This is page numbers 1 - 18 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

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake Jr, Mr. Bonnetrouge, 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

Page 1

Elder Lillian Elias

[English translation not available.]

Prayer
Prayer

Page 1

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

Please be seated, colleagues. Mr. Clerk, would you ascertain if the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Margaret M. Thom, is prepared to enter the Chamber to open the second session of the 19th Legislative Assembly?

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 1

Commissioner Of The Northwest Territories Hon. Margaret M. Thom

Please be seated. [Translation] Thank you. I am very, very happy that it is a brand new winter that we're starting, and all the others who will be sitting here. That's the reason why I'm glad that the people are here, and I'm hoping that it will be okay with everybody.

It's a new year, and we have a lot of new things to be working on, especially for the Northwest Territories, and you guys are all working for them. I wish that your session will be a good outcome, with personal balance with work for each of you. [End of translation].

I am honoured to welcome you all back. I trust you all had a wonderful festive season with your loved ones.

As we enter a new decade, we begin our work for the people of the Northwest Territories. Your work can be challenging, but working together as a team will ensure you make the best decisions.

I wish you a productive session with good outcomes and personal balance with life and work for each of you.

I am very pleased to be opening this session of Canada's first and only gender-balanced Legislative Assembly, led by Canada's only sitting female Premier.

This may also be one of the youngest Legislative Assemblies to have been elected in the Northwest Territories in recent memory, and it is the second Assembly in a row to have more first-time Members than returning Members.

It is clear in looking around this room that the people of the Northwest Territories voted for change during the last election.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to delivering the change that our people have called for, as well as ensuring their voices are heard throughout the life of this government.

During this session, the government will be tabling its 2019-2023 mandate. This document will present the government's plan for advancing the priorities agreed to by all Members of the Legislative Assembly.

Our plan puts people first and recognizes that government succeeds when we support the success of every person in the territory. It is a holistic plan that takes into account the physical, social, wellness, and employment needs of residents.

We know that people need a strong and secure foundation on which to grow, beginning with the basics of food, shelter, and health.

To address the need for shelter, we will work with stakeholders to increase the number of quality, energy-efficient, and affordable housing units and put a stronger focus on community home-ownership opportunities.

We will support seniors to stay in their homes and communities by providing increased access to housing programs, increasing the Home Heating Subsidy, and establishing a community grant program for senior supports. We will also take action to protect seniors from abuse or neglect and create a separate income assistance program tailored to seniors and persons with disabilities.

We will increase food security by implementing regulatory and program changes to support locally produced and marketed foods. We will work with Indigenous and community governments to support community greenhouses, gardens, and country food harvesting. As well, we will work with applicable governments to define community solutions to the Nutrition North Program.

To improve the health of NWT residents, we will work with our employees and partners to strengthen our healthcare recruitment strategy and implement comprehensive labour force planning.

We will also work with communities to increase the availability of e-health, traditional, on-the-land, and other proven approaches to mental wellness and addictions recovery.

We will improve wellness supports, including increasing peer-support programming, providing transitional housing for those returning from addiction treatment, and establishing medical detox and managed alcohol programming.

We will also strengthen community counselling services by providing standardized screening and assessment tools, improving employee training opportunities, and reducing wait times for accessing counselling.

As well as taking care of basic needs, we need to support residents, businesses, Indigenous and community governments so they have the tools to succeed.

To increase early childhood development, we will ensure better coordination of services and streamline funding to support community-based parenting and early childhood development programming.

We will develop a 10-year universal childcare strategy and increase child care spaces by providing non-government organizations with retrofit funding, amend policies to allow licensed childcare in public housing, and better utilize our own government infrastructure for early childhood program space.

An increase in childcare space will require more workers, so we will increase support for NWT students who wish to pursue qualified childcare programming.

We will support educational success by modernizing the Education Act and education funding framework. We will ensure distance learning is available in all small communities and pilot a classroom assistant training program. We will implement programming to assist schools and parents make decisions together about student placements and social passing, and we will continue to transform Aurora College into an accredited and independent polytechnic university.

Our government also recognizes that people want and deserve to have employment opportunities. Good jobs and meaningful work provides people with both the means to support themselves and their families, as well as a sense of accomplishment and pride.

We will increase economic diversification and employment in small communities by developing regional economic development plans, increasing the number of journeypersons and apprentices in small communities, advancing the knowledge economy, and expanding tourism throughout the NWT. As well, we will change policies to allow licensed home businesses in public housing units, mentor entrepreneurs, and support community-led maker-spaces.

This government will support local businesses and encourage entrepreneurship by reducing red tape and regulatory burdens. We will also ensure that more benefits from government spending stay in the North by strengthening our procurement policies like the Business Incentive Policy, Northern Manufactured Products Policy, and our approach to public-private partnerships.

We will promote local competition by increasing awareness of GNWT contracting opportunities, actively encouraging NWT businesses to apply for BIP status, and developing a one-stop shop for vendors online.

As well, we will take action to improve the environment for resource development, which is still the biggest sector of the NWT economy, and make sure NWT residents are benefiting from it as much as they can.

We will do this by collaborating with Indigenous governments to develop and implement regional mineral strategies, increase resource exploration and development, increase funding for mining incentive programs, and look for new ways to support advanced projects. As well, we will assess the feasibility of local gas supply projects and the export of liquefied natural gas.

To ensure NWT residents enjoy a fair share of the benefits of development, we will a conduct an independent comparison review of our royalty and taxation regimes and socio-economic agreements. We will meet annually with senior officials of NWT mines to review the results and utilize the recommendations in future agreements.

We also understand people need a sense of belonging and the stability of strong, affordable communities, and a clean environment to thrive.

That is why our government will respect and strengthen the ability of communities and regions to make their own decisions, based on their own needs and priorities, including empowering our own regional staff.

We will settle treaty, land, resources, and self-government agreements by working with facilitators and engaging directly on a leader-to-leader basis. We will establish a special joint committee on Indigenous reconciliation between Cabinet and Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly and review the principles and interests that inform our negotiating mandates.

With Indigenous governments, we will also create an action plan that identifies changes required in GNWT legislation and policies to best reflect the principles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

This government will also take steps to increase the resiliency of communities, support their capacity, and help make them affordable places to live.

We will do this by reducing the municipal funding gap, refining our funding models, exploring opportunities for community governments to raise additional revenue, and reducing or stabilizing the cost of delivering core programs and services.

Reducing the cost of power remains a priority, as does reducing our reliance on diesel for generating community power. We know that in many cases moving to greener energy costs the system more money, not less, when we have to keep diesel as a backup. We will look to long-term solutions, including connecting more communities to existing hydro systems.

We will also work with partners and stakeholders to target energy conservation and efficiency programs for small and remote communities where the costs of energy are highest and the need is greatest.

As well, we will create a stronger and more affordable territory through strategic infrastructure investments that connect communities, expand the economy and reduce the cost of living. This will include advancing projects like the Mackenzie Valley Highway, the Slave Geological Province Corridor, and Taltson Hydro Expansion. We will also invest in fast and reliable broadband internet services for communities and modernize our airport infrastructure.

Finally, because the land is the life and the source of wellbeing and security for NWT residents, our government will do more to ensure that our environment is conserved and protected and we will ensure climate change impacts are considered when making government decisions.

We will also establish a Northwest Territories Climate Change Council, bringing together our government with Indigenous and community governments, MLAs, and other partners to strengthen our leadership and authority on climate change.

This is an ambitious agenda aimed at responding to the needs of people and making sure all residents are able to succeed and thrive. We know it will take more than four years to reach some of our goals, but we are committed to beginning the work now and encouraging future governments to continue it.

During this session, the Government of the Northwest Territories will also be introducing the following bills for consideration by the House:

  • Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), 2020-2021;
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2019-2020;
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 4, 2019-2020; and
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 1, 2020-2021.

The government considers these bills essential to the good conduct of government business and as such, I recommend their passage.

As your Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, I now declare open the 2nd session of the 19th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

Thank you, merci beaucoup, mahsi cho, quanani, koana.

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 2

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

On behalf of all Members of this House, I would like to thank Commissioner Thom for opening the 2nd session of the 19th Legislative Assembly. It is always an honour to have you join us in this House. I would also like to thank Ms. Lillian Elias for leading us in the prayer, and Brie O'Keefe for singing our national anthem today.

Colleagues, I am pleased to welcome you to the opening of the 2nd session of the 19th Legislative Assembly. Since we last met in this House, I know we have all been busy in our constituencies, with our committees, and with the ongoing work of the government. I hope that you were also able to find time to connect with family and friends and to energize yourselves for the hard work ahead of us.

Although the days may be long and we will not always see eye-to-eye, I am looking forward to this session. The debates, discussions, and decisions that take place in this House have a direct impact on all people throughout this territory.

As Members of this Legislative Assembly, I know that you will all continue to work diligently to make informed decisions. These decisions, the choices that we make as legislators, allow us to improve the lives of our residents and create a prosperous future for our people.

Colleagues, while in this House, I ask that you conduct yourselves with the utmost respect for one another, this House, our rules, and our unique form of consensus government. As Speaker, I will do my best to demonstrate a positive example of the level of decorum and respect that I expect from each of you.

I also want to recognize a milestone for the Legislative Assembly. During this sitting we will be providing interpretation into all official languages. Our official languages are vital to the culture and history of this territory, and I am proud of the efforts we have undertaken to make better use of our languages. I want to take a moment to thank our interpreters and the staff who have worked to make this possible.

Before we begin, I want to extend the condolences of the House to all Members, constituents, and families throughout the territory who have experienced the loss of loved ones since this House last sat. Thank you.

We'll start with our orders of the day. Item 3, Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Ministers' Statements

Minister's Statement 1-19(2):
2019 Novel Coronavirus Update

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 2

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I rise to provide an update to Northerners on the 2019 novel coronavirus. I would like to assure residents that, at this time, the risk of contracting this virus is low in the Northwest Territories.

Since the coronavirus was first reported in the Hubei Province of China, our government and the federal government have moved quickly to ensure we are prepared. Our public health and emergency preparations are well underway and we hope to continue to monitor the situation as it develops.

I would like to fill Members in on the preparations we've been undertaking, as I know that the anxiety level about this outbreak has increased in our communities.

Our Chief Public Health Officer is providing leadership to our health emergency planners and senior management within the Health and Social Services system to ensure our communities and our frontline staff are ready should the coronavirus be suspected or confirmed in the Northwest Territories. The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer and health emergency officials are constantly in touch with their federal, provincial, and territorial counterparts to ensure the sharing of timely and accurate information.

I am sure Members and residents are curious as to what specific preparations we have completed to date, and if we are prepared to handle possible cases in the NWT.

It is important to remind everyone that we've been here before. We have learned a great deal from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic; the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, also known as SARS; and the ongoing surveillance of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, known as MERS. Similar to the current outbreak, these events have required international coordination and response, as well as preparations here within the Northwest Territories. As with these other events, there is no vaccine; instead, the approach is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus using the best practices in public health.

This is vital in order to rapidly identify people who might be sick and apply appropriate precautions in healthcare settings and communities. Our Chief Public Health Officer and her office is participating in daily briefings with her federal, provincial, and territorial counterparts to get the latest information to inform clinical information for frontline staff. Internal alerts are sent to frontline staff to ensure their personal protective equipment is ready, testing protocols are defined, necessary infection control measures are being practiced, and health facilities are ready to respond in the event that a person in the Northwest Territories develops symptoms concerning novel coronavirus infection.

We also have a responsibility to communicate to our residents, Indigenous and community governments, schools, tourist operators, daycare centres, and businesses. Mr. Speaker, these stakeholders were provided the most current information on hand, along with public education materials for them to share with their stakeholders. As this situation is rapidly evolving, we are committed to providing the most current information through the Department of Health and Social Services website.

We have also started a general communication campaign through social media and traditional media, including newspapers and radio ads to raise awareness about the virus. This includes preventive steps residents can take to protect themselves and their loved ones. The advice will sound very familiar, as it is similar to what we recommend for the flu, such as staying home if you're sick and contacting your local public health unit or health centre if you have any symptoms of concern. Also, the importance of regular hand-washing, the use of hand sanitizers, and healthy respiratory practices cannot be emphasized enough, especially since we have other infectious diseases circulating in our communities, including the flu and whooping cough, or pertussis. These practices will help reduce the spread of these illnesses.

Travellers from places of known activity of this coronavirus, particularly the Hubai Province of China, are being provided information at their international points of entry into Canada to self-monitor. We know that residents of the Northwest Territories travel internationally for both business and pleasure. It is important that residents pay special attention to travel advisories issued by the federal government. This information is routinely updated on the Government of Canada's website under Travel Advice and Advisories. This link is found on our department's website, including direct reference on our coronavirus section.

Mr. Speaker, as this situation evolves, our thoughts are with China as they continue to take extraordinary efforts to contain this epidemic. Our thoughts are also with Canadian individuals and families who have been impacted by these events directly or indirectly. The Northwest Territories will continue to monitor and assess this dynamic situation and be a part of the national action to ensure we are prepared as a healthcare system and as a government. Thank You, Mr. Speaker.

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

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

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 2-19(2):
Minister Absent from the House

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the honourable Paulie Chinna will be absent from the House today and tomorrow to attend meetings in Ottawa, Ontario. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

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

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Ministers' statements. Item 4, Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Members' Statements

Member's Statement on
Indigenous Language Teachers

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker.

[Translation] Mr. Speaker, February is Indigenous Languages month. The NWT is unique in that we have 11 official languages - nine of which are Indigenous. I am proud to be a fluent speaker of one of these languages.

Today I would like to acknowledge the Indigenous language teachers in our communities. In the Tlicho region there are currently 17 Tlicho language teachers in our schools with a wealth of knowledge and experience. According the TCSA,

In WhaTi: Marie Nitsiza, 23 years teaching; Diane Romie, 22 years as a Tlicho language specialist.

In Wekweeti: Ceci Judas, 6 years as a teacher.

In Behchoko: Terri Douglas, 13 years teaching; Philip Mackenzie, 19 years promoting language and culture; Rosa Mantla, 28 years teaching and serving in Tlicho language;Therese Mantla, 23 years teaching Tlicho language and culture; Tammy Steinwand Deschambeault, 27 years teaching and serving in Tlicho language; Josie Bishop, 22 years teaching Tlicho language; Alestine Mantla, 18 years teaching; Cecilia Zoe-Martin, 28 years teaching; Cecilia Migwi, 23 years teaching; Lafi Shuck, 9 years teaching; Donna Camsell, 1 year teaching; Melissa Mantla, 8 years teaching; Victoria Drybones, 5 years teaching; Lucy Lafferty, 34 years teaching and leading in Tlicho language; Ernestine Steinwand, 45 years teaching Tlicho language and culture. [Translation ends]

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

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

Member is seeking unanimous consent to conclude his statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. In addition to these amazing warriors fighting to promote and preserve our language, there are also 25 classroom support assistants in Tlicho schools who speak the Tlicho language, as well as instructors who support community initiatives.

I would like to acknowledge all of the interpreters and translators here in this House and in all of the communities for their important work.

Mr. Speaker, most importantly, I would like to acknowledge all those who speak their language and are still learning their language. Our language is an integral part of our culture and who we are. Masi to all those who are keeping this language alive. Masi.

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

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

Mahsi, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Member's Statement on
Interconnectedness of Priorities set by the Legislative Assembly

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, every priority this Assembly has set is interconnected and interdependent. This means our challenges are connected and our stories are converging. We must ask: how does inadequate housing in Tlicho communities drive the affordability of housing in Yellowknife? How does the trend of centralized government services impact economies and empowerment in small communities and regional centres? How does the lack of skilled workers across the territory increase our cost of doing business?

Members repeatedly say we are only as strong as our weakest community. We are all reliant on the success of every Northerner. Everyone wins, and it is not a zero-sum game. We are in this together, and no one should be left behind. Our system relies on trust, empathy, generosity, and a common desire for all of us to succeed and thrive in healthy communities.

Mr. Speaker, over the next two months, I will speak to all parts of this system, starting with housing, then healthy families, healthy economy, sustainable lands, and community empowerment.

The government is a human system, driven by purpose. If our collective purpose is healthy communities, what are the indicators that paint the picture of what success looks like? Achieving healthy communities relies on many components of the system working together. People need affordable, accessible, safe housing to have healthy families. Our healthy families nurture knowledge, and knowledgeable people feed our healthy economy through meaningful contributions and retained labour and resource benefits. This all feeds into socially and environmentally sustainable care for our land and community empowerment through a recognized right to self-determination and control over land, culture, language, and community-based decision making.

Our role is to raise the North up, to create a learning system that sustains and inspires itself. Underpinning each part of our system, Mr. Speaker, is connectedness, relationships, and democratic participation. We can't change the North by standing here and telling people what they need. We need to listen. Every Northerner must have a voice on the direction of policies and processes, attracting economic development, promoting the North as an incredible place to visit and live, and in healing the deep wounds caused by residential schools, systemic racism, and colonialism, a destructive way of thinking from which we all must heal.

I look forward to discussing this with Members, each of whom brings a valuable perspective to the whole system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Commissioner's Opening Address
Commissioner's Opening Address

Page 3

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

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Member's Statement on
Aurora College Change in Leadership