This is page numbers 1443 - 1480 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 housing.

Topics

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

October 28th, 2020

Page 1453

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The National Housing Co-Investment Fund supports the new and revitalization construction of mixed-income, mixed-tenure, mixed-use affordable housing. Funded projects need support from another level of government to ensure coordination of investments. In this case, it's the GNWT or possibly other funds. Can the Minister of housing please explain to the people of the NWT why it is that, after two years, not a penny of the National Housing Co-Investment Fund has been accessed by any proponent in the NWT? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1453

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1453

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The National Housing Co-Investment Fund is a federal program that is available to the Northwest Territories. There is also a national pot that is available to Canada, that is available nationally. The majority of the applications that have been received access the national pot; there is approximately $55 million for the Northwest Territories that was not allocated to the territory but allocated to the applicants.

The Housing Corporation has advertised for a co-investment project officer who will be hired for the Housing Corporation to work with CMHC. This summer, the Housing Corporation also travelled throughout the Northwest Territories with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to advertise and to gain Indigenous partnership and Indigenous interest, stakeholders, as well, to take part in the opportunity to apply for the co-investment fund. Right now, I am committed to working a lot stronger, a lot harder, getting the message out. I need NGOs to come forward. I need Indigenous groups to come and work with us. It's $60 million that has to be spent. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1453

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

The problem I see is that we have a program that has too many players. The question I have for the Minister is: has the Minister considered requesting authority from the federal government that her department receive and manage the disbursement of the $60-million co-investment fund in order to streamline the process to accommodate timely access by proponents?

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1454

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Member, for that question, because this is a priority of the Housing Corporation, to have full access to the $60 million. Right now, we have proposed a carve-off of $10 million. We are working with the federal government, as well, and also lobbying for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to at least have full access to the $60 million so that we could administer and we could let the federal government know that this is how houses need to be built in the Northwest Territories and this is how much it's going to be costing us. We do work within climate change, and we do have two dynamics in the territory: one is accessible by highway, and the other is accessible by river and by winter roads. We need to get these houses built.

Also, just for the Member, there is a significant change in the dollar amount to get these houses on the ground, if we're constructing in Hay River compared to constructing in Nunakput. We are dealing with a lot of COVID restrictions, as well, and a lot of challenges, so we are not able to get the amount of material that we would have normally got prior to COVID. We are also working at the ground level to construct units, but then we are facing challenges with contractors, as well, and with the community governments wanting new people into their community, but we are working strategically as a department.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1454

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

In part due to COVID, the Government of Canada, through CMHC, launched the Rapid Housing Initiative, a $1-billion program to help address urgent housing needs of vulnerable Canadians through the rapid construction of affordable housing. The aim of the program is to commit all funds before March 31, 2021, to ensure that housing is available within 12 months of the agreement. Has the Minister been in contact with her federal counterpart to discuss this government's participation in the program? How does the Minister see this program benefitting the NWT, and are we in negotiation to access a portion of these funds?

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1454

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

I'm going to try to slow down. I was asked by the interpreters not to speak so quickly, but I get very passionate about the portfolio and trying to enhance the programs that we hold as the Housing Corporation and trying to let the public know that we are working very hard to get houses on the ground and meet the needs of the Northwest Territories.

In regard to the Member's comments, this is a new initiative that has been announced by the federal government. We have very little information right now, but the staff are making themselves available and more familiar with the program as it is being developed. Right now, we do have a rapid rehousing program within our department that is internally funded. This does not stop the Housing Corporation from going forward and lobbying for more money.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1454

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Hay River South.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1454

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is apparent that this government is on track to lose upwards of $80 to $100 million slated for much needed housing and part of it appears the department does not have sufficient staff or staff are not qualified to assist proponents in accessing these funds. Can the Minister commit to review the department's compliment of staff and ensure that additional qualified staff be hired to specifically on these two programs before they lapse? You're talking about $60 to $100 million here that we do not want to see disappear because we cheaped out on staffing. We need to staff these positions to a level where we access these dollars. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1454

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

I just want to really emphasize on the staff of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation that we are very unique. We do have representation right to the ground level and that are dealing with our clients right grassroots and at the community level. Representation and looking at further professionalism to adequately work with the funding that has been announced by the federal government, I believe that we do have those staff already hired. We have them in-house. I feel that we need to start getting them out. They need to start travelling, and we need to start advocating for federal dollars. I will be following up with the Member. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 418-19(2): Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Funding, Policies and Staffing
Oral Questions

Page 1454

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Frame Lake.

Question 419-19(2): Disclosure of Mining Royalties
Oral Questions

Page 1454

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Earlier today, I reviewed how our government continues to keep secret the revenues it collects from mining. Fifty-four countries around the world require public disclosure of this information to support sound natural resource management and best practices. Two of the three diamond mine owners also support this kind of transparency. Can the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment explain why her government continues to keep public revenues from mining secret? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Question 419-19(2): Disclosure of Mining Royalties
Oral Questions

Page 1454

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Question 419-19(2): Disclosure of Mining Royalties
Oral Questions

Page 1455

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We inherited the current mining regulation regime as part of devolution, and that is still this regime that we are operating under. One of the things that the department of ITI is tasked with doing during this Assembly is, in fact, to modernize the mineral resources regulations so that the new Mineral Resources Act can, in fact, come into force. Part of that work includes modernizing the transparency provisions that are currently in the regulations. For the moment, those regulations require confidentiality, have a confidentiality clause. It's one to which I'm bound. It's not dissimilar to something that is in many other Canadian jurisdictions. That's not to say that we won't be doing work to modernize ours and to bring it home and make it something that works for the best interests of the people of the Northwest Territories once that work gets done. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 419-19(2): Disclosure of Mining Royalties
Oral Questions

Page 1455

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

I want to thank the Minister for that. The devolution took place over six years ago, and the secrecy problem still has not been fixed. It's not from lack of trying on my part, and I'd rather not be here four years from now talking about it again. Can the Minister tell us whether there is a plan, what it might be, and what it might be that finally begin to disclose resource revenues in the interest of corporate best practices, transparency, and openness.