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.

Topics

Tabled Document 678-19(2): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan and the Strategic Approach to System Reform 2019-2021, April 2022 Tabled Document 679-19(2): Northwest Territories Health and Social Services System Human Resources Plan 2021-2024
Tabling Of Documents

June 3rd, 2022

Page 4525

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following two documents, Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan and the Strategic Approach to System Reform April 2022; and, Northwest Territories Health and Social Services System Human Resources Plan 2021-2024. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 678-19(2): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan and the Strategic Approach to System Reform 2019-2021, April 2022 Tabled Document 679-19(2): Northwest Territories Health and Social Services System Human Resources Plan 2021-2024
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4525

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Tabling of documents.

Tabled Document 680-19(2): Summary of Members' Absences for the Period February 21 to May 25, 2022
Tabling Of Documents

Page 4525

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, pursuant to Section 5 of the indemnities, allowances and expense regulations of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, I wish to table the summary of Members' absences for the period February 21st to May 25th, 2022.

Tabling of documents. Notices of motion. Motions. Member for Kam Lake.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4525

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth.

WHEREAS Statistics Canada's projects lower population growth from 2018 to 2043 for the Northwest Territories, at 9 per cent, than for Canada, at 25 per cent;

AND WHEREAS the Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics projects that by 2035, the population will decline in 18 of 33 communities, including Inuvik (-407 residents), Fort Simpson (-233 residents), Fort Smith (-80 residents), Fort Resolution (-68 residents), Whati (-68 residents), Fort Providence (-64 residents), and Tuktoyaktuk (-42 residents);

AND WHEREAS over 6,300 dwellings, or 43 percent, in the Northwest Territories have an affordability, adequacy, or suitability issue, and upwards of 900 households are on the public housing waitlist, despite a stagnating population;

AND WHEREAS growth in Territorial Formula Financing, which provides an average of 70 per cent of the Government of the Northwest Territories' revenues, relies heavily on Northwest Territories population growth relative to Canada;

AND WHEREAS population growth of the Northwest Territories is one of the most effective ways to increase federal transfer payments and government revenues;

AND WHEREAS the Government of the Northwest Territories' Mandate for the 19th Assembly directs Cabinet to increase the number of resident healthcare professionals by at least 20 per cent;

AND WHEREAS the Northwest Territories' faces acute labour shortages in the next decade, including 13,700 total job openings, 270 for nurses, and 140 for other professional occupations in health;

AND WHEREAS other Canadian jurisdictions are offering increasingly competitive publicly-funded benefits for healthcare workers, such as recruitment benefits and fertility treatments;

AND WHEREAS the Northwest Territories does not fulfill its annual immigration quota allotted by the Government of Canada through the nominee program;

AND WHEREAS the Northwest Territories offers one of, if not the most, competitive post-secondary student financial assistance in the country;

AND WHEREAS the rising cost of living, which is reaching 30-year high, can be reduced by increasing our territorial population;

AND WHEREAS the Government of the Northwest Territories lacks a unified framework to sustain and grow the territory's population;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife North, that this Legislative Assembly calls upon the Government of the Northwest Territories to create a comprehensive strategy to match Canada's population growth;

AND FURTHER, that this strategy aimed to sustain the population of each community and grow the territory's overall population by 25 percent by 2043;

AND FURTHERMORE, that this strategy is linked with a goal to add at least 3,700 new homes, or 25 percent, by 2043 and an update to each community's housing plan to make this priority;

AND FURTHERMORE, that this strategy bring together existing policies, programs, and campaigns aimed at keeping residents in the North and attracting new residents;

AND FURTHERMORE, that this strategy include:

  • an analysis of what brings people to the North;
  • an analysis of what keeps residents in the North;
  • a plan to address the increasing cost of living to keep residents in the North;
  • an immigration strategy;
  • a communication strategy to attract people to the North; and
  • a review of business programs to help residents establish and grow their business in the North;

AND FURTHERMORE, that the Government of the Northwest Territories provide a comprehensive response to this motion within 120 days.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4526

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Kam Lake.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4526

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise to give points related to my motion for a strategy to retain, sustain, and grow the NWT's population.

I came to the 19th Assembly with the intent of empowering our North in three key areas: People, land, and prosperity. And it's been important to me to identify what links each of these three elements, how they work together to help us respond to the opportunities pulling us into our future.

People are both our greatest resource and biggest scarcity in the Northwest Territories. People make our houses into homes and our lands into communities. They power the industries that generate prosperity from our opportunity-rich land in infrastructure, tourism, mineral resource development, remediation, small business, public administration, and so much more. Most importantly it is the giftings of each Northerner and the cultural diversity of our population as a whole that truly make the Northwest Territories an incredible place to live.

Mr. Speaker, that's why it's so important that every resident who wants to live in the North, who wants to stay in their home community, that they have the means to do so. But for too many residents staying is not a viable choice.

The official statistics show the accumulative impact of many individuals' choices to leave. In any given year, about 2,000 residents leave the NWT for another province or territory. It's impossible to know exactly why these people choose to leave, but the high cost of living is one reason Northerners tell me they are pulling up their roots and, sadly, looking south.

In many northern communities, difficult job prospects or inadequate public services also push people to bigger centres, hollowing out our small communities, or out of the territory. According to the bureau of statistics, 17 of our 33 communities actually lost residents from July 2020 to July 2021. That's more than half of our communities.

Some communities are experiencing persistent significant declines.

Inuvik, which once counted over 3,600 residents has fallen back to 3,300. Fort Smith's population has shrunk every year since 2016. Fort Providence has lost over 60 people since 2001. While Fort McPherson in your own riding, Mr. Speaker, has lost almost a hundred people. The hollowing out of regional centres and small communities is not reconciliation.

Article 3 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples proclaims that Indigenous people have a right to self-determination, to freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, but depopulation in our small communities undermines the capacity for local decision-making. It takes away the residents who might staff the local health centre, manage the local waste facility, spearhead grassroots community wellness initiatives, care for aging elders, or run for elected office.

Mr. Speaker, like the rest of the world, our population is also aging and retiring, and my colleague to my left routinely reminds me that I better be ready to help look after him some day. For aging in place to truly work and for the North to afford to continue to improve elder and seniors care, we need people to fill a robust economy of care throughout our territory.

We need to focus on retention. However, at present, the government doesn't have a unified strategy to sustain, much less grow, our population.

Some of the pieces are already there. The land is beautiful. Our people, resourceful. Our communities, resilient. And the territory is rich with enormous economic potential even if not yet fully recognized.

Some of the policy pieces are already there too. For example, our student financial assistance is intelligently designed to support post-secondary education pursuits and incentivizing Northerners to stay in the North post graduation.

But we need so much more, Mr. Speaker.

An overriding strategy to increase our population must consolidate existing strengths and implement more smart programs and policies. It must start with an analysis of what brings people to the North and what keeps people in the North.

The GNWT has already done similar work on a smaller scale, looking at recruitment and retention in the healthcare sector and among Indigenous employees. We need that now at a bigger scale to understand, at the community and territory level, why people come, why people stay, and what pushes people to leave. This analysis will certainly find that the cost of living is a huge factor. That's why any strategy to sustain and grow our population must include a plan to address the high and rising cost of living.

The population strategy must also include an immigration strategy. Right now, we have a nominee program that's undersubscribed. By comparison, other jurisdictions in similar straits are doing so much more and achieving real success.

The Yukon has a community pilot program that promotes immigration to smaller communities by giving newcomers a two-year location restricted open work permit. The Atlantic immigration program brought Nova Scotia over 4,000 newcomers in four years where 40 percent of designated employers were outside of Halifax. Nova Scotia's ten-year retention rate, the share of newcomers who come and who are still in the province ten years later, is almost three in every five newcomers.

Beyond immigration, other countries are focusing on solutions to curb the great urban migration. Japan designated a program that gives away homes in small communities to sustain the population in rural areas.

Housing is a key pillar of an NWT population growth strategy. I've had conversations with colleagues on this side of the House about the crisis we're already in. We're struggling to house the population we already have before even considering new residents. That's why this motion specifically calls to build thousands of homes in the next decades.

Housing is a human right, one that the government must ensure and plan for now and in the long term, Mr. Speaker.

The population strategy must also include a communication strategy to let the world know what the NWT has to offer, as well as a review of business programs to help small business owners start and grow their businesses.

The last piece of this strategy involves setting a growth target. Current demographic shifts in the territory are putting incredible strain on communities, employers, and public finances. The territorial formula financing, which provides two-thirds of the government's revenues, grows with our population. If our population grows slower than Canada's, as it is projected, then our revenues will grow slowly. At the same time costs continue to rise.

The pandemic exposed economic and social gaps in our society and has increased the urgency to address these issues. In the days since entering an endemic, inflation, increasing cost of living, and what is looking like the most expensive flood recovery in the NWT's history have continued to exacerbate the urgency to address our social issues and created further strain on our fiscal situation. Effectively, Mr. Speaker, we cannot afford not to grow.

Growth is transformative, and it is not at the cost of Northerners. Growth is to the benefit of Northerners. Multiple business owners have told me that they can realize their full potential or afford to be innovative because they do not have the people power to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear. This strategy does not negate the need to nurture, educate, train, employ, and care for the people of the Northwest Territories. It is in partnership with these vital priorities and to support our dream of a stronger more prosperous north. That's why I'm calling for a strategy to match Canada's population growth. I'm asking this House to endorse a comprehensive plan to ensure that the future of the NWT is sustained by empowering the residents, both here and those to come, to thrive in our beautiful territory.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4528

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Great Slave.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4528

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there's no way that I can follow what my colleague from Kam Lake said so eloquently and in great detail. I want to thank her for bringing this motion forward because I think it's really captured the high level sort of issues in many of the regions or areas we've been discussing and sort of brings it all back together, and it is about our people, ensuring that our people are set up for success and that we have enough of them, as we often talk about the lack of capacity in the North and that people are our greatest resources and our assets. I just wanted to get up and not try to remotely elaborate further on what my colleague said but rather to say that I agree with her, and I support this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4528

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Monfwi.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4528

Jane Weyallon-Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, I do agree, and I do support this motion. At this time, I know that we -- a lot of our community members are migrating. This motion will put more emphasis, pressure on the Housing to build more houses in small communities, create more employment, and reduce high cost of living, especially in small communities.

At this time, there are a lot of people in the North that are -- it's because of the high cost of living, it is difficult for them to make ends meet therefore I do support this motion. Thank you.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4528

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife North.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4528

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the Member bringing this motion forward. And I do think that much of this information exists, but the GNWT needs to make sure it is put together and there's some sort of coherent vision.

As often is repeated in this House, the NWT is in a labour shortage. We have more jobs than people. And the extent of that labour shortage is truly unique. This territory, if you take our GDP per capita, we have one of the highest in the world. No doubt, because we have three diamond mines, but we all know that those diamond mines operate with a large fly in/fly out workforce, and there needs to be more targeted efforts to turn those essentially remote workers into residents of the Northwest Territories.

We also know that our territory has long had a boom and bust cycle. That is one of the main reasons Inuvik is seeing a population decline. Norman Wells, with Imperial closing, is in a similar position. And it raises a lot of fundamental philosophical questions about what to do when demographic trends are happening like this. You know, to a certain extent, we are all -- government can only do so much to buck a demographic trend. Everyone is getting older in this territory, and many people are leaving. But continued population decline in a community, well, it's by definition not sustainable but it also kind of gets to the heart of a cultural identity and what we're trying to do. We are dealing with some large global forces of urbanization and people moving to urban centres, and there's only so much we can do. But I think if we put this all together, and we track those demographic trends, that there are multiple levers and tools you could pull to make sure that, you know, we are not shocking our communities into losing 20 percent of their population as some are projected to do. We are not shocking the opposite way whereas Yellowknife, people come to the urban centre, doesn't have enough housing and gets to a zero percent vacancy rate in its housing. So all of this needs to be looked together with a bit more of a strategic lens, and I believe that's what this motion will accomplish. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4529

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Deh Cho.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4529

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I will support this motion. The bureau of statistics paints a grim picture of the population decrease for the Northwest Territories, including in many of the smaller communities. We are not certain as to what the root cause is. Is it attributable to the cost of living in the North? Is it the lack of jobs in the communities? The lack of healthcare professionals in the NWT is of the utmost concern. An analysis of all these concerns raised in this motion is direly required. This is important for the vision of the Northwest Territories. Mahsi.

Motion 58-19(2): A Strategy to Match Canada's Population Growth, Carried
Motions

Page 4529

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Frame Lake.