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

Easter Message
Members' Statements

Page 2638

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today is our last sitting day of this session until we return at the end of May. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all of the essential workers throughout all regions of the NWT. I want to thank all the medical personnel in all NWT medical facilities, which includes everyone from the janitors, the nurses, and the doctors, to the specialists, patient advocates, and social workers, among others.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank all of my colleagues, both the Regular Members' side and on the Cabinet side, for understanding what I am about and for putting up with me and my sometimes-harsh line of questioning. We may not always agree on issues, but we never let personal animosity get in the way of getting things done. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to once again thank all of the staff here at the Legislative Assembly as well as my own staff, my constituency assistants, Priscilla Lepine and Pascal Erasmus. Staff play a key role in functions of good governance, so I thank them for their work and their dedication. I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker. I also want to wish everyone a very happy Easter, and as always, I thank the amazing constituents of Fort Smith for the honour of being your MLA for Thebacha. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Easter Message
Members' Statements

Page 2638

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Public Access to Petroleum Rights Information
Members' Statements

March 31st, 2021

Page 2638

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. While attempting to drill down into the Husky Oil significant discovery licence, pun intended, I was astounded at how difficult it is to find any useful and accessible information about how our government actually administers oil and gas rights.

ITI does not seem to have implemented its new responsibilities with the changes to the Petroleum Resources Act. While much of the secrecy surrounding rights management was supposed to be fixed, it is virtually impossible to get any coherent information on specific oil and gas rights holdings. There are three separate listings or web pages for information on oil and gas rights rather than a user-friendly integrated database or public registry. There is a series of web pages on monthly oil and gas rights activities, which is little more than a listing of licence numbers and their disposition, no maps, no company names, no actual dates, just a lumping together of licence numbers. A second and unlinked set of pages has listings of the licences and the actual documents. The listings are searchable by disposition type and the name of the company, but there are no data associated with the listings, such as dates, areas covered, work performed, or whatever. Lastly, there is a series of dated maps that have tables of licence data that are not linked or user friendly. These come from the previous calls for expressions of interest in petroleum development. Those have all failed to raise any interest since devolution. Elsewhere, you can find the annual oil and gas reports, that have very busy maps in them, but none of this is linked in any way to the licence or activity listings.

Mr. Speaker, there is no searchable, user-friendly, integrated public registry for petroleum rights. Surely to goodness, seven years after devolution and 19 months after the transparency provisions were passed in the House to provide stronger accountability in petroleum rights reporting, we can and should be able to do a lot better. There are lots of good examples out there that show how transparent and well-organized public registries can be set up, for example the ones managed by the Land and Water Boards or the Mackenzie Valley Review Board. I will have questions for the Minister of ITI on how we can improve public access to information on petroleum rights. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Public Access to Petroleum Rights Information
Members' Statements

Page 2639

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Northern Students
Members' Statements

Page 2639

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Employment within the public sector is one of the main topics I hear about from my constituents after housing. Recently, I heard from a student who after receiving an offer of employment was being told that she now had to prove that she is "the right type of Indigenous" as she was born in Nunavut. An indigenous engineering student on the path we encourage our youth to take and still she is asked to "prove herself" for a summer job. This is not okay. Speaking with other northern students and recent graduates, I'm bombarded with stories that detail the barriers to gaining employment by one of the largest northern employers, our government.

One such story is that of Kerri, born and raised in Yellowknife, who graduated from Sir John Franklin High School and studied graphic design. Kerri was a product of the Student Financial Assistance program and studied design for four years, when she maxed out her SFA benefits. During her post-graduate design studies, she was recruited by CBC National News, working with them for a time before coming home. Shortly after returning to the North, a position was available in the GNWT for a graphic designer. Kerri applied for this position but was not successful. Upon appealing the decision process, she learned that this position was awarded to a Southerner by direct appointment. This is a perfect example of a qualified Priority 2 Northerner being passed over for a position within the GNWT and failing to be protected by the system that had been developed to ensure qualified Northerners have meaningful employment.

SFA needs to work hand in hand with human resources, proactively advising them of graduates and their professions. The GNWT is paying for this education, and our talented northern students must be viewed as an investment in our future. We often hear from Cabinet that the North does not produce educated people in fields that can be utilized by the GNWT, leading to southern hiring. We only have to look at several current and past deputy ministers to see that we don't make northern candidates a priority when developing our human resources.

While hiring from the South may not hurt the GNWT fiscally as every new resident means more in federal transfer payments; however, what are the indirect losses: the historic knowledge that's lost each time someone leaves a role; the impact on staff with each new manager or employee; or the impact on project work as southern science and methods are applied out of ignorance or lack of experience. Additionally, many southern hires only stay between two and five years. How much do we lose paying fees for recruitment, relocation costs, administration costs, et cetera? Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Northern Students
Members' Statements

Page 2639

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The GNWT needs to take a hard look at our employment strategy, to incorporate not only our northern graduates upon their return, but to ensure that Northerners and people committed to the North are able to advance in the public sector. An integrated strategy is needed that involves not only HR, but incorporates the input of and data collected by ECE and SSA so that we are proactive about our work force. This strategy should identify future employment trends and identify pathways to help Northerners work towards their employment goals and include cross-training, mentorship, and networking and job shadowing opportunities, as well as succession planning. Only when we invest in our people will we have a successful North. Thank you.

Northern Students
Members' Statements

Page 2639

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Fire Services on the Ingraham Trail
Members' Statements

Page 2639

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In October 2020, the City of Yellowknife voted to end fire services on the Ingraham Trail. The most frustrating part of that decision was that residents were only given six months to find an alternate solution. I implored the Minister during the multiple city council votes to send someone from MACA to ask for more time, knowing full well that the GNWT could not find a solution within six months, but GNWT bureaucracy doesn't move quickly and the idea of someone approaching city council to pitch a case without going up and down eight levels of bureaucracy first was an impossibility. Additionally, it seemed that finding a solution before April 1st was an impossibility, despite the best intentions of the Minister.

I have repeatedly been told that a solution would be found before April 1st. In this House on February 23rd in this session, the Minister said, "I made a commitment that we will find a solution by April 1st." Well, Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is April 1st, and if your house is on fire on the Ingraham Trail and you call 911, no one is going to show up.

Mr. Speaker, the solution that has been presented was an options paper last week, where it has $1.7 million up front and $1.2 million annually to be paid completely by residents of the Ingraham Trail. If this is the solution the Minister had in mind the whole time, I could have saved the department a lot of time by saying that no one was going to go for that. If this was a multi-million-dollar problem, I could have said to the department and my residents that this wasn't going to happen back in October.

The department is now asking residents of the trail to pay $4,000 a year for fire services. This would be one of the highest taxes in the Northwest Territories. The department is of the position that all of this money must be recovered directly from residents. I can't think of a single tax in this territory that is completely recovered by residents; 85 percent of our budget comes from the federal government.

The majority of our communities' government funding comes from ours, yet this one issue is to be completely recovered at a cost of $1.2 million for one fire a year, Mr. Speaker.

I don't know that solution the department had in mind. Mr. Speaker, rather than prepare for the incoming loss of services, residents trusted the Minister at their word and waited on the government when they said they would solve this problem. I am disappointed in the options paper and in this outcome. I was confused about what MACA was thinking was going on the entire time, and, Mr. Speaker, I'm disappointed we broke the trust of our residents. I will have questions for the Minister of MACA about what can be done going forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Fire Services on the Ingraham Trail
Members' Statements

Page 2639

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Illicit Drug Trade
Members' Statements

Page 2639

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My statement will be in English. I have received numerous concerns from residents in Hay River with respect to the illicit drug trade and drug use in the community. Throughout the pandemic, we have heard stories of persons travelling back and forth across the border who are known drug dealers or persons known to be running drugs. How do we know? It is because our community is small, people talk, and most everyone knows everyone. With enough information, one is able to cut out the fiction and put together some semblance of truth of what is really happening on the ground.

We have heard how, throughout the pandemic, this government has been providing these dealers and runners with repetitive 14 days of free accommodation and meals while they worked their trade. To add insult to injury, with support from the NWT Housing Corporation, these dealers are provided with public housing. Why? Because they are on the housing list and we have to be fair with allocation of units. Input from housing board members with local knowledge is not taken into account because policy trumps general knowledge.

These dealers are targeting our Indigenous youth. Why? Because Indigenous youth are more exposed to recruitment and organized crime. All we have to do is look at the court docket and see who is filling our correctional centres. If this is to change then we have to provide Indigenous youth with positive role models; with a positive home life; with a positive learning environment; with safe places to participate in extracurricular activities; with protection from dealers beyond no contact orders; with timely access to mental health and addictions support; and with meaningful jobs.

Mr. Speaker, the local drug trade today is much different than that of the past. It is organized; it has financial resources; it has weapons; it has an effective recruitment process; it is not troubled by authority; and it does not care who it hurts. Why do our youth want to belong in such an organization? It provides a false sense of acceptance, an acceptance not received at home, among peers, or by society. It is a need of belonging which we, as family and society, have failed to provide.

The community of Hay River has lost a number of its youth to drugs and the drug trade, and we continue to let this happen. As families mourn, they ask: what are the police doing? What are the courts doing? What are our local and territorial politicians doing? Where are the supports? If there was ever a time to get serious about this issue, it is now. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Illicit Drug Trade
Members' Statements

Page 2639

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Addictions Centre Required
Members' Statements

Page 2640

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, my statement will be regarding we're losing a lot of young people in the Northwest Territories and also in the Tlicho Nation. There is a lot of young people that we lost. Some of them, I may mention, but I might not mention all. Just recently, this person is our brother, our uncle. His name is Freddy Bishop from Whati. Not only him, Justin Tutcho, as well. He was living with someone from Behchoko. Lastly, they have passed on, but just recently a young person, David Sangris. His funeral is today. When we look at this situation, we also lost Kelly Washie, a young man, and just recently I lost my brother, as well.

Why I am mentioning all of this is because alcohol and drug use is related to that. We lose a lot of young people because of alcohol and drug addiction. We need a treatment centre. If we had a treatment centre, do you think these people would still be alive? We need an addiction centre where people can work on themselves and start healing themselves. There are a lot of people who work for Health and Social Services. They need to go out to the community to reach out to these people. Would we have all these people alive today if we had more people reaching out to the people?

As the Government of the Northwest Territories, we can make a powerful statement. All the time, we make these powerful statements, but when we look out the window here, we see a lot of people that we're losing that are passing on. I really disagree with that. When we talk, we need to walk our talk. As a government, I want to send them a message. We want to prevent these things for our young people. Let's reach out to these people. Let's make available any kind of addictions programs that they can use. There are many resources out there that they can use. We can't keep on talking. I don't want to stand here again and talk about who has just passed on because it's very difficult to do that. All these young people, we want to pray for them and pray for their families that are grieving. We want them to have a healing process. That is my Member's statement. Thank you. [Translation ends]

Addictions Centre Required
Members' Statements

Page 2640

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Return to Oral Question 638-19(2): Medevac Services
Returns To Oral Questions

Page 2640

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a return to oral question asked by the Member for Nunakput on March 4, 2021, regarding medevac services. In the 2020 calendar year, there were approximately 180 air ambulance transports for the communities of Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk, and Ulukhaktok.

Mr. Speaker, the med-response program has bases in Yellowknife and Inuvik. There are three crews and planes in Yellowknife and one crew and plane in Inuvik. When med-response receives a request, it is triaged to determine need and severity. The team looks at available resources and dispatches planes and crews as required. If there are two situations at the same time and only one resource available, there are a number of possible solutions. The team may redirect a current plane that has been dispatched to a lower priority patient; dispatch a plane from Yellowknife base if the Inuvik plane is not available; or, in extreme cases, contact a partner air ambulance service in another jurisdiction, such as Edmonton, to dispatch a plane.

Med-response does have a contingency plan when there is a need to access additional pilots or crew. The med-response team can work with the air ambulance provider to pull in staff who are not part of the regular rotation. This is very rare, but it has been done in the past. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Return to Oral Question 638-19(2): Medevac Services
Returns To Oral Questions

Page 2640

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Returns to oral questions. Member for Frame Lake.