This is page numbers 557 - 606 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 thanks.

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 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Speaker's Ruling
Prayer

Page 557

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

Good afternoon, Members. On February 27, 2020, the Member for Monfwi raised a point of privilege. The point of privilege raised was that the Premier acted beyond her authority when terminating the appointment of the president of Aurora College. It was suggested that the Premier had breached the collective privileges of this House and acted against the dignity and authority of this Assembly as per Rule 20. The Member also stated that the Premier obstructed the ability of this Legislature in carrying out its lawmaking functions.

As Speaker, I must determine two matters:

  • first, whether a matter of privilege has been raised at the earliest opportunity and whether there has been a prima facie breach of privilege, in other words that, at first glance, the matter appears to be a breach of privilege and warrants immediate consideration by the House; and
  • second, the extent to which the matter has infringed upon any Member's ability to perform their duties or appears to be a contempt against the dignity of the House.

First, I will consider whether the point of privilege was raised at the earliest opportunity.

The Member received a legal opinion on or about February 12, 2020. The Member was absent from the House on February 13. The House was adjourned until February 25. The Member questioned the Premier on February 26, 2020, and tabled the legal opinion that day. The Member raised the point of privilege on February 27, 2020, after the Member reviewed the Premier's responses to the Member's oral questions in Hansard from February 26, 2020. As a result, I am comfortable that the Member raised it at the earliest opportunity.

Second, I will determine whether a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.

As Speaker, it is not my place to determine whether a law has been broken. The Minister of Justice correctly pointed this out when she spoke to the point of order raised that same day. Both the Member and the Premier rely on differing legal opinions. Unless a ruling has been made in a court of law, neither opinion can be considered "right," "wrong," or "misleading."

It is almost impossible to conclude that a Member has deliberately misled the House unless a Member provides completely different responses to the exact same question. That is not what happened in this case.

The Premier has remained consistent in her responses to oral questions on this issue. On February 10, 2020, the Member for Kam Lake questioned the Premier about her ability to terminate the president. The Premier said, quote, "While the associate deputy minister may be statutory appointed to the position of president under the Aurora College Act, the employment relationship of deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers is clearly with me as Premier, and it remains in my sole purview to terminate the employment of an associate deputy minister across departments," end of quote.

Shortly after, the Member for Monfwi asked a similar question of the Premier. The Premier responded, quote, "Again, I think it might be a communications issue. At no time have I broken the law. In fact, we have had more legal opinions on this than not. The Premier is responsible for hiring and terminating associate deputy ministers and deputy ministers. Appointments to positions are not contingent on the Minister having to hire or terminate. There are many statutory positions that the Minister is not responsible for hiring. In fact, very few positions can a Minister hire for. We are blending in two things that should not be blended," end of quote.

There were several other occasions where Members asked oral questions to the Premier, on the authority of the Premier to dismiss the president of Aurora College. The Premier's responses were consistent.

In conclusion, there is a clear difference of legal opinions between the Member for Monfwi and the Premier on their interpretation of the Aurora College Act. Although frustrations mounted on this particular subject, this difference of opinion does not prevent Members from fulfilling their parliamentary functions. Nor does such a disagreement breach the collective privileges of the House. Therefore, I find it is not a prima facie breach of privilege, and the point of privilege is dismissed.

Members, a point of privilege is a serious matter. Alleging that a Member of this House misled the Chamber or is breaking the law is a serious escalation that should be reserved for the most serious circumstances. I encourage Members to exercise caution when doing so.

I will now deal with the point of order raised by the Government House Leader on the same day regarding comments made by the Member for Monfwi.

The Government House Leader suggested that comments by the Member for Monfwi seriously violated the rules of order and decorum in this House. It was suggested by the Member that the Premier had "misled the House," "overstepped her authority," "broke the law," "played free and easy" with the laws passed by this House. The Government House Leader feels that these comments went beyond the standards of acceptable debate in this House.

The Government House Leader believes the Member violated Rule 24(h), (i), (j), and (k). He also believes the Member for Monfwi's comments were "inappropriate and unparliamentary."

Members, it is my duty to maintain order and decorum and to decide questions of order. Therefore, when a point of order is raised I must:

  1. State the rule in question.
  2. Decide whether the point of order was raised at the earliest opportunity, and whether the conduct violates the rule in question. This is usually decided on a case-by-case basis.

The Second Edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2009, page 619, states, quote, "In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner, and intention of the Member speaking; the person to whom the words at issue were directed; the degree of provocation; and most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber."

I have reviewed the comments made by the Member for Monfwi in the House and Rule 24, which reads, "In debate, a Member will be called to order by the Speaker if the Member:

  1. makes allegations against another Member, a House officer, a witness, or a Member of the public;
  2. imputes false or hidden motives to another Member;
  3. charges another Member with uttering a deliberate falsehood;
  4. uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder."

Members, the Government House Leader raised the point of order the next day. He chose to wait to review Hansard before calling the point of order. I find this to be reasonable and not an unnecessary delay.

On the point of order, I have reviewed the comments made by the Member for Monfwi with respect to the tone, manner, intention in which he made them. I find they did cross the line and are contrary to Rule 24(h), (i), (j), and (k).

Members, please remember that the Rules of the Legislative Assembly are sanctioned by us. As Speaker, it is my responsibility to make sure that they are followed in this House. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously and so should you.

Respect has to be exercised by both sides of the House. Unkind or inflammatory comments made by a Member when addressing another Member are not necessary, and do not encourage a respectful, balanced discussion.

As Members, you have to work with one another in the best interest of all the people of the Northwest Territories.

We are a consensus system of government and have our own standards, standards we are proud of and that we'd like to uphold. It's been said before, but I will say it again, while other legislatures may allow this style of debate, we find it unacceptable. I think most of the people we represent would agree.

I find there is a point of order. I will now ask the Member for Monfwi to withdraw his remarks and apologize to the House. Thank you. Member for Monfwi.

Speaker's Ruling
Prayer

Page 558

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [English translation not available.] Mr. Speaker, I speak one of my 11 official languages in the House, probably the only one in the House. Today, I do not have an interpreter. I highly encourage you to shut down the House at this point in time since I can't speak my language. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker's Ruling
Prayer

Page 558

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

Thank you. Member for Monfwi, are you rising on a point of privilege? Thank you, Member for Monfwi.

Speaker's Ruling
Prayer

Page 558

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. That's absolutely right. I'm raising a point of privilege, since I can't speak in my language in this House so that other Members can understand what I'm saying. It's very important that I speak my language, one of the 11 official languages in the House, and I feel that we cannot continue having our discussion or debate today, as I do not have an interpreter at this point in time. Mr. Speaker, it is my right to do so, to speak my language as I've done over the last 15 years, and I'll continue to do so, but I cannot continue today with the limited resources that I have with the interpreters. Unfortunately, the two are away today for various reasons, personal reasons.

Mr. Speaker, it's very unfortunate that I stand here today to raise a point of privilege on this particular subject, which is very dear to my heart as a language-speaking person in this House. I've been very proud to speak my language and, today, I simply cannot do that for Members, even yourself, Mr. Speaker, to understand what I'm saying in my language, so I just want to raise the point of privilege to declare that we cannot continue with this Assembly today, Mr. Speaker. Masi.

Speaker's Ruling
Prayer

Page 558

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

Thank you. I will take the point of privilege under advisement and will deal with this matter tomorrow. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 33-19(2): Value of Tourism
Ministers' Statements

Page 558

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When we talk about the value of tourism in the Northwest Territories, we often speak in terms of the dollars spent and the number of visitors tallied. In 2018-2019, the tourism industry showed record numbers in both of these categories, emphasizing once again that the approach to, and investments in, our Tourism 2020 Strategy are working. In fact, over the last five years, we have increased the number of visitors to our territory by 42 percent and boosted spending by 43 percent.

As we look to grow and diversify our territory's economy, these figures are important to our economic outlook. This growth in tourism means new tourism businesses and new service providers. With growth and diversification comes increased employment in our tourism sector and new revenue for our economy.

However, Mr. Speaker, the full value of tourism is so much more. In Inuvik, Alestine's eatery is a constant flurry of activity. Thanks to a regular and growing client base of summer road-tripping visitors, their business is thriving. What is unsaid, and sometimes unnoticed, is that Alestine's' success as a tourism destination means that Inuvik residents also have a restaurant to enjoy year-round.

In Tulita, campgrounds and walking trails have been built to accommodate tourists travelling the Mackenzie and Great Bear Rivers; however, local residents are also benefitting. Families are walking the groomed paths together, healthy eating workshops are being held in the picnic areas, and sharing circles are taking place in the campground teepee.

In Jean Marie River, local artist and bed-and-breakfast owner Lucy Simon shares the art of moose-hair tufting, a traditional skill that she is helping to keep alive thanks to the tourism demand for her product. As Ms. Simon shares her creative process with her guests, she is also teaching her skills to a new generation, preserving and sharing this time-honoured activity that was once passed on to her.

In Fort Smith, Northwestern Air Lease has seen a significant increase in their tourism-related bookings over the last four years. As a result, young athletes from the region are now benefiting from the company's success, thanks to discounted rates for teams and groups travelling to compete at sporting events.

In Yellowknife, busses and vans park outside Weaver and Devore to allow tourists to flock inside. While this fourth-generation family-run business was established almost exclusively to serve mining camps and fishers, tourists now line the aisles, as well, providing benefits and opportunities for yet another generation of staff and their families.

Mr. Speaker, while our government supports the tourism sector with investments in destination marketing, industry capacity building, and community readiness, we all play a part in its success. Our North is known for its spectacular landscapes and adventures, its strong Indigenous cultures and traditions, the midnight sun, and Aurora Borealis. Most of all, Mr. Speaker, our North is known for its people, their warm and welcoming spirit, and our world-renowned northern hospitality.

With the success of our tourism industry, however, there may be times when an influx of visitors to our territory puts a strain on our communities and their resources. More people wanting to visit our territory is the kind of challenge we want to have, though, and we will continue to work with communities to develop services and options for visitors across the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, in coming weeks, using the hashtag #ValueofTourismNWT, Northwest Territories residents will have the opportunity to read more about the projects that I have highlighted today. In doing so, I hope that we will all come to recognize that the value of tourism is much more than just economic. Yes, tourism continues to be an economic driver across the Northwest Territories, injecting over $200 million into our economy annually, but the value of tourism is also found in the infrastructure and services that we enjoy as residents. It is reflected in the preservation of our traditions and cultures, and it is implicit in the wellness of our communities and our families. Tourism highlights for the world what those of us living in the North already know, what a wonderful and magical place it is to live. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 33-19(2): Value of Tourism
Ministers' Statements

Page 558

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

Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Addiction Treatment Services
Members' Statements

Page 558

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, today, I'm going to talk about the need for more addictions and after-care services for the people of Fort Smith and the NWT. The NWT has been without an addiction treatment centre since June 2013. As an MLA, I firmly believe that each and every family has experienced a family member, a friend, or has been privy to information about a problem of being addicted to some form of drug, alcohol, or other substances. We are a small territory, and we have some excellent workers who are very committed to the problem and to the clients they serve, but there are gaps in the system that we should be addressing, and I feel, at times, there has been a lack of political will from successive governments to fund the gaps that will really make a difference.

As the MLA for Thebacha, and having been involved on the addiction scene for over 10 years with Salt River and the community of Fort Smith, I feel that addiction treatments have to be expanded to other treatment centres in the South so that more choices are available to the client. The treatment centres themselves have complete teams, which have psychologists, psychiatrists, addiction doctors, and counsellors who also have traditional knowledge and training to counsel all types of addiction abuse and trauma.

However, Mr. Speaker, I would argue that there are other options which our government could explore. In fact, when I was chief of Salt River, we had partnered with the Poundmaker's treatment centre, which is based out of Edmonton, along with the territorial government, and conducted a mobile community-based addiction six-week pilot project, which featured strong cultural and on-the-land components in its programming. That programming was very well received by both participants and the community members alike, plus two follow-up after-care sessions with a complete training team from Poundmaker's treatment centre.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, there are other options that could be available to the people of the NWT in the areas of addiction treatment, but this can only be made possible by all levels of government working together, which includes our territorial, federal, as well as the municipal and Indigenous governments. The South River and the community of Fort Smith were able to achieve this type of pilot project with a more northern-focused treatment option. I don't see why any other community in the Northwest Territories couldn't do so either.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to address another aspect of addiction services that are lacking in the NWT, which are inadequate levels of after-care supports that are offered to people who return home from treatment centres. After-care is an extremely important component for people who struggle with addictions; yet, our territory is lagging behind --

Addiction Treatment Services
Members' Statements

Page 558

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

Member for Thebacha, could you seek unanimous consent to conclude your statement, please? Thank you.

Addiction Treatment Services
Members' Statements

Page 558

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Addiction Treatment Services
Members' Statements

Page 559

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to address another aspect of addiction services that are lacking in the NWT, which are the inadequate levels of after-care supports that are offered to people who return home from treatment centres. After-care is an extremely important component for people who struggle with addictions; yet, our territory is lagging behind in offering any real substantive supports to people when they return from treatment. When people get out of treatment, they must readjust to everyday life, which can be challenging after getting used to the routines and structure of rehab. To help people with these transitions, the best supports that we can offer people are things like halfway houses, sober living homes, and greater access to counselling services that must be available in all communities and regions across the NWT. We can, and we must, do better in this area, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Addiction Treatment Services
Members' Statements

Page 559

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

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

Agricultural Strategy
Members' Statements

Page 559

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The need for a strategy to advance economic opportunities and agriculture was identified in the 2013 Economic Opportunities Strategy. Subsequently, the 18th Assembly developed an agricultural strategy that looked to expand the agricultural sector, increase local food production, increase producer and supplier opportunities, and improve distribution networks for NWT food and food-related products.

Three terms later, this 19th Legislative Assembly continues on a path looking to increase employment in small communities, reduce the cost of living, increase economic diversification, and increase food security; all the components we would expect in developing a strong and sustainable agricultural sector. The Minister of ITI must either reject, revise, or accept the strategy of the 18th Assembly if we are to make it our own and move it forward. I would say, let us move on it, and make it a reality.

Mr. Speaker, if we are to build a relevant and viable agricultural industry, we must ensure that the legislation is in place to make it work. We must ensure that producers have access to land, and that land cost is reasonable. We must provide the support and resources producers require. We must encourage and provide new and upcoming producers with training opportunities. We must partner with the federal government to leverage agricultural funding, and most importantly, we must partner with Indigenous peoples to ensure they have provided an opportunity to participate in a meaningful way. This approach will enhance the probability of successfully delivering on the agricultural strategy.

The reality is that we have a number of producers who are hampered by lack of clarity around agricultural expansion. They are forced to approach it from the standpoint of hobby farming. These same producers are ready to move up to the next level of production, and we, as government, must support them by removing existing barriers and providing the support required to make it happen.

Mr. Speaker, we have to remember that each producer is unique. We must work in collaboration with them while taking a small-steps approach to building on each component and each success if we expect to succeed. If we expect to capture all elements of agriculture in one big swoop, we will ultimately fail; and if we do nothing, we will fail. Let's get to work. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.