This is page numbers 4687 - 4726 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 know.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Mr. Edjericon, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon-Armstrong.

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4687

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, today I am providing an update on the Prohibition Creek Access Road Project to correct the public record, refute some misinformation, and also address some of the recent allegations raised in this House about the procurement process for this project.

First, the Prohibition Creek Access Road Project is, and always has been, advanced as a capacity-building project. The goal is to help prepare businesses, workers and residents to make the most of opportunities provided by the eventual construction of the entirety of Mackenzie Valley Highway.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories originally received federal funding to advance the design and construction of 13-kilometres of all-season road from Canyon Creek to Prohibition Creek, which is near Norman Wells, in June 2020. That same month, the GNWT announced this project would be procured through a public tendering process, following the receipt of a regulatory approval, and completion of final design. In November 2020, the GNWT obtained approvals to advance the project. However, prior to initiating the procurement process, an environmental and engineering issue was identified at the Christina Creek Crossing, which is approximately halfway between Canyon Creek and Prohibition Creek, which would require additional design and regulatory work. In an effort to keep the project and capacity-building in the region moving forward, a decision was made to split the construction project into two phases.

Phase 1 construction included building 6.7-kilometre all-season road between Canyon Creek and Christina Creek, and Phase 2, the construction would also include the remaining 6.3 kilometres from Christina Creek to Prohibition Creek.

The GNWT initiated a public procurement process for Phase 1 construction in October of 2021. The amount of time that lapsed between securing regulatory approval and initiating the procurement process was caused by the engineering challenges at Christina Creek and the change in project approach that I just described.

HRN Contracting Ltd. was the only business to submit a bid for Phase 1 construction through that public procurement process. Ultimately, the sole bid exceeded the available funding, and the procurement process was cancelled to re-evaluate the project's budget and financing.

The Prohibition Creek Access Road Project is one of several infrastructure projects that have experienced cost escalations recently. Large and systemic cost increases associated with the COVID-19 response, supply chain issues, inflation, material and labour shortages, and rising fuel prices have had an impact on project costs.

Following the cancellation of the public tender, the Department of Infrastructure engaged with Canada to revise the project delivery plan and very recently secured additional funding for Phase 1 construction, as well as design and engineering work required for the remainder of the 13-kilometre road, including the Christina Creek Crossing.

Mr. Speaker, I can also confirm that a negotiated contract request from HRN Contracting Ltd. for Phase 1 construction was also received following the cancellation of the public tendering process. This request is currently being advanced as per the provisions in of the GNWT's Negotiated Contracts Policy. HRN Contracting Ltd. is a GNWT Business-Incentive-Policy registered business in the Sahtu, owned by a Sahtu beneficiary and, as mentioned, was the sole bidder through this previous public procurement process.

Mr. Speaker, while it would be inappropriate for me to discuss the specifics of a contract on the floor of this House, I can assure you that it's our intent to advance this project to see the local and regional benefits maximized within the GNWT procurement and Negotiated Contract Policy, all of this to say, Mr. Speaker, this project has not been without its challenges. However, the allegations of nefarious dealings raised in the House are fundamentally untrue. It is our hope that procurement will be finalized in the near future, construction on this important capacity building project can begin this fall, and we are hopeful that this can be celebrated as the important milestone that it is, and that the years of work to get to this point are not tarnished by these recent allegations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, partnerships are key to addressing the territory's housing crisis.
Through partnership with Indigenous governments and communities, we are effectively finding housing solutions that recognize the unique needs of communities across the Northwest Territories. As we advance the Housing NWT Renewal Strategy, I am pleased to report that these partnerships are already leading to real, meaningful work that will improve quality of life for residents.

When this House was last in session, I spoke about the memorandum of understanding on housing we had just signed with the Tlicho government. Today I am pleased to say that Housing NWT has also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated. This MOA provides a framework for intergovernmental cooperation on housing-related matters, including community housing planning, procurement, coordinated program delivery in the Sahtu communities, and information and data sharing.

Housing NWT recognizes that the Sahtu region faces significant housing challenges. By working in partnership with the Sahtu Secretariat, we will maximize federal funding, increase affordable housing for residents, provide training opportunities, increase economic activity in the region, and build the capacity of Indigenous governments and communities. The MOA sets a path for a more collaborative relationship between Housing NWT and the Sahtu Secretariat, consistent with the Housing NWT's new approach to Indigenous partnerships under the new mandate.

Mr. Speaker, discussions between Housing NWT and other NWT Indigenous governments are also underway to develop cooperative agreements on housing. Last June, Premier Cochrane and I committed to a joint review of Housing NWT's policies and programs, with participation of the Council of Leaders housing working group, and it is already changing how we will be doing work with Indigenous governments. This is consistent with Article 23 of the UN Declaration that states that Indigenous people have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining social and other programs that affect them.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say through the renewal of Housing NWT and programs and policy review, we are putting those words into action. We are increasing our engagement with Indigenous governments about the location and design of housing units. We are having open discussions with Indigenous governments on how to maximize economic opportunities that come with housing construction and operation. We are also looking at new partnerships and innovative approaches for building housing across the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, this collaborative work is helping us develop housing solutions that will benefit residents and the communities in which they live in. I am pleased to see Indigenous governments seize an increasing role in housing, and that the federal government is now flowing distinction-based funding to Indigenous governments in the NWT.

Housing NWT recognizes that there is no "one size fits all" solution. Individual Indigenous communities and governments have different needs, capacities, and aspirations, and it is important that their housing solutions cater to their unique circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, through collaboration and partnership with Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations and communities, we will be able to effectively address the NWT's housing crisis and meet our mandate commitment to increase the number of affordable homes and reduce core housing need in communities across the territory. Housing NWT will continue to build its relationships with Indigenous governments so that together we can find housing solutions that fit the needs of their residents and all the residents of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank the staff of Housing NWT for working collaboratively with the Indigenous groups and helping us build our relationships. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' Statements. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, colleagues, it was my great honour to travel last week and early this week with the Premier and my colleague from Kam Lake to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland. In an increasingly troubled world, Canada, and in particular Canada's North and its Indigenous people, need to work hard to strengthen our international bonds with the nations of the circumpolar world.

I had the opportunity to sit on a panel examining the potential benefits of public/private partnerships that include Indigenous governments and organizations and came away with a new and better appreciation of the full participation of our people in the modern economy.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Hay River South who, as deputy chair of Caucus, introduced motions last night in Committee of the Whole to implement the recommendations of two independent Commissions - one to review MLA compensation and the other to recommend new electoral boundaries in the upcoming general election.

With less than a year remaining until the next election, it is critical that we clarify the size of this House and its boundaries at the earliest opportunity. Residents, potential candidates, and our election management bodies need to know what the landscape looks like to make informed decisions in the run up to next October. I don't intend to reflect on the decision that was made in the Committee of the Whole last night to reject the recommendation of the 2021 Electoral Boundaries Commission, but as Caucus chair I think it is crucial that the public understands what that decision meant and could mean.

Had the motion carried, I would have introduced legislation next week to establish new electoral boundaries for the 2023 election. As it stands now, the status quo will remain. That leaves us with a number of ridings, particularly Yellowknife North and Monfwi, that are unacceptably larger than the average riding size. It remains to be seen whether this will result in a legal challenge. But as we all know, the boundaries have been challenged twice before.

In 2015, the House accepted the recommendations of the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission, and a challenge from the City of Yellowknife for more seats was unsuccessful; however, in 1998, in the infamous Friends of Democracy case, the Assembly, like last night, rejected the recommendations of the independent Commission. This successful court challenge is why the number of MLAs from Inuvik and Hay River increased from one to two and why the number of MLAs from Yellowknife increased from four to seven.

Electoral boundaries are very political and challenging to get just right. It's not just about the arithmetic. It's about how we organize our public government politically and constitutionally. Yes, Yellowknife has roughly half the population of the NWT and less than half the number of seats in this House. But that doesn't mean Yellowknife's underrepresented in our government or at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the NWT. Far from it. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to finish my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, the independent Commission's report wasn't perfect. It proposed a new and somewhat clever way to avoid adding seats to our legislature and avoiding increasing the numerical influence of Yellowknife Members in this House. In my view, the recommendation of the best possible outcome for small communities in the NWT who are always struggling for greater influence in the halls of government. Some may think that last night's vote was the end of the matter for another eight years. Mr. Speaker, I'd be surprised if that was the case.

Last night's decision has effectively turned this matter, a very political matter, over to the courts to decide for us. So far history has shown that the courts tend to defer to the Legislative Assembly when it follows the advice of an independent commission chaired, by the way, by a sitting or retired Supreme Court judge. History also has shown that results can be very unpredictable when we ignore that advice and let the courts decide for us.

I fear that we may find ourselves scrambling to implement court-ordered boundaries in the weeks and months leading up to the next election; boundaries that could very well see more seats added to this House and more seats for Yellowknife, Mr. Speaker. I hope that I'm wrong on that but in this uncertain world, political instability can spring up anywhere. As leaders, we need to see both the short-term and long-term implications of our decisions we make in this House and do our best not to sleepwalk into constitutional issues of our own making. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Before I get started, I'd like to send thoughts and prayers home. Today they're laying my Uncle Henry Steen to rest. So thoughts and prayers are with my family back home.

Mr. Speaker, I've said in this House many times before, housing in Nunakput faces major issues. Residents in my riding deal with the highest cost of living in the territory. We face overcrowding. We don't have enough homes. And the homes that we do have are in need of major repairs.

In Nunakput, the riding as we know, 13 percent of our homes are overcrowded. 28 percent of our homes need major repairs. 25 percent of our homes are in core need. Mr. Speaker, I have constituents who have put blankets on their floors in the winter so the snow wouldn't come in from the door and the windows. So it's very confusing to me, Mr. Speaker, when residents in my riding want to purchase a housing unit that the corporation doesn't fast track these requests. These units in the Housing Corporation are barely maintaining with the wind and the snow blowing right through homes in the winter. If a resident wants to purchase a unit, shows interest, the Housing Corporation should make it happen.

It's been said in this House many times the Northwest Territories is in a state of housing crisis. One solution to housing is to increase the number of our homeowners. So it's very troubling for me, Mr. Speaker, and my constituents in my riding, that have been waiting, in cases for years, to advance homeownership options.

I have a couple in Sachs Harbour who have been waiting for two years since they submitted their complete application to the Minister and her staff in Inuvik on December 2020, an agreement to enter a rent-to-own housing option. Since December 2020, the couple's been waiting and paying rent with no assurance that the Housing Corporation is under the rent-to-own agreement. My constituents already the highest cost of living in the Northwest Territories. Now the local housing organization in Inuvik appears to be creating more financial hardship by delaying long-term housing solutions for this young family in Sachs Harbour.

Mr. Speaker, this is not only one example. There is a constituent in Paulatuk who has have been waiting for almost six months for an answer from the local housing organization. Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable. I will have questions for the Minister of Housing at the appropriate time. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, over the last week I had the opportunity to attend and speak on a panel at the Arctic Circle Assembly. Arctic nations from around the world discussed the unique challenges and opportunities faced by circumpolar nations in the face of climate change. Youth, Indigenous leaders, bureaucrats, politicians, researchers, and even royalty, discussed an array of topics from Arctic biodiversity to green energy and mental health to critical infrastructure.

Infrastructure development is a key circumpolar focus as the world continues to warm. In September this year, the Arctic ice covering the Northwest Passage reached its lowest levels on record. Researchers noted it was pretty close to ice-free in major channels.

Mr. Speaker, 80 percent of the world's biodiversity is found in the Arctic and stewarded by 6 percent of the world's population, largely Indigenous people who have protected the land since time immemorial.

Today, the world is looking to the Arctic for its resource wealth, efficient shipping routes for legal and illegal trade, and military presence in the continued assertions of Arctic sovereignty. In response, circumpolar countries are evolving both their responses to climate change and Arctic infrastructure. Countries like Iceland now extract 85 percent of their energy needs using renewable energy infrastructures with lofty goals of reaching 100 percent. The US is pushing grant commitments to ensure 100 percent of Alaskans can access broadband internet. And Greenland is building three new international airports. The Arctic world is opening whether we want it to or not, and circumpolar nations are taking note and taking action.

Arctic sovereignty is reliant on Arctic security, Mr. Speaker, and Arctic security is reliant on healthy communities. Healthy northern communities rely on security in healthcare, education, employment, food, and yes, housing.

My biggest take home this week, Mr. Speaker, is that Canada's Arctic infrastructure drastically lags behind the rest of the circumpolar world. In 2019, the federal government released its Arctic and northern policy framework. But the policy lacked timelines, measures, and probably most importantly, Mr. Speaker, a budget to achieve its goals. While the way forward is a global collaboration and maintained Arctic zone of peace, Canada still needs social and economic infrastructure and healthy Arctic communities to maintain a seat at the table.

We are not ready for the future of the Arctic. Arctic security and Arctic sovereignty needs social and economic infrastructure in the Arctic today. If Canada does not offer the much-needed Arctic infrastructure to build healthy communities in the Canadian Arctic, we know that someone else will, but at what cost, Mr. Speaker? I will have questions for the Premier at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I have some good news. Our government says it has sold the Mactung mining property; a zombie that just keeps on giving.

The owner, North American Tungsten, went into creditor protection after GNWT agreed to take on this operation under devolution. GNWT allowed that company to keep the Mactung property as part of its financial security for its water license. Cabinet ended up buying Mactung for $4.5 million through a special warrant that bypassed the Legislative Assembly. Cabinet then spent almost $480,000 on a partial clean-up of that property, plus all the work trying to sell it, not including months of staff time. The GNWT hired a southern consultant to submit a land use application to the Yukon government for an imaginary exploration program to hype the value of the property.

Just after the May-June 2022 sitting and with no advance notice to Regular MLAs, Cabinet accepted a letter of offer from Fireweed Zinc Ltd., a Vancouver-based junior mining company, to buy the property for a total of $15 million subject to a number of strict conditions:

  1. Fireweed pays the GNWT the sum of $1.5 million on signing the letter of intent;
  2. Fireweed will pay GNWT an additional $3.5 million within 18 months of finalizing of a definitive agreement, apparently targeted before the end of this year;
  3. Fireweed will pay GNWT an additional $5 million upon announcing its intention to construct a mine at either the Mactung or any other portion of their mineral interests in the Yukon at Macmillan Pass; and
  4. Fireweed will pay GNWT an additional $5 million upon announcing its intention to construct a mine at Mactung.

I am doubtful that GNWT will ever get all the money and staff time back from the Mactung property, or that it will ever go into production.

In terms of lessons learned, there don't seem to be any. I was hoping that GNWT would recognize that mandatory financial security in forms that are irrevocable and liquid are required to ensure this kind of mess does not happen again. Eight years after devolution, GNWT has failed to fix the problems with resource mismanagement left for us by the federal government. It's past time that the Auditor General of Canada looks at the promise and practice of post-devolution resource management. I will have questions for the mining minister later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, in this House and throughout the territory, we've been talking about the need for a Mackenzie Valley Highway for decades. The Mackenzie Valley Highway has been in the planning stages since 1960 when the federal government was trying to advance the roads to resource programs. And to put this in perspective, my mother was one; status Indians were given the right to vote on July 1st, 1960; January 16th, 1960, Gordie Howe became the leading goal scorer in the NHL. That's how long ago.

The current proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway is just one part of what's needed for transportation in the NWT. The current proposed Mackenzie Valley highway is 321 kilometres from Wrigley to Norman Wells. The estimated cost of this project to get the highway corrected to Norman Wells was about $700 million in the last time it was made public.

In 2018, the government started building the road from the north side down from Norman Wells to Wrigley, a 14-kilometre long access road. So, Mr. Speaker, we still have 307 kilometres remaining to connect Norman Wells to Wrigley. We have the Inuvik to Tuk Highway that opened in 2017, but there's no all-season road connecting Inuvik to Fort Good Hope and Norman Wells.

Mr. Speaker, we know roads bring prosperity to people and communities, and we know that residents in the Beaufort Delta rely on the Dempster Highway to gain access to the south. And this is largely a Yukon road, which is poorly and inadequately maintained. It also provides the exit route for residents and business to go spend their money outside the territory. Residents in the Beaufort Delta want access to the southern part of the NWT. People in the Delta are ready and willing to build a road connecting the Dempster Highway outside of Inuvik with a road to at least Fort Good Hope where they can connect with the winter road in the winter months.

Mr. Speaker, we have a major critical piece of infrastructure that can reduce the cost of living, increase investment and resource development, increase opportunities for tourism, trade, businesses from the north to the south of this territory, and yet GNWT continues to advance this critical transportation corridor in a piecemeal.

Mr. Speaker, what is the plan to connect the northern portion of the NWT to the southern NWT? Why isn't the GNWT taking lessons learned from the Inuvik to Tuk Highway and extend this road further south? Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Where are the community plans to support the work to advance this road to connect and open up the communities? It is the mandate of the 19th Assembly to advance development of the Mackenzie Valley Highway. The government states it will do that through establishing collaborative partnerships with Indigenous governments. I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we are running out of time in this Assembly to make good on our promises to improve the lives of our residents. I have not had the privilege of a membership in his House for as long as my colleagues, but that doesn't mean I have been idle in advocating for the needs of my riding of the Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh riding. But I have had to look at what has been done before my time here to get a clearer picture of the resources available, budgets, action plans, policies, legislations, and a mandate having for my work and why I so often speak to how existing resources can be reprofiled to address pressing needs in our communities.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Finance tabled the 2023-2024 Capital Estimates for $328 million down from an average of $405 million over the last nine years. As per the Minister's statement, this was done to bring a more realistic approach to Infrastructure spending as the GNWT does not have the capacity to develop at all the projects budgeted for in the previous years.

I am not sure I completely agree with the Minister that this has created unrealistic expectations. It does not encourage good planning and necessitates an unnecessarily large borrowing plan. After all, everyone and their dog knows of the NWT chronic deficit and infrastructure that is holding back our economic growth. Not only that, but until very recently money was cheap to borrow. Of course inflation, supply chain shortages has made these projects more expensive. But the initial investment were and continue to be sound.

Mr. Speaker, let's talk about housing. I have made the serious challenge facing my constituents with homeownership and homeownership repairs my mission during this sitting of this House. I hope that the Housing NWT minister is starting to get annoyed with me because I am in desperate need to see how to get work on a real solution that helps the people I represent.

The capital estimates provides $35.5 million for Housing NWT. We know that the policies of Housing NWT are part of the problem getting these valuable resources into our communities. I will again propose that Indigenous governments are a better position to make immediate use of these funds than are centralized Yellowknife based bureaucracy. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are housing strategies and programs that work in all Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh communities. Lutselk'e is putting in trailers as we speak. Deni'nu Ku'e and the Fort Resolution Metis Council are working towards completing a housing need assessment and assets inventory. The Yellowknives Dene are soon to realize customized housing designs through federal funding programs that will yield a fresh take on housing development in other communities.

Mr. Speaker, I'm tired of seeing the best of intentions fail in the face of our housing needs. It's time to try a different approach, if only in the communities I represent. Let's take a small chunk of that $35 million and give it, no strings attached, to the Indigenous governments of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh riding and help them move forward on their terms towards adequate and affordable housing in their communities. Mr. Speaker, I have questions for the finance minister. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in the last several years we have seen major flooding severely impact not only the town of Hay River, but other communities along the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers. There is considerable speculation and discussion as to why flooding appears more pronounced.

Mr. Speaker, we were to have lessons learned after the devastating flood in Fort Simpson two years ago and now, after the Hay River flood, it is apparent we have not learned a great deal.

This government sat back and provided limited to no pre-emptive analysis, indicators, or supports for emergency preparedness prior to any of that flooding. This government needs to develop systems and processes that protect lives, assets, and infrastructure. We need experienced and knowledgeable people at the table to provide guidance and planning.

Mr. Speaker, as of today, I have not heard of, or been made aware of, any post-flood assessments or reports completed or that are underway by this government to address shortcomings from flooding that took place over the last two years with the exception of a paper titled "Analysis of Regional Flood Risk Planning and Evacuation Procedures following the May 2022 Hay River Flood."

This analysis was prepared by local Hay River resident Matthew Miller, who has studied and worked in water resource management, flood modelling, and municipal and transportation drainage design. I thank Mr. Miller for doing what this government has failed to do.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to utilizing the services of those knowledgeable in flood plain management, flood preparedness, and emergency preparedness, we must look to include Indigenous knowledge of the area and climate history. Mr. Speaker, we also know the potential for flooding occurs well beyond community boundaries. This is not just a community issue; it is this governments issue, and it is an inter-jurisdictional issue as well therefore we need to collaborate with our southern neighbours to talk watershed management.

Mr. Speaker, for this government to place responsibility for flood management and preparedness squarely on the shoulders of communities is wrong and unacceptable. Flooding is our reality, and it is now that we need to establish a group, or team, within this government to deal with flooding. We need to provide, in collaboration with communities and Indigenous governments, flood forecasting, flood preparedness measures, evacuation plans and mitigation measures, for all communities on our river systems throughout the NWT. Anything less would be a failure on the part of this government. Mr. Speaker I will have questions for the Minister of MACA.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in 2020, the GNWT expanded its Child and Youth Care Counsellor Program, or CYCC, to provide more mental health supports for students and families across the territory. On February 21st of that year, the Yellowknifer reported a total of 49 new counsellor positions had been created in the territory for the program. The purpose behind this expansion was to enhance and increase mental health supports for children and youth. The job description for a Child and Youth Care Counsellor states, quote, "The position is responsible for implementing specialized assessment and therapeutic programming. The CYCC is a Member of the community counselling team and provides integrated and therapeutic mental health and behavioural programming in collaboration with school personnel and other health and mental Health and Social Services professionals."

But Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that a licensed specialist, such as a licensed psychologist or professional counselor, is not the requirement for this position but, rather, it states typical qualifications of a Masters in child and youth care, counselling, social work, or education. The Minister committed, on May 26th, to increase the transparency of the acceptable equivalencies within the job description.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that it is hard to recruit experts and specialists to the North, however these are the people who are dealing one-on-one with our vulnerable children and youth. I hear from residents that CYCC staff are mostly non-Indigenous southern social workers that are moving to northern communities, not trained counsellors. The young graduates are coming here and providing frontline service to our children with little to no understanding of the true impacts of intergenerational trauma and the residential schools. Layers upon layers of trauma, grief, addictions, and mental health challenges.

Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise that these workers don't stay long. They're paid less than teachers with less vacation time. The position isn't incentivized, and the lack of experience and commitment to the North is likely creating more harm than is doing good.

The Minister has stated in this House that the department is planning to evaluate the program this fiscal year. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, how is the department working with parents and school administration to evaluate the effectiveness of this service? What is the GNWT doing to ensure our children receive the best possible counselling care available, given how they've consistently failed them for years now, and it's only gotten worse under this Cabinet and Minister.

Mr. Speaker, I will be submitting my questions for the Department of Health and Social Services as written question tomorrow. Given this Minister's want to always shoot the messenger, I am not interested in giving her a forum any longer. Thank you

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A few weeks ago the Department of Health and Social Services launched a survey talking about some proposed changes to the extended health benefits. I gave it a quick glance, and I was pretty happy.

Mr. Speaker, multiple times in this House I spoke about the essential gap of the working poor in this territory who do not have any extended health benefits. It appeared the department had a plan to means test extended health benefits and provide them to those people. My only feedback at that time was that the income threshold was a little low, and we should perhaps increase it to provide this benefit to more people.

But it came to my attention, and was raised by a number of people, that we are actually doing something else instead of just providing extended health benefits. We're removing the specified disease conditions that currently give people benefits. At first, I thought this couldn't be true. I went back to the survey. I read it a number of times, and nowhere did it clearly state that this is what we were doing.

Mr. Speaker, if we're going to consult on the question of whether to means test extended health benefits, that's fine. But if we're going to consult on the question of whether to provide extended health benefits at the expense of those who presently have specified diseases, that is a completely different question.

Mr. Speaker, after I raised this in the media, the department reissued the survey and somewhat attempted to clarify what they were doing. But I still don't believe it is sufficient. And I am getting many questions that I simply cannot ask, and the survey and engagement do not ask - specific questions about how certain drugs work? How, if you have cancer but you get this specific prescription drug, is that covered; is that insurable? Very nuanced questions about how copayment will work. Questions about what if I have a specified disease and I can't find private health insurance?

Mr. Speaker, I've sent these people to the department, and I'm assured that the department is working with these people, but I think some much more targeted engagement needs to occur for all the people who presently have specified diseases and we're providing benefits to. That seems to be the main people we need to talk to.

And then from my end, Mr. Speaker, even more questions need to be answered. How many people are we presently providing benefits to? This is not presented. Is this actually going to cost us money or save us money? Mr. Speaker, I suspect that this is a cost saving measure in that providing benefits to people with specified diseases is quite expensive and generally just because you're poor, it doesn't mean you have a specified disease.

I will have questions for the Minister of Health about a number of these things and hopefully get some answers to people out there about what it is we're actually doing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Mr. Speaker, on May 28th, 2022, David Roger Gargan, passed away at the aged 71 years old. David is survived by his wife Jean, his daughter Renanne, two sons Joseph and Jay, his five grandchildren, two brothers and three sisters, as well as numerous great grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

David grew up in Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson. In his younger days, he enjoyed being on the land with his parents and siblings. Besides the traditional way of living, he loved to play sports, especially hockey. This is how I had the opportunity to meet him in 1992, as part of the Rangers hockey team. He was always early for the games and was chatting up the team getting us ready to play whoever. As I got to know him, he was always talking about how much he enjoyed playing with his brother Alex. They were dynamite together. Always knowing what the other person was going to do.

Mr. Speaker, as much as he enjoyed playing hockey, his true love and passion was his wife Jean. She was his high school sweetheart. After every game, he would quickly get dressed and head out. One day we asked what the rush was, and he said that he had to get home so he could spend quality time with his better half. When we asked Alex was David always like this, he said yes, especially when it came to his wife and children. Later, his love and passion was expanded to include his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

David was a hard-working person who enjoyed all aspect of work he did. He took pride in getting things done right the first time. If he needed help, he would ask. I can tell you he was always respected by his co-workers and bosses. He worked hard to get things done in a timely manner.

David was well known for his humour. He enjoyed telling stories and he had a long list of stories. I can tell you, there were many times when we lost track of time because of these stories. On top of his humour, there is one thing that stood out was David's generosity. If he was able to part with something, he would do it. Like the old saying, he would give the shirt off his back; this was David. I can tell you that he had a lot of friends all over the North and will be sadly missed by many.

The Lafferty and Gargan family would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to all those who come to pay their respects to David. Mashi for showing him support, love and compassion. The family are grateful for everyone's kindness, prayers, and words of comfort and support during this difficult time. Mr. Speaker, he will be sadly miss by us all.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and community at this time. Members' statements. Returns to oral questions. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Acknowledgements. Oral questions. Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions today are for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, on October 17th, 2022, the Premier said in this House "northern security is not just about robust military presence. It is mostly about building strong resilient communities through significant investment in critical infrastructure like roads, ports, telecommunications, and energy."

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada released its Arctic and Northern Policy Framework in 2019. This framework speaks to goals like ending poverty, eradicating hunger, reducing suicides, broadband for all, enhanced trade, and further goes on to specific infrastructure investments.

So I'm wondering can the Premier explain how the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework will advance critical infrastructure in the NWT, like the roads, ports, and telecommunications and energy that she spoke of on the 17th, and how the federal government plans to implement this framework with no timelines or budgets associated with it? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Honourable Premier.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The MLA is absolutely correct. The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework was released in 2019 which -- and then after that work was done, the next step was to be implementing the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework. Sadly to say, the federal government, we've met twice in this government on that with the federal minister, perhaps due to COVID, perhaps other reasons. However, it's important, the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework is not just about making sure that every funding that goes to the Northwest Territories is identified in there. That policy framework was to address the huge gaps that we have in the Northwest Territories compared to our southern neighbours. We all know that. We know that we're lacking in supports and services compared to the south. You only have to drive south and see what they have compared to what we have here. So I am hopeful. The Member is also right. There is no budget. There's no strategic plan to develop for it. And I also have the same concerns. A lot of time and resource went into developing that framework, and I don't want to see it sit on a shelf. I don't want to see every money that comes to the Northwest Territories just get labelled UNDRIP. It needs to be to address the gaps that we have. And I'm hoping that the federal government would hear that and that the federal government will start implementing significant funding to the Northwest Territories so we have the same quality of living that every Canadian should be -- should have, be entitled to. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, just this past Monday in Iqaluit, there was a collection of policymakers that got together in order to discuss this very thing, Arctic sovereignty. And that was in response to a $4.9 billion investment from the federal government. So these conversations are still happening. And having this conversation twice over the course of this Assembly just isn't enough. We need more attention from the federal government here in the western Arctic and, especially when here, any NWT resident could tell you, that the North definitely felt things in a more heightened way over the course of COVID. So our need for these items were just heightened in COVID. So really, our conversations should have been more frequent and louder in my opinion, Mr. Speaker.

My next question is the Premier explained on May 30th, 2022, that the Council of Leaders is the regional implementation body for the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework. And so I wondering if the Premier can identify the priority areas the Council of Leaders is undertaking with respect to Arctic security and if there is a timeline and budget for the Council of Leaders to advance Arctic security in the NWT that can be shared with this Assembly?

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll start with a little bit of a clarification. Absolutely, the Member is correct, we need to be lobbying the federal government for this on a regular basis. The Council of Leaders table has met with the Minister -- the federal Minister, Minister Vandal, twice in this Assembly. However, myself and Ministers have constantly met with the federal government, and every time I meet with the federal Ministers, applicable Ministers, I bring this up because why do the work if it's not going to be addressed?

So the Council of Leaders did identify gaps. They identified their priorities.

In the last meeting with the Minister Vandal, the Council of Leaders agreed that that table would be the table that would implement it because they were the table -- they were the Indigenous governments and us that developed the framework. So I believe that last meeting was in September, late September. And the issues that were identified by the Council of Leaders were mental health and addictions, community-based treatments, infrastructure. They identified housing, clean energy, transportation and governance, and the economy, green economy and remediation.

I do want to say that by working together, all Indigenous governments and the GNWT and the federal government, I do have to give credit where credit's due, has implemented -- has put a phenomenal amount of housing money in this government that has gone to all Indigenous governments and the GNWT, and that shows what can be done when we working together. However, we do need to identify next steps. We've identified our priorities at that table. But the federal government needs to work with us to identify how we get there. It cannot be a unilateral decision on what happens next. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. I will just, cognizant of the time, question's asked and answered in almost five minutes, so let's shorten up the preamble, please. Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I guess I'm trying to get all my words in this week after two missed days.

In March of this year, Mr. Speaker, the three northern Premiers wrote to the Council of Federation to express concern with Canada's Arctic defence and security and requesting Arctic sovereignty and security become a standing agenda for these meetings. And so I am wondering if the Premier can explain how the federal government responded to the issues of the northern Premiers, how the northern territories are working together to advance the northern interest in Arctic security, and if the intergovernmental council is involved in those conversations as well? Thank you.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I also wanted to -- this is a passion of mine as well so I will try to be more concise on this one.

The three territories did work together to develop a pan-territorial chapter, things that we have in common across the territories. And so from that chapter, we've been lobbying, the three of us, I hate to say it, it may be inappropriate, but I call us the dynamic trio, the three Premiers have been lobbying the federal government together to actually lobby for the needs of all territories because they're similar in some areas, different in others. So again, we've been meeting not only with the federal government, we've been carrying our message nationally and internationally at any table that we can get it. We actually bring forward the needs of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework because it needs to be addressed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Final supplementary, Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. And I appreciate that we're -- that we're -- this government is being consistent in asking for more money. But in 2022, the federal budget announced a total of $8 billion new funding over years in response to the defence policy from the federal government. There was $40 billion -- or sorry -- yeah, $40 billion to modernize NORAD over the next 20 years and $4.9 million to update aging North American air defence systems.

So I'm wondering if the Premier can explain how the federal budget that has been set and has been allocated to Arctic security will impact the NWT specifically, and what can we expect to see happen in our territory as far as Arctic security? Thank you.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member again is right, the federal government is implementing military defence mechanisms and a budget associated with the safety of the Arctic. And I support that. We do need to support the safety issues. But I've been adamant in saying that Arctic safety is not just about missiles or boats in the sea. It has to incorporate Arctic sovereignty, and that means addressing our gaps. We need to build our economy. We need to close our infrastructure gap. We need telecommunications. We need ports. We need all of the things like I had said that contribute to healthy and vibrant growth in our communities. Because if we don't have communities, then we're open land, and that is not what I want to see. So they have to go hand-in-hand. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Oral questions. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on October 5th, 2022, I sent an email to two Ministers requesting for integrated case management services for two constituents. These constituents are a couple who are experiencing homelessness and barriers to obtaining income assistance. In talking with the housing Minister about this, she referenced a housing strategy that has not been tabled yet.

I'd like to ask the Minister is she okay with Norman Wells, Hay River, Inuvik, Yellowknife, and Behchoko having a homeless shelter and allowing Fort Smith to go without one? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and just thank you to the Member for that question. But just a correction, Norman Wells does not have a homeless shelter.

We are working with the Indigenous groups throughout the Northwest Territories to try to find solutions on how to deal with people who are experiencing either homelessness and do have challenges at the ground level. We don't have integrated case management in the smaller communities; therefore, we try to work very strongly, very strategically with the employees at the ground level, working with the local housing authority. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I asked for a joint response from the housing Minister and the ECE Minister to assist with this dire situation that this couple is in. I've only received bureaucratic answers with no solutions, as usual with this Minister. When will the Minister provide actual solutions for my constituents and direct her staff to be more compassionate to vulnerable and homeless people? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And in respect to the Member's riding, housing has worked very collaboratively with the Indigenous groups within that riding. We have been able to more housing units on the ground as well too. But not only that, just working with the individuals and having to try to find housing solutions. Housing cannot solve the housing crisis on our own. We need the partners at the table. Housing has been working very closely with the Member's Indigenous governments within her riding. And we continue to work in collaboration together in trying to find housing solutions at the local community level. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it seems there's a lack of compassion and urgency to the suffering of vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. I would like to ask the Minister where is the compassion from this government and from her department? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the Member for the question as well. This is an area that we have taken a different turn within the Housing portfolio as well, and we're starting to find that working with the nonprofit organizations throughout the Northwest Territories do need a lot more support and a lot more training in dealing with their clientele. Housing has been working throughout the Northwest Territories providing those services agreement and trying to come up with solutions as well. Within the portfolio, we did -- we are looking at further programming. Just one at the top of my head is the Canada housing benefit that we did increase. It first had started off at $200,000, and now we're at $2.5 million. And with that, we're able to really understand the housing need and the crisis throughout the Northwest Territories. But we continue to work together with the communities to try to find further solutions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as stated earlier, I sent an email to the housing Minister on October the 5th, which was 14 days ago. That's 11 business days. When will the Minister provide a response to that email? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When I'm receiving the responses back from the department, they often go back for further analysis as well too and looking at what we possibly can have at the ground level with -- which is, honestly, very, very limited. We try to look for what resources do we actually have in order for us to be housing people. And we have just a limited amount of housing units in the Northwest Territories. We also have a waitlist that is out there as well. We also deal with women and children and families who are either returning back from treatment, dealing with domestic violence, and we are trying our best to be -- trying to be more accommodating to the people of the Northwest Territories. But I really would like to -- like I further said, is that we need to be working as a community and together and with all stakeholders at the table in order for us to really address these -- these strong housing needs and issues throughout the territory. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Nunakput.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in addition to my statement today, NWT housing crisis, we're facing a health crisis also. But it stems work -- like, living together in overcrowded units, it's really drawing a lot of -- a lot of hurt and hardship between families because there are just not enough homes.

Mr. Speaker, I reference since we started sitting in -- for this 19th Assembly, 15 times I've made Member's statements in this House in regards to the housing issues that we do have in the territory. Mr. Speaker, can the Minister plan to reduce overcrowded homes in Nunakput riding and when that -- when is -- we could work together for that? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member from Nunakput as well too. I understand where all the Members are coming from as well too. And with the portfolio, we're trying very hard to find strategies and be very strategic on our investment for the Northwest Territories, and also investing fairly and recognizing that all of our people throughout the Northwest Territories are facing a housing crisis.

For the Member's riding, as of to date, we are going to be investing $9.2 million for the 2023-2024 government. We have $8 million that is going to be completing eight public housing units and repairing nine housing units. We have $1.2 million for homeownership repair program for private homeowners and minor repairs for NWT units.

I would also like to include, Mr. Speaker, that Paulatuk will be receiving four units. Tuk will be receiving four as well. Ulukhaktok will be receiving two. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Or mahsi.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Minister for that. I'd like to -- you know, how can -- how many people are currently homeless under the housing in my riding in Nunakput, Mr. Speaker? What's the plan to increase housing options for these people? Are we able to take off through the CMHC, able to give these houses away like we planned? And we're waiting -- one couple in Sachs Harbour for two years now to get that program out. So how do we get them to get that house off the books from CMHC to provide a new house in Sachs Harbour to be able to provide for our younger generation that's having families but having to stay with their parents. This is unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. We need an answer for this and sooner than later. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for his question. With the housing portfolio, there's also the community housing plans, and I know it might seem kind of minor to the Member, but we need to come up with a strategy at the community level in order for us to be at -- for us to be working and trying to address the housing needs strategically at the ground level. These community housing plans are also lobbying documents for the federal government in trying to acquire further funding.

There was an announcement for the distinction-based funding. I don't have the number in front of me of how much the Member's riding as received. But I am interested in looking at those housing sales, Mr. Speaker.

I also would like to see transfers of those units, if they're single family dwelling, I would like to see those and further look at those files as well. I don't have information at the tip of my fingers right now. But I need to see the rate and condition of those units and the possibility of an options for transfer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I know that with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation receives $76 million last year for housing. Is this Minister working with the Inuvialuit to try to work together to combine funding to get houses into the communities? And then my last one -- or not my last one. But the people in Sachs Harbour, for say, they paid two years into a program that they were told that they had the unit. But there was -- the two years that they paid the rent without the House being signed over. Will the Minister commit to that couple once, that verbal commitment was made by the Inuvik housing authority, that money they paid for the last two years goes into the purchase of that unit? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Sorry, Mr. Speaker. I would like to take a look at those files as well that the Member is referencing with the two years with that agreement, and I would like to see what is the current update on them. So I'd like to encourage the Member to send that over to my office.

And also Housing does work very closely with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation as well too. They just recently met September 22nd. I don't have those further details. But I can follow up with the Member and give him an update. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Nunakput.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, that information's been sent over two years and it's been sent numerous times to the Minister's office. Not to her office, per se, to the Inuvik Housing Authority. We need some answers here. We got people on waiting two years now. And of all places, I mean, we don't have many houses in Sachs Harbour. We need more housing units in Sachs Harbour. We take this one off, we give it to them under -- they're paying for it. But at the end of the day, they're going to be able to take that house and get another house under CMHC because we're only allotted so many units in the community. So that's going to be a big help. But the Minister has to make sure that -- I'm asking her to get this done for the -- and there's two of them that I'm really pushing for and the information's already there. So she could get her staff in Inuvik to do that, because we're waiting for an answer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will follow up with the Inuvik office and with those specific files and get back to the Member. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Infrastructure. Can the Minister describe the status of the relationship with all Indigenous governments situated along the proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway route on this project? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the work we're currently focusing on, which is the 321-kilometre alignment to Wrigley to Norman Wells, have established an MOU for a collaboration on the projects with Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated. We also have a contribution agreement with SSI and the PKFN for work under this project. We also have a memorandum of understanding with the PKFN for their consideration on the project collaboration. We also have provided contribution funding to Norman Wells and Tulita Renewable Resource Councils for some traditional work. So, Mr. Speaker, we are working with the Indigenous groups. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So nothing north of Norman Wells? Okay. Is the work to advance the road connecting Norman Wells and Wrigley on budget and on track? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Member for her question, because I think that's really important to get this out there. So in 2018, the Department of Infrastructure obtained $140 million in federal support, under the National Trade Corridor Fund, to be able to support things like the environmental assessment, some of the planning studies for the portion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway from the communities of Wrigley to the Wells, which, again, is a distance of 321 kilometres, as well as the construction of the Great Bear River Bridge and the Mount Gadet Access Road.

We also have successfully obtained funds to be able to construct phase 1 of the Prohibition Creek Access Road, which is about $25.5 million for construction of that phase.

The next critical milestone, Mr. Speaker, in the process of submitting for our developers assessment report, which we anticipate to be submitting to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board early 2023. So following the completion of this critical community engagement and Indigenous traditional knowledge work that is currently underway, we anticipate the EA to take approximately two years, followed by approximately one to one and a half years to obtain all of the regulatory permits for construction. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, residents and business in the Beaufort Delta are ready and willing to build a road south and undertake the work required to develop community plans to get communities ready in the Beaufort Delta. That's what they do; they build roads. So can the Minister identify the length of the road and the budget, even if it's a past budget that might have been an estimate budget, required to connect Inuvik to Fort Good Hope? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And Mr. Speaker, I respect that the Member was able to give me a head's up; however, that head's up was just not enough time to be able to go back and get a figure from the department. So I'd like to get back to the Member for this one because this is something of interest to me and perhaps you too, Mr. Speaker. I mean, we've talked about this in the past. So I think, you know, we can get back to the Member. Yes, I'm just not ready to ballpark a figure like this given some of the costs escalations in all our other projects. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I don't think it's just for us. I think it's for the whole of Northwest Territories. I think it's going to be a great thing if this happens, if this comes to life in my lifetime, because it's been since 1960 that it was first talked about, like I said.

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister commit to investigate the feasibility of building the Mackenzie Valley Highway from the Inuvik south to connect to Fort Good Hope and get that work started, as well while they're working on it, let's get some money rolling in, let's get this part of the highway done. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, and I think the Member's going to happy with my commitment on this, to be able to look at investing in the feasibility study. The long-term vision for Mackenzie Valley Highway has always been to connect communities from all the way up the valley, up from Wrigley all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, with the all-season road. You know, reducing our reliance on some of our existing network of winter roads, which are increasingly at risk to some negative impacts of climate change. So, Mr. Speaker, I see the Member's quite happy right now. So if she's happy, I'm happy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I raise earlier this sitting that many elders are having difficult time with significant debts to the Housing Corporation for many, many years ago. In many cases, the elders are not aware of why the debt is owed. The Housing Corporation is in many cases garnishing their income which means the Housing Corporation takes a significant chunk of every modest paycheque they make. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister commit to direct her officials to immediately enter a stay of execution of existing garnishee orders registered against elders by the Housing Corporation so they can keep more of what little they already make until such time as her officials can develop a program to allow people to apply for forgiveness of their housing debts? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I'm -- thank you to the Member for the question as well. And I'm assuming that these are debts that are for homeownership and that we had established these units -- these were access units and 15-year agreements that were established over 20 years ago. That was an agreement that we did have with CMHC at that time. I'd have to follow up with the Member. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

It's also arrears for housing public unit. So can the Minister commit to working with integrated service delivery to ensure that low income families at risk of evictions are fast tracked to the support and services they need, which includes access to legal aid programs, financial plan, and childcare, career and employment support, healthy living and healthy choices. Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for the question as well. And I just wanted to speak about the community housing support worker that we did have in the Member's riding as it was a pilot project a couple of years ago. And we are still interested in reestablishing that program because it was quite successful. But that is followed up with the Tlicho housing working group where Housing is participating. I will request a further update on where this position is because it's exactly what the Member is requesting is something like integrated case management wraparound services. And this is exactly the responsibility of this position. It would greatly support her riding or her community. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Mr. Speaker, this is regarding the bilateral agreement. So Mr. Speaker, many of our Indigenous governments have a keen interest in increasing the housing stock of their regions and communities. In its new mandate, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation commits to pursuing government to government relations with Indigenous government as she mentioned. This is a welcomed change towards developing bilateral relationships. Most of our Indigenous government are very interested in taking responsibility and taking over housing assets from the GNWT. I want to ask the Minister, what is the framework currently being used to transfer housing stock from the GNWT to Indigenous governments? Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for the question. Indigenous partnership is a priority that I do have within the portfolio, and we have made great success in developing those relationships. And this year we had signed an MOU, a memorandum of understanding with the Tlicho government in regards to housing for us to better support and come up with stronger solutions and also lobby the federal government for addressing the housing crisis in the Member's region as well. And I'm just looking forward to providing the Member with a further update on the meeting that was just recently had in September. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final short supplementary. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, with that in mind that she just mentioned, you know, to have a relationship with the Indigenous government, then what I would like to see this government do, then, is transfer the 14 units that the Tlicho government are asking for, I would like to see that happen. You know, if they're going to continue have a good working relationship with the Indigenous government. So the federal government seems interested in supporting housing stocks being transferred to Indigenous governments. Is the GNWT receiving assistance in facilitating these transfers? Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In our recent bilateral that we did have with the Tlicho, there was mention of the 13 units, but it was not on the agenda. The Tlicho government did receive distinction-based funding as well, and they were looking at housing delivery coming into the community but also looking of housing repair. We do have the working table with the Tlicho government, and I don't have a further update on what their priorities are at that table. But Housing is working with them very closely to address the housing needs in the Tlicho region. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral question. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions today are for the Minister of Finance.

The capital estimates allocate some $35 million to Housing NWT. As I've said many times, I am firm in belief that this money would be better spent through contribution agreements with Indigenous governments. Does the Minister agree that Indigenous governments in the Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh riding are efficiently and effectively managing their financial resources with respect to housing and programs and strategies? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Minister responsible for Finance.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, if I can redirect that to the Minister of Housing. It's housing questions. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And to the Member's question, I was kind of confused there for a minute there that the question was for the Department of Finance. But it's not my role to be telling the Indigenous groups how to spend their money within their riding. But as a housing minister, we have been working with the Member's riding very closely for them to be successfully receiving co-investment federal funding and the rapid rehousing initiative funding as well too to the Member's riding as well. And he did see a number of units that were delivered to Lutselk'e. And the conversation between the housing and the Indigenous governments in the Member's riding continues. And I look forward to further successes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am directing that question to the Minister of Finance but then the Premier spoke up and passed that on to Housing. So I'm not sure if the Minister of Finance was able to speak to this question. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Once it's redirected to another Minister by the Premier, the Minister of Housing is -- you have to direct your questions to her. Minister -- so, yes, there's really no question. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I guess what I'm trying to get is that, you know, I've been trying to really advocate for housing for our people in our communities in the Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh riding. And, you know, I've been trying to really work with the Minister of Housing Corporation of how we could address and build relationships with Indigenous governments. You know, I see these MOUs are good ideas but, you know, they're -- they only go so far, and I don't hear no commitments from this government at all in trying to fix these problems we're having in our community.

So will the Minister work with the same Indigenous governments and the Cabinet colleagues to transfer housing projects scheduled for 2023-2024, along with other resources, to Indigenous governments housing programs through a contribution agreement? Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for the question as well too. I'm not sure which units that are in question to be transferred over to the community. But I'm interested in working with the Indigenous governments. And if this is something that is a request that Indigenous governments are interested in doing, I would like to further that conversation and if they would be able to identify the units to me, I'd like to see what condition they're actually in. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Yeah, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, you know, this issue is really not going to go away. I mean, we had 50 years to get our act together to provide housing for people here in the Northwest Territories. And in the Minister's statements earlier, she talks about the MOU and the great success she's made in the Sahtu region. But the chiefs are very clear on what I heard on Cabin Radio on August 26th on the SSI meeting. The chiefs made it very clear, bring your cheque book. So what we're saying now, Mr. Speaker, is that we want to see the Minister to come to our communities and look at building new relationships so we can improve housing in our communities. Right now it's not working. So I'm just saying that, Mr. Speaker, that we have an opportunity to build new relationship and I hear from the Minister, but I don't see no action. Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for the question as well too. And, you know, I disagree with the Member. You know, Housing has been working with the Indigenous governments throughout the Northwest Territories, and we're trying to do things differently and really looking at the communities' perspective on what is required at the community level, what is it that the community would like to construct, what type of housing would they like to enter and to get into.

I just wanted to comment for the co-investment, the Yellowknives Dene have received $90 million in co-investment funding. Housing has also provided $133,000 to work on their community housing plan as well too. And also looking at the rapid housing initiative for Dettah and N'dilo, housing is at the tables with the Indigenous governments in trying to find these solutions. The Indigenous governments are the drivers of housing projects in the smaller community. We are there to support them. And if there's an opportunity to be flying in and getting into the Member's riding, I am open to be doing that as well. I did travel to Lutselk'e over the summer, and I did see the significant need of housing at the ground level. But I'm willing to be travelling into the community. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, I heard this -- I've been around for a while, and 50 years Housing Corporation was here. And we're still talking about that today, and our communities are still suffering from housing repairs and I produced documents here showing that we have problems in our community. We have problems with cockroaches in our communities. We got big problems but yet we can't seem to be fixing these problems. And what I'm hearing from Indigenous governments now is that they're really tired of Housing Corporation's policies and bureaucratic red tape. So we're going to have look at new ways to building new relationships. So the sooner the better on that. That was just a statement, not question. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Give the Minister opportunity to respond. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I just wanted to also comment on our policies and programming that is actually being reviewed right now by the Council of Leaders working group where that consists of Indigenous leaders throughout the Northwest Territories as well. I'm not sure if Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh is participating in those meetings, but I can provide the Member with an update. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, for lessons to be learned, one must conduct a review and assessment of the event. In this case, it's flooding. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of MACA confirm if there will be any followup analysis in the form of reports prepared by this government on the flooding in both Hay River and Fort Simpson, and if so, when can we expect to see those reports? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, thanks to the Member for the questions here. Work is underway to conduct an after-action review of the 2022 flood and the 2021 flood. Once completed, the recommendations will be public. MACA has worked with ENR and hydraulic experts to examine the cause of the 2021 and the 2022 flood, and we'll be doing the same thing with the 2022 flood. The work has been included -- include the production of flood extensive planning, our mapping of it, the flood zone and that. And this information will be provided to the communities of the town of Hay River and K'atlodeeche First Nation in October so -- at the end of October. In regards to the after-action plan, unfortunately we will not be able to get -- it's going to be -- it's being done, but it will not be done until after late next year because we have to be -- as part of it is the flood recovery. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister confirm, other than raising buildings, has the department started to work towards identifying flood mitigation measures for Hay River that would include watershed management, flood mapping, establishing flood risk elevations, berms, dredging, drainage, embankments, stabilization, dewatering equipment, and an action plan? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you. Yes. So the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is working with the Town of Hay River, K'atlodeeche First Nation, and the federal government on how we can address these situation mitigation and work with them to get this work done. So we're in the process. We're working with them. And, again, it takes a little bit of time, and it's a little back and forth but we are working with the town and K'atlodeeche First Nation as well as the federal government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister confirm if any specific mitigation measures have been identified for Paradise Valley, The Corridor, Old Town, West Channel, and the New Town. You know, we don't know what's going to happen next year. So I think we have to take some decisive action and prepare for it. Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Yes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The answer is yes, we are working on that. We're working with the town. There's a lot of discussion again. We're also working with the federal government, and we're trying to find and identifying funding sources to address this mitigation, to make sure that this situation doesn't happen again or we're prepared for it if it happens, or floods happening again. So we are working with the town as well as K'atlodeeche First Nation on this very topic. And, again, like I said, we're reaching out to the federal government and trying to find additional funds and funding sources to deal with this matter. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I hope the Minister and the department isn't putting all this work on the shoulders of the community because they just don't have -- they just don't possess the resources required to undertake this assessment review, evaluation. So can the Minister confirm if there is a communication plan in place that is directed at disseminating and gathering information to and from residents on mitigation solutions for specific areas in Hay River. Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you. I know the first part. No, we're not putting -- just downloading on to the town or the K'atlodeeche First Nation. We're working together collaboratively to do this. As per the part of the question in regards to the public information component, yes, that's part of the plan. That's part of the strategies that we're working on. We're making sure that this information is public and we're making sure residents here in the town, in this area are able to provide this information moving forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. My questions are for the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. The news released on the sale of Mactung property says that GNWT will get $15 million. Can the Minister tell us whether we have received the initial $1.5 million from Fireweed Zinc, and where are we at with a definitive agreement when another $3.5 million may be coming our way? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can confirm that the initial $1.5 million payment from Fireweed Metals was received in June of this year. And further to that, Mr. Speaker, they were given 18 months in order to do some due diligence work. I understand that there has been some work done over the last exploration season this past spring/summer and that we are expecting that the final agreement will then be signed -- or rather the purchase agreement will be signed which will trigger the further payment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I want to thank the Minister for that. Details on the agreement for the sale of this property seem to be quite scarce. Can the Minister confirm whether the terms of sale will be binding on any future owners of the property in the case where Fireweed Zinc decides to sell the property or loses it? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, both the letter of intent as well as the asset purchase agreement would be binding on future owners should Fireweed Metals not be the owners of the property. Thank you.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I want to thank the Minister for that information. It's not clear who may be responsible for the residual junk at the property and any closure reclamation that might be required. Can the Minister tell us whether our government is on the hook for any responsibility and liability for the current condition of the property? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The property's actually relatively undeveloped and as such -- well, I mean, I can't speak for what the company may have decided upon but I can certainly say that the GNWT is selling the property as is, and that was part of the -- that will be part of the asset purchase agreement, that they -- all the liabilities, to the extent that there are any, will be transferred and that, of course, is the basis on which the agreement is moving forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I want to thank the Minister for that. I'm happy to send her some pictures of the junk when we're finished here. But in my view, the Cantung and the Mactung saga is another example of post-devolution mismanagement of our resources. When I asked the Minister for lessons learned last time, she said that lessons learned would be considered at the time of sale. So I'm going to try the question again. Can the Minister explain what lessons have been learned about financial security and public liabilities from the Cantung and Mactung saga? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure that the lessons learned here are necessarily the ones that the Member's expecting insofar as in this case, Mactung actually has turned out to be a fairly strategic and important critical minerals and metals project; it has been sold; it's been sold with the liabilities transferring to the owner. And hopefully, we'll actually see the development of a critical minerals and metals project. So in that sense, it actually has all gone quite well, which isn't to say that the government generally wants to go out and be the buyer of a mine. But in this sense, it did work out.

As far as securities go, well again, Mr. Speaker, this was a project that originally, under its previous ownership, that did go into CCAA, did not go through the board processes that we have today with respect to ensuring regulatory compliance. The processes that we have now are, in my view, far more robust than what they were and would hopefully not result in a situation where properties are undersecured. That is not anyone's expectation.

And, you know, so again, in that sense is that a lesson learned from this, or is that a lesson learned from devolution? Mr. Speaker, this -- again, I don't know that this is the time for that lesson. I think we've actually learned that lesson in another context. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Health and Social Services. I believe the department will work to create, you know, a number of information items on each of the specified health conditions and work with those people to get the answers they're seeking moving forward. But I think as legislators, there's some fundamental questions about, you know, whether this is a good idea in the first place. And I think one of those is costs.

So my first question for the Minister of health is how much are we currently spending on providing extended health benefits to those with specified health conditions? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health and Social Services is working to make the extended health benefits more equitable. And we put out a number of products here, a discussion paper at FAQ, and a plain language summary, which talks about the supplementary health benefits for low income people, and a drug program for catastrophic costs. The amount of money we're spending right now on this, the 54 specified disease conditions, is $4.3 million, and that's for 1,514 individuals. Thank you.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I guess the next question is do we know -- I'm actually somewhat unsure whether this is going to save us money or cost us more money, the switch from a specified list to a means tested model. Do we know how much this current proposal will cost us or save us, Mr. Speaker.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you. We're in the information gathering phase, and I'm gratified to say we've been getting a lot of feedback. So we don't have a specific model that we can apply costing to. But given the fact that we're going to include more benefits for more people, we expect the program to cost more. Thank you.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Yeah, thank you, Mr. Speaker. And, yeah, I guess we're going to have find out some data there because I imagine providing prescription costs to people who already have specified diseases is more costly than, you know, just because you are a low income earner doesn't mean you get any prescriptions at all. We might bring thousands of people in who barely use the benefits. So I get there's some work to costing this. But to me the department is kind of completely gone out and engaged on, to me, what are separate questions. One, do we want to provide a means tested program; and two, do we want to get rid of the specified health. I don't know that we should be framing that as binary. And I guess my question to the Minister is why can't we keep both, Mr. Speaker.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I appreciate the question. I don't see it as a binary situation here. The specified conditions' list covers 54 diseases. If you have ALS, as one example, you're not on that list. You're not getting any help from the government of the NWT. So the starting point was to make the program more equitable for people who not only have drug costs for chronic conditions but they also don't have any drug coverage at all. So that means for the most basic things like antibiotics. So the thing about this is that people and their conditions don't fit into these little silos very easily. So what we're trying to do here is ask the people who have the means to help pay for their own coverage and to support the people who don't have the means to get the coverage they need to live their best lives. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You know, my hope is that we could find a way to work with each of those people on the specified health condition list. I know there are some very expensive drugs, and there are some people with some very unique circumstances. And we may have to keep some of the conditions. Also I know we may have to revisit the list. There's some confusion to me why cancer's on there if it's insured; what it actually is accomplishing by being on there.

But my other question is the federal government recently announced a federal dental care plan. It was means tested. And I believe there is announcement in the work at the federal level to announce a federal pharma care plan. I imagine it'll be means tested as well. I'm just wondering if the Minister has any insight from her federal colleagues about any news in that area or how that would affect our current plans moving forward. It may make a lot of what we're trying to do moot, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, first of all, the Member has raised this issue about cancer drugs, and I want to give him a specific answer to this. If somebody has cancer and they're receiving treatment in a hospital, those drugs are provided to the person without any means testing or any charge. If after the cancer treatment there is a prescription that is preventative, like tamoxifen for breast cancer, then that is part of the specified condition list, and it would be captured in this new program. So, again, in response to his points, there is -- there is consideration for a drug benefit plan that would cover catastrophic medical costs. For example, the most current treatment for cystic fibrosis is $300,000 per year per client, which is obviously a very huge amount of money for anyone to undertake.

So in terms of the federal government, we don't have any additional information about when pharma care is going to happen. There was a report given to the federal government on the pharma care program prior to the 2019 election, and we delayed the review of the supplementary health benefits program to wait for more information to come forward on pharma care -- national pharma care. It hasn't come forward. So we've decided that we need to move forward with our own review. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Due to housing crisis, what we need is action. Mr. Speaker, how can this Assembly help the Government of the Northwest Territories transfer housing properties to the Indigenous government faster? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And to the Member's question, thank you for that as well that I just -- the Tlicho is a settled land claim area. They do have self-government. I would have to bring this forward to their respective government. If they have looking at housing units to be transferred, I would have to further those discussions with that appropriate government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le Presidente. I have one more question for the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. Would the Minister commit to share a copy of the draft agreement with Fireweed Zinc, a definitive agreement, with the Standing Committee on a confidential basis, before that's finalized. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, subject to there being any legal reason that I can't do that, I would not have a problem doing that on a confidential basis. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Written questions. Returns to written questions. Replies to the Commissioner's address. Petitions. Reports of committees on the review of bills. Reports of standing and special committees. Tabling of documents. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to table the following documents: One, Analysis of Regional Flood Risk Planning and Evacuation Procedures following the May 2022 Hay River Flood. Two, 2014 Northwest Territories Hazard Identification Risk Assessment, Government of the Northwest Territories. Number 3, Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Infrastructure in All NWT Communities, Government of the Northwest Territories. Four, Highway Drainage Design Standards Ontario Minister of Transport. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Tabling of documents. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I wish to table the following document: It's a Resolution Number 22/23-013, 52nd Dene National Assembly, Subject: Keepers of the Water Resolution. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Tabling of documents. Notices of motion. Motions. Notices of motion for the first reading of bills. First reading of bills. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present to the House Bill 56, An Act to Amend the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Act to be read for the first time. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Colleagues, pursuant to Rule 8.2(3), Bill 56, An Act to Amend the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Act is deemed read for first time and is now ready for second reading.

First reading of bills. Minister responsible for Justice.

R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present to the House Bill 57, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act 2022, to be read for the first time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Colleagues, pursuant to Rule 8.2(3), Bill 57, Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Act 2022, is deemed read for the first time and is now ready for second reading.

First reading of bills. Second reading of bills. Consideration in Committee of the Whole of bills and other matters, Bill 23, 29, 48, 52, and 53, Tabled document 723-19(2), with Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes in the chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

I now call Committee of the Whole to order. What is the wish of committee? Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Madam la Presidente. Committee wishes to consider Tabled Document 723-19(2), 2023-2024 Capital Estimates, with general comments, Legislative Assembly, Justice, and Municipal and Community Affairs. Merci.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Does committee agree?

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, committee. We will take a short recess and resume with the first item.

---SHORT RECESS

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

I now call Committee of the Whole back to order. Committee, we've agreed to consider Tabled Document 723-19(2), Capital Estimates 2023-2024. Does the Minister of Finance have any opening remarks?

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Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Yes, thank you, Madam Chair. Madam Chair, I am happy to present the GNWT's 2023-2024 Capital Estimates.

These capital estimates total $328 million to support and continue infrastructure investment in our communities. Major highlights of the plan include:

  • $95.1 million for highways, winter roads, bridges and culverts. This includes funding of $13.4 million for the Frank Channel Bridge, $12 million for the Prohibition Creek Access Road, $19.8 million for the advancement of the environmental and planning work for the Mackenzie Valley and Slave Geologic Province All-Season roads;
  • $45 million for various airport and runway projects under the Disaster Mitigation Adaption Fund, Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan, and the Department of National Defence; and
  • $42.9 million for renewable energy projects, including $18 million for the Fort Providence Transmission Line, and $6.7 million for planning the expansion of Taltson Hydro Electric System;
  • $32.6 million for planning and construction of long-term care facilities, health centres, improvements to health information systems services, biomedical equipment, including $11.6 million for the health centre in Tulita and $10 million for the wellness and recovery centre in Yellowknife;
  • $8 million for planning and construction of schools, including $2 million to complete the work on the Mangilaluk School in Tuktoyaktuk and $3.5 million to renovate and expand the Aurora College Western Arctic Research Centre warehouse; and,
  • $29 million in continued funding to support community governments with their infrastructure needs.

The overall capital spend is offset by a total of $183.3 million in support from the federal government through various infrastructure programs, including:

  • $101.1 million from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan;
  • $23.3 million from the National Trade Corridors Fund;
  • $20 million from the Department of National Defence;
  • $17.8 million from the Building Canada Plan;
  • $10.7 million from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund; and
  • $10.2 million from other partnerships.

That concludes my opening remarks, Madam Chair. I would be happy to answer any questions Members may have. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. We have agreed to begin with the general comments on the capital estimates. Do Members wish to make general comments before we consider the tabled document in detail? Member for Yellowknife North.

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Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Chair. I guess, in general, I support the new approach taken in these capital estimates to, you know, reduce the amount to what we were actually going to spend, and I note this has freed up quite a bit of room in our debt ceiling because we are not committed to borrowing the money for projects that, you know, seem to be completely behind schedule for a variety of reasons. But I just want to talk about the lack of information that I think is currently around all of our infrastructure and I believe it is information that would best be provided when we deal with the capital budget. For example, we don't know what our current infrastructure deficit is in the Northwest Territories other than it is far more money that we can afford. We don't publicly know what our five-year capital plan is and what projects we're building in the next five years. I suspect that document exists, but it is not a public document. We don't know how much specific projects are going to cost. You will hear me ask this a number of times as we review this, what is this road going to cost? What is this school going to cost? Also, not public information, and we are expected to approve that money over the coming days without actually being told that figure publicly.

The capital estimates don't provide an update on our deferred maintenance backlog other than we know it is also hundreds of millions of dollars that our assets are in need of desperate repair, and we consistently underfund repairing our assets.

I really believe we have, as the GNWT, have not done proper asset management. We have no idea of where or at what state all our assets are in and what's need of repair they are in other than we know it's hundreds of millions of dollars.

Getting into the weeds a little bit, I think it would be prudent to report how many of our assets have reached zero book value. And what I mean by that is that every time we build something, we amortize it over the expected life cycle and I'm quite confident that the vast majority of our assets have reached zero book value, which would imply we're supposed to replace them but that's probably hundreds of millions of dollars that we also do not have to replace our infrastructure.

All around, we table this capital document and we get excited that we're going to spend a couple hundred million dollars building new things, but we don't really talk about the fact that we have billions of dollars of infrastructure across, you know, the government and, most importantly, probably the Power Corp has another couple billion dollars in need of replacement. If we look at the state of all our hydro, many of it, you know, long, long overdue for replacement. And none of that information comes with the capital budget. So we are asked to add more infrastructure to an ever-growing infrastructure deficit and an ever-growing maintenance backlog.

I know some work is being done on this, but ultimately I think you can look at a number of jurisdictions that publish much more detailed analysis of all their assets, all their infrastructure, much more detailed analysis of what they're building over the next 5, 10, 20 years with costing that is all public. That is not something we do. And I will have a number of questions on that, to make that information public, as we go through these capital estimates. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member from Yellowknife North. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Madame la Presidente. I do have some comments to make on the capital estimates, but I have one question for the Minister to start with.

Earlier in this sitting, there was some information tabled in the House about a special warrant, and that also included some information about what GNWT expects to be, perhaps most of, what's required for flood relief, and the total was, I think, $174 million. So I know that this was unanticipated. We may be able to recover some of those costs, probably not all of them.

I'd like to know from the Minister what impact the Hay River flood relief and then the bigger issue of mitigation in the future, what impact that actually has on the operating surplus and the spending that's anticipated in the capital estimates. Thanks, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Minister of Finance. The witnesses are in, or are you okay with answering this?

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Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Madam Chair. Madam Chair, let me try and answer it, and I am sure the Member will let me know if we need to bring the witnesses in. There are finance witnesses in the witness room.

Madam Chair, yes, it's 174 -- I don't have that number in front of me, but it does sound approximately correct from my recollection. But I think the question is really getting at what that does to our fiscal situation. And, yes, having an over hundred -- unexpectedly over $100 million in costs associated with the floods takes out the surplus that we had been projecting for 2022-2023 and puts us into a situation where we are likely to be in a -- well, where we are expecting now to be in a deficit situation. So that does mean that we wouldn't be in compliance ultimately, if that's the case, with the Fiscal Responsibility Policy. However, you'll recall that there is a couple -- really, a period of two years of lag time to catch back up. So we may not -- it may actually not necessarily -- it means we don't have the surplus, but we may not be in noncompliance.

As for the longer-term projection, we are still expecting, because we do get a significant amount of that refunded by the federal government under the Disaster Assistance Policy, that does catch us back up. And so by 2023-2024, we would be back to anticipating a surplus in the amount of $131 million. Again, given that we would be, you know, I'm expecting that we won't get the money for disaster assistance this fiscal, or certainly not the bulk of it, and so then we wind up catching back up.

There's also a significant amount of catchup happening under the territorial formula finance policy because of all the costs that provinces were paying out during COVID. That reflects in terms of what we then get under the TIF. So, yes, this year definitely is being impacted but we do catch up. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Madam Chair. Can the Minister commit to provide some publicly-available information around these new projections that she has been talking about with regard to our finances and our fiscal situation resulting from the Hay River flooding? Thanks, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Minister of Finance.

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Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Madam Chair. Yes, Madam Chair, I'm happy to do that. We did do budget dialogues again this spring at which point we had an update for it at the spring period. But certainly a lot of the work to assist communities that were affected by the flood was taking place over the spring and summer. So those final numbers were coming in, and I am happy to get that information out again.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Madam Chair. Does the Minister have a timeframe in mind for getting that information to us as Regular MLAs but also to the public? Thanks, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Minister of Finance.

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Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Madam Chair. Madam Chair, so, you know, there were updates that were provided back in, I believe August, when we were preparing for this session. As I said, numbers related to the information that was received through the spring and summer as flood remediation work was ongoing certainly were being updated through the course of time. All of the information does go into the main estimates documents. I can see if we can put some sort of package together, you know, more urgently than that, you know, without having anyone from the department here in front of me -- and even if they were here I don't know that I could say if it's tomorrow or the next day. But I realize that Members may want to have that information this session so we'll get something together.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Madam Chair. I appreciate the commitment from the Minister and as much as I would like to see it, I think the public also needs to see this. So I'll take her commitment there.

I do want to make some remarks now. I do want to compliment the Minister for the new approach, limiting capital spending to the $260 million cap that I think better reflects our ability to actually get money out the door. And I know that the department is also doing much better tracking of the reasons for carryovers and can then, you know, work towards trying to look at what the barriers are and how to change that. And I know that they've also got a procurement review underway which might allow us to do some of this work more quickly and retain more of the benefits.

But, Madam Chair, I'm going to take some of the credit, and I think the Regular MLAs are going to take some of the credit for this new capital approach, which the Minister made her statement yesterday in the House about this, when she tabled them. We have been on the Minister, as Regular MLAs, for the entire Assembly about the overbudgeting, the overspending on capital, overspending that I've raised, certainly overbudgeting and the amount of carryovers. So, you know, I have not voted in favour of a single capital budget in this Assembly, and I have raised these issues again and again and again. So I want to thank the Minister for listening and actually decreasing the envelope or putting a cap on capital spending. So that's the good news. The bad news is I still think you're spending on the wrong priorities. And all I have to do is turn to page 2 here, and the largest single key investment area in the entire budget, the highest amount, 30 percent on highways and roads. Why are we not spending 30 percent of our budget on housing? That should be the highest priority for this Assembly, not highways and roads in terms of capital investment. And it's no secret that I have never accepted a number of the large infrastructure projects as priorities. The Slave Geological Province Road -- I shouldn't have used that word -- is not a priority, especially at a time when the Bathurst caribou herd is in decline and a regional study is being discussed; we should not be spending money on something like that. I also disagree with Taltson Expansion. I don't think there's no buyer that's been identified. Without a buyer, there's no project. And I think we can make much better use of the funds that would be invested in that project to build community and individual homeowner energy self-sufficiency.

So I disagree fundamentally with Cabinet's spending priorities and as shown here, highways and roads highest item. So I will likely still vote against this budget but I want to thank the Minister for her efforts to decrease the overbudgeting on capital. Thanks, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Are there any further questions, comments? Member for Hay River South.

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Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Madam Chair. I guess this cautious approach, I guess, in spending in capital spending is interesting. But I guess what is concerning, I guess, to me, is that, you know, is that, you know, departments appear, I guess -- we know that they're unable to spend money -- spend the funding received from federal government to actually complete projects and, you know, we're seeing important projects being pushed back. We're seeing possible, you know, maybe lapse of funding; I'm not sure. But does the Minister -- does this raise a concern, I guess, to the Minister because, you know, we look at less spending on capital, but have we looked at anything else to maybe encourage, say, securing contractors to come north, finding ways to, you know, entice workers to come north so that we can actually, you know, take these projects on and, you know, finish them with the money we have before we start losing it. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Minister.

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Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Madam Chair. So, Madam Chair, this isn't just, to be clear, a function of the circumstances of the labour market shortages that all of Canada and the world are experiencing today. This is reflective of, you know, the last ten years that we saw that, you know, the average spend in the last ten years year over year is around $250 million per year. So it's not new that we simply don't have the capacity in the North alone to be getting out to have much more than that spent in any particular given year. So it's not entirely a function of current labour market shortages. It is a function in part of general labour shortages in the North. You know, and to that I would say that over the course of that time, certainly before my time here or, you know, at the time of the 19th Assembly there have been efforts at increasing the population through, you know, various forms of recruitment. And they've also obviously not been successful. So, you know, I don't know that that alone is going to entirely solve the problem. I think there should be a broader look at increasing the population, increasing the economy, having a positive and pleasant and wonderful place to come and live and work as we all know it to be. Does that change the fact that for the last ten years or more the capital budget has been oversized relative to what we could perform? No, it doesn't. So fixing this problem doesn't mean we don't want to look at increasing the population. But I just want to kind of separate out that that isn't necessarily going to take away the reasons that we've done now what we've done now, which is to right size the capital plan, reduce the need to borrow, and to put money into planning. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Member for Hay River South.

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Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Madam Chair. I guess my concern is that, you know, this government goes to the federal government and seeks funding for initiatives that we want to undertake. And now we have to go back to the federal government and tell them that we can't complete the work that we promised we're going to complete in a timely manner. So I guess I would ask the Minister does she see that as an impediment now to securing, you know, federal funding for the new initiatives? Because if we're not spending the money on what we're supposed to and finish those projects, is the government -- or does she think that the government's going to be a little more reluctant to fund our projects, and has she had actually any discussions with her counterparts? Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Minister of Finance.

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Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Madam Chair. Madam Chair, one of the sources of, you know, concern that's been raised has actually been colleagues in the federal government who have said, you know, why aren't you spending more? What are you spending? You know, and they want to have accountability for the dollars that they are committing to the Northwest Territories. So if there are projects that are delayed or stalled, again for a variety of reasons, but it may well -- but for whatever reason it may be that attaches to any particular project, you know, they would rather know that when we have a properly sized budget that they can then be held accountability to deliver upon and be more focused on the reasons that a project might get held back. So it's not to say that some of these projects won't still face some sort of delay but, you know, we're not looking at a monster-sized envelope that is more likely to see that.

Federal departments have been consulted, certainly a lot of officials-level conversations have been had. I know myself and Minister Archie have had conversations when the federal Minister of Infrastructure was here. And the messaging actually was, you know, figure out what you can do and to focus on that. So I actually think this will be a positive signal to them. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Member for Hay River South.