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.

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oral question 816-19(2): chief jimmy bruneau school project
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, that's one of the things that ECE does. We do have the number of programs that try to connect employers with student so students can actually gain experience while they're in school. We are rolling out career and education counsellors to help connect employers with students and figure out -- and help students figure out what they need to get to the careers they want. So that's exactly the type of work that we are undertaking at this moment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 816-19(2): chief jimmy bruneau school project
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you Minister. Oral questions. Member for Hay River South.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

November 26th, 2021

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I have questions for the Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, Hay River was fortunate to have busing restored this school year. We can go back and forth pointing fingers but it's best to learn from what went wrong and how to avoid those mistakes in the future. Our decisions must not take away from what works but to make what works better.

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister confirm if the $400,000 the DEA received from the DEC can be used for busing in future years or does that 400,000 have to be spent this fiscal year. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister responsible for E, C and E.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So the Member is speaking about one of the issues we spoke about in the summer when we were in this House, whether or not there would be money for bussing. And at that time, I was of the mind that there would be more than enough money for busing because I knew what was in the bank. And as it turns out, the projected deficit of nearly a million dollars was actually a surplus of nearly a million dollars, so there was more than enough money for busing. And the DEA's share of that is somewhere around $400,000. We do have a surplus retention policy. We do want schools to actually spend money on education and not squirrel it away in the bank, but I do, as Minister, have the opportunity to allow DEAs to put money aside if they want to save up for future expenditures such as busing. So yes, those funds I would allow the DEA to put aside and use in future years.

I just want to point out as well, Mr. Speaker, that this has been a longstanding issue, bus funding in Hay River. A few years back there was a review of student transportation that was done. As a result of that, in the year -- in the fiscal 2018-2019, there was an increase to student transportation funding of $800,000 in the territory. That's around the same time that this surplus retention policy came into effect. And since then, every year since then there has been more than enough money for busing. The problem is that the money comes after the budgets are set. The DEAs are not allocated those funds until they already have their budget and they've made decisions about busing and then, you know, come September, October, November, they find out there's actually a few hundred thousand dollars they can use for busing, so. That's really the heart of the issue. It's not the lack of funding. It's just the process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, one request I hear raised by many who cannot afford the busing fees put in place by the DEA is can this government do away with the busing fees for students. If we ever expect NWT students to be at par with their southern counterparts, then we must do everything we can to give them a leg up. Additional fees is not one of them.

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister confirm if his department is willing to consider doing away with student busing fees, not only in Hay River but throughout the NWT, by taking that option out of the Education Act and regulations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Everything's on the table right now when we're looking at modernizing the Education Act. Any changes we make to the regulations have to be done in consultation with the education bodies. So it's not something that I can just do on my own. That being said, I think it's important to get rid of as many barriers as we can to students getting education. And so ensuring that students can access transportation when they need to is one of my priorities and whether that is an elimination of fees or whether that is a system where income is taken into consideration, I'm looking at those options for this government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Minister, in order to resolve the issue of whether there would be busing in Hay River, had to take the unordinary step of conducting an investigation where it was stated that the Hay River DEA made a difficult decision on student transportation on the premise that it had no other option. And the report went on to say in doing so, the Hay River DEA failed to meet its legal and procedural obligations in making policy under the transportation of students regulations and delivered a decision that fails to meet the standard of reasonableness.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Minister, in light of the overall report and conclusions by the investigator on whether or not the Hay River DEA fulfilled its duties under the Education Act and regulations as it pertains to student busing, what changes, if any, will be made so this does not happen again. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And the fact that it came to this investigation is a symptom of some of the issues we have in the education system. The ambiguity in the Education Act, the massive responsibilities that local DEAs have without the appropriate, I guess, clerical and administrative support to carry out those responsibilities. And so I knew there were these issues coming in to this Assembly and that's why I said, since day one, that this busing issues is one of my priorities and I want to address it before we are done here.

So I am going to take steps to ensure that this doesn't happen again. And that includes working in collaboration with the DEA. I've spoken with the chair and I've let him know that nearly $400,000 that the DEA received can in fact, I'm willing to let them use that in future years in order to ensure that busing services are available. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 817-19(2): hay river student bussing
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

oral question 818-19(2): fort smith airport
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this government talks about reconciliation. Our communities talk about reconciliation. However, when I review the legislation concerning the makeup of Hay River District Educational Council, there is no requirement to ensure diversity. Hay River has a number of Indigenous governments but these governments have no seats allocated to them on the education board while our neighbors in Fort Smith have seats set aside for Members appointed by the town, by Salt River First Nation, and the Fort Smith Metis Council. I believe if we would have some diversity, this busing issue would have been addressed in accordance with the student busing regulations and we probably would have found money a lot sooner.

Mr. Speaker, will the Minister consider exploring the option, in consultation with the First Nations-Metis Government Council and the Town of Hay River, an arrangement similar to Fort Smith to ensure diversity on the Hay River District Education Authority. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 818-19(2): fort smith airport
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And with all things education, we're governed by the Education Act and I believe it is section 86 that allows for petition to the Minister to make those types of changes. The petition would require either 50 percent of the adult population in a community, or 50 adults in that community, whichever is less. So it's a relatively low bar for somewhere like Hay River. If there's a petition with 50 signatures to make these types of changes, then that can be considered, and I'm sure the clerk's office would help the Member put together a petition in no time. I'm sure that he could get those signatures probably before the end of this sitting, because I know that there's a lot appetites to make those types of changes. But that being said, we all have to get along and we all have to work together so we would ensure that the DEA, as well as those organizations that the Member mentioned, that we're all on the same page. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 818-19(2): fort smith airport
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Thebacha.

oral question 818-19(2): fort smith airport
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, further to my statement today, could the Minister of Infrastructure announce to this House which other community airports, by name, that were affected by the similar actions experienced by the community of Fort Smith. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 818-19(2): fort smith airport
Oral Questionsoral Question 810-19(2)fort Smith Airport

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.