This is page numbers 739 - 766 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 health.

Topics

Question 215-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Northwest Territories Post-Secondary Students
Oral Questions

Page 745

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

The communication about self-isolating and about the precautions that need to be taken has been happening, I believe, since January, was the first time that the department reached out, and I will ensure that those continue to happen. Similar to the schools, I don't have the authority to close day homes, as it is being done in other jurisdictions, but if there is a serious health concern, the Chief Public Health Officer likely has the ability to close that. If people do have concerns about what is going on, they should be bringing those forward.

Question 215-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Northwest Territories Post-Secondary Students
Oral Questions

Page 745

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

Thank you, Minister. Member for Kam Lake.

Question 215-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Northwest Territories Post-Secondary Students
Oral Questions

Page 745

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. In regard to the Premier's comments earlier today in regard to closing schools until after Easter, does that mean that the end of the school year for NWT students will move and will be prolonged a little bit more into the summer to make up that time? Thank you.

Question 215-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Northwest Territories Post-Secondary Students
Oral Questions

Page 745

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

What the Premier said was that I consulted with the Chief Public Health Officer and received advice to close NWT schools until after Easter. That is advice. I don't have the authority to close those schools.

I have a meeting today with the chairs of the DEAs and the DECs, and they are the ones with that authority. Our recommendation will be to follow the advice of the chief medical officer, which is to close schools until after Easter. What that means, we are not sure yet. We will see where we are at that point and then re-evaluate, but there are a number of options on what can happen.

In the South Slave, they haven't had spring break yet. Perhaps they just don't have a spring break and they finish early. There are things like what happened in Alberta, where they cancelled school until basically next September, so it is still too early to know what is going on, but I can tell the Members of this House that it is my desire to continue educating children even in light of the physical closures of schools. I don't want to just abandon this school year. I want to ensure that our grads, people who can graduate, are able to graduate, and I want to ensure that we don't allow our students to fall further behind by just giving up on their education for the rest of this year.

What that looks like, I am not sure. The staff in the department have been working with the NWT Teachers' Association, have been working with the superintendents and the school boards to try and figure out how we can continue delivering education in light of these closures. That is where we are right now, and this recommendation came in a few hours ago, so the plans are still in the process of being made. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 215-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Northwest Territories Post-Secondary Students
Oral Questions

Page 745

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

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Question 216-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Support for Elders
Oral Questions

Page 745

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Just listening to some of the questions out there; I want to thank my colleagues from Kam Lake and Inuvik Twin Lakes for asking the questions. I was scratching out questions as I went along, here, but I did have one main question for the Premier: will the Premier advise if we will be distributing care packages for elders and those with mobility restrictions? What I mean by "care packages" is basically just dry goods, food, and supplies for elders, because it looks like this might be lasting a little longer than it should be. Marsi cho.

Question 216-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Support for Elders
Oral Questions

Page 745

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

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Honourable Premier.

Question 216-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Support for Elders
Oral Questions

Page 745

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At this time, we are not contemplating care packages for elders. We have zero confirmed cases in the Northwest Territories. If everyone does what the chief medical officer is asking, that they self-isolate if they have travelled internationally, if they are using good hygiene, if they are washing their hands, don't go to visit your elders, probably, in the long-term care facilities if you're sick, might be good advice. At this point, like I say, we have no incidences. We're not at that point that we're actually starting to panic. Those are discussions that will be coming across the table in the next week or two, though. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 216-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Support for Elders
Oral Questions

Page 745

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you for the response from the Premier. I have another question. With that in mind, I think that we need to be proactive here. There are still a lot of elders and mobility-restricted who are starting to be afraid to leave their homes now, so we need to start thinking about this. I am wondering if the Premier will be having these discussions and putting this in their emergency planning as they speak right now.

Question 216-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Support for Elders
Oral Questions

Page 746

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

As stated in the first question, there be discussions coming to Cabinet not only on care packages, whether we are going to go there or not, but also how we deal with the fears of our seniors, our elders, and their care, because they are the most vulnerable population within this pandemic. Those are conversations that we will have, but again, reinforcing, at this point, we have zero cases in the Northwest Territories. I am begging all residents, please, I know that people are panicking, but it's important that we remain calm, that we follow good hygiene, and we follow the advice from our chief medical officer. Connect with your government. Connect with your MLAs. Connect on Facebook. Get the information that is proper.

Question 216-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Support for Elders
Oral Questions

Page 746

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

Thank you, honourable Premier. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North.

Question 217-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Government of the Northwest Territories Employees Working Remotely
Oral Questions

Page 746

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Finance. Earlier, we heard that all departments do have response plans, and I am glad to hear that we have been working on this for a number of weeks. My question is: at what point in those response plans do we start telling GNWT employees to not attend work?

Question 217-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Government of the Northwest Territories Employees Working Remotely
Oral Questions

Page 746

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

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Minister of Finance.

Question 217-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Government of the Northwest Territories Employees Working Remotely
Oral Questions

Page 746

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That time is not now. That's a discussion that has been ongoing for some time. It has been a discussion that has been happening in some detail for some time, since January, really, but these plans are plans that have existed long before now. They are plans that were developed last year when we were facing the strike and owing from years before when they were dealing with H1N1. There are different gradients for each department. There are different needs for each department. We have to consider our health department and our essential services first, make sure that their needs are being met, make sure that we're also looking at whether or not we have the technical capacity to increase having people off working online. All of those things are being discussed and considered right now. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 217-19(2): COVID-19 Pandemic and Government of the Northwest Territories Employees Working Remotely
Oral Questions

Page 746

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

I appreciate that answer. My concern here is that all of these things work together, and if we are closing schools, people lose childcare. If we are losing day homes, people lose childcare, and it's important that, if we're asking people to continue showing up to offices when they could be working from home, but they don't have childcare, we are putting them in a very difficult situation. My question to the Minister of Finance is: are people remote working now, those who are able?