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.

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Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1993

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mr. Speaker, that is where I was leading to, where I am asking about the process itself. It is not me who is asking. The public is asking: who made the decision on these staff travels? That is the process I am asking, Mr. Speaker.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1993

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Honourable Premier.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As our Government House Leader raised in the point of order, it is inappropriate to speak about people who are not in the House. I will not speak about the people who left because of extenuating circumstances. What I will speak about is to the process. Ministers are directly responsible for approving leave for their deputy ministers. However, in saying that, deputy ministers have to notify, but they are responsible for their own. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Just to be clear, you can reference public servants, but not specifically to single them out. Member for Monfwi.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

The next line of questioning is obviously on the expectation of the general public. How can our Premier, the head of government, expect Northerners to answer the call for personal sacrifice when her most senior COVID officials ignore the same call?

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

I will start by saying that no Minister, no elected Minister in this House, left during Christmas because I believe that, as elected officials, all of us, all of us in this House as elected officials, are responsible for being role models to the residents of the Northwest Territories. We cannot change the past, but I do know that the public was hurt. I also know that over 1,500 people from the Northwest Territories left the NWT for leisure travel during that time. I also know that it was not an order; it was a recommendation, so nobody broke the law, even the residents who left. No one broke the law.

It has been a tough, tough year. People have gone, as the Member said, without funerals, without seeing families, all kinds of issues. People are making personal choices. However, I do believe that everyone who left made those personal choices and had tough decisions to make and that they made them in the best interests as they saw fit.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

I was referring to public servants, not elected officials. Yes, we elected officials, we have not been travelling. I have not been travelling since the announcement came out, so I am speaking directly about public servants. They are responsible for their public funds. They are public servants, so these are areas of concern that were brought to our attention, and we have to keep in mind that there is accountability from this government to the public. The public, there is an outcry, and who is accountable? The Premier is accountable for that. The next line of question will be that I would like to get more information. Will the Premier provide this Assembly with a complete list of ministerial travel, including destination and purposes, both personal and official, since the COVID public health emergency was first declared last spring?

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Actually, I do believe that the ministerial travel is posted on the website and is available to all Members already. I think it has been done. My understanding is that no Minister, as I said, has left the territories since COVID-19. The only Minister who actually left the territories when COVID started was myself, as Premier, at the beginning of COVID, when I was down there and I got hit. Sorry, I have been corrected. There was a Minister, again, who left because of extenuating circumstances, but not during the Christmas period. That record is public. That record can be obtained. If the Member does not know where to access it, let me know, and I will let him know where to access it.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Premier. Final supplementary. Member for Monfwi.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. For the sake of the public trust, which I feel the trust has been broken, our political leaders and senior bureaucrats must set the high standards of conduct, whether it be in this House or outside this House, especially during a public health crisis. What rules is the Premier putting in place to ensure such regrettable double standards are not seen again in the ranks of our government? Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Again, we can't change the past, but we need to learn from the past. As stated to Members when we spoke in other times, I made a commitment. I did. I talked to all of our Ministers and said, "Please, don't leave unless it's extenuating circumstances." People do have extenuating circumstances, medical travel, loss of family members, horrible stories have happened over COVID-19, and I wouldn't want to penalize anyone for those things. That's not the goal of protecting our residents, is to penalize people; it's to keep people safe.

I had spoken to our Ministers, and I had spoken to all of our senior official staff. I told our senior staff verbally and in writing, and I believe I shared that with the Members, the standing committee on the other side, as well. I have told them that there are legal issues with that. We can't tell people that they can't leave the territory. That is a human right of people, but I have told them that I will not be supporting any travel, unless its extreme situations, until COVID-19 is done. We try to learn from our lessons. I apologize to the public who have been hurt by this. That was not the intent. I want to also state that, not only Ministers, I'm hoping that all Members will also be role models and not leave the territory until COVID-19 is done. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 553-19(2): Public Servants' Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic
Oral Questions

Page 1994

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Oral questions. Member for Nunakput.

Question 554-19(2): Funding for Bus Services in Reindeer Point
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, my questions are for MACA, and I am asking for help in regards to bussing services in the community of Tuktoyaktuk. This past week, the weather has been minus 63 for a few days, and we are looking to seek pots of funding and to work with the Minister in the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk. I know that the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk has a letter in to the Minister. We would like to work with her going forward to try to provide funds for the community. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 554-19(2): Funding for Bus Services in Reindeer Point
Oral Questions

Page 1994

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Question 554-19(2): Funding for Bus Services in Reindeer Point
Oral Questions

Page 1994

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member is correct. I have been having conversations with the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk in regards to their busing services for Reindeer Point. It is located, I don't know how many kilometres, outside of the community, and I do hear the Member about the weather conditions as well, having the residents access basic needs in the community, as well, getting to the Northern Store, getting supplies, health appointments. I do want to assure the Member that we do have the operation and maintenance funding to the communities, water and sewer capital, and gas tax funding, as well, but we don't have specifically for these type of services. I will be working with the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk to resolve this issue. It does open up the conversation, as well, for the other communities in the Northwest Territories that do have these built-up areas located outside of their local communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.