This is page numbers 4401 - 4448 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. C. 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 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4401

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 252-19(2): Office of the Auditor General Report on Addictions Prevention and Recovery Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 4401

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, when I became Minister of Health and Social Services in August 2020, I had the opportunity to add two personal priorities to the Premier's mandate letter for me. One of the two was to reduce the toll of substance abuse on the residents of the Northwest Territories by leading a whole-of-government interdepartmental approach to developing evidence-based policies and programs and develop a robust addictions treatment aftercare regime, including a territorial alcohol strategy.

Mr. Speaker, I chose this priority for a couple of reasons. The first is that I am acutely aware of the deep damage addictions does to individuals, families, and communities. The second relates to an experience I had in the 18th Legislative Assembly. The Standing Committee on Social Development at that time toured the four treatment facilities in Alberta and British Columbia used by people from NWT. We met NWT residents there and heard the story of their journey to and through treatment. But, and this is a big but, in some cases they were reluctant to return to their home communities because they anticipated they would have no where to live and few aftercare supports of the kind they had access to in the south.

I want to provide residents in recovery the services they need to heal.

I thought about this priority when I met with staff from the Office of the Auditor General on Monday afternoon to be briefed on their report. I welcome the Office of the Auditor General's report as confirmation of their concerns and as a guide to how we can do better to help residents complete the recovery journey. This audit provides important insights as we continue work to improve addiction and recovery services for residents of the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, the findings and seven recommendations align with the health system's understanding of where gaps may exist and where improvements can be made. Providing safe, accessible, and responsive addictions services to help people heal is our priority. This is an area in which the department and health and social services authorities are already investing significant energy and resources. A few examples of this work include:

• Improving access and reducing wait times to community counselling through the implementation of the Stepped Care 2.0 model;.

• Improving aftercare through the establishment of community-based programming, land-based healing, and transitional sober housing options;.

• Engagement with individuals with lived experience and living expertise to increase our understanding of the addictions recovery needs of residents; and finally,.

• Improving cultural safety through the establishment of mandatory cultural, safety, and anti-racism training and the work to establish an Office of Indigenous Client Experience.

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the work on these initiatives, that it has been validated as useful and significant to addressing addictions recovery needs of NWT residents. To ensure the meaningful use of the information contained in the report, I can share with you that the results will also be used by the Department of Health and Social Services to inform the development of the Territorial Alcohol Strategy, another aspect of my personal priority in this area referenced at the beginning.

Mr. Speaker, while all of this is promising, I recognize that the audit findings have highlighted shortcomings in the current system of addiction services and supports. There are areas of service delivery and approach that require greater focus and attention, and these are being taken seriously.

The department and the health and social services authorities have agreed with all the recommendations outlined in the Office of the Auditor General's report. The department and authorities have committed to act on all of them.

A more comprehensive draft action plan outlines activities and timelines for improving addictions prevention and recovery services. This document will be shared with the standing committee, and I look forward to further discussion with them about the audit findings. Together, we will create a more comprehensive response to the Office of the Auditor General.

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of the high rate of addictions in the NWT. This situation is rooted in colonization and the trauma of residential schools. I understand the devastating effect on families and communities across this territory. I am grateful for the work done by the Office of the Auditor General and for the opportunity for the health and social services system to learn from this process to strengthen addiction recovery services. I want to assure residents this opportunity will not be wasted. The department and the health and social services authorities will act on these recommendations to make meaningful and lasting improvements to the addictions prevention and recovery system, and to give those who suffer from addictions the tools they need to regain their health. I am committed to ensuring progress is made. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 252-19(2): Office of the Auditor General Report on Addictions Prevention and Recovery Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 4402

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 253-19(2): Canada Summer Games
Ministers' Statements

Page 4402

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the athletes, coaches, managers, and mission staff, who will be representing Team NWT at the 2022 Canada Summer Games being held in the Niagara region of Ontario from August 6th to 21st. The Canada Games provides our national high-performance athletes with venues to compete in hopes of continuing their athletic journey to Team Canada for the Olympics or other international events.

Every two years, the Canada Games showcase athletes at the highest level in national competitions, alternating between summer and winter games. The 2022 Canada Summer Games Host Society and the Niagara region will host nearly 5,000 participants, including approximately 135 participants from Team NWT, competing in nine different sports such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, swimming, tennis, athletics, beach volleyball, and golf.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered many aspects of life over the past two and a half years, including sport competitions. In some ways, the Arctic Winter Games, the North American Indigenous Games, and the Canada Summer Games have been impacted.

Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will take time and will be different for each community and organization. However, events like the Canada Summer Games certainly help our athletes regain the competitiveness that they had pre-pandemic.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is very proud to support our team at the Canada Summer Games through financial supports and a range of other programs that support athletes, coaches, and officials' development at the local, regional, territorial, and national level.

In addition to Team NWT, MACA is pleased to support the Youth Ambassadors Program once again, which will see us bring youth volunteers to the Canada Summer Games.

The Youth Ambassadors Program offers a guided and structured volunteer experience for youth at major territorial, national, and international events. Participants work to develop their life and job skills, as well as build the confidence necessary to deal with some of life's challenges.

The program has successfully identified 21 youth from 10 communities who will travel and volunteer at the 2022 Canada Summer Games. We have four participants who have just completed the Youth Ambassador Program, virtual edition, as well as 17 youth who successfully completed the 2019 NWT Youth Ambassadors orientation event but missed out on their volunteer placement due to the cancellation of the games. All youth are between the age of 16 and 22, and they are the role models and leaders of tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish this year's Youth Ambassadors all the best on this exciting volunteer experience. I would like to recognize the following program leaders for their important work in supporting the Youth Ambassadors: Ashley Gillis, Lauren Modeste, Conan Donahue, Alicia Korol, and Kyle Donavan.

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the many volunteers who are responsible for supporting Team NWT, including the Sport North Federation, all the territorial sport organizations responsible for selecting and managing the team. Their contributions are significant and an important part of building a healthier Northwest Territories population.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I wish the very best to our Team NWT leaders, the Chef de Mission, Ms. Rita Mercredi, and Assistant Chef de Mission Mr. Damon Crossman, along with the rest of the mission staff, who are responsible for managing Team NWT and all the NWT while at the Canada Summer Games.

Play Fair. Have Fun. I sincerely hope you all enjoy this truly wonderful experience. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 253-19(2): Canada Summer Games
Ministers' Statements

Page 4403

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 254-19(2): Summer Construction Season
Ministers' Statements

Page 4403

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, our highways and roads are critical infrastructure that connect communities, allow for delivery of goods, and provide access to the rest of Canada. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensuring our roads serve the public safely and effectively. That work makes the NWT's highway system resilient to climate change and creates employment and training opportunities for residents.

Mr. Speaker, this spring's flooding tested the system's resilience and impacted our highways. I want to acknowledge the hard work of staff, particularly in the South Slave region, who went above and beyond to keep our highways opened and repair any damages to them, ensuring access to essential goods and services during the flood response. I want to thank everyone who played a part in making this happen during a very challenging time.

I also want to acknowledge the Department of Infrastructure's transportation group. They do an amazing job ensuring our transportation system is safe and working well.

Mr. Speaker, as the territory recovers from flooding, the GNWT is also focusing on the summer construction season. It will be another busy one. In fact, a total of $81 million in improvements will be made to our highway systems this year.

In the South Slave region, the rehabilitation work continues on 12 kilometres of Highway No. 1.

This work includes widening of the embankments, replacing culverts, and chip sealing. This is a multi-year project, which is expected to conclude by September 2023.

A bridge-culvert replacement is also planned at Kilometre 20 on Highway No. 1 and will be completed this fall.

Various sections of the highway near Enterprise, Kakisa, and Fort Simpson will also receive chip seal overlay from June to September this year.

Maintenance and cleaning at the Deh Cho Bridge is planned for this summer.

Repairs to Preble Creek Bridge on Highway No. 5 will also be undertaken this fall.

Mr. Speaker, in the North Slave region, the Whati Access Road will be upgraded. This access road connects the community to the newly constructed Tlicho Highway. This 12-kilometre access road will receive new gravel, as well as have road embankment construction, installing of drainage culverts, and replacing culverts with a short span bridge. This project is expected to be completed by fall of 2023.

Also this year, a 23-kilometre section of Highway No. 3 will receive surface repairs and resurfacing, along with chip seal.

On Highway No. 4, the Ingraham Trail, rehabilitation continues on roughly five kilometres of that road. Work will include repairing dips, widening the embankment, replacing culverts, and chip sealing. This project is expected to be completed by September 2023.

In the Deh Cho region, rehabilitation work continues on Highway No. 7, the Liard Highway. Crews are focused on widening the embankment, replacing culverts, and strengthening the road. This work is expected to be completed in September 2023.

In the Beaufort Delta, rehabilitation work on the Inuvik-Tuk Highway continues. This work is anticipated to completed by September 2027.

Highway No. 8 at Kilometre 239 will see bridge-culvert repairs.

And Highway No. 10, at Kilometre 8.3, will see rehabilitation of the bridge embankment.

Mr. Speaker, as our summer highway construction season gets underway, our construction crews will be hard at work on the NWT roads. I want to remind residents this summer to watch for highway crews, slow down in construction zones, obey signs while they are driving. Let us make sure the summer construction season is a safe one for Infrastructure employees and contractors, and those also travelling on our highways. Quyanainni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 254-19(2): Summer Construction Season
Ministers' Statements

Page 4404

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1120-19(2): Completion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway
Members' Statements

Page 4404

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to NWT small communities, each is impacted by the high cost of living, limited business opportunities, lack of sustainable employment, lack of acceptable housing, lack of an acceptable level of health care, education and infrastructure; all issues that have been discussed on the floor of this House over the years by various MLAs with minimal resolve.

Mr. Speaker, in a previous statement I pointed out that, above all, one major project that would have a substantial impact on the economy and on the lives of residents in the NWT is the completion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to the Dempster.

Mr. Speaker, the Mackenzie Valley Highway is designated as part of Canada's national highway system, a national dream in the making since as early as the 1940's.

Realizing this dream has been difficult for many reasons, and it is a dream that cannot be realized without the financial and political support of the federal government and the persuasive political will by this government.

Mr. Speaker, the residents of the NWT are still looking for that elusive highway and the possibilities it would provide and the dreams it would make come true for many.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to major life changing projects, governments excel at developing more strategy, more social and economic studies, more evaluations, more planning, disjointed consultations, red tape and restrictive legislation - all which work against timely development - while residents are forced to scratch out a living where not only do you now need two persons in the household working, but your children as well if you expect to make ends meet.

Mr. Speaker, over the past several decades, minimal progress has been made on advancing this project, and the lack of speed at which progress is being made is only resulting in the cost of construction to continue to rise exponentially.

This elusive highway, once pegged to cost around $700 million for the Wrigley to Norman Wells portion, we can now expect that number to grow to well over a $1 billion dollars. Now you add in the Norman Wells to the Dempster portion, we can add another $1.5 billion plus to the cost. Then we are looking at around $2.5 billion to complete.

With the cost of labour, fuel, and materials rising, we can only expect that construction costs will continue to rise to the point where the political will may wane and the completion of the highway will need a push from Indigenous governments and industry to make it a reality. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we talk of lowering the cost of living, providing a gateway to resources, fortifying northern sovereignty, then it is imperative that this government aggressively encourage the federal government to step up to the plate financially on this dream. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1120-19(2): Completion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway
Members' Statements

Page 4404

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Member's Statement 1121-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Job Descriptions, REquirements and Equivalencies
Members' Statements

Page 4405

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to say how glad I am to see the senior Indigenous patient advocate finally advertised. This is a position that the Regular Members raised during the budget process, the previous budget process, as a need for this territory.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to point out that this position has been evaluated at a pay range that is not an entry level position, which is excellent, and that the screening criteria is not adding unnecessary barriers like degrees and masters but recognizing experience and lived experience. And I am sure we will get some excellent candidates in this role, in these roles.

Mr. Speaker, this brings me to think about how all our job descriptions in the GNWT are in desperate need to be re-evaluated and updated to remove unnecessary barriers that are put into them. I also believe that there needs to be more emphasis put into cultural and lived experience, especially in areas like health, education, justice, child and family services. They need services counted as experience and equivalencies.

With the recent class graduating from the Northern Indigenous Counselling Program, I congratulate them. I personally know some of them, and I know that they are going to do amazing work.

But I look at the screening criteria; for example, the child and youth care counsellor position. They are calling for a masters and one year' experience, or a degree and three years' experience, when I know they would be amazing with our youth in these roles.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT needs to be transparent in how they measure equivalencies and desperately need to add lived and cultural experience to how they measure experience. Mr. Speaker, this needs to be done and made public so the NWT residents and anyone who is applying for jobs can see it and can use it to see what their education and experience will be measured at when applying for jobs, because as it stands right now there is no one way of doing this and sometimes it is not being done at all and therefore people are being screened out of jobs, job competitions, and some who may be excellent candidates are not even applying.

I will have questions for the Minister of Finance. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1121-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Job Descriptions, REquirements and Equivalencies
Members' Statements

Page 4405

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1122-19(2): Location of Headquarters of Future Polytechnic University
Members' Statements

Page 4405

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the other day, on May 30th, the mayor and council of Yellowknife held a meeting to discuss whether the city should enter into a memorandum of understanding with Aurora College and the Government of the Northwest Territories about the location of the Yellowknife campus for the future polytechnic university. There were multiple media reports about that meeting which implied some concerning and misleading information about the future polytechnic university and where its main campus and headquarters will be located.

Mr. Speaker, it has already been reiterated several times by the Minister of Education that the headquarters and the main campus of the future polytechnic university will be located in Fort Smith.

On three different occasions, Minister Simpson said the headquarters will remain in Fort Smith and will not move after the transformation is complete.

First, on December the 10th, 2019, during my statement and questions, I asked about this issue and the Minister assured me there were no plans to move the headquarters out of Fort Smith.

Then on October 22nd, 2020, I again spoke and asked questions on this and the Minister said he was not aware of any discussion within the department to move the headquarters anywhere else.

Then, on May 29th, 2022, at a Committee of the Whole, Minister Simpson said the department was not going to build a new headquarters because there was already a location for it, which is Fort Smith.

Mr. Speaker, misinformation in the media and other political agendas must not cloud the opportunity for three strong campuses to exist with the future polytechnic university. Neutral decisions by officials in the Department of ECE need to prevail. Quotes like what was said in today's Yellowknifer newspaper should not be spoken by people in positions like assistant deputy ministers.

It is also very important that one of the first priorities of the new Fort Smith campus is to tear down and replace one of the last remaining residential school buildings, Breynat Hall, which is currently being used as a single student residence by Aurora College. This has to be a priority of the capital plan for the new university for Fort Smith.

Mr. Speaker, I know that new infrastructure on three campuses will be sought after and constructed eventually, but I feel it is important to reiterate that the main campus and headquarters for the university will remain in Fort Smith.

Given the May 30th meeting, I feel it is also very important that the Minister himself provide some clarity on what that meeting was about and to explain it, or how that will change Fort Smith's position as the head campus.

Fort Smith has been the education centre of the NWT for generations and will remain so with the new university, as far as I'm concerned. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, people have got to realize that prosperity of a new university has got to be shared across the three existing campus locations but especially for the ones outside of the capital region. The benefits of the future polytechnic university cannot solely be gained by the capital. I just want to make that very clear today, given the information that came out on Monday.

I will have questions for the Minister of Education later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1122-19(2): Location of Headquarters of Future Polytechnic University
Members' Statements

Page 4406

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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