This is page numbers 345 - 392 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

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake Jr, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, 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 10:00 a.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

Page 345

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

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 22-19(2): Payment of Invoices
Ministers' Statements

Page 345

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories wants NWT businesses to flourish. For small businesses in particular, prompt payment of invoices is critical to their financial health.

As Minister, I can assure you that the Department of Finance places a high value on maintaining a positive working relationship with the companies the GNWT does business with.

The Financial and Employee Shared Services, or FESS, is the division responsible for processing and issuing payment for all supplier invoices for goods and services provided to all GNWT departments, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, and as of last month, the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority. FESS's goal is to process payment for all suppliers within 20 to 30 days of receiving an invoice.

Over the past couple of months, FESS has looked into the reasons why some payments are delayed. We have learned that changes that were made to how we process invoices may be causing unnecessary delays. In the past, suppliers sent their invoices directly to the GNWT departments and agencies they provided the goods and services to, rather than one central source. Over time, this shift has likely led to some confusion among suppliers on who they should be forwarding their invoices to, as well as uncertainty within departments and agencies on what to do when they receive an invoice. Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of the Department of Finance to make sure that suppliers clearly understand our processes, as well as how to access support when they encounter issues. As a response, the department has updated its website to make certain that key information suppliers need is easily available, including where and how to send invoices, what information is required for speedy processing, and how to sign up for direct deposit instead of waiting for a cheque to be delivered through the mail.

Within the coming months, we will also be sending resources directly to our suppliers to ensure that they are familiar with our processes and know who to contact when they need support. We will also ensure that employees in the departments and agencies supported by Financial and Employee Shared Services know that they should forward any invoices they receive without delay.

Communications to vendors is one step in the process. We must also ensure that we are able to meet our internal processing deadlines. As you are aware, with the onboarding of the NTHSSA, the volume for FESS increased and as with any change, there are dips in production. We are continuing to monitor this, and over time, we will see these numbers pick back up.

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that enhanced communication from the Department of Finance to our suppliers, and within our government, continued monitoring of workflows, and internal streamlining of processes will help to address our suppliers' concerns about payment delays, and we will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that all invoices are paid within our 20- to 30-day target. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 22-19(2): Payment of Invoices
Ministers' Statements

Page 345

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

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 23-19(2): Taking the Next Step in Northwest Territories Film and Media
Ministers' Statements

Page 345

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Each year the Dead North Film Festival inspires people from across the Arctic to get out and shoot short film creations in the depths of winter. It also brings Northerners together to support the film sector and have fun at this horror and fantasy genre event.

This year marks the eighth year for the Dead North Film Festival. The GNWT's Film Commission, in the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, has been a supporter and sponsor from the beginning. The annual festival has become a staple in the Yellowknife film calendar, providing professionals and newcomers alike the chance to dip their toes in the creative economy. Since Dead North was established in 2012, over 170 short films have been produced, and audiences come out in droves to see the results.

As the Northwest Territories' presence on the global film industry continues to grow, this northern event has also become a jumping-off point for the participation of Northwest Territories productions in southern festival tours.

Mr. Speaker, this year's submissions for the Dead North Film Festival set a new record, and I would like to congratulate the festival's founders and organizers, the Artless Collective, for their vision, the work they have done, and the success that they have enjoyed.

As this year's Dead North Film Festival wraps up this weekend, I encourage Members to get out and take in the screenings and events. I would also like to use this opportunity to update Members on the work and investments we are undertaking to create even more opportunities for our film and media industry.

Five years ago, Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Film Commission launched Take One, the territory's first film strategy. Through its implementation and our own government investments, the Northwest Territories has become known for award-winning films, circumpolar festivals, and one of a kind storytelling. Last year, the Northwest Territories Film Rebate Program leveraged almost $2.3 million in economic spending in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, it is time to update our film strategy and to take the next big step in the development of our creative economy. To do this, the department has launched the Let's Talk Film and Media campaign to consider what the next phase of film and media growth in our territory should look like. Together with the Northwest Territories Professional Media Association, Industry, Tourism and Investment will be hosting a visioning workshop with representatives from across the Northwest Territories' film sector. We're reaching out to leaders, municipalities, and stakeholders across the North to get their input. Through an online idea board and discussion forums, we have started a territory-wide conversation with Northwest Territories residents about film and media development in our territory.

Mr. Speaker, in this government's mandate, we have highlighted the importance of increasing economic diversification by supporting growth in non-extractive sectors. Collectively, our vision is for a territory where there is rewarding work available for Northwest Territories residents across all sectors, and this includes film. Our territory is home to a vibrant screen-based media production industry built upon the dedicated efforts of both local and guest producers committed to telling our stories to the world. The product of their work and passion does more than generate employment and spending for actors, technical staff, and suppliers of goods and services. It also helps to showcase our incredible landscapes, cultures, traditions, and iconic landmarks to the world.

When it was introduced in 2015, the Government of the Northwest Territories' first-ever film strategy established two broad goals for the actions and investments it identified:

  1. increase the number and quality of local independent film and television production with market interest; and
  2. increase the number of guest productions that engage Northwest Territories residents and their services.

With success on both fronts, it is time to advance our growing industry to the next level. In the coming weeks, Mr. Speaker, Members may see or receive messages on their social media platforms saying, "Let's talk Film and Media." I encourage you to join the conversation and to share the opportunity with your constituents so that together we can share ideas on what the future of film and media looks like in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 23-19(2): Taking the Next Step in Northwest Territories Film and Media
Ministers' Statements

Page 345

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

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Tlicho All-Season Road Project Benefits
Members' Statements

Page 345

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to make a statement regarding the highway to Whati and how the contracts were given out regarding the employment. There is a lot of employment that will go into it. It is going to be a three-year contract. We are hoping that we include a lot of training on the job and also businesses. I would like to say a few things regarding that. [Translation ends]

Whati all-season road is a P3 project with a 20 percent Tlicho Government partnership with the main contractor North Star Infrastructure, a non-NWT company. The project includes expected construction costs of $213.8 million, and project costs of $410 million over a 25-year period. The project agreement for road construction is a three-year contract. Construction work started five months ago, approximately.

Mr. Speaker, with a P3 project of this magnitude, there is a requirement that nearby communities will benefit during the life of the project through employment, training, and business contracts. From the earliest planning stages, the territorial government assured the Tlicho that its residents and business would benefit. Sadly, Mr. Speaker, the local benefits provision of the Tlicho project agreement the GNWT and the contractor have not lived up to expectations. Behchoko is home to numerous qualified Heavy Equipment Operators, but after five months, the on-site contractor has not hired one of them. Instead, they watch in frustration as a van delivers non-northern and Yellowknife-based heavy equipment operators to the work site. I've seen it and witnessed it myself, Mr. Speaker. I've witnessed it. I drive the road from here to Behchoko on a frequent basis.

Mr. Speaker, it's time that business opportunities, most contractors are going to companies from outside of Behchoko, even outside the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, this is not acceptable. The construction site is located in the heart of the Tlicho, between the Wek'eezhii Boundary and Monfwi Gogha De Niitlee Boundary.

Mr. Speaker, the window of opportunity is closing for the Tlicho. The new road opens in 2022, then the jobs, training, business opportunities will be gone. We must move now to rectify this unacceptable situation. Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to work with the Minister of Infrastructure to ensure that Tlicho is not left out. I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time. Masi.

Tlicho All-Season Road Project Benefits
Members' Statements

Page 346

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

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

Ministerial Directive on Enrolment of Students in French First Language Education Programs
Members' Statements

Page 346

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. [Translation] I have spoken several times, though, in this House about the often strained relationship between the Department of Education and the NWT francophone community.

On July 2, 2019, the NWT Supreme Court ruled against this government in relation to constitutionally entrenched French-language rights. The Minister did not properly apply the policy on admission of non-rights holders. The Minister was directed to reconsider her decision while paying attention to the need for a restorative approach to French first language education.

I am disappointed with Cabinet's decision, again, to go to court. Why does our government continue to spend money on adversarial court proceedings rather than fixing the problem of a faulty ministerial directive that is out of date and too narrow?

The 2016 Ministerial Directive on Enrolment of Students in French First-Language Education Programs was not developed collaboratively with the francophone community or education bodies. It is much more restrictive than that is found in other jurisdictions, including the Yukon, and where authority has been delegated to the relevant education bodies with appropriate reporting.

Fix the root of the problem, a poorly conceived ministerial directive. I will have questions later today for the Minister on why we continue to devote resources to court proceedings rather than working with the francophone community and families to ensure that our children have access to an adequate francophone first-language school system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Translation ends]

Ministerial Directive on Enrolment of Students in French First Language Education Programs
Members' Statements

Page 346

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

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

Racism Faced by Indigenous People
Members' Statements

Page 346

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, as I climbed into bed late last night I had a much different statement planned for today. One last check of social media led me to a story of racism that occurred in one of our schools yesterday. Earlier this week, we heard of racial slurs directed at an NWT student during a SAlT hockey game in Calgary. In both instances, young Indigenous women courageously took a stand against the racism. Mr. Speaker, it is 2020 and this is not okay.

First, it is time for racism to be a thing of the past. Every time we hear of racial tensions in the United States, we sit back, north of the border and judge in dismay; but, when it comes to our treatment of Canada's Indigenous people, we do not seem to draw the same comparison.

Second, Mr. Speaker, it is not the responsibility of our Indigenous children to stand up to racism. Indigenous people have been fighting for land, language, culture, and life for hundreds of years. It is our responsibility as colonisers to stand up for our neighbours, friends, and family; to teach our children history and compassion, to build children who grow into adults who can take part in the change we are all fighting for and demanding here today.

Mr. Speaker, 90 percent of homeless people on Yellowknife streets are Indigenous, upwards of 90 percent of our corrections populations are Indigenous, and 99 percent of our foster care system is Indigenous. Our system is rooted in colonial, systemic racism, and we are working hard to change that here together, but what becomes of all our hard work when we are not doing the same work at home?

As much as it is our responsibility to stand up outside the home, it is our responsibility to have deep conversations in our homes. The transgenerational trauma of what was done to Indigenous people so that my ancestors could live in this country is raw, and it is my job to teach my children about history, racism, privilege, and responsibility. While we use the word reconciliation like a cool noun, it means nothing unless we are willing to stand up for change, to stand up for healing, and, as colonisers, let go. It means not fooling ourselves into thinking we have our finger on the pulse of our territory when we actually have our thumb on progress. As a parent, and as a politician, to be effective we have to be prepared to play the long game. The choices we make in this House, in our homes, and in social settings, all play into our success as Northerners. This change does not require more money to our education system, or more money to our healthcare network. This is a grassroots change that requires doing what is right, and what is required, for a better, stronger North. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Racism Faced by Indigenous People
Members' Statements

Page 346

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

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Small Businesses in Public Housing
Members' Statements

Page 346

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. During our review of the mandate over the past few sitting days, one area of the mandate that stood out for me was the area where it said, "increase employment in small communities." Further to that, we spoke about an amendment under the NWT Housing Corporation policy which will allow appropriate home businesses to operate within our units. I think this is a great idea. We need to give our residents every opportunity to succeed and be self-sufficient. Our economy, right now, is not where it needs to be. We need to think of any and every opportunity to find more jobs and bring more money to our local economies.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I do have my concerns. My main concern is that we protect fledgling businesses to grow with minimal outside interference from the GNWT. There needs to be a laissez-faire, hands-off approach from our government in terms of business start-ups. My main concern is for individuals who depend on income assistance, for example, and live in the NWT housing units. I would like to see some sort of grace period in the neighbourhood of six months, for example, to help these said business opportunities to move ahead unhindered.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we are facing an economic crisis in terms of our economy, and we need to be innovative, help move along small businesses, and help create jobs. I believe this mandate item is a positive step forward, but we need a real and common-sense approach to help our small businesses thrive.

Here is an interesting statistic that might interest people; according to Statistics Canada, in 2014 small businesses in Canada contributed an average of 30 percent to the GDP of their province or territory. I have said before in this House that we need to keep every dollar we can in NWT, especially our small communities, and this amendment makes me feel hopeful on that front.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I really believe there are a lot of good business ideas out there in the North, and who knows, one of these business ideas could be the next Amazon or Apple. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation and the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment at the appropriate time. Marci cho, Mr. Speaker.

Small Businesses in Public Housing
Members' Statements

Page 346

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

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.