This is page numbers 5827 - 5874 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, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong

The House met at 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5827

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the recent addition of the Legislative Assembly's process convention related to the introduction, consideration, and enactment of bills under the Intergovernmental Council Legislative Development Protocol. Mr. Speaker, I do not often get to express appreciation for the work of the Legislative Assembly as led by you, Mr. Speaker, and supported by the Clerk and your staff. This new process convention is another example of the Northwest Territories leading the way in collaboration with Indigenous governments.

Devolution of lands and resources gave the Government of the Northwest Territories the opportunity to do things better. One of the commitments made was to work collaboratively in the development of land and resource legislation and policies through an Intergovernmental Council with Indigenous government partners. This was done to ensure that the interests of Indigenous peoples as they relate to lands and resources are well considered as this government undertakes its work and to encourage further collaboration and harmonization as Indigenous governments create their own laws respecting lands and resources through self-government.

In December of 2020 the Legislative Development Protocol was implemented to guide collaboration among the Executive branch of the GNWT and Indigenous governments in the development of lands and resources legislation. That protocol provides a consistent approach for the parties to follow, but it necessarily stopped short of directing what happens when a bill is developed and put forward to the Legislative Assembly. The work done by the Legislative Assembly and the Intergovernmental Council Secretariat to develop a process convention addressing legislation drafted in cooperation with the Intergovernmental Council is the first of its kind. It demonstrates the Northwest Territories leadership in working collaboratively with Indigenous governments.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to this process convention being utilized so that when lands and resource legislation is put before this Legislative Assembly, MLAs have the benefit of hearing directly from Indigenous governments. As standing committees undertake their work and consider potential improvements to bills, Indigenous governments will be informed and may attend and participate in reviews. This is an example of reconciliation in action, and I wish to thank the Legislative Assembly for its support of our shared goal of advancing reconciliation. Good work, Mr. Speaker, and your team. Mashi cho.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Here, here.

Colleagues, before we continue, I'd like to recognize our Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, Mr. Michael McLeod, also former Member of the 15th and 16th Assembly and also Minister, here to announce more federal spending in the Northwest Territories. Don't forget your friends in the MacKenzie Delta. Welcome to the Chamber.

Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, on January 16th, the Government of the Northwest Territories launched a new open data portal to provide a single point of access for existing GNWT data resources. This portal represents a significant step forward in our commitment to transparency and open government and it will be a valuable resource for residents, businesses, researchers, and anyone else interested in the data and information that shapes our communities and our economy. The open data portal provides easy access to a wide range of data including information on demographics, economy, environment, health, and many other topics. This data can be used to make informed decisions, spur innovation, and encourage economic growth.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to the principles of Open Government, demonstrated through efforts to increase openness, transparency, and accountability. Open Government is about providing timely, accurate information, and data to ensure the Northwest Territories residents are informed about government policies, activities, initiatives, spending and programs and services. It is about engaging with Northwest Territories residents so the government can take into account the concerns and views of the public in establishing priorities, developing policies, and implementing programs. Open Government also ensures that the GNWT is visible, accessible, and answerable to the people it serves.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT has worked towards putting the principles of Open Government into action in the areas of open data, open information, and open dialogue since the establishment of the Open Government Policy in 2018. Launching the open data portal is the latest step we have taken as a government toward greater transparency and accountability. At launch, the portal included over 300 data sets from supply chain data to data on highway traffic and will be updated and expanded regularly. The next data sets expected to be launched in the portal are new and updated data from the Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics such as Northwest Territories income data as well as Northwest Territories geospatial data such as mineral and land tenure information. This new data is expected to be launched in the portal in the first quarter of next fiscal year.

The Open Government steering committee will continue to promote the identification and release of additional data sets across government. By making our data easily accessible, we will empower our citizens and organizations to make better use of it and make more informed decisions that benefit the territory. I encourage all residents, businesses, and territorial organizations to familiarize themselves with the Open data portal and all that it offers. 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, in 2018, the Government of the Northwest Territories released the 2030 Energy Strategy - our roadmap to supporting secure, affordable, and sustainable energy in the NWT. Guided by the energy strategy, the Climate Change Strategic Framework and the GNWT's mandate, we are working to increase the use of alternative and renewable energy and reduce the territory's greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Speaker, as of 2020 the Northwest Territories greenhouse gas emissions were 19 percent below 2005 levels. The reduction target we have committed to is 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and we are on track to meet that target. However, we all know that much can and will change during the life of the energy strategy. Technologies improve, new ways of doing things emerge, new government policies cause shifts in how we produce and use energy. That is why the GNWT and its partners have always taken an adaptive approach to the strategy. This allows us to take advantage of new technologies and opportunities as they arise.

In December of last year, we released the 2022-2025 Energy Action Plan. The plan builds on the actions and initiatives of the previous plan and sets out what we plan to do over the next three years.

What we plan to do is ambitious. We are going to invest $194 million to implement 68 actions and initiatives that advance the six strategic objectives in the energy strategy. We expect this investment and the work outlined in the updated action plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51 kilotonnes by 2025. Guided by the action plan, the GNWT will also continue to explore and advance transformative projects such as the Fort Providence-Kakisa Transmission Line, a fast-charging corridor for electric vehicles stretching from Yellowknife to the Alberta border, and emerging low-carbon technologies like renewable diesel and hydrogen. This will lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions and increase the use of alternative and renewable energy in the territory beyond 2025.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is about to start a review of the energy strategy. We committed to review it every five years so that it remains current and reflects what is realistic and achievable in the North. The GNWT has completed modeling work to better understand what options for a low-carbon future look like in the North. This work will be instrumental in the review of the energy strategy and will be used to evaluate and manage our progress. This review will also include extensive public engagement to understand where we can improve the energy actions and initiatives to better serve the people of the NWT. When it is completed, we will have the information needed to re-evaluate the strategy's strategic objectives to ensure they represent what is achievable, given both new technologies and the opportunities and realities of the North.

Mr. Speaker, this is challenging but necessary work. As we implement the updated energy action plan and review the 2030 Energy Strategy, the GNWT will evaluate the successes like our energy efficiency programs, biomass heating initiatives, assess where we can improve, and look for new opportunities to help us achieve the strategy's vision and support secure, affordable and sustainable energy in the Northwest Territories. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to share information today about the voluntary supports available for Northwest Territories children, youth, and families through the health and social services system. There are several voluntary support services in place that are based on the prevention of negative outcomes. Community social workers are available to assist individuals and families in accessing them.

Through a voluntary support services agreement, children, youth, and their caregivers can receive help without parents giving up their legal rights and responsibilities for their child. Services and supports can include referrals for counselling, respite, parenting programs, alcohol and/or drug treatment, mental health services, and support to improve a family's financial situation. Voluntary support service agreements allow families to remain together through challenging situations.

Support services agreements are also available for youth between the ages of 16 and 18 who have no legal guardian able or available to support them. Through these agreements, youth can get assistance with education, room and board, counselling, respite, young parenting programs, alcohol and/or drug treatment, and mental health. The goal is to help the young person to live independently and achieve their goals as they transition into adulthood. For young adults aging out of the permanent custody of the director of child and family services when they turn 19, extended support services agreements are available until they reach 23 years of age. These agreements meet the needs of the young adult on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Speaker, the health and social service authorities also deliver the Healthy Families and the Family Preservation programs.

The Healthy Families Program is culture-based and provides parents with skills and community engagement to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to help their children thrive. The program is open to all families with children prenatal to six years of age. They can either refer themselves or be referred by a professional. All engagement is voluntary. The Healthy Family Program is offered in most NWT communities.

The Family Preservation Program provides supports to families with complex needs so that children can remain within their family, community, and culture. The goal of this program is to preserve the family unit and give parents, children, and others the tools they need to be successful. These services are available to families with children up to 23 years of age. Youth up to the age of 23 can also access these services themselves. Again, this program is voluntary and referral-based.

Mr. Speaker, we understand the impact and trauma from the legacy of child and family services. We are working to reduce barriers and ensure that these services are provided in a culturally safe and respectful manner. We are committed to safeguarding the well-being and connection of all children and youth to their families, cultures, and communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Colleagues, before we continue, I'd like to recognize Grand Chief of the Tlicho government Mr. Jackson Lafferty, also former Speaker, Minister, and Member of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Assemblies. Welcome. Welcome back. Please behave up there now, Boys.

Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Member's Statement 1457-19(2): New Process Convention
Members' Statement

March 9th, 2023

Page 5828

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, yesterday as Caucus chair, I pleased to table a consensus government convention that clarifies how this Assembly will consider and pass land and resource legislation that has been in partnership with Indigenous governments in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, before becoming an MLA, I served for 14 years as chief of the Salt River First Nation. I was at a table with Premier McLeod and other northern leaders when the devolution agreement was signed and negotiated. It was a hard-fought negotiation.

I want to be very clear that devolution was never intended to transfer the authority for lands and resources to the Government of the Northwest Territories. I and other Indigenous leaders who negotiated the deal viewed it, and continue to view it, as the proper resumption of control over northern lands and resources by Northerners, all Northerners.

Mr. Speaker, in the last Assembly, the Intergovernmental Council, including the Government of the Northwest Territories, cooperated on the drafting of the Mineral Resources Act. It wasn't easy, and there was a lot of give and take. Once the bill was introduced, however, it was amended by the Assembly with little to no input from Indigenous governments who helped draft it. That was unfortunate, Mr. Speaker. It was a step back for reconciliation when we were badly in need of a giant step forward.

Mr. Speaker, the process convention I tabled yesterday will help ensure that this does not happen again. It recognizes that while this Assembly has the exclusive jurisdiction to make public laws in the NWT, it does not and should not do so in a vacuum. Indigenous governments are not stakeholders in land and resource legislation. They are the primary stewards, owners, and knowledge-keepers of our northern land and resources. Starting with the Forest Act that was introduced this week, Indigenous governments will not be included in all discussions between the Minister and standing committees on land and resource bills and will have an opportunity to state their views directly to the committee. The convention adds additional time to the standing committee review process and ensures that Indigenous governments will have time to consider and express their views directly to the committee on proposed amendments to these bills. IGC representatives will be invited to this Chamber as full witnesses during the Committee of the Whole review of land and resources bills and, importantly, on to the floor along with all 19 of us when the Commissioner gives assent to these bills and brings them into law. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, this protocol is a first of its kind in Canada. For many Canadians, reconciliation is a distant abstract aspiration. However, here in the NWT, and in this Chamber, reconciliation is infused in everything we do. In the NWT, we're on the frontlines of reconciliation and must break a trail for the rest of Canada to follow. This protocol demonstrates that consensus government can adapt to reflect the wonderfully complex political environment in the NWT.

I want to thank and congratulate all my colleagues for taking this bold step forward. This is what leadership looks like, and I am proud to have my signature on this important step toward greater reconciliation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day activities in this House that we miss when something really special or historic happens. Yesterday a new process convention was tabled in this House on how we review resource management legislation. This represents a fundamental and seismic change in how our Legislative Assembly works when it comes to legislation co-drafted pursuant to the devolution agreement of 2014 and the Intergovernmental Council Legislative Development Protocol. I predict that this new collaborative approach will eventually be extended to other areas of shared jurisdiction and interest between Northwest Territories Indigenous governments and the Government of the Northwest Territories such as education and social services.

This new arrangement between Regular MLAs and Cabinet stems from lessons learned during the co-development and review of resource management legislation in the last Assembly. Standing committee would hear concerns and issues from the public and Indigenous governments, sometimes resulting in amendments. Indigenous governments were surprised when amendments were proposed and made to some of those laws without their input. This process convention will extend the review period for new resource management legislation and provides for increased sharing of information between standing committee and the Intergovernmental Council during the review of a bill. Indigenous governments will also be able to attend meetings on bills and appear on the floor of this House. I am not aware of any other jurisdiction in Canada that has this type of arrangement, and I believe it sets a useful and needed precedent. We will test drive this new process with Bill 74, Forest Act.

While this new historic arrangement builds on what we learned in the last Assembly with resource management legislation, there is still more work to be done. We need to find better ways to share information and engage those Indigenous governments that are not part of the Intergovernmental Council. There are still problems with the consistency, timing, and amount of information shared with standing committee by Cabinet on the co-drafting of resource management legislation.

Lastly, I continue to be profoundly disappointed with the failure of Cabinet to apply its own Open Government policy in the development of new resource management legislation and regulations. GNWT needs to step up and ensure there is a parallel process for the public in the development of this new legislation and a clear role for the public in decision-making. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Merci, Monsieur le President. GNWT needs to step up and ensure there is a parallel process for the public in the development of this new resource management legislation and a clear role for the public in decision-making. This is what our residents have come to expect from responsible resource development and co-management itself.

I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I did not acknowledge and thank our Clerk and the staff of the Intergovernmental Council for their hard work in helping us reach this new process convention. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Blue skies and warmer weather. Mr. Speaker, it is the time of year for events meant to welcome warmer weather. Last weekend it was K'amba Carnival. Now in Hay River, on the 17th to the 19th is now time for Polar Pond Hockey.

Mr. Speaker, to bring this event together requires a lot of work from a lot of dedicated volunteers, along with sponsorships from a great number of local businesses. It means clearing massive amounts of snow off the river down by Fishermen's Wharf, then it is on to laying out ten rinks and preparing them for flooding. As all that is happening, a setup crew is installing Big Blue, which is a covered structure where food and beverages can be had while warming up between games. In the evening, Big Blue is a venue for live bands to entertain all into the early morning hours.

Mr. Speaker, the event draws teams from throughout the NWT, Alberta, and Nunavut. There are three divisions which include ladies, open, and seniors. Playing hockey in this event is not only competitive and fun but for those of us who knew nothing else but outdoor rinks when we were young, a long time ago, taking part in this event for, but a moment, brings us back to the time of our youth and the pure fun of hockey on an outdoor rink. Mr. Speaker, I welcome all of you to Hay River to either take part in the event, cheer on friends and family, or just enjoy the festivities. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I have spoken several times of my concerns with the Alberta tailings ponds and the toxic sludge contained within them. Tailings ponds are manmade open reservoirs, the size of lakes, that hold toxic waste from the oil extraction, and they contain arsenic, dissolved heavy metals and hydrocarbons. These tailings ponds are large enough to be seen from space and are some of the biggest human made structures on earth.

Mr. Speaker, many First Nations downstream from the Alberta tar sands tailings ponds have expressed time and time their concerns with the tailing ponds breaching their dikes.

Unbeknownst to any First Nations, nor the Government of the Northwest Territories, this is exactly what occurred in May 2022. This government only found out last week, and the information did not come from the Alberta government nor the Alberta premier. This information came from the affected First Nations near the tar sands tailings ponds in Alberta.

Mr. Speaker, there's a story in the Edmonton Journal newspaper dated March 6th, 2023, in which the Alberta premier states not only her concern with the spill but to also state that Alberta had no obligation to notify the Government of the Northwest Territories of the spill.

Mr. Speaker, this is preposterous. In this day and age of supposed collaboration between the governments of the province and the territory, and the territory gets the rotten egg. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions not for the Minister of MACA, not for the Minister of ENR, not for the Minister of Lands, but for the Premier of the Northwest Territories and how she will stand up and defend our most precious resource - the water. Mahsi.

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, public lands in the NWT is something that we all enjoy and have access to as Northerners and Canadians. We use these lands for a variety of reasons like recreation, travel, and often to just get closer to nature. These public lands are something that we all cherish. Public lands in my riding, and as well as my colleagues' ridings, are deeply connected to the culture of Indigenous people of the North. In fact, Mr. Speaker, in my riding there are two land claim agreements in place; three if you include the transboundary nature of the Sahtu, Gwich'in, and the Inuvialuit agreements.

Mr. Speaker, in these agreements, it speaks to members of these agreements being able to access public lands in their respective areas for the purpose of harvesting. Part of these harvesting rights include the right to establish camps for the purpose of harvesting. In the case of the Inuvialuit, for example, that agreement says that beneficiaries should not be charged fees for exercising their rights like the establishment of camps under these leases. Mr. Speaker, I've had concerns raised to me by numerous people that they are being charged fees to exercise their right in the way of lease payments. In some cases, people have asked to surrender their lease and want to fall under rights-based rights designation. These leaseholders are told they need to remove everything from the land and inspect and done before they can surrender their lease even though these may be rights-based camps and passed through generations, Mr. Speaker. In other instances, some people have been threatened to be taken to court or collections for nonpayment. And in another case, full fees have been charged even though the land, or most of it, is gone because it eroded away by the mighty Mackenzie River, Mr. Speaker, and the structure was moved before they even received the bill. Mr. Speaker, today I will have questions for the Minister of Lands and why his department is charging fees to Indigenous people to exercise their right to establish camps and if those fees go against the land claim agreements that we as GNWT are party to, Mr. Speaker. I will also be asking the Minister to commit today to pausing all current Indigenous lease fees and collection actions under a more detailed review can be done on this issue. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure I would like to recognize the efforts from our Tlicho youth who are working to host the second Idaa Ts'ade Youth Gathering with a big focus on the wellness and Tlicho way of life. This event is a youth-led initiative for Tlicho youth ages 16 to 35 years old living in Canada. Young people have decided to gather again to share ideas, learn new information, engage in traditional activities, and network with various people and organizations. I applaud these young people for recognizing the need to come together to deal and address social issues young people face every day of their young life.

This is a challenge. In many cases, it prohibits young people from moving forward. The need to come together is rewarding. It will help with healing and begin a new journey for the next generations.

The Idaa Ts'ade Gathering will be held on March 20th to 24th, 2023, at Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Edzo. They are anticipating about 150 youth to be present at this event. Therefore, I want to send my appreciation to this wonderful youth-led project, led by Antonia Dryneck-Black, Janelle Nitsiza, and Jodie Zoe, and their committee members for their commitment to work with the youth. And I would also like to acknowledge the committee members Tiana Steinwand, Lydia Rabesca, Jocelle Zoe, Michelle Zoe, Justine Sarasin, Edie Erasmus, Francis Sheft, Stephanie Rabesca, Debbie Simpson, Belinda Blackduck, Antoine Scott-Ennis, Shania Clarke, and Mercedes Rabesca. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday I spoke in the House about impacts on carbon tax. Carbon tax is going to increase the cost of living in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Speaker, in my riding by 17 percent on heating fuel, and every year after is four cents added on to that. Mr. Speaker, how are we going to tax people when we're already stretched to the limit to put food on the table and have nothing to give? Why are the people who are living in the highest Arctic communities, who are most impacted by climate change, having to pay climate change tax? On top of all this, now we have to pay more. Already we pay more, two cents a litre on heating fuel, which is about $2.24 a litre for heating fuel in the community already, and it's going to get stretched, impacted, more impact to the people, more impact to private homeowners. Families could barely afford to buy food, Mr. Speaker, in the highest food prices across the food index in the NWT. Over 50 percent Nunakput residents are worried about having enough money to pay for food to put on the table for their families, Mr. Speaker. Why we have to hunt to put food on table. It's not only our culture, it's a way of life. Hunting alleviates the pressure on putting expensive food on the table when we -- subsistence hunters. Price food bills, but it's so expensive the cost of gas. It's dangerous on changing climate. Our power bills in the communities continue to go up as well. We pay some of the highest rates in the power. In Sachs Harbour, it's $2.20 a kilowatt. And the housing the government provides our people through public housing are paper-thin walls, cracks in the doors, walls that bring snow right through our homes, floors that have to have blankets put down to save energy and to keep their feet warm in the unit.

Mr. Speaker, people in my riding have very little employment opportunities. Nunakput families earn an average $50,000 less than the NWT family. It's almost 20 percent of income assistance; 10 percent of families make less than $30,000. There's an offshore moratorium and on shore resource development dragging on. There's no way out to get ahead, Mr. Speaker. There's no way to pay the bills the residents already have now that they're going to be taxed more.

Mr. Speaker, I oppose Bill 60. I want to kill that bill. It's pretty simple. Can't tax people who have nothing to give. Over the next two weeks, I encourage everyone in the communities to rally against, talk to their MLAs, and encourage them to talk to their MLAs in regards to Bill 60 and why are they going to support to it if they're going to support it, and please don't support Bill 60. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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