This is page numbers 1481 - 1522 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 going.

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 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 1481

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 80-19(2): Marine Transportation Services 2020 Sailing Season and Community Resupply
Ministers' Statements

Page 1481

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

[English translation not provided.]

Mr. Speaker, four years after the Government of the Northwest Territories launched its Marine Transportation Services, or MTS, we continue to improve our capacity to operate a reliable and professional marine shipping service in the North.

I am pleased to report that the 2020 resupply has been successfully completed. The first shipments of the season departed Hay River on July 10, and the last delivery took place on September 19. Nearly 28 million litres of fuel and more than 63 hundred tons of cargo were delivered this season to communities on the Great Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River, as well as the coastal communities. Mr. Speaker, these deliveries were made possible by our able marine crews who worked tirelessly to overcome challenges posed by high water levels and bad weather.

From the beginning of this season, MTS developed and executed a robust COVID-19 mitigation plan. Access to our cargo terminals was granted by appointment only and only those free of COVID-19 related symptoms. Customers were encouraged to use the online system to avoid contact. To protect communities, designated drop-off cargo zones were created for the delivery of cargo so that vessel crews would avoid contact with residents. Regardless of the challenges posed by our Arctic environment, MTS remains committed to providing the best service possible to all our customers. Our crews know that communities depend on our services for the delivery of essential goods.

Mr. Speaker, from deck hands to cooks, 171 people were employed at the peak of the resupply season. Ninety-two of these workers are Northwest Territories residents, and 64 are Indigenous. We will continue our relationship with Transport Canada and the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium to promote the Marine Training Centre in Hay River. Programs that are offered at the training centre include the bridge watch rating program, small vessel operator proficiency, and a fishing master's program. Recent graduates have been employed on Canadian Coast Guard Arctic icebreakers and on our research vessel, operated by the Arctic Research Foundation. Nine graduates were employed on our own tugboats this resupply season. These employment and training opportunities positively impact families and communities and support the long-term sustainability of the marine industry in the North.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to supporting training opportunities, the GNWT recognizes the need to support the marine industry by improving marine infrastructure and services. For decades, fuel has been carried through our northern waters to northern communities in single-hulled barges. Marine Transportation Services is improving our marine fleet with double-hulled barges to minimize the risk of a fuel spill and better protect our environment.

In August, four new double-hulled barges were delivered to Tuktoyaktuk. These new barges carry cargo on the deck and, below the deck, can carry several types of petroleum products at the same time. I would like to thank the Government of Canada for providing $19.5 million, or 75 percent of the costs, through the Oceans Protection Plan. Mr. Speaker, the GNWT will continue to work with public and private marine partners to strengthen and support marine infrastructure and services in the Northwest Territories for the benefit of all Northerners. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 80-19(2): Marine Transportation Services 2020 Sailing Season and Community Resupply
Ministers' Statements

Page 1481

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister of Infrastructure. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 81-19(2): Anti-Poverty
Ministers' Statements

Page 1482

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Poverty reduction is an urgent challenge that everyone needs to be aware of. Poverty levels have further increased with COVID-19, which could push more residents into poverty due to an uncertain economy, food insecurity, and the high cost of living. To support residents during the pandemic, the Government of Northwest Territories took a whole-of-government approach on several fronts. During the month of March, income assistance recipients received a one-time emergency allowance. The GNWT is also taking action to provide supports and protection for individuals requiring shelter. Shelters are often crowded, which can present a risk to both individuals and staff. The GNWT is working with shelters to implement supports for physical distancing and isolation for individuals waiting for test results or who receive a diagnosis of COVID-19.

To address homelessness and housing stability, the GNWT provided $600,000 in funding over four years to support a Housing First program that rents apartments in Yellowknife to house and support up to 25 individuals who were previously homeless and have concurrent mental health and addictions. The Northern Pathways to Housing is a supportive housing program that supports communities to provide stable housing for single adults and helps them in integrating them into the community. In recent years, the Northern Pathways to Housing program has provided funding to Aklavik, Fort Simpson, Behchoko, and Fort Good Hope to construct or renovate housing for 16 single adults experiencing homelessness. We look forward to more communities coming on board.

Mr. Speaker, to successfully reduce poverty, we must work together with our partners to make better use of limited resources. Where there is an overlap of programs and services between organizations, we must have better coordination for residents accessing the supports they need. To accomplish this, the GNWT hired a territorial director of integrated service delivery to guide a whole-of-government approach to enhance service delivery across the NWT through a coordinated, person-centred approach. The GNWT also increased funding available for the NGO stabilization program from $300,000 to $700,000. This funding supports non-governmental organizations who deliver critical GNWT-funded programs or services to the public to stabilize or develop their capacity to manage them.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT recognizes its central role in providing a coordinated approach with Indigenous and community governments, business and industry, and NGOs to take action on reducing poverty in the NWT. Last year, the GNWT released its renewed action plan, Working Together II, An Action Plan to Reduce Poverty in the NWT 2019-2022. This action plan was developed in collaboration with the GNWT and its partners and focuses on five priority areas: children and family support, healthy living and reaching our potential, safe and affordable housing, sustainable communities, and integrated continuum of services.

The GNWT has many programs and services in place that advance these priority areas and provide a path out of poverty for residents. They have already helped thousands of Northerners. These include initiatives like the Anti-Poverty Fund, which has an annual budget of $1 million to help eligible organizations and Indigenous governments and communities to support their poverty-reduction initiatives.

This year, 28 recipients were awarded funding through the 2020 Anti-Poverty Fund. Because of COVID-19, proposals were reviewed by the Anti-Poverty Advisory Committee through a virtual meeting. The committee is comprised of nine individuals from across the NWT and who represent community governments, Indigenous governments, non-government organizations, the private sector, and the GNWT.

This year's successful proposals aim to reduce poverty by supporting food security; assisting those experiencing homelessness; early childhood development; employment and training; healthy living; supporting traditional knowledge; and on-the-land activities. The interdepartmental anti-poverty team is currently working to plan a virtual anti-poverty roundtable in order to proceed with the event while still complying with public health orders. The roundtables will be revised and will now focus on a key poverty-reduction issue for each event. This year, we will be examining how to best address food security at the community level.

Mr. Speaker, we want to ensure that residents have access to supports they need so that they can live in dignity, are free from poverty, and are active members in their communities. We can achieve this through the coordinated and collaborative effort of all partners. By working together, we can learn more about what is being done in communities and support better futures for our residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 81-19(2): Anti-Poverty
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 82-19(2): Aurora College Transformation Implementation Plan and Areas of Specialization
Ministers' Statements

Page 1483

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am excited to announce that today the Government of the Northwest Territories is releasing the Aurora College Transformation Implementation Plan and the initial areas of teaching and research specialization for the polytechnic university. These foundational documents, along with input from our residents and partners, will help guide the transformation of Aurora College into a polytechnic university and beyond over the next six years. Later today, I will table the implementation plan, which identifies the critical milestones along the path towards the establishment of an effective and sustainable polytechnic university capable of supporting the aspirations of Northerners, diversifying the economy, and contributing to the long-term prosperity of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, maintaining a high level of transparency and accountability is critical to the success of this project, which is why today we are launching a new "Aurora College Transformation" website. This website enables residents to learn about the transformation, follow the progress being made through various dashboards and tracking tools, and provide feedback. Mr. Speaker, in August, we sought feedback on a discussion paper about the areas of teaching and research specialization for the new polytechnic university. Feedback from Indigenous government partners, business, industry, post-secondary institutions, non-government organizations, and members of the public has informed these four initial areas of specialization, which are:

  • skilled trades and technology;
  • earth resources and environmental management;
  • northern health, education and community services; and
  • business and leadership.

These areas of specialization are not programs or classes. They are broad, overarching themes that will provide the structure and focus required to maintain high-quality programming and operations.

Mr. Speaker, the polytechnic university will be focused on learners, meeting them where they are in their education journey and supporting them through a laddered approach as they work to achieve their own education and career goals. There will be a place for every NWT resident at the polytechnic university through access to adult basic education, upgrading, certificate, diploma, and degree programs. It will give them improved and expanded access to quality post-secondary education opportunities close to home, as well as the confidence and experience to move on to additional degree and advanced degree programs.

None of this can be achieved without also increasing the availability of programming in our small communities. Through a new and innovative approach to community learning, the polytechnic university will have a clear and meaningful presence in every community in the Northwest Territories. From our smallest communities to our regional centres, new made-in-the-North programs and research initiatives will increase access to education and research opportunities through a network of learning centres, remote research facilities, and campuses.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all those who have been supporting the work of the transformation, including those who have taken the time to help shape the path forward through engagements. This transformation is one of the most promising ways we are preparing the Northwest Territories and our residents for future prosperity. As the institution emerges from transformation, it will be stronger and more accessible, able to attract a greater number of students from within the NWT and beyond, and provide lasting economic benefits to the territory and our people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 82-19(2): Aurora College Transformation Implementation Plan and Areas of Specialization
Ministers' Statements

Page 1483

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Evictions and Use of Limiters
Members' Statements

Page 1483

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I've been clear in this House that I oppose the NWT Power Corporation using power-limiting devices in the winter months. Life is hard and expensive in our small communities and a lack of heat life-threatening. People have their power throttled, and they don't know when the power will be turned off. This makes it impossible for a family to heat their homes properly and feed and care for their families. After I raised my objections, I was pleased to see power corporation responded positively in mid-March. Cabin Radio reported, "NWT Power Corporation has promised to disable all power-limiting equipment to residents' homes for the duration of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic."

Mr. Speaker, did I miss something? Has the pandemic ended because NTPC has announced last week, starting November 9th, they'll be starting to use these power-limiting devices and starting collections? The timing is off, Mr. Speaker, right when the cold weather is setting in. This announcement in March, was it a public relations stunt because we don't sell too much power in summer months? The GNWT has to step up and stop this inhumane practice of using power-limiters.

The use of load-limiting devices is standard practice in Canadian utilities, they say. I say that it doesn't make it okay. This is the North, a harsh reality, a different climate, and other parts of Canada are a lot warmer than where we're from. It's minus 26 back home right now. That's not including the wind. NTPC has $2 million overdue accounts, but the government can find $9.3 million to give to Canadian North, an asset for-profit business, through this pandemic. We could find $2 million to help our people. The dollars for helping struggling residents in remote communities through winter months made tougher than most ongoing COVID crisis. Otherwise, I'm going to proceed with the plan to introduce the motion to make load-limiters illegal in the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the appropriate Minister at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Evictions and Use of Limiters
Members' Statements

Page 1484

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Healing Centre
Members' Statements

Page 1484

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] Today, I would like to talk about healing. I'm talking about our constituents, people in our area. People in my region have talked to me. That's one of the reasons why I'm asking. People want to have a healing centre so people can talk about healing. [Translation ends]

[Microphone turned off] ...in May that three-quarters of those 200 southern referrals return sober. That sounds like a major success story, but it is not because, sadly, while they might step off the plane sober, they do not remain sober because of the failure of the southern treatment. They fall off the wagon again and again and again. Mr. Speaker, I already spoke about a constituent who received treatment in the South, returned to the North, received zero after-care, fell off the wagon and sadly was discovered deceased here in Yellowknife this past summer. Mr. Speaker, I stand before you again today to tell this House that my region lost another beautiful soul to addiction over the weekend.

Here we are today, still debating whether or not we need a treatment facility here our territory. This is far too real, Mr. Speaker, we need a northern-based treatment centre, one that respects where our people come from, one that respects who we are, one where our language is a part of our working language, a treatment centre linked to the land, linked to our culture, linked to our elders. Otherwise, our people will continue to backslide when they step off the airplane. Northerners demand an end to this sad state of affairs. Northerners demand healing for Northerners by Northerners in a northern setting. Northerners want an annual sum of $2 million to be spent here in the North perfecting administering our own home-grown programs, developing our own home-grown counselling professionals. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minster of Health and Social Services at the appropriate time on this particular very important matter to me. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Healing Centre
Members' Statements

Page 1484

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Support for Entrepreneurs
Members' Statements

Page 1484

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The NWT regularly has one of the highest GDPs per capita in Canada, and we would regularly be in the top 10 in the world. No doubt that impressive figure has helped many of our residents get ahead and has helped this government fund many life-saving services. However, sadly, with many of our diamond mines facing closure and the economic recession of COVID-19, that economic prosperity is likely to diminish. To be honest, Mr. Speaker, there is only so much we politicians can do about that. The further we head up the economic ladder, the less ability we have as a government to influence. I would love if I had any control over the market price of diamonds. I would raise it through the roof. I would also love if I had an operating surplus of a few billion dollars for infrastructure, but we don't. That decision requires paying for infrastructure with debt. A debate, no doubt, we will have many times in this House.

The other side of those large economic debates are the small economic debates. That is where we do have the ability to influence and localize our economy. It is much easier to ask 100 small businesses to add one job each than it is to ask our largest company to add 100 jobs. This is the essence of diversification. It's not just the industries, but it's increasing overall employers and competition within the NWT. This is why our economic recovery must focus on entrepreneurs and small businesses which, to be honest, is the overwhelming amount of companies in the NWT.

The other day, MLA Norn talked about a constituent who makes woodstoves, and he hopes that, one day, we can build an economy where that constituent could compete with the Amazons of the world. Mr. Norn's comment resonated with me, Mr. Speaker, because that is the goal and is an achievable goal. I will gladly pay a few dollars more if I could get my woodstove down the road in Detah. I will pay for that economic security, and I know many others will, too. COVID has shown just how brittle our supply lines are. Localized competition and creating redundancy protects us. Resilience must sometimes be prioritised over efficiency. Thomas Friedman, in describing Carlson's Law, describes this balance between autocracy and democracy in an organization. Mr. Speaker, I am seeking unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Support for Entrepreneurs
Members' Statements

Page 1485

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thomas Friedman writes, "In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb." Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that, far too often, the GNWT is orderly but dumb, but our entrepreneurs are prime example of bottom-up innovation. Our economic supports must do more to foster that kind of growth. I will have questions for the Minister of ITI how we are making sure our economic recovery is chaotic and smart, as opposed to our love of orderly and dumb. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.