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

Question 675-19(2): Industry, Tourism and Investment Cover Lease Fees for Lodge Owners
Oral Questions

Page 2533

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. I will take that as a comment. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

March 12th, 2021

Page 2533

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When we set out our Emerging Wisely Plan, I believe we moved into phase 2 a long time ago, it feels like; summer or May, I believe. My concern is, we've kind of been in phase 2 for a while, but there have been more and more exemptions and more and more tweaks, and I think we're kind of in phase 2.5 right now. When I review the Emerging Wisely Plan, it seems we have met a lot of the targets to enter phase 3, so my question for the Minister of Health and Social Services is: what are the requirements to enter phase 3, or what needs to happen in order for us to reach phase 3? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the question. Some of the things that we need to look at in order to advance both the relaxation of internal restrictions and the relaxation of the border include things such as vaccine uptake in the NWT and what the science says about how effective the vaccines are to stop the transmission of the virus. We know the vaccines are effective to stop severe illness, but we don't know whether, once you have the vaccine, you can still carry the virus with you. You could still be exposed, and then carry the virus with you to another location. We have a significant portion of the population under 18 who have not received any vaccines, and we don't have the science yet on which vaccines may be useful for them. We have been looking, of course, at the variants. The variant numbers are growing in some southern jurisdictions. I last heard that 40 percent of the new cases in Ontario are variant cases. There are new variants in addition to the ones from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil, so that's another consideration.

What the Chief Public Health Officer has said is that, once we know more about these variables and once we have as much vaccine uptake as we hope for, which is 75 percent of the adult population, we will then be in a position to move into phase 3, and she said yesterday that she thought that would happen at the end of April. Thank you.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

I'm glad to understand some of the input such as vaccines and variants and how it works with under-18s, but one of my concerns is that, when we created the Emerging Wisely Plan, we didn't know what vaccines we were using. There was barely any talk of variants. The plan was largely created without considering these. I'm not sure that phase 3 is exactly where we want to go, anyway. I believe I'm hearing longer timelines for reopening the borders, different restrictions, so I don't get the sense that we're moving into the exact prescribed phase 3 as per a plan created months ago. I note some jurisdictions have been tweaking their plans. When this was first released, it was described as bit of a living document, but we haven't seen those changes. Is the Minister willing to set out a new plan and a new timeline that factors in things like variants and vaccines, that sets out what the next year of COVID-19 could potentially look like?

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

This is my very first pandemic, and it is for the CPHO, as well. What she's been doing is working with the information that is available at the time. Certainly, Emerging Wisely now looks like an outdated document because so much has happened in the last 10 months or so since it came out. It's my understanding that she is, in fact, reviewing the plan and she plans to update it, and that that work will be with us publicly towards the end of April.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

I'm glad to hear that, and I think we all recognize that there's a lot happening. The public, I think, just wants a plan. They want to see not an outdated one is the main concern, and I think it's causing a lot of anxiety. One of my concerns is that, whenever we ask these questions in the House of the Minister of health, there's this arms-length nature of the Chief Public Health Officer, and everything depends on when that decision will be made by that office. As such, it can be hard for the Minister or ourselves to give directions such as to have a new plan. Can the Minister speak to how we compare to other jurisdictions in regard to the arm's-length nature of the Chief Public Health Officer? Because I know this is not how everyone is treating the arm's-length nature of public health.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

The Member is right. It's variable in the legislation across the country, which is directed at the provincial and territorial level. We have a CPHO; other places have a Chief Medical Officer. Some of them have a lot more autonomy than others, different reporting relationships, so really the only thing that matters is our own legislation and the powers that it gives the CPHO to manage a public health emergency. Are they the right powers? Are they being used properly? Are they the most effective response? I think these are all really great questions that we will revisit when the pandemic is over.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Yellowknife North.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I recognize we have to have those conversations, but I also think it needs to be very clear exactly where that line lies under our current legislation. For example, right now, the Minister is responsible for renewing the public health emergency every two weeks. That is solely at the discretion of the Minister, on advice of the CPHO. Can the Minister speak to whether any policy direction gets given every two weeks when there is a decision to renew that emergency or not? Can the Minister say, "Yes, I will renew the emergency, but please give us a new updated plan with your recommendations?" Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

I don't provide direction of the kind that the Member has discussed to the CPHO. She is a medical doctor. She has specialized training to assess the risk and decide how to respond to it. We do meet often. We have a committee of Cabinet that is related to COVID. We have specific meetings that involve myself, the Premier, and the Minister of Finance, and so we discuss issues at play. At the end of the day, we provide our input, but we are not in a position to direct her to open borders, to produce a plan, to reduce self-isolation to seven days. Those are not options that are available to us, for a couple of reasons. One is the structure of our legislation. The second is that we have invested her with the authority to manage this pandemic from her skill set and knowledge, and so she is best placed to do that. I don't think you want me to do that, or the Premier to do that. What we're doing is investing that authority in her, and we are providing input.

When this new updated Emerging Wisely Plan is ready, I have no doubt it will be presented to the Regular Members for their comment. At the end of the day, she assesses the pandemic; she makes the public health orders that affect things such as self-isolation, border closures, and so on. We need to respect her authority because, as a matter of fact, what she has proposed so far has been very effective. Thank you.

Question 676-19(2): Emerging Wisely Phase 3
Oral Questions

Page 2533

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Hay River South.

Question 677-19(2): Independent Living for Seniors
Oral Questions

Page 2533

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier, I had a conversation with the Minister of health about the small apartments or buildings that they have for independent living for seniors. We're looking at a shift to having seniors age at home, but it's not the only answer; it's part of a number of solutions. One area that I do like is having facilities or small, independent buildings beside the extended-care facilities where they could have additional and timely support, so I would ask the Minister: what are the benefits and what is the success of some of the buildings that have been in place for a number of years? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 677-19(2): Independent Living for Seniors
Oral Questions

Page 2533

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 677-19(2): Independent Living for Seniors
Oral Questions

Page 2534

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you. Mr. Speaker, homecare, of course, is not new. It has been offered for years. We recently had the program reviewed by a third party, and they came up with some very strong recommendations for us to look closely at homecare services, what services we provide, where, and when. Those recommendations are going to be implemented within the life of this Assembly. The building piece is not really the Health and Social Services Department piece. It's really up to the NWT Housing Corporation. A few weeks ago, I went with the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation to Fort Good Hope to attend the opening of their new seniors' facility. It's not a long-term care facility; it's an independent-living facility. It's a building with nine units. I'm going to say the units are around about 650 square feet. They have linoleum floors, and everything is very accessible, with wide doorways, low counters, you can drive your wheelchair into the shower, and so on. They're really set up for people to age in place; you'd be able to stay there for a long time, and there wouldn't be any renovations necessary.

The Housing Corporation provided that half. The other half is that there are people who are going to move into that centre who need homecare, and that's the part that the Department of Health and Social Services, through NTHSSA, provides. We are very interested in expanding that partnership to other places. For example, yesterday, the Member for Nunakput talked about that in Ulukhaktok, and that, in fact, may be the answer for Ulukhaktok, that there is a building with a number of units in it where people can live independently with the support of homecare in that community rather than living in long-term care, which is more nursing-heavy and more for people who have very complex or ongoing needs that need 24/7 care. Thank you.