This is page numbers 2951 - 2988 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 public.

Topics

Obstetrical Care
Members' Statements

Page 2960

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, by April of this year, my office began hearing from residents regarding the escalating burnout, stress, and fatigue amongst nurses in the NWT. Issues raised included understaffing, the preferential treatment of locums, stress due to working closely with southerners, and having to use leave time to isolate for two weeks if they should travel out of the territory.

Over the subsequent months, we continued to be contacted by several constituents and other residents with personal concerns regarding the conditions they had encountered at Stanton that they saw as resulting from burnout and stress.

In early November, all Members of this Assembly received a letter from several healthcare professionals stating that these issues were reaching critical mass which would likely result in decreased healthcare capacity.

This letter echoed the earlier concerns that had been brought forward to my office's attention highlighting burnout, loss of vacation, feeling overworked, and a lack of compensation for the increased hazard faced due to COVID.

Yesterday while we were sitting in this Chamber, Members were informed that birthing in Yellowknife would now be redirected to Edmonton despite our brand new, state-of-the-art hospital meaning that several families would now be extremely disrupted with very little notice expected to travel during a global pandemic.

Yesterday the Minister of Health also tabled a document that highlighted the concerns of nurses and answered some of their questions; however, what the document also highlighted is what one of the barriers to providing nurses with the accommodations they are asking for is the collective agreement.

In the Northwest Territories, nurses are part of the same collective agreement as any other GNWT employee. Therefore, it is difficult to accommodate the special circumstances that only nurses encounter. All civil servants are considered the same under the Public Service Act. This puts the Department of Health and Social Services in an awkward position. They have been tasked with increasing the number of healthcare professionals by 20 percent as per the 19th Assembly's list of priorities.

What was already set to be a difficult task has only become near impossible as we deal with COVID and the ensuing pandemic. Throw in mounting concerns raised by those same professionals, we are now poised to actually have less healthcare workers at the end of this Assembly than we started with.

Perhaps it is time that we treat our healthcare professionals with the care that they deserve, time to look at what can be done in order to ensure that we are always looking after them the way that they have always looked after us.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Obstetrical Care
Members' Statements

Page 2960

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Health Care Providers Shortage
Members' Statements

Page 2960

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, after receiving the notice that Stanton will be suspending service for the obstetric unites, I had many mixed thoughts about this. I thought of my past experience as a nursing manager and trying to recruit obstetric nurses throughout the year. It was always a struggle to secure indeterminate OBS nurses and I had to rely on term contracts. This upset a lot of the other nurses, but not only in OBS, emergency and OR nurses, trying to keep the positions staffed became way more challenging during peak vacation time, Christmas, summer, and spring break. There were times when there was discussions that possibly having to suspend services to a specific area. These discussions come up more than the public gets to know.

But patient safety is always top priority, and no one makes this decision lightly. You're trying to juggle your staff's holidays over patient safety. Mr. Speaker, staffing shortages throughout the country are impacting the North. Our health care staff have been heavily relied upon during this pandemic. The nurses have been reaching out to MLAs for support with their concerns even before the pandemic but more so now during the pandemic.

Mr. Speaker, this government needs to see that what we're doing is not working. We have heard that they're burning out; their work environment is toxic; their concerns are not being addressed.

We now have families being impacted by this closure, having to do what families from 29 other communities have to do when they are 37 weeks, leave their home, their support, their lives until after they deliver. It's not fair for this to happen to anyone, but it is what has to be done for them to have safe deliveries. And it's unfortunate that this shortage has come to this.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the NWT has a lot to offer for families for family work life balance if fully staffed. And "if" is a very important part. We have salaries that match our southern provinces, if not more. But, Mr. Speaker, the cost of living is getting more expensive, and in some communities, there is even the lack of housing. Mr. Speaker, we need to look at other ways that will make the NWT a place that people want to come and work and live.

As a registered nurse myself, I have received from Registered Nursing Association a recruitment and retention survey which is opened from November 10th to November 28th, and I encourage all registered nurses to complete this survey so that they can voice their concerns and be heard. I look forward to the results of this survey and what it will re-enforce that we may already know as well as bring to light the issues of our staff in the nursing area. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Health Care Providers Shortage
Members' Statements

Page 2960

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. The Member for Hay River South.

COVID Accommodation Measures
Members' Statements

Page 2960

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

The Government of Canada is working with provinces, territories, Indigenous organizations, and local authorities to develop accommodations to appropriately address the needs of remote communities.

What are remote communities? In this instance for the NWT with the exception of Yellowknife, the remaining 32 communities are considered remote communities.

Mr. Speaker, air travel in the North supports our residents' medical and health needs, and it allows for one's well-being, and it supports community infrastructure of those remote communities. When I reflected on the answers received yesterday from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Infrastructure, access to air travel appears to be, in part, at the heart of why unvaccinated people in the North will lose their jobs.

Mr. Speaker, for the past year and a half, the vaccine has been front and centre, and for good reason, while the issue of the need to accommodate workers has been pushed to the back of our discussions. It is the lack of this consideration for accommodation that will determine if some workers have jobs come December 1st. I understand we can accommodate those workers in jobs where travel is not required. However, we have workers who may be long-term employees with families that will be without an income, may lose their home, and be forced to relocate or find a position where being vaccinated is not a requirement.

Mr. Speaker, we allow those that are vaccinated and who are also potential carriers of the virus to travel into remote communities without self-isolating or being tested. On the other hand, we have unvaccinated persons who would require PPE and a negative test prior to travel.

It seems a bit like putting a gun with a single bullet in the hand of the vaccinated while we put one that we know is not loaded into the hand of the unvaccinated person who has tested negative and using PPE and send them into the community.

This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's to make the point that testing along with the PPE is important. The federal government has indicated a willingness to be flexible in developing accommodations for the unvaccinated and make timely adjustments as the situation changes. Including in this willingness is the use of a local molecular COVID-19 test by airlines at the gate. So there are options.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I will have questions for the Minister of Finance. Thank you.

COVID Accommodation Measures
Members' Statements

Page 2960

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's statement on Clawback of Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement
Members' Statements

Page 2961

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Many Members have seen the recent national media coverage on the claw back of federal Guaranteed Income Supplement, or GIS, payments from seniors who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB, during the pandemic.

The federal government was encouraging everyone to take CERB payments without a thought to how that might affect future income from our social safety net.

Only later, much later, are seniors now finding out that CERB payments are being counted as income against GIS and other social assistance, which are now being reduced. As many as 90,000 seniors are affected nationally.

Here in the Northwest Territories, there are further consequences with the federal claw backs. With the reduction in federal GIS benefits comes a corresponding cut in the NWT Seniors Supplement.

All of this because CERB emergency payments are now being declared and counted as additional income. And as we learned earlier in the year, people in the Northwest Territories public housing, including seniors, are having their rents increased if they received CERB payments.

So what can this government do to provide some clarity and help for seniors. First, we should find a way to de-link the calculation of the NWT Seniors Supplement for those who did not receive GIS because they took a CERB payment.

Ideally, we need to recognize that CERB was an emergency program during a global pandemic that might happen once a century and not penalize the poorest seniors by counting this assistance as some sort of unearned income.

I implore this government to work with other provincial and territorial governments to stop this unjust treatment of seniors. I'll have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment on what this government is doing to stop these unfair claw backs of social assistance to NWT seniors. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Member's statement on Clawback of Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement
Members' Statements

Page 2961

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Obstetrical Care
Members' Statements

Page 2961

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, in my duties, I try to be empathetic and put myself in the shoes of constituents. Yesterday expectant parents ready to deliver in Yellowknife were informed they will travel to Edmonton to deliver their child. And I refuse to accept this.

Some families have three weeks' notice that they will have three weeks or more less work and less income, be moved from the safety of their community and support system, potential deliver without their partner, potentially be left with no support for older children, and then be expected to travel home and isolate with a newborn.

I had my first child at 23 in the middle of float season, my husband is a bush pilot. He called in sick to be in the delivery room and returned to his work schedule the next day.

Travelling to Edmonton would not have been an option. Like many deliveries, mine did not go as planned and ended in C section. If I had been in Edmonton, I would have been alone unsure how to get home with a newborn after major surgery. But as a mother, the most devastating part would be leaving my older children for weeks while I waited to deliver.

Mr. Speaker, just last year, a constituent had to be sent south for specialty prenatal care, but her own childhood trauma meant that leaving her older children in Yellowknife was not an option.

Mr. Speaker, Stanton has incredible OBS staff, and I want to acknowledge the demands of shift work on family life and thank the staff that continue to serve our communities. If Stanton cannot find a solution, this change will not be a straight transfer of patients to Edmonton. Families will require financial supports. Medical travel policies need to reflect actual costs, and solutions need to be established for older children unable to stay home.

Mr. Speaker, we are still in a pandemic. Recently Alberta cancelled its services to northern residents during a surge of COVID-19 patients. As Southerners feel the effects of waning immunity, this could again just interrupt the NWT's access to health care. But then what?

I know Stanton made this decision for the safety of patients, but this is not a solution, Mr. Speaker. My time here is not enough to talk about the significance of people leaving their land, territory, and supports during childbirth. This is a huge step in the wrong direction for our entire territory and a decision I just simply cannot accept. We should be fighting for more and not less. Thank you.

Obstetrical Care
Members' Statements

Page 2961

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Nursing Issues
Members' Statements

Page 2961

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank my colleagues for their previous statement on the nursing situation in our territory. I think it's clear that our nurses are not having a good time in our territory, and many of these problems existed even before COVID-19 arrived in the territory.

Mr. Speaker, I sense that, you know, we are in a bit of a downward spiral and morale, and I don't want management or the department or the nurses to get defensive. I really want to find a solution so that we can all get through this.

I've heard many complaints from nurses about management, and then they are told to take those complaints to the very same people they're complaining about. I contrast to this House, Mr. Speaker, where we have a very rigorous complaint process we just went through.

Mr. Speaker, COVID arrived, and the nurses are now joined by all health care workers in the stress of a hospital and health care facilities across the North and Canada. They have been put in a high-demand position. I've heard reports of some of them are leaving indeterminate jobs so that they can be treated better as locums. I've heard of reports of other nurses taking benefits advantage of the signing bonuses that numerous provinces are now entering.

Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that, you know, this is just a problem of throwing money at it. I believe there is some cultural issues in management. I believe this is some flexibility needed. And I know there is a survey out. I encourage all nurses to take that. And more importantly, I encourage the department to take everything that is said in that survey very seriously.

I worry that we know what many of the asks are going to be. If they're going to be difficult and if we ignore them once again, we are going to find ourselves in an even worse situation.

Mr. Speaker, lastly, the reality is the nursing profession has found itself in extreme demand throughout this pandemic. Other provinces are competing. We are losing that competition. I have heard nurses requesting signing bonuses, requesting increases in pay. And I've heard that for whatever reason, collective bargaining, and the way we do that does not allow us to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I do not accept that. We need to work with the union. We need to work with the nurses. And we need to find a way to be competitive in this field. And I know that is hard. I know that it is a different form of bargaining than we are used to. I know our finances are tight. But that is at least step one in solving this problem. I'll have questions for the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker.

Nursing Issues
Members' Statements

Page 2961

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Eulogy for Martine Lomen
Members' Statements

Page 2961

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Martine Lomen was born on March 16th, 1933, in the Mackenzie Mountains past Fisherman's Lake 18 kilometers from Fort Liard. Her biological parents were Christina Dudan and Alexi Lomen.

In 1947, she was married to Fredrick Kotchea through an arranged marriage.

On October 13th, 1948, both of them had their first child, John Kotchea. The stories she told that she was pregnant and was due anytime and wanted to be at Fisherman's Lake with her parents when she would have her first child. However, during their travel, she went into labour on the way there, and just when -- it was just Fred with her. She gave birth to John. After the delivery, she told Fred she and the baby were okay. So they continued their travels to her parents' camp.

Both of them went on to have eight sons and four daughters. At the age of 15, she was a young wife and a mother and learned her craft skills with traditional moose hide making.

She said her mother had asked her to start fleshing a moose hide since she has injured her arm. That is when she realized that she was very strong, and fixing a moose hide was no problem for her.

She went on to develop her skills and passions for the moose hide making. When shares her stories, she said with a smile, I never go without flusher and scrapers.

She was known for her skills in crafting moose hide moccasins. Fort Liard is well-known for its traditional birch bark berry baskets. She and her late sister, Sarah Edda, contributed to reviving and redesigning the traditional ways of the birch bark berry baskets. Together they developed a new way of crafting birch bark baskets, such as a general sanding the bark and adding colored -- colorful dyes, porcupine quills. And as saying goes, the rest is history.

She was passionate and created her birch bark baskets with colorful quilled flowers and birds, and harvest the material from the land.

Many people are thankful and grateful for her traditional crafting as she usually passed on her skills and knowledge. She was well-informed, a stern teacher to her daughters, daughters-in-law, and great -- and grand-daughters.

On February 11th, 2021, she passed away.
Martine and Fred had raised a large family with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and they will be forever missed and loved.

Mr. Speaker, as her son Steve said it best, Her legacy is with us, and her shoes will never be filled. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Eulogy for Martine Lomen
Members' Statements

Page 2962

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and community. Members' statements. Reports of committees on the review of bills. Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Nunakput.

Committee Report 19-19(2): Report on Bill 29, Resource Royalty Information Disclosure Statute Amendment Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

November 23rd, 2021

Page 2962

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Bill 29, Resource Royalty Information Disclosure Statute Amendment Act.

Mr. Speaker, your hardworking committee and your standing committee on Economic Development and Environment is pleased to provide its report on Bill 29, Resource Royalty Information Disclosure Statute Amendment Act and commends it to the House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.