This Hansard has not been finalized - this is the "Blues" in Parliamentary speak, or unedited transcript in regular speak.

This Hansard is the unedited transcript and will be replaced by the final copy soon (generally within 5 business days). In the meantime, direct quotes should not be used, when the final is published it will seamlessly replace this unedited copy and any existing links should still work.

This is from 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 work.


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 10 a.m.



The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, before we begin, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize some visitors to our proceedings today. I am pleased to welcome the Grade 3 class from Ecole Itlo. It's great to see students here learning about consensus government. Thank you for joining us today. Mahsi.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 299-19(2): Update on 2022 Highway Construction Season
Ministers' Statements

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories transportation system is critical to connect residents and communities, to support the economy and allow for the delivery of goods and services. Our government is committed to improving, maintaining, and expanding our highway system to offer safe and reliable infrastructure that can adapt to effects of time and climate change while also creating training and employment opportunities for our residents.

Mr. Speaker, we had another busy highway construction season last year. In fact, this year alone we spent more than $45 million improving our highways, bridges, and access roads. Some of the highlights of the work included:

  • more than 160 kilometres of chip seal overlay; 68 kilometres of roadway rehabilitation;
  • five bridge rehabilitations;
  • pre-engineering work for the rehabilitation and replacement of several structures; and,
  • the completion of approximately 135 bridge and culvert inspections.

On Highway No. 1, chip seal overlay was made to 138 kilometres of road, including the Fort Simpson Access Road and the Fort Simpson Airport Access Road. Rehabilitation work including embankment widening and drainage improvement on a 12-kilometre section are in progress and will be completed this summer.

On Highway No. 3, we have had very positive discussions with Transport Canada on the replacement of the Frank Channel Bridge. Pending approval funding, permit applications for this project will be submitted this year with construction commencing once these authorizations are received. We also completed surface repairs and rehabilitation on Highway No. 3 during the past year, including chip seal overlay of 23 kilometres of the road.

Similar work was done on the Ingraham Trail on a section that is a little over four kilometres long, and work on 14 kilometres of Highway No. 7 in progress and will be completed this summer. Both projects include embankment widening and culvert replacement.

The Dempster Highway received embankment widening and rehabilitation on a 10-kilometre section on the Marine Bypass.

On the Whati Access Road, the first phase of rehabilitation work was completed last year, which included right of way clearing and material production for Phase 2 work. In Phase 2, the 12-kilometre access road that connects the community to the Tlicho Highway will be improved, including road embankment re-construction, installation of drainage culverts, and replacement of culverts with a short span bridge. Work on this project is expected to begin later this year.

Mr. Speaker, this is just an overview of the hard work the Department of Infrastructure and its contractors are carrying out. More work will be completed this summer and fall and new projects will be initiated, including rehabilitation on the Inuvik-Tuk Highway. We recently received federal funding for this project which will include raising low-profile embankment areas, improving drainage, and installing guardrails as needed.

We continue to work closely with all of our public and private sector partners to build and maintain transportation networks that meets the current and future needs of the territory.

Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 299-19(2): Update on 2022 Highway Construction Season
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Minister's Statement 300-19(2): Housing Delivery Status Update
Ministers' Statements

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, in the past two years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada has provided over $50 million in funding support. This year Housing NWT is again delivering an exceptionally large capital program of over $104 million.

Under the federal Budget 2022, Housing NWT will be receiving an additional $60 million for the delivery of 100 new public housing units. This annual capital delivery plan involves the construction and renovation of more than 510 housing units in the Northwest Territories. This plan includes investment in public housing units, hundreds of major retrofits and biomass district heating projects, and supporting the construction of some market housing units.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise that approximately 80 percent of this delivery is now either already completed or in the construction phase. To date, Housing NWT has awarded negotiated contracts to eight Indigenous governments and businesses for the delivery of 30 new housing units that were awarded to:

  • Delta North Alliance;
  • Fort Smith Metis Council;
  • Norman Wells Claimant Corporation;
  • Hay River Metis Government Council;
  • Liidlii Kue First Nation;
  • Deninu Kue First Nation;
  • MYB Construction in Tulita; and
  • Techi Limited in Deline.

Also under the Tlicho Infrastructure Cooperation Agreement, Housing NWT awarded the construction of a local housing organization office and duplexes in Behchoko and Whati.

Mr. Speaker, as part of Housing NWT's strategic renewal, Housing NWT has put a focus on engagement with Indigenous governments, and a good example is the implementation of this capital plan delivery. This engagement does not only include negotiated contract opportunities but also opportunities for Indigenous governments to directly participate in housing design and other delivery aspects such as site selection. Engagement and strong communication have been a major focus of our renewal efforts.

In addition to our own delivery, we will continue to work in partnership with Indigenous governments, community governments, and non-governmental organizations to help them access funding through the Government of Canada's National Housing Co-Investment Fund.

Mr. Speaker, as part of our renewal, we have taken a more client-focused approach. The co-investment fund application process can be very cumbersome and requires significant resources to move through the different application phases. Housing NWT's community relations advisor works closely with Indigenous governments and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and other partners to support applicants from across the Northwest Territories as they move through this complex process. This supports Housing NWT's mandate to ensure the well-being of individuals and communities and assist those most in need.

Mr. Speaker, beyond the benefits of adding housing options in communities where new units are built, the economic benefits of construction delivery can provide meaningful opportunities for employment. Housing NWT is committed to working with northern contractors as much as possible in order to maximize the benefit of these projects. I am very proud of Housing NWT's track record in being able to support our local and northern businesses. 99 percent of Housing NWT's contracts were awarded to local and northern businesses during this past year's capital delivery and similar levels of support are expected again next year.

Mr. Speaker, Housing NWT's capital plan delivery continues to support critical training and skill development opportunities for our residents.

In April 2020, Housing NWT amended its construction contracts to require general contractors to support at least one northern apprentice for the duration of the construction project. I am very pleased to advise that, in addition to the 12 apprenticeship positions that Housing NWT is supporting with local organizations, this new apprentice hire requires for general contractors to support and create 35 new apprenticeship work assignments to date.

Mr. Speaker, this coming year, we will see the completion of our partnership in building market housing units for RCMP. During the renewal conversation, Housing NWT heard that a number of partners are interested in exploring market housing delivery. As a result of those conversations, Housing NWT will soon be engaging with partners across the Northwest Territories to further explore the need for market housing units in smaller communities. Although this the delivery of housing units and repair projects will make a meaningful difference, there is still a lot of work left to be done to ensure all residents of the Northwest Territories are provided with equality and quality, affordable, housing options. By continuing to work with our partners, I am confident that we will continue to make progress towards our shared goals to be able to help the people across the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 300-19(2): Housing Delivery Status Update
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 301-19(2): Summary of the Government of the Northwest Territories Initiatives at Association for Mineral Exploration Roundup
Ministers' Statements

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, last month I attended the annual Association for Mineral Exploration Roundup conference in Vancouver with fellow Cabinet Members and government officials. We were there to advance this Legislative Assembly's priorities to increase resource exploration and development in our territory; adopt a benefit retention approach to economic development; make strategic infrastructure investments; and, to identify, prioritize, and strengthen key actions to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Achieving meaningful progress on these multiple and complex priorities is far more effective through partnerships. To most effectively achieve strategic investments and economic development alongside the advancement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, we need partners, collaborators, supporters and advocates across all levels of government, with industry, and stakeholders.

Building effective partnerships happens with time spent together, meeting both formally and informally, in different settings, with different combinations of parties to bring a variety of perspectives to the exchange. Having those kinds of opportunities was a major part of the work we did at Roundup. One of the messages that we carried with us is the commitment that we have at all levels, to evolve how development is done in partnership with Indigenous people.

For Northwest Territories leaders, the depth, strength, of what we have in common is never more obvious than when we are working together, particularly outside of the Northwest Territories, as advocates for the North. I was pleased to participate in multiple events alongside Indigenous governments from the Northwest Territories. The mineral resource industry and, in particular those who invest in it, is changing rapidly. The recognition of environmental, social, and governance factors, as well as Indigenous relationships, is the way of the future for resource development.

As I have said before, this is the way we have done business in the North for a long time and together, with Northwest Territories delegates and Indigenous delegates, the GNWT was able to showcase the partnered and sustainable approach to resource development that exists here. Our collective presence at a forum like Roundup, and strong advocacy for the Northwest Territories, made each of our messages stronger.

This year was a particularly strong showing of our movement towards a more whole-of-government approach to governance. Our delegation included, at different times, Premier Cochrane, Minister Archie, and also officials from Infrastructure, Lands, Environment and Natural Resources, Finance, and Industry, Tourism and Investment. We were also supported by the presence of MLA Jane Weyallan-Armstrong, the Member from Monfwi, as a representative of Standing Committee on Economic Development and Oversight. Together we met face-to-face with operators and company executives interested or already working in our territory as well as those who are new to the opportunities in the Northwest Territories.

The GNWT supported three networking events to promote the territory to investment audiences and to encourage dialogue about the Northwest Territories' attractiveness for investment.

First, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment held an environmental, social, governance Indigenous-themed event that welcomed Indigenous governments from across the Northwest Territories, mineral resource companies, and investors. We were especially pleased to have the Tlicho drummers start this event off.

Next, led by Premier Cochrane, we celebrated last year's creation of a Northwest Territories chapter of Women in Mining and the election of Tlicho-born Gaeleen MacPherson as its president. Tlicho Grand Chief Lafferty spoke, recognizing the transformational accomplishments of Northwest Territories women, not only in mining but throughout the Tlicho.

Finally, supported by officials with the Department of Infrastructure, Minister Archie hosted an event promoting the territory's green energy potential while reiterating the importance of federal investment in three key infrastructure projects: The Taltson Hydro Expansion, Slave Geological Province Corridor, and Mackenzie Valley Highway.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Northwest Territories' mining community and Indigenous governments and industry stakeholders who took time out of their own objectives at the Association for Mineral Exploration Roundup to support us in advancing ours.

We are at a pivotal time for the Northwest Territories. Resource availability, technology, market demand, and global interest are coming together to create extraordinary opportunities for investment. As part of our marketing efforts, the Northwest Territories geological survey released a new compilation of critical mineral showings in highlighting the distribution of critical mineral finds in the Northwest Territories. On the conference's exhibit floor, we promoted our region and its geology to explorers and responded to the growing interest that we are seeing in the Northwest Territories' known and potential deposits of rare earth and other critical minerals.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories is positioned to play a key part in advancing the world's new technology-based green economy. More importantly, we have the opportunity, as governments, and industry together, to contribute to economic growth and prosperity in Northwest Territories communities where it is so needed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 301-19(2): Summary of the Government of the Northwest Territories Initiatives at Association for Mineral Exploration Roundup
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1326-19(2): Illicit Drug Trade in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the illicit drug trade, it is all about money, power, and control for those higher on the food chain, and all about access to drugs and the high it provides for those addicted. Life is unimportant to those in the drug trade, as many of us have attended numerous funerals and services for friends and family murdered because of it. Families are being torn apart with little or no consequence for those responsible. It is time for this government to provide our frontline enforcement and health workers with the tools needed to effectively deal with the illicit drug trade and addictions.

Mr. Speaker, all levels of government continue to talk about how to address the drug problem. Billions of dollars is being spent on drug enforcement and addictions treatment yet the problem is only worsening. Over the last several decades the tools used by the enforcement personnel to combat the drug trade continue to be eroded. The public, although not pleased with what is happening, are often reluctant to get involved due the possibility of retaliation by what is a well-organized criminal element.

Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, it is about money, power, and control. We have seen photos of piles of cash confiscated by the RCMP. What we do not hear and see is when, due to insufficient evidence or a technicality, that same cash is given back to the person it was confiscated from or allowed to be used to pay for that accused's legal counsel.

Mr. Speaker, I want this government to consider and pursue a piece of legislation that would aid in our fight against the manufacture, distribution, and sale of illicit drugs in the NWT. Mr. Speaker, the legislation I am talking about is that of civil forfeiture; legislation that would allow for the seizure and ownership transfer of property without compensation when the property is suspected of being acquired through an illegal act or used to commit an illegal act. The property, if retained, could be placed in a trust where it may be used to compensate victims, support addictions programs, support crime prevention initiatives, and for other productive uses.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is used throughout most of Canada, including Nunavut, and we need it enacted here if we expect any chance of winning our fight against the illicit drug trade.
Thank you.

Member's Statement 1326-19(2): Illicit Drug Trade in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1327-19(2): Arctic Winter Games
Members' Statements

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, Happy Friday. I rise today, like many of my colleagues, to acknowledge the wonderful work of all of the athletes, staff, parents, etcetera, that attended the Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo. I had several constituents from Great Slave that participated, and I would like to acknowledge them here today. So we had Arctic Sports. We had Danicka Taylor in basketball. We had Abigale Nevet Jazard, Ashton Mercado, Emanuel Ramos, and Francesco Stefanos. And I'm probably going to butcher a few more names here, Mr. Speaker. We also had Adam Clinton and his coach Steven Dunbar, who we're all very familiar with in cross-country skiing. Noah Jackson Grow and Isabel Nevet all in -- oh, sorry -- and Nathan Stefanos who all participated in the futsal tournament. And we had Kalie Grant who was coaching ice hockey and her participant, Adrena McDonald. Admission staff included Rami Iashay, Tyler Rentmeister, Oliver Williams. We had table tennis with Sophia Baracello. And both volleyball, Fea Samantha Marzan, Trey Grantner, and their coach Chad Hinchy.

I just wanted to say, Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed watching all of the posts that were being made by various participants as well as the organization at Team NT. It seemed like everybody was having a wonderful time. And I know, for myself, that as a child those opportunities to travel and meet other kids from other places are -- go well beyond sport and, you know, build those future leaders for us as a territory. So I just wanted to say congratulations to them all. They did wonderful and they made us proud. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1327-19(2): Arctic Winter Games
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1328-19(2): Indigenous Recruitment Policies
Members' Statements

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this past Tuesday, the Government of the Northwest Territories shared its plan to address changes to the Affirmative Action Policy. In their announcement, it states the government's intention to replace the existing Affirmative Action Policy with two new policies in its place. The Indigenous Employment Policy and the Employment Equity Policy.

The Indigenous Employment Policy would prioritize hiring persons who are descendants of Dene, Inuit, and Metis people who are Indigenous to the present-day boundaries of the NWT. And the Employment Equity Policy would provide preferred hiring to Indigenous Canadians, rationalized persons, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, and long-term Northerners.

Well, Mr. Speaker, there's a lot of new ideas in there, some of which I agree with but some that I do not.

I do agree with the Indigenous Employment Policy which is nearly identical to the existing Affirmative Action Policy. And I do agree with providing priority hiring to long-term Northerners, whether Indigenous or not. However, I don't agree with them doing priority hiring to all Indigenous Canadians at large. To be clear, I have no issues with Indigenous Canadians who are not born in the NWT being employed by our public service. I just take issue with that group of people getting the same affirmative action status as the Dene, Inuit, and Metis people born in the NWT. To me that does not solve the issues with the Affirmative Action Policy. It just widens the net for who qualifies as priority one hiring, which I'm sure is not what the majority of the Dene, Metis, and Inuit people of the NWT wanted to hear. I seek unanimous consent to complete my statement, please, Mr. Speaker.

---Unanimous consent granted

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I don't know how the government is unveiling these new policies. Before announcing this to the media, Cabinet should have first come to Regular Members for input and feedback. Cabinet also should have taken these proposed changes to the Intergovernmental Council to consider the input from the Indigenous governments who are part of that council.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, on the news release on these policies, the Government of the Northwest Territories announced they will be hosting public engagement sessions in various communities across the NWT. I am concerned that Fort Smith was not on the list for the public meeting; however, I since emailed the finance minister about my concern and she has assured me that Fort Smith will host a public engagement session on March 28th, 2023, which I'm looking forward to. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1328-19(2): Indigenous Recruitment Policies
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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