years, with a significant number of local employees, some of whom are expected to work on the Slave Geological Province road. I apologize unreservedly to anyone who may have taken offence or felt to be misrepresented from my earlier remarks. I wish to thank the Association of Consulting and Engineering Companies NWT for bringing this matter to my attention. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to correct the record.

Assent To Bills
Assent To Bills

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Orders of the day, item number 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs

Minister's Statement 75-19(2): Community Government Engagement on COVID-19 Response
Ministers' Statements

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Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I wish to provide an update on the ongoing efforts of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs to work with community government partners to support the COVID-19 pandemic response.

We have all been affected by COVID-19. Taking action to slow the spread and protect public health has required leaders from all levels of government to act and adjust operations in order to continue serving the Northwest Territories' residents. Since mid-March, MACA has worked with community governments to identify and monitor impacts to communities, share information about the government response to the pandemic, update community emergency plans, and ensure local emergency and essential services are provided. Community governments have also needed to adapt. Practical changes have been met with creative solutions such as holding council meetings remotely and making changes to bylaws to do so.

Mr. Speaker, these efforts have been supported in partnership with the Northwest Territories Association of Communities through virtual town-hall meetings with community leaders that have happened since the beginning of the pandemic. Other Ministers and GNWT officials have worked collaboratively at these meetings to share information and answer questions that leaders may have about specific topics. I am proud to say that these meetings have fostered engagements between our community governments, resulting in responsive made-in-the-NWT plans that have helped to provide assistance and support to the Northwest Territories' residents. These include food hampers and on-the-land supports. MACA also worked with other departments to create multimedia communications about safety during the pandemic, fact sheets, and how-to-get-help guidelines.

Mr. Speaker, MACA continues to connect with community governments regularly to share current COVID-19 information, provide support with problems and issues they are encountering, to hear their concerns, to answer any questions they may have, and to provide a mechanism to feed their information into the government response. Currently, MACA is continuing our work with the health authorities, the Department of Health and Social Services, and to engage community governments to provide community-specific details and updates to community pandemic plans that reflect the capacity and resources in each community and region to support the health response efforts.

Mr. Speaker, we want to share our gratitude and thanks on the ongoing efforts of the community governments, not only maintaining support for their residents as well as their support for the government in maintaining isolation centres and border check points, both on our highways and at the airports. On that note, I also must recognize the GNWT staff, especially those who have put their hands forward to be redeployed to support these efforts. As the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, I want to echo an early statement by our Premier and take a moment to recognize them in the Legislative Assembly and say thank you.

Mr. Speaker, we have benefitted greatly and appreciated the collaboration and solution-based approach of everyone involved. We thank the leadership in our communities for their efforts and their cooperation. MACA is committed to continue working with the communities to share information, to listen, and to respond to issues and concerns. We will work together to continue to manage the risk and protect our residents. Nothing is more important than the safety of our people. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 75-19(2): Community Government Engagement on COVID-19 Response
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs. Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 76-19(2): Harvester Support for 2020-2021
Ministers' Statements

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This year particularly has been hard for many Northwest Territories communities and residents who were already struggling to make ends meet. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new economic challenges for some families in the Northwest Territories.

In response to these concerns, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is increasing funding this year to support harvesters and families going out on the land. Three new programs will promote the sharing of land-based knowledge and provide training for the next generation of hunters and trappers. The Take a Family on the Land Program will provide subsidies to Indigenous governments and organizations, community governments, and non-profits to help offset costs for families in need to go out on the land. The Regional Training, Mentorship and Support Program will provide funding to regional Indigenous governments to increase mentorship opportunities and support land-based training needs. The pilot trappers mentoring program will support trappers who want to learn trapping skills this season. Applications for the Take a Family on the Land and the Regional Training, Mentorship and Support Programs launched on October 21, 2020, and applications are now being accepted. The pilot trapper mentoring program will be launched in November.

The Department has also increased the amounts for this year's grubstake payments. These payments are made to trappers at the beginning of the season, based on the number of furs brought in the year before. Trappers use these grubstake payments to help offset some of the annual start-up costs of trapping, which supports participation in the fur industry. This year's trappers will be provided with more start-up funds, and more trappers will be able to access the program.

As a government, we are committed to supporting our residents to go out on the land. During the engagement on the Environment and Natural Resources Sustainable Livelihoods Action Plan, we heard from communities about the importance of mentorship programs for beginning harvesters and trappers. We also heard about the need to provide support for families to pursue on-the-land activities.

Each of these new programs draws on the strengths of the northern tradition of land-based learning, mentorship, and sharing of knowledge. They support a number of actions identified in the Sustainable Livelihoods Action Plan, including providing starter kits for new trappers, support for harvesting mentorship, and funding for families with limited resources to go out on the land. The new funding for this season builds on the successful community partnerships that have been developed through our regular programs, such as Take a Kid Trapping, the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur program, Community Harvesters Assistance Program, hunter education, and trappers' training.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard from Indigenous governments and organizations about the importance of land-based skills and knowledge. This government believes that sustainable livelihoods are vital to a prosperous, diverse, and sustainable territory. Land-based skills and knowledge help ensure harvesters can access nutritious country foods and that our communities maintain strong and resilient. Environment and Natural Resources remains committed to supporting the next generation of harvesters and stewards of the land and promoting sustainable access to country foods. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 76-19(2): Harvester Support for 2020-2021
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. I would like to also wish all my fellow trappers a very good season this year. I know there is not much snow, but I am sure they will make the best of it. Mahsi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Border Camp Services
Members' Statements

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

[English translation not available] ...check point was initially set up at Enterprise. The reasoning, I assume, was to have something in place immediately. Eventually, with some persuasion, reflection, and evaluation, the COVID task force concluded that the appropriate location for the check point would be at the border. In my mind, that was the correct decision then and remains so today.

Mr. Speaker, staff, while at Enterprise, were in a position to travel home after each shift. This was not the case when the check point was subsequently relocated to the border. The border setup with the addition of a portable camp sleeper and use of government equipment already onsite provided an alternative for staff from having to endure a one-and-a-half-hour daily community each way home. The initial services in part were supplied by GNWT park infrastructure and that of private sector. This appeared to work well with the warm weather, where freeze-up of water and sewer lines were not an issue.

Knowing that cold weather would be upon us and knowing the camp business, I provided the task force with a recommendation as to what would be required for accommodation at the border during the winter months. I suggested a two-unit Texas camp, which included a kitchen, washroom, rec room, and six single bedrooms. The camp would further require, of course, lighting, yard lighting, communication tower, power, propane, heated water storage, and heated grey water storage. All this could be set up within eight hours.

Mr. Speaker, operating a camp, big or small, requires qualified and at times certified maintenance staff to ensure worker and environmental safety. I mean no disrespect to the supplier of the current facility, which is made up of infrastructure more suited to remote mining camps that do not have road access. It is important that we provide our staff with safe and comfortable infrastructure while they work to secure our borders and keep us safe. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Premier. Thank you.

Border Camp Services
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member Nunakput.

Marine Transportation Services Appreciation
Members' Statements

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Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I talked in this House many a time with regard to sealift to our communities in Nunakput. Once a year, there is an opportunity for our constituents to order dry-goods supplies that they need to get through the winter season, and I am really happy to say that, for the residents in our small, remote communities, it helps them reduce the cost of living and the high cost, brutally high cost, of everything that is brought in by air.

I want to give credit where credit is due, Mr. Speaker, to our former ITI, our former Minister, our current Minister. Thank you very much for the work that MTS did this year. I kind of warned them at the start of the season to make sure we get into our communities and get what goods that are needed for the communities, and they did. They did an awesome job. I am very happy again to say the 2020 sealift season was a success. I want to thank MTS staff out of Tuktoyaktuk and Hay River and John Vandenberg. For instance, he was up in Tuktoyaktuk more than once, and I thank him for the hard work that he has done. It is important to the GNWT to make sure of our vital services and support to our remote and vulnerable communities. They did an awesome job. Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.