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

Food Security in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 560

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

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

Housing and Income Security
Members' Statements

Page 560

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In my community, the Inuvik Housing Authority wait list is currently sitting at 80 applications for one bedroom, nine applications for two bedrooms, and 10 applications for three bedrooms. This number has not changed at all in the past few years, but it's the single applicants who I have heard about from my community who are falling between the cracks. There is a huge gap in service between housing, Income Support, and the private market, Mr. Speaker. We know that we do not have any vacant single units in the Inuvik Housing Authority, and from what I've been told by many of the constituents in my riding, Income Support will only provide a certain amount; the number that keeps coming up is $600 per month for single individuals, as long as they are on the wait list for housing.

They also tell me that, when they go to make an application through the private rental company, and we all know the biggest one that is sitting here in Yellowknife and Inuvik, they are told that they are not eligible, as they don't meet the income requirement. So here they are, Mr. Speaker, homeless, couch surfing, and, if lucky, they get a bed at our homeless shelter.

Mr. Speaker, it puzzles me that Income Support will provide only up to $600 per month for rent, or this is the message that they provide, knowing that the private market is anywhere from $900 to $1,350 plus power for a bachelor or a one-bedroom. Some of these clients are dealing with medical issues. Some are adult students trying to finish their education. Some are returning from treatment, once they arrive back home and have no place to stay. We as a government are not providing them with a basic need of housing, and this is unacceptable. I hear this from both the residents who are waiting for units and from those who are providing a place for these people to stay, asking: why is this barrier there?

Mr. Speaker, I understand that we cannot control private business, but we can control the Income Security Program to work with private rental housing to find a way to meet their income criteria so that, when a resident applies for a unit, Income Security can provide documentation to meet the need of the rental company. It makes me angry that we continue to create barriers instead of meeting people where they're at, to meet their basic needs. I will have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Housing and Income Security
Members' Statements

Page 560

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

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

Virtual Care
Members' Statements

Page 561

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, medical travel is a necessity of life in the North. The prohibitive cost of delivering all services to all 33 NWT communities, paired with the global shortage of healthcare workers, requires Northerners to travel to larger centres to receive specialized care.

Virtual care, specifically Telehealth, has been part of our northern care landscape for decades, helping the North increase client access and reduce costs to our healthcare system. Canada was an early driver of virtual care, but quickly fell behind other nations. Given our growing medical travel costs and the spectre of pandemics, such as the threat of COVID-19, now is the time to increase our use of virtual care. This will enable the GNWT to sharpen the focus on preventive care and to continue to meet the healthcare needs of all Northerners in the most cost-effective way possible.

Well-known northern physician and former NWT Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Ewan Affleck recently co-chaired the Virtual Care Task Force, a national partnership of medical professionals focused on promoting and growing access to quality healthcare through virtual care. Their final report, which I will table today, was released in February. The Virtual Care Task Force identified five key national recommendations to help address the four main barriers to virtual care. Mr. Speaker, the barriers identified were specific, clear, and solvable:

  1. Digital inter-operability across the healthcare system to exchange healthcare information;
  2. Simple registration and licensing to allow physicians to provide virtual care across provincial and territorial boundaries;
  3. Payment models for virtual care; and
  4. Medical education and professional development for physicians and medical students as they transition from an analog medical world to a digital one.

Mr. Speaker, we are already setting ourselves up for greater success and access to virtual care. The Northwest Territories, I am proud to say, was identified as the jurisdiction that has come the closest to inter-operability with its electronic medical record system, or single-patient chart. In terms of next steps, registration, licensing, and payment models are barriers that can be addressed through direction from this government.

The demand for virtual care in southern Canada is growing to meet public desire in the digital age. In the North, however, virtual care could literally mean the difference between a person's access to healthcare or not; so not a desire, Mr. Speaker, but a need. Virtual care will improve NWT resident access to essential services in the comfort of their home communities and enable the GNWT to put less money into air travel and more money into actual care, including prevention. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Virtual Care
Members' Statements

Page 561

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

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Item 4, recognition of visitors in the gallery. I'd like to welcome the visitors that we have in the gallery with us today. I hope you're enjoying our proceedings. It's always nice to have an audience with us, thank you. Item 5, reports of committees on the review of bills. Item 6, reports of standing and special committees. Item 7, returns to oral questions. Item 8, acknowledgements. Item 9, oral questions. Member for Thebacha.

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

March 10th, 2020

Page 561

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Addictions are a major setback in the NWT. We have among the highest levels of addictions per capita in the country. Would the Minister consider adding more treatment centre options to our clients to ensure that we're covering all different types of scenarios that deal with addictions?

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

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

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Department of Health and Social Services is currently working on a process to issue an RFP for proposals for addictions treatment. The goal of this RFP is to identify southern locations and facilities that provide addictions services to Northwest Territories residents. This will mean more choices for their varied needs. Also, it is hoped that the contract results will come in the early summer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

Martsellos

Is the on-the-land funding, similar to what we have done in Salt River, still available to all Indigenous governments?

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

I think the Member is referring to the on-the-land mobile addictions treatment delivery by Salt River First Nation that was done a couple years ago. Yes, the Department of Health and Social Services will continue to deliver on-the-land healing funds for mental health and addictions. This program is delivered in partnership with the Indigenous governments. Starting in 2019-2020, the department has enhanced the fund to add additional funding to specific mobile addictions treatments and land-based after-care. This funding is meant to support the Indigenous governments to provide the same type of mobile addictions treatment program as for the Salt River First Nation that they delivered a couple years ago. It is our hope that this type of program can be a real option for individuals who do not want to leave their community.

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

Martsellos

Integrated Case Management comes under Justice but has underlying effects with addictions in clientele who are affected by not being able to get into the mainstream of society. Would the Minister consider working with the Justice Minister to ensure that both the Fort Smith and Inuvik regions get the Pathfinders to work with their regions and communities?

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

I think the Member is referring to the Pathfinders with the Integrated Case Management program that is currently run by the Department of Justice. The Department of Health and Social Services participates in this intergovernmental working group, which oversees the initiative. Yes, the department will continue to work with Justice to determine how lessons learned from this program can be applied to improve access to services in the NWT. The key is not about the Pathfinder positions in the communities; it is about taking a different approach to how the government provides services to its residents.

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

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

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Thebacha.

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

Martsellos

Mr. Speaker, a territorial transition house should be considered for the community of Fort Smith because of its setting, environment, and the traditional values and language that are offered. This territorial traditional transition house should be in a place where people can stay once they finish treatment in the South. Would the Minister consider building a territorial transition house for after-care clientele so the NWT would be more successful in making the addictions problems facing our people a thing of the past? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 165-19(2): Addictions Treatment Options
Oral Questions

Page 561

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

I agree with the Member that access to safe and sober housing is important to individuals who recover from addictions. Our department's mental wellness and addictions recovery action plan makes a commitment to work with partners to identify transitional housing options for people returning from addictions treatment. This concept is also included in the mandate of this Assembly. Yes, the department will be working with our partners to determine how we can establish transitional housing supports in the Northwest Territories. I agree this may not make addictions a thing of the past, but it will go a long way towards supporting people trying to make a change in their lives. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.