This is page numbers 437 - 482 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 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 437

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister for Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 28-19(2): Promoting Importance of Oral Health
Ministers' Statements

Page 437

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

Madam Speaker, good oral health is important to our overall health and quality of life. Healthy mouths and teeth in children promote healthy growth, nutrition, speech development, good school performance, and social well-being. Cavities, however, are the most common chronic infectious childhood disease, and they place a substantial burden on our population. Poor oral health contributes to a child's inability to eat, speak, sleep, and learn. In adults, oral disease has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and Alzheimer's.

Madam Speaker, it is important to note that, while dental treatment services are not an insured service paid for by the Northwest Territories Healthcare Plan, our government is working to reduce oral disease among children and youth through the Oral Health Action Plan released in October 2018. This plan outlines four key areas of action to improve oral health outcomes to promote oral health throughout the entire Northwest Territories population; to establish systematic supports for improved oral health services; to implement the Northwest Territories Oral Health Service Delivery Model; and to provide high quality, sustainable, and culturally-safe care.

Some highlights of what has been done since the release of the action plan include the addition of a registered dental hygienist in Norman Wells and the rollout of daily brushing programs in daycares and schools in our communities. There have also been investments in dental equipment across the Northwest Territories by the federal government to

support the delivery of dental services in communities where there are no established dental clinics. As part of this action plan, front-line primary healthcare providers have begun to integrate oral health screening and education for children and expectant mothers during prenatal and Well Child Record appointments, as well.

The Department of Health and Social Services and health authorities are also collaborating with community partners to deliver a multi-age group oral health literacy program. This program will feature arts-based learning in schools and at community gatherings. Finally, a territory-wide oral health social marketing campaign will be launched this spring to encourage better oral health self-care to promote oral health outcomes in the NWT.

Madam Speaker, research shows that starting good oral health practices in early childhood will ensure that children will continue to practice brushing and flossing as part of their daily routine. This is why we partnered with the Northwest Territories Literacy Council to provide parents with a brushing song book that they can sing along with their children aged one to four.

Our Ever Awesome NWT Brushing Song book, which I will table later today, was illustrated by Neiva Mateus and written by Tlicho Dene author Richard Van Camp. Funding was provided by the federal governments' Children's Oral Health Initiative. The aim of this book is to provide parents with a resource that makes brushing and flossing with their children something that is a fun, daily, family activity. The brushing song book also promotes the importance of snuggling, reading to one another, and sharing time with each other. It honours the gift of family by looking after their health and spending time together.

Over the months of March and April, Richard Van Camp will be touring communities in the Northwest Territories to raise awareness about the book and the importance of oral health. The book will be translated into all the NWT official Indigenous languages, and the audio files for the song will be made available on the department's website. An animated storyboard promoting oral health for older children is also being produced in all the NWT official languages. We are looking forward to the first screening of this original media project later this summer.

Madam Speaker, oral health is an important part of our overall health. This book is one of many resources that we will be developing for parents and caregivers to help them teach good oral health practices to their children. I want to thank Richard Van Camp, Neiva Mateus, and the NWT Literacy Council for partnering with us to raise awareness about good oral health.

I encourage all parents to embrace the idea of fun-filled brushing and flossing time with their children, and encourage everyone to give oral health the time and respect it deserves as an important part of overall health and wellbeing. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Minister's Statement 28-19(2): Promoting Importance of Oral Health
Ministers' Statements

Page 437

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Trades Apprenticeships
Members' Statements

Page 437

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I want to talk about the trades and, more specifically, apprenticeships. With an aging workforce and people leaving the trades, the demand and competition for skilled trades workers will only increase. I see this currently happening not only in Hay River, but throughout the NWT.

In the digital age, the ways we work, communicate, and utilize technology are changing at a swift pace. The use of high-tech equipment in different sectors of the economy requires that trades workers possess strong essential skills in literacy and mathematics. This change in technology is becoming increasingly noticeable in our communities, which are receiving energy-efficient homes, state-of-the-art water and sewer treatment plants, solar options for power; all those are associated with high-tech equipment requiring technical expertise to maintain and operate.

Madam Speaker, in the Northwest Territories, we have many workers who, over time, have gained a wealth of experience in the trades. The problem is that the opportunity for work in the NWT is sporadic and, in many instances, short-term or seasonal, the result of employers not willing to undertake the effort, cost, and time it takes to recruit, train, and develop apprentices. The consequence is that the employee does not receive the recognition for the hours of work and training they received while on the job. Furthermore, today's employers are expected to be social workers, psychologists, therapists, counsellors, and bankers for its employees, which all results in added costs to the bottom line. Today's apprentices need more than on-the-job and technical skills. They require skills that include judgment, common sense, adaptability, initiative, dependability, responsibility, attitude, and safety consciousness.

The question is: how are we going to replace the aging workforce when we have all this going on? There is no easy answer, but we can start by providing access to a quality education for our residents. We can strive to develop a sustainable economy that promotes full-time employment opportunities. We must recognize that the mindset of the workforce is changing, and we must adapt to that change. We must reconsider legislation that impedes business through red tape. We must provide support to our small businesses as they are most often ground zero for those looking to enter the trades.

Madam Speaker, the trades can provide exciting and rewarding careers in terms of challenges and financial return, and I strongly encourage our youth to seriously look at this as a career choice. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Trades Apprenticeships
Members' Statements

Page 437

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Policy on Rent Scales
Members' Statements

Page 437

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Today, I want to bring up, again, proof of income in Housing Corporation policies. A few weeks ago, I raised a concern of the corporation's practice of using T4 slips, Madam Speaker. This results in public housing clients being assessed at a much higher level than the rent scale where they should be. That's because the T4 slips show the income from the previous year, not from where they are currently. This is causing unnecessary stress to the public clients in Nunakput and across our territory. I'm trying to help them, Madam Speaker. I need the Minister responsible for NWT Housing Corporation to listen to their concerns to show leadership that's needed to fix this problem. I have looked back in Hansard. I am not satisfied with the answers the Minister gave me, so I am going to ask these questions again today in the simplest language possible.

First, I want to see the Housing Corporation's policy manual. It should be available online. They call it "public policy" for a reason, Madam Speaker. It's not just a guide for LHOs to let the public know what to expect paying their monthly rent, so I'm giving the Minister a heads-up today. My first question will be: will the Minister be able to table the policy that says the LHOs must use T4 slips to determine income of the public housing clients? The second question is going to be: will the Minister commit to ensuring that the policy, and all Housing Corporation policies, are posted on their website, ASAP; and finally, will the Minister commit to making a policy more flexible so that other documents can be used as proof of income, Madam Speaker? I'm still hopeful for this Minister and her corporation, but if we don't get today, I will be looking to move a motion in this House to direct the Minister to amend the policy that requires T4 slips as proof of income. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Policy on Rent Scales
Members' Statements

Page 438

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Whati Housing Plan
Members' Statements

Page 438

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Madam Speaker. Today, I'd like to speak about the Whati housing plan. Madam Speaker, the Minister of Northwest Territories Housing Corporation proudly announced early to mid-December that Whati was the first community in our territory to complete their housing plan. Being the Member of the Monfwi constituency, I was indeed proud of the community of Whati. I then heard through the grapevine that a big celebration was scheduled for Whati on December 17, 2019. I checked with the Minister's office. Sure enough, a celebration was indeed scheduled, and I was not notified about it. By that time, I had already committed to being at another important event on the same day, so unfortunately, I was therefore not able to attend the celebration.

Thankfully, after contacting the Minister's office, I received a letter from the Minister expressing her apologies for not informing myself in a timely manner about the celebration. Madam Speaker, she ended with "Again, I regret that I was not able to speak about this with you directly. I look forward to collaborating with you for the betterment of the residents of Monfwi." That was her statement back then.

Madam Speaker, the mentioned housing plan was finished in December 2019. The community received the actual plan and approved it in early February. On February 11th, I requested a copy of the plan. The Minister responded on the 19th that the plan would be available online on the 20th. She also mentioned that a printed copy would be made available to my office on the 21st of February. My office followed up with an e-mail on February 25th, and we did not get a response.

Madam Speaker, we are now into the first week of March, and I still have not received a copy of the housing plan, and it is still not available online. These are the questions I will definitely have for the Minister of the Housing Corporation at a later time. Masi, Madam Speaker.

Whati Housing Plan
Members' Statements

Page 438

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Affirmative Action Policy
Members' Statements

Page 438

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Madam Speaker, I want to revisit the issue of the Government of the Northwest Territories Affirmative Action Policy once again, because, as I see it, this policy is not serving the people of Fort Smith or the people of the NWT. The e-mail that I received from the finance Minister on February 27, 2020, is a typical government explanation, and I do not accept a response like that from a Minister. When an MLA asks for a response in confidence, I expect a more personal and detailed response.

Madam Speaker, I strongly feel that the Affirmative Action Policy across the NWT, including the riding of Thebacha, is not transparent or accountable. I have attended many meetings across the territory over my 10-plus years of leadership, with multiple levels of government, and the issue of affirmative action has always come up numerous times in a negative way.

Madam Speaker, many people have approached me about how this process is not benefitting Northerners, especially those P1s and P2s within the policy. If the Minister truly feels she wants to make a difference as a Minister of human resources, she has an opportunity to change the direction of the Government of the Northwest Territories Affirmative Action Policy as intended.

Madam Speaker, we need to develop guidelines and criteria that the human resources department must follow, without interference from favouritism, and must be based on qualifications, must be indigenous to the North, and northern-born residents must be considered. It is not to be based on friendship, personal preferences, and not who you know, and not what you know.

Madam Speaker, change must take place with the Affirmative Action Policy immediately. No more direct appointments that end up excluding all candidates that would like to apply for any position. It is crucial that the hiring policies of the Government of the Northwest Territories must be objective, fair, and the best possible candidate must be hired. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Affirmative Action Policy
Members' Statements

Page 438

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Health System Navigator
Members' Statements

Page 438

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Speaker. We spend a lot of time in this House criticizing GNWT practices, trying to right the wrongs of the past, and hold the government to account. Today, I would like to focus on an initiative that has been performing exceptionally well in our government, based on my experience. One of the most helpful tools the Department of Health and Social Services has is its system navigator.

The system assists residents with enquiries in the various sectors of the department. It directs residents down the right path depending on their individual needs, both frees up resources within the department and delivers a higher level of service to residents, whether it's accessing non-insured health benefits, seniors' services, or using medical travel for the first time. Instead of being sent through a maze of e-mail chains and phone calls, you're one e-mail or call away from the answers you're looking for.

Madam Speaker, the health system navigator has helped numerous constituents of mine. It has been very helpful to my constituency assistant, and Madam Speaker, the goal in the long term is to not have our processes be so complicated that we have a navigator, but that's not the world we presently live in. There has been a lot of talk in this House lately about discussing personnel issues. I usually would not do this, but I would really like to commend the current Health and Social Services net navigator, Shoshanna Caneul-Kirkwood, on behalf of myself and all my constituents. I thank you for all the work you have done in ensuring that this process runs smoothly. Thank you, Shoshanna.

Health System Navigator
Members' Statements

Page 438

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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