This is page numbers 1989 - 2018 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 need.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 10:01 a.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

Page 1989

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, before we begin, I just want to send my condolences to the Kendall family in Tsiigehtchic for the passing of elder Thomas Kendall yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the community at this time. Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.

Minister's Statement 113-19(2): Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission Service Innovations During Covid-19
Ministers' Statements

Page 1989

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I wish to provide an update on some of the service improvements, including the financial relief measures the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission responded quickly to adapt its operations. In line with public health guidelines, all employees in Yellowknife, Inuvik, and Iqaluit were swiftly equipped with the right technology, moved to work from home, and safely transitioned back to offices once appropriate safety measures were put in place. Since March 2020, the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission has successfully maintained services to 4,000 employers and almost 40,000 workers in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut without significant interruption, a commendable achievement.

Mr. Speaker, one of the ways the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission continues to ensure business continuity and to enhance front-line services for employers and injured workers is by offering virtual and online alternatives. Prior to the pandemic, work was already well underway to expand online options, such as Mine Supervisor Certification and e-business services offered through WSCC Connect. However, it was undeniable that the practical challenges posed by COVID-19 had accelerated the adaptation of some digital platforms and business transformation through sheer necessity.

The Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission has taken a highly flexible and adaptive approach. For example, claims services are working with service providers in healthcare to provide some of the practical barriers to provide virtual-based care plan options for injured workers. In suitable cases, services officers have arranged for medical appointments, follow-up, counselling, physiotherapy home exercise plans and assessments, and Vocational Rehabilitation assessments and follow-up. These improvements are in the early days and, though modest, are meaningful and will ultimately offer a more responsive and supportive service for injured workers and their family, a quicker resolution for employees, and a reduction in case costs.

Mr. Speaker, Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission educational outreach and inspections are an important part of ensuring the health and safety of the workplace across the Northwest Territories. In 2020, the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission adapted these in-person activities and provided assistance to over 2,760 employers through alternative means such as phone and online. Educational tools and guidance were developed and rolled out for industry use and the webinars and Zoom meetings that replaced annual events with partner organizations and professional associations were well attended.

Inspections are an essential mechanism for accountability, to ensure that employers are meeting their legal obligations under the Safety Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and the Mine Health and Safety Act. Engagement and outreach gives employers access to guidance and best practices tools so that we can create and maintain strong safety plans and also ensure the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission remains responsive to the challenges they face.

Mr. Speaker, the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission is also making continual improvements to the more established e-business services on WSCC Connect. A new service for employers to report workplace safety incidents or injuries was recently launched on the platform. Employer's Report of Incident joins existing services, such as payroll reporting, online payments, assessment rate information, clearance requests, and reports of unsafe work. For example, employers who reduced their workplace during the pandemic had the opportunity to submit a revised payroll estimation online and to make their payments without penalty at a later date.

At this challenging time for many businesses, the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission announced last November that the average rate for employer's assessment will be maintained at the 2020 rate levels. Employers have already received notification of their industry assessment rate. That the average rate is holding steady at $2.40 per $100 of assessed payroll is positive news at a time of economic uncertainty for so many.

The Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission remains committed to making northern workplaces the safest in the country and to delivering care to injured workers, to work collaboratively with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19 in workplaces, and to provide practical support to employers and local businesses to operate safely. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 113-19(2): Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission Service Innovations During Covid-19
Ministers' Statements

Page 1989

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' Statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 114-19(2): Mental Health and Engagement on Addictions Recovery and the NWT Alcohol Strategy
Ministers' Statements

February 12th, 2021

Page 1989

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This Legislative Assembly has identified increasing the number and variety of culturally respectful, community-based mental health and addictions programs, including aftercare, as one of its priorities. The Department of Health and Social Services is improving services to individuals with addictions, and I am committed to achieving this mandate commitment.

In the Northwest Territories, mental health and addictions are a pressing concern for all of us. While there are supports and services already in place and available, we know we need to further strengthen our system to help those who are struggling most. This is particularly true when it comes to addictions recovery supports.

Mr. Speaker, our goal is to ensure quality addictions-recovery services that meet the needs of our residents, but, in order to understand best what these individuals need, we need to hear from them. Hearing from individuals who have personally experienced or had a family member experience addictions will best inform our approach. The GNWT knows that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to mental health and addictions, and it's important that residents are provided options as they move toward recovery.

Our first step toward gathering this information and better understanding these needs will be to conduct an addictions recovery survey which will focus on hearing from people about programs and services they have accessed in the past. We want to learn what has worked, what has not, and what residents feel they need to support their recovery. The GNWT will be asking its partners, including service providers, for their support in sharing the survey with clients, as well as using traditional and social media to raise awareness. Hard copies of the survey will also be available for those who are unable to access the online version at their local community counselling program office and treatment facilities. The survey will open on Monday, February 15th.

Mr. Speaker, a key component of this survey will be to focus on barriers or challenges experienced by people seeking help. We need to understand what gets in the way of recovery so that we can work to overcome it. We need to understand what works best when it comes to supporting recovery so we can do more of it. This survey is critical towards the understanding, and it will be followed by more focused efforts, where we can dive deeper into lived experiences to shape our plans moving forward.

The GNWT is also moving forward by developing an NWT alcohol strategy. The intent of this strategy is to reduce alcohol-related harms. "Alcohol-related harms" refers to a wide range of impacts associated with heavy or risky alcohol use, including chronic health problems, injuries, violence, lost productivity, criminal justice issues, family problems, and death.

The development of the alcohol strategy will be informed by feedback from stakeholders and led by a team of professionals who understand outreach and engagement, addiction medicine and treatment, and include representatives from GNWT departments, and evaluation and surveillance experts to ensure measurable results.

Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to reviewing the feedback received from residents and service users about the effectiveness of the addictions recovery supports we provide. The GNWT wants to ensure that services offered are to meet our commitment to provide appropriate choice, cultural safety, and person-centred care. These elements are incredibly important to the effectiveness of services, and I look forward to sharing the results of the survey with Members as one way to fulfill our mandate commitment to assist residents with addictions recovery. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 114-19(2): Mental Health and Engagement on Addictions Recovery and the NWT Alcohol Strategy
Ministers' Statements

Page 1990

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 115-19(2): Minister Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 1990

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to advise the House that the Honourable Diane Archie will be absent from the House to participate in a conference call with federal-provincial-territorial Ministers of transport and highway safety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 115-19(2): Minister Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 1990

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Workplace Harassment
Members' Statements

Page 1990

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This government promised change. Prior to being voted into office, I heard stories and complaints from persons working in government who informed me of a toxic working environment where bullying and belittling was a common occurrence in some departments under certain managers or by co-workers. As an MLA, I now hear those same concerns and, unlike before, I am in a position that will allow me to address it and do something about it.

Mr. Speaker, employees at every level of this government deserve to be treated with respect, not only by management, but by their co-workers, as well. Each employee brings a particular set of skills and knowledge to their position which should be recognized and appreciated. Many of these employees may be young persons who are just starting to build the career they have dreamed about for years. They should not be put in a position where they are afraid to come to work or afraid to speak up when being treated inappropriately or intimidated by management or others.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that each person, while bringing their own knowledge and experience to a position, may also bring an arrogance that could result in the workplace becoming a toxic work environment because one's power is misused.

This government has in place a Harassment Free and Respectful Workplace Policy. As politicians, we must ensure that each Minister and their deputy ministers is held accountable for the administration and implementation of that policy. Employees also have other avenues to address workplace harassment; however, they may not have the financial resources to take advantage of such avenues. Government, on the other hand, has deep pockets and resources which place it in a position of power when it comes to addressing allegations of harassment and protecting management. It is here where fairness becomes questionable.

Mr. Speaker, it all comes down to treating people with respect. We, as regular MLAs, must ensure that this government is held accountable if we expect departments to hold management accountable when it comes to the treatment of employees. To accomplish this end, it is incumbent upon each of us to lead by example. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Workplace Harassment
Members' Statements

Page 1990

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Northern Resident Tax Deduction
Members' Statements

Page 1990

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. We all love to hate northern resident tax deductions. I seem to raise these deductions on an annual basis, like a broken record. I know this is not our Minister of Finance's program, but it is going to take our Finance Minister's intervention to get this fixed. We all know the ridiculous problems with the northern resident deductions: they are not indexed in any way; it takes monumental efforts to adjust the amounts; Northerners are subjected too often to time-consuming audits; and the annual guessing game of what the Canada Revenue Agency might accept as a lowest return airfare rather than setting it at a reasonable rate and making it publicly available.

Back in April 2018, CBC reported that residents of the three northern territories were being audited about three times more often than taxpayers in the South. The then-federal Minister of National Revenue promised to look into it. In August 2018, the Canada Revenue Agency opened offices in each of the three territorial capitals. While service may have been improved, the core problems with the northern resident deductions were not fixed. The federal Minister then opened a so-called consultation on the lowest airfare requirement for the northern resident deduction. The deduction is set by regulation and has been in place since 1987. Northerners have been complaining ever since. The consultation proposed that a taxpayer would be required to determine a reasonable amount of a return economy airfare ordinarily available for the date of travel. For example, a claimant is supposed to obtain a reasonable airfare amount for the day of travel from a travel website in the days leading up to a trip. Mr. Speaker, that might work if you have Internet access and the Internet actually works when you need it.

The consultation on the lowest airfare closed on April 17, 2019, and it has been radio silence ever since. There is no "what we heard" report, no policy or regulation change, nothing. I will have questions later today for the Minister of Finance, to see if there has been any progress on fixing these chronic problems with the northern resident tax deductions. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Northern Resident Tax Deduction
Members' Statements

Page 1990

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Women in Science
Members' Statements

Page 1990

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, yesterday marked the United Nations' International Day of Women and Girls in Sciences; sadly, something I wasn't aware of until after I had done my Member's statement for the day. However, as I think every day we should be focused on this important topic, I've decided to speak on it today, as well.

My career prior to politics, for those who may not be aware, was in engineering, and one of my passions in life is advancing the opportunities for women and non-binary people in the field of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. You may have heard me quote the statistic in the past that only 13 percent of engineers in Canada identify as women, a statistic that I have felt the personal toll of. When we look more locally, we hear the Minister of ECE say this week that only 5 to 7 percent of tradespeople in the territory identify as women. While I don't fault the Minister for this dismal statistic, it does tell me I need to be a thorn in his side to ensure it improves.

Women have done remarkable things in the scientific realm, made even more outstanding that a lot of them did it by teaching themselves when the barriers in place to education and experience must have seemed insurmountable. Women have taken us to the moon, photographed DNA for the first time, and discovered new elements. Marie Curie, the only person to win two Nobel Prizes in separate sciences, did so over 100 years ago. As a woman struggling to cope with sexism in our modern society, where we've never had it so good, I can't imagine how she felt, struggling to be heard in a world that felt she shouldn't even be bothered to learn to read.

When I look around our territory, when I think about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, when I reflect on my own life, I know we still have a very long way to go, a long journey ahead before we ever reach the point where an international day of anything for women is no longer needed. However, I commit to continuing to march down that path, using whatever tools I have towards that day, and I will continue to try to pave that road for all the girls who will come after me. Thank you.

Women in Science
Members' Statements

Page 1990

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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