This is page numbers 2199 - 2242 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 going.

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, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 2199

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 123-19(2): Procurement Review
Ministers' Statements

Page 2199

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, it is fitting that, as we focus this sitting on the government's budget, including how GNWT spending impacts the NWT economy and the role it can play in our economic recovery efforts, we are also beginning a territory-wide conversation about our government's procurement practices and policies. Procurement is a significant tool that can positively increase the benefits of government spending on the private sector and, as a result, on the economy as a whole.

Ensuring that government procurement and contracting maximizes benefits to residents and businesses is a priority established by the 19th Legislative Assembly. Building on that, one of our government's guiding principles is to ensure that the expenditure of public funds supports northern businesses and maximizes economic benefits to Northerners. This is consistent with our long-standing commitment to support Northwest Territories businesses and grow a strong, diversified economy. The conversation that has formally begun around procurement is part of the effort to achieve this priority and advance this guiding principle.

It is important to remember that the concerns and needs that led to this priority and, similarly, to the political recognition that it is time for new recommendations to improve procurement practices came from the territory's Indigenous governments and organizations, the business community, and the public at large, rightfully so as the last comprehensive review was over a decade ago. The people of the NWT know and have made clear that we have an opportunity for positive and long-lasting change and that we need to work together to achieve it. At a time in our history when it is clearly needed, we are prepared to reset or re-imagine our government's approach to buying and contracting the goods and services it needs to deliver its mandate. To that end, we have accelerated our mandate commitment to strengthen GNWT procurement policies and practices.

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken in previous sittings about the procurement review. I want to use this opportunity to provide an update. Recently, I announced the start of the process to get this very important work done with the release of the discussion paper, dedicated section of the ITI website, and the introduction of our review panel.

We have put a review panel in place that I am confident will remain open-minded, objective, creative, and responsive and whom I have personally asked to do so. The panel will hear from a variety of stakeholders and residents. From panel interviews to written submissions, targeted-engagement opportunities, and an online discussion forum, we are working to ensure that everyone has a means and opportunity to share their thoughts and perspectives. We want the panel to hear real experiences with government procurement, both positive and otherwise. This should include specific examples of when the system did or did not work and collect innovative ideas for making our procurement process better. The panel will also meet with officials from Indigenous governments about GNWT procurement generally and ideas for a possible Indigenous procurement strategy and ways to best achieve the economic goals of modern treaties. I will continue to reach out to Indigenous leaders, as well, for ongoing government-to-government discussions about GNWT procurement. We need everybody with an interest in this discussion to seek out the information and opportunities that are available to provide their input.

Mr. Speaker, our use of a public review process reflects our confidence that the ideas and guidance needed on this important matter can be found in the leadership, experience, and creativity that exist within the Northwest Territories. We want to continue to help stimulate economic growth and encourage entrepreneurship and local competition. Our review of public procurement is one part of work that must be done to support a resilient, more diverse economy. I encourage everyone in our territory to contribute to this process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 123-19(2): Procurement Review
Ministers' Statements

Page 2199

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
Members' Statements

Page 2199

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Chief Public Health Officer and her staff has paid off when one looks at the low number of cases, with no confirmed deaths in the Northwest Territories. Compared to the rest of Canada, the NWT appears to be moving along quickly with the rollout of the vaccine, which has resulted in the NWT receiving 19,100 doses with another 16,200 expected shortly. To date, approximately 14,600 first doses and 2,000 second doses have been administered in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, the World Health Organization, in an interim guidance communication dated January 25, 2021, stated that, 14 days after receiving the first dose of the vaccine, the efficacy is said to be 91.9 percent; after receiving the second dose, based on a two-month follow-up, it is said that an efficacy of 94.1 percent has been established. The World Health Organization and the Centre for Disease Control recommends that the second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. The stated time for this second dose was to be 28 days after receiving the first dose. Recently, that number, that 28-day number, has been pushed out as far as 42 days.

Mr. Speaker, this government has to rely on the supplier for the vaccine and, as such, has no control when delivery will be made. When we know we are to receive the vaccine from the supplier, I would expect that a decision is made to either use it all up as a first dose or possibly hold some back to administer as a second dose when a delay becomes a reality. The delay in receiving additional supply has created anxiety among residents who were expecting a second dose of the vaccine on day 28.

Mr. Speaker, because of this delay, constituents in Hay River have been asking why the second dose was delayed and if this delay will have an impact on the efficacy of the vaccine, questions I will have for the Minister of health later. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
Members' Statements

Page 2199

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Legislative Lethargy
Members' Statements

Page 2199

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. We are now about a third of the way through our term. I am increasingly concerned with lack of substantive legislation from Cabinet. To date, there have been a total of 24 bills, almost half of which were appropriations. This is not quite as bad as the last Cabinet as they had only introduced a total of six non-appropriation bills at this point. The bills from this Cabinet, outside of appropriations, deal with pithy matters, including:

  • a monumental effort, with some of the most convoluted wording I have ever seen, to change the Public Highway Act to absolve GNWT of liability for winter roads connecting off our roads;
  • the much-vaunted Temporary Variation of Statutory Time Periods (Covid-19 Pandemic Measures) Act that has been used once;
  • probably my favourite, the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act;
  • housekeeping changes to the Securities Act; Apprenticeship, Trade and Occupation Certification Act; Legal Professions Act; and the Corrections Act;
  • changes to the Interpretation Act that would have allowed Cabinet total discretion to change time zones and other time changes, which would not get my vote as something of importance to deal with during the pandemic;
  • bills also from the Clerk's office to allow for remote sittings and to standardize more of the terms of contracts for the Assembly's independent officers. I think that is good legislation.

My point here, Mr. Speaker, is that we have yet to get anything substantive from Cabinet. We are supposed to be a Legislative Assembly, not a debating club. This less-than-ambitious legislative agenda has not put our committees to work nor delivered on the promises in the mandate nor the needs of our citizens. I am concerned that, like the last Assembly, we will have an avalanche of bills in the last few months of our term, which doesn't allow for good public input or careful consideration of improvements. I will have questions for the Premier on Cabinet's legislative inertia and lethargy later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Legislative Lethargy
Members' Statements

Page 2200

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Dechinta Fish Camp
Members' Statements

Page 2200

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today, I am going to talk about the Liwe camp, which is a fish camp that is hosted on Mackenzie Island, on the shores of Great Slave Lake, for the last two weeks and is hosted by the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. This is the second time that Dechinta has hosted a public fish camp. I had the opportunity to visit the camp this past weekend. I had a great time being out there. Camp Liwe provides a great opportunity for community members to engage in culture, language, and other traditional ways of being on the land during the winter.

Mr. Speaker, Dechinta is an organization that is always striving to bridge the gap between the old ways of Indigenous life and the modern world. They blend culture and education and treat them with equal importance to one's identity. "Strong like two people," that is the motto of Dechinta, which encourages an individual to excel both in modern society and in traditional ways of being.

Mr. Speaker, I applaud Dechinta and all the organizers who helped contribute to this event. By all accounts, it was a very successful event, and they are planning to run it again next year. I hope to continue seeing Dechinta host popular and successful community events like this into the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and just in line with my questioning last Friday, I'm going to continue asking some questions to the Minister of MACA on gaps in healthcare and emergency response. Marsi cho.

Dechinta Fish Camp
Members' Statements

Page 2200

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Hamlet of Enterprise Economic Opportunities
Members' Statements

Page 2200

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. The Hamlet of Enterprise has approximately 120 residents; five businesses, including a motel, convenience, and gas bar. The businesses mostly cater to out-of-town requests for service, businesses such as a plumbing and heating contractor, cabinet supply company, modular home company, and the furniture cash-and-carry business. There are a couple of small, niche businesses such as Winnie's Dene Art Gallery and D'Arcy Moses Fashion Design, both in the same building that used to house a former cafe and gas bar.

Mr. Speaker, one would think this was a vibrant and happening place, considering all that economic potential. However, many of the businesses are small mom-and-pop operations and cannot afford to hire new staff or any staff at all. Since COVID hit, this hamlet has been hit hard in terms of business potential and opportunities. The hamlet's only gas bar, motel, and convenience store has not opened for a couple of years since it had new owners, and this was due to COVID. I understand this may well be for sale once again.

The hamlet is the first community on Highway No. 1 and approximately 84 kilometres, roughly 54 miles, from the 60th parallel, the NWT-Alberta border. It is very puzzling that Enterprise is not touted as the gateway to the falls, as these are very near to the community. I don't see much signage in Enterprise or a visitors information centre to make visitors and tourists aware of these hotspots for activity. Even the residents who run small businesses are bypassed for campground custodian contracts. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Hamlet of Enterprise Economic Opportunities
Members' Statements

Page 2200

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Members' Statements

Page 2200

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Canada. The Beaufort-Delta region has the NWT's highest rates of colorectal cancer and the lowest rates of screening, according to the NTHSSA. I can honestly say that most people from my region have been personally affected by this disease. I would like to give my condolences to all the families in the NWT who have lost loved ones to colorectal cancer as many of my friends and family have. To those who are survivors of colorectal cancer, please continue to be champions of colorectal screening. If caught, nine out of 10 people can be cured. This means screening is essential to prevent deaths from this disease.

Mr. Speaker, last February, the NTHSSA announced it was going to begin a pilot project, and the first phase of that pilot project will focus on the Beaufort-Delta region, that they would be sending out fecal immunochemical tests, or FIT kits, out in the mail to those who met the screening criteria. During that announcement, the stats were only 16 percent of the eligible population of the Beaufort-Delta region participated in colorectal cancer screening. This is less than the territorial average at that time of 21.9 percent and extremely less than the national goal of 60 percent.

Today, I would like to bring awareness to screening for colorectal cancer. Those aged 50 to 74 with no family history, those who have immediate family diagnosed, you are at an increased risk. Mr. Speaker, I encourage all residents to discuss this screening with their healthcare practitioner. We need to make sure that our residents are aware of the screening criteria and ensure that we see our screening rates rise so that we can prevent any further deaths for our loved ones. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Members' Statements

Page 2200

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.