This is page numbers 2243 - 2298 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 2243

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, before we begin today, I just wanted to say a few words. As Speaker of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, I wish to convey my condolences to the family of Darius Elias, the Vuntut Gwitchin people, and the Yukon Legislative Assembly. A celebration of life for Mr. Elias is being held this afternoon in Whitehorse.

Mr. Elias served as MLA for the Vuntut Gwitchin riding in Yukon for 10 years. He also served as deputy chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin. His riding included the community of Old Crow, a part of the Yukon with deep connections to the Gwich'in people and communities of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Elias was well known and respected on both sides of the Yukon and Northwest Territories border. Known as much for his humour as for his intellect, he was a strong advocate for the Gwich'in people and the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. His presence, laughter, and leadership will be missed, not to mention his love for hockey. Many of the Members here knew Mr. Elias and became great good friends with him. He will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and community at this time. Mahsi. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 124-19(2): Acknowledgement of Engineering and Geoscience Week
Ministers' Statements

Page 2243

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, professional engineers and geoscientists play an essential role in the growth and development of the Northwest Territories. They help address our society's needs and solve our problems. Their work is evident all around us in our buildings, highways, and airports; our safe drinking water; in our power and communications; and in our mapping and resource development in the North, just to name a few. These professions play an important role in achieving our priorities under the mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories 2019-2023, such as making strategic infrastructure investments that connect communities and investing in alternative and renewable energy.

Mr. Speaker, professional engineering is at the core of the Department of Infrastructure. Engineering and Geoscience Week is an opportunity to express appreciation to the professional engineers and geoscientists who work hard every day, often in challenging environments, to protect public interest and safety and to improve our quality of life. The Northwest Territories and the Nunavut Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists, or NAPEG, will be celebrating their annual Engineering and Geoscience Week from February 27 to March 6, 2021. Normally, youth engagement, networking, and professional development activities would be taking place in person, but this year the venue has shifted to a virtual space. The focus is to improve public awareness of the important role that these professionals have in the North.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Infrastructure recently took over the responsibility for administering the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act from the Department of Justice. This will allow for legislation to be administered by a department that has knowledge and experience with the work of professionals to whom the legislation applies. We look forward to working with NAPEG and other stakeholders to review the act and to see what changes may be required so that it is responsive and reflective of the current needs of the public, the professionals, and the industry.

Mr. Speaker, later this sitting, I will be tabling the Good Building Practice for Northern Facilities 2020 manual. The 2020 Good Building Practice manual is an extensive update to the 2009 edition and incorporates 10 years of research and development in new codes and standards, which many of the Northwest Territories' registered engineers and technicians contributed to. It adds new sections for environmental regulations; climate change; and civil, environmental, geotechnical, and hazardous building material assessment considerations. It contains updated recommendations for more sustainable development, improvements in energy conservation, accessibility, as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation for northern buildings. Managing the full lifecycle of infrastructure in the North requires a deep awareness and understanding of the unique challenges and risks arising from harsh climate conditions. The new edition of the manual illustrates the complexities that may be encountered when planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining infrastructure in remote cold regions.

This manual supplements the objectives of the national codes and standards and presents a compilation of best practices and requirements developed by many decades of experience designing and building in cold regions. It also incorporates new technologies and methods for northern infrastructure and is expected to benefit a broad range of stakeholders beyond the Government of the Northwest Territories, such as owners, developers, planners, designers, builders, as well as suppliers, building maintainers and operators. In preparing the updated Good Building Practice manual, the GNWT has drawn upon the experience of numerous individuals from within the Department of Infrastructure, other GNWT departments, and private sector agencies. Many of them contributed technical writing and comments to this guidebook. We hope this kind of shared learning experience and cooperation effort can continue during the production of future editions.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to recognize the Northwest Territories' past and present engineering and geoscience professionals. Their curiosity and creativity have led to the countless contributions that we enjoy today and will undoubtedly play an important role in solving the challenges to come. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 124-19(2): Acknowledgement of Engineering and Geoscience Week
Ministers' Statements

Page 2243

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 125-19(2): Firefighter Recognition
Ministers' Statements

Page 2243

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The safety of our residents is a priority for the Government of the Northwest Territories. Through the Office of the Fire Marshal and the Emergency Management Organization, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs supports communities in building local capacity to respond to emergencies. Fires can place a heavy burden on families, communities, and governments. Providing fire services in the North is challenging for all community governments given our remote locations, limited access to resources, and harsh environment.

Mr. Speaker, in order to deliver fire services, the NWT relies heavily on volunteer firefighters. The delivery of fire prevention and fire protection services in our communities would not be possible without the many career and volunteer firefighters across the Northwest Territories and their significant contribution. This is a tough job. Thankfully, we have many individuals who take on this duty.

There is a tremendous commitment required to be a volunteer firefighter. These individuals:

  • sacrifice time away from their families and friends;
  • must attend training to keep their skills fresh in order to safely respond to calls;
  • have a role in educating residents to how they can protect themselves from fires;
  • respond to and investigate the cause of fires; and
  • have a role in inspecting our buildings to ensure people can get out safely.

Mr. Speaker, given this very important role that firefighters have, it is essential that we recognize and acknowledge the efforts of those who provide these services that contribute to our safety and security.

  • The first is a Long Service Recognition Program, which awards recipients of the Northwest Territories for fire services with medals and pins for years of service; and
  • The second is the NWT Fire Service Merit Award. This award is presented to individual firefighters and community fire departments who have made significant contributions to the Northwest Territories fire services and community fire protection.

Mr. Speaker, today, I want to highlight the service of one of the Northwest Territories' most outstanding volunteers and to celebrate the recipient of the 2020 NWT Fire Service Merit Award, Mr. David Bernhardt. The community of Inuvik nominated Mr. Bernhardt for his contributions to the NWT fire service and an incredible 40 years of dedicated service to the Inuvik residents.

Originally from Cape Dyer, Nunavut, Mr. Bernhardt moved to Inuvik with his family early in the 1960s. He joined the Inuvik Fire Department in 1980 and has served as a firefighter, lieutenant, captain, and deputy fire chief. In 2019, his colleagues bestowed him with the Canadian Municipal Long Service Award, which recognizes achievements of long-serving volunteer firefighters in our communities across Canada.

Today, Mr. Bernhardt remains an active member of the fire department, sharing his history and knowledge as a mentor to junior firefighters. Although he no longer is a front-line firefighter, he currently ensures exterior firefighting operations run efficiently and, more importantly, maintains a calm and steady presence, with a watchful eye that provides for the safety of everyone on the fire scenes.

Mr. Bernhardt does not know when he will retire from volunteer firefighting, but he considers his fellow firefighters as family and loves to contribute in any way that he can. Firefighter Bernhardt is a unique and admirable individual, and so I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on receiving the 2020 Fire Service Merit Aware. I also want to thank all firefighters across the Northwest Territories for their dedication and their commitment in making us safer. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 125-19(2): Firefighter Recognition
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Public Restroom Facilities on Highway No. 3 between Behchoko and Yellowknife
Members' Statements

Page 2244

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] Today, while I stand here, I want to talk on behalf of the elders. A lot of the elderly ladies have spoken to me of how the road comes, and also, whenever we have an all-season road, a lot of the elderly ladies are very concerned about how come they don't have safety, on behalf of the elders. Mr. Speaker, I will speak in English. [Translation ends]

I want to speak about the issue that, for reasons you will soon understand, rarely makes it to these hallowed walls. Some might be tempted to laugh, but it's deadly serious, as you will see. It's about toilets, Mr. Speaker, public toilets. I'm referring to the provision of lavatories on the most travelled section of road in the Northwest Territories, Highway No. 3. The problem is that there are no restrooms or toilets. I'm talking about the 100-kilometre stretch of Highway No. 3 between Behchoko and Yellowknife, and when the winter road opens up to the outlying communities, that's even further.

There is not a single gas station or restroom on the whole, entire road, Mr. Speaker. I talked earlier about the very unfortunate death on Highway No. 3 of my constituent, the late Kelly Washie. When Kelly got out of the car on the roadside last New Year's Eve, I'm sorry to say that it was to relieve himself. That's when he was tragically hit. This is the most tragic consequence of there not being public washrooms or restrooms on this highway, but in fact, not a day passes when the absence of public restrooms is not illuminated in the most urgent way because, Mr. Speaker, for some, especially the most vulnerable elders, elderly women, and especially children, sometimes an hour and a half, two hours, two and a half hours, or even from Wekweeti, it's even further, almost five or seven hours; way too long to wait. What does your mother, your wife, your sister, and your little daughter do then, Mr. Speaker? I will have questions for the appropriate Minister at the appropriate time. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Public Restroom Facilities on Highway No. 3 between Behchoko and Yellowknife
Members' Statements

Page 2244

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Agriculture
Members' Statements

Page 2244

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to focus on some positive news that relates to an important sector of the economy which can greatly impact our residents' access to fresh and reasonably priced products in the Northwest Territories. That sector is agriculture. This government developed an agricultural strategy in 2017 with overall goals of building a relevant and viable agriculture industry; providing support for the safe, sustainable development of food production systems; support to advance and contribute to the sustainability of NWT communities; encourage and support the transfer of food production skills; and increase availability of local food for northern residents.

Recently the federal and territorial governments provided three, I am proud to say, Hay River businesses with grants to assist in the expansion and growing of their businesses in the agricultural sector. Riverside Growers, received $118,642; Greenwood Gardens received $111,174; and Choice North Foods received $180,000. It is support such as this which will encourage others to view the agriculture sector not only as a hobby, but just as importantly, as a business that provides jobs and promotes healthy homegrown agricultural products.

Mr. Speaker, I know that those who are taking on the challenge of promoting and producing agriculture products, not only in Hay River, but throughout the Northwest Territories, are to be commended for outstanding work and dedication. When one looks at the climate of the Northwest Territories, agriculture seems like an industry that does not belong here. However, many Northerners are showing and proving that, through advancement in technology, our need to provide residents with access to fresh and reasonably priced foods, along with the passion they have for the industry, agriculture is alive and well in the NWT. Not only do we have those businesses producing foods, but we have those that are supplying infrastructure, such as greenhouses, production equipment, training, and research development.

The agricultural industry in the Northwest Territories requires this government's continued support, both financially and in kind, if we expect it to develop, grow, and become sustainable. I would encourage all of you in this room to visit Hay River this summer. Visit with the people and businesses that are providing agricultural products and services. Stop by the fisherman's wharf on Saturdays during the summer months and pick up some fresh produce, eggs, fish, and have a taste of Hay River. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Agriculture
Members' Statements

Page 2244

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Indigenous People
Members' Statements

Page 2244

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to start with a quote made on February 4, 2021, by Marc Miller, the federal Minister of Indigenous Services, on defending the decision to prioritize Indigenous people in the roll out of the vaccine: "The decision to prioritize Indigenous people living in remote communities, but also in other parts of the country, including those living in urban centres, is based on science. It's not a matter of politics or opinion." Why is it, Mr. Speaker, that Indigenous people have not been placed on the priority list in the NWT, if our federal Minister is defending this publicly?

I am aware that the entire of what we call in the NWT small or remote communities have been prioritized in the NWT, which is a great start, but I am sure, when the federal Minister said "remote Indigenous communities," Inuvik, Hay River, and Fort Smith would fall under that term, coming from Ottawa. Why haven't the mostly Indigenous regional centres been on this priority list? Yesterday's announcement of the expanded priority groups still do not have Indigenous people without falling into all the other additional priority lists in other communities and urban centres, which I would consider Yellowknife to be in the Northwest Territories.

Inuvik is an Indigenous community. It is a designated Gwich'in community under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim, as well as an Inuvialuit community under the Inuvialuit Land Claim Agreement. It can't get more Indigenous than that, can it? I am also questioning why a two-week scheduled clinic was changed in my community to one week a month ago, and the vaccine for the second week was then designated for Yellowknife. Was this based on science?

Yesterday, it came to my attention that non-resident mine workers may be prioritized or considered for vaccines in the Northwest Territories. I hope this is not the case, Mr. Speaker, not before Indigenous people and the people of the Northwest Territories. I know that there are NWT residents working out at the mines, but non-resident employees should have to get their vaccine in their home province, not by receiving doses for NWT residents that are shipped to the Northwest Territories. I say maybe put some COVID cops at the mines so they follow the rules as well as we have to in the rest of the territory. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Indigenous People
Members' Statements

Page 2244

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Housing for Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 2244

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I am going to talk about seniors' housing in the NWT and speak once again about the Core Need Income Threshold. Twenty years ago, the NWT Housing Corporation created a seniors' housing strategy. The strategy was created to address the needs of seniors in a number of areas, which included over-crowded public housing units while families remained on waiting lists; a lack of proper senior housing; and a lack of public housing units built specifically for seniors.

In the 20 years since this seniors' housing strategy was implemented, the NWT has seen some improvements within these areas, such as more senior public housing being available today than before. However, senior housing needs have only increased along with the increased population of seniors in the NWT. I believe that the NWT Housing Corporation needs to once again create a seniors' housing strategy. Building upon the previous strategy, we must create a modern strategy that won't discriminate against any seniors, period. Right now, any senior or senior couple whose income is above the Core Need Income Threshold will not be eligible for public housing. Seniors in this boat must find housing by themselves.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Core Need Income Threshold exists to help low-income people find housing. However, I think this means test needs to be dropped when it comes to seniors. As I said in a Member's statement last month, some seniors may demonstrate on paper that they are financially capable of finding housing by their own means. However, that should not be the sole determining factor for whether seniors should get help finding housing. For example, some seniors have dysfunctional family members who depend on their parents or grandparents for food, shelter, and other needs. In these situations, the monthly income for seniors dwindles quickly, leaving them far less income to address their own necessities. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted.

Housing for Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 2245

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In closing, the needs of seniors are diverse and unique, but our housing policies need to reflect that reality. We need to re-evaluate how we help seniors find suitable housing for their situations. It cannot be just about income. As I said last month, we need to consider something like a universal flat rate for all seniors in public housing. I will have questions for the housing Minister later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.