This is page numbers 1 - 48 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., 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.

The House met at 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Good afternoon, Members, and welcome back to the Assembly. I hope that it was a productive March Break - speaking with constituents, spending time with family and friends, and getting out on the land to start of spring in the North.

Members will note some changes in the legislative Chamber. Today, the Legislative Assembly will host its first hybrid sitting, with Members participating remotely.

Pursuant to Rule 10.1(2)(b) I have, at their request, allowed the following Members to participate in part of this sitting remotely:

  • Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.
  • Member for Kam Lake.
  • Honourable Member for Yellowknife South.

Pursuant to Rule 10.2, these Members will be counted for the purpose of determining quorum, are considered to be in attendance, and may vote on any matter in which they are entitled to vote as though they were participating in person.

For those Members attending in person and visitors in the gallery, you will be required to use a headset on channel 2 to hear Members who are participating remotely. Without a headset, you will not be able to hear these Members.

Also for Members in attendance, pursuant to Rule 10.3(2), all votes on readings of bills and any other motion that requires notice will be conducted as recorded votes.

Members, our first hybrid sitting will be a challenge but I know you're up to it. Members have a busy and full week of work ahead of them with important matters before you. This work must be done.

I ask that today, and every day, Members exercise patience as well as resolve any technical issues that arise. Also, it is more important than ever that we talk slowly and wait for your microphone to turn on. And if you do not, the interpreters or those appearing remotely will not hear you.

As always, I expect the respect and courtesy shown to each other will continue throughout this hybrid sitting. Thank you, Members.

Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 232-19(2): Arctic Sovereignty
Ministers' Statements

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Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a stark reminder of the importance of Arctic sovereignty. We share a unique border with Russia - the Arctic Ocean. As the Arctic takes a more predominant role on the international stage, we want to ensure that the needs of Northerners remain a priority for Canada. It also means that the aspirations of Northerners be given appropriate attention and that we eliminate the gaps between northern and southern Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, Russia has broad interests in the Arctic, including advancing a claim under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that comes to the edge of Canada's 370-kilometer exclusive coastal economic zone off the coast of Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut. Canada has also submitted a claim.

Territorial Premiers recently wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Council of Federation Chair, BC Premier John Horgan, to convene urgent discussions on Arctic sovereignty and security. We believe that this issue needs to be a priority for all Canadians moving forward. I will be tabling both of those letters later today.

Earlier this month, I attended a confidential briefing with officials at the highest level of military, security, and intelligence branches of the federal government. I've also met with Anita Anand, the Minister of National Defence, and Dan Vandal, the Minister of Northern Affairs, to discuss Arctic sovereignty and security and how we can work closer together moving forward.

The strategic importance of the Arctic has been increasing due to climate change and the opening of Arctic waters, as well as the wealth of resources that the Arctic holds, Mr. Speaker. This heightened interest is not only from Russia but other world powers, like China, the United States, and other Arctic nations. It is paramount for Northerners that we are involved in decisions that impact the North.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to supporting Canada in its efforts to show leadership in asserting Arctic sovereignty by empowering and equipping communities to be both resilient and responsive in the changing geo-political landscape. From a Northwest Territories perspective, peace and cooperation among circumpolar countries are essential for healthy and vibrant Arctic communities. This is something we value.

Mr. Speaker, northern security is not just about a military presence. It is also about building strong resilient communities through significant investment in critical infrastructure like roads, telecommunications and energy. It also means strong healthcare and education systems and the elimination of gaps between north and south. Decisions about the North must be made by Northerners. After all, Northerners have the biggest stake in a strong and sustainable Arctic.

As outlined in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, the Government of the Northwest Territories has a vision of strong, self-reliant people and communities working together for a vibrant, prosperous, and sustainable Arctic and northern region. By achieving this vision both at home and abroad, it supports Canada's enduring Arctic sovereignty.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to working across borders and with Indigenous Northerners to improve the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 232-19(2): Arctic Sovereignty
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.

Minister's Statement 233-19(2): Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission Safety Certificate for Young Workers
Ministers' Statements

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Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I am very pleased to share the details of a safety certificate training course for new and young workers available through the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.

Workplace accidents and injuries happen to employees in various professions and age groups but younger workers with less experience are often at greater risk of getting hurt. The Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission has developed a 2-hour interactive online course that will give young workers the basic knowledge they need to help start their working lives safely.

The course training covers the rights and responsibilities of workers and includes important safety topics that are useful for youth, including safety while working on the land.

When they complete the course, they will also receive a certificate.

There are also useful course guidelines available to help teachers, instructors, and anyone working with youth, to help them prepare for their first job. The training course and instructors' guide are available at no cost on the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission website.

Employees play a very important role in promoting and maintaining safety and a healthy workplaces. By educating employees on workplace safety when they are young, we are helping them to build a safer, healthier, and more efficient workforce for their future.

I'd like to also include a thank you to the staff of the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission for putting this website course together.
Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 233-19(2): Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission Safety Certificate for Young Workers
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1042-19(2): Mike Zubko Airport Project
Members' Statements

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Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to speak about the government's plans to resume work on the runway extension at the Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport. This contract is funded by the Canadian Department of National Defence as the airport is a forward operating location for CF18 operations and will also expand the airport's capacity bringing great economic benefits and employment.

Mr. Speaker, the tender was awarded to a company jointly owned by Inuvialuit Development Corp, EGT Northwind, and the Gwich'in Development Corp.

Shockingly, it has come to my attention that work on this incredibly important project has recently been stopped or delayed by our government. It has been stopped at a time when Arctic sovereignty is top national priority in light of Russian aggression in the Ukraine and despite the fact that Captain Cameron Hillier of NORAD has said the runway will allow a wider variety of military aircraft to deter, detect and, if necessary, defeat future threats to North America.

It is my understanding that they have stopped work on this project because of detailed engineering budget provided by consortium is approximately $40 million higher than the government initial costing, which was without transparency regarding its details or core assumptions, and before COVID-19 caused disruptions to the global supply chain and increases to the cost of steel and other materials.

It is also my understanding that they are refusing to allow an extremely time-sensitive phase of this work to be completed this spring despite the consortium's offer to perform work concurrently to a third party review of the budget, keeping the project timeline on track, protecting Indigenous obligations, and local employment. They have repeatedly flagged the impacts of work stoppage on the overall project timeline. They have repeatedly requested to sit down with our government to find a solution. They have repeatedly requested details on the government's costing to help identify disparities. They have repeatedly offered productive solutions to reduce GNWT risk in the matter and keep this project on track. And yet, our government has not sat down with them, has not provided any details about costing and has not done anything to prevent this unnecessary delay. All our Premier is publicly requesting meetings with the prime minister to discuss Arctic security, and today in her Minister statement as well.

It is clear we cannot have any confidence in the safety and security of our region as our government won't do anything to ensure the safety and security of our country, I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure, thank you.

Member's Statement 1042-19(2): Mike Zubko Airport Project
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1043-19(2): Student Access to Support Services
Members' Statements

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Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, a decade ago the Supreme Court of Canada released a unanimous decision recognizing that learning to read is not a privilege but a basic and essential human right when it found that a BC student had a right to receive the intensive supports and interventions they need to learn to read. This year the Ontario Human Rights Commission released the right to read inquiry report on human rights issues affecting students with reading disabilities calling for critical changes to Ontario's approach to early reading and curriculum and instruction screening, reading interventions, accommodations, and professional assessments. The report includes over 150 recommendations to address systemic issues and affect the right to learn to read including making access to interventions equitable for all students, improving access to professional assessments, ensuring greater consistency and transparency in the assessment process.

There are certainly differences of opinion on the best way to teach a child to read but regardless on what end of the science of reading that you follow, the need for access to intervention and supports are consistent.

Many students' reading difficulties are not being caught early which has significant consequences. Age 4 to 7 is a critical window for teaching children foundational learned reading skills and is when intervention is most effective. Many students who are not progressing as expected in reading are falling through the cracks and not getting timely intervention and supports, Mr. Speaker.

Literacy does not only have consequences for a child's ability to excel in learning, struggles with literary are directly linked to depression and anxiety, school avoidance, acting, being bullied or victimized, and self-harm. Literacy levels can have negative impacts on employment and lead to lower incomes, poverty, homelessness, and higher rates of involvement in crime and incarceration. Learning to read isn't a 'nice to have' skill; it's a 'need to have' skill and a lifeline, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in elementary school aged constituent of mine is now nearing their audiology appointment after a year and a half and this wait time is standard. Lack of access to speciality services impacts all of our residents, especially our youngest ones and not only with regard to literacy. These services are fundamental to the development of neuro divergent children and youth, to people with Parkinson's and MS - the list of it is exhaustive.

Mr. Speaker, the right to equal education includes the right to read, and the right to read and being educated depends on access to support services. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1043-19(2): Student Access to Support Services
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1044-19(2): Economy
Members' Statements

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Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, during this session, and all throughout this term for that matter, I've talked about the economy and about the need for our government to put greater emphasis on the economic recovery for the people of the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, when I talk about the economy and economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic I you refer to the economy as a whole, to all sectors, to large and small businesses alike within the NWT. We cannot focus on any single industry alone. We must consider the big picture and envision the long-term goals of what we want to achieve overall. We need to think big and we need to do all that we can do to bring back and revitalize areas of our economy that have faltered in recent years.

Mr. Speaker, we need to welcome back all sectors of the economy into the NWT. No economic sector should be blocked from pursuing business interests within the NWT. All areas need to be welcomed back with open arms. Simply put, we need to open the NWT up for business.

We need to rebuild's international reputation as a desirable location to do business. For the last several years, the NWT has been the only northern territory to experience a decline in our GDP levels. Both Yukon and Nunavut have had steadily increasing levels of their gross domestic product than the NWT has. This needs to change.

The NWT cannot remain as an outliner among Canada's territories as a negative economic output as we currently do.

Mr. Speaker, exports, imports and business investment for the NWT all continue to trend downward. Government spending continues to be the bulk of the economy for the NWT, which is not sustainable at all. The NWT cannot rely solely on government for economic activity. The economies of all provinces and territories around the NWT are doing very well for themselves so why can't we be doing the same? How is that the Yukon and Alberta can balance their budgets yet we can barely achieve an operating surplus for the NWT?

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, among the issues that the NWT faces is a lack of revenue and a large amount of spending. The government renewal initiative will likely help to cut some our spending and may help create more efficiencies of our programming. However, we need to be doing more than thinking out of the box for our economy.

Mr. Speaker, we need a strong and diverse economy that can withdraw a storm like COVID-19. If our provincial and territorial neighbors can come out of this pandemic stronger than before, then so should the NWT. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1044-19(2): Economy
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1045-19(2): cHEETAH rESOURCES
Members' Statements

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the mineral resource sector plays a significant role in the development of the Northwest Territories. This 19th Legislative Assembly recognized that fact and committed support to increase resource exploration and development.

Mr. Speaker, over the last several decades, the community of Hay River has played an integral part in the development of the North. For years, Hay River has been a staging point for goods and equipment transported to the community by rail and truck prior to loading on barges for points farther north. Not only are remote northern communities dependent on the marine transportation services offered by MTS, the oil, gas and mineral resource sectors have and continue to rely on those services.

Mr. Speaker, for the next two to three years Cheetah Resources will be moving approximately 5,000 tonnes of rare earth mineral concentrate from the Nechalacho North T pit. Pending receipt of authorization for the Tardiff expansion from the Mackenzie Valley Land & Water Board, and a bankable surface lease from the GNWT, the shipments would increase to 25,000 tonnes per year in 2024-2025.

Through use of marine, rail, and truck services, Cheetah's Rare Earth Resource Project will have a significant and positive impact on the community of Hay River. Concentrate will be shipped via barge from the east side of Great Slave Lake to Hay River where it would be stored waiting further shipping south via rail and/or transport trucks.

Mr. Speaker, next month, Cheetah is making a trial shipment of 500 tonnes of rare earth concentrate to its extraction plant in Saskatoon. This will provide Cheetah an opportunity to evaluate the intermodal systems this project will require going forward.

To put these quantities into perspective, 25,000 tonnes would be 25 to 35 of MTS's 1000 or 1500 series barges. With three barges per tug, this would be eight to twelve sailings a year. If all the southbound shipments went by rail, it would be about 500 southbound railcar loads and, if by truck, it could be as high as 1300 trucks per year. Ideally, back hauls from the diamond mines would be utilized to avoid an increase in the number of trucks emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, the impact on MTS would be increased fleet utilization and additional revenues to offset current operating losses.

Mr. Speaker, for the community of Hay River, it would translate into additional jobs, opportunities for local businesses, increase utilization of the marine training centre, and solidifying Hay River's position as the marine transport hub for the Northwest Territories.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker..

Member's Statement 1045-19(2): cHEETAH rESOURCES
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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