This is page numbers 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 know.

Topics

Housing in Small Communities
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Thebacha.

Increase Decision-Making Authority in Small Communities
Members' Statements

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the people living in small communities do not have the same level of access to government services or medical care as residents living in the capital do. By this very nature, the quality of life and social health are reduced compared to people living the capital, which is not okay. Moreover, the capital is the central hub of the government so all major programs and services and government agencies and departments are headquartered here. This means that most government decisions are usually made from the capital which, in effect, deprives small communities from proper regional decision-making authority.

Mr. Speaker, continuing to go down the route would go against the heart of one of the priorities of the 19th Assembly, which is to increase regional decision-making authority.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has always structured itself from a centralized approach, when really it should be the other way around, especially since our territory encompasses so many Indigenous and self-government communities as well as regions with ongoing land and rights-based agreement negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, for these reasons our government needs to function with a decentralized approach so we can empower small communities with more autonomy and a better quality of life. Too often I see some very basic seemingly no-brainer decisions that could, and ought to, be made at a local level but instead are being made from the capital.

I will have questions for the Premier later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Increase Decision-Making Authority in Small Communities
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Small Community Employment
Members' Statements

November 24th, 2021

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a mandate commitment and a priority of this Assembly to increase employment in small communities, specifically, in the mandate, by 125 jobs, Mr. Speaker. I will have some questions later today for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment about exactly what that looks like and what that means. It's a hard number to put in context.

But I think firstly, Mr. Speaker, in developing this work, we have to realize what we're up against. The Northwest Territories is not immune from the globalization that affects all communities where somehow High Liner fish bought in a supermarket is cheaper than the fish that a fisherman catches right out in the lake in their front yard, Mr. Speaker. We are not immune from urbanization. We are seeing the population of many of our small communities decline and, in fact, our territorial population is largely static as people move to urban centres all across the planet, Mr. Speaker.

And Mr. Speaker, at the heart of this debate about increasing employment in small communities, there is a tension that the Northwest Territories has more jobs than people, Mr. Speaker. That is why many of our mines are southern. It's why the majority of our workforce is not Indigenous and not going here. But those jobs do not align with our current education and our current workforce skills. Many of those jobs are not in the small communities. Therefore, if someone in a small community goes and successfully becomes an engineer, it is most likely they're not returning to their community to work.

Mr. Speaker, but people in a small community have a right to meaningful employment. And that can look in many things. There is pride in driving the water truck. There is pride in getting your ticket and becoming an OBM. There is pride working at your local Band office. We need to make sure we are in every community and everyone working in a small community can have a job if they need them.

Mr. Speaker, in 2018 we completed a small community employment strategy. The Premier at that time was the Minister responsible. It was a six-year plan. When I look at that plan, it has a bunch of kind of lofty goals and objectives and it has no hard measurements. I'm confused what it was intending to accomplish and, more importantly, what it has actually accomplished in the last four years.

Mr. Speaker, we have a number of mandate commitments and a number of things happening across this government to increase employment in small communities. However, I'm unsure whether we are actually doing that, and I'll have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Small Community Employment
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Core Housing Needs
Members' Statements

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, housing is in crisis. Lack of adequate and suitable housing has forced families to sacrifice safety, mental wellness, and sobriety; has meant more children in government care; and impedes education levels and education rates.

This is not news to the 900 Northerners on housing wait lists or the thousands living in core need, meaning their home needs repairs, is overcrowded, or unaffordable.

We have one of the highest levels of core housing need in the country, where over 50 percent of housing in NWT communities requires major repairs.

The success of healthy, inclusive, creative communities starts with housing as a human right.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights assures everyone the right to housing and a dignified standard of living. The UN declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples invokes self-determination in health, economic and social sufficiency, and housing.

Housing is a key pillar to the United Nation's sustainable development goals and the international covenant on economic social and cultural rights. The emerging international and green new plans recognize housing as critical to the knowledge economy and climate-sensitive industrial system. Canada's first national housing strategy identifies Indigenous housing as a priority and set aside $40 billion to meet their ambitious goals.

With so many people saying all the right things, why is this not translating to housing for remote northern Indigenous communities and an elimination of core need in our territory?

This Assembly is adding 90 new public housing units to its stock. This is the largest increase in housing stock that the NWT has seen in decades. But if we add 90 housing units in every term, it will take 36 years to fulfill our housing waitlist. I will be 75 years. The MLA for Nunakput will be 84 and the MLA for Frame Lake will be 99.

Building new homes has also become more expensive due to labor shortages and supply chain disruptions. In addition, the NWT continues to lose valuable CMHC maintenance funding every year without a plan to replace it. This crisis is snowballing, and we need a plan to address this now, in our generation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Core Housing Needs
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jean Marie River Flooding and Responses
Members' Statements

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Tough act to follow there.

On the theme of small communities, this past summer our family took a trip to Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park, one of the NWT's hidden gems. While we were there, we took the opportunity to visit Jean Marie River on August 11th to see some of the spring flood damage firsthand. I had contacted the Chief ahead of the visit but unfortunately he had some other meetings that took him outside of the community. I was able to briefly meet with the senior administrative officer and drove around the community.

The community administrative offices were damaged by the flooding but repairs were underway. Much of the community's housing is close to the Mackenzie and Jean Marie Rivers and was heavily damaged. At that point in August, little work had been done other than assessing some of the damage. Some other housing owned by the NWT Housing Corporation is a few hundred meters away and was also damaged and remained that way. Some other housing is set back to the west of the airstrip and was not damaged. Two temporary camps were in the process of being set up - One for Elders closer to the rivers and the other to the west of the airstrip for families. Unfortunately, the community water treatment plant was, at that point, still not in operation.

I want to acknowledge the work of the Member for Nahendeh and I also had the opportunity to visit him briefly in Fort Simpson on this same trip. I was also pleased to see that Cabinet listened to the regular MLAs -- listen to the regular MLAs? And modified the disaster assistance policy to allow for advances and also took off some of the caps. Further work is still needed to review our response and assistance overall.

I will have some questions later today for the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs on the status of the flood relief work, particularly for the small community of Jean Marie River. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker

Jean Marie River Flooding and Responses
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Infrastructure in Small Communities
Members' Statements

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just one sec here; my computer has been very finicky these days.

The Mackenzie River Valley Highway will provide an all-season connection between the small communities in the Northwest Territories Sahtu Region, from Tulita to Norman Wells. The highway is being advanced as a series of projects along the Mackenzie River Valley route, with one such project being the Great Bear River Bridge.

The proposed Great Bear River Bridge will be constructed adjacent to the hamlet of Tulita, replacing a section of the winter road that is currently constructed across the Mackenzie River around its confluence with the Great Bear River; a river that has historically proven problematic for ice road construction due to its high flow and configuration.

The bridge alone will be a huge boon to the smaller community, connecting Tulita to its only quarry or burrow source, which the community can currently only access during the winter road season. The two-lane bridge will span 460 meters in length and provide new social, recreational, and economic opportunities for the community. Eventually, this road will connect Tulita to Norman Wells' Road to Nowhere, a connection that will be a huge economic game changer for the people of the Sahtu.

For example, the resource industry has long supported the construction of the bridge and subsequent highway as better access for exploration will lead to greater economic opportunity for the communities along its route. But the benefits from the highway from this sector will not be realized for many years.

The people of Tulita should not have to wait until the full highway is complete to take part in the economic prosperity that it will bring. Rather, all efforts should be made to ensure that any contract being issued as part of the bridge's construction remains with businesses in the small community that will have the bridge in their backyard. These contracts must benefit the people that actually live in that community and not outsiders that make many false promises of trickle-down economies that never seem to materialize.

Regulatory permits and approvals are expected to be in place in the spring with construction slated to begin the following winter. It is expected that the bridge and its approaches will take about three years to complete. This substantial amount of money must remain in the small community that supports the bridge and its work going forward. I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Eulogy for William Konisentia
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Eulogy for William Konisentia
Members' Statements

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on July 22nd, the community of Nahanni Butte lost a respected Elder, William Konisentia.

William was born at Netla on September 23, 1943. He was the second eldest child in the family of Joseph and Margaret Konisentia. He was raised in the Netla River area until families were relocated to Nahanni Butte in the early 1960's. The family was happy with this move as this is where William met his sweetheart and future wife Bella Matou. On May 18, 1967, they got married in the log-built church.

They were very fortunate to have six children. They enjoyed life together, especially when it come to having picnics along the Liard River. When family talked about their time together, it always involved making a lunch in the largest kitchen in the world - outside.

William was a very hard working man. He took pride in looking after his family. He was an amazing trapper and hunter. Where possible, he would go out to provide for his family. Trips involved him and some of his siblings and later on involved his children. He was very proud of his children. Besides trapping and hunting, he would take on work as it came his way. He was very proud of the slashing job that three of his brothers and three cousins did for Can Jay Exploration. They were known as the 'Can Jay Boys' and the best slashers, efficient and fast workers. They were in such high demand that they did work in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the NWT.

William loved his family deeply, and once you received a nickname from him you were family. His favorite was Snoopy.

The family would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to all those who came to pay their respects to William. Mashi for showing him support, love and compassion. The family are grateful for everybody's kindness during this difficult time. Mr. Speaker, he will be sadly missed by all of us. Thank you.

Eulogy for William Konisentia
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and community. Members' statements. Returns to oral questions. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Acknowledgements. Oral questions. Member for Nunakput.

Oral Question 792-19(2): COVID-related Cost RecoverY for Small Communities
Oral Questions

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I rise in regards to my Member's statement regards to helping our communities recover funding through our lockdown that we've been having up in the communities, all across the Northwest Territories, whoever's been locked down or having road checks and stuff like that, they're not getting any help or funding from our government. They could correct me today if I'm wrong.

Mr. Speaker, does the GNWT policy require all small communities to pay for the COVID response during the outbreak including isolation centres and road check stops? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 792-19(2): COVID-related Cost RecoverY for Small Communities
Oral Questions

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. The Honourable Premier.