This is page numbers 1593 - 1652 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 money.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, 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 1593

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 90-19(2): The Benefits and Importance of the Mineral Resource Sector
Ministers' Statements

Page 1593

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Members of the 19th Legislative Assembly committed to "increase resource exploration and development" in the territory. This priority reflects the importance of the mineral resource sector to our economy both today and into the foreseeable future. Our efforts to support the mineral resource sector are further reflected in our commitments to develop regulations for the new Mineral Resource Act; to develop and implement regional mineral development strategies; and review our Mining Incentive Program, socio-economic agreements, and our territory's fiscal regime around mining. Later today, I will table the annual Socio-Economic Agreement Report for Mines Operating in the Northwest Territories. It will outline and confirm again the benefits of mining to our territory.

With a total impact of 27 percent of GDP, diamond mining was the largest private-sector industry in the Northwest Territories and the primary foundation of our economy in 2019. Our diamond mines employed 1,334 Northwest Territories residents last year, more than half of them Indigenous. Over and above the direct benefits of wages, skills training, and capacity building, the Northwest Territories mining industry contributed $1.1 billion to related sectors like construction, transportation, retail, and real estate. The GNWT also realized revenue from the mining industry in the form of corporate income tax, fuel tax, property tax, payroll tax, and personal income tax. In total, $370 million was spent with Indigenous companies in our territory. Royalties to Indigenous governments totalled over $3 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, in addition to benefits paid out under impact benefit agreements signed directly with Indigenous governments.

Madam Speaker, big companies can also make big differences in the communities that they are part of. From scholarships to donations to sponsorships, their contributions to our communities are evident well beyond their mine sites. Even through this COVID pandemic, where profits are often non-existent, the diamond mines have continued to be strong corporate citizens.

I want to acknowledge that our support of the mineral resource sector comes within the context of a regulatory regime that works to ensure that resource development occurs in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. We are confident that our system strives to achieve a balance between economic opportunity and the protection of our environment. We will keep that balance as we continue the work of developing a truly northern-centered and modern regulatory system.

In recent weeks, we have had to consider the very real possibility that the Ekati Diamond Mine will continue in a state of care and maintenance for an extended period of time. Madam Speaker, we want the Ekati Mine to return to full operations. It remains a valuable natural resource, and recent events do not change that fact. We also want to restore our mineral development sector, not just our mines, but also advanced projects and exploration companies, to a position of growth and prosperity.

These are trying times, and a difficult road of economic recovery lies ahead. There are several things the GNWT will do to help us advance down that road:

  • Continue to recognize the value of mine workers to the territory, including the many benefits that flow through them into our communities;
  • Highlight the competitiveness of our jurisdiction to investors;
  • Complete the work required to implement the Mineral Resources Act, including developing new regulations;
  • Develop and implement regional mineral strategies;
  • Increase collaboration and investment with Indigenous governments; and
  • Promote the Northwest Territories as a source of critical and strategic minerals and metals.

Madam Speaker, our government is committed to growing the Northwest Territories mining sector and, accordingly, its contributions to investment, employment, and Indigenous participation in the Northwest Territories' economy. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Minister's Statement 90-19(2): The Benefits and Importance of the Mineral Resource Sector
Ministers' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Ministers' statements. Minister for Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 91-19(2): Training, Skills Development, and Partnerships across the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Increasing employment in small communities is an important mandate of our government. This week, across Canada, National Skilled Trades and Technology Week will be celebrated as we raise awareness of the many career opportunities in the skilled trades and technology sectors in the Northwest Territories and across Canada. This week, we also honour the 31 Apprenticeship High Mark award recipients and the 36 individuals who have obtained journeyperson certification this year in the Northwest Territories. I want to offer my congratulations to all the award recipients on their achievements.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment supports the development of a skilled northern workforce on many levels, including through the delivery of designated trades and occupation certification programs. This year, Madam Speaker, I am pleased to advise that we have five new members on the Apprenticeship, Trades and Occupation Certification Board to provide advice and link between the department and industry to lead and are finalizing a promotional campaign to reach out to apprentices and inform them of the many opportunities they can access in our territory. We are also working towards issuing a Blue Seal qualification, which will assist journeypersons in a designated trade or occupation to have their business skills recognized. To further support the apprenticeship program, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment is also moving forward with the Women in Trades Program and Journeyperson Mentorship Program, both of which will be implemented in 2021.

Madam Speaker, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment works in collaboration with many partners to seek out and develop opportunities for residents and organizations in small communities. We have established regional training committees to collaborate on joint training and employment initiatives. These typically include regional Indigenous organizations and economic and labour market stakeholders, as well as the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Aurora College. There are currently three dynamic committees in the South Slave, Dehcho, and Beaufort-Delta, and we are working to establish training committees in any other region that express interest.

Madam Speaker, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment actively seeks out opportunities with communities, businesses, and government departments and agencies to offer increased opportunities to NWT residents. One of our key partnerships is with the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, through which we are seeking to maximize the use of journeypersons in local housing organizations to target training opportunities for apprenticeships. Currently, there are more than 30 journeypersons working in communities.

One of the programs we offer is the Small Community Employment Support Program providing designated community authorities access to annual funding to help address local labour market needs and priorities. From 2018 to April 2020, more than 1,400 jobs have been supported in small communities by this program.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to advise you and this House that, to support small communities in addressing the impacts of the pandemic until 2022, designated community authorities can use their funding under the Small Community Employment Support Program to hire local residents to assist in addressing any pandemic-related challenge or need.

Madam Speaker, I have some additional good news in relation to our partnership with the Government of Canada. We are currently working with the federal Department of Employment and Social Development Canada to secure new funding to support economic and labour market recovery in the North. I will have more information to provide my colleagues and the public in the near future once more details become available.

Madam Speaker, over the past number of years the department's approach to supporting the labour market and training opportunities in communities across the Northwest Territories has been strategic and collaborative. When the pandemic hit, we mobilized and responded quickly to ensure clients, employers, organizations, and community projects were not penalized or impacted financially as a result of changes in the delivery of education or training programs. Training, skills development, and education are crucial to the Northwest Territories' economic recovery, and our partners and ourselves have demonstrated we are ready to respond quickly with innovation, consideration, and collaboration. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Minister's Statement 91-19(2): Training, Skills Development, and Partnerships across the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Non-Renewable Resource
Members' Statements

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Madam Speaker. The NWT's non-renewable resource economy has experienced many changes over that last several decades. The NWT has witnessed the development and closure of gold mines around Yellowknife, an oil and gas boom that we eventually saw slowly fade away and give way to diamond exploration and production which appears to also be moving in the same direction.

Madam Speaker, all these non-renewable industry activities provide the residents of this great territory with hope: hope of moving away from reliance on government as the economic driver; hope for well-paying jobs; hope for better education; hope of owning their own home as an option over public housing; and hope of providing one's family with a chance at a successful and wholesome future.

Madam Speaker, it was the oil and gas industry that allowed me to realize the dream of bettering my life, and I expect that many others have been provided the same benefits from our non-renewable resource sector, whether it be gold or diamond mines.

Madam Speaker, let us be clear here, the Northwest Territories is rich in renewable and non-renewable resources. I am talking about our forests; I am talking about wildlife; I am talking about an abundance of water; I am talking about the richness of minerals such as gold, diamonds, and rare earth minerals that lie beneath our feet; and I am talking about the untapped oil and gas trapped below us.

Madam Speaker, with the variety and abundance of non-renewable resources present in the NWT, we continue to be a have not territory. We as a government must promote and support the exploration and development of our non-renewable resource sector through clear and reasonable legislation and with timely decisions so projects can advance.

As government, we must be willing to support our constituents, and that support is to provide them with an opportunity for employment and business opportunities beyond government. Those companies that undertake non-renewable resource development provide jobs, whether directly or indirectly, through use of northern contractors. The non-renewable resource sector provides our northern businesses with the opportunity to build capacity and provide us with well-trained individuals.

Madam Speaker, with the loss or slow-down in the non-renewable resource sector, we will experience a decline in our GDP. We will experience a loss in resource royalties. We will experience a loss of a major employer. We have to do all we can to support this sector. Thank you, Madam Speaker

Non-Renewable Resource
Members' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Land Leases
Members' Statements

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Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak once again about the issue of the unreasonable minimum price of lease rent costs for land leaseholders on that will lands in the NWT. Madam Speaker, this now marks my third Member's statement on this topic, and I am determined to continue to revisit this topic until I see some substantive changes to the current regime of minimum rent costs.

The primary reason why I continue to bring up this subject is simply because it's an important issue for my constituents. I know several people with land leases, and they're all very concerned about the new rent minimum cost that came in effect April 1, 2018. I'm talking about average people who have modest incomes.

Madam Speaker, as I stated in my previous statements, the minimum rent costs for territorial land lease went from $150 to $840 annually. Rather than side with the more reasonable approach of a gradual increase of these costs over a period of time, the Department of Lands decided to increase the lands all at once by nearly six full.

Madam Speaker, I don't know what went into this decision to initiate these changes all at once, but the decision-making process for this particular issue was seriously flawed, and I'm saying this as an attempt to embarrass the government for a bad decision, and I'm not saying this, I'm not saying this as an attempt to embarrass the government for a bad decision which it was. My goal, however, is to stand up for all rights-based land leaseholders and all permanent and long-time residents of the NWT to ensure they get the best deal possible in this situation.

In closing, Madam Speaker, I once again urge this government, more specifically, I urge the Minister of Lands, to reconsider the current course of his decision and not to make these new rent minimum costs permanent, at least not at its current price. I strongly recommend a more staggered approach to increasing these types of costs on people as that is much more reasonable and acceptable for people to incur. I will have questions for the Minister of Lands today. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Land Leases
Members' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Indigenous Language Interpreters
Members' Statements

Page 1596

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Madam Speaker. [Translation] This past week, we are talking about the apprentice, just like my oldest son, Edzo Lafferty. He had to receive, so I know that he has a journeyman paper, and all his brothers and sisters, his grandfather, are very thankful. While I speak, I'm very thankful for my son. [Translation ends].

Madam Speaker, just to continue on with my Member's statement on overall education, today, I want to talk about one of the greatest treasures in this territory, our Indigenous languages. Our Indigenous languages are rare, unique, in all the world. They are beautiful to hear yet ever so fragile. Our languages are also carriers of our cultures, a true conveyor of our values and world views. Without the languages, the NWT Indigenous communities would be lost, and the world would be a lesser place.

Madam Speaker, central to the survival of our languages, our elders are true standard bearers of North Slavey, South Slavey, Gwich'in, Chipewyan, Cree, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuqtun, and my language, Tlicho, but also professional language interpreters here in this building and outside the building. Professional interpreters are essential, Madam Speaker, because they allow Indigenous speakers to coexist in an English-speaking world. Without our interpreters, our language speakers would have no option but to speak English and our languages become marginalized.

Today, I want to express my deep appreciation for the hard work and commitment of our Indigenous language interpreters wherever they are, in hospitals, healthcares in our territories, in the courts, in the hospitals, government offices, and right here in the Legislative Assembly. I commend you all and thank you for helping us carry our language to the future. For that, I would like to say masi cho.

As important as our interpreters are, their profession is being taken for granted by this government. At one time, interpreter was a thriving profession. Now, I believe there are no more than 10 certified Indigenous interpreters in the entire territory, no more than 10. Most of these 10 are near retirement, as well, and little has been done to train more. There is nothing less than an emergency to this matter. I intend to ask the government how they are responding to this emergency. Masi.

Indigenous Language Interpreters
Members' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Paulatuk Sewage Lagoon Project
Members' Statements

Page 1596

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Last week, MACA wrote to the Hamlet of Paulatuk, telling them they have to pay back $53,000 in clean waste-water funding for improvements to Paulatuk's sewage lagoon. MACA says they gave the hamlet two extensions; there is no way to extend the project deadline. MACA says the only option is to cancel the project and for Paulatuk to pay back the monies. The hamlet started the work this summer. They cannot get the work done by January 31st due to freeze-up, Madam Speaker. MACA did give a deadline for construction to end in the middle of winter.

Paulatuk could not start the work in 2019 because it did not have the appropriate equipment in the community. In 2020, they prioritized the equipment for the drainage that came in off the barge. The sewage lagoon did not get done due to freeze-up.

When we talk about capacity issues in smaller communities, it's a stark reality. Paulatuk desperately needs this work to be completed and no claw-backs. The hamlet is doing the best with what they have, with limited resources. The government is underfunding our municipal governments by $40 million a year. When the hamlet gets funding, this is how MACA treats them. Instead of acting as funding police, maybe MACA should be there being a champion for them and helping them. Why can't the deadline be extended? Why can't the department underwrite to secure the funding on behalf of Paulatuk?

Better yet, the department has to make it better for our communities. The equipment is needed in there for the work in this critical infrastructure that is needed for the community. Madam Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Paulatuk Sewage Lagoon Project
Members' Statements

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The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.