This is page numbers 6721 - 6786 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.


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. Jacobson, 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 a.m.



Page 6721

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the cost of living challenges have been raised by Northwest Territories residents and Members of the Legislative Assembly in both the 18th and 19th Legislative Assemblies One of those challenges is rent for residential and recreational public land leases, including those that support traditional harvesting activities. The lease rent minimum increased to $840 annually for residential and recreational leases in the last Legislative Assembly, implemented over the last five years, has proven to be challenging for many residents given our current economic situation. To help ease financial pressures and assist with cost-of-living challenges for leaseholders, lease rent rates will be reduced for all residential and recreational leases. Lease rent minimums will be reduced for all residential lessees from $840 to $800 annually. We are also reducing the percentage of assessed value charged to residential leases for Commissioner's land from 5 percent of assessed value to 2.5 percent of assessed land value.

Mr. Speaker, we will also reduce lease rents for recreational leases. The Department of Environment and Climate Change will implement a three-tier system for all recreational leases with rates reduced from a minimum of $840 to fixed amount of either $600, $400 or $300 annually depending on access to the leased parcel. This approach will ensure that those with limited and seasonal access will pay less than those with year-round access.

Residential and recreational leases will see these savings at their next rent review period. These changes will not only result in lower lease rates for all individuals but will also make rent more comparable between Commissioner's and territorial land until the Public Land Act comes into force and creates a single public land pricing regime.

Mr. Speaker, we also tabled a response to Motion 77-19(2) related to lease rents for Indigenous-owned cabins. Significant work and engagement are ongoing to develop a long-term approach which will address concerns expressed by Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations regarding the management of rights-based cabins on public land. Our government is committed to working with Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations to resolve this issue in a collaborative way that considers and respects Aboriginal and treaty rights.

While this work is underway, the rent reductions being put in place will help reduce the financial burden for all residential and recreational leases, including Indigenous leaseholders that have asserted or established Aboriginal and/or treaty right to harvest in that area. We will also be pausing collections on lease rent arrears and will consider forgiving arrears on a case-by-case basis for these Indigenous leaseholders. The Department of Environment and Climate Change remains committed to working with Indigenous leadership to develop a long-term approach that meets the interests of Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, and the Government of the Northwest Territories for right-based cabins on public land.

Mr. Speaker, today I have made important commitments to finish our work on collaboratively developing a policy-based approach for rights-based cabins with our Indigenous government partners and to lower the cost of living for residents. Reducing rents for residential and recreational leases will help address the cost of living for individuals with public land leases, including Indigenous land leaseholders. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Education, Culture and Employment.

R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, this Legislative Assembly has made it a priority to advance universal child care for residents of the Northwest Territories. In December 2021, we signed the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with the federal government, and since then we have worked closely with licensed early learning and child care programs and early childhood educators to advance this mandate. As of April 1st, the average cost of licensed child care for children five years of age and younger has been reduced, on average, by 60 percent. This means that families in the NWT are now saving up to $545 a month per child in child care fees. Families can expect to see further cost reductions until we reach our goal of an average of $10 a day child care.

Mr. Speaker, amendments to the Child Day Care Act and two related regulations came into force on May 1st, 2023. These changes establish limits on child care fees charged to families by licensed programs receiving government subsidies and increased reporting provided by licensed programs in response to our commitments within the Canada-wide agreement. We are taking a phased approach to updating the regulations to take the time to consider our next action as we change the early learning and child care system. Later this year, we will continue engaging with the sector on more changes to regulations as we work to introduce a wage grid for educators, a certification process, and establish a new funding process for licensed programs in response to a program review that was completed in spring 2021.

Mr. Speaker, earlier this summer we gathered feedback on these initiatives by engaging with Indigenous governments, the Northwest Territories Early Childhood Association, licensed early learning and child care program operators, and early childhood educators working in licensed centre-based programs. We know that the NWT needs a flexible certification process that recognizes and considers post-secondary education equivalencies, as well as a wage grid that is comparable to other positions within the early learning and child care sector and will attract and retain educators. Participants appreciated our proposed shift away from basing operating subsidies on attendance and highlighted the need for additional funding to support long-term sustainability. The full What We Heard report summarizing the GNWT's findings is posted on the Education, Culture and Employment website.

We continue to collaborate with the Government of Canada to help achieve our shared vision of a Canada-wide system that meets the needs of our communities, families, and young children. I am pleased to share that at the end of June, the Government of Canada announced the new Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund to help deliver affordable child care for families by funding the cost of physical infrastructure needed to create more spaces like real estate and building materials. Through this fund, provinces and territories will receive $625 million over the next four years, which will take into consideration the unique infrastructure challenges in the three territories. I look forward to sharing more details on what this means for the NWT as we work collaboratively with the federal government to implement this funding.

Mr. Speaker, we continue to support our licensed programs to create welcoming and inclusive early learning environments that incorporate local cultures and languages and support the developmental needs of all children in their care. To ensure early learning environments in the NWT are a place where all children are welcomed and supported, we are reviewing how children from vulnerable or equity-seeking families, including those with specific developmental needs, are included in early learning opportunities across the territory. The aim is to identify strengths and barriers that exist within the early childhood sector, enhance the overall quality of licensed programs throughout the NWT, and support the creation of new licensed spaces so more families have access to quality early learning and child care in their community.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the need for flexibility as we continue to build the foundation for the NWT's early learning and child care system and are working to address affordability for families, develop the early childhood workforce, and improve wages and incentives for those employed as early childhood educators. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share the progress we have made in strengthening our mental health support services. Our focus is on the pressing issue of suicide prevention as well as our ongoing efforts to enhance the mental wellness and addictions recovery system.

Each suicide and suicide attempt has a profound impact on friends, families, and communities. The distressing surge in suicide rates during 2022 has underscored the urgent need for a renewed approach. In June, I had the privilege of travelling to Iqaluit with key staff from of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, and the department, to discuss suicide prevention with our counterparts in Nunavut. Our goal was to exchange insights, experiences, and best practices.

Mr. Speaker, our discussions highlighted the importance of a collaborative response. Suicide prevention is complex, and no single solution can fully address it. To that end, we've formed a GNWT working group to establish guiding principles for a collective suicide prevention approach as well as a renewed commitment to support community-lead initiatives.

Budget 2023-2024 allocates an additional $500,000 to the community suicide prevention fund, bringing the total annual funding to $725,000 for communities and organizations to access. Our conversations with colleagues in Nunavut emphasized the importance of supporting community-led, grassroots approaches to suicide prevention. The enhancement of this fund is an important step towards that goal.

Mr. Speaker, supporting regional and community-led initiatives beyond providing funding is equally important. When the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation released its suicide prevention strategy last September, officials from department and the NTHSSA traveled to Inuvik to meet with the IRC staff to offer support for their work. Together, they came up with tangible ways that the health and social services system can reduce barriers to help the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation help individuals and families.

The same spirit of collaboration and commitment underpins our efforts to enhance the mental wellness and addictions recovery system, with a particular focus on the community counselling program.

Mr. Speaker, in 2020 we introduced the Stepped Care 2.0 approach in the community counselling program, tailoring support to individual needs. Collaborating with partners such as the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Stepped Care Solutions, and the health and social services authorities, we have expanded our services to reduce wait times and improve accessibility. We have achieved remarkable outcomes, including same-day counselling, and a noteworthy 79 percent reduction in wait times. Furthermore, we have launched e-mental health options and established the mental wellness and addictions recovery advisory group to guide our efforts based on lived experience.

Mr. Speaker, additional work is underway to further transform the way mental health and addictions counselling services are being delivered. This work is being led by the Beaufort Delta region. There was extensive engagement with residents on what services they need, how they want to receive them, and who they want delivering them. This work highlighted that educational qualifications are not what is most valued by residents, and so changes will be made in job descriptions and hiring practices to reflect this. The lessons learned from this work are being shared with other regions to inspire similar shifts in approach.

Mr. Speaker, it is also key to ensure that there are relevant, culturally-based child and youth mental health services in the territory. We strive to evolve to a model that aligns and supports this goal as we move away from the historical institutional model of child and adolescent treatment facilities such as Trailcross and the Territorial Treatment Centre.

While a review is underway to provide longer term recommendations to ensure programming is available, there are two youth wellness camps scheduled for pilot in the 2023-2024 fiscal year. These camps are land-based with culture, individual and group counselling embedded throughout, as well as a three-month aftercare component. Following this pilot, there will be a review to assess the effectiveness of this approach.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize our unwavering commitment to these crucial issues and to continue to grow and learn from the people we serve. I am looking forward to hearing about new community and regional-based suicide prevention strategies that affirm the value of every life. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories recently completed a comprehensive strategic framework aimed at addressing the concerning rates of family violence in the Northwest Territories. The framework is called Reclaiming the Capable Person: We Are All Capable Persons When We Have Community. In it, elders from communities across the territory provide their definitions of a capable person based on traditional knowledge passed down from generations. Their knowledge teaches us that every child and every person is born capable and that we all share the responsibility to nurture and provide opportunities and guidance to help everyone become their own capable person.

Mr. Speaker, all survivors and perpetrators of family violence are capable persons. The Government of the Northwest Territories can best support them by assuming a role that better equips them to make empowered decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities. We evoke the idea of a capable person to emphasize that this strategic framework focuses on individual agency and the importance of programs and services that support the empowerment of individuals affected by family violence so that they can make decisions for themselves that build resiliency and the capacity to heal so they can lead fulfilling lives.

This strategic framework focuses on people, adopting a holistic approach to prevention and intervention measures across all levels of government and non-governmental organizations. This approach calls for a significant shift in the way we perceive the collective healing needs of all residents, including survivors, their families, and those who use violence in their relationships.

Earlier this summer, we shared the draft framework with Indigenous and community governments as well as key stakeholders for input. And, Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time today,I will table the feedback we received. Now that the framework has been finalized, we will create an action plan to implement new initiatives and enhance existing programs and services, including a monitoring and evaluation framework to assess and adjust our efforts along the way to ensure that our approach is effective and responsive to evolving needs.

Many of the implementation actions relate closely to A Way Home: A Comprehensive Strategy to Address Homelessness in the Northwest Territories. It is well known that family violence is among the primary issues that cause people to experience homelessness. Advancing these strategies creates an opportunity to better coordinate person-centered services across departments and address some of the Northwest Territories' most urgent social needs.

Mr. Speaker, to be effective, our strategy to address family violence must also take into consideration gender-based violence, elder abuse, and the problems underlying gender inequality and discrimination against 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals.

Today, I particularly note the tragic and nation-wide issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which must also be considered in any strategies addressing domestic and family violence. I emphasize today due to the new monument unveiled honouring the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This monument is nestled in the woods just to the right of the entrance pathway to the Legislative Assembly building. It is located in a quiet place, surrounded by trees, which will allow people and families time and space to reflect on losses and, perhaps, experience a little hope. The national conversation on MMIWG has reached a critical mass and while there is so much more to do, I, like so many others, have hope that we are starting to see awareness walking side by side with reconciliation.

Mr. Speaker, by adopting an inclusive, comprehensive strategy, and a coordinated approach to implementation, we will promote gender equality, protect the rights and safety of all individuals, and work towards a society free from violence and discrimination. This approach reflects strong commitment to recognizing the diverse needs of different communities and ensuring that the solutions put forward are genuinely transformative and inclusive. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, I want to start off by first congratulating Wab Kinew of the NDP on being elected as the next Premier of Manitoba. I know he will be a great leader for the province and its people.

Mr. Speaker, over the last 16 months, businesses in the communities of Hay River, K'atlodeeche, and Enterprise, have been affected by floods and fires. They are now asking for reasonable and timely financial support to rebuild or reopen. Mr. Speaker, to put some perspective on this, I want to provide examples of affected businesses:

Firstly, Castaways Cottages & Campground, a tourist destination, was flooded in 2022 and now lost several cabins because of the wildfire.

Patterson's sawmill and Patterson's firewood businesses were decimated by the latest fire. The damage was so extensive, not only did they lose their businesses, but all the homes along Patterson Road were consumed by the fire.

The heart of our agriculture sector, Paradise Valley, experienced damage from flooding last year, now it was wildfire damage; the more reason to use the property acquisition program offered by the federal government.

In Enterprise, we have Sunrise Cabinets, a supplier of cabinets throughout the North and a major supplier to this government. Their building and equipment is gone.

The Gateway Motel was also consumed by the fire along with the building housing Winnie's Dene Art Gallery and Darcy Moses Fashion Designs.

Mr. Speaker, there are other businesses that are still standing but nevertheless were impacted because of forced closures. These businesses, in a sixteen-month period, lost approximately two to four months of revenue, however, fixed business costs continued and needed to be met. As government, we must do our part. It is our responsibility to assist those businesses whether it is with general advice, DAP, BDIC, ITI, or ECE financial supports.

Mr. Speaker, I ask this government to consider the overall impact and severity that flooding, wildfires, and evacuations had on Hay River, K'atlodeeche, and Enterprise over the past 16 months. We need financial supports that take that reality into consideration. It was not once; it was not twice; it was three times that our communities have been dealt a blow by Mother Nature. We need that financial support not to be limited in scope but must consider the effects of lost revenue, lost labour, lost equipment, lost infrastructure, and the reality of business devaluation. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, due to the magnitude of financial support required for businesses in Hay River, K'atlodeeche, and Enterprise, these supports cannot come from the GNWT alone. We need the federal government to step up and provide some serious investment to support those business impacted, and we need it now. And I will relay that message to our MP as well. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the health care system is failing our Indigenous population from access to quality and timely care. Our residents face systemic barriers, and more work is needed to break through the red tape to improve accessibility to programs and services. Many community members in my region travel to Yellowknife to get health care services. I am disappointed to hear from constituents who travelled to Yellowknife who feel their concerns are not taken seriously. I have also heard concerns that some people have been told they cannot book appointments in Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, recently I had two constituents informing me of their concerns with the care they received in Yellowknife. They felt their concerns were dismissed with multiple attempts to access service. They chose to travel on their own to seek medical attention in the south. Both constituents were diagnosed with serious illness; illnesses that required immediate medical attention.

Mr. Speaker, it is very unfortunate. My condolence to the family. One of my constituents, after 19 days in the hospital, died in Edmonton without the opportunity to say good-bye to family and friends.

Mr. Speaker, the existing medical travel policy has failed the people of my region and other NWT small communities. Both of my constituents, even after receiving a critical diagnosis and being hospitalized, were refused any type of support from GNWT medical travel.

Mr. Speaker, we continue to see more community members accessing services outside of the NWT. We need to review and change the medical travel policy to be more flexible, especially in cases that are serious enough to warrant admissions and/or treatments that are unavailable in the NWT. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, this is an unbelievable situation. If my constituents would have received a timely diagnosis in Yellowknife, they would have been sent south to access treatment and been covered by medical travel. But because they chose to travel on their own, they cannot receive any support from medical travel even after being diagnosed with a serious medical condition that resulted in specialized treatment.

Fundamentally, Mr. Speaker, there should be no barriers to access health care for the residents of the NWT. Interpreters-translators are also denied for the most vulnerable as well. Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable. I will have question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I want to speak once again about a major infrastructure project that our government has been pursuing for years and has committed to construct at some point in the future. The project I'm talking about is the Taltson hydro expansion.

Mr. Speaker, I know that there are some Members from past and present in this House who are strongly against the expansion of the Taltson dam, and each Members' reasons are varied. I, however, wanted to stand up here today and state once again, as I have on numerous occasions, that I am somebody who is strongly in favour of the expansion of the Taltson expansion dam.

Mr. Speaker, there are tonnes of potential that a mega project such as the Talston hydro expansion can bring to the economy and the residents of the NWT. For example, given that such a large project would require significant investment, there is a high likelihood that along with those new investments, there will also be increased economic development within the NWT by spinoff industries that is created as a result of the project's construction and maintenance.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, some people are wondering who we're going to sell all the new excess power that will be generated from the expanded Taltson dam. Well, Mr. Speaker, provinces and territories make cross-border deals all the time on various matters, such as pipelines, fibre optic lines, and yes, hydropower too. For instance, just a few months ago Quebec signed a deal with New York state to sell them excess hydropower that's worth billions of dollars. This would be no different. We could do the same with Alberta and Saskatchewan. Plus, the federal government has long-term goals to make Canada net-zero on greenhouse gas emissions. But in order to do so, there must be more green energy projects built across the country.

Mr. Speaker, I know there is still work that needs to be done with the Indigenous groups whose lands are nearest to the Talston Dam to ensure they will get their fair share in the benefits of this project. I know that our government will continue with the work on the Taltson steering committee and in bilateral meetings with the affected Indigenous groups. I will have questions for the Minister of NWT Power corporation later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I have been waiting patiently for almost eight years for this government to do something, anything, to prevent and better manage contaminated sites that have cost us literally tens of millions of dollars. With little to no fanfare, Environment and Climate Change has finally released a new environmental guideline for contaminated site remediation with a public comment period of about six weeks less the evacuation period. While the steps and process laid out in the document appear to be sound, there are some critical admissions and failures. It is hard to believe that it is the best that we could do nine years after devolution.

It's not clear whether this guideline is legally binding or enforceable. It has no specific legislative authorization as cited. It's also not clear whether it would apply to contaminated sites on privately-owned lands. Once again, the department has completely forgotten any role for the public in the process other than as a recipient of some vague notice if a site is found to be contaminated. The document is completely silent as to whether any of the information and approvals generated would be publicly disclosed. It is not clear to me whether the department is attempting to set up a parallel unlegislated process for contaminated site management when some sites are under active remediation and are regulated by the land and water boards. This could be a parallel GNWT system for contaminated sites with no role for the public and no public information. There is also no mention of working with Indigenous governments in the document. The guideline is not consistent with Cabinet's so-called open government policy, but it is what I have come to expect as a pattern of Cabinet not acting as a public government.

A few other problems with the guideline: Site restoration is completely optional but no one will know anyway. Under this guideline, the department can accept sites with known liabilities and perpetual care requirements without any public knowledge. There are no provisions, or even consideration in the document, of an institutional control program like Saskatchewan's where owners could put up money and GNWT would assume liability for sites, something that standing committee recommended but was ignored.

I am frustrated and disappointed that after eight years, I have failed to move this government towards any meaningful legislated or policy approach to prevention and better management of contaminated sites. I will have questions later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today we commemorate the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Gender-Diverse People. My heart and prayer goes out to the families who have lost loved ones.

Mr. Speaker, it was an honour to be able to take part in unveiling the monument in front of our Legislative Assembly with you. This monument represents our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, two-spirit -- sorry, LGBTQQIA+ people. And I would like to thank the people who participated in the ceremony:

  • President of the Native Women's, Grace Blake for her opening prayer and her words that she shared;
  • Rassi Nashalik for lighting the kudlik;
  • Yellowknife's First Nation Dene drummers for their opening prayer song;
  • The Mandevilles for their playing of the Red River Jig;
  • William Greenland for his music with his flute throughout the ceremony and during the feeding of the fire ceremony;
  • Gerri Sharpe, the president of Pauktuuti Inuit Women of Canada for her words and her closing prayer.

I'd also like to recognize and thank the artist Myrna Pokiak who designed and constructed, with her team, the monument. Her design into the monument reflects the Northwest Territories as a whole, and she explained it very well. I thank you for this beautiful piece of art. Quyananni, Myrna.

As I mentioned in my comments at the ceremony, since becoming an MLA I more thoroughly understand the importance of our roles as a Legislative Assembly and to make and introduce laws and rules that affect people of our territory. Walking past this monument every day will remind us of the work that is done and continues to be done for our Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people but also of the work that still needs to be done to protect them. The work has just begun, Mr. Speaker. It's just begun. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today my Member's statement is on homelessness in Nunakput and water delivery schedules in the communities. Homelessness is a hidden burden in communities in my riding. Communities are most likely residents that had fallen on hard times. Inuvialuit values and tradition make everyone to take care of one another, to keep each other safe, but it brings a lot of stress on the family and sometimes elder abuse. Today we have three governments in the systems in Nunakput - the Inuvialuit government, the territorial government, and the federal government. Each of these governments play a role to keep Nunakput constituents safe and healthy and a roof over their head.

The NWT government is in power to look after housing and homelessness throughout the NWT. The NWT government has housing and homeless legislation as their power means to look at housing and homelessness in the NWT. The NWT needs to step up to power to keep the NWT residents in safe and healthy houses. Us as a territory, we need to keep residents in home. I want the NWT government to step up and start taking care of residents who are homeless. And I have two constituents that I know of right now living in tents.

Also, Mr. Speaker, water delivery in public housing units across my riding. The concern is rationing of water being delivered to housing units and the households that many tenants run and are well overcrowded. Before the next water delivery, they have no choice but to wait for water delivery on delivery time. And if they want water delivered to the unit, they have to pay for the water to be delivered at their own expense. There's a fee and the water rate and they have to pay it to run out. They have to get a call out and then they'll have to pay for the water. Some tenants cannot afford to pay these fees, Mr. Speaker.

The majority of residents in Nunakput live in public housing. These public housing units get their water delivered by trucks in public housing units as it's like all housing businesses in Nunakput. In Nunakput communities, it become a health and safety concern. Because some of the public housing units run out of water before next water delivery schedule, that means no water to wash themselves. When they get up in the morning, no water for breakfast, no water for washing clothes, no water for doing dishes or home cleaning. Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable in the NWT right now.

It's my recommendation that the housing review and change their policy and budget to ensure public housing in Nunakput receive adequate funding for the LHOs for potable water and daily use. Without water, it becomes a health and safety concern. Let us find the means and address these health issues and safety and provide adequate in the NWT Housing Association. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I previously spoke on the subject of the Alberta oil sands tailings ponds spills, perhaps several times in the life of this 19th Assembly. This House has heard of a couple of incidents of tailings ponds breaches. One was 5.3 million litres of industrial wastewater in February 2023 and another one in May 2023. The tailings ponds contain hazardous chemicals used in separating the oil from the sand. Both incidences were not reported to our territorial government although there is a bilateral agreement with Alberta.

I would like to reiterate the current bilateral water management agreement with Alberta. It's not an effective mechanism to protect our waterways.

Now there is a news article claiming that Imperial Oil and the Alberta regulator knew for years about tailings seepage at the mine. It is reported the Alberta regulator had reports of seepage as early as 2019. Both Imperial Oil and the Alberta regulator knew the Kearl oil sands mine was seeping tailings into the groundwater for a number of years. They decided not to notify the public and tried to manage it internally. Substances found at the tailings ponds include naphthenic acids, dissolved solids, and sulfates. Oil sands tailings are considered toxic to fish and other wildlife.

A spokesperson for the Alberta regulator has stated that the agency is committed to strong oversight of the Kearl site. Yet, the tailings seepage continues. The Mikisew Cree First Nation chief has stated the regulator did not stop the seepage in 2022, and they didn't acknowledge it since 2019. The chief went on to state, They say they have contained the seepage. They have not. The fact that they did not tell us about the seepage for nine months is the tip of the iceberg.

Mr. Speaker, this issue and actions by regulators, oil companies, and the Alberta government are blasphemous, outlandish, and sickening in that they won't take simple regulatory measures in the face of known human and environmental health problems. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.