This is page numbers 5051 - 5086 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 housing.

Topics

Member's Statement 1283-19(2): Highway No. 3 Transmission Line
Members' Statements

Page 5055

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, I want to talk about access to electrical power for Tlicho residents living on Highway No. 3.

Madam Speaker, the Tlicho people have historically lived in small encampments and have come together for special events such as weddings, funerals, successful hunt, and other celebrations. Some Tlicho residents still live in encampments, cabins, and houses along Highway No. 3. Madam Speaker, in the House on June 3rd of this year, the Minister of Infrastructure called the Whati Transmission Line, quote, "a key initiative under our 2030 Energy Strategy," end quote. But what is the plan for getting these homes along Highway No. 3 off diesel power?

Madam Speaker, the Minister told the House the Whati Transmission Line will occur 100 percent on Tlicho lands, and she said that the Department of Infrastructure and Tlicho government were working together, quote, "to determine an acceptable routing corridor for the transmission line between the Snare Forks hydroelectricity facility and Whati." When the authorities came to Behchoko to request access through Tlicho lands for the power lines from Snare hydro to Yellowknife, they promised Behchoko residents would have free access to the power on Tlicho lands. Madam Speaker, residents along the highway cannot always depend on portable generators to power their homes and their freezers after a successful hunt. We already have a fibre optic line along the highway and the addition of electrical lines might be accomplished at reasonable price. I will have question for the Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time. Thank you, or Finance.

Member's Statement 1283-19(2): Highway No. 3 Transmission Line
Members' Statements

Page 5056

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Member's Statement 1284-19(2): Indigenous Disability Month
Members' Statements

Page 5056

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, November is Indigenous Disability Month. According to the most recent data, in 2012, there were over 2700 persons with disabilities in the NWT. Of those, 62 percent were Indigenous yet the total Indigenous population of the NWT in 2012 was only 48 percent.

Vital Abel was a former NWT Legislative Assembly employee who left behind a legacy of strength and inspiration. Vital Manuel Abel would have been familiar to MLAs in the '90s as the former assistant to Premier Stephen Kakfwi. Vital was from Fort Good Hope, where he was born with developmental disabilities caused by spina bifida. He spent his life in a wheelchair but was taught from a young age to not let his challenges limit him.

Vital's parents taught him to never depend on anyone. He arrived in Yellowknife in Grade 10 and attended Sir John Franklin High School in my riding. After graduating, he worked in MLA Stephen Kakfwi's office for over ten years. Premier Kakfwi referred to Vital as a good worker, who was faithful and positive and always on time. Vital was an avid churchgoer who never missed a service and was always the first to show up for worship. His parents were so proud of him and all he accomplished in his short life. Vital died in 2006 at the age of 32. Spiritually, he was incredibly strong and continues to be a source of inspiration to people in our territory.

Persons with disabilities in the North face many challenges, including having to relocate to Yellowknife to access supports. Often this means entire families move with children, as is the case of the family in Lanky Court I spoke of yesterday. As winter sets in, we must remember that what many of us take for granted, the ability to walk through the freshly fallen snow, poses great challenges for others. For people with disabilities, this means they can no longer go to school, no longer easily pick up groceries, no longer run other small errands. They fear fire because the simple act of leaving their apartment is no longer possible.

Madam Speaker, REITs, landlords, and Housing NWT all have a responsibility to ensure that the entrances and walkways of all the buildings in Yellowknife are free of snow and ice such that every person in our territory can move about freely, without barriers. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Member's Statement 1284-19(2): Indigenous Disability Month
Members' Statements

Page 5056

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Member's Statement 1285-19(2): Budget Transparency
Members' Statements

Page 5056

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Our government's open government policy commits to our public service being open by design to build a government that is open by default. And Madam Speaker, it is my experience that the exact opposite is true - that, in fact, we are closed by design and closed by default. And this is shown, Madam Speaker, in the repeated requests that myself and committees have made for information that is inevitably either marked confidential or not provided at all. Every year when the capital budget comes forward, I give the same speech about wanting to see the same documents made public. And to date, none of them have been made public. I am going to just summarize a few of those documents that I believe should be public and if ATIPP would certainly be made public, the government should proactively disclose.

One is the GNWT's 20-year capital needs assessment. This is a document that shows the GNWT what it thinks it needs to build over the next 20 years. I think this would be very helpful for residents to look in their community and maybe they could see when their school or health centre was due to be replaced. Additionally, the government has a five-year needs assessment. This one is a little more particular and has actually had some financial input put into it whereas the 20-year needs assessment is more of a wish list, and we know things are going to change. It doesn't necessarily mean. But five years out, quite a bit of financial work has been done and it's actually more likely we're going to build that. This document exists. I think it would be great public information. Once again, a five-year capital plan of any sort we have should be made public. Right now we have a one-year snapshot of what's being built with no timeline of what is actually occurring, whether things are on time, whether something was completed, and it takes repeated questions in this House to actually figure out when a project was finished on budget and on time, as many are not.

Additionally, Madam Speaker, you can see in our capital budget a number of just one-line descriptions of projects but we know there is a briefing note describing each of those projects in a little bit more detail. I think this would be great public information. Perhaps someone is interested to know why the student records module replacement completion date moves up every single year it is presented in the capital budget. And I'd rather not waste all of my committee's time and all of Cabinet Members' time asking year after year if we could simply disclose that information in the briefing note which already exists. I'll have questions for the Minister of Finance, who presently holds all of these documents, whether she will make them public. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Member's Statement 1285-19(2): Budget Transparency
Members' Statements

Page 5057

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Member's Statement 1286-19(2): Recognition
Members' Statements

Page 5057

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, as this is the final day of the fall session, I would like to commend my colleagues on both sides of the floor for understanding each other. We all come here to make a difference and to make life easier and better for the residents of this vast territory. It is very trying in our efforts when having to deal with limited and challenging budgets for all departments. The staff who put up with us day in and day out, you're all loved, and we appreciate everything that you do for us.

To the ones who live with deep depression and feel there is no other way out, believe me you are loved, and we are all here for you. Your life doesn't have to fall to pieces as there most likely is a better day. That could be later in the day, it could be tomorrow, or it could be the next day, and perhaps all the other days of your life. Please do not give up; we care.

I would like to commend the housing Minister for providing assistance to the young family with the baby in Paulatuk by providing them a warm house that gives them comfort from the cold environment of our North. Mahsi to the Minister.

Madam Speaker, in closing, I would like to wish everyone who may be struggling with addictions and chronic diseases the best of health and the warm embrace of our Creator. We don't ask for anything more than the simplest things that life has to offer. Mahsi.

Member's Statement 1286-19(2): Recognition
Members' Statements

Page 5057

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Member's Statement 1287-19(2): Tu Nedhe Wiilideh Constituency Budget Allocations
Members' Statements

Page 5057

Edjericon

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Today marks 266 days since I was elected to this House to represent the constituents of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and the communities of N'dilo, Dettah, Lutselk'e, and Fort Resolution. It's also 333 days until the next election. I want to reflect on my experience to date we had right into the final year of this Assembly.

Madam Speaker, as soon as I arrived here, I couldn't help but feel that the GNWT train already left the station and I and my constituents had been left out -- left behind. No matter what I do or try to catch up, it seems like there isn't anything that I could do to slow down this train. And what I mean by that, Madam Speaker, is that anytime I bring up issues of housing or anything like that, I put that into the train, it gets thrown out, because it bounces off the door because the policies that hinder our people from trying to improve their lives.

So Madam Speaker, this year's budget was $2.2 billion. My riding got $3.4 million, 1.7 of a percent. So that's concerning to me. And housing got $30 million for CIRNAC this year and next year, but yet we're fixing the public housing. And that doesn't make sense when we have a housing crisis here in the Northwest Territories.

Yesterday the Finance Minister said, in response to my questions around fiscal deficits, "I do not believe there are any political pressure on us to do or not do anything as a department are not tied to the political whims of any particular administration."

Madam Speaker, I respectfully disagree with the Minister on this point. I reject the notion that the priorities of elected Members are whims to be discarded when they don't fit into the planning cycles of the GNWT departments or the priorities of the deputy minister. Political priorities should be the most important consideration to everything the GNWT does.

The priorities don't come from political parties or lobbyists like down south. They come from our people, Madam Speaker. Your job as Cabinet is to deliver out the priorities of all 19 elected Members. Our residents expect results, and sadly progress has been barely filled on the most pressing issues of the day. If this is the foundation of our consensus system, then we are deep in trouble. Madam Speaker, I would have some questions at appropriate time. Mahsi.

Member's Statement 1287-19(2): Tu Nedhe Wiilideh Constituency Budget Allocations
Members' Statements

Page 5058

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Member's Statement 1288-19(2): Recognition
Members' Statements

Page 5058

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Today, Madam Speaker, I just want to say thank you to all the Members here in the House, both sides that we worked the last three weeks together to try do good for our territory, and I think we did a good job and we'll just keep moving ahead and working together. There's some issues that need to be dealt with but we'll get them dealt with. And just by saying that, my colleague Mr. Bonnetrouge really said it well in regards to thanking the staff and really we're able to do our jobs because of them, all the research that goes into some of the stuff that we deal with.

I'd really like to thank all my community, my mayors, my councillors, my community corp chairs, the board of directors for the community corporations, the elders committees, my local DEAs, and especially, these days, is our recreation staff and the hamlet staff that are doing so much in all our communities to provide service for our constituents.

I'd also like to say thank you to my CA Vince Teddy. Thank you for all the hard work that you do for me. And I wouldn't be able to do what I do without my wife Jenny. I'd like to thank my wife Jenny because I wouldn't be able to do what I do without her support back home. And also would like to make sure that on November 11th, making sure that we keep that special day and all Members make sure, if possible, to make it to the Remembrance Day ceremonies wherever we are at the time. Make sure to do so in our great territory. Also I would like to thank our veterans for their service, our active members, 1 CRPG, and all my Ranger brothers and sisters, to have that day close at hand. And everybody, we'll see you in two weeks. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Member's Statement 1288-19(2): Recognition
Members' Statements

Page 5058

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Member's Statement 1289-19(2): Supplementary Health Budgets
Members' Statements

November 3rd, 2022

Page 5058

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, health system researchers identify two potential ways to reduce health system costs - prevention through public health education and ensuring people take their medication. When I was a university student, our high school English teacher and his wife were sent to Edmonton where their baby was born premature. I went up to U of A Hospital where they sat teary eyed waiting for their tiny baby to finish her first surgery. Their baby Katie survived her surgery, persevered through childhood, set territorial records at this year's Canada Summer Games, and is now a third year university science student with a 3.95 GPA. Today, Katie is the NWT's only resident with cystic fibrosis.

Katie, who's sights are set on speech pathology, is deciding where to accept a job offer on graduation. But the cost of her medication plays a key role in deciding where to call home. Katie takes two medications - a nationally publicly-funded Trikafta at $300,000 per year and a second one that the GNWT helps support at $12,000 per year. If proposed changes to the specified disease program move forward, Katie will no longer receive GNWT support for her medication. Ironically, half of the Canadian provinces, also desperate for speech pathologists, will cover Katie's second medication.

Madam Speaker, Katie's story is one of many. I also serve single parents who exceed the income threshold but live on the poverty line with the North's high cost of living. NWT residents who sit above the income threshold but whose medications would cost roughly $20,000 a year, and others who would choose more opportunities for family and reduce medications for themselves.

The income threshold chosen by the GNWT are below liveable wages, and liveable wages do not account for high costs of life saving medications. Beyond the strain this will put on northern residents, this also stands to further strain our healthcare system.

With this change, many Northerners will join other Canadians who face decisions to not fill their prescriptions, take smaller doses than ordered, or cut back on food, heat, and family expenses to try to cover drug costs that, for some, will be suffocating, and mismanaging medications ultimately drives up hospitalization.

Hospitals now dominate all healthcare systems in high income countries. Canadian annual hospital care is roughly $77 billion. The average hospital stay in the NWT is almost twice the national average at just over, ironically, $12,000. Madam Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement for the first time this sitting.

---Unanimous consent granted

Very big thank you, colleagues. Madam Speaker, this is not a whole-of-system thinking policy change. This is a quick fix that looks at one budgetary line item in a vacuum with potentially harmful impacts to the health of other Northerners and the health of the system's collective bottom line. I urge this government to reconsider. They do not have a grasp on how many people will no longer qualify for support and, ultimately, what the cost will be to the system. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Member's Statement 1289-19(2): Supplementary Health Budgets
Members' Statements

Page 5059

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Member's Statement 1290-19(2): Open Sky Festival
Members' Statements

Page 5059

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, with COVID pandemic moving to an endemic we are seeing the closure of events moving to opening of events. I'm happy to advise the House that Open Sky hosted its 20th festival at the beginning of September. I was able to partake in some of the events during the September long weekend. The festival is usually celebrated annually, and this was the first festival since 2019 and the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

They celebrated with a weekend full of workshops, vendors, and music. For this special festival they chose the theme of "Deh Cho Boogie" with a logo designed of a guitar playing kiwi bird. This year was special to them and the community as it was their 20th anniversary and to remember the late founding member Lindsey "Kiwi" Waugh.

Throughout the festival, they counted about 95 to 120 visitors per day, which was a great turnout for them. Visitors were able to participate in one or more of the 15 different workshops offered during the weekend, such as soapstone carving, earring making, or painting, Listen to some music, meeting with friends, and enjoy some of the local bakery and seeing what the other eight vendors had to offer in locally made arts and crafts.

One of the highlights was the cake cutting on Saturday. The hosts were lucky to have Pat Waugh, her daughter and grandchildren, do the cake cutting. This event attracted lots of people to stop by which then enjoyed other activities being offered.

Organizers would like to thank everybody who joined them in celebrating the 20th anniversary, participating in the workshops, and Fort Simpson for being such a welcoming community. As well, a huge shout out to all the sponsors without whom they wouldn't be able to offer such an amazing event.

Madam Speaker, we are already looking forward to next years festival. Thank you, Madam Speaker.