This is page numbers 4497 - 4544 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.

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Member's Statement 1142-19(2): Financial Transparency for Infrastructure Spending
Members' Statements

Page 4502

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to rise today and speak about transparency in infrastructure budgeting.

Last fall in this House, we passed a confidential amount for the Whati Power Project. We're not allowed to say how much we passed. We also know the total amount of that project but it's confidential information. And when you ask the government why we can't talk about how much a specific project says, they say oh, it'll affect tendering. Yet, Mr. Speaker, I just don't believe that is remotely true.

A comparable project, the Fort Providence Transmission Line, we know costs $60 million. In fact, we knew that one year before any money ever came to this Assembly because the federal government announced it. And every time the federal government gives us money, they announce the total cost they are providing to the GNWT and the total project cost, and it takes about a year, actually, before that money ever even gets approved by the Assembly. So it's announced as if it's a done fact, and we're just going to rubber stamp whatever amount is.

Additionally, Mr. Speaker, at a municipal level, it would be impossible to ever approve a project without talking about the total project cost. The vast majority of infrastructure is actually municipal, and often whenever a council is approving a project, not only is the total project cost there, but actually the design and a cost estimate.

Mr. Speaker, I have never seen a public GNWT cost estimate. Every once in a while, we're lucky if we get a business case. I know we are all eagerly awaiting the Taltson business case, but I strongly doubt we will ever see a Fort Providence Transmission Line business case or a Whati business case.

And Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House, the government let $125 million in infrastructure spending lapse. And they didn't think it was important to tell the public which projects they are letting lapse. Perhaps there is a very important infrastructure project in your community that you were previously told was going ahead has now disappeared off the books, and there is no public record of what those projects are, Mr. Speaker.

$125 million, of money that this House previously approved, has now just been removed without telling the public what actually happened.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure about how we can get some more transparency in our budgeting.

This is a uniquely GNWT project. You can go to almost any other jurisdiction in Canada and look at their long-term capital projects. You can look at their long-term needs assessment. You can see the cost estimates for individual projects. You can see what years that money will be dispersed, and then you can track through time whether it's on time and on budget. We have asked repeatedly for staff to try and find out if projects are on time and on budget, and with publicly-available information, Mr. Speaker, it is an impossible task. And given we are letting about half of our capital budget get carried over or lapsed, it's very clear that consistently the GNWT's projects are not on time and not on budget.

I'll have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1142-19(2): Financial Transparency for Infrastructure Spending
Members' Statements

Page 4502

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1143-19(2): Warm Wishes for Summer 2022
Members' Statements

June 3rd, 2022

Page 4502

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, for my statement today, I want to wish all the Indigenous leaders across the NWT a wonderful summer. I know it is difficult for anyone to put their names forward for elected office. So as a former chief, I want to wish all my former colleagues well and I hope they, and their constituents, all have great assemblies this year in person.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish all my colleagues here, including you, Mr. Speaker, a good and restful summer break. I also liked to wish all the staff of the Assembly for keeping us on track and making sure we follow protocols and their continued support for our work as leaders, including my own staff member, my CA, a good and happy summer as well.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to wish all the amazing constituents of Thebacha a great summer season.

I would also like to extend this message to all the leadership of Fort Smith, which includes the Salt River First Nation, the Fort Smith Metis Council, and the Town of Fort Smith. Thank you to all the leadership and to my constituents for your continued support in me as MLA for Thebacha.

Thank you as well to my community team for always being there for me and for the people that I serve in our community. You know who you are. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1143-19(2): Warm Wishes for Summer 2022
Members' Statements

Page 4503

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1144-19(2): 2022 Skills Canada National Competition
Members' Statements

Page 4503

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I also wish you a very good summer.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Skills Canada is back. Last week, the medal results of the 2022 Skills Canada national competition, held in Vancouver were announced. From May 27th to the 28th, 350 students and apprentices from across Canada competed for the title of national champion in 45 skill areas, both in person at the Vancouver Convention Centre, and virtually from their home territories and provinces. Team Northwest Territories is proud to announce they have taken home five medals in skilled trade areas.

Over 3,000 student visitors, industry leaders, government officials, and industry celebrities participated in this national event. HGTV's Kate Campbell; the Honourable Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training,
and the Honourable Andrew Mercier, parliamentary secretary for skills training, all took part in the event.

Skills Canada NWT's team consisted of seven competitors in a variety of skilled trade competitions, working hard over the two-day competition. These competitors set a record for percentage of a team medaling on the national stage when they brought five medals home to the territory. As well, two of the secondary school competitors did a fantastic job considering it was their first time virtually participating in a skilled trade competition.

Team NWT's competitors included:

  • From St Pat's, Kaitlyn Stewart, who competed in fashion technology; and,
  • Jaida Dowe, who competed in hairstyling and won a bronze medal.

In the post-secondary and apprentice categories:

  • Adam Nitsiza of J&R Mechanical won a bronze medal in plumbing;
  • Deanna Buckley of Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine/DeBeers Canada competed in the industrial mechanic/millwright category, also taking home a bronze medal;
  • Connor Fleming of GAP Electric competed in electrical installations; and,
  • Teammate Austin Brown of Aurora Ford/Ekati Diamond Mine won a silver in automotive technology; finally,
  • Emma Taylor of Mint Hair Salon, who is currently attending school at Madam Chair College brought gold home to the territories.

Skills Canada Northwest Territories' mission is to engage Northwest Territories youth to explore career opportunities in skilled trades and technologies. Engagement through workshops, presentations, and competitions gives secondary, post-secondary students, and apprentices a chance to learn more about these lucrative and viable career options in the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you. The good news is I won't do this again this session.

Contributors to the event include the Government of Canada, ECE, the Royal Bank of Canada, Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mine, and WSCC.

I want to send an extra special thank you to the school districts, educators, and volunteers throughout the Northwest Territories that support this fabulous organization. I personally had the opportunity to participate several times in their Power Up Youth Mentorship Workshops hosting a water treatment filter building workshop with 13-year-olds. It was always the highlight of my year as a consultant, and I'm excited for the organization to get back to all the important work they do.

Additionally, like my colleagues, I would like to congratulate all the graduates in the NWT, and specifically those in my riding. The fact that you have persevered over the last few years is a testament to your resilience and strength. Congratulations. Thank you.

Member's Statement 1144-19(2): 2022 Skills Canada National Competition
Members' Statements

Page 4504

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1145-19(2): 2023-2024 Government of the Northwest Territories Budget Preparation
Members' Statements

Page 4504

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. In July 2021, the Minister of Finance was undertaking public budget consultations. I want to compliment the Minister for this important initiative, which has happened in each of the last three years. Despite urging from Regular MLAs, the last Minister did not do this.

For the 2021 budget consultation or dialogue, the Minister of Finance posted a revenue options discussion paper just the day before public engagements. I would certainly encourage that the discussion paper be refreshed, with a more balanced approach to taxation, and be released well in advance of any meetings.

I am quite concerned about what it will cost us to ensure our residents in Hay River can recover quickly and fairly from the devastating flood in May, the need to rebuild GNWT infrastructure there, and any further preventative measures such as relocations or diking. With inflation running at 6.8 percent nationally and 7.1 percent here in Yellowknife compared to April 2021, we must find more revenues to maintain the same programs and services.

In the past I've suggested a number of ways to raise more revenues including:

  • Adding at least one more high-income tax bracket to personal income tax;
  • A capital tax on financial institutions as we are one of only five jurisdictions in Canada without such a tax;
  • Raising more revenues from mining royalties which are comparatively low against most other regimes; and
  • Negotiating a new fiscal relationship with Ottawa where we get to keep more, if not all, of our own source revenues.

The current fiscal path is completely unsustainable. Now is the time to examine our core values of sharing, justice, equity, and whether these are truly reflected in our revenue efforts as we recover and rebuild.

Another way to spend more on our programs is to reduce our capital spending. As shown in the supplementary appropriation we just dealt with, we could not spend the money in the last capital budget. We need to become more realistic and focused on those projects that provide real benefits to our people, especially housing.

I will have questions later today for the Minister of Finance on preparations for Budget 2023-2024 later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1145-19(2): 2023-2024 Government of the Northwest Territories Budget Preparation
Members' Statements

Page 4504

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1146-19(2): National Indigenous History Month
Members' Statements

Page 4504

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and TGIF to everyone.

Mr. Speaker, in June of every year, we celebrate National Indigenous History Month. During this month, we celebrate the rich history, heritage, resilience, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples across Canada.

There's a writer who shared that since time in memorial, our oral traditions have been passed from generation to generation, teach our beliefs, history, values, practices, customs, rituals, and relationships. Mr. Speaker, this goes across all nations.

Our elders, also known as knowledge-keepers, pass on our culture and teachings so we will not forget our roots to Mother Earth and to preserve our way of life.

The drum is a gift which enlights us all and it is through this unity that we form a circle of life allowing us to share the drumbeat of a nation in dance. Go out and enjoy life with Indigenous people, and feel the connection. Taste the traditional foods of our people. Feel the spiritual connection with the feeding of the fire, and let your troubles soar away.

Mr. Speaker, June 21st is recognized as National Indigenous Peoples Day across this country and here in the North. We celebrate this day in many of our communities so come on out and get your drum dance on. Mahsi.

Member's Statement 1146-19(2): National Indigenous History Month
Members' Statements

Page 4505

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Member's Statement 1147-19(2): Housing Northwest Territories Community Residency Policy
Members' Statements

Page 4505

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, spring is a beautiful and powerful time of transition, both in season and in the lives of many Northerners. Our pride of northern graduates and the anticipation of summer adventures are putting bounce in our step so this feels like an opportune time to work with housing to make some of our own transitions.

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week the Minister identified the delay of the 2018 commitment of a homelessness strategy was a needed all-of-government approach and to avoid any unintended consequences. I agree with the need of government integration, shared accountability, and mechanisms for a person-centered approach. In addition, I agree that good policy means considering, weighing, and evaluating unintended consequences.

The Minister also said the delay was due to a desire to bring forward an approach that can be resourced but later said "once the document is implemented, we need to find resources."

Mr. Speaker, as a Regular Member, at this point I have no idea what this strategy will include or the action it will compel from the government but I know that after four years of drafting and redrafting, my expectations are big. One of my biggest frustrations, Mr. Speaker, is that in the four years of drafting this strategy, the government has not made efforts to evolve policies with unintended consequences of homelessness.

The Housing NWT Community Residency Policy as unintended consequences that do cause homelessness. It requires an NWT resident to live in a community for a predetermined number of months before they can then add their name to the public housing waitlist.

Mr. Speaker, if implementing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the MMIWG Calls for Justice, and the TRC Calls to Action are a priority of this government, they need to flip policies and ask if the unintended consequences are justifiable. And they need to do that now, not sitting with them for four years. If the government spends its entirety reviewing, reflecting, and strategizing without the action, nothing will change.

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to listen to NWT residents during the anti-poverty round table focused on housing and homelessness. One resounding theme was a call to action to stop researching and planning and to start listening, acting, and then evaluating, because then we have at least tried to change.

This policy keeps people from jobs, family, and autonomy. But even more jarring, Mr. Speaker, it prevents Northerners from accessing resources, prevents parents from leaving violent relationships, and jeopardizes a parent's ability to keep their children out of the child welfare system.

This policy, Mr. Speaker, causes homelessness. Housing NWT needs to stop upholding a policy that limits a person's self-determination in health, economic, and social sufficiency through housing. Thank you.

Member's Statement 1147-19(2): Housing Northwest Territories Community Residency Policy
Members' Statements

Page 4505

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Minister of Monfwi.

Member's Statement 1148-19(2): Congratulations and Well-Wishes to Constituents
Members' Statements

Page 4505

Jane Weyallon-Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My statement is on a summer message to my constituents and others.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say thank you to all the pages here, especially to Nate Simpson, Alexis Kotchilea-Judas, from Alexis Arrowmaker School, for a job well done and to have a good, safe summer.

Mr. Speaker, I want to wish all the students in the Tlicho regions and in NWT for completing this school year. Also a big congratulations to Grad 2022 from Chief Jimmy Bruneau school in Behchoko, Jean Wetrade in Gameti, Alexis Arrowmaker School in Wekweeti, and Mezi Community School in Whati for reaching this important accomplishment in their lives. I know it was challenging at times due to COVID. I wish them all to have a good, safe summer.

Additionally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my congratulations to all Tlicho citizens who are college and university graduates for the Class of 2022. It is important to recognize the success of all Tlicho citizens, no matter how big or small they may seem.

I would also like to extend my thanks to all the family, friend, educators, and staff who help support all graduating students get to this milestone moment.

Mr. Speaker, I want to wish all the Tlicho citizens, all our elders, they are the true knowledge-keepers, they are our teachers and professors; I want to wish them all to have a happy, safe summer.

I would also like to wish all my colleagues here in this House and all the staff, the interpreters of the Legislative Assembly, to have a good summer break as well. May God bless you, keep you and your family safe on your journey. I look forward to continue my travel to all the Tlicho communities over the summer and attend the Tlicho Annual June Assembly as well. Thank you, Mr. Speaker; you, as well too, have a good, safe summer.

Member's Statement 1148-19(2): Congratulations and Well-Wishes to Constituents
Members' Statements

Page 4506

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Mahsi cho, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Member's Statement 1149-19(2): Reflections on Consensus Government
Members' Statements

Page 4506

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When I first came to serve here, I was proud to continue the tradition begun by the honourable men and women that came before me. I was just as proud of the consensus government that has set us apart from the rest of Canada. This institution has incredible strengths for its foundation, our people, and aspirations. Yet somehow we have forgotten this strength and instead have turned our Assembly against itself.

We find excuses instead of action. We carry out infighting instead of cooperation. We choose to establish core order ambition for the future.

Mr. Speaker, I have remained steadfast in my belief that our consensus system is the best way to govern our people, lands, and resources. However, when our government's resolve was tested by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, sadly our consensus government has demonstrated its inability to move past its flaws and build a future that will lead to growth and opportunity and wellness.

If our system is truly rooted in Indigenous traditions, then why do Indigenous people bear a disproportionate burden of social ills and economic depression compared to the rest of the territory? How can this be our system was designed to elevate Indigenous people who have been the stewards of the NWT since time in immemorial. How can we claim that this is partnership within these walls and truth are deeply-divided.

Between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, Yellowknife and small communities, Cabinet and Regular Members, instead of stepping up and coming together to solve problems, we keep our heads down, our mouths closed, and think I'm just here for my riding, I don't need to worry about anything else.

Mr. Speaker, it has been only three months since I've been elected to this House. I was sad to learn that there's no (audio). Our government seems ready to pass on along our most pressing issues as our territory to the next Assembly. We only need to look at the most recent report of the Auditor General of Canada into addictions to see the costs of continued inaction and passing the buck. Despite continued advocacy for better mental health, our leaders then and now insist there's nothing more that we can do.

The latest report provides otherwise a report that joins along this stuff escaping audits. This serves as a solemn reminder that despite repeated inquiries to long-standing problems, consensus politics hasn't been able to muster the collective political will to solve them.

Mr. Speaker, I ran for office for my constituents to help and be part of this institution that's greater than some of its Members. Something must be done to change how we work in this government because what we have isn't working well. We risk leaving our people a little more than frustration and despair if we do not act. I, for one, keep the promise I made to my constituents and find the best path forward for my people even if it means leaving old traditional ways. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.