This is page numbers 2493 - 2524 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 care.

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

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Members, the Government of Canada has designated today, March 11, 2021, as a National Day of Observance to commemorate the people who lost their lives and the significant impacts we have all felt because of COVID-19. The Northwest Territories has been spared much of the loss experienced across Canada, but we have not been spared from the negative effects of the virus. We have all made sacrifices to keep the Northwest Territories safe from COVID-19.

Today, we lower our flags in honour of those we have lost and the sacrifices we have all made in our common fight against COVID-19. I ask Members to join me in a moment of silence to mark those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Thank you.

---Moment of silence

Thank you, Members. Members, it was on this day in 1975 that the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly became the first in Canada to have a majority of First Nations representatives selected. Mahsi.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 138-19(2): COVID-19 Community Planning
Ministers' Statements

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Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, Northwest Territories residents are no strangers to emergency events. Every year, we are faced with threats such as forest fires and floods, to name a couple. Over the past 10 years alone, we have seen 21 emergency events that have resulted in the activation of community and territorial emergency plans, and in some cases, those events led to community evacuations. These events have included wildfires, floods, severe weather, prolonged power outages, and fuel shortages.

The approach to emergency management in the NWT relies on participation from everyone: individuals, families and to all levels of government. We are all in this together. Individuals and families have a responsibility to plan and prepare for the risks most relevant to them, to ensure their safety and the protection of their property. Communities are responsible for the development and implementation of emergency plans to reasonably protect the general public and minimize property damage and loss during emergencies. The Government of the Northwest Territories is responsible for planning and responding to territorial emergencies and supporting communities when their capacity is exceeded during emergencies.

Since March 2020, Northwest Territories residents have been faced with a new threat unlike any we have experienced before: the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic response is being led by Health and Social Services and is supported by the COVID secretariat as well as Municipal and Community Affairs. MACA's primary focus during this event has included supporting the GNWT's pandemic response; working with communities to ensure planning and preparedness at the community level; and monitoring for any other emergency events. MACA works with all departments through the emergency management organization and to provide needed support to communities.

Mr. Speaker, one of the key success factors in past emergencies has been the ability of our communities to plan and prepare and, when required, respond to protect and care for our residents. As we found ourselves in the COVID-19 pandemic, very few community plans included guidelines on how to respond to a threat. As a result, since early in the pandemic, MACA has been working with the communities to ensure that there is a good understanding of the potential threats and their requirements to sustain essential services. Communities have been working very hard to ensure that they have plans in place, that they have identified potential gaps in services, and that preparations were being made.

Mr. Speaker, the true value of planning and preparedness is not realized until an emergency happens. The community of Fort Liard is an excellent example and the first real test of a community emergency plan to the direct impacts of a pandemic. On January 16, 2021, when the first case of COVID was confirmed in Fort Liard, these emergency plans were implemented, which meant activating local officials. The Dehcho Regional Emergency Management Organization was also activated and deployed an on-site coordinator to Fort Liard daily to support the community government who advised as to their limitations in capacity in some areas. Staff also provided support for daily meetings with community leadership and ensured integration of EMO efforts with various people and groups. While community resources and capacity were impacted by the incident, the community was able, with support from the Emergency Management Organization, to respond and ensure all essential services continued. These efforts also meant that those required to self-isolate had to receive groceries and other essential items. We want to commend the community for pulling together to ensure that all residents had their basic needs supported during the response.

Mr. Speaker, planning for and responding to emergency events is an ongoing process, and the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. MACA will continue to work with communities to ensure plans are adapted and adjusted as more is learned about COVID-19, as the risk environment and assessment evolves, as vaccine programs take effect and as we learn from experiences like the response in Fort Liard.

Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 has been a long and difficult road for everyone. The rollout of the vaccine in the Northwest Territories is being well-received. It is important to note that the situation in the rest of Canada shows that we need to remain vigilant. I would like to remind everyone that it is critical that we all remain focused on protecting one another, and on behalf of Cabinet, I would like to thank all residents who continue to follow the advice and direction given by the Chief Public Health Officer and to ensure their own personal preparedness. Develop personal emergency plans, have emergency supplies on hand, and connect with friends, family, and neighbours to support each other. A simple phone call or offer to drop off groceries at the doorstep can make a huge difference for anyone who is feeling alone while they are self-isolating.

In conclusion Mr. Speaker, once again, I would just like to thank the people of the Northwest Territories and the response in working with the Government of the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 138-19(2): COVID-19 Community Planning
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 139-19(2): Long-Term Care Bed Projections
Ministers' Statements

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Government of the Northwest Territories knows how important it is to enable seniors to age in place with dignity as loved and valued members of our communities. That is why the 19th Legislative Assembly has identified this as one of the 22 priorities in the Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories. We are taking a whole-of-government approach to create the conditions in which seniors will be able to stay at home as they age.

Mr. Speaker, one way that the Department of Health and Social Services is working to achieve this mandate priority is by implementing recommendations from the Home and Community Care Review. We want to support seniors to remain living independently, with services such as nursing care; personal care, like bathing and dressing; and home support for meals and laundry. While we focus on improving home and community care services, we know that not everyone's care needs can be met in the community, particularly those with complex conditions and those who need care throughout the day and night. For this reason, the department is also providing equitable access to high quality long-term care services to support seniors.

Mr. Speaker, back in 2015, the GNWT provided an estimate of how many long-term care beds we would need in future years. At that time, we had only five years of long-term care data, and we used a ratio-based model of people in need to population. Last summer, the department decided to update these numbers. Staff worked with the NWT Bureau of Statistics to redo the estimate of long-term care beds required over the next 14 years. Later today, I will be tabling the result, a report titled "Projected Demand for Long-Term Care Beds in the NWT" and another called the department's "Response to Long-Term Care Bed Projections." The summary of the report tells us we will not require as many new beds as we thought in 2015.

The NWT Bureau of Statistics used the most current and best practices to establish the demand for care. The bureau used 10 years of NWT long-term care data for its modelling and provided the department with projections for three scenarios based on age and care needs. The projections for all three indicate the same thing: the number of beds needed has decreased.

The Department of Health and Social Services has accepted one of these scenarios. We are confident that these projections are based on the best evidence available. These projections align with key findings about long-term care use in the NWT, such as our average age of admission into long-term care and the care levels individuals require upon admission. To make a long story short, we will need an additional 169 long-term care beds by 2034. This is a reduction from the 2015 bed projections that identify we would need 435 additional beds in that same time frame.

These updated projections are based on a model that is aligned with best practices used by other jurisdictions. The NWT Bureau of Statistics used 10 years of the department's long-term care data and regional and territorial population projections to provide the new long term care bed projections up to 2035. Our projections now tell us the NWT's long-term care bed use is 72 per 1,000 population age 70 and older as compared to the 115 per 1,000 population age 70 and older used for the earlier projections. This is one of the biggest contributors to the adjustment in the 2020 bed projections. We have also added long-term care beds in Norman Wells and Behchoko since the projections were done in 2015.

The revised bed projections will not result in a reduction of services for seniors. We will use our home and community care resources more effectively. This means that seniors will receive the support they need in their home communities for as long as possible without going into long-term care. Long-term care is meant for seniors who require high levels of care and who can no longer be supported in their homes. Examples include medically complex diagnoses, a person who requires 24/7 care, and a person who is at high risk of injury to self or others. Seniors will be supported by the whole of government, which includes targeted investment in other areas, including additional seniors housing.

Mr. Speaker, this is a dramatic change and these new long-term care bed projections will require a shift in the department's current plans for capital spending in several NWT communities. The department plans to discuss these changes with stakeholders. We want to determine the best approach to provide an evidence-based continuum of services to meet the care needs of seniors, including homecare, long-term care, and other innovative approaches like the paid family caregiver pilot. Through initial engagement with Indigenous governments and Health and Social Services system leaders, we have confirmed the desire to have elders and their caregivers supported to remain living in their homes. The department will continue to work collaboratively to respond.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health and Social Services is committed to enhancing home and community care services to more fully meet the care needs of seniors and elders so they can remain independent for as long as possible and to ensuring long-term care services are in place when their needs can no longer be met in their communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 139-19(2): Long-Term Care Bed Projections
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 140-19(2): Minimum Wage Increase
Ministers' Statements

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On September 1, 2021, the minimum wage in the Northwest Territories will increase from $13.46 per hour to $15.20 per hour, making it the second highest minimum wage in Canada behind Nunavut. Since the last increase in 2018, the cost of living and the average hourly wage in the NWT have risen. This increase ensures that the minimum wage does not fall behind, brings our minimum- to average-wage ratio more in line with the rest of Canada, and makes us more competitive with our neighbouring jurisdictions.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is very aware of the ongoing impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on employees and businesses. That is why this government has provided a number of supports since the onset of the pandemic, including the NWT Wage Top-Up program, which has been extended until August 31, 2021; the extension of the Business Development and Investment Corporation working capital loans and deferred loan payments; financial supports for the arts and agriculture sectors; and the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development program, which was adapted to the realities of the pandemic. We also understand the importance of providing employers with sufficient time to plan for and implement a new minimum wage, which is why we are making this announcement now and will continue to advertise this change until it comes into effect on September 1st.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment also recently announced new Labour Market Recovery Program funding, which will provide critical support to businesses looking to re-hire workers, prevent further job losses, return to or transition operations, or develop training and capacity. This recovery funding is available to employers, organizations, and community partners by contacting regional education, culture and employment service centres.

The decision to increase the minimum wage to $15.20 per hour was informed by the recommendations of the Minimum Wage Committee. To ensure that the views of employees and employers are reflected in decisions about the minimum wage, a Minimum Wage Committee is struck every two years and includes representatives from industry, labour, and non-governmental organizations. Committee members work collaboratively to identify options for minimum wage rates that are considered fair for both employees and employers. In developing their recommendations, the committee undertook extensive research on the social and economic conditions of the Northwest Territories, minimum and average hourly wages in other provinces and territories, and the findings of national and international reports and studies. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the committee members for their time, energy, and thoughtful consideration and analysis they put into developing the report and recommendations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 140-19(2): Minimum Wage Increase
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Elders' Facilities in Nunakput Communities
Members' Statements

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Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I am glad that Minister Green brought this up, with elders aging in care in their home communities. Elders' facilities in Paulatuk and Ulukhaktok and keeping our elders home, Mr. Speaker: our elders have these facilities in Ulukhaktok and Paulatuk. These are small communities that would not take much to care for elders, but here in our six-bed long-term care facility, we would not have to send them to Inuvik to be away from the family, which is so tough on our elders right now. Our elders in our communities are very active. Our elders work to keep our culture and history alive. They are busy teaching our youth, working with traditional knowledge projects. Thanks to our elders for traditional activities in our communities to make them thrive.

Mr. Speaker, it seems that we are not so thankful after all sometimes. Our elders need help. We don't seem to have a place for them to go other than sending them out to Inuvik, and the cost of seeing our elders go to Inuvik, like I said before, it's over $1,000 a plane ticket from Sachs Harbour to Ulukhaktok or Paulatuk. It's unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. I want to work with our government to keep our elders home, to take care of them by ourselves as a community, as a family. We owe this to our elders. They deserve to stay home and to keep our knowledge for our home communities. They shared with us, with the territories, with Canada, and the world. These are our elders, Mr. Speaker. I wonder what prevents us from giving back. I'll ask the Minister for elders' facilities in Ulukhaktok and Paulatuk to work with the community corporation on a go-forward basis. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Elders' Facilities in Nunakput Communities
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Thaidene Nene Spring Culture Camp
Members' Statements

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Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to discuss the Thaidene Nene culture camp and spring hunt taking place in Lutselk'e, beginning today until March 21st. This camp will be conducted in partnership with the Ni Hat'ni Dene guardians and the Ni Hadi Xa traditional knowledge monitors. The camp is being co-sponsored by several organizations, including the Lutselk'e Dene School, the LKDFN Wellness Department, the Department of Lands, ENR, ITI, Parks Canada, and others. If I missed anybody, forgive me; the full list of contributors can be found on the Land of the Ancestors website.

Mr. Speaker, this camp will be providing youth from Lutselk'e Dene School with opportunities for hands-on learning with traditional hunting practices. This camp will be taking place at Hedacho Kue, also known as Artillery Lake, and it will include a spring hunt, among other things, as I mentioned earlier. I have been invited to this, and schedule permitting, I will be able to join in with these guys at some point during the event.

I'd like to thank the community and commend them and all the coordinators and elders who helped plan this event, and I note JC Catholique, who is the primary camp coordinator. I would like to thank all the co-sponsors, as well, for contributing to this event, and I know this camp will provide a great opportunity for our youth to interact with and learn from our traditional knowledge holders. I encourage as many youth to participate in this event as possible in the community, and I hope to see more events and camps like these in the future, in our riding of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Thaidene Nene Spring Culture Camp
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

The Fourth Trimester
Members' Statements

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Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, it's time for a little real talk. Pregnancy and childbirth has been a thing for a long time. Pregnancy is painted as a beautiful time where people glow and blossom. Well, the glow is sweat, Mr. Speaker, and the blossom is your cankles trying to fit into your flip-flops because your boots don't fit. Fast-forward past the undeniable beauty of weight gain, 10 months of morning sickness, and half a year of cute toes playing xylophone on your ribcage, and you arrive at the big day. With the luxury of a nurse in the family, I laboured at home until the 11th hour, and then I hurried to Stanton. I waddled up to the desk, my husband rushing me, then 40 hours later, I got to push. I spent three-and-a-half hours trying to evict a child that held firmly to my insides and, on 6/6/06, at six minutes to the hour, I became a mother for the first time.

Whew, the hard part is done. Right, Mr. Speaker? Oh, no. The fun has just begun. You are passed a squishy, tiny human and told not to lift anything. You assume breastfeeding is natural and, therefore, easy. Within days, your nipples are cracked and bleeding; sleep is as elusive as Bigfoot; your body is doing things no one warned you about; and if you are lucky enough to have a supportive partner, they aren't really that useful because no one cares about their nipples. Then, there are the tears, and I'm not talking about the baby's tears. No. You cry because you're happy; you cry because you're sad; you cry because the sun is shining; and sometimes, you cry because your partner is snoring and their nipples are still useless. Beyond sorting out some form of feeding and healing your body, there is sleep deprivation, relationship changes, post-partum blues, and trying not to send yourself over the edge keeping up with the Super Mom social media posts from down the block.

Welcome, Mr. Speaker, to the fourth trimester. We spend months planning for a baby, but those plans rarely include the mother's health, safety, and recovery. The what-to-buy list includes an exhaustive amount of baby stuff, but nowhere does it say to put a friend in charge of daily check-ins, buy granny panties, and buy fibre pills. For the love of God, buy the fibre pills.

Don't get me wrong. I would do it again. We can finally laugh at the chaos and high-five that we survived, but it doesn't mean we can't evolve how we support and care for new mothers. This is real life, and real is compassionate, honest, and kind. To the new moms, it will get easier. You will be able to sit again, and you will bond, but as you tumble dry through the fourth trimester, be kind to yourself. Eat, sleep, feed the baby, and be kind to yourself. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Fourth Trimester
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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