This is page numbers 61 - 78 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 units.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Hon. Katrina Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Diane Thom, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 61

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, staff, and friends, it is my duty to advise this House of the passing of Ms. Haylee Carlson, who passed away yesterday, February 9, 2020. Ms. Carlson has been an employee of the Legislative Assembly for more than 16 years, but more than that, she has been a friend to us. She became family to us. On behalf of the Assembly, I extend our condolences to her family and friends. Colleagues, please join me in a moment of silence.

---Moment of silence

Thank you, colleagues. Please be seated. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 7-19(2): Student and Youth Employment Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

Page 61

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to supporting and providing employment opportunities to northern students and graduates. As part of this commitment, the Department of Finance manages programs and initiatives aimed at creating employment opportunities for northern students and at helping to provide diverse work experiences for young people.

Part of the success of these programs depends on people knowing about them in order to access them. The Department of Finance wants to improve our communication about all available programs, and to set an example, I will spend a couple of moments highlighting the existing summer student and internship programs.

Our government's Summer Student Employment Program offers priority hiring to northern students between the months of April and August every year. Students pursuing post-secondary studies can apply to this program for government summer work placements. Students can register for the Summer Student Employment Program through the GNWT Careers website beginning December 1st of every year. Last year, 351 students were hired by the GNWT throughout our territory, meaning that over half of the registered students received a summer placement. Beyond providing employment, the program also provides students with valuable, real-world work experience, which can enhance their employment prospects upon graduation.

Another program that provides meaningful opportunities for students is our internship program. The GNWT internship program allows departments to recruit post-secondary northern graduates into positions related to their field of study for up to two years. Interns gain valuable work experience and have the opportunity to apply their theoretical, practical, and academic knowledge within the context of the GNWT workforce.

Last year, the GNWT hired 34 interns, which was in line with the Department of Finance's funding availability. Departments may access the internship program without funding; however, these placements will be dependent on departmental budgets. This year, we are looking to increase the number of student interns. Recruitment efforts for 40 internship positions are underway within our departments. Intern pay varies and each position is evaluated based on the job duties and the knowledge and skills required for the position. An intern job description is developed as an entry-level position in that they are learning their role and gaining experience in their field. Once the intern has fully learned the role and gained the experience required, they are then qualified to take on the substantive role should a vacancy arise. This method of recruitment assists GNWT departments with succession planning and building the workforce of the future.

More information about these programs, including how to apply, can be found at gov.nt.ca/careers.

Mr. Speaker, the Summer Student Employment Program and the GNWT internship program are two important ways that our government supports northern youth and students. These programs provide opportunities for Northerners to be part of our public service; expose students to the GNWT as an employer; and assist the next generations to develop knowledge, skills, and job experience that benefit our entire territory.

By providing northern students with exposure to what it is like to work for the GNWT, we are supporting Northerners with job opportunities and are doing our part to make sure that our public service reflects the people that it serves.

Making this statement to communicate available programs that provide employment opportunities for Northerners is a first step in an ongoing effort to provide Members of this House and the public with this important information. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 7-19(2): Student and Youth Employment Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

Page 61

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 8-19(2): Education Renewal Five-Year Evaluation
Ministers' Statements

Page 61

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, education is vital to the success of our residents. Increasing student outcomes in the Northwest Territories to the same level as the rest of Canada is a priority for the 19th Legislative Assembly and one of the key objectives of the education renewal and innovation efforts underway in schools across the territory.

Last week, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment released its first five-year evaluation report on the education renewal and innovation framework and action plan, which is guiding systemic changes to the way we approach junior kindergarten to grade 12 education in the Northwest Territories.

This 10-year strategic initiative was launched in 2013 to address gaps in student achievement and increase accountability at all levels of the Northwest Territories education system. Student outcomes continue to be a central focus, with a number of ongoing programs and activities dedicated to improving student and teacher wellness, achieving educational equity for small communities, strengthening assessment and accountability, and improving the quality of education.

The evaluation, which reviewed the first five years of implementation, looked at broad outcomes for students across the Northwest Territories, as well as nine specific initiatives supporting ongoing education renewal.

Mr. Speaker, evaluators found encouraging results and early successes in a number of areas related to students' achievement, health, well-being, and engagement. They reported that a number of programs, such as northern distance learning and child and youth care counsellors, are showing promising results with respect to achieving equitable education in small communities and providing necessary mental health and wellness supports. Similarly, there was a high level of satisfaction with the "Our Languages" curriculum, supporting Indigenous languages revitalization, and the residential schools awareness training being implemented by the department.

Mr. Speaker, though I am pleased to see positive results emerging from our education renewal and innovation efforts in the first five years of implementation, the fact is that education renewal is still a work in progress. I recognize more needs to be done to address remaining gaps in student achievement and outcomes, especially for our smaller communities and Indigenous students.

Key recommendations from the evaluation include prioritizing our education renewal and innovation commitments to make small communities a greater priority. This includes potentially revising our funding formula to increase supports for small schools and working more closely with Indigenous governments on initiatives that will support our students.

The evaluators also found areas for improvement within the Strengthening Teacher Instructional Practices initiative. While the program was found to be effective in improving the work-life balance and collaborative learning for teachers, it also created unexpected challenges for families and households. This is important and the department has already begun to make adjustments to the initiative to help mitigate these challenges and will be able to report on early results in the summative evaluation scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.

Mr. Speaker, the evaluators' recommendations mirror many of those found in the recent audit by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, demonstrating that the department is both aware of and actively responding to known challenges within our education system.

We will be taking a new approach for measuring graduation rates to provide a more accurate snapshot of grade 12 graduates within a given year. We know our graduation rates need elevating, especially in the small communities, and improving how we measure and interpret this data will help us move forward.

The results of both the evaluation and audit will be essential in informing how we continue to work with education partners, families, leaders, and experts to improve experiences and outcomes for students in every community of the Northwest Territories. Our programs and activities will continue to be assessed to adjust their approach for better student success.

Mr. Speaker, how we deliver quality education in the Northwest Territories is critical for ensuring the development of healthy, capable Northerners. It is not something we can do alone. Lasting change takes time, financial investment, continual planning and monitoring, and the long-term commitment of all of our partners. Support for Northwest Territories students must also come from strategic work on health and housing, connection to land and language, economic prosperity, and access to infrastructure. It is truly a shared responsibility, and I look forward to continuing to work with our families and partners to improve outcomes for students in all of our communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 8-19(2): Education Renewal Five-Year Evaluation
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Government of the Northwest Territories Affirmative Action Policy
Members' Statements

Page 62

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the Government of the Northwest Territories Affirmative Action Policy. This policy was implemented to ensure equal representation of Indigenous people in the government workforce.

An article in News North on February 4, 2020, indicated that the NWT Bureau of Statistics states that only 30 percent of the Government of the Northwest Territories workforce is Indigenous, while 59 percent non-Indigenous and 11 percent non-designated. At the senior management level, this number is even lower with only 20 percent having Indigenous ancestry. These numbers are not representative of the Indigenous population of the NWT, which stands at a little more than 50 percent.

Mr. Speaker, one of the common complaints from Indigenous leaders, leaders within the community, and long-term, non-Indigenous residents is that the affirmative action appears to be in name only and is not implemented as designed. Conversations at local levels also speak to this being an issue, and these conversations have been questioning this policy for many years now.

Mr. Speaker, considering the high number of non-Indigenous Government of the Northwest Territories employees as compared to Indigenous employees, it appears that the Affirmative Action Policy is not being followed or implemented as planned.

Mr. Speaker, it is essential that we ensure our government is representative of the people it serves, and that we are following the priority hiring when competitions are held.

Mr. Speaker, neutrality in the hiring process must be followed. Every citizen of the NWT should have access to a fair and equitable interview and hiring process. The way it is now, it is not what you know. It is who you know. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Government of the Northwest Territories Affirmative Action Policy
Members' Statements

Page 62

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Arctic Winter Games
Members' Statements

Page 62

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just over a month away, Nunakput athletes will be gearing up to head to Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, from March 15 to 21, 2020. They are part of a delegation of 375 athletes representing our communities from across our great territory, representing the games.

Mr. Speaker, in 1970, the Arctic Winter Games started, growing across the circumpolar world in celebration of sports and culture, and in friendship. The games give children the opportunity to demonstrate their skills while learning good sportsmanship, inclusivity, and northern pride. There will be 21 sporting events under the headings of traditional supports, such as Arctic sports and dog mushing, Nordic sports, indoor sports, and ice sports.

This year, NWT will compete against eight other teams from Alaska, Northern Alberta, Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik, Russia, Greenland, Finland, and Norway. Together, more than 2,000 athletes, officials, supporters, volunteers, and cultural performers will gather in Whitehorse for the Arctic Winter Games and this celebration.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of all our athletes across our territory, but I am really proud of my athletes that are coming out of Nunakput for trying so hard to get to where they are at because of the travel to get to their sport. They will be participating in the games: James Keevik Jr., Joe Nosagaluak, Riland Keevik, Kobe Kikoak, Edward Pokiak, Mikayla Jacobson, Jasmine Gruben, Noel-Leigh Cockney, and Davy Kuptana.

Mr. Speaker, I want these young athletes to do the very best and let them know that Nunakput and our territory is behind them, rooting for them for next month to compete in Whitehorse. Also, I want to take a moment to thank Diane Nasogaluak and Gary Okheena for travelling with our youth as coach and managers.

Mr. Speaker, it is called "Bring It North," the official theme of this year's Arctic Winter Games. I have no doubt that Nunakput's young athletes are going to bring it in 2020. Mr. Speaker, they have got it. Thank you.

Arctic Winter Games
Members' Statements

Page 62

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Wood Heating for Public Housing Units
Members' Statements

Page 62

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] I, myself, we remember the passing of our friend. We send prayers to the family and also her friends.

Mr. Speaker, living in the North can be very harsh, particularly in the winter months. Just recently, we experienced windchills up to minus 40. The majority of our people should have wood stoves. Almost every single house should have a wood stove, at the very least as a backup heat source. Thinking of a minus-45 cold snap combined with a six-hour power outage, you do not have to imagine it [translation ends] to buy or install a wood stove, but we can ensure that our substantial stock of single-family housing units are equipped with wood stoves. This is not only for the safety of our tenants but also to protect our investment since the government owns these units.

Mr. Speaker, it is not acceptable that this is currently not the case in the Northwest Territories, in our climate, minus 45, minus 50. We need to be proactive instead of being reactive, prevent cold-weather emergencies and support self-sufficiency and resilience for the renters of our social housing. I will have questions for the appropriate Minister at the appropriate time. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Wood Heating for Public Housing Units
Members' Statements

Page 62

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Mahsi, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Income Security Client Banking Issues
Members' Statements

Page 62

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. ECE provides much-needed service through the Income Security Program. The program is helping people to make choices that are right for them. There are many people falling through the cracks when it comes to banking and related information-gathering, such as bank statements. In the small communities, people do not have access to banks to get the required bank statements in order to access income security. This has put unnecessary stress on the clients as they may have lost bank cards or forgotten bank card passwords or just do not know how to get a bank statement as there is no bank in the community. People are afraid they will fall behind in rent payments or utility payments and find themselves being evicted and face a homelessness situation.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the ECE Minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Income Security Client Banking Issues
Members' Statements

Page 62

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.