This is page numbers 2121 - 2162 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 health.

Topics

Members Present

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

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 118-19(2): Importance of Capital Investment in Aging Infrastructure
Ministers' Statements

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Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, or NTPC, provides an essential service to residents and businesses in the Northwest Territories. Without reliable electricity, many of the activities we take for granted, such as cooking, washing clothes, or using our computers, would be impossible. It is therefore critical that the corporation maintains its assets to ensure that electricity is available when it is needed and that it is delivered at an affordable rate. The vast majority of Northwest Territories residents have their homes powered by hydroelectricity. Approximately 75 percent of the electricity consumed annually is generated by hydroelectricity with the remainder generated by diesel, liquefied natural gas or solar.

Members we have heard my predecessors and I refer frequently to aging infrastructure and the challenges it creates in maintaining reliability of supply. Many of NTPC's key assets, particularly its hydro units, are reaching the end of their design life. The Snare and Taltson hydro assets have provided renewable energy to Northwest Territories residents and businesses for many decades. NTPC has been able to extend the life of these assets through maintenance and repair but has now reached a point where refurbishment or replacement can no longer be delayed. Reliability will continue to decline if we don't make significant capital investments soon. The long-term benefit of investment in hydro refurbishments is that these units can then generate clean, reliable electricity for another 40 to 50 years. The long-term health of our hydro system is critical to stabilizing the cost of energy across the Northwest Territories. However, we need to manage decisions within an environment of limited resources.

NTPC has an extensive capital plan to improve reliability of core assets and support reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as per the 2030 Energy Strategy. Many necessary projects will financially be supported by the Government of Canada through its Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, or ICIP. NTPC has been allocated over $85 million through ICIP to advance several hydro refurbishments as well as other alternatives and renewable energy projects. Given a limited window of opportunity to ensure federal funding support, we recognize that it is far more cost effective to move forward with projects now rather than face ongoing emergency repairs for equipment failures. We recognize that ICIP funding will only partially off-set the costs of these capital investments. Customers and/or ratepayers will be responsible for paying 25 percent or more of these costs, which place upward pressure on the cost of energy. NTPC is working with the Department of Infrastructure to identify other sources of funding to help mitigate energy cost increases and to defer non-essential projects.

NTPC has developed a strategic plan to ensure it maintains its focus on lowering electricity rates, improving reliability and meeting its 2030 Energy Strategy commitments. The plan is based on four pillars: reliability, economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and innovation. It outlines NTPC's approach to addressing these challenges and identifies potential growth opportunities. There will be some additional short-term capital costs that NTPC will incur, but over the longer term, the strategic plan will help reduce upward pressure on rates. This plan will be shared with Members and the public later in the year. This government understands that the high cost of living is a major concern for NWT residents. Through the 2030 Energy Strategy and NTPC's strategic and capital plans, we remain focused on our government's priority to lower the cost of power and increase the use of alternative and renewable energy whenever possible. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 118-19(2): Importance of Capital Investment in Aging Infrastructure
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 119-19(2): Supporting NWT Harvesters
Ministers' Statements

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. COVID-19 has affected us all and the pandemic has highlighted why meeting these mandate commitments are so important. As global supply chains have been disrupted and economic activity has been restricted, the need for locally sourced food has become even more valuable. Northern harvesters and trappers have been deeply impacted by COVID-19. Their economic livelihoods have been affected, which is an important part of northern culture. That is why now, more than ever, we need to support harvesting and land-based programs.

Mr. Speaker, I stood here during the last sitting and announced that the Government of the Northwest Territories, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, had launched three new programs in the fall of 2020 aimed at supporting both families in need and harvesters during the pandemic. These programs included a country foods harvesting subsidy, harvesting training, and mentorship funding and the launch of the take a family on the land program. I am proud to say that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was able to support all eligible applications received under these programs and has provided an estimated $340,000 to harvesters and trappers. The funding was distributed to just over 20 organizations across the territory.

We are not done. For ongoing programs such as the take a family on the land program, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources plans to reach out to partner organizations this year to ask for feedback so that we can do an even better job next year. For the new pilot trapper mentorship program, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is working with interested regional Indigenous governments to collaborate on the development of the program to best meet regional needs. We are working hard towards launching this pilot program in the coming weeks.

As for our fur industry, Northwest Territories trappers are well-positioned and protected from ongoing market disruption through the Government of the Northwest Territories' Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program. In 2020, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources increased both eligibility and grubstake amounts to offset the challenges trappers faced due to the recent downturn in the fur industry. We will continue to communicate with trappers to show our support for the industry. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is also continuing to work with our partners to evaluate the existing programs and develop harvester mentorship programs that support a strong and resilient traditional economy.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a tough year for harvesters and trappers. The Northwest Territories traditional economy can and will continue to endure thanks to the hard work of these individuals. The Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to stand with harvesters and trappers and support them as part of our efforts to bolster the traditional economy, create employment opportunities in small communities, and increase food security for Northwest Territories residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 119-19(2): Supporting NWT Harvesters
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 120-19(2): Food Security
Ministers' Statements

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, March is nutrition month, and I would like everyone to join me in celebrating next week. It is a time to highlight the importance of accessing and eating healthy food. The theme this year is "Good for You! Dieticians help you find your healthy." Dieticians support individuals to reach their nutrition goals, both to prevent poor health and to improve their overall health. I am encouraging residents to find their healthy by talking to dieticians if they have access to one. There are other sources of good dietary information, including traditional harvesters and healthy food experts in their communities who may be able to offer support and guidance in making wholesome food choices. Nutritious eating looks different for everyone; our culture and traditions are an important part of what we eat and how we eat.

Mr. Speaker, I can't talk about nutrition month without talking about food insecurity. It is a major issue in the NWT. High transportation costs, rising food prices, along with changing environmental conditions that affect wildlife harvesting are compounding this issue. Food is a vital part of culture, well-being, and health. Food security is essential to our ability to make healthy choices and live our best lives. Research consistently shows the link between wholesome food choices and healthy eating. Having access to affordable and nutritious food is a vital determinant in improving the health and well-being of our people and communities.

Mr. Speaker, addressing food insecurity is a priority for this government. We identified it in our mandate and have committed to increasing food security through efforts to support locally produced, harvested, and affordable food. It is also a key priority in our Anti-Poverty Action Plan. We have taken a whole-of-government approach to this issue through the establishment of the food security interdepartmental working group to ensure collaboration to address this important issue.

Through our renewed Territorial Anti-Poverty Action Plan, sustainable livelihoods action plan, and the agriculture strategy, we have begun work to support residents in accessing local sources of fresh food and ensure future generations have the skills they need to feed their families. We have taken action to improve food security by introducing new and enhanced programs to support harvesters and families going out on the land. A total of $330,000 in funding was provided for regional harvesting, a training and mentorship program, a pilot program for trapper mentorship, and assisting families to go out on the land. We continue to deliver the Small Scale Foods Program in each of the regions of the territory to assist in the non-commercial growing and production of food. This program helps underserved, remote communities, and organizations operating within them, to get the resources they need to support and promote local agriculture. We also offer funding to eligible organizations in their efforts to improve food security in their communities through a variety of programs.

Mr. Speaker, we know that addressing food security is a shared responsibility that requires a coordinated response from both the public and private sectors. It is important that we come together to identify priorities, challenges, and most importantly, solutions, to develop a path forward in our approach to improving food security. In January, the Department of Health and Social Services hosted a virtual anti-poverty round table to continue this important work. Over 80 delegates from across the territory, representing Indigenous governments and organizations, community governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses, including local grocers and agricultural producers, discussed how to improve food security.

Experts from the NWT, British Columbia, northern Manitoba, and Nunavut shared their knowledge and experiences on harvesting and local food production, with the goal of providing long-term solutions to food insecurity that address underlying issues and empower people to provide for themselves. They talked about innovative projects that are leading the way in developing healthy food systems here in the North, as well as across the country. Representatives from the GNWT also provided an overview of the government's work on improving food security. Short panel discussions were followed by longer breakout sessions, where delegates had an opportunity to discuss what they learned, as well as share their thoughts and experiences. Delegates discussed how to build strong and sustainable systems so that hungry people had access to wholesome and affordable food. They talked about finding ways to include traditionally harvested food in local grocery stores and how to develop community specific, culturally adapted harvesting strategies and practices to strive towards Indigenous food security.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Anti-Poverty Advisory Committee members for helping to plan the round table, all the presenters, and those who shared their experiences. Thank you also to all the delegates who attended. I hope everyone left with a shared commitment to creating a sustainable, healthy food system for their communities and the territory. The GNWT is currently working on a report summarizing what was discussed at the round table. I am looking forward to sharing the report with Members and making it available on the anti-poverty website later this summer.

Mr. Speaker, we all have a role to play in addressing poverty in the NWT so that residents have access to supports they need to live in dignity, with access to the basics of food and shelter so they can be full participants in their families and communities. Our commitment to ensuring residents have access to nutritious, affordable food is a critical component in advancing our poverty-reduction goals. This government will continue to actively collaborate with our partners to develop shared approaches and find innovate solutions so that we can move forward as an equitable and healthy territory. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 120-19(2): Food Security
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Incentives to Work
Members' Statements

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to talk about the incentive to work. Due to COVID, we have seen the economic and business opportunities put on hold or disappear. The federal government, along with this government, has provided financial support to the residents and businesses of the NWT and continue to do so during this difficult time. Payments made to those who have been chronically unemployed but were very capable of working acted as a disincentive to seek or accept employment, while others leveraged it as stop-gap and opportunity to move forward.

Mr. Speaker, what I find in the NWT is that most people of working age who want to work are currently employed. This is true in Yellowknife and the regional centres, where opportunities actually exist. In smaller communities, employment opportunities are limited and almost non-existent for some. Any opportunity for employment in a smaller community is mostly short term and negatively impacts any government support one receives for basic needs. Because of this, there is not the incentive to accept temporary employment when one knows it will only set you back financially. It is in these communities where a living wage should be considered.

Mr. Speaker, I have talked to employers in the private sector. Many have the same concern, and that concern is that we are enabling a generation of people who have come to accept that living on government programs is not only acceptable but is now considered a way of life and a right. I do believe that there are people who are experiencing hardship, have limited opportunities, and do need government support, and providing that support to them is the right thing to do. However, there are those out there who are very capable but, for one reason or another, are not interested in joining the workforce nor in seeking training or higher education. This failing not only falls on the shoulders of those not wanting or willing to work, it also falls on our shoulders and the shoulders of parents and the community, as well.

Mr. Speaker, my expectation and hope is that all capable people are willing to get out of bed in the morning and be productive, but that is living in fantasy land as there are a few who are very capable and, for whatever reason, have no intention of ever doing that. I do have hope that there is a way to get them out of bed, off the sofa, off the games, off the cell phone, and out to work. Therefore, I challenge them: what will it take for that to happen? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Incentives to Work
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Mental Health Concerns in Small Communities
Members' Statements

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Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My statement today is on mental health in the small communities. A lot of people are hurting from depression with all the deaths that we have been having over the last year, with the bullying, and it all comes into a cycle. We have to step up as a government, Mr. Speaker. I asked a couple of weeks ago. How I used to do it with the youth: I used to travel, and I would bring a professional hockey instructor or someone to come into the community. We would go to the school and do school talks, and you would feed them. You are there for three or four days, but we would do that three times a year, and then you never come back. For our adults, we need help in regard to sharing circles, to bringing people in, professionals who could listen, who could help them in regard to the hurt that has been passed on through residential schools and all that.

As an Aboriginal person, going to residential school myself, I hang on to that sometimes, and I do not use it as a crutch, though. I use it to push myself forward. I try to look at things in a positive light and try to help. With adults, again, getting teams brought in with some specialists with regard to being able to hear people's concerns and try to fix the problem and bringing them in for two or three times a year, maybe four times if it's possible, to the community, having someone there to let them know that they are not alone and we are listening to them, our government has to step up in regard to that. They have been doing a lot of good work, the teams that I see who are going around with the needles and the planes. They should be doing that now with people, bringing people to deal and cope with all the stuff that communities are dealing with.

We are having a tough time, Mr. Speaker. The communities I represent need help in regard to this, and I plan to be using that once we are able to start bringing people out into the communities, when we are accepted to come and help them. We have to look at this, as an Assembly, at the people you all represent and have to step up and ask their MLA for help in regard to doing something like this. I look forward to talking to the Minister of health at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mental Health Concerns in Small Communities
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Mental Health Concerns in Small Communities
Members' Statements

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Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, I am having a computer issue. Could you move on? Thank you.

Mental Health Concerns in Small Communities
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.