This is page numbers 2637 - 2658 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 community.

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, 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 2637

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 152-19(2): Update on Winter Road Season and Community Fuel Resupply
Ministers' Statements

March 31st, 2021

Page 2637

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, one of the priorities of our government is to make strategic infrastructure investments that connect communities, expand the economy, and reduce the cost of living. There are a number of initiatives being undertaken to support this priority, and one of these is to continue to seek ways to advance the construction of all-season roads such as the Mackenzie Valley Highway and the Tlicho Highway.

Mr. Speaker, investments in all-season roads may take time and money. Our government will continue to pursue these projects, but in the meantime, winter roads remain an essential part of the Northwest Territories' transportation system. Communities across the North rely heavily on these roads to ensure the movement of goods and people during colder months.

Today, I am pleased to provide an update on the 2021 winter road season and fuel resupply activities. Every year, highway crews in the Beaufort-Delta, the Sahtu, the Deh Cho, and the North Slave regions build and maintain 1,469 kilometres of winter roads, ice roads, and ice crossings that connect 11 communities that are not served by our all-season roads.

The Northwest Territories' short winter-road season is critical, as our winter roads are the primary way essential goods are delivered to remote communities. This access helps to diversify the Northwest Territories' economy, allows businesses to be more competitive, and lowers costs for northern residents. I would like to personally thank our highway crews across the territory for their hard work and dedication to opening and maintaining winter roads this past year, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. These crews overcame fluctuating temperatures and other impacts of climate change to get our winter roads operating and, in some cases, earlier than average opening dates.

To enhance the level of service on some of our winter roads, our government has also formed partnerships with the private sector. Specifically, we have an agreement with Enbridge Pipelines in which the company provides funding to the GNWT to accelerate the construction of the Tulita and Wrigley ice crossings on Highway No. 1 to support the movement of equipment.

Mr. Speaker, our government understands the importance of essential goods, such as fuel, for our residents and businesses in northern communities. Many communities rely heavily on diesel and gasoline for electricity generation, heating, and transportation. The GNWT is responsible for the purchase, transport, and storage of fuel for 16 communities here in the Northwest Territories that are not served by the private sector. Local contractors then sell and distribute these petroleum products to residents and businesses.

Despite the challenge of COVID-19, residents can rest assured that the GNWT will continue to deliver fuel while taking every precaution necessary to protect our communities. Our staff and contractors have put rigorous safety measures in place to minimize risks related to COVID, while following the orders and recommendations of the Chief Public Health Officer. This winter, the GNWT's first fuel delivery took place on February 1. It is expected that the fuel resupply will be completed by mid-March, with a total of 7.5 million litres of fuel delivered to seven communities.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the staff and contractors for keeping communities connected safely, efficiently, and reliably. Our government will continue to work with our public and private sector partners to maintain dependable supply of goods and services to our communities, while identifying opportunities to improve our operations and infrastructure. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 152-19(2): Update on Winter Road Season and Community Fuel Resupply
Ministers' Statements

Page 2637

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 153-19(2): Rendez-vous de la Francophonie
Ministers' Statements

Page 2637

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

[Translation] Mr. Speaker, I am proud to celebrate the francophone community of the Northwest Territories during the 23rd Annual Rendez-vous de la Francophonie. This nation-wide initiative, held every March, is an opportunity for Canada's 10 million French-speakers and all Canadians to celebrate and promote French language and culture.

Through this year's Rendez-vous de la Francophonie theme, Acadia, at the heart of my country, celebrations will highlight the fact that Acadia is the birthplace of Canada's Francophonie, while acknowledging the presence and contribution of Indigenous peoples in North America for thousands of years.

Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Francophone Affairs Secretariat. In response to COVID-19, they quickly adapted to provide prompt translations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their dedication has allowed our francophone residents to access important health information in French throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, this month the Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government have finalized a funding agreement to support French language services. This agreement provides a multi-year collaborative framework between Canada and the Northwest Territories in order to support the planning and delivery of quality French language communications and services. The agreement also ensures stability and continuity in the delivery of services to the French residents of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, our diverse French population adds a cultural richness to our communities. I am proud of our ongoing efforts to support our Francophone residents and to strengthen the diversity of our territory. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Translation ends]

Minister's Statement 153-19(2): Rendez-vous de la Francophonie
Ministers' Statements

Page 2637

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 154-19(2): Additional Funding for Community Governments
Ministers' Statements

Page 2637

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Sorry. I'll be doing my statement in English; I won't be doing it in Slavey. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to update the Members on the progress that we have made with our commitment to reduce the municipal funding gap and the additional funding support that has been provided for community governments. This government committed to reducing the funding gap by $5 million, and we have made significant progress on this goal. This past fiscal year we added $2.5 million of ongoing funding for community governments.

Earlier this year, Municipal and Community Affairs engaged with the Northwest Territories Association of Communities to identify how best to strategically invest this new funding. Knowing that the largest funding gap is in community public infrastructure, it was decided that this funding would be allocated to this priority. This additional funding, therefore, is ear marked for those 19 community governments who have capital funding gaps. In addition to the infrastructure investment, an additional $740,000 has been approved in the 2021-2022 budget, which MACA is allocating to the environmental services fund to support community governments with the delivery of water, sewer, and solid waste services for residents.

Mr. Speaker, our mandate commitment is more than just a funding initiative. It also includes a commitment to provide communities with new opportunities to raise additional revenue. In 2021, MACA, along with the Department of Lands and the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs, have been developing a process guide for municipal governments to manage lands within their municipal boundaries. As part of this process, we are also considering current Government of the Northwest Territories policies and procedures that may require amendments. The transfer of lands would better position municipal governments to have administration and control of lands within their community, remove barriers for land transfers, allowing communities to advance their own priorities for land development, and present more own-source revenue opportunities. MACA's commitment also includes working with communities to reduce or stabilize the cost of delivering core programs and services.

This summer, we will be working with communities in the Beaufort-Delta and Sahtu regions to coordinate removal of hazardous waste stockpiles within their landfills. This project, as part of the implementation of the Northwest Territories Waste Resource Management Strategy, will reduce contamination of Northwest Territories lands and extend the lifespans of community landfills. Work will continue in other regions as federal funding has been applied for to continue this work.

We are also working towards implementing the Northwest Territories asset management strategy for communities. The asset management strategy will provide communities with more information to implement best practices, improve maintenance, and lower costs due to equipment failures and emergency repairs. MACA has already trained six communities to use a computerized asset management program and have plans for up to seven more in 2021.

Mr. Speaker, with the additional investment for community governments, I am proud to say that we are well on our way to meet our mandate commitment. The department will continue to advance this mandate commitment in future years to include the remaining $1.7 million to reach the total mandate investment of $5 million. We know the challenges that our community governments are facing, and we will continue to advocate and support them to address their priorities wherever possible. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 154-19(2): Additional Funding for Community Governments
Ministers' Statements

Page 2638

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Housing Announcements
Members' Statements

Page 2638

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to talk about the welcomed news from the NWT Housing Corporation regarding new houses set to be built within the riding of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and across the territories. Last week, Minister Chinna, along with MP Michael McLeod and the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, all made a joint announcement about the allocation of funds to construct 60 new homes for several NWT communities. That's awesome.

Mr. Speaker, of those 60 housing units, 10 will be constructed within my constituency, which includes four for Lutselk'e, four for Deninu Kue, and two for Ndilo and Dettah. I am very happy to hear that these new houses will begin construction this year. I know that there are long waiting lists in all of my communities for people looking for housing, so I know that this project will help alleviate our strong housing demand.

Mr. Speaker, when I was writing this last night, I watched a show and maybe changed my Member's statement a little. I watched a show called New Amsterdam. It's a medical drama. There was this doctor, a real humanitarian, dealt with a homeless person. It is fictional, of course, but it made me really think about this. When dealing with this patient, they discovered this patient was homeless and racked up a huge amount of money to this hospital, $1 million testing, psychiatric evaluations, blood tests, you name it. It turns out, after a good visit with the doctor, this homeless person just needed a place to stay. You can't help but wonder what the unforeseen costs are for our systems, like Justice and Health and Social Services. All we need to do is just give somebody a key to go into an apartment or a home. Shelter is so important and feeling safe. It is so important for our mental health.

With this announcement, I think that we should scream this from the top of the hills here. I think this is huge, this announcement. It will take a huge bite out of our mandate items and move in that direction. It's something tangible. We sit back, and we have a healthy tension back and forth in this Chamber, but I think this is something we could really announce as a group and give people hope. I think that's so important moving forward: hope. Show the people in the Territories that we can work as a team and do some good. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Housing Announcements
Members' Statements

Page 2638

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Happy Easter
Members' Statements

Page 2638

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I just want to wish everybody back home and in the House: happy Easter. Have a good weekend with our families. My son's back home in the Delta, so we are looking forward to a spring hunt and fishing. Looking forward to that, getting excited to get home. To all our constituents in the Delta and Nunakput, please have a safe spring. Enjoy your time here with your families.

I took part myself. We went down and watched the dog races last weekend. I would like to congratulate Grant Beck and Richard Beck and Brent for first, second, and third. Brent is the 150-mile champion for the NWT, so congratulations to him. I know him really well, and I know how hard he worked to get there. All the mushers who took part in that Canadian championship with even the one- and two-dog, the little kids racing, it's always good to see up-and-coming dog mushers.

It has been a long session, Mr. Speaker. This last eight weeks, we did a lot of good work. We worked together to get the session and the budget passed, and there are a lot of good things coming. I want to thank our government and our leadership. Keep moving forward and keep it up, working with our colleagues on this side of the House. I am looking forward to keeping on keeping on.

Mr. Speaker, still, we are in COVID-19 times. Please, everybody back home, get your vaccine and follow the rules of the public health officer and just be safe. Have a good spring, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to seeing you back in the Delta. Thank you.

Happy Easter
Members' Statements

Page 2638

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Hear, hear. Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Budget Reflections
Members' Statements

Page 2638

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. It has been another long, arduous year, ending with capital acquisition plans, business plans, and the cream of the crop, the main estimates. These exercises are a necessary evil as they set the departmental budgets for the upcoming new fiscal year. What I mean by "necessary evil" is the many long hours reviewing departmental budgets and then doing it all over again in its final stages during the Committee of the Whole. This entailed all 19 Members to be present and work together to come up with the final budget that is somewhat satisfactory to Regular MLAs on this side of the House and satisfies the needs of the departments and Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker, one of the great benefits of this exercise is that we can all talk the same language, working for the benefit of all of the residents of the Northwest Territories. When we can work together on budget issues and agree to provide more financial resources for programs and services, it is the residents who win. Similarly, it falls upon us all to dig deep to find the financial resources to cover those extra costs as noted by the Finance Minister.

The residents of the Northwest Territories need to know this Legislative Assembly has their best interests at heart, that this Legislative Assembly continues to investigate economic opportunities that will benefit northern businesses, which in turn benefit the residents of the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Budget Reflections
Members' Statements

Page 2638

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Hear, hear. Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.