This is page numbers 163 - 178 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 community.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake Jr, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, 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 163

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

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 12-19(2): Notice of Budget Address
Ministers' Statements

Page 163

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will deliver the budget address on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 12-19(2): Notice of Budget Address
Ministers' Statements

Page 163

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

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

Minister's Statement 13-19(2): Three Phases and Upcoming Critical Milestones in the Transformation of Aurora College
Ministers' Statements

Page 163

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This government has been tasked with transforming Aurora College into a polytechnic university. This work, which will span the 18th, 19th, and 20th Legislative Assemblies, is no small task, but I am here to tell you that we are well on our way. The transformation consists of over 200 projects and 2,000 individual tasks. In order to be successful, we need to make the right changes, in the right order, at the right time.

To help keep things on track, the transformation is divided into three phases. Phase 1 is focused on strengthening the foundation of the existing college and preparing for transformation by ensuring we understand the detailed steps ahead of us. This is the phase we are currently in. Much of the work has already been completed in this area, much is under way, and there are some exciting and important projects that will be completed before the year is out.

This work will ensure that the college is ready to enter phase 2, which is where the real transformational change will begin to occur. This will require wide-ranging changes to the organizational structure of the college, a return to board governance, and changes to the Aurora College Act to ensure that governance is truly at arm's length. These changes will allow us to meet and exceed the standards that the college needs to live up to in order to complete the transformation and become recognized as a polytechnic university. This final transformation will occur in phase 3.

Transparency is the key to maintaining confidence and building trust, so, in the coming weeks, I will deliver three Minister's statements describing each of the phases in detail so that we can celebrate the successes we have already had, describe the next steps, and let everyone know how college staff, Members of the Legislative Assembly, Indigenous governments, and the public will be able to contribute to the decisions that are made moving forward. We cannot do this alone, Mr. Speaker, and we are not going to try to.

To keep the public better informed, we will be launching a new interactive web page and a quarterly report to track progress and celebrate our successes. I will share these reporting tools with my colleagues and the public as they are released.

Mr. Speaker, the transformation to a polytechnic university is a critical step in the economic and social development of the territory. We are not just creating an institution; we are helping create the future of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 13-19(2): Three Phases and Upcoming Critical Milestones in the Transformation of Aurora College
Ministers' Statements

Page 163

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

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 14-19(2): Arctic Inspiration Prize
Ministers' Statements

Page 163

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to highlight and celebrate the recipients of the 8th Annual Arctic Inspiration Prize, Northern Compass and The Dehcho: River Journeys. The 8th Annual Arctic Inspiration Prize Awards Ceremony was held in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 5th. At the ceremony, Northern Compass received the grand prize of $1 million, and The Dehcho: River Journeys project received $370,000.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize recognizes and promotes the extraordinary contribution made in the gathering of Arctic knowledge in the design to celebrate and bring further awareness to organizations and their plans to implement this knowledge to real-world applications, for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic and the Arctic peoples. I had the honour of presenting to Northern Compass with their $1-million prize in Ottawa last week, and would like to share with you an overview of their award winning program:

  • Northern Compass is a skilled team of educators, students, and community members from across the North.
  • The team includes representation from a program that has been supported by the GNWT over the years, the Northern Youth Abroad program.
  • Northern Compass provides northern youth with tailored support and tools that will allow them to overcome the barriers that they may face when transitioning from high school to post-secondary education. They aim to:
  • "Dramatically increase achievement amongst Northerners pursuing their education and career goals after high school, enabling them to become full participants in their communities and beyond."
  • The project motivates youth to graduation from high school and for them to make informed decisions about their future. It also provides support and increased access to training and programs that allow northern youth to pursue and achieve their goals.

Thank you to their nominator, the honourable David Joanasie, Minister of Education, Minister of Culture and Heritage, Minister of Languages, Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.

I would like to congratulate the team leaders, Jim Snider, Karen Aglukark, Lois Philipp, Rebecca Bisson, who have put in so much time providing accessibility and the relevant resources with information on funding, housing, budgets, and other areas related to the northern students' success.

The Dehcho: River Journeys project was also a recipient of an Arctic Inspiration Award. This project did:

  • Travel on the Mackenzie River, from the Deh Cho to the Delta, and bridged the past and the present, offering a multi-media experience that explores how the past 100 years have been transformed on that river.
  • Students have collaborated on two short films, one based on materials and the other based on modern-day journeys on the river with the present-day elders. The elders will describe and explain the changes that they have seen during this lifetime.
  • Throughout the project, the development of the interactive and educational online experience will allow students to view the films and then use their new-found knowledge to resolve real-life environmental issues of the Mackenzie River and the watershed today.

Thank you to their nominator, Dr. Frank Tester, professor at University of British Columbia School of Social Work. Team Members include Dr. Gordon Christie, Alison de Pelham, Brian Jaffray, Terry Jaffray, Martina Norwegian, Brenda Parlee, Daniel Seguin, and Sharon Snowshoe. Thank you for your work on this project, and congratulations on your achievement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 14-19(2): Arctic Inspiration Prize
Ministers' Statements

Page 163

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

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

Education Legacy in Fort Smith
Members' Statements

February 13th, 2020

Page 163

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, education legacy in Fort Smith has always been a topic that has been dear to my heart. When Yellowknife was named the capital of the NWT in 1967, Fort Smith was designated the education centre of the NWT. Fort Smith's education legacy is very prominent, and we are so proud to be leading the role in this field. Many of our former leaders, including Premiers, Ministers, former and current Members of Parliament, mayors, chiefs, and others have all gone through Fort Smith to advance their education. I say this because I want to remind people of the tangible value that Fort Smith education has contributed to the development of the NWT. People tend to forget that Fort Smith has been the focal point for education for many years in this territory.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Auditor General's Report on Early Childhood to Grade 12 Education in the Northwest Territories, which was tabled last week. While there were a number of troubling aspects identified in that report, I am confident that the gaps identified will be addressed by the members of the district education authority, the local education authority, and by senior management and staff in the community of Fort Smith. In order to address the education gaps in this report, proper funding must be allocated to the local and district education authorities.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight the important work that is done at the level of the district education authority and all staff at our elementary and high schools in Fort Smith. Every single person who works within these institutions contributes in some way to the development of our children, of our future citizens and leaders. Whether it's people at the janitorial level or at the superintendent level, they all play a role in our children's development, and I want to thank them for their service, including all teachers from junior kindergarten to grade 12. Thank you for introducing Aboriginal languages and cultural-based programming with best practices to enhance the education system at all levels in Fort Smith.

Moreover, Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge and appreciate the strong academic background that all the staff at Aurora College Thebacha campus hold. We have a very well-educated group of instructors who teach in all areas at our campus, and I would like to thank them for choosing Fort Smith as their preferred venue to teach. I want them to know that our community values their knowledge, and I certainly hope that the education system as a whole for the NWT will also value their knowledge.

As Aurora College transfers into a polytech university, it is vital that we recognize the strong academic background of the staff at Aurora College Thebacha campus. Our academics and staff at Aurora College must be supported and celebrated. [Microphone turned off]

---Unanimous consent granted

Education Legacy in Fort Smith
Members' Statements

Page 164

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, the staff must have a say in the development of the future transformation of the polytechnic university. Their experience, hard work, and dedication to post-secondary education must be recognized.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that, going forward into this 19th Assembly, my goal is to see the entire board of Aurora College be reinstated and to be at arm's length from the Government of the Northwest Territories. I want to see a northern-based polytech university with the highest of national standards be developed. Yes, the headquarters should remain in Fort Smith. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Education Legacy in Fort Smith
Members' Statements

Page 164

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

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

Closing the Municipal Funding Gap
Members' Statements

Page 164

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In 2014, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs conducted a municipal formula funding review. The purpose was to update community governments and funding models, to ensure fair and transparent funding. This has revealed a significant gap between the needs of municipalities and the funding that they are provided.

The Minister of the day of Municipal and Community Affairs, the honourable Alfred Moses, advised the 18th Assembly that the gap was approximately $39 million. In 2016, in the mandate, the GNWT committed to developing a strategy to close the funding gap over the next nine years. The Standing Committee of Operations expressed concern about the accumulated impact of this funding shortfall on communities on a year-by-year basis. Committee repeatedly asked for the annual shortfall, but to no avail. Committee asked for the gap to be updated annually to see what progress was being made to reduce it. Committee pushed the Minister for a strategy to close the gap.

To report the funding gap, it was quietly tabled in the last sitting day of the 18th Assembly, making it impossible for the 18th Assembly standing committee to review the department's work. I have had a chance to read the report. The findings, Mr. Speaker, are shocking. The report says, "The total annual funding deficit for community governments is approximately $24.5 million." This takes into account the $29 million provided annually through MACA's public infrastructure policy and $16 million provided annually through the federal government's Gas Tax Agreement. This is a lot worse than a $40-million deficit over the nine years, and I am encouraging my colleagues on the government operations to review this report in detail.

Mr. Speaker, community governments are the heart and soul of our communities. This work affects the lives of every resident in the Northwest Territories. The GNWT has to stop offloading the responsibility onto the community governments and recognize how it is vital that we have to be working with them and fund them properly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Closing the Municipal Funding Gap
Members' Statements

Page 164

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

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

Oral Health Care
Members' Statements

Page 164

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to discuss oral health care in the NWT, especially for communities outside the capital. In my community, we have a dental clinic that serves not only Inuvik, but the Beaufort-Delta. That is not enough. I would like to refer to an oral health action plan released by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, ITK, in 2013. I quote from the executive summary: "The 2008-2009 Inuit oral health survey highlighted the need for urgent and comprehensive measures to overcome the unacceptably high rate of oral disease that is two to three times that of the rest of Canada."

Mr. Speaker, in the NWT, there is an Oral Health Action Plan that was created, and it is a three-year action plan from 2018 to 2021. The Minister at the time wrote in the Minister's message in that action plan: "We know that good oral health is an essential element of our overall health. We know that healthy mouths in children are crucial for adequate nutrition, growth, language development, school performance, and social well-being. Yet, dental caries is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood and places a substantial burden on our population."

Mr. Speaker, in the same document, in the introduction of the action plan, it states that oral health is an important element of our general health. Oral health is an important element of our general health. Healthy mouths and teeth in children promote healthy growth, nutrition, speech/language development, good school performance, and social well-being. Sadly, chronic pain and tooth loss from untreated oral disease can impair a child's ability to eat, speak, sleep, and learn. In adults, oral disease has been linked to an array of chronic and systemic diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, and pneumonia.

We know all this, but yet we are still failing in providing equitable dental services to our communities. Instead of prevention, we continue to arrange medical travel for surgery for essential dental work in our children. Mr. Speaker, dental therapists used to be able to work in the communities to do this work, but, since the closing of the last dental therapist school on November 2011 in Canada, there are few left.

Mr. Speaker, we can't un-know what we know. What is this government going to do about it? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.