This is page numbers 5567 - 5614 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

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 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5567

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Environment and Natural Resources.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, water is life for Indigenous peoples who have relied on it since time immemorial, for residents who rely on it today for clean drinking water, and for the thousands of species that live and thrive in our North because of it. I rise today to speak on a disturbing issue that has come to our attention in the past 24 hours. I was shocked to learn that one of the largest oil sands spills in Alberta was reported in February, and I was disappointed that we were not informed by Alberta as per our Bilateral Water Management Agreement.

According to media reports, approximately 5.3 million litres of industrial wastewater spilled over the banks of a storage pond at the Kearl Oil Sands operation north of Fort McMurray. The spill overflowed into forest and wetlands adjacent to tributaries of the Muskeg and Firebag Rivers, which flow into Athabasca River.

In a separate incident at the same site, oil sands tailings effluent of an unknown amount, with levels of some contaminants over federal and provincial guidelines, has seeped into groundwater and reached surface water since May of 2022. Again, we were not informed.

It was unfortunate to learn of these incidents secondhand. We heard about it from an Indigenous government in the area after a regional municipal government in Alberta reached out to them.

Mr. Speaker, this violates the Bilateral Water Management Agreement with Alberta which commits our governments to communicating directly and transparently about issues that could affect shared waters. This is not the first time that information hasn't been shared in a timely manner. Every indication we have right now is there is no evidence for concern about water quality in the NWT. Enhanced water testing done at Fort Chipewyan by the regional municipality has shown no evidence of contamination of Lake Athabasca, which provides some comfort.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is taking several steps to respond to this issue. We have requested additional information from the Government of Alberta to ensure that we have what is required to communicate to our partners in water management and monitor about our possible risks. We will be activating dispute resolution measure in our transboundary agreement with respect to information sharing in light of this breach, and I have requested a meeting with the Minister of Environment and Protected Areas to ensure that our bilateral agreement is upheld.

We are currently communicating with Indigenous governments and the Town of Fort Smith to devise a plan which enhances monitoring of water in the Slave River to track potential impacts of the incident upstream.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work closely with Indigenous governments and communities every step of the way. This failure comes at a time when the Government of Alberta is asking for trust and cooperation with the NWT as they work towards regulations to allow the release of treated oil sands tailings effluent into the environment.
Important issues like these require trust, and there is no denying the trust of Indigenous governments, community leaders, and our own government has been affected by this lack of transparency.

This event outlines our position that the GNWT will not support the release of oil sands tailings effluent unless rigorous science demonstrates a safe way to do it and information sharing and emergency response provisions under our agreement are upheld. This government will ensure Northerners' voices continue to be heard as we move forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has mandate commitments to strengthen its leadership and authority on climate change and to ensure that climate change impacts are specifically considered when making government decisions.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Infrastructure recognizes the challenge climate change presents and are the taking necessary steps to ensure public infrastructure is more resilient to the impacts of a warming planet and can meet the current and future needs of NWT residents. Transportation Canada's Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative provides us with much needed support to develop integrated climate change adaptation measures in transportation planning in the North. This partnership supports critical work, such as analyzing permafrost data from the Dempster Highway and the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, and the development of geoassets and geohazard data management systems to improve transportation safety in the NWT and preserve existing infrastructure.

During the planning and design stage of road projects, we are using satellite imagery and thermal analysis to gain knowledge about permafrost and select the most suitable alignment and design for our roads.

Mr. Speaker, replacing seasonal winter roads with all-season roads is another way to make our transportation system more resilient to climate change impacts. These seasonal ice roads are critical for communities to get goods and supplies they need and for mobility between communities. Construction of these roads are also being negatively impacted by climate change.

The opening of the Tlicho Highway in 2021 extended the ice road season into the Tlicho. Our government continues to advance two strategic road projects - the Mackenzie Valley Highway and Slave Geological Province Corridor, which will either eliminate or extend ice road seasons.

Climate change is also impacting airports in the territory, and we have undertaken projects to address these impacts. We have either completed or have projects underway at airports in Sachs Harbour, Fort McPherson, and Sambaa K'e that focusing on drainage work to be able to improve their resiliency to climate change. Our government, with the assistance of the Government of Canada, is also investing in improvements to the Inuvik Airport to address the effects of climate change. Some of the work involves improving the drainage network to direct water away from vulnerable areas to protect against permafrost thaw. Our government's work to adapt to climate change and mitigate its impact on our public infrastructure also extends to buildings and energy systems. One example is our participation on the northern advisory committee of the Northern Infrastructure Initiative. This initiative develops Northern-specific codes and standards to address climate change resilience in infrastructure design, planning and management.

Mr. Speaker, NWT's energy system is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our climate change mitigation efforts. Our Capital Asset Retrofit Fund energy savings projects will reduce over 16,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually by the end of 2023, and result in $3.5 million of yearly utility savings. The installation of over 40 biomass heating plants has been integral to the reduction of the GNWT's emissions. Approximately 35 percent of annual heating in our government facilities is now provided by wood pellets.

Mr. Speaker, the future initiatives, such as the Inuvik Wind Project, the Fort Providence-Kakisa Transmission Line, and the Taltson Hydro Expansion, will not only make our energy systems more secure, affordable and sustainable, but help us significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we take action against climate change and mitigate against the impacts of the rapidly changing climate. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is committed to strengthening the Northwest Territories emergency management by improving response to emergency events and assisting residents and community governments to be well prepared when faced with an emergency. I will outline for Members the lessons learned from the 2022 flood and how we apply these lessons to prepare for the 2023 flood season.

Mr. Speaker, before I do that, I want to acknowledge the difficult journey for those people so heavily impacted by the 2021 and the 2022 flood. These events and the time, effort, and complexity of the recovery has been unprecedented and have a significant effect on residents. Recovery efforts continue but the shining light throughout is the resilience and resolve that impacted residents have demonstrated, and the generosity of NWT residents as a whole.

To make sure we enact the lessons learned from these experiences, Municipal and Community Affairs is working on an after-action review related to the 2022 flood in two phases. Phase one, currently underway, focuses on preparedness and response, while phase two will follow and focus on recovery. This review includes input from a public survey and public engagement sessions that took place this past January.

Mr. Speaker, Municipal and Community Affairs has made it a priority to provide more support to community governments to plan for emergencies like flooding. The department has expanded staffing resources, including one staff person in each region for the first time, all dedicated to emergency management. An additional three positions at headquarters has resulted in the expansion of community emergency planning workshops, including table-top exercises in all communities, and updating and distributing templates for community governments to develop and update their emergency plans.

The department continues to review disaster-related policies and procedures. There has been valuable lessons over the past two flood events, and the department is focused on substantial improvements in the way disaster assistance is administered.

Recovery from a disaster event like a flood is a long and difficult process, and I want to reassure all Northerners that we are working to bring clarity to this process.

Finally, I want to assure residents that although we cannot control how or when natural disasters may occur, these are things that all of us can do to prepare for and lessen the impacts should a disaster occur. Having a household emergency plan and an emergency kit are critical for personal preparedness. We encourage residents to think about where they might stay in the event of an evacuation and to ensure their emergency kit is ready for high-risk periods like river breakup.

The Be Ready annual campaign for flood and other natural disasters preparedness began in February and runs through until May. This campaign provides tips and information on how we can be prepared if you are in a typically affected area.

Mr. Speaker, the intensity and frequency of floods and other natural disaster events is increasing due to climate change. More than ever, it is important that all Northerners do their part to protect themselves and their property and follow recommended steps like developing a household emergency plan and kit. Individuals, community governments, and the Government of the Northwest Territories all need to do their part to prepare for disasters because nobody can do it alone. We remain stronger together. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I read in the news that there were two separate environmental incidents tied to the oil sands in northern Alberta. Incidents that this government only became aware of yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, the Alberta energy regulator is aware of the situation and, on February 26, 2023, issued to Imperial Oil, an order pursuant to sections 113 and 241 of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The order, which I will table later today, confirms that since May of 2022, there has been ongoing seepage of industrial wastewater into the environment and the released material is known to have an adverse effect on the environment.

Then on February 4th, 2023, there was release of approximately 5,300 cubic metres from a wastewater storage pond which will also have an adverse effect on the environment. Both these releases are from Imperial Oil's Kearl Oil Sands site.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that Imperial Oil and the Alberta energy regulator failed to inform, not only the First Nations in the area, but this government and those Indigenous governments who have signed comprehensive claims in the NWT. This is not acceptable. We have a transboundary water agreement; a transboundary water agreement with the Government of Alberta, that requires, through an emergency clause, immediate notification of any developments or activities that may negatively affect the Northwest Territories. This was not followed.

There is a dispute resolution mechanism that allows for this government to seek remedies, and I encourage the Minister of ENR to take immediate action using that mechanism.

Mr. Speaker, being downstream from where this leakage and spill has occurred could have substantial impact to our watershed, aquatic life, and mammals. Although it has been reported that a plan to clean up the site has been filed by Imperial Oil, the question is what are the details in this plan? Does this government know what's in the plan? And when will the government find out what is in the plan?

Mr. Speaker, we need to find out what when wrong from the standpoint of Alberta not fulfilling their obligation under the Bilateral Water Management Agreement and this government failing to pick up on the media stories which have been out for some time. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of ENR at the appropriate time. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Yellowknife liquor stores aren't very nice, and I would like to make them a little nicer. Mr. Speaker, every once in a while I go down south and I go to buy some beer or wine and I remember that buying alcohol can actually be an enjoyable experience. Whether it be the customer service, the selection, or just making sure that the building is in good repair, I think Yellowknife liquor stores leave a lot to be desired. And, Mr. Speaker, at this point I think it's time that we go out and re-tender our two Yellowknife liquor stores. Liquor stores in Yellowknife are basically a license to print money and I think that we share the love.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I think the market in this city could hold one or two more liquor stores easily. And we're well aware of the problems that we have with alcoholism, but I don't think the solution is to just allow one vendor to make millions of dollars year over year on it.

Now my preference, as I have stated before, would be to allow alcohol in grocery stores or corner stores. I don't think that I am going to quite get that but I am hoping that I can get a commitment that we will re-tender the Yellowknife liquor stores, look whether the market can handle one more, perhaps open on Sundays, and perhaps amend the Liquor Act so that if Yellowknife wants to do this but another community doesn't, that's okay, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

After that, Mr. Speaker, for my statement today I want to speak once again about aftercare and detox services within the NWT.

This is an issue that I have spoken about several times throughout this term because it is an issue that touches nearly every family across the NWT. Mr. Speaker, two months ago, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction released a report entitled "Canadian Guidance on Alcohol and Health." In their report, which was developed by an independent expert working group of addiction researchers, they provide an updated set of guidelines for the recommended limit in the number of alcoholic drinks a person consumes per week. This report was very different compared to the guidelines where they released in 2011.

Mr. Speaker, in 2011 the CCSA said that women should not consume more than ten drinks per week and men should not consume more than 15 drinks per weak. However, the updated guidelines state that regardless of gender, age or race, all people should not consume more than three to six alcohol beverages per week. The reasons for these new guidelines are due to the evolving nature of the science and research on the subject and to help Canadians reduce the long-term health effects of alcohol and maintain a moderate risk level for all alcohol-related health issues.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, according to a report from the Canadian Institute of Health Information in 2016, the rate for hospitalization due entirely to alcohol for the NWT was six times higher than the national average. Also, according to a 2019 study from the same organization, NWT youth were more likely to be hospitalized from harm caused by substances than youth anywhere else in the country. We also need to consider the high number of suicides in the NWT over the last year. According to the data from the NWT coroner's office, 2022 had a record number of suicides, with 18 confirmed to date, which is more than any year since 2002. We also need to consider the rise in opioid-related deaths that the NWT has experienced recently, with six deaths confirmed for 2022 caused by drugs laced with fentanyl and all those deaths occurred in Hay River. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

In closing, Mr. Speaker, these are stark statistics, but it is for these reasons, among others, why I strongly believe that the NWT needs to open an aftercare facility that has the option for clients to detox as well. There is clearly a need among the people of the NWT for this type of facility.

During the last session in October, I suggested to the health Minister that with the closure of Trailcross Treatment Centre in Fort Smith, there is potential to convert the old Trailcross building into a territorial aftercare facility. I still believe that this is a good idea for us to consider because, again, given the way the building was built it makes it an ideal location to house both male and female clients separately but under the same roof. I will have questions for the Minister of health later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The GNWT's energy strategy, that the GNWT will partner with communities and stakeholders, Mr. Speaker, I have not seen the GNWT partner on energy projects in my riding of Nunakput. In Nunakput, we face the coldest and darkest winters. We use diesel to heat our homes, our businesses. We pay the highest price of fuel in the territory set by the GNWT, is to do this. Not only is this diesel is a source of energy to operate our communities, we pay carbon tax on that fuel. In my riding, we are already facing the highest cost of living, three and a half times more than Yellowknife, with some of the lowest employment opportunities across the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, how are our people to pay our bills, pay their heat, keep the lights on in their house? The government says they want to partner with our communities to implement an energy strategy, the government is partnered with Nunakput communities.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is partnering with Nunakput to make our homes more energy efficient, to help us establish local sources of energy. Mr. Speaker, M18, the project that is in Inuvialuit settlement region, we are already ready to develop a source of natural gas there, to have security for diesel fuel and compressed gas for Inuvik. And all I could think of is jobs.

Mr. Speaker, we have a solution in the ISR to promote energy security, sustainability, but the project continues to be put under review by the federal government. Which I remind them, the Inuvialuit settlement region is a settled land claim, for 39 years, on Tuk 7(1)(a) lands. The territorial government has to come and support us in regards to this project, Mr. Speaker.

What can the GNWT do to support the residents, to meet the rising costs of energy? If this is the case, the effective costs will go right across the board. The biggest increase is the cost of feeding our families. My communities need to secure affordable sustainable energy systems. I don't see the GNWT making headway to achieve this in my riding of Nunakput. The GNWT has to support M18. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the appropriate Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time, thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Entrepreneurship accelerates economic growth, spurs innovation, instigates social change, promotes research and development, and improves and grows existing sectors. Global business owners have been instrumental in spurring social change and improving the way people live and work around the world.

Mr. Speaker, entrepreneurship is a good thing for every NWT community. While some business ventures are large operations, so many more are small home-based businesses expanding our workforce and economic and social health. But Housing NWT is standing in the way.

People in public housing work and their rent is based on their income through their T4 but Housing NWT prohibits home-based business in public housing due, quote, "to the fact that these homes are provided with subsidized rent." But the rent, Mr. Speaker, is subsidized according to a person's income. I think of a writer, a bookkeeper, a consultant, a baker, an artist or crafter, or maybe a labourer, wanting to start their own business but putting their housing in jeopardy by doing so.

Business startup for some NWT residents is a viable economic tool to access opportunity and pull themselves out of poverty. Building a business takes time. There is a time where a business owner grows their brand and reputation, to build their clientele as they grow their annual income. But to say public housing tenants with self-generated income are not welcome removes a very viable sector of opportunity from NWT residents, particularly those living in public housing dominated communities.

As a business owner, I followed the home-based business and zoning bylaws established in my community and income tax rules established by Revenue Canada that required me to submit GST quarterly and file my taxes annually. Zoning bylaws established what type of home-based business I could operate in my home and home-based business bylaws established rules around parking, people traffic, and signage. At this point, Mr. Speaker, it seems the only business operators protected in public housing are drug dealers.

I urge Housing NWT to create a home-based business framework for public housing to support economic diversification and growth across the NWT, especially in small communities. Entrepreneurship is a viable and much needed form of employment in our territory. Given the time and dollars ECE and ITI invest in skill development, building employment in small communities and entrepreneurial growth, I kindly ask Housing NWT to be part of the solution. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mashi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Ambassadors of Deh Gah Elementary and Secondary School have returned home safely from a recent trip to Mexico. The Fort Providence contingent made up of 11 students and seven chaperons made the trip February 4th to the 12th. The trip was spearheaded by the school's child, youth and care counsellor Daphne Blanco-Sarlay. Daphne's idea is to create at cultural exchange between two Indigenous communities impacted by colonialism in what's called Connecting through Kindness. The city of Tulum, Mexico has a population of under 20,000 residents and is one hour south of the resort town of Playa del Carmen. Tulum has a history of Indigenous Mayan culture. The students fundraised for the past three years to help the small community rebuild their secondary school and loved getting their hands dirty for a great cause. The students raised $10,000 and were beaming with pride as they understood this will benefit the education and future of the Mayan youth that hosted them.

Although there was a language barrier, the students immediately made friends with their counterparts and managed to communicate in their own ways. Together they jumped rope, played hopscotch, hide and seek, tug of war, and shared many moments together cementing their friendship. Students toured various places of interest but most of all enjoyed the walks on the beach, the water park, snorkeling through underwater caves, and swam in the ocean where the water was so crystal clear they could see the bottom of the sandy ocean, the ocean floor.

This was a trip they will never forget as they never imagined they would be in sandals, short-sleeved shirts and shorts, especially in the month in the February and are reminded of the temperatures back home in the North.

The students of Deh Gah School look forward to hosting the Mayan students this coming summer. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Crown corporations are hybrid entities that walk the line between a government body and a private enterprise. Generally their goal is to operate at arm's length from the public government. They provide programs and services to residents in a variety of ways, and have government support, with a goal of creating a more streamlined approach to program delivery. However, in the Northwest Territories, we do not appear to have a concrete plan or a consistent governance model for our Crown corporations.

I recognize that no two issues are the same, Mr. Speaker, and that our Crown corporations provide different services. What I cannot determine is if our public government puts any effort into truly examining and evaluating how our Crown corporations operate.

The government stepped forward when it needed to purchase MTS; however, it is unclear to me how the government plans to look at this model moving forward. What is the current business plan and structure option for MTS? We have a board of deputy ministers for the NTPC right now. There is no independence in this structure, Mr. Speaker. The connection to government is not at all arm's length with government operation.

Additionally, there is the NWT Housing Corporation. The board structure was removed decades ago for a president who reports to a Minister. Now there is a working group with our Indigenous governments on the implementation of this work. But, again, Mr. Speaker, we have no consistency for vision for our Crown corporation.

Mr. Speaker, it is not lost on me that we require collaboration with government in many of these areas. We need shipping on to our communities, we need sustainable power rates, and we need to collaborate on housing. However, what we also need is a clear and consistent governance model for these Crown corporations. They cannot succeed without government support, but we can benefit from flexibility and independence from government if process is established appropriately. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Premier later today. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Yesterday I spoke on attempts by this government to engage the public and mining industry on mining royalties. Other work on mining royalties came to my attention when there was a presentation at the November 2022 geoscience forum by a consultant apparently hired by ITI. This consultant is the same one who conducted a nine-page peer review of the Price Waterhouse Coopers benchmarking study that found that GNWT is doing just fine with royalties and taxes from mining. That peer review was in agreement with the benchmarking study and its conclusion that the NWT is competitive with other jurisdictions - at least the ones that were included - and that public investment in infrastructure and technology is the best way to get more mining revenues. That study though focused on competitiveness and not fair return or maximizing benefits.

In any event, the same peer reviewer from Vancouver has been hired by ITI, again, through a $75,000 sole source contract to conduct some sort of modeling of mining royalties. Given that this consultant has already concluded that the NWT is doing fine in terms of competitiveness and mining revenues, I'm not sure what kind of modeling is going to be done. I will have questions for the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment on this modeling, whether the public will get to have a say on what is done, and whether any of this work will be released publicly. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to speak about a respected elder who passed away in Fort Simpson. I am lucky to be able to use the eulogy provided by the family. Those close to her knew her as Dinah.

Mr. Speaker, Diane Edwards made a difference to the people she touched, loved, and worked with. Diane Mary Edwards was born on November 1st, 1946, in Fort Liard. Her parents were William and Marguerite Edwards. After finishing high school at Akaitcho Hall in Yellowknife in 1968, Diane moved back to Fort Simpson. She was an active member of the community. Sports were her venue especially curling and softball which were very popular and well organized at the time. In the days without internet or cell phones, the whole community would be involved with special events such as tournaments, a source of entertainment and a common place to meet for everyone. Diane was very active as a participant or in the crowd cheering loudly for the teams.

Diane started her government career 1970 at early age. She has one of the single longest public service career in the NWT, with over 40 years of meritorious employment as a member of the public service of the GNWT. This is quite an achievement. Diane would always go the extra mile performing her duties at health and social services with a focus on excellence.

Diane is the definition of a working-class unsung hero who didn't look for accolades and acknowledgements. She would find comfort in humility, charity, and performing her duties at an above par.

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to meet and know Diane. She was an amazing person who could help you with whatever task you asked. When Diane retired from the government, they were hard pressed to find an award for 45 plus years of service. HR had to create a special plaque just for her as no one had ever retired with 48 years of service. What an accomplishment.

Diane was always a treasure trove of information and when HQ needed something, Diane was their go-to and always found what they were looking for. If somebody from HQ came to Simpson, they always wanted to put the face to the voice.

Diane Mary Edwards passed on Saturday, February 18, 2023 at 1:49 p.m., surrounded by family and friends who loved her dearly. Her heavenly journey began, and she is now free from the bonds that held her back on earth. She's taking her place with our ancestors, and she will live in our memories forever.

Mr. Speaker, I have several messages that were shared at the service from people from the region, and I have added them to my statement here. I would like to have them deemed as read. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. She'll be sadly missed.

Family stories - When Ama passed in Oct 1999, Diane became very close with her sister Madeline, who also lived in Fort Simpson. And over time the two sisters became inseparable. Two peas in a pod, as Diane was the provider and protector for Ama in a supportive role throughout her life. It was a natural transition for Diane to provide that same support for her older sister Madeline, a widow living independently in her own home.

The two had many adventures together - Greyhound bus trips to Edmonton, gardening, berry picking, camping, and fishing were high on the list of things to do. They always found time for some "entertainment" and very well respected from all diverse groups of people in the community.

I went on a few road trips with Diane as well. She loved to travel but kept her routine simple and exact. She was a creature of habit. She only liked to shop at Army and Navy, stay in fancy hotels like the Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton. And later, after the Army and Navy store closed down on 97th Street, she would go to Kingsway. We went to Klondike Days together with my kids'. Boy, she watched out for them at all times, especially her favorite Brendan.

After Madeline passed in Oct 2018, it was a transitional moment for Diane. Her health started to wane, and her memory lapses became more frequent. Unfortunately this was foretelling her future.

With a series of ailments and accidents, Diane became bedridden and could no longer communicate normally. The fact that Diane was able to survive for as long is a true testament to stubbornness and love of life.

Kathy Tsetso shared about the first time she met Diane was at a curling tournament at the old community hall, way back in 1975. Diane asked her to curl on her team, so she did. Kathy never curled before and was shy since she had only been in Simpson for three months. They won the women's event. She was so pumped and grateful for being asked to curl by Diane. Side fact, this was when she met Albert at the Saturday night curling dance for the first time and they never looked back. Kathy credits Diane for getting her to come out and for Diane being a bit of a matchmaker too.

Amy - Diane... Lady Di as we would call her. Di was one of the kindest people I worked with who would bend over backwards for those she genuinely cared about, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones who got to be a part of her journey. I valued our special friendship, from our little break cruises around town, lengthy talks about when she was a little girl, berry picking in Liard, her love for curling, her travels with her sister, the special gifts she would bring in for me whether it be her niece's fresh bannock bread to share with me, or a new pair of socks or mitts she just finished. If I am honest, she was pretty choosy when it came to picking friends or people gave her time and trust to.

She would always make me laugh. Daily I would find myself in stitches with her spicy demeaned as she did not hide her true feelings well when she was not fond of someone. But if she was fond of you, she would give her shirt right off her back. I will cherish all the moments. Di is loved beyond measure and will be missed deeply by all those who had the pleasure of knowing her.

Cindy - I wish we were home a day earlier so that I can pay my respects to Diane. Diane was the sweetest and also could be a little feisty if she did not like you, lol.

I still have two pairs of knitted slippers that she made me. When we worked together, our office would do a gift exchange and if she did not get my name, she would always tell me to stop by, she had something for me, and I would get a pair of slippers. I loved exchanging gifts with her. Use to enjoy our Saturday outings with Sandra. Rest in Peace.

Deb - I am honoured and privileged to have had the years spent with Diane in my life. They were filled with adventure, our many trips to Fort Liard. Great stories. She was an amazing source of knowledge and always willing to share. Her sense of humour brought tears of laughter. Her heart was big enough to offer individual attention to every person that came to her for help through her role with health and social services. Diane made a difference in the lives of many. Her kindness and positivity will leave an in-wavering legacy in the community of Fort Simpson and many others whose lives she touched. Always missed, never forgotten. Go rest on that high mountain.

Diane's niece Shirley Ann Bertrand of Fort Liard sent me the following about Diane and her life in Fort Liard and she spoke with elders who remembered her.

The elders in Fort Liard remember Dinah. Here are some words they shared. "Dinah knew who we were" one said. Another shared a short story. "I trapped with Dinah's Dad (William Edwards). We used to trap beyond Fisherman Lake in the mountains. Dinah was born in Fort Liard and raised there until she was maybe eight or nine years old. Dinah's mom and Dinah lived in a house her dad built. After his passing, Dinah and her mom moved to Fort Simpson. Where her mom had family.

Even after she left to attend school, Dinah would return to Fort Liard time and time again. Dinah kept in touch with the elders, relatives, friends, including her sister Vera Bertrand and her family. Although a private person, Dinah would be known for working many years for Fort Simpson Social Services.

She also had a collection of photos. Dinah loved to go fishing and would be seen fishing at the mouth of the Petitot River. Dinah also liked to pick berries. Mahsi for sharing your life with us Dinah. Rest in Peace.

These are our memories of her from people of Fort Liard.

Diane loved Fort Liard and her family members there. So many times, she talked about going back and building a house on the lot she owned there but always something else came first. She was a devoted daughter, sister, auntie, friend, and co-worker to many.

When Diane's father passed away, they moved to Fort Simpson to be closer to her family William, Alice, and Johnny Tanche. The Tanche family have fond memories of their Auntie Diane. Diane was one special person in our lives, and she watched our children and grandchildren grow up. They all have memories, which I'm sure they will cherish. There is not one person in our family who did not call her Auntie. She touched their hearts in her own witty, kind-hearted person way. Auntie Diane will be missed.

She was so close to our family; she was Auntie to everyone.

She loved spoiling the kids and often bought them treats if she saw them in the store. One of the grandchildren said that their best memories of Diane were watching Animal Kingdom at Diane's while mom and my aunties played bingo. Diane and her mom looked after Cathy when she was young and loved her like their own. Later Diane would often tell Cathy that if she didn't let her go, she would have never married Tod.

She will be sadly missed but not forgotten.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and community at this time.

Members' statements. Returns to oral questions. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Acknowledgements. Oral questions. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of ENR confirm if any of his staff received notification from anybody in the Alberta government about the spills at the Kearl site in Alberta? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister responsible for ENR.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, with regret, I have to inform the House, no, we didn't hear anything. I didn't hear anything. We didn't even get notified by any level of the Alberta government and we had to actually find out through, I guess you would call it the telephone system where somebody provides something else and then they cut to our staff and then this is how we found out. So, unfortunately, no, we did not find out the way we were supposed to. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister tell me if any of the Indigenous governments and partners were aware of this spill? Has he been in contact with any of them to find out if they were aware of it prior, because there was media releases out there and, you know, for some reason we didn't pick up on those. Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning after becoming aware of this spill, ENR compiled a "what we know" information sheet, and it is being sent to all Indigenous and community governments, partners, in the area. We are currently communicating with Indigenous governments in the town of Fort Smith to enhance monitoring of the water in the Slave River to track any potential impacts of upstream incidents. This is a precaution as we do not expect to see any changes based on the monitoring that is occurring in Alberta. We will continue to work closely with our Indigenous governments and communities.

Mr. Speaker, like I said, we received the information from an Indigenous government through the system there. So we are working with that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, a spill like this could have a devastating effect on the water, aquatic life, mammals, vegetation and that. So, Mr. Speaker, will the Minister tell me what impact his department thinks that may have on the residents, water, aquatic life, animals and that, and vegetation as well? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear there is no evidence for concern about the water quality at this time. Enhanced testing of water, drinking water in Fort Chip, where the water is typically drawn from the Lake Athabasca show no evidence of contamination. There is no denying that the truth of Indigenous governance, community leaders, and our government has been affected by the failure to provide direct notification. So we are working with it down in Fort Smith as well to keep the monitoring of this, and we will provide information if we have concerns moving forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this issue, I guess, arose partly because of Imperial probably wasn't doing their job by informing people but the other thing is that the Alberta government failed. I'm not sure if it's because it's a Conservative government and not some -- another one, but anyways. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister tell me what are the next steps this government will take on this matter? More importantly, what steps will they take and what discussions will they have, if any, with the Alberta government? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Member is right. Residents rightly want to know their government has taken steps to ensure they're safe. To this end, we continue to work with Indigenous governments and the Town of Fort Smith to enhance water monitoring in Slave River. We also communicated with the Alberta government officials to better understand the nature of the spill and the potential for impact and plans for cleanup. Recognizing this is an unacceptable breach of our bilateral water management agreement with the Alberta government, we will be activating the agreement dispute resolution provision. We will be working to ensure the terms of our agreement are honoured by the Alberta government. And most importantly, we will continue to work with our Indigenous governments and communities and keep them informed.

Mr. Speaker, I've been trying to reach out to the Alberta Minister as well. I will be reaching out with a letter to both the Alberta government, the minister, as well the federal minister. This is unacceptable. We need to be informed, and that's what those transboundary agreements are about.

So, again, I apologize to the residents of the Northwest Territories that there was a failure with this system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to -- I'm pretty sure that M18 project, I think we gave $2 million a few years ago. So if I was -- I correct myself if -- out of my Member's statement.

Mr. Speaker, what work is the department doing to bring down the cost of fuel and electricity in the Nunakput communities? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Infrastructure is working to get more fuel storage into the communities. We've applied for funding through the DMAP, which is the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, program. So we're expecting to be able to expand our fuel storage capacity in Sachs Harbour, in Ulukhaktok, Paulatuk, and Tuktoyaktuk. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That's really good news, and it's good to hear. Will that drive down the cost of fuel, though, if we bring in bulk fuel? Mr. Speaker, what programs are available through the GNWT to help residents in the High Arctic communities, who are paying the highest price for fuel and electricity, to pay their bills? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm not aware of any specific program through the Department of Infrastructure. Maybe perhaps through income support in trying to work with residents to be able to help fund some of the electricity and fuel. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on income support, the inflation, I guess, it's went up by about 11 percent. Is there any increase into -- to that being said, then, is there increase for food and power and making sure that the rent's paid increase in inflation? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. And during the Member's question there, I was able to look over and get some support from Minister of Education, Culture and Employment to be able to say that the Department of ECE provides 100 percent funding for both utilities and for -- just the utilities? Okay. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, you know that we live in the most harshest environment in the territory. The cost of living and inflation's gone up so bad and it's the people that are on the income support, the monies that they do get, it lasts, I guess, three -- used to last three weeks. Now it's lasting two weeks. People are going hungry in our riding, Mr. Speaker.

Will this government and our Minister in regards to working together with the energy plan, I guess -- because when the energy plan has to get in place sooner than later because of the cost, and it's going to fluctuate right across the board in regards to the stores, to the Northwest Company, to the Co-op, to the Stanton Group, Mr. Speaker, is there a way that we could work together with them, I guess, to get this energy program going sooner rather than later because people are -- in my riding, we pay three times already the cost of anywhere across from Yellowknife, three times more. So we get less. And we have big families and they need help, Mr. Speaker. Can this Minister guarantee me that she's going to work to get this done sooner rather than later? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we have the 2030 Energy Strategy which is to be able to guide the development of affordable, secure, and sustainable energy for transportation, heat, and electricity here in the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, we have this plan in place. We have the overall strategy, then we have the action plan. So we look at the action plan to ensure that we're keeping within timelines so that we can be able to make some changes and go forward on the strategy.

The GNWT is working with Arctic Energy Alliance, as one example of one of the programs that we provide support for. In 2021-2022, the GNWT invested $52.5 million on energy projects. Mr. Speaker, I think that's a pretty good number for here in the territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, given recent statistics on the record number of suicides and drug overdoses within the NWT over the last year, can the Minister of health tell us if there's an urgency, or any renewed effort within her department, to convert any vacant buildings within the NWT into an aftercare and detox centre? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I thank the Member for this question and for highlighting the prevention piece which is to look at Canada's safe drinking guidelines that were recently revised and reissued in considering what level of risk you're comfortable with if you do consume alcohol. Drug poisonings are entirely another story, which really have to do with taking a different order of risk.

So there is urgency, and the urgency is both on the prevention and the treatment side. The magic is not in a building. The magic is in having a person make that appointment with community counselling and get him or herself into the treatment stream so that they can be treated appropriately for detox treatment and then hopefully, in the fullness of time, aftercare. Thank you.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, in light of the new federal health funding that was announced last month for the NWT, can the Minister tell us is there any of that new funding will be used specifically to address the gaps in aftercare and detox services within the NWT and if so, what will that look like? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the new funding pots, and what they call the tailored bilaterals, has one for mental health and substance use. The specific use this money will be put to has not been negotiated or agreed to. It's tied to federally-imposed outcomes. So there's a set of negotiations that need to take place between the Department of Health and Social Services and the federal government to figure out how the four tailored bilaterals, including the one on mental health and substance use, are going to roll out. Thank you.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister explain exactly what it would take in terms of financial resources and manpower for the Government of the Northwest Territories to convert a vacant building like the old Trailcross Treatment Centre, for example, into a territorial aftercare and detox centre? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I don't have the exact cost; they don't exist. And so what I can say is that there has been a preliminary assessment of Trailcross, and it seems to have some viable life left in it. So what the department has committed to doing is considering what kind of programming we could offer in that facility and make it viable as a programming site again, whatever that program might be.

I want to mention that we have a transitional housing program that is in development in the Department of Health and Social Services. We put out request for proposals last year. Four communities responded, and each of them have developed a model for aftercare and we're now working with them to bring those models to life. And so we're looking forward to strengthening our continuum of service with this particular offering. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, since the contract between Poundmaker's Lodge and Health ended last year, the NWT has lacked an option to send NWT residents to an Indigenous-based addictions treatment centre in the south.

Can the Minister tell us if her department has decided on a new service provider for this and will it be on track to be ready for April 1st? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you for the question. There were two responses for the request for proposals for Indigenous-focused aftercare -- pardon me, a facility-based treatment. And they are being reviewed at this time. It is still our intention to have something in place by April 1st. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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 Industry, Tourism and Investment.

I was surprised to see a presentation on modeling of mining royalties at the November geoscience forum from a consultant hired by her department. I understand that this Vancouver consultant was hired through a sole sourced contract for $75,000.

Can the Minister confirm the hiring process and amount for this consultant and explain why this work was sole sourced? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Move Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, right now there's actually two contracts, and individually I believe they both come under the limits for what is permissible for sole sourcing; however, they are going to one individual -- or one entity. So I'm certainly live to the reasons for that and very live to the reasons why a department would want to use a sole source. One of them is where the party or entity that you're contracting to is really -- is the only or essentially the only entity or person who can do certain work. In this case, models are, as I understand it, maybe not quite proprietary but certainly close to it. So rather than having to go out and have to rebuild and reexamine the entirety of the process, they are seeking to have the same person build these models and work off of those models in order to ensure that there's some consistency with the work that's been done and avoid any unnecessary risk to get everything done in a timely fashion.

I would note that this individual does have a fairly high degree of expertise in this area, does exactly this type of modeling for the federal government, and so that was the basis of going with this party. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I want to thank the Minister for that. This consultant seems to have already concluded the NWT is doing just fine with regard to its competitiveness and royalty regime. Can the Minister explain what this consultant has been asked to do and when that consultant's work will be made public? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, so again, this is work that's being done to develop models. This has been something that I know I've spoken about in this House more than once in the last year with respect to the process for as part of developing the regulations and specifically with royalties, that there would be a process by which different models were run through -- prototype models were run through to actually best understand what we're looking at before we make final policy decisions for the kind of royalty regime we want. That is the process that they're in right now and to develop exactly those different models and then to apply those models to different types of mines, different types of mine prototypes.

So once that's done, there will be an independent third party review done as a sort of verification process or an auditing process and that will go out through RFP to ensure that, again, that there's enough appropriate level of expertise and eyes on the different models and approaches before the final decisions are made. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment hired an independent expert with global experience, you know, helping governments manage resources. And that consultant found, quote, "NWT sells its nonrenewable resources more cheaply than most other jurisdictions in the world", end of quote.

ITI also commissioned the Natural Resources Governance Institute that found, quote, "NWT has one of the world's most charitable fiscal regimes for the mining sector", end of quote.

Can the Minister tell us whether her department considered hiring these other experts and what role, if any, these other studies will play in the modeling of mining royalties? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this is an area that has been covered many times here with respect to whether or not, in fact, there's been a conclusion around competitiveness or non-competitiveness. And, Mr. Speaker, certainly one has to consider the fact that if there are no mines or less mines then there's no worry about there being any benefits because there won't be any benefits. There will be less benefits or no benefits. So, yes, the fact that there's going to be some disagreement on this one, I think, between the Member and I. That said, again, the feedback and response that we've had from standing committee, from other experts, has been considered; it is part of the "what we heard" report; it's part of the total package that goes to the technical working group of IGCS, or the Intergovernmental Council, and who then are able to direct what kinds of models should be done so that ultimately decisions can be made going forward as to what the final results should look like. 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. I want to thank the Minister for that. It's not clear who is really directing the modeling or how it's going to be done. Is it ITI alone, the Intergovernmental Council, the mining industry? Will there be any attempt to analyze past performance of the royalty regime or model what could have happened with government revenues or internal rates of return? We've got eight years now, Mr. Speaker, of real live data we could be working with. So can the Minister tell us who is directing the modeling, whether the public will get a say, and whether any modeling will be done of past performance? Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm surprised it's unclear, Mr. Speaker. ITI is the government lead on the Mineral Resources Act and has been now for -- well many, many years, long before my time. And it's, I think, quite well known we're quite proud of the fact that this is being codeveloped with the ICGS, or Intergovernmental Council. There's a working group there, as I know I've spoken to many times before. And while ITI is the lead, certainly this has, of course, gone back to the partners and the co-development partners at ICGS. They've helped to develop the policy options that are being modeled and that -- and also we'll be basing that on historical production as well as looking to the future of what types of models are required such as, for example, base metals. So that is where it's at. That's who is directing it and looking forward certainly to seeing that work move forward, reminding of course that along the way certainly, Mr. Speaker, I remain available and open to having opportunities to speak to the Member or others about what is happening. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions today are for the Minister responsible for Housing NWT. Mr. Speaker, the Housing NWT prohibits home-based business from being in public housing. This works against four separate mandate items of the Government of the Northwest Territories, including one for increasing employment in small communities, which specifically says "amend the NWT Housing Corporation policies to allow appropriate home-based business opportunities within their units." It also goes against at least five Calls for Justice from the MMIWG.

So I'm wondering will the Minister commit to a framework that allows home-based business in public housing? Thank you.

The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I'm quite excited for the Member's questions as well too because we've just completed our strategic renewal here for Housing NWT. We just went through a name change as well. And currently I am working with my colleague, Minister of education, and we are looking at establishing a criteria and a way forward of how we would be offering and looking at day homes. And that was one of the priorities set within this government as well. But I would like to work towards a framework as well too on how we would further establish businesses in public housing units and look at what criteria would come along with that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the mandate called for policies to allow for home-based businesses as of summer of 2022. It also called for the enabling of public housing to have licensed child care programs in it in the fall of 2022 -- or sorry, 2020 as well. So given that these timelines have very clearly changed now that we're two and a half years later, when can this side of the House expect to see this kind of a framework and policy change? Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Housing NWT has went through an extensive review of their policies. We have went out and completed consultation amongst our employees throughout the Northwest Territories, Indigenous governments, the stakeholders. I'm looking at the date to have those policies available April 1st of this year. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, to confirm, the changes to allowing home-based businesses in public housing will follow and be included in the suite of policy changes to come out April 1st? Thank you.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are working with Education, Culture and Employment and looking at child care to be offered in -- child care businesses to be offered in public housing. We are going through establishing that policy right now. We will be working towards policies to acknowledge the businesses as well too. That would be forthcoming. But it's something that I'm very much supportive of. I do understand that in smaller communities that we need to start doing things differently. We need to start working with our tenants and our clients differently as well too and looking at those home-based businesses. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I also want to confirm that these policies will enable tenants to be able to adjust their rent. A lot of places in the territory, including in small communities, use seasonal work that might be part of this home-based business, and I want to make sure that people can adjust their rent even through a home-based business so that their income -- or sorry, their rent is properly reflective of their income as they move throughout the year and throughout the seasons. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once this criteria is established, I would like to -- it to identify how are we going to be charging rent within public housing as well too. Currently we do have an income threshold. And I'm looking at the fairness throughout the Northwest Territories. If we have businesses that are established in the public housing units -- I'm just trying to slow down. I kind of feel for the interpreters as well, my apologies. And how we could fairly look at the calculation of rent compared to what those businesses and those operations are like. But then also considering that we do have an income threshold. But I would like to work with our tenants. I would like to see success in our smaller communities and to be more innovative and be working with our people throughout the territory. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm wondering if the Minister of Finance can commit that when the current Yellowknife liquor store licenses expire that she can commit that they will go out to public tender? I know it's been quite a few years since that process has occurred. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Minister responsible for Finance.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, Mr. Speaker, when the current existing contracts expire, they will go out for a public procurement process.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Yeah, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm glad to hear that. I know some people who have been interested in trying to get their hands on those contracts as they are quite generous and make quite a lot of money. And I'm wondering when those go out, would the Minister look at and seeing whether the market or the profitability of the license would justify a third liquor store in Yellowknife? Thank you.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I may or may not be the Minister by the time that is occurring. I don't have the dates of the contracts in front of me. But I think perhaps we should also just mention that there's the existing act and regulations are also under review, as Members may recall, and there may be reason to consider that as well before -- and I say that, Mr. Speaker, because before there's going to be additions of liquor stores or changes in where liquor is purchased, there are currently -- there are other considerations, including consultation with relevant communities. So just wanting to put all those placeholders in before giving too resounding of a yes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Yeah, thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I'm wondering when those licenses are renewed, right now they are limited, their hours and the department sets their hours. Is it possible to get some beer on Sunday, Mr. Speaker?

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there's a lot of wonderful restaurants that the Member may want to attend on a Sunday and see what he can do. But as far as going on his own right now, that is not an option. But, Mr. Speaker, the rules, again, that are contained within legislation, within the regulations, are under review and, indeed, I appreciate the support and assistance from committee in terms of getting us forward to a point where I expect that that legislation will be introduced soon, and that may see some changes depending on how that proceeds. 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. As I mentioned, my questions are for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, each of the Crown corporations in the NWT has a very different governance model. So has the Premier and Cabinet reviewed the governance models of each of the NWT Crown corporations since we've raised concerns in this House on all three that I mentioned in my statement throughout this whole 19th Assembly? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Madam Premier.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can say that no, not all of the Crown corporations' governance models have been reviewed. However, I can say because of the issues that we're having with Marine Transportation Services, that one is being reviewed. And we're also looking at the NTPC. But not all Crown corporations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the three Crown corporations I mentioned in my statement are wildly inconsistent and I want to know if this is something that's being reviewed. And as the Premier mentioned, two of them have been looked at but not necessarily said that they're being reviewed. If not, will they commit to reviewing to see if we can create a consistent and transparent governance model so residents of the Northwest Territories can clearly understand the relationship between GNWT and our Crown corporations? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think that the Member has a point. I think there is some confusion in the public. And even myself when I came into government, understanding how Crown corporations are different from government departments. So I do think that there needs to be an effort on perhaps clarity to the public and maybe looking at the structures of those Crown corporations. Although, Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear that in the life of this government, I don't see this happening. It might be something we put in the recommendations for the next government. But at this time, we're looking at clearing off the priorities and the mandates that we already have so I'm not looking to take this on as a new task in this government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, currently without government supports we know that these programs would fail as why MTS has now come under GNWT as a Crown corporation. But what is the Premier and Cabinet doing to ensure that these Crown corporations have the ability to provide independent recommendations or advice and not be directed by government? Thank you.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think, and that is -- that question kind of goes back to my statement in that it's going to take longer to review that. It's not something that should be done in a rushed fashion, for example in the life of this Assembly. I think that it needs to be really a comprehensive review. Each of the corporations have different needs, different goals, different purposes. So I'm not even sure if you could have one governance for all. So like I said, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it's a bad idea; I just think that the timing is not correct at this time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Madam Premier. Final supplementary. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, NWT Housing is very engaged with our Indigenous governments, and I think that's due to the Council of Leaders table that they've become -- they've had this internal working group to look at their policies. And so is this something that the GNWT sees advancing for all Crown corporations, or is that a model looking -- you know, when we look at UNDRIP and we look at all these other things, is this something that we could look at with our Crown corporations? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So I do know that within this session that we will be putting forward a proposed bill for the United Nations Declaration for Indigenous People. Part of that work is actually to be -- it's not just putting out a bill and saying it's done. If we really take the United Nations Declaration to heart, then it means ongoing work. So I think that in fairness to the Member, that every single program and service within the GNWT, including our Crown corporations, should be looking at the United Nations Declaration for Indigenous People and seeing how that fits within all of the work that we do as government and corporations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Madam Premier. Oral questions. Written questions. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You caught me off guard.

Mr. Speaker, residents of Hay River and surrounding communities rely on the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority to provide them with timely and quality health care. Due to an ongoing and continued shortage of physicians at the facility, residents' personal health is now at risk. My questions are for the Minister for Health and Social Services and are as follows:

  1. What is the current number of physicians at Stanton Territorial Hospital, Inuvik Regional Hospital, Fort Smith Health Centre, and the Hay River Regional Health Centre, and on a per capita basis, what are the number and types of physicians needed to provide an acceptable level of healthcare service at each facility;
  2. The department of health has the responsibility of providing timely and quality health care to all residents of the Northwest Territories. Is there a policy that requires the department to commit a minimum number of physicians to each of Stanton Territorial Hospital, Inuvik Regional Hospital, Fort Smith Health Centre, and the Hay River Regional Health Centre, and if so, can you please provide a copy of the policy;
  3. Due to a lack of physicians at Hay River Regional Health Centre, have assessments been conducted to confirm the impact on the quality of health care provided to residents and staff satisfaction in the workplace, and if so, what were the assessment outcomes and recommendations;
  4. For the community of Hay River, will the department of health consider turning over responsibility for physician recruitment to the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority along with the financial resources and provide access to the database of physicians and outline a process to move this forward; and,
  5. Has the department of health undertaken an assessment of whether health care services for Hay River and area residents would be better served if the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority was incorporated into the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, and are there any barriers that would make this unfeasible?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Written questions. Returns to written questions. Mr. Clerk.

Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

Mr. Speaker, I have a Return to Written Question 57-19(2) asked by the Member for Yellowknife North on February 9th, 2023, to the Minister of Infrastructure regarding the Payments for Leased Space. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Infrastructure maintains a portfolio of general office space in accordance with the Government of the Northwest Territories' Leasing of Improved Real Property Policy. This policy is publicly available online and includes more detailed information regarding some of the exclusions and inclusions on the types of leases administered by the GNWT. Leasing of improved real property is excluded from the business incentive policy.

In addition, the Department of Infrastructure is not able to provide details on individual leases, including costs and lease terms. If this information were to be made public, it may impact the commercial real estate market and influence pricing for future leases. Infrastructure and the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs intend to work together to review the Leasing of Improved Real Property Policy once the review of the GNWT procurement review is complete.

I would also like to answer the specific questions raised by the Member, including providing lease fees paid by the GNWT to the following companies, broken down by individual lease and building space, for the last ten years as follows:

1. All lease payments made to Northview Canadian High Yield Residential Fund (Northview) and its predecessor companies, broken down both by residential leases and commercial leases per year

The GNWT has six commercial office space leases with Northview, which are administered by the Department of Infrastructure for a total annual lease cost of $8.9 million. This includes the base rent plus operations and maintenance.

2. All lease payments made to KingSett Capital, which is the co-owner of Northview, for the last ten years and broken down by residential and commercial leases per year.

The GNWT has four commercial office space leases with KingSett Capital, which are administered by the Department of Infrastructure for a total of $6.5 million. This includes base rent plus operations and maintenance.

In relation to these first two questions, the Department of Infrastructure is not responsible for GNWT residential leases and is therefore not able to provide information related to residential leases.

3. The total of future lease commitments to the above companies and the expiration date of each of those leases

The total future lease commitments for leases related to Northview is $20.1 million, which includes base rent plus operations and maintenance. The total future lease commitments for leases related to Kingsett Capital is $26.855 million, which includes base rent plus operations and maintenance.

4. A clear breakdown of how each of the leases were tendered and in what year they went out for public competition, if at all.

The GNWT is required to initially obtain new office space by public tender or request for proposals, except where Executive Council has authorized negotiations. The Department of Infrastructure cannot influence which businesses choose to pursue these opportunities.

The following information can be disclosed for the last 10 years of commercial office space leases held by the GNWT:

  • 47 leases were transferred to the Department of Infrastructure by other GNWT departments;
  • 9 federal leases were transferred to the GNWT during devolution;
  • 28 current leases were acquired via public procurement; and,
  • 9 leases were negotiated, with approval from the Executive Council.

Later today, at the appropriate time, I will table additional information to the Member's questions regarding payments for commercial leased space administered by the Department of Infrastructure. Thank you, Mr. Speaker

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Clerk. Replies to the Commissioner's address. Petitions. Reports of committees on the review of bills. Member for Great Slave.

Bill 68: An Act to Amend the Child Daycare Act
Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills

Page 5575

Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Your committee would like to report on its consideration of Bill 68, An Act to Amend the Child Daycare Act.

Bill 68 received second reading in the Legislative Assembly on November 3rd, 2022 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Development for review.

On March 1st, 2023, the standing committee held a public hearing and clause-by-clause review of the bill with the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. Six motions to amend the bill were carried by committee and concurred with by the Minister. The committee thanks the Minister and department for their hard work and collaboration to improve this bill.

Mr. Speaker, the committee reports that Bill 68, An Act to Amend the Child Daycare Act, is ready for consideration in Committee of the Whole as amended and reprinted. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Reports of committees on the review of bills. Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Yellowknife North.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have got three pages for you today.

Mr. Speaker, your Standing Committee on Government Operations is pleased to provide its Report on Bill 67, An Act to Amend the Fire Prevention Act, and commends it to the House.

Introduction

Bill 67: An Act to Amend the Fire Prevention Act received second reading on November. 3, 2022 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations for review.

Bill 67 makes changes to the Fire Prevention (Act) that has not been comprehensively reviewed since it was first passed in 1988. Bill 67 is intended to improve regulatory functions of the Act, create an authoritative plan review process, and a formal avenue of appeal for plan reviews, as well as provide protection against personal liability that is comparable to other jurisdictions.

The new act specifically changes the following:

  • adds a liability exclusion for fire officials.
  • authorizes the fire marshal to delegate duties.
  • requirements made in a plan review report are binding.
  • establishes a plan review appeal board.
  • modernizes language.

Committee Considered Public Input

Committee sought public feedback on Bill 67 with a public notice and targeted engagement letters. Committee received written submissions from the Northwest Territories Association of Communities which is included as an appendix to this report.

On January 12, 2023, committee held a public hearing to review Bill 67. At that meeting, committee heard remarks from Minister of MACA, asked questions to departmental officials, and received oral comments from the NWTAC. Committee thanks the NWTAC for their engagement.

One area that NWTAC identified was the need to provide clarity and certainty with respect to the timelines of the appeal board process. Committee agreed with this concern.

Committee also held concerns regarding the composition of the board and wanted to ensure the appeal board would consist of industry professionals from across the NWT and not be filled with public servants.

Committee was initially concerned about the exclusion of liability clause for the Minister or others carrying out a power or duty by the Act, but committee recognizes this is necessary to provide protection against personal liability for those performing statutory functions and that the clause is consistent with other jurisdictions across Canada.

Committee recognizes the NWT lacks standalone building standards legislation, as most other jurisdictions across Canada have. Committee has expressed concern that without building standards legislation the fire marshal is becoming the authority for both fire and buildings. The NWT is currently the only Canadian jurisdiction that has not adopted a building standards framework to support the National Building Code and the National Fire Code. The GNWT has identified this legislation needs to be developed and is targeting for the 20th Assembly.

Committee Amended Three Clauses

Timeline for Appeal Board Process

While committee welcomes the establishment of an appeal board to deal with appeals on decisions of the fire marshal, committee was concerned the legislation did not provide enough clarity on timelines for the process. The NWTAC also requested the timeline for appeal board processes be clarified in legislation.

A motion was drafted to ensure a clear timeline was established for the appeal board to make a decision on the appeal board hearing. Clause 14 of Bill 67 is amended to establish a 30-day period for the board to "affirm, modify or revoke the order."

Committee is satisfied this motion provides a clear timeline for the appeal board process to be carried out and that the motion to amend clause 14.1(3) was passed at the clause-by-clause review.

Appeal Board Composition

While committee supports the establishment of an appeal board there was concern about the composition of the board. Committee specifically wanted to ensure that the GNWT would not create another board that is filled by public servants. Committee refers specifically to the composition of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation board held by deputy ministers and views this as highly inefficient and ineffective. Committee also wanted to ensure that clear provisions were in place to ensure industry professionals from across the NWT filled the composition of the appeal board.

A motion was drafted to ensure the "Minister shall make reasonable efforts to appoint members who are representative of the industries and communities of the Northwest Territories."

This motion was passed at the clause-by-clause review.

A motion was drafted to ensure public servants refrain from participation in the appeal board. The motion provided certainty that "the Minister shall not appoint a member of the public service to the board."

This motion was passed at the clause-by-clause review.

Conclusion

On February 13th, 2023, committee held a clause-by-clause review. Committee passed the motions to report Bill 67, as amended, to the Legislative Assembly as ready for consideration in Committee of the Whole.

This concludes the Standing Committee on Government Operations' review of Bill 67. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Yellowknife North.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Thebacha, that the Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on Bill 67, An Act to Amend the Fire Prevention Act, be received and adopted by the Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Some Hon. Members

Question.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed? Any abstentions? The motion is carried. It will be received and adopted by the Assembly.

---Carried

Reports of standing and special committees. Tabling of documents. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following document: Information for Return to Written Question 57-19(2): Payments for Leased Space. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Tabling of documents. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table a publication from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addictions entitled "Canada's Guidance on Alcohol and Health: Final Report." Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Tabling of documents. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I wish to table the following two documents: The first one, Environment and Climate Change Canada Guidance for Using Climate Pollution Pricing Proceeds; the second one, November 2022 GNWT Mineral Royalties Presentation to Yellowknife Geoscience Forum: "Financial Modeling in Support of Revising the Royalty Regime of Mining in the NWT" by Michael Doggett, Nick Dennahower, and Hendrik Falck. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Tabling of documents. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to table an order of the Alberta Energy Regulator to Imperial Oil Resources Limited regarding the Kearl Oil Sands Processing Plant. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Tabling of documents. Notices of motion. Motions. Notices of motion for the first reading of bills. Minister responsible for Justice.

Bill 72: Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act
Notices Of Motion For The First Reading Of Bills

Page 5576

R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that on Monday, March 6th, 2023, I will present Bill 72, Opioid Damages and Healthcare Costs Recovery Act, to be read for the first time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 72: Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act
Notices Of Motion For The First Reading Of Bills

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The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Notices of motion for the first reading of bills. Member for Thebacha.

Bill 73: An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 4
Notices Of Motion For The First Reading Of Bills

Page 5576

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that on Monday, March the 6th, 2023, I will present Bill 73, An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 4, to be ready for the first time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 73: An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 4
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The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Notices of motion for the first reading of bills. First reading of bills. Second reading of bills. Consideration in Committee of the Whole of bills and other matters, Bill 23, 29, 61, 63, 66, and 67, Committee Report 40-19(2), Committee Report 43-19(2), Committee Report 44-19(2), Minister's Statement 264-19(2), Tabled Document 681-19(2), Tabled Document 694-19(2), and Tabled Document 813-19(2), with Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes in the chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

March 2nd, 2023

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

I now call Committee of the Whole to order. What is the wish of committee? Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Madam la Presidente. Committee wishes to consider Tabled Document 813-19(2), 2023-2024 Main Estimates, with Department of Education, Culture and Employment. Mahsi, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Does committee agree?

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, committee. We'll take a short recess and resume with the first activity.

---SHORT RECESS

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

I will now call Committee of the Whole back to order. Committee, we've agreed to consider Tabled Document 813-19(2), Main Estimates 2023-2024. We will now consider the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. Does the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment have any opening remarks?

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Yes, I do. Thank you, Madam Chair.

I am here to present the Department of Education, Culture and Employment's main estimates for the fiscal year 2023-2024. Overall, the department's estimates propose an increase of approximately $24 million or 6.7 percent over the Main Estimates 2022-2023. These estimates support the mandate objectives while continuing to meet the GNWT's fiscal objectives to prioritize responsible and strategic spending.

Highlights of these proposed estimates include $16.9 million to support new initiatives. The amount is comprised of:

  • $10.326 million in additional federal contribution related to the Canada-NWT Canada-wide Agreement on Early Learning and Child Care;
  • $5.149 million in additional funding for improvements and changes to the Income Assistance Program; and,
  • $1.458 million for further investments aimed at enhancements and changes to the Student Financial Assistance Program.

The proposed estimates also reflect a total increase of $5.197 million for other adjustments, which include:

  • $2.028 million for additional federal contribution related to the Canada-NWT Cooperation Agreement on Minority Language Education and Second Official Language Instructions for 2019-2020 to 2022-2023;
  • $1.87 million in additional federal contribution towards Building Skills 4 Success;
  • $511,000 for the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association for 2020-2021 to 2022-2023 collective agreement cost increases;
  • $500,000 in new funding to support the operational needs of heritage centres; and,
  • $368,000 for the school funding framework to provide consistent and administrative support to small schools, which is offset by $80,000 in interdepartmental reallocation of French language communications and services budgets.

The proposed estimates also include $4.205 million in additional operations budget related to the reprofile of Labour Market Development Agreement from Fund 3, third party, to Fund 1, operations, and $51,000 in inflationary adjustment increases to core funding for non-government organizations.

The estimates are partially offset by other decreases of $752,000 broken down by the following target adjustments:

  • $662,000 in contract services budget reduction that supports the items identified in the 2022-2023 Main Estimates;
  • $80,000 in amortization adjustment for 2023-2024; and,
  • $10,000 in insurance transfer to the Department of Finance.

The increases are further partly offset by a total decrease of $1.672 million reflecting funding scheduled to sunset on March 31st, 2023. The sunsets reflect year-over-year changes in the departmental activities in the Canada-NWT Workforce Development Agreement, Canada-NWT Agreement on French language services, Education Act Modernization Research, student records coordinators related to the federal Indian Day School Class Action Settlement records, Canada-NWT Early Learning and Child Care Agreement Extension, Specialized Territorial Support Team resources specialized funding, Education Renewal and Innovation and Northern Distance Learning budget changes.

This concludes my opening remarks. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Do you wish to bring witnesses into the House?

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Yes, I do.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Sergeant-at-arms, please escort the witnesses into the Chamber.

Minister, please introduce your witnesses.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. On my left is the deputy minister John MacDonald. And on my right is the assistant deputy minister of corporate services, Sam Shannon. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. And welcome. Does committee agree to proceed to the detail contained in the tabled document?

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Committee, we will defer the departmental summary and review the estimates by activity summary, beginning with corporate management starting on page 35, with information items on page 36. Questions?

There are no questions. Please turn to page 35. Education, Culture and Employment, corporate management, operations expenditure summary, 2023-2024 Main Estimates, $10,982,000. Does committee agree?

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Culture, heritage, and languages beginning on page 38. Information items on page 39 to 41. Questions? Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Madam Chair. It's one of my favourite parts of the ECE budget. I understood that there was some kind of revenue study being done for the museum. Can I get an update as to what happened with that? Thanks, Madam Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. The Member is correct; we did have a contract in place to have a revenue study completed. Unfortunately, the contractor did not deliver that revenue study. So for some information about the path forward given the challenges we've been facing, I will hand it to the deputy minister. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Deputy minister MacDonald.

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Macdonald

Thank you, Madam Chair. As the Minister indicated, the revenue study was not able to be obtained. So the department is in the process of breaking down what had previously been a substantial plan to prepare to renovate the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre. We are planning to break that into smaller segments that may be more feasible. The priority being the NWT Archives and replacing that space and enhancing it going forward. So our intention is to advance that as part of the department's needs assessment and ultimately the capital planning process for the next cycle. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Yeah, thanks, Madam Chair. Yeah, I guess in the seven years I've been here, I've seen a lot of studies on the museum, you know, needs assessments and some really good work's been done. And there's a lot of money that needs to be spent to invest in the facility. So is there now an overall plan as to how to do some of that work? Thanks, Madam Chair. And could it be shared with Regular MLAs, even on a confidential basis if required. Thanks, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. There has been a lot of work done so we're not trying to reinvent the wheel as the deputy minister alluded to. What we are doing is going to pursue the renovations through the normal capital process. So Members will have a chance to get that information through that process. There's nothing that is shareable right now really beyond what the deputy minister has stated. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Yeah, okay, thanks. Maybe something for the transition plan. Of course I know the last time I asked the Minister this, I think it was close to a visit, about changing the name of the facility, which seemed to be tied to actually fixing it up. So are we ever going to change the name of it? And as I understand now, there's no obstacles in the way, there's no protocol stuff, we can just change the name to something that's more reflective of northern culture and heritage. Thanks, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. As part of that capital process and doing those renovations, we're tying those things together. So once we begin that work, we will consult with Indigenous governments and make determinations about how to move forward with names and what those names might be. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Yeah, thanks. Yeah, I know we've -- you know, we're consulting on changing the name of the Stanton Legacy Hospital, or the building. You know, I'm not sure I'd even put that as high a priority as the territorial museum, but I want to encourage the department to move forward on that. And you can just put it on the engagement page, you know, and see where that takes us.

But I want to move on to -- in the last budget, the Regular MLAs worked with Cabinet to increase the funding for heritage centres across the NWT by half a million dollars. And I see that increase in here. Can someone just tell me about the uptake in the first year? Thanks, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. I will hand it over to one of my witnesses. But I will say that for the small organizations to receive a big chunk of money unexpectedly, it makes it difficult for them to just spend it if they didn't have a plan to spend it. In Hay River, we had, you know, the flood, and people were dealing with that, so. I don't think that it saw a significant uptake, at least not at all the centres. But for more information, I'll hand it to Mr. MacDonald. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Deputy minister MacDonald.

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Macdonald

Thank you Chair. With respect to this additional funding, one of the things that we determined was that we needed to support the various heritage centres to be able to plan to undertake any type of capital enhancements to their facilities. So in addition to the typical operational funding that we have been providing to them prior to receiving this additional funding, we've provided each of them with what we refer to as infrastructure planning funding.

So that's intended to support them, to help them come to us or to the federal government with a clear sense of what their needs are. So each of the facilities -- or each of the organizations received $50,000 over and above what we added to their regular funding. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Okay, thanks. Yeah, that's helpful to understand. So I think I've asked this question before maybe but GNWT has quite an extensive inventory of artwork, you know, across, you know, in different buildings. There's some in this building. There's some really cool stuff actually in the Caucus room. But I don't think we actually have an inventory of all of this artwork and some of it is of tremendous value, dollar value, not to mention heritage value. Is there an inventory of this, and what's the role of ECE in preparing an inventory?

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. The role of ECE is providing some expertise when it comes to the value of the pieces, perhaps even the handling of some of them. If it's discovered that this, you know, object in this office should be in a climate control facility, but we -- what we've discovered is that the GNWT's existing sort of inventory management software -- and I'm going to have to hand it to someone else to get into the details and provide exact names, but that can handle the inventory of the art. And so I believe that that work has begun. But I can hand it to Mr. MacDonald for more detail. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Deputy minister MacDonald.

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Macdonald

Thank you, Madam Chair. And the Member is correct in remembering that this was a priority, I think, of two years ago. At the time, ECE, ITI, and Department of Finance, collaborated on looking at what type of valuable art existed in the possession of various departments, what options there may be, and who roles the various departments could play to support inventory and ensuring that high-value art was protected and maintained for the future of the territory. The Department of Finance determined that their systems could encompass tracking those artifacts or those art pieces. And as the Minister said, ECE's role is, through the culture and heritage division, is to provide expertise on art that should be valued and protected and documented. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Frame Lake.

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Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Madam Chair. So yeah, I also want to recognize the work at the museum to prepare an inventory of their collection. It's available online now. You can actually see the stuff that's not on display and you can read about it. You know, it's searchable. It's a great tool. And I think that's the model we should be using maybe for a public face to the inventory that we need for all of our artwork across the system. Maybe there's some aspects of that that you wouldn't want to make accessible to the public necessarily, but it would be great to have that kind of a system. Is that what's being contemplated? And of course I can ask these of my friend the Minister of Finance when they're before us, Madam Chair, but while I've got these friends here I'd ask them. Thanks.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Okay, thank you. Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. That is not what is being contemplated. The museum does have a site, and it's amazing the way that you can view the different pieces of art. But that is not the plan right now for all of the GNWT-owned art. At some point in the future that would be great, but it is not something that we are currently working on or envision beginning any time soon. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Thebacha.

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Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Madam Chair. And I read the whole report from the language commissioner, and I was quite concerned about a couple things. One of them is that the language commissioner has said in that report that English and French are priority items within the language thing and the nine Indigenous language are kind of a second priority. That was pretty well the final -- like, some of the things that was said in that report. And I guess my concern is I'm going to -- you know, the official languages report that's coming out from government operations, I agree with it. But, you know, I've decided that I'm not going to be voting -- I'm not going to vote against it, I'm going to abstain, but for the following reasons:

Until the Indigenous languages get the same standard as the French language, you know, I just cannot vote for -- because revitalization of our languages, the Indigenous languages is extremely important to the Indigenous people of the North. And there's a lot of non-Indigenous students that are also taking some of these courses in revitalization in the South Slave. I want to commend the school boards in the South Slave for all they do to revitalize the Aboriginal languages. But I have to make sure that -- I also want to make sure that the director of languages and that department also feels the same way and helps the mandate of revitalization of Indigenous languages. And I wonder if that is going to take place in financial assistance the way it should have. And I don't see that in the entire overall budget. You know, we have French schools, and I'd like to see the day when, hopefully in my lifetime, that we have a school of Indigenous language revitalization. And I want to see how the department feels about that, Madam Chair. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. I would love to see a school of language revitalization. There are many efforts going on around the territory. I've spoken about things like the mentor apprentice program. The department has put time and resources into developing post-secondary courses related to languages and hopefully those can be implemented at some point in the future. I mean, there's a lot of ground covered in there, but we do support the revitalization of Indigenous languages. There's great efforts going towards ensuring that we are increasing the number of speakers the best we can, and we'll continue those efforts. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Thebacha.

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Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to take away from the French or the English languages that we have to know in order to progress to post-secondary. I'm not doing that because those are also a key to our education system. But the main key for the Indigenous people of the North is that the Indigenous languages have to be revitalized and I want to know if we could have -- you know, to start thinking about making sure that there is going to be a school established in the North, the first of its kind, to revitalize the nine Indigenous languages. And so we make a statement that how important the loss of our languages has been to the students and people of the North. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Minister of ECE.

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R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you. So as I stated, we are -- put resources in to developing language programming that can be offered at a post-secondary level. My hope is that the college, once it gets its feet under it in terms of the transformation, because there was a lot of work happening there, that they can begin looking at implementing some of those courses and that we can have these, you know, accredited post-secondary courses focused on language revitalization. Thank you.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Member for Thebacha.

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Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

I don't have any other questions.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Are there any further questions under this section? Seeing none, please turn to page 38.

Education, Culture and Employment, culture, heritage and languages, operations expenditure summary, 2023-2024 Main Estimates, $21,306,000. Does committee agree?

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

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The Chair

The Chair Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Committee, please turn to page 43, early learning and child care, beginning on page 43 with information items on page 44 to 46. Questions? Member for Kam Lake.