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

Support for Entrepreneurs
Members' Statements

Page 1485

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Housing
Members' Statements

Page 1485

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the colleague from Yellowknife North for those kind words. Just something to think about, we are a G7 nation, and we are still sitting on some of the most resource-rich areas on the planet. Something to think about for our budgets for the springtime and here in the fall-time. I just wanted to mention that.

I'm going to go back to my Member's statement here and just follow up with my comments yesterday on housing. I want to speak a little bit about housing. I did have quite a few of my constituents yesterday who reached out to me about the various housing issues that they had, and I did notice a common theme. That theme is that there is a large number of preventative maintenance issues that are popping up in my riding. A lot of these can be easily solved with planned and preventative maintenance. These are mainly units that are under the care of the NWT Housing Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, it's starting to get cold out there. The NWT Housing Corporation needs to really make a push and take proactive measures to get ahead of any heating and plumbing issues that may pop up during vulnerable times, such as Christmas. Through that, I had a constituent who had a great idea, and that idea was to reach out to the LHOs in the communities and earmark a handful of elders and get their furnaces serviced; their oil tanks checked and replaced; and make sure their plumbing is in order. I know that there are programs out there like the CARE program and the SAFE program, and they are important programs. At the same time, they do require an unnecessary amount of time and red tape to get through just to apply for them, let alone the long wait times for approvals.

Mr. Speaker, I want to share that my constituents and I do get irritated with government departments are perceived to be taking knee-jerk responsive action whenever something breaks down. My constituents have voiced that they would like to see more preventative work done to show that the NWT Housing Corporation cares for the people and their assets so they last and they house those in need for a long time. With that, I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation and the appropriate time. Thank you.

Housing
Members' Statements

Page 1485

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Infrastructure
Members' Statements

Page 1485

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Infrastructure. When I say that word, one's mind often turns to roads and buildings, airports, and bridges; but really, Infrastructure encompasses so much more than that. It is the pipes that bring you water and carry away your waste, the fibre optic line that allows you to instantly communicate or watch that football game from Europe, the solid waste facility where you take your garbage, or the water treatment plant that provides your community with fresh, clean water to drink.

One only needs to look at the budgets associated with the GNWT's departments to understand the sheer enormity of the Department of Infrastructure and all they do for our people and the territory. During the initial stages of COVID, this was the department that had over 60 percent of its employees continue on at their work sites while everyone else was sent home. The department that completed the community resupply, despite the challenges of a far from normal year and ensured that the heat and ventilation stayed on in our buildings. They ferried us around, kept our planes in the air, and patrolled our highways.

Yesterday, in the Committee of the Whole, we heard a lot about the infrastructure gap in our communities, how our hamlets and towns are in desperate need of funding to build new fire halls and recreation centres, roads, and waste facilities. However, what good is building new infrastructure if we are not properly caring for what we already have? Everywhere you go in this territory, the eye is met with crumbling, aging buildings and roads in need of repair and what appears to be very little money or political will to address this issue. Every year that we fail to provide the funds to upkeep and properly maintain our assets, the costs for repair and replacement will exponentially increase. To allow this to continue is negligent and speaks to poor fiscal management. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Infrastructure
Members' Statements

Page 1486

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Client Services
Members' Statements

Page 1486

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, today, I am talking about housing and the need for improvements to be made within the area of client services. The NWT Housing Corporation is a government agency that administers and oversees all of the territory's housing programs and housing options available to residents of the NWT. Based on its structure and function alone, at the end of the day, this agency, the NWT Housing Corporation, is a client-service-based organization. It is about serving the people of the NWT in the best possible way for all of their housing needs.

Mr. Speaker, based on the feedback I am hearing from various constituents, as well as junior housing authority staff, both past and present, I believe that the NWT Housing Corporation is lacking in the area of client services. Specifically, I am concerned about some of the behaviours, actions, and decisions coming from the managerial level within the local housing authorities. Again, my constituents have told me they felt a lack of basic courtesy, respect, and service delivery from management. This is not acceptable. Therefore, I believe there need to be some changes with how things are done within the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. For one, I think there should be a neutral mechanism put in place to deal with housing managers. Secondly, I think the NWT Housing Corporation should consider initiating independent, external investigations into some of the complaints. Systemic racism in dealing with vulnerable, often elderly, clients and junior housing staff is not okay.

Mr. Speaker, I know the housing Minister has spoken about offering client training for Housing Corporation staff. However, this is not enough. Unfortunately, I don't think this training has been effective enough to change much of anything. Staff need to be told how to act better and more appropriately, and if this does not work, then I think the Minister should create a positive solution to address this. I will have questions for the Minister of housing at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Client Services
Members' Statements

Page 1486

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Medical Travel
Members' Statements

October 29th, 2020

Page 1486

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to bring up concerns about medical travel. Since being elected, I have had many complaints, not just from my constituents, but other constituents in my region. Here are just a couple of common concerns.

Elders are being sent to Inuvik, Yellowknife, or Edmonton from regional or small communities without escorts. This is unacceptable. I consider myself knowledgeable in the medical system, but I, too, have experienced some anxiety and stress, missed appointments, and even missed a surgery for my own child when I arrived at the hospital in Edmonton, trying to locate a desk, and then get someone to look at my papers that they sent me with. I could not imagine an elder arriving there after the boarding home driver drops them off, as the boarding home is considered their escort. Some of these hospitals are larger than some of our smaller communities. GNWT needs to make this change.

I have heard from families that their family member went to appointments, returned without knowing what happened, don't know what was said, never asked any questions. When they tried to help the family member get information, they were told by the health centre or hospital, "It's confidential. We can't tell them." This is unacceptable and should not be happening in this day and age. They should not have to go to their MLA to raise the issue so they can get escorts. This has been an ongoing issue for as long as I can remember, and it is time to do something.

Another concern is residents being sent to the boarding home in Yellowknife and being placed in the hotel. The constituents who I've heard from have been placed in the hotel. They have no restaurant there, and the food they received was unacceptable. They are left hungry and with no choice, even if they are allergic to the food that is sent. If they are not in the boarding home, then why are they not making arrangements to have them in a hotel with a restaurant and have vouchers to the restaurant for at least three meals a day? May I add that there have also been elders put into these hotels who had no escorts, and this is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to point out that these are mainly Indigenous people in the NWT. If they were scheduled for surgery, it would be cancelled because you cannot be put in a hotel and left alone after 24 hours after surgery, so what happens when the boarding home is full when you get there and the room is booked? Nothing. You get sent home and rebooked. Is this the best value for our money and our patients' health? Surgery patients should be given escorts, as a boarding home is not responsible and they are not going to help them clean their bandage if bleeding or care for them. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Medical Travel
Members' Statements

Page 1487

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you. Surgery patients should be given escorts, as a boarding home is not responsible, or going to help them clean their bandage if bleeding, or care for them if they become ill after surgery, or even help dress them. They should be given per diems or meal vouchers to the equivalent of GNWT staff when travelling on medical travel, as all GNWT staff are put in hotels, given per diems that are set out by the duty travel rates, and at this time, they're $136.80 per day. If going for surgery, they will get an escort due to the fact that they cannot stay alone in a hotel. Mr. Speaker, medical travel needs to have an audit and look at how we provide this service to the residents of the Northwest Territories. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for medical travel. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Medical Travel
Members' Statements

Page 1487

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Midwifery Services
Members' Statements

Page 1487

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Here's a familiar topic for my Member's statements: midwifery. This is the 13th time I've raised it as an MLA. I certainly won't try to summarize the delays and excuses that still leave us far short of the much-promised territorial Midwifery Program, but I will try to nail down where we are today and hopefully learn how this essential service will finally be delivered to all Northwest Territories families.

Work on creating a full midwifery program began in 2013. Progress was slow and lead up to a 2017 Northwest Territories midwifery stakeholder engagement, which identified gaps in midwifery care and devised a territorial midwifery program model. Priorities for action included strengthening the existing midwifery teams in Fort Smith and Hay River, expanding the Hay River Midwifery Program to provide services in the Deh Cho and South Slave regions, developing a territorial midwifery recruitment and retention plan, and creating a territorial midwifery program based in Yellowknife with the capacity to support regions, including Behchoko. 2018 multi-year funding was to initiate the program in 2019-2020 and implement it over three years.

Staffing has been late and stalled. A territorial manager was hired in March of this year, and support staffing is underway. Although it was apparently delayed by the move to the new Stanton hospital and COVID. The department says that implementation of the planned Deh Cho service have been delayed by staffing difficulties and South Slave community consultations have been delayed by the restrictions on community gatherings due to the pandemic.

In 2019, the government approved year one funding for two new positions at the NTHSSA: the territorial manager; and the lead for the territorial Midwifery Program. I'll be watching for approval of subsequent funds in next year's operating budget. In response to my request for an update, the department outlined at least eight major organizational, policy, and recruitment tasks leading us to the promised territorial program. Progress has been slow, Mr. Speaker, far too slow, in my opinion. Later today, I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services on a definite plan to bring the option of midwifery to all families in the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Midwifery Services
Members' Statements

Page 1487

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and Education, Culture and Employment Working Together
Members' Statements

Page 1487

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, public servants can improve the lives of Northerners if they are empowered to do so. Yellowknifers have told me they experience frustration navigating government department, especially during high stress, multi-dimensional life changes. Housing and Education, Culture and Employment income assistance are the two areas causing the most frustration for my constituents. Earlier this year, Justice released the integrated case management social review on investment report. Women were slightly overrepresented at 54 percent of the program participants, while 78 percent self-identified as Indigenous. One in four participants were homeless; 80 percent unemployed; 89 percent had housing needs; and 83 percent required with income assistance.

The most common challenges clients faced were mental health, violence, food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty. The ICM social review found that common barriers to services in the NWT included cumbersome program requirements, late payments from income assistance, lack of person-centred approach, lack of communication among service providers, lost or missing documentation, delays in response from front-line workers, and service gaps. At the end of the day, much of the success of the ICM program can be traced to a public service ability to refer clients to the right programs with respect, fair access, and a client-centred or trauma-informed practice.

Mr. Speaker, government must always strive to improve its service delivery. Making the ICM program available in every community is one way to do this, but more needs to be done. Front-line staff must be empowered to do their jobs well. They must have processes for dealing with clients that need to cross departmental boundary. They must be trained in a corporate culture of help, respect, facilitation for client, rather than as gatekeepers. This changed approach in customer service also has a direct impact on our bottom line. One Canadian study found that malnutrition cost the healthcare system an additional 16 to 76 percent per year per person. Based on this estimate, food insecurity in the Northwest Territories could increase healthcare costs from $2,080 to $9,880 per person per year, ensuring that public servants administering housing and income security programs are empowered to work together is imperative to our health and fiscal success.

The NWT has a long history of government acting as the gatekeeper for access to information, program, and services. I believe that my colleagues on Cabinet want change in the system as much as I do, Mr. Speaker. To achieve this, Cabinet must ensure employees are empowered to apply discretion in their job, that the correct processes are in place, and that the public service knows its top responsibility is to provide service to the public. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and Education, Culture and Employment Working Together
Members' Statements

Page 1488

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Item 6, acknowledgements. Item 7, oral questions. Member for Nunakput.

Question 426-19(2): Evictions and Use of Limiters during Winter Months
Oral Questions

Page 1488

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I brought up using of limiters. NTPC with $2 million in overdue accounts across the territory. What's the financial situation of NTPC? The public has the right to know. It's concerning for me. Power Corporation has a financial institution. The financial situation must aggressively try to collect while we're in a pandemic. Why, Mr. Speaker?