This is page numbers 1725 - 1748 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 residents.

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, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

February 4th, 2021

Page 1725

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Members, welcome back to the Legislative Assembly. It is a new year. I know many residents celebrated the end of 2020 as it was such a long and difficult year. However, while 2021 has brought us a vaccine and a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, we are not through this yet. I want to thank all those involved in the vaccine rollout. I also want to thank those residents who have taken the vaccine. Saying yes to the vaccine is saying yes to protecting our elders, families, and friends.

Members, our Legislative Assembly remains closed to members of the public. We sit in a modified Chamber to ensure appropriate physical distancing between us. However, we continue to broadcast and live stream our proceedings. This means people can still see the work we do each day.

In this session, we have expanded interpretation to include French, Tlicho, North Slavey, South Slavey, Chipewyan, and Inuvialuktun. We are using both in-person and remote interpreters. Members, please speak slowly and clearly to help the interpreters do their work.

As Members are aware, the Honourable Paul Delorey, a former Speaker of this Assembly, passed away on January 1, 2021. Paul leaves a legacy of service to this Assembly; to Hay River; to his favourite sport, curling; and to his family, his wife, four children, and his grandchildren. As Speaker, Paul started the tradition of the Mace tour. He would travel with the Mace into small and remote communities. This allowed residents to see the Mace up close and talk about our unique form of consensus government. I look forward to continuing the Mace tour when it is safe to do so.

I was honoured to travel to Hay River with the Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms to attend Paul's service. In his honour, we brought the Mace. It was proudly displayed in front of Paul's remains in the Catholic Church where he worshipped faithfully. On behalf of all Members of the Legislative Assembly, current and past, I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Davida, their children, grandchildren, and large and loving family.

Paul was a fair and objective Speaker. He worked hard to maintain civility and decorum in this House. He did this by setting an example with his own actions and behaviour. The best way for us to honour his memory is to do the same.

I know many others have lost loved ones since we were last together. This includes the recent passing of Martin Vaneltsi-Kaye in Fort McPherson. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and communities who have lost loved ones.

Members, I wish to advise you that I have received the following message from the Honourable Margaret Thom, Commissioner of the Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of:

  • Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), 2021-2022;
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 3, 2020-2021;
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 3, 2020-2021; and
  • Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 1, 2021-2022

during the Second Session of the 19th Legislative Assembly.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 99-19(2): Sessional Statement - February 2021
Ministers' Statements

February 4th

Page 1725

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to welcome everyone back to the Chamber for the resumption of the second session of the 19th Legislative Assembly. We have a lot of work to do ahead of us over the next two months, and I look forward to working in close collaboration and partnership with both sides of this House. We all have the best interests of the Northwest Territories and its people in mind and, as we make progress on the priorities of this Legislative Assembly, it will be for the benefit of current and future generations of NWT residents.

Mr. Speaker, the last year has been one of the most challenging times the Northwest Territories and its residents have ever experienced. When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March last year, we turned our attention to what remains today as the most important priority of this government: protecting the health and well-being of our residents and communities. The rising number of cases across southern Canada and the rest of the world has forced millions back into lockdown situations to flatten the curve and protect the integrity of their healthcare systems. Watching this happen, it is hard not to feel fortunate that we have been able to keep the number of cases in the NWT low.

Over the last year, we have learned a lot about how to manage a public health crisis of this magnitude. We established pandemic services and initiated a health response as quickly as we could, and it paid off. As we began to better understand how to protect our residents from the threat of COVID-19, we moved our pandemic services under one roof. The COVID-19 secretariat has been able to improve our services and find ways to lower the costs for taxpayers. This has happened all while supporting the health orders in place and protecting the health and well-being of our territory.

The Government of the Northwest Territories' successful containment of the public health risk puts us in a position where we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A big part of our success as a territory rests with the residents. We have continued to follow the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer and have been diligent in following the public health orders and recommendations. The pandemic has put us to the test like nothing we have ever faced in our lifetime. It has threatened our health, impacted our economic well-being, and disconnected us from the support networks we all rely on. We rose to the occasion and have all played a part in our collective success. On behalf of all Cabinet, I thank you.

Mr. Speaker, a vaccine is here. In the final days of 2020, a FedEx cargo plane landed at the Yellowknife Airport carrying the first doses of the Moderna vaccine. The Department of Health and Social Services, territorial health authorities, and all the Government of the Northwest Territories departments worked long hours to develop a vaccination strategy that would ensure we were able to vaccinate seniors, healthcare workers, and those living in communities with limited healthcare infrastructure first. We have always said we would protect the most vulnerable, and we have delivered. Since February 1st, we have been able to vaccinate over 12,000 residents and have the highest number of doses administered by province or territory in Canada.

I am proud of the work that has been done by the public service to protect our territory. They have heeded the call and put the lives of residents and the communities they live in before their own. Just last month, we had our first community outbreak, a scenario that we all hoped would never happen. It was all hands on deck to protect Fort Liard and limit the possibility of a serious outbreak of COVID-19. Healthcare professionals went into the community to do contact tracing and rapid testing. We worked closely with local leadership to ensure that they could support their residents. We went door-to-door to provide information in English and Dene Zhatie. We worked with local leadership to ensure residents had access to food and essentials. Our emergency response effort ensured we were able to protect the community.

While we are making progress in our vaccination efforts, it is important to remember that we all must continue to abide by the public health orders and recommendations put forward by the Chief Public Health Officer. It has been evidence-based decision-making that has put us in the position we are in today to begin to see a Northwest Territories post-pandemic. We are all feeling the growing fatigue of the pandemic. This has been a long and difficult year, but it has been our resilience that has got us to where we are today.

As the second wave has swept across southern Canada and the world, leading to restrictive measures and lockdowns, we believe we are in a good position to weather the storm because of our pandemic response. Mr. Speaker, managing the public health crisis is essential. Managing it well puts us in a better position to start to shift our attention to social and economic recovery and how we preserve business, especially those sectors hit hardest, like tourism and hospitality.

A coordinated response to the pandemic includes economic stability, and we recognize the importance of both maintaining the financial viability of our businesses and protecting the health of residents. The health and well-being of all communities and residents is best served by maintaining a stable economic environment. Our government has acted to mitigate the economic impacts of this crisis on our economy by investing in NWT industry and businesses.

The pandemic caused a steep economic decline in the Northwest Territories just as it did in other jurisdictions throughout Canada and around the world. The Northwest Territories is recovering from this economic downturn. The Government of the Northwest Territories and federal government recognized the economic hardship dealt by the pandemic and worked quickly to provide much needed supports for residents and businesses. Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work with the federal government as we design our recovery strategy. Our economic response has been supported greatly by the federal government. We have received over $120 million in funding to cover the cost of our pandemic response, which includes economic injections for the airline industry, tourism, mining, and small businesses. The relationship we have been able to build with Canada has played a significant part in supporting residents and businesses through this unprecedented time.

We recognize that many of these NWT public health measures have placed an economic and financial burden on our residents. Until the health crisis is brought under control though, a full recovery of the NWT economy will be slow. Mr. Speaker, recovery is key. We need to ensure that people have jobs and our businesses are thriving. We must keep housing, food security, children's needs, health, and education, top of mind to improve the lives of all NWT residents. We need to manage the immediate risk of the COVID-19 pandemic while we continue to advance our long-term priorities, particularly when it comes to growing our economy, and ensuring a healthy, vibrant, and educated territory for years to come.

We have responded to the pandemic in a variety of ways, including efforts to mitigate the economic impacts of this crisis on our economy and to invest in the economic well-being of the Northwest Territories industry and businesses. We knew that, for our economy to recover, we would need our mines and supporting industries to be operating, small businesses to be open, and our people to be working.

Tourism is a critical part of the economy, and we are committed to ensuring its recovery. We need the jobs that tourism creates, the entrepreneurial opportunities it generates, the infrastructure that it supports, and the revenue that all of this provides to our economy. Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 has changed how we as a government will need to support tourism in the coming years, and we are committed to ensuring that this important part of our economy begins to flourish once again.

One of our government's guiding principles is to ensure that the expenditure of public funds maximizes economic benefits to Northerners and supports northern businesses. This is consistent with our longstanding commitment to support Northwest Territories businesses and grow a strong, diversified economy. Government procurement and contracting is a source of economic activity throughout the Northwest Territories, and residents and businesses should benefit as much as possible. At the end of the day, we want more NWT residents working and advancing their careers and more businesses thriving and growing in our territory. Mr. Speaker, we have committed in our mandate to work with businesses in the Northwest Territories to strengthen Government of the Northwest Territories procurement policies and practices, and we are moving ahead with a review of these policies to strike a balance between supporting Indigenous and territorial businesses and the principles of public procurement.

As we plot our social and economic recovery, the business community, NGOs, all levels of government, and residents will all play an important role in helping to identify needed actions and investments. By applying the invaluable experience and insight into our decision making, I am confident that we can move forward and emerge from this crisis to revitalize, strengthen, and grow our economy and social fabric into the future. We will continue to focus on our economic and social recovery, how we preserve business, and ensure as much of this investment stays in the Northwest Territories as possible.

Mr. Speaker, infrastructure projects will play a significant role in our economic recovery. The Legislative Assembly sees this need, and that is why a $451 million capital budget was approved for 2021-2022. Injecting money into the economy will provide business and employment opportunities for residents while delivering the crucial infrastructure the territory needs to provide important programs and services. This is one of the largest capital investments in the history of the territory and creating jobs and business opportunities will help us grow the economy and ensure a more prosperous future.

Mr. Speaker, the 19th Legislative Assembly has set an ambitious mandate, and because of the unexpected shift in priority to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have even less time to complete it. Advancing the mandate requires teamwork and collaborative partnerships to create the meaningful change that we are all seeking. Every Member of this Legislative Assembly plays an important role in our collective success. I have the full faith in Cabinet, Regular Members, along with our dedicated public service to meet our mandate commitments and work together for Northwest Territories residents.

Mr. Speaker, a fundamental part of our success as a government and the future prosperity of our territory depends on a productive and collaborative partnership with Indigenous, community, and municipal governments. The decisions we make as a government must reflect our commitment to reconciliation and the affirmation and advancement of Indigenous rights and self-determination. We must continue to foster constructive and respectful government-to-government relationships with Indigenous partners and to seek ways to advance reconciliation, recognize, and affirm Indigenous rights, and support expanded program and service delivery. We are leaders in reconciliation, and this will continue to be one of our most important priorities as a government.

The last year has laid bare the gaps in our society, and the impact that COVID-19 has dramatically revealed the inequities and vulnerabilities of the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, these are our realities, and we will need to keep these top of mind as we work to close the gap between northern and southern Canada that existed long before COVID-19. We must work toward resilient people and a resilient economy, and we will continue to pursue infrastructure and economic development opportunities that provide sustainable benefits. The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to finding ways to make things better for our residents. In order to achieve this, we need to build a strong partnership with Canada to take real action on those areas where Northerners have said that more needs to be done.

We need a strong investment partner in Canada, Mr. Speaker, and one very concrete way the federal government can support economic recovery is by investing in our infrastructure needs. By investing in large-scale infrastructure projects, we can help bridge the substantial infrastructure gap that exists here in the Northwest Territories as well as kick-start the territory's economic recovery. This is an ambitious request but one that will benefit the North and ensure that we have a future where our residents live in a more prosperous territory. It is about giving the economy the boost that it needs and planning for the future.

Mr. Speaker, we all want a brighter future for Northwest Territories residents. It is why we are here today, to have a positive impact and ensure future generations can achieve success. This is no easy task, and we have a lot of work to do, but I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the House to achieve this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 99-19(2): Sessional Statement - February 2021
Ministers' Statements

February 4th

Page 1726

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, honourable Premier. Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 100-19(2): Notice of Budget Address
Ministers' Statements

February 4th

Page 1726

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will deliver the budget address on Thursday, February 4, 2021. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 100-19(2): Notice of Budget Address
Ministers' Statements

February 4th

Page 1726

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

High Water Levels in Talston and Slave River Basin
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1726

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. I would like to say welcome back to all of my colleagues, and happy belated new year's to my constituents and everybody else listening right now. I really hope that we have a meaningful and productive sitting this session.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to lead up with an event that frightened me and many of my constituents recently. This is the report of flooding in the Taltson River and Slave River areas. Just to lead this out, there was a phrase that my great-grandmother told me, and I want to have that in our thoughts when I say this. She told me that [English translation not available] and the direct translation is "Our land is changing. Our climate is changing." Our land is always changing. In this generation, you may see it, and maybe in your kids' generation. We are still going to see changes, and I think this happening in my constituency is a real concern.

With that, Mr. Speaker, imagine going home today and finding your home flooded in a frozen block of ice. This is what some of my constituents had to deal with recently. For those who live in larger communities, one would simply call up their insurance providers and be held up at a hotel until the problem was dealt with and paid for. My constituents don't have this luxury. I imagine our ancestors would be hurting if they saw this.

Mr. Speaker, by all accounts, thankfully, nobody was harmed in this event, but some of the animals were. However, I want everyone to know of the emotional impact that these losses have caused. I want to bring awareness to the rest of the North that a lot of hard work is now gone because of this environmental event. I really feel for those folks who were affected. They expect their government to assist them in their time of need.

Mr. Speaker, as a whole, the fur industry is nowhere near what it was 30 or 40 years ago. It used to really help out family incomes, and many of our trappers now do not solely depend on this way of life anymore. Nowadays, many of our trappers have other jobs and trap as a way to supplement their incomes. Another thing to think of is that this also affects trading and Metis rights to hunt. They can still use these areas, per se, but what are they going back to right now in these areas?

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I have ended up with more questions than answers around this issue, but it has led me to some larger questions. Was this man-made? Was this natural? Was it a combination of both?

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

High Water Levels in Talston and Slave River Basin
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1727

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, colleagues. Furthermore, another point I wanted to bring up was another question that came about when I did my research on this: How does the Transboundary Water Agreement play into this issue? This is a matter that I will delve into in another statement. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources at the appropriate time. Marsi cho.

High Water Levels in Talston and Slave River Basin
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1727

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1727

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In December, Health Canada authorized the use of two separate COVID-19 vaccines for human consumption. Both vaccines were developed by private companies, named Pfizer and Moderna. Following Health Canada's approval, the Government of the Northwest Territories received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine on December 28th, and by December 31st, NWT residents began receiving their first of two doses.

Mr. Speaker, as of yesterday, there have been over 12,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine administered across the Northwest Territories. I am happy to share with everyone that, as of January 23rd, I have received my first dose of the vaccine. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I know there are segments of the general public who remain hesitant about having the COVID-19 vaccine, which is concerning. I hope that my experience of taking the vaccine can help others to feel more willing to also take the vaccine.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the healthcare workers across the NWT; to Minister Green; to Dr. Kandola, the Chief Public Health Officer; and to Premier Cochrane for all of their tireless work during this pandemic. Also, specifically, I would like to thank the Fort Smith frontline workers for administering the vaccine to my community.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I have an important message for all of the NWT residents regarding recovered COVID-19 patients and any cases that occur here in the future. It is extremely important that we do not discriminate against our fellow residents if they have contracted COVID-19. We must be understanding, compassionate, supportive, and remain in solidarity regardless of how people contracted the disease, just as we have done for the residents of Fort Liard. We must stick together and continue to look out for each other during these uncertain times. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1727

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Government of the Northwest Territories Liabilities for Ekati Mine
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1727

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. The ongoing saga of creditor protection for the owners of the Ekati Mine seems to have drawn to a close last Friday without so much as a peep from our government. On that date, the mine appears to have been sold to a group of lenders who will own and operate the mine. That's good news. The new owners are called Arctic Canadian Diamond Company Limited, or ACDC.

I could never get a consolidated list of all of the outstanding amounts owed to this government at any point during the proceeding despite repeated requests. I was given partial lists, told that some of the amounts, such as royalties or taxes, could not be disclosed to me as a Regular MLA, even in confidence, or that amounts were still being determined. That is not a good reflection of our consensus government conventions or publicly stated commitments to openness and transparency.

In addition to what was likely over $15 million in outstanding accounts owed to the GNWT, this government also holds very significant amounts of financial security to hopefully ensure that the property is properly remediated. The $282 million in financial security covers environmental management and reclamation liabilities found in the water licence, land use permits, and an environmental agreement. Most of it is held in a new and untested form of security called a surety bond, backed by insurance companies.

GNWT had the ability and legal obligation to review the viability and stability of the new owners and the form of financial security as part of the sale of the property. The assignment of the licence, permits, and agreement to the new owner requires the consent of this government. This was an opportunity to ensure that the public interest was truly served, the polluter-pays principle was applied, and the securities are truly irrevocable, unconditional, and easily cashed.

I will have questions later today for the Premier as this matter cuts across several portfolios. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Government of the Northwest Territories Liabilities for Ekati Mine
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1727

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

60th Wedding Anniversary of Ted and Mary Rose Landry
Members' Statements

February 4th

Page 1727

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I would like to take this time to recognize a respected elderly couple on their 60th wedding anniversary. Huge congratulations and happy trails to Ted and Mary Rose Landry of Fort Providence.

Ted and Mary Rose Landry travelled by dog team with their family to get married in the Roman Catholic Church on December 27, 1960. At that time, they were living at Willowlake on the Horn Plateau with their children, alongside other families.

Ted Landry trapped, hunted, and fished for his family. It was a rich and fulfilling lifestyle where he provided the best food for his children and for other residents. His wife, Mary Rose, as well was sought out by everyone for her dried-meat- and dried-fish-making skills. They have passed on their traditional and cultural skills to their children and grandchildren.

Ted Landry was very involved in politics through his involvement with the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation, the Deh Cho First Nations, and the Dene Nation. Now, at 89 years of age, he still has lots to offer and still provides support where needed. Ted is also part of the Elders Council and uses knowledge from his ancestors for the betterment of the Dene people.

Ted and Mary Rose are blessed with eight children and numerous grandchildren, approximately 20. Ted and Mary Rose recently were blessed with a great grandchild born in December 2020. A plaque commemorating their lifelong commitment to each other will be presented to them at a later date. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.