This is page numbers 5215 - 5258 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 housing.

Topics

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I'm sure the Member is aware, there is a review underway now of different components of the medical travel policy. I'm sure he's also aware that the benchmark for the medical travel policy is the NIHB benefits, which are available to status people. And it is our job to meet those benchmarks for the whole population. However, we are at this point subsidizing this federal program for NIHB, and that's something that we want to bring to an end. And I have a call with the Minister responsible for Indigenous Services Canada this week to talk about that. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Question 1359-19(2): Municipal Funding Gap
Oral Questions

February 13th, 2023

Page 5225

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, my questions today are for the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs. Mr. Speaker, while the GNWT has increased community funding in the 19th Assembly, the value of that increase has likely been eaten up by inflation. The funding gap is probably unchanged from where it was at the start of the 19th Assembly at $40 million. Mr. Speaker, we've heard that MACA is reviewing the community funding formula in collaboration with the NWTAC. So will MACA finalize the new and improved community funding formula in the life of the 19th Assembly and will the community government dollars in the 2023-2024 budget be disbursed on this new formula? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And the Member is correct. We have a working group with NWTAC members and LGANT members -- sorry, I shouldn't say the acronyms. Local government administrators. So they're working with that. So we were hoping to have it done by the end of this fiscal year. Unfortunately, we've had a couple hiccups so it will be done sometime in June, which means our contribution agreements, which we are signing with our community governments, will be signed using this year's numbers but with the new ones, then we're communicating that with the communities as well, that when we come up with the new numbers it may -- we will have the new contribution agreement in place. Some will see increases and some may see decreases as we move forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, NWT Association of Community expects communities to take a financial hit from the increase in carbon tax. Our counterparts in the Yukon take the carbon tax into account for community funding. They've estimated that community governments pay 3.5 percent of the tax which is then returned to them in rebates. If we return 3.5 percent of our carbon tax revenues to community governments, they would receive over $2 million in 2023-2024. So will the Minister consider including carbon tax offset in the municipal funding formula? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the new policies will consider to account for the cost changes in utility prices, not just the carbon tax. The water and sewer funding policy already uses actual power in heating fuel rates in the communities when we do its calculations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, while many of our communities are underfunded, the GNWT is projecting an operating surplus for the next year of $178 million as we heard last week in the Budget Address from the Minister of Finance. So will the GNWT share some of its operating surplus for 2023-2024 to actually reduce the municipal funding gap in the life of this Assembly? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, our budgets are out there right now. However, as I had the conversation with the Member and as the process -- and I have to give credit to the finance minister. She's more than willing to have these conversations on how we can work together and how we negotiate so part of the ask can be from committee to see if we can see that. But right now I can tell you we have our budgets in place right now, and this is how we're moving forward on it. But if the negotiation process comes up with the money, then we're more than willing to help the communities out. 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 mission of Housing NWT is to, quote, "increase the well-being of individuals and communities by providing fair access to quality housing support for people most in need," end quote.

Mr. Speaker, it certainly doesn't feel that the Tlicho communities have fair access to quality housing support. Can the Minister commit to improving the delivery of housing programs and services in the Tlicho region? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for her question. Housing support in the smaller communities is a priority and also working with the strategic renewal that we have put together. I addressed that very passionately in trying to make the changes here within the Northwest Territories. To date, the government in the last ten years has invested $32.4 million into the Tlicho region, and we're looking at a current year delivery summary of $13.4 million to complete ten new public housing units, repairing our 25 public housing units, $1.6 million towards homeownership repair and private homeowner repair as well. And we're projecting a 2023-2024 delivery of $7.2 million into the Tlicho. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In this House, we heard so many times about strategic renewal and with the housing itself as -- you know, with the housing itself. It seems like we've been hearing about it all the time with no actions.

So, Mr. Speaker, can the Minister commit to decentralizing programs and services from Yellowknife to the Tlicho region? Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for the question as well too. I knew that I would get some questions on our strategic renewal. But it's a driving document for change for the way that housing actually works with our communities and also driving the change in relationship with the federal government as well.

I just wanted to -- just to let the Member know that the Tlicho government had established a housing action plan that identifies eight key areas that the GNWT has been working with the region. They're looking at bringing in a total of 60 new units by 2023, lot development design, development of Tlicho design housing solutions, establishing of Tlicho housing and infrastructure department, implementation of Tlicho government-Housing NWT MOU, development of Tlicho housing and maintenance programming, completion of Tlicho home assessments, and also increasing trades and apprenticeship strategy for the Tlicho government.

And, Mr. Speaker, I just want to emphasize that this is in result of working in partnership with the Indigenous governments, also recognizing the Tlicho region as a settled land claim and a self-governing Indigenous government area. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Since Tlicho government is doing a lot better than the Housing NWT for program and services so therefore, I appreciate she acknowledged that.

Can the Minister commit to improving regional decision-making authority for housing in the Tlicho? Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for the question. But I want to clarify that this working relationship is established by an MOU that was signed in May of this year, and it emphasizes on our commitment and our working relationship to develop those partnerships with Indigenous governments. This collaboration was created together with the Tlicho government and the GNWT, and they did identify establishing a housing infrastructure department in result of this working relationship that we're developing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of transportation -- or Infrastructure I guess I should say. It's not the first time, but I've asked this House right from the start, about what's being done on the Dempster Highway and how -- and the Minister before has said that they're going to try to do a joint application with Yukon. This Minister now has said the same thing. So I just want to ask the Minister where are we with this joint application? What's being done because the highway is -- not just in the summer or in the spring, it's even horrible in the winter now. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, at the last sitting the Member from Inuvik Twin Lakes asked me if I would commit to meet with the Yukon government, the Minister of transportation. And I did. And we had a very good discussion in terms of working together in partnership on the Dempster Highway. I understand there's some very rough spots. My discussions with the Minister were very favourable. So, yes, we are working together. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And that's great to hear. So if you're working together, what are we working together to do? Are we working together to ask for a joint submission to the federal government to fix the road, our goat trail to the Yukon, or are we going to just repair certain areas? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, you know, the Dempster Highway's been, you know, around for a number of years and, you know, it does need work. We hear comments about driving on the Northwest Territories side and the road is pretty good. And, you know, you get past the border and it is difficult. You mean, you know it's a conversation that we need to -- not only at a ministerial level but at deputy minister and ADM level as well, to work with the Yukon government. So what I've -- meeting with the minister of transportation in the Yukon, he has agreed to drive the Dempster Highway. He hasn't driven that road in a while. And I will continue to keep asking him to come up with some dates and times so that we could make this drive work and, you know, just having a look at other opportunities to get some of his staff on there. And also, I'm just looking at Premier here, we've got an invitation from the Yukon Premier to drive the Dempster Highway with me. So I'm very excited of that. He understands that there's issues happening on the Dempster Highway that we need to address. There are a number of things. There's the bridge. There's the widening. There's the embankment, there's the drains -- the list can go on. I'll use up my one minute of time if I want but I'm not. Anyways, there is a lot work, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just to finish off, I -- just more of a comment. Thank you, and I look forward to the -- whatever the Premiers have to say after they get to travel that road. And hopefully they travel it winter and summer. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Taken as a comment. Oral questions. Member for Kam Lake.