This is page numbers 2525 - 2568 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

Future of Tourism
Members' Statements

March 12th, 2021

Page 2529

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. In 2019, ITI announced its intention to develop a new five-year tourism strategy. Then COVID-19 struck, and the tourism industry was turned upside down. The shockwave is shown in the difference between stakeholder consultation reports produced for the periods during December 2019 and then for May-June 2020. In the earlier report, tourism was then a thriving sector, but the May-June 2020 report was really a cry for help during the first wave of this pandemic.

In the immediate term, easing COVID-19 influenced travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements were considered to be the most pressing issues faced by the NWT tourism industry. When asked to look five years ahead, individuals highlighted the need to re-establish the international market by building consumer confidence that it's safe to travel in the NWT post-pandemic. Asked where our future strengths lay, almost all tourism operators said Indigenous cultural tourism gives us the greatest competitive edge and identified a strong focus on marketing as essential for recovery. When asked what areas do you think ITI should focus on to help the tourism industry recover in the next five years, participants said creating more Indigenous products and services, more marketing campaigns, and helping business develop new products and services.

Finally, participants were asked to rate the importance of future actions. The top four areas were: communicating with community residents to gain more support for tourism; investing in product development; providing more research and data to stakeholders to support data-driven decisions; and engaging with operators and park visitors through enhanced communications and marketing activities.

I will have questions for the Minister of ITI on how we are going to carry the work mentioned in the surveys into a new tourism strategy and whether we have the resources to support this vital part of our economy. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Private Businesses
Members' Statements

Page 2529

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, it has been nearly one year of COVID-19 economic restrictions in the territory. Over the past year, the NWT's unemployment rate remains the lowest among all Canadian jurisdictions; however, a significant amount of our workforce growth was due to the growth of the public service.

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful that the NWT was able to grow at a time when many around the world were losing jobs, homes, and loved ones, but the fact is growth of the public sector alone is not an indicator of a healthy economic environment, and I remain concerned about the future projection of our territorial economy. The GNWT depends on a vibrant private sector. We need private business owners to flourish and every opportunity between the corporate world down to home-based small businesses to serve our GNWT operations. It is a symbiotic relationship. The government needs businesses to provide services, and the health of the private sector is largely affected by the GNWT's ability to spend locally. Without a healthy northern private sector, we can expect residents to move south to find a home base with a lower cost of living, where they will continue to compete for the same northern contracts with less overhead. This kind of exodus will further reduce our federal transfer payments, the very payments that fund our government operations.

The best job security for a robust public service is a thriving business sector, and every department has the potential to ensure northern businesses are prioritized over southern ones. Every department has the onus to look for ways to support business creation and business opportunity in the North. Without a growing private sector, Mr. Speaker, our now-inflated public service will eventually need to shrink. March is the busiest contracting month in many departments, where targeted tenders head out in an effort to spend remaining department budgets. We can deny it happens, but we all know it does. As you look to spend your remaining budgets, I implore public servants to exclusively support northern businesses. You have the control to support northern and buy local. You have the power to grow our entrepreneurs and the private sector that supports our children's sports teams, and you have the power to support your own job security. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Private Businesses
Members' Statements

Page 2529

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Eulogy for Dr. David Schindler
Members' Statements

Page 2529

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to recognize the important work of Dr. David Schindler, who was an influential contributor to the NWT water policies. On March 4th, Dr. Schindler passed away at the age of 80. He was the leading Canadian water scientist who was instrumental in building our underlying knowledge of the effects that acid rain, climate change, long-range atmospheric transport of contaminants, and oil sands have on Canadian lakes and rivers. Dr. Schindler had a keen respect for the NWT. In a 2015 Globe and Mail article he wrote that "the water sources of the Northwest Territories make it one of the most important places in the world."

Dr. Schindler was an important part of the history of water science and policy in the NWT. He was a science advocate on the Northern River Basins Study, an expert witness during the review of the first diamond mine in the NWT, and twice a panel member for the Rosenberg International Forum that provided water policy advice to the Government of the Northwest Territories. He supported the development of the NWT water strategy and advised on the development of bilateral water management agreements with other Mackenzie River basin jurisdictions.

Dr. Schindler spent time in the North as both a scientist and a dog musher. He was a strong advocate for the inclusion of local and traditional knowledge in monitoring, research, and decision-making long before others. In the same 2015 Globe and Mail article, he wrote that many Indigenous people of the North talk about the water as the "beating heart of our land" and encouraged us all to think that way and work together to ensure that it beats for generations to come.

I want to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Dr. David Schindler, and on behalf of ENR, I would like to thank Dr. Schindler for his research on freshwater resources and advocacy for Indigenous people. It is my sincere hope that his legacy will also continue for generations to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Eulogy for Dr. David Schindler
Members' Statements

Page 2529

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Are thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time. Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 651-19(2): Medevac Services and Medical Escorts
Returns To Oral Questions

Page 2529

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a Return to Oral Question asked by the Member for Nunakput on March 10, 2021, regarding medevac services and medical escorts. From January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, there were 305 air ambulance transports from the Beaufort-Delta; 68 percent were sent to Inuvik Hospital, 29 percent were sent to Stanton Hospital, and 3 percent went to Edmonton.

Escort data is not available. It is tracked by the air ambulance contractors. In general, non-patients are not permitted on the plane, but an escort may be allowed if the patient is under 19 or if interpretation services are required in-flight. However, the final decision to permit an escort on the plane rests with the crew to assess and then decide, with a focus on ensuring the care and safety of the patient and that the crew is able to deliver the necessary services.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services system has evolved to provide a broad range of medical services. The department and the health authorities are completing an NWT Physician Workforce Plan, which has four years of engagement and inquiry behind it. The workforce plan considers the needs of the system and balances resource availability, such as the cost of air ambulances, while working towards a solution under the following principles:

  • Improve equity in access to physician services throughout the NWT;
  • Achieve continuity between family physicians and patients within multidisciplinary teams to ensure that people have access to the right category of practitioner at the right time;
  • Provide care as close to home as appropriate, including maximizing the use of virtual options when possible;
  • Meet standards for quality of care and wait times; and
  • Achieve sustainability.

I will share the details of the plan with all Members once a draft is finalized. At this time, the department, in collaboration with the authorities, is conducting an internal review of the medical travel programs escort policy and application. I will take into consideration the request to enhance the current policy to include escorts for all elders as part of this review. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 651-19(2): Medevac Services and Medical Escorts
Returns To Oral Questions

Page 2530

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Returns to oral questions. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Item 6, acknowledgements. Item 7, oral questions. Member for Nunakput.

Question 668-19(2): School Attendance
Oral Questions

Page 2530

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, my Member's statement was on the lack of attendance in our small communities, so I would like to see if the Minister is willing to come up to my riding of Nunakput and go on like a tour, and meet with the local DEAs and our local leadership in regard to encouraging our staff and encouraging the teachers on doing a good job that they're doing but encouraging the parents to get their kids to school. That being said, I'm inviting the Minister up to Nunakput as soon as possible. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 668-19(2): School Attendance
Oral Questions

Page 2530

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Question 668-19(2): School Attendance
Oral Questions

Page 2530

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the Member for bringing this up. Attendance is really at the heart of learning. If you're not in school, you're not going to be learning, and so there are constant discussions at the local DEA level, the DEC level, and the DECE level about how we can make improvements. A lot of the time, there are things outside of the school, and that's the reason students aren't coming. There is a lot of effort being put into ensuring that schools are welcoming, safe, caring spaces where students want to go. There are a number of other things, as well, but I'll just answer the Member's question. I have a trip to Fort Smith coming up, I have a trip to the Sahtu, and after that, my next stop will be Nunakput. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 668-19(2): School Attendance
Oral Questions

Page 2530

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Deh Cho.

Question 669-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Strategic Plan
Oral Questions

Page 2530

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. NTPC has had its work cut out for them since its inception in 1988. Supplying power to a vast territory covering the large landmass with a small population sure has its challenges. Can the Minister elaborate on how NTPC expects to cut greenhouse gas emissions when they are increasing diesel generating plants on top of what they currently have? Mahsi.

Question 669-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Strategic Plan
Oral Questions

Page 2530

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

Question 669-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Strategic Plan
Oral Questions

Page 2530

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First, I wish to thank the Member from Deh Cho for providing me with somewhat technical questions in advance so I would be able to answer the question that the Member is asking for. It's very appreciated. Renewables cannot be relied on to provide power when it is needed. NTPC must maintain enough diesel generation in each of the communities to ensure that lights stay on. That's very important. We also have a large number of diesel generators, and they do age and need to be replaced occasionally. Last week, Mr. Speaker, I did a statement on aging infrastructure, and we recognize that. When we do replace them, however, we use more efficient generators, which result in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Again, that's important, as well. Under our 2030 Energy Strategy, the GNWT has a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from diesel generation by 25 percent by 2023. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 669-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Strategic Plan
Oral Questions

Page 2530

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi to the Minister for that. The GNWT Infrastructure Department has an energy division that looks at alternate sources of energy. Perhaps they have information on biomass generating electricity. Can the Minister ensure NTPC collaborates with the energy division to come up with greenhouse gas emission-cutting alternative sources of generating electricity?