This is page numbers 19 - 38 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 cancer.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake Jr, 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 19

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

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 3-19(2): Bathurst Caribou Harvest and Range Management
Ministers' Statements

Page 19

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Caribou are central to our communities as a food source and as part of our local culture and way of life.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, our caribou herds are struggling. In particular, the Bathurst and the Bluenose-East herds have suffered serious declines in recent years.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to supporting our caribou through periods of decline. Today I am here to highlight some of the actions that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is leading in our government's efforts to manage human impacts on the Bathurst caribou herd.

Five years ago, the Government of the Northwest Territories, together with Indigenous governments and organizations, and the Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board, made the difficult decision to close the Bathurst caribou harvest.

As a result of this decision, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources set up a no-harvest zone around the Bathurst caribou, known as the mobile zone. The boundaries of this zone change every week, based on the location of the collared caribou. This is how we make sure that the caribou are protected.

It is illegal to hunt caribou in this zone, Mr. Speaker. Officers monitor the area by ground and by air throughout the winter. We have two checkpoints at Gordon and McKay Lake that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Local community members also assist Environment and Natural Resources with the harvest monitoring.

It is important that all hunters going out on the land know where this zone is. Maps with the current mobile zone are posted on Environment and Natural Resources' website and Facebook page, on the winter roads, and in our communities.

The people of the Northwest Territories take caribou conservation very seriously. We continue to work with our co-management partners to communicate the importance of this zone for protecting the Bathurst caribou. It is up to each and every one of us to do our part to promote this herd's recovery.

Last August, the Government of the Northwest Territories released the Bathurst caribou range plan. This plan guides decision-makers, developers, and communities to help manage activities on the land in a way that supports the recovery of the Bathurst herd.

Our government is now working to set this plan into motion. This includes sitting down with our Indigenous partners to identify important habitat for Bathurst caribou, such as key land and water crossings and areas of unburned forest.

I am also pleased to report on our efforts to expand on-the-land programs to monitor Bathurst caribou. Last month, a workshop with Indigenous groups from across the range of the Bathurst herd was held to further develop a Bathurst guardianship initiative, which included representatives from Nunavut. The workshop brought in members of the Hamayas Stewardship Network from the Queen Charlotte Islands to share their knowledge and experiences as guardians on their traditional lands.

Mr. Speaker, traditional knowledge tells us that caribou have always experienced periods of highs and lows. The current population established for the Bathurst herd is the lowest it has ever been, that we know of. It is up to all of us to support our caribou herds through this current low and towards recovery.

ENR has heard from communities and wildlife co-management partners that all management actions need to be considered, including wolf management. Environment and Natural Resources and the Tlicho government developed a Wolf Management Proposal based on the best available traditional, local, and scientific knowledge. It includes management actions for wolves on the winter range of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East herds as a way to promote the recovery of these barren-ground caribou herds and support the traditional economy.

The next population survey for Bathurst caribou is just a few months away in June, and the results will be available in late fall. Together with the local and traditional knowledge, these survey results will inform our actions going forward to manage and protect barren-ground caribou.

By applying the best available knowledge together with our co-management partners, we can help support healthy caribou populations for future generations of Northerners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery, Reversion
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery, Reversion

Page 19

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

Ministers' statements. Members, I would like to draw your attention to a Member in the gallery, former Member Bill Braden, who was the Member for Great Slave in the 14th and 15th Legislative Assemblies.

Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Fort Smith Airport Infrastructure
Members' Statements

Page 19

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, for my Member's statement today, I would like to address the point made in yesterday's Commissioner's address regarding modernizing airport infrastructure in the NWT.

On June 17, 2019, the leadership of the community of Fort Smith wrote a letter to the former Minister of Infrastructure regarding narrowing the main runway at the Fort Smith Regional Airport. The leadership felt that, by narrowing the runway, disastrous results could happen if Fort Smith had to evacuate due to forest fire or other natural disasters. The leadership felt that this decision was made unilaterally, without consent from the community of Fort Smith. A drastic change without consultation with the community of Fort Smith is not acceptable.

I have also been informed that the "Arctic Light LED Package" was not put in at the airport, therefore causing multiple safety issues relating to risk factors of take-off and landing. In discussion with the former Infrastructure Minister and senior management of that department, I was told that Transport Canada instructed the Department of Infrastructure to narrow the airport's runway by 50 feet on both sides and change their lighting system, at a cost of $2.3 million. No other airport in the NWT was forced to endure such extreme changes to their airport infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, the point of modernizing airports has failed in Fort Smith, based on the reduction of the runway that was forced on our community. I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Fort Smith Airport Infrastructure
Members' Statements

Page 19

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

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

Indigenous Incarceration Rates
Members' Statements

Page 19

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] I would like to talk about justice. I want to say a few words regarding that. [Translation ends] Canada's Office of the Correctional Inspector says that Canada's correctional system has reached an all-time low for the Indigenous population. Comprising barely a twentieth of the general population, Indigenous people now account for almost a third of federal inmates. That is an incarceration rate six times that of mainstream Canada.

In the Northwest Territories, the rates of imprisonment of Indigenous persons are equally troubling: 83 percent. Mr. Speaker, 83 percent of people behind bars in the Northwest Territories are either Dene, Metis, or Inuit. In the case of women, it is 100 percent.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls upon our territorial government, at recommendation 30, to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade.

It goes even further. TRC Recommendation 31 calls upon our territorial government to provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.

Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time, I will have questions for the Minister responsible. Masi.

Indigenous Incarceration Rates
Members' Statements

Page 19

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

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

State of the Northwest Territories Economy
Members' Statements

Page 20

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to speak about the stagnant economic condition in the NWT and, more specifically, the regions outside Yellowknife.

In these uncertain economic times, we must understand that the majority of current business opportunities for the regions are tied directly to government projects. Keeping this in mind, it is important that we, as government, ensure that our northern businesses and residents have first opportunity to participate in any and all government-funded projects. It is important that these projects are not delayed, in order that we can put northern companies and northern people to work.

I understand that we have processes in place to make sure that this happens. However, it is within these very processes that we fall short when it comes to carrying out projects in a timely manner or doing everything that we can to support businesses and create northern employment.

Our Business Incentive Policy, although an excellent tool that provides support to northern businesses, does fall short for large projects and the monitoring of northern content while work is ongoing. Our hit-and-miss schedule of 20- and 30-day payments for contractors, when not followed, can cause a business to experience undue financial hardship and sometimes push them to the brink of failure.

Then, there is the dreaded red tape that we continue to pile onto our northern businesses, which drives up costs of doing business while reducing productivity, which ultimately takes away from timely delivery of projects. This often results in contractors being penalized through non-payment, holdbacks, or being told they cannot bid on future projects.

A further reality is that, with the Alberta economy suffering, we are experiencing an influx of southern contractors with which our northern businesses must compete. When our northern businesses lose a contract to a southern firm, it results in the bleeding of dollars outside of our communities, out of the regions, and out of the NWT. These may be the very 75-cent dollars that we fight to receive from the federal government for projects or services in the NWT, and we are throwing them away.

This government has a responsibility to support our northern businesses and provide our residents with job opportunities. It is time that we stand up for our businesses and our residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

State of the Northwest Territories Economy
Members' Statements

Page 20

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

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Trades Education
Members' Statements

Page 20

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I am going to talk about the past, the present, and what the future may hold for trades in my community.

As far back as grade six, I can remember being introduced to the trade of carpentry. I can remember Mr. Gordon teaching us the basic skills in our options class. As I moved through the grades, I remember shop, automotive, and other trades offered to students. There was even a stream in our school for those who were more interested in the trades to focus solely in this area. It was a practical program within the senior high school.

Today, if we are lucky to have a teacher in our school who can teach the trades in combination with other classes, like math, English, or science, we will offer some intro to trades in our school.

How do we get more youth interested in carpentry, welding, mechanics, or to become an electrician or any other trade, if we are not exposing these to them or providing support for those who are interested in trades? Yes, I know, Mr. Speaker, students need to achieve an education level high enough to pass these trades exams and apprentice programs to obtain their journeyman certificate. I feel that, if we were giving them the opportunities to experience these areas, it may empower them to achieve what they need in their education.

In my community of Inuvik, we have trades trailers that were purchased in partnership with our local Indigenous groups and the GNWT, but they seem to do more sitting than using.

Within the past few weeks and months of briefings from the departments, and budgets, and looking at future capital projects, I am afraid that we will be continuing to use out-of-territory workers to complete these projects.

I want the Minister of Education to look at how we can increase the opportunities for trades to our youth, as well as support our local small businesses to apprentice them throughout the years that it takes to obtain their journeyman certificates. The current funding is only for two years. My understanding of this reason from the department is that they make money for the company in their third and fourth years. Small businesses face a lot more expenses and try to keep people working, even when the economy is slow, and in our community, there is not much going on.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will have questions for the Minister of ECE.

Trades Education
Members' Statements

Page 20

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

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

Stanton Territorial Hospital Issues
Members' Statements

Page 20

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Our brand new hospital has been plagued with problems from the day it opened in May. First, it was the food provided by the kitchen. Now, eight months after opening, there are chronic plumbing and heating issues. It is my understanding that the new Stanton hospital has more mechanical problems than the one it replaced. These ongoing problems are distressing for staff, patients, and residents of the NWT, who expected so much more from the most expensive building the GNWT has ever built.

I spent a day inside the emergency department before Christmas with a bad knee. An alarm rang for hours, and I understand that alarm fatigue is now a problem because medical staff do not know whether the alarm is for a real problem or whether it is an all-too-frequent false alarm.

Throughout the day, staff shared cellphone pictures of doors frosted over, as well as stories about how cold the hallways are near the outside doors, while others are uncomfortably hot. They have been dealing with plumbing problems since the hospital opened and as recently as yesterday, and they are tired of the workarounds.

I know that the Minister, staff at the department, and the hospital health authority are aware of these problems, but their best efforts have not resulted in an end to the problems. I am not sure if there are new problems every week or whether the problems have been multiplying since the hospital handover. I have no idea who is doing the repairs and what they are costing. Does the hospital have a warranty, like a new home, and how long is it good for?

You may be aware of a hospital constructed in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, using the same P3 model and 30-year maintenance contract. That hospital, which opened two months before ours, has had some of the same problems with mechanical systems. In fact, the problems in the North Battleford hospital are so extensive that they triggered a third-party construction audit of the project. A media report says that the audit will review the quality of materials, equipment, labour, and workmanship used during the building. It is expected to be completed sometime this spring.

The current state of our brand new hospital is discouraging, to say the least. We expected better of this $350-million facility. We want to know that we are getting value for money. I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Stanton Territorial Hospital Issues
Members' Statements

Page 20

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

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