This is page numbers 39 - 60 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, 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 10:00 a.m.

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

Good morning, colleagues. We have a personal explanation from the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

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February 7th, 2020

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, I want to provide a personal explanation to this House today about the matter of the termination of the associate deputy minister of post-secondary education renewal.

Media reporting yesterday gave the impression that I was not consulted by the Premier on the decision to terminate the employment of the former associate DM. I want to state clearly that this was not the case.

The fact is over the last number of months I have had a number of discussions with the Premier's office regarding the management of Aurora College and the Aurora College transformation team. Two weeks ago, I approached the Premier and expressed my belief that a change needed to happen, and it needed to happen sooner than later.

While I was not personally involved in the negotiations that took place following that discussion, nor was I aware of the final details of the arrangements, I was certainly aware of the ultimate outcome and support the Premier in her decision.

I want to assure Members that Cabinet believes firmly in being accountable to the public for its decisions, but there is a fine line between being accountable and ensuring that we respect the dignity and privacy of our public servants.

We will make every effort to communicate openly about what is happening in departments, but we have to be sure that we do not say anything uncomplimentary or unprofessional in public.

As a result, we cannot and should not be discussing individual public servants in the Legislative Assembly or in the media, and I will not be commenting further on this matter in public. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Ministers' Statements

Minister's Statement 4-19(2): Development of the Mandate
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Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, later today, I will be tabling the Mandate of the GNWT 2019-2023. The mandate will guide our actions as a government and serve to hold Cabinet accountable as we work to advance the priorities of the 19th Legislative Assembly.

The Northwest Territories faces unprecedented challenges. We have been elected in a time of global economic uncertainty, increasingly complex social issues, and multifaceted impacts of climate change.

In the face of these challenges, I truly believe that the only way our Assembly can fulfill its promise to the residents of the Northwest Territories is to work together in the true spirit of consensus government. I speak on behalf of all Cabinet Members when I say we are committed to a government that is open, collaborative, and cooperative.

The mandate is built from the priorities we set together as newly elected Members of the 19th Legislative Assembly in October 2019. It is strengthened by the input and advice we received from the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight.

I wish to thank standing committee for their willingness to work with us. Our shared commitment to cooperation and collaboration as Members of the 19th Legislative Assembly gives me confidence in what we can achieve over the next four years.

Mr. Speaker, I trust that all Members of this Assembly will see their insights, ideas, and suggestions reflected in this mandate. I trust that residents will see a set of clear and measurable actions needed to make progress within the life of this Assembly and to hold this Cabinet to account as we work towards achieving our priorities. I look forward to working together in advancing the priorities of the 19th Legislative Assembly through the implementation of the mandate.

Our mandate provides a path forward, yet it is not written in stone. We will encounter the unexpected, and we must be able to adjust course as needed.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke of challenging times and the need to work together to actualize our priorities. Working together cannot be done in the isolation of this House. We need to take the time to listen to those impacted by our services and to people working on the front lines of some of our most challenging issues. We all need to work together: Cabinet, Regular Members, Indigenous and community governments, and the federal government. We must remain mindful of each community's unique challenges and opportunities. We are committed to meaningful, positive change in the way this government does business.

Very soon, this Assembly will debate the budget and what that means to advancing our priorities. We must bear our overall fiscal situation in mind as we make decisions in the weeks ahead, and we must exercise caution to only commit to actions we have the means to achieve.

Mr. Speaker, there will always be more that we can do, but we know our needs outweigh our resources. This Cabinet welcomes the insight of Regular Members and looks forward to discussing how we can best apply our limited resources to achieve our priorities, but now more than ever we need to be realistic in our expectations, creative in our approaches, and focus on making the most of what we have.

The 19th Legislative Assembly brings together leadership from across the Northwest Territories, from backgrounds as diverse as our landscape and peoples. We have been called a historic government in terms of our gender balance. We have begun to foster effective dialogue between Cabinet and Regular Members, in the spirit of consensus government. We have expressed our desire and willingness to make the changes our people want to see, especially in the area of Indigenous relations, social outcomes, and economic outlook.

The 2019-2023 Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories sets the direction for how we can seize opportunities to make this a pivotal term in the governance of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 4-19(2): Development of the Mandate
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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 5-19(2): Office of the Auditor General Report on Education System
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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada was tabled on the Audit of Early Childhood and the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system in the Northwest Territories. The report focused on five areas: inclusive schooling; Indigenous language and culture-based education; equitable access to quality education; programming, staff qualifications, and training in licensed early childhood programs; and how these areas worked to support student outcomes.

The tabling of this report is timely, falling at the beginning of a new Legislative Assembly that has made it a priority to increase education outcomes to the same level as the rest of Canada. The recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General align with the areas where we have already begun to make changes or are planning to invest more resources and improve programming, and we have accepted their recommendations.

While we are making some headway and seeing promising results with programs like Northern Distance Learning, small communities remain in greater need of support.

One of our highest priorities over the life of this government is to ensure equitable education delivery in all communities across the territory. We will be increasing our efforts to address the achievement gap among small communities and larger centres, and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, to ensure that our education system is on par with the rest of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, later today the department is holding a technical briefing on the five-year evaluation of the Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Renewal and Innovation Framework. As with the Auditor General's report, this evaluation provides us important information on where select programs are working, where they need to improve, and whether they should be restructured to meet the needs of students.

We expect to table our management response in the coming weeks to incorporate the recommendations of the Auditor General and the findings of the Education Renewal and Innovation Evaluation. A renewed education renewal innovation action plan will follow later this year.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that education is a cornerstone for a healthy and successful life. However, we can only be successful through the work of many partners, and education is only one of the building blocks. We will continue to work across departments and with Indigenous governments, parents, students, and with our education and community partners to ensure we close the gaps to improve student outcomes and provide youth with our best efforts for the future they deserve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 5-19(2): Office of the Auditor General Report on Education System
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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Youth.

Minister's Statement 6-19(2): 2020 Hockey Day in Canada
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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today, I am pleased to rise and speak to Members about the celebration of the 2020 Hockey Day in Canada being hosted here in Yellowknife. The celebration was launched on February 5th and will continue to the 8th.

This event marks the ninth year of the festive celebration, celebrating hockey, one of Canada's national sports. Norman Wells, Detah, N'Dilo will also play host to visits associated with Hockey Day in Canada, as well as Deline, which is the birthplace of hockey in Canada.

The festivities will bring children's hockey and officiating clinics, various hockey games, school visits, NHL celebrities, and, of course, the Stanley Cup to Yellowknife.

Celebrities participated will be part of the festive, including television host Ron McLean, along with NHL alumni Lanny McDonald, Brian Trottier, Paul Coffey, Wendel Clark, Darcy Tucker, and former Women's National Team member Cassie Campbell-Pascal.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the City of Yellowknife for planning this event. Thank you to the sponsors, including Scotiabank, for your support of each of the great community event. Thank you to all of our guests for coming to the North. We hope you are enjoying our world-renowned northern hospitality.

I would also like to give special thanks to all of the volunteers who help make this event happen in all the different venues.

There have been a number of events that are a part of the celebrations, including:

  • The Music of Hockey with performance by local artists, hosted at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre this past Wednesday evening;
  • The banquet held last night, which featured Ron MacLean, and NHL Alumni Hot Stove discussions in the Stanley Cup;
  • An NHL Declaration of Principles Breakfast hosted by NHL Alumni Andrew Ference this morning; and
  • Later this evening, the Celebrity and Alumni Classic hockey game.

As mentioned earlier, there have also been various hockey and officiating clinics and school visits scheduled throughout the festivity.

Mr. Speaker, this is a wonderful community event, which not only honours the great sport of hockey, but also showcases the North, Northerners, and the incredible spirit of the community that we all share in this very special place. Thank you once again to all involved for making such a wonderful event happen. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 6-19(2): 2020 Hockey Day in Canada
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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.

Appreciation to Thebacha Constituents
Members' Statements

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Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to use my Member's statement to take the time to give thanks and appreciation to my constituents of Thebacha.

Mr. Speaker, last weekend, on February 1, 2020, I had an open house for my constituents in Fort Smith, and it was a very well attended event. My constituents really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet with their MLA and hear the updates I had to share with them for what I have been working on since getting elected.

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to be the Member representing Fort Smith. Showcasing your community at this level is a tremendous opportunity for all Members of this 19th Assembly. I also would to thank the staff who serve the Members of this Assembly for their hard work and ability to keep us informed always. I want to wish everybody a great weekend, and I look forward to continued dialogue on matters that concern the community of Fort Smith and the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Appreciation to Thebacha Constituents
Members' Statements

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

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

High School Graduation Rates
Members' Statements

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Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, it is high school graduation rates in our territory. I wouldn't want to be in the Education Minister's shoes because of yesterday's tabled Auditor General's most recent report on performance audit on Early Childhood to Grade 12 Education across out territory.

Regular Members had the opportunity to meet with the Auditor General staff to hear about the findings, things that shocked me, Mr. Speaker. ECE is using an outdated method to calculate graduation rates. The audit found that ECE reported a graduation rates that are 72 percent in 2017. Using a more accurate method, the Auditor calculated the actual rate was 44 percent, Mr. Speaker. We are graduating less than half our kids, and ECE is telling us they are closer to three-quarters. Now, that is a cause for a red alert across our territory; not only that, in my riding of Nunakput, Mr. Speaker.

To make matters worse, the audit found students in smaller communities had lower graduation rates, fewer kids than Yellowknife. The overall graduation rate is 44 percent, and what does that say about our graduation system for our kids in Nunakput, in our smaller communities, and other ridings?

The audit was pretty critical of the practice of social passing, which is something I have been against for a long time. In the past, I have brought this up seven times in Member's statements, and it has to stop. That percentage of students repeating grades from dropping out "increased dramatically" from students from grade 10, the year in which social passing is no longer an option. When we keep moving our kids through the system, even though they are not keeping up academically with their peers, we are treating them as no better than cattle through a slaughterhouse, Mr. Speaker. We are setting them up for failure.

We have to stop social passing. The policy of this government has to stop. We have to take responsibility for making sure that our kids are learning and understanding the curriculum before they are moving on to the next grade. Period.

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Government Operations is holding a public hearing and audit on this report and will be making recommendations to this government on how ECE should be implementing changes across the audit on their deficiencies. I am putting this Minister on notice and the Members to expect to see detailed implementation with a plan, timelines that are provided to Regular Members to have input into fixing this mess that our education system is in. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

High School Graduation Rates
Members' Statements

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

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