This is page numbers 1689 - 1724 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 work.

Topics

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1702

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I pretty much agree with everything the Member has said and earlier in his statement, as well. I will just answer the question. Are we going to conduct a review or a feasibility study for universal basic income? No. However, that is because I do think that the Income Assistance Program has a strong foundation and that we can build on it. In many ways, it's just a tweaking of a few rules here and there, and we have something that is very similar to what the Member is talking about. We have already made some of those changes, and he mentioned those, as well. He is doing my job for me today, so I think I will leave it at that and wait for the next question. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1702

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Numerous studies have said that the biggest issue for implementing a guaranteed basic income is actually jurisdictional; it's getting the federal money streams to line up with the provinces and territories. I know every time the federal government rolls out a new program, we in income assistance have to go change and see whether we are going to include it or not, is the first decision. Then we have to recalculate the seniors' subsidy; sometimes, pensions get involved; sometimes, income assistance gets involved. It causes this bureaucratic mess of programs not aligning. The federal government, this Liberal Caucus, has made a basic income one of their number one priorities. Our Arctic framework number one goal and the number one priority is ending poverty. I believe, when that framework comes out with lobbying, we could get it to be a guaranteed basic income. Is the Minister willing to write to the federal government and lobby for us to be a pilot project for rolling out a basic income?

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1702

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

I am not going to write to the federal Minister to ask that question. I am going to look into what we are doing, how we can do it better. When I have the conversations with the appropriate federal ministers and when I am on these FTP calls, I will have those types of conversations and promote the types of changes that we are looking at. The Member mentioned there are a number of different programs that we offer across the GNWT, across departments, and that the federal government offers, as well. Within the GNWT, part of the income assistance review is going to be looking at everything that is offered, what housing offers, what health offers, what ECE offers, because we need to move to a more streamlined approach. I think it will cut down on paperwork; it will make people's lives easier, and it will be more client-centred. I have no problem suggesting that the federal government does something similar, but it's a little difficult to get the federal government to change their programs just for us.

The Member mentioned that one of the biggest difficulties of implementing this is the federal government, but I think one of the biggest difficulties for implementing a guaranteed universal basic income is the amount of money. I think it's as simple as that. If we had $50-, $100-, $800-million to put towards a guaranteed basic income, we could use that money to solve a lot of problems. This is a very blunt instrument. Maybe we put a hundred million dollars into after-care for when people come back from treatment; they have a place to go where they know they can stay sober, and they can avoid all the issues that lead them back on the road to addictions. Then we can take another $100 million, and we can build economies in small communities. We can take another $100 million and do this. It's not as simple as just saying we want to do this. It's a lot of money, and I don't know if a blunt instrument like a universal basic income is something that would work necessarily in the territory, considering how different every community is.

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1702

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

I believe the problem with saying that it costs a lot of money is: we have not actually done the assessment to see what it costs, and we have not looked at the way all of these programs are working together and how much is already being spent. I personally believe we could actually lower income assistance if it meant we guaranteed the money for longer periods of time and with less bureaucracy. I heard the Minister of health the other day mention the idea of putting a seniors' portal such that all of the applications of funding for seniors is in one place, and I laughed because I know how impossible of a task that is. There are different pools of seniors' funding across multiple levels of government, not to mention pensions. Trying to bring one person to bring that all together is extremely difficult. It requires political will. As part of the income assistance, can I get a commitment from the Minister that he will not only look across departments what we're doing but also what the federal government is doing and roll that into the cost analysis.

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1702

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Yes, we'll look at what everyone's doing. If we're going to review something, we're going to review the money that, a program that's solely about the money that people are getting, we're going to look at what money people are getting from every source. That includes the federal government.

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1702

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Yellowknife North.

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1703

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I've got a refusal to do a feasibility assessment. I've got a refusal to do a roadmap. Can I get something from the Minister that he can give me an idea of what we think it would cost because I honestly don't know? I don't know if there's already enough money that we could roll this out tomorrow or whether it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Can we do some preliminary costing, Madam Speaker?

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1703

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Last year, about 4,000 people accessed income assistance. If we were to pay each one of those people the max amount that you can get on income assistance each year, it would be about $80 million. That's an extra $50 million on top of the $30 million that we spend now. If we did the real universal basic income where everyone in the territory regardless of income gets that amount, we're looking at $800 million. The very low end of this is $80 million. To the Member's point, if we spend money here, costs elsewhere go down. I get that. Same thing with education, but that doesn't mean that we have all this money to put into these things. I would love to put money into education right from prenatal all the way up to post-secondary. I think that would solve all of our problems in a generation. This would be utopia, but the fact is: there're needs now, and it's difficult to reallocate money that way. I'd be happy to sit down with the Member and have these discussions because income assistance is one of the areas that hasn't been thoroughly reviewed in a number of years, and it's one of the arguments that, by the end of this Assembly, I really want to make improvements to so that we can get to a system similar to what the Member is talking about. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Question 479-19(2): Income Assistance
Oral Questions

Page 1703

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Question 480-19(2): Addressing Systemic Racism
Oral Questions

November 5th, 2020

Page 1703

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. My questions today are for the Premier. My first question is: what is this government currently doing to address the problem of systemic racism? Thank you.

Question 480-19(2): Addressing Systemic Racism
Oral Questions

Page 1703

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Madam Premier.

Question 480-19(2): Addressing Systemic Racism
Oral Questions

Page 1703

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Across the government, we are taking a variety of actions to address systemic racism. It's a huge issue, and Members have said 50 percent of our population is Indigenous. We've already talked all week about the affirmative action. We need to do something, so we're doing our best. We're ensuring that our decisions, including the creation of new programs and services, are all contemplated using what's called the gender-based analysis plus lens. Everything that we do should be considered there this lens. It's not only about gender. It's not only about women and men. It's about how different groups in our territory will be affected differently by every decision, every policy, every program that we set up.

We're also implementing modern treaties including self-government agreements and land claims. This is an important part of what we do as the Government of the Northwest Territories, and it respects Indigenous self-determination and self-governments. It's something I take totally to my heart. We're also implementing the United Nations Declaration and calls for justice from the Truth and Reconciliation. As well, we have an Indigenous Employee advisory committee, which is committed to providing advice and feedback to HR, human resources branch, with regards to identifying barriers and increasing the representation of Indigenous people at all levels of our public service. It also works to create an environment that supports and promotes Indigenous people currently within the government to the Northwest Territories workforce.

As well, Madam Speaker, we meet with our counterparts in other jurisdictions to discuss best practices at all times. For example, the previous Minister of Justice, she attended an FTP meeting on systemic racism in the justice system. Subsequently, she reached out to the Indigenous governments and began a conversation about what we can do to address some of these issues within the justice system, and that work is still carrying on. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Question 480-19(2): Addressing Systemic Racism
Oral Questions

Page 1703

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

The Premier touched a little bit on my next question, but I'm wondering if she can expand on how the GNWT is doing this. My next question was about my gender-based analysis that the GNWT does with Cabinet and the Financial Management Board. I'm wondering if she can explain what tools they use to ensure that there is a systemic racism lens used in that work, as well.

Question 480-19(2): Addressing Systemic Racism
Oral Questions

Page 1703

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

The Management Board Secretariat has added gender-based analysis plus to the assessment process for Financial Management Board's submissions, and I think this was new to our government. It wasn't done before if I remember. It's huge. This is a huge thing. The initial focus, again, on a gender-based analysis plus lens is on gender. However, like I said before, the differences for all populations, not only just about biological, but it also considers our social, cultural issues, and how different programs, et cetera, affect different people

We also have multiple characteristics that intersect and contribute to who we are. The gender-based analysis plus considers many other factors. Like I said, it considers race, ethnicity, religion, age, mental, and physical disability and how that interaction between these factors influence the way we might experience government policies and initiatives using the gender-based analysis plus lens when analyzing, planning, and making decisions means carefully and deliberately examining the implementations of our work in terms of gender and other factors. Madam Speaker, it's not easy work, but it's critical work and important if we do recognize that our population is half Indigenous and half other. We really take this work seriously.

Question 480-19(2): Addressing Systemic Racism
Oral Questions

Page 1704

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Some of the regulations and laws that contain kind of those hidden moments or hidden pieces of systemic racism are often ones that we often overlook and have been in our system for decades. I'm wondering: what work is being done right now to dig those out and make sure that all of those pieces of legislation and pieces of policy work are being used on that lens because a lot of the programs that are getting that lens are new programs? What are we doing about our old existing programs?