This is page numbers 6787 - 6868 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

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. My questions are for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on the so-called public engagement on the environmental guideline for contaminated site remediation. It also includes the arsenic remediation guidelines. These revisions have taken 20 years, Mr. Speaker. On the heavier same web page, the review period is now about seven weeks, not including the evacuation period. So can the Minister explain why this public engagement is so short and at the very end of the life of this Assembly? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the public engagement period for this guideline was opened on August 4th, 2023, and has been extended until October 15th, 2023, due to the evacuation. The standard GNWT engagement period is between four to six weeks. Given the evacuation, the department has extended this engagement timeline just well beyond the six-week period. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Well, let's talk about that public engagement period. The extension might allow for more meaningful public input on the guideline but communications from the department, in my view, need to be improved.

Can the Minister tell us whether he is prepared to improve public communications, including a further extension, some plain language materials on this important policy document, and maybe even a public meeting or a webinar? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we do not believe a plain language summary is required. Mr. Speaker, the guidelines provide a short overview of the methodology and approach taken, which is accessible on Have Your Say web page. The Have Your Say web page provides an e-mail address that is monitored daily. Any specific questions the public might have are reviewed by staff and responded to as required and in a timely manner. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Yeah, merci, Monsieur le President. I spent about an hour and a half looking at the material last night. Way over my head, so it's definitely not plain language. But the new guideline would reduce the acceptable limits for arsenic in soil related to all uses compared to the 2003 guidelines. However, the new guidelines would allow Yellowknife residents to be exposed to, in some cases, three times as much arsenic as those people living outside of Yellowknife.

So can the Minister try to explain why it is okay to expose Yellowknifers to, in some cases, three times as much arsenic compared to those that live outside of Yellowknife? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Revisions to arsenic criteria were undertaken through a structured and scientific risk assessment process to determine approximate background criteria based on the evaluation of new data and methodology since 2003. This process includes assessment of human health risk, and it was concluded that these levels of arsenic are safe for Yellowknife residents. Human health risk assessments look at all exposure pathways. Examples include how people use the land and where they can get their food, whether it is from the land or grocery store. And these are all factors that determine the level of the risk. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. That's great. So public contractors get, you know, six weeks to look at stuff that may have been taking 20 years to develop. You know, very technical stuff. Not good. This is not good public engagement, Mr. Speaker.

But it's not clear what these new arsenic soil remediation guidelines would mean for the Giant Mine remediation project. Although that work was finally approved under an environmental assessment completed in 2014, the soil remediation was based on the old potentially unsafe 2003 arsenic soil remediation guidelines. So can the Minister tell us whether the new, much lower, arsenic soil remediation guidelines will be applied to the Giant Mine Remediation Project? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Giant Mine Remediation Project has been aware of the potential change to the GNWT environmental guidelines for contaminated soil or remediation. Current remediation activities, as defined by the closure and completion plan and the water license, are based on the 2003 guidelines, which were adopted by the land and water board at the time. It is important to note that both the 2003 and the revised 2023 guideline allow proponents to carry out a site-specific assessment to determine suitable criteria using soil remediation based on consideration for site factors and conditions. The Giant Mine Remediation Project undertook a site-specific assessment and was considered with the 2018 human health and ecological risk assessment. As such, the Giant Mine Remediation Project will continue to apply the 2003 guidelines. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Tlicho highway is designed and intended to provide year-round road access to the Tlicho region. It is the Tlicho's wish to eventually have all-season road extended to Gameti and Wekweeti. In this Assembly, we saw the completion of most of the portion to Whati; however, the last 10 kilometres are not completed. Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister what happened to the final section of the Tlicho All-Season Road to Whati? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Member is correct. We have applications in to the federal government to complete the rest of that highway. We started -- we completed phase 1. We are working with the Tlicho partnership as per our cooperation agreement. So, I mean, yes, we are looking into it. And thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Tlicho highway to Whati was built only to the pre-existing Whati access road used to connect Whati to the winter road. The access road does not meet modern engineering standards that consider things such as ponded water, drainage, and drivability. It is not up to the same standard as the rest of the Tlicho All-Season Road. With this in mind, the community government of Whati would like to see this deficiency corrected.

Can the Minister tell me when will this section be constructed and, if it's not in the works, commit that it will be included in the next capital budget? Thank you.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, when I became Minister of Infrastructure, I was quite surprised that we didn't finish the road all the way too so I mean, I -- it's a 12 kilometre access coad that needs to get into the community of Whati. We have taken steps over the few years in preparation for the Whati access road improvements. This has included things like surveying, design work, and securing necessary permits. Mr. Speaker, I anticipate that this work will start within the year. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there seems to be no reference to the Tlicho All-Season Road in the 2024-2025 Capital estimates. This is very troubling as the highway has been left incomplete in terms of connecting Whati with an all-season road. The last few kilometres are missing. There is an access road that is substandard. It would not be allowed to remain if it is -- would not be allowed to remain if it was on the major road into Yellowknife. The Minister must ensure the concerns of Whati are heard. Will the Minister invite the representative of Whati to the next working group meeting? Thank you.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I just want to note that once we get the funding, then it'll be put on the books. So we're just anxiously awaiting for the federal government to be able to perhaps respond to our proposal and get the rest of that highway completed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The reason why I brought this up is because the community of Whati are very concerned, especially the leadership. So that's why I brought this up at this time. And they would like to see the work completed as soon as possible because it is -- if you drive on it, it is not good. The last section leading to the Whati road, to Whati -- to the community of Whati is not drivable. So that's why I brought it up because the chief from Whati would like to see this completed as soon as possible. Thank you.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yes, that is what we're working at. I do want to note that this project's into two phases. The phase that we're going to start will consist of road embankment improvement, some of the ditching, drainage culvert installation, signage, replacement of the culvert with a short span bridge. This is our next phase, Mr. Speaker. This is something that we are looking for funding. And, you know, I'm anticipating that work is going to start right away. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Deh Cho.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions are related to my Member's statement on housing and are for the housing minister.

Housing NT did not notify communities, nor residents, of the Rapid Housing Initiative Program despite the cries for help from all communities dealing with severe housing shortages. Can the Minister apprise this House, and the residents of the Northwest Territories, as to why Housing NT were not involved in the rollout of the Rapid Housing initiative in the NWT? Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.