This is page numbers 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. 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 10 a.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 231-19(2): Airport Capital Assistance Program
Ministers' Statements

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Quanainni. Northwest Territories airports are critical in the economic and social well-being of Northwest Territories residents. They help to connect communities and families throughout the territory and across the country.

Today I am pleased to give you an update on two projects which have been funded by the Government of Canada's Airport Capital Assistance Program. These projects are very important to the Department of Infrastructure and to residents as they will help improve safety at NWT airports.

The Airport Capital Assistance Program, also known as ACAP, is a contribution program administered by Transportation Canada. ACAP provides financial assistance to modernize and maintain the safe operation of regional airports for passengers and employees alike. Last year, Transport Canada announced almost $20 million in ACAP funding to three NWT airports. This figure includes:

  • $2.7 million toward the rehabilitation of the airfield electrical system at the Fort Simpson Airport;.
  • $2 million toward the rehabilitation of airfield drainage at the Yellowknife Airport; and
  • $15 million to fund the overlay of the existing air side surfaces at the Fort Smith Airport.

Currently, the Yellowknife Airport drainage work is making excellent progress. The first phase of project was completed in the fall of 2021. Design work for replacement of the Fort Simpson airfield lighting has been completed and the construction tender is currently in the procurement phase. The Department of Infrastructure has also recently awarded a design and engineering services contract for the air side surfaces overlay project at the Fort Smith Airport.

Oqakti, previous successful ACAP submissions allowed us to purchase a new snowblower for the Inuvik Airport, replace the airfield lighting of one of the Yellowknife Airport runways, and purchase a fire truck for the Yellowknife Airport fire department. The vehicle was recently delivered and will be a valuable tool for firefighters.

To date, the Department of Infrastructure has received ACAP funding totalling over $50 million for 11 projects at the different NWT airports.

Oqakti, the Government of the Northwest Territories remains committed to building capacity at airports to support safe and efficient travel to enhance business opportunities. The Airport Capital Assistance Program is critical to the commitment, and we appreciate the support of the federal Government of Canada in helping us maintain safe, modern, and reliable infrastructure here in the North.
Quyananni.

Minister's Statement 231-19(2): Airport Capital Assistance Program
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Member's Statement 1034-19(2): Recreational Land Leases
Members' Statements

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. For people who want to pursue the rural lifestyle or just want a cabin out of town for weekends and holidays, there's the hope of obtaining a recreational land lease. You pay your $250 application fee and then the wait begins.

These leases are administered by the Department of Lands which considers and disposes of applications under its 2017 Recreational Leasing Management Framework. The result of stakeholder engagement, the framework lays out the GNWT's approach to planning and issuing leases for cabins and recreational uses. It was intended to result in a consistent approach to various land uses across both Commissioner's and formerly federal lands.

Two major goals of the framework are to:

  1. Provide the public with readily available and clear information on leasing, processes, rules, enforcement practices, and procedures for cabins and recreational uses; and
  2. To create a more effective process for cabin leases to discourage unauthorized occupancy.

So how does it work when a $250 application hits the lands department?

Based upon enquiries I made on a constituent's application filed in February 2021, there are no service standards for this department. Someone files an application for a lease and then never hears anything back. That's not the kind of service our residents deserve.

My constituent hadn't heard anything back after six months. I understand that the department may be in the process of developing something and I will ask the Minister about that later today.

The other issue is whether we should even be accepting land lease applications for areas still under negotiation. Then there is the lack of any Indigenous land rights agreements during the lifetime of this Assembly. I will have questions for the Minister of Lands on improving our services to our residents. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1034-19(2): Recreational Land Leases
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1035-19(2): Capital Budget Transparency
Members' Statements

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know we are in the midst of an operating budget but the work never stops, and I'd like to make some comments today about the transparency in our capital budget. And I believe in making these comments and asking questions today, hopefully I can give the departments enough time to improve the transparency of our capital budget.

Firstly, Mr. Speaker, many jurisdictions publish a multiyear capital plan and in doing so, they give a range of the cost of each project. In the Northwest Territories, we don't do that. I'll note we pass some money to build a school in Colville Lake this Assembly, and I can't tell you how much that is projected to cost. I can't have a public debate about whether I think that is too little or too much money, Mr. Speaker. We also passed some money to build a hydro line to Whati, and the department refuses to publicly state how much they expect that to cost.

And the argument given here, Mr. Speaker, is that it'll affect the tendering process. And this really is just not a valid argument considering you can provide ranges, considering most of our projects go out to tender in multiple stages at multiple times. And especially with hydro lines, Mr. Speaker, I am not at all convinced that we can't publicly state how much it costs to build power infrastructure and have an honest conversation about whether there is a business case, whether the Power Corp will be recouping that, whether we're trying to get money from the federal government. But we can't even state how much that costs. The other side will not provide that number publicly.

And, Mr. Speaker, and it's not just the projected costs. It's the actual costs. Often the GNWT will say well, this is all kind of wrapped up in the public accounts but the public accounts is not concerned with individual project costs. I would really like us to do more work to publish our actuals. I have a dream of, you know, each project after it's completed, it has listed the total cost, the contractor, any change orders, whether it was delayed, whether there were carryovers, the reason for carryovers.

Now that may be a bit too much to ask for the GNWT, but right now it is impossible, and we have asked our staff multiple times, to tell you what a project costs year over year. You can't track it through the capital estimates. There is far too much carryover; there is far too much accounting language going on to actually know what something costs. So I'm going to have questions for the Minister of Finance if we can get some work to do better transparency on our capital planning. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1035-19(2): Capital Budget Transparency
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1036-19(2): Message of Support for Town of Fort Smith
Members' Statements

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak once again about my community of Fort Smith as we cope with the aftermath of last weekend's events.

Mr. Speaker, Fort Smith is in mourning right now. Our community's in a process of grieving. The town is still collectively reeling from the chaotic events of last weekend's crimes. However, the grief that my constituents are experiencing has not stopped them from coming together and supporting the family of the deceased in an unbelievable and overwhelming fashion.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the people of Fort Smith for the unity and support they show one another. They have really pulling together as a community and have shown compassion for our neighbors, and that is touching to see. I know that the family of the deceased is deeply grateful for the support they've received from the entire town. On behalf of the family, I would like to say once again thank you to everyone who has reached out and helped in any way that they were able to during this difficult time.

Mr. Speaker, I have often said that the people of Fort Smith are amazing constituents and the town is an amazing community to represent, and it is because of moments like these which solidifies that belief in me. While this was a tragedy that we endured within our community, I know we will continue to pull together and look out for one another in the days ahead as we look for healing within our town.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank my colleagues in this House for the support they have given me and my constituents during this trying time. I know things can sometimes get heated here at the Assembly but in troubling times or in times of crisis, we support each other, and for that I am grateful.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again thank all the local leadership in Fort Smith, which includes the mayor and council, the Chiefs and council of both the Salt River First Nation, Smith Landing First Nation, and the president and council of the Fort Smith Metis Local. All levels of government work seamlessly and cooperatively alongside the RCMP and the territorial government. To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I want to wish my colleagues a safe and well deserved two-week break. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1036-19(2): Message of Support for Town of Fort Smith
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1037-19(2): Medical Travel
Members' Statements

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On October 29th, 2020, I spoke about medical travel escorts in here, and I stressed the issue to the last Minister of Health and Social Services. The main issues were elders being sent without escorts and the issues that they have when they arrive, especially in Yellowknife, of being put in a hotel. Today I want to re-raise these concerns to the current Health and Social Services Minister as they still continue to be one of the biggest complaints that I receive.

Mr. Speaker, clients being sent to Yellowknife are contacting me not only from my constituency but from throughout the Northwest Territories with their complaints. One of the biggest are the denial of escorts. And I would like to stress to the Minister they find out usually a day before and some even on the day that they're going to travel so there is no time to do an appeal. I know Minister has stated this policy is being reviewed. Mr. Speaker, another concern is residents being sent to the boarding home in Yellowknife after being placed in the hotel. The constituents I have heard from -- or sorry, the constituents I have heard being placed in hotels that have no restaurants and the food that they receive was unacceptable. They are hungry, and they have no choice even when they are allergic to the food that is being sent. They are not -- if they are not in the boarding home, then why are we making -- why are we not making arrangements to have them in a hotel with a restaurant and have vouchers to the restaurants for three meals a day? And I may add there have also been elders put in these hotels and have had no escort. This, again, is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to point out that Indigenous people in the NWT are the ones that are being put through this. These are not GNWT employees or people who have other insurances. If they have staying in hotels, they should be given per diems or meal vouchers to be equivalent to GNWT staff if not fed three meals in a day in a hotel where they're -- where they are staying.

Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to raise the complaint of the quality and quantity of food being provided to the medical travel patients when staying at the hotel and at the boarding home. They tell me they are hungry as the food is very little or inadequate. For example, I have received a photo of a meal for supper that was a hot dog. This was from an elder.

Recently, I've received complaints from those who are at the boarding home that there's nothing do drink for them and little to nothing to have for snacks after supper. Mr. Speaker, I request unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. They can't afford to go anywhere, and some are unable to get anywhere as they may need assistance but they have no escort.

Mr. Speaker, medical travel needs an overhaul. Our GNWT employees would revolt if they were treated as our medical travel patients are. And I would like to point out that majority of them are Indigenous. I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1037-19(2): Medical Travel
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1038-19(2): Waste Management
Members' Statements

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in October, the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment posted a panel discussion about landfill management in the Northwest Territories. Waste is like death and taxes, Mr. Speaker; it's a given but it needs proper planning and management to protect future generations. Waste management is not a flashy topic. It doesn't get many people excited or stir up headlines. But how we manage waste is critically important to every NWT community. Waste management is a shared challenge and responsibility and is key to protecting the North's waters and lands.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT has the second highest waste disposal rate in Canada, and this clearly puts environmental and financial pressure on all landfills across the territory. The panel highlighted the challenges facing landfills, including hazardous waste, industrial waste, as well as housing waste; and, many NWT landfills are approaching the end of their lifecycle.

Mr. Speaker, 40 percent of NWT landfills are commercial waste relating to housing construction and repair, hospitals, and largely government infrastructure. This means there's plenty of room for the GNWT to be a leader in reducing landfill needs means and pressure on municipalities. This is an opportunity for the GNWT to evaluate how it generates waste, support backhaul programs to remove waste, and explore the potential of regional landfills. But waste management is not solely a government responsibility, and each of us can make a significant impact on our landfills.

Sixty percent of land fills are residential waste, and almost half of the waste stream of that is compost. Composting and redirecting compostable material from general landfills reduces greenhouse gases, wildlife problems, fire risk, and the byproduct is soil.

Mr. Speaker, we know that many of our communities are small and isolated and the cost to remove waste is significant. But getting rid of solid waste stockpiles is fiscally and environmentally responsible. During the panel, several simple solutions were presented, like reducing waste and potential waste that enters communities, composting, and moving less to less landfills with better services at each. Industry stakeholders are suggesting waste sorting and control measures to extend the life of landfills significantly. But, to shift the trajectory of our trash requires the support of the GNWT in collaboration with municipalities. I will have questions for the Minister of Community and Municipal Affairs after this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1038-19(2): Waste Management
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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