This is page numbers 2439 - 2492 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 housing.

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

The House met at 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 2439

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 135-19(2): Annual Status Report on the Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories, 2019-2023
Ministers' Statements

Page 2439

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, one year ago, I tabled the Mandate of the Northwest Territories, 2019-2023. The mandate document outlines the actions our government is taking to advance the 22 priorities established by this Legislative Assembly and includes timelines and measures for tracking our progress. The priorities reflect actions that the 19 of us agreed needed to be advanced, and we collectively developed them in recognition that these actions were needed to strengthen the social and economic status of the Northwest Territories. To say that a lot has happened since the mandate was first tabled is an understatement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of us over the past year. It has changed how our government delivers programs and services and how we advance major projects and initiatives. It has changed how we work with our partners in the business and social sectors and with community governments and our relationship with Indigenous governments. It has changed fundamental assumptions about how people live, work, and do business in the Northwest Territories, across Canada, and around the world. While there are very hopeful signs that the worst impacts of the pandemic are behind us, it is not over yet. We collectively need to continue to demonstrate resilience and commitment to our communities and people.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that, despite the challenges of the pandemic and the delays we initially encountered as we turned our focus to our response, we expect that the majority of our government's mandate will be achieved within the life of this Legislative Assembly, reasonably close to our original anticipated timelines. With this in mind, later today, I will table the first annual status report on the implementation of the mandate. The report reflects on a full year of our government's work, from February 2020 to January 2021, to advance and fulfill our commitments. It highlights some of our government's major accomplishments from the past year as well as a number of expected achievements for the upcoming year. The report also provides detailed tracking of the status of the commitments, actions, timelines, and performance measures outlined in the mandate.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with Members some of the highlights from the annual status report. In the past year, our government has made it a priority to build and strengthen our relationships with Indigenous governments. This work has included establishing the Special Committee on Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs with Regular Members and continuing to work to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have also worked to improve culturally respectful social supports, such as on-the-land healing programs and counselling programs, and to provide support for Indigenous governments to deliver mobile addictions treatment, family-based treatment, and after-care programming.

Further efforts to improve social supports for all residents that need them have included making policy changes to help low-income seniors and persons with disabilities address home repairs, improving access to social services through integrated services delivery, and putting in place a program for non-governmental organizations to fund facility repairs, address code issues, and undertake retrofits to support new childcare spaces.

Mr. Speaker, over the coming year, our government will continue to respond to the pandemic and protect the health and safety of our residents while looking ahead to capture opportunities for social and economic recovery so that we can emerge stronger. Many of the actions related to social and economic recovery we will take are already captured in our mandate, which we will continue to advance. These actions include continuing to advance the Aboriginal rights negotiations with Indigenous governments, making policy and program changes to improve social supports, advancing major infrastructure projects that will provide opportunities for Northerners, improving government procurement to maximize the benefit for Northern residents and businesses, and many, many more.

We recognize that we will need to redouble our efforts and continue working collaboratively with our partners, including Members of the Legislative Assembly, Indigenous governments, community governments, federal, territorial, and provincial governments to continue to advance the mandate commitments. We will also continue to build relationships with non-government organizations, the private sector, and residents throughout the North. Teamwork is now more important than ever as we turn our attention from response to recovery to rebuild and emerge stronger from the impact of the pandemic.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the work this government has completed so far, and I am optimistic that the momentum we have built during the first year of this Legislative Assembly's term and especially as we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic will translate into an increased rate of progress on our commitments. The work I have talked about today represents just some of the progress we have made to implement the mandate. The mandate will continue to be an important tool for measuring the success of this government and the priorities of the 19th Legislative Assembly, and I look forward to reporting additional progress in the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 135-19(2): Annual Status Report on the Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories, 2019-2023
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 136-19(2): Update on the Tlicho Highway Construction Project / Tlichum Apqutiqpanga
Ministers' Statements

Page 2439

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

[English translation not available]. Mr. Speaker, here is what I said.

---Applause

The 19th Legislative Assembly has identified making strategic infrastructure investments that connect communities, expand the economy, and reduce the cost of living as a priority. These projects also support the Northwest Territories' economy as we look at ways to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Mr. Speaker, one project that supports our government's efforts to meet this priority is the Tlicho highway. Construction of the all-season road began in the fall of 2019. Despite a brief six-week pause in the work caused by COVID-19 last spring, the project remains both on schedule and on budget, with substantial completion and official opening expected in the fall of 2021. To date, approximately 97 kilometres of embankment construction and 45 kilometres of gravel surfacing have been completed. Out of four bridges, three have been completed, and the remaining one will be completed this upcoming summer. Seasonal construction ended on December 15, 2020, and will resume in the spring.

When the Tlicho highway is completed, this two-lane gravel highway will provide year-round access from NWT Highway No. 3 to the community access road to Whati. The project will help connect communities, support employment and training opportunities across the region, increase our territory's resiliency to climate change, and create new social and economic opportunities. The Tlicho highway will end at kilometre 97, where it connects with the existing Whati access road. We are continuing to explore opportunities with the Tlicho Government to improve the condition of the Whati access road, and we are currently working on design and obtaining a water licence and assessing funding options for that initiative.

Mr. Speaker, the Tlicho highway represents a true collaboration between the Community Government of Whati, the Tlicho Government, Kiewit Canada Development Corporation, the federal government, and the GNWT. It is an example of how infrastructure on Northwest Territories Indigenous territory can be carried out. The Tlicho highway runs through Tlicho lands, and the Tlicho Government's 20 percent equity ownership in North Star Infrastructure is reflective of this important fact. This highway has been a positive step towards reconciliation, and we will take lessons learned to apply to future projects.

Like all of us, North Star Infrastructure has had the added challenge this past year of keeping their staff and the surrounding communities safe during the pandemic. North Star Infrastructure has had an extensive COVID-19 mitigation plan in place that complies with the Chief Public Health Officer's orders and guidelines. I commend their commitment to ensuring the safety of their employees while keeping this project on track.

Increasing access to Tlicho communities will help reduce the cost of living in the region and support new social opportunities, while also attracting interest from industry in the exploration and development of natural resources. I will continue to provide updates as we progress through the project timelines. Also look forward to the day when we can celebrate the achievement for the community of Whati and the Tlicho region. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 136-19(2): Update on the Tlicho Highway Construction Project / Tlichum Apqutiqpanga
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 137-19(2): Community Elections
Ministers' Statements

Page 2440

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, local elections are important to community residents as they provide an opportunity to select a municipal government that reflects the wants and needs of the community. Being an elected official is one of the best ways that an individual can support their community in providing a safe, sustainable, and healthy environment for all residents.

In 2020, there were 10 municipal elections in the Northwest Territories where 83 candidates competed for 44 seats. I want to extend my congratulations to all who were elected and sincere thanks to all those who had submitted their names in a race to represent and give back to their communities. This year, there will be 21 community municipal elections held. Four Tlicho communities, Behchoko, Gameti, Whati, and Wekweeti, will hold elections for four chiefs and 28 councillor positions in June. June is also when the Charter Communities of Tsiigehtchic and Fort Good Hope will fill 11 councillor seats. Later in October, these, which fall under the Cities, Towns and Villages Act, will seek to fill five mayor positions and 38 councillor seats: the Town of Hay River, the Town of Inuvik, the Town of Norman Wells, the Town of Fort Smith, and the Village of Fort Simpson. Finally, Mr. Speaker, in December, there will be 10 hamlet communities electing six mayors and 39 councillors. These communities include Aklavik, Enterprise, Fort Liard, Fort McPherson, Fort Providence, Fort Resolution, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk, and Ulukhaktok.

Mr. Speaker, these elections are an important opportunity where aspiring candidates in each of these communities can run for a community municipal leadership position and where residents have the opportunity to choose their municipal leadership. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs continues to work with the NWT Association of Communities and community governments to promote participation in municipal politics. Best of luck to all individuals who put their name forward as a candidate this year and to each community as they make choices on their local leadership. I want to thank all those who may consider putting their names forward as candidates in the upcoming elections. I want to acknowledge the staff and many volunteers who take on roles in these election processes on behalf of municipalities. It takes dedication and significant efforts by many people to support the election process behind the scenes.

Elections provide an opportunity for all individuals to serve as leaders and decision-makers the opportunity to shape the future for their friends, neighbours, and residents. It is important that our elections are open and accessible to all. Once again, mahsi and good luck to all who are going to be submitting their names for the 2021 municipal elections across the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 137-19(2): Community Elections
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Medevac Services and Medical Escorts
Members' Statements

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Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Medevacs for our elders in the communities. Travel saves lives through the medevac system. I am sure that not one person in the NWT does not appreciate the emergency medical services provided by in-flight services.

We worry about our elders when they are taken by medevac to large hospitals. We know that they will receive the immediate medical care that they need, but we also know that, on top of the pain, the worry, they have to be disorientated, anxious, lonely. They may get confused about what is expected of them to do. The hospitals in Inuvik and Yellowknife are huge compared to our community health centres or even Inuvik. It's critical that our elders have someone to take with them during this medical travel. Lately, an elder was medevaced to Yellowknife in the early evening out of Tuktoyaktuk. The family decided that here nephew would accompany her. The elder was admitted into the hospital, and the young man had no place to stay here.

Mr. Speaker, Tuktoyaktuk does not have a doctor so, if the elders need to leave their home community to receive medical treatment, then we need to have them escorted, also out of Sachs Harbour, Ulukhaktok, and Paulatuk. We need escorts for our elders to take proper care of them and to make sure that, if they need a translator, the nephew or niece are there to translate for them, so we need help with that. I will have questions for the health Minister at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Medevac Services and Medical Escorts
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Housing Strategy
Members' Statements

Page 2440

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. For the last couple of years, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation have been working on the establishment of their own housing strategy for the communities Ndilo and Dettah. To inform their work, the YKDFN has conducted their own housing survey among their membership. They have been gathering their members' inputs so they can understand the types of homes and structures that people want to see in their community. This work is being done to help them to formulate a community plan to provide home ownership opportunities for their members. Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, the YKDFN are aiming to assume control of their entire housing system, including designing, construction, governance, and administration of housing within the communities. However, in order to support the re-delegation of control of housing, the NWTHC will need to realign many of their policies and practices to successfully accommodate and support this goal.

In addition, there are several other barriers that the YKDFN must overcome if they are to successfully take control of housing. First, the GNWT must continue to lobby to the federal government for more funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC. Our government must continue advocating on behalf of the YKDFN and all of the communities in the North to secure more housing funding for the long term. Secondly, the YKDFN also face the barriers of paying home insurance and home mortgages. Banks won't allow mortgages on reserves or for many First Nation communities, simply because the lands the homes sit on are not private property. First Nation lands hold a special designation, so banks cannot use homes on these lands as collateral in case payments from clients can't be met. Therefore, banks have decided to entirely exclude people in these situations from any options for mortgages. This issue is also related to the unsettled Akaitcho land claim, which is still ongoing. Lastly, Mr. Speaker, Maslow's hierarchy of needs states that the first needs that must be met for people to be satisfied in their lives are physiological needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. That is the cornerstone for healthy individuals and communities.

In closing, I commend the YKDFN on their leaders' long work on their housing strategy, and I commit to do my best to help them achieve their goals in this matter. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Housing Strategy
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Biomass Heating and Energy Efficiency of Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Housing
Members' Statements

Page 2440

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. It has been a long tradition of our people to gather wood for the long winter ahead, and when the wood supply gets low, you then go out and gather more wood. This goes on until warmer weather arrives. This process was and is instilled in us. In fact, I got to believing my middle name was Go Get Wood. Yes, Chief Go Get Wood. It has a nice ring to it.

Mr. Speaker, I don't tell stories for free. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has annual reports on their success stories, whether it be a new house, a new seniors' complex, or the myriad of housing programs for repairs and renovations. The NWT Housing Corporation has what I believe is their own energy strategy. It is energy efficiencies. The energy efficiencies entail adding extra insulation value to the floors, walls, and roofs of existing and new houses. The idea is to try to capture and retain as much heat as can be afforded by all the extra insulation to the homes. That is the goal of an energy efficiency program for the interior and exterior shell of the home.

A biomass energy program adds value to not only the home, but the pocketbooks of the tenant and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. Biomass district heating systems will reduce the reliance on imported fuels, reduce fuel consumption, and provide significant savings to the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation's utility costs overall. Most of all, biomass use is known to cut greenhouse gas emissions and, at the same time, meets the goals of the Biomass Energy Strategy of the GNWT. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Biomass Heating and Energy Efficiency of Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Housing
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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