This is page numbers 6417 - 6500 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 indigenous.

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Committee Report 62-19(2): Report on Bill 74, Forest Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6441

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. The motion is in order. To the motion?

Committee Report 62-19(2): Report on Bill 74, Forest Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6441

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Committee Report 62-19(2): Report on Bill 74, Forest Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6441

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed? Any abstentions? The motion is carried. Committee Report 62 is deemed read.

---Carried.

Committee Report 62-19(2): Report on Bill 74, Forest Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6441

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Introduction

Bill 74: Forest Act (Bill 74) received second reading on March 9, 2023, and it was referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment (Committee) for review. Committee received the approval of the House to extend its review of the Bill from 120 to 180 days on March 9 to allow for collaboration with Indigenous governments as explained below. This review period ended on August 16, 2023.

Bill 74 combines and modernizes the current Forest Management Act and Forest Protection Act. These Acts have not been substantially changed since the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) inherited the legislation from the Government of Canada in 1987. The new Act will modernize the roles and responsibilities of the GNWT, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECC), Renewable Resources Boards, Renewable Resource Councils, and forest management committees, and better align with land, resources and self-government agreements as well as land use planning.

Bill 74 is intended to improve how the GNWT manages the following key areas:

• Sustainable forest management and protection standards;

• Wildfire, and the protection of forests, communities and values at riskii;

• The roles and responsibilities of the GNWT, the Minister of ECC, Renewable Resources Boards, Renewable Resource Councils and forest management committees; and

• It also redefines and clarifies terminology.

At the end of the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources granted the Committee's request to withdraw Bill 44: Forest Act, due to the “tremendous strain” caused by the large number of Bills being referred, and the “limited resources” the Committee had available. Correspondence from the Premier regarding “Intergovernmental Council Lessons Learned” recognized that previous bills did not have time to work out consistent processes. Virtually all of Bill 44 has been carried over into Bill 74, but material has been reorganized and expanded.

Bill 74 is the first Bill to be developed collaboratively with Indigenous Government and co-management bodies in accordance with the Intergovernmental Council on Land and Resource Management: Legislative Development Protocol (Protocol). Committee commends the level of consideration that went into Bill 74 compared to its predecessor from the 18th Assembly. Committee recognizes and appreciates the improved integration of co-management, strengthened provisions on Indigenous rights, much better organization and flow, and that collaboration is now the foundation for sustainable forestry.

Bill 74 is also the first legislation to be reviewed under the “Process Convention for the Introduction, Consideration and Enactment of Bills Drafted Pursuant to the Intergovernmental Council Legislative Development Protocol” (Process Convention). While this is a first for the NWT, the territory is the only jurisdiction in Canada where the legislative branch of government reviews laws not just with the executive branch but also with Indigenous Governments. This is how we work together in the NWT within our unique system of integrated co-management, consensus government, and implementation of Indigenous rights.

Pursuant to the Legislative Development Protocol, the Department of Environment and Climate Change (the Department) established a Technical Working Group with representation from some of the Indigenous Governments to develop Bill 74. Some of the co-management bodies were also engaged during this process. Committee thanks the Intergovernmental Council Technical Working Group (Technical Working Group) for their collaborative work on Bill 74 pursuant to the Protocol. In highlighting co-management of forest resources, the use of Traditional Knowledge and participation in land management, Committee acknowledges that elements of Bill 74 correspond to United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Articles 11, 20, 24, 26, 29, 31, and 32. Following the Technical Working Group process, the Department carried out a public engagement using a discussion paper and allowed public comments from November 21- December 28, 2022.viii One submission was received and What We Heard report was released on March 7, 2023, by the Department. Committee acknowledges the hard work of the Department in managing the legislative development process and public engagement with limited time and resources.

Committee's Work on The Bill

Public Engagement

Committee notes public participation in forest management is the responsibility of the GNWT. We believe it is important for the Government to clarify and strengthen the public's role in forest management, and especially for those with established interests (rights holders and community governments for example). This approach is consistent with Cabinet's “Open Government Policy” and is based on submissions made during the 18th Assembly and public engagement with ECC earlier this year based on the “Summary of Policy Intentions,” as well as Committee's own review of Bill 74.

Committee sought public feedback on the Bill with public notices and targeted engagement letters in April.

Committee sent out two sets of stakeholder letters. The first went to Indigenous Governments and organizations pursuant to the Process Convention. The second set targeted community governments, possible commercial operations and other nongovernmental organizations. We received written submissions from:

• Aurora Wood Pellets,

• Land and Water Boards of the Mackenzie Valley (LWBs),

• the Wek'eezhiı Renewable Resources Board, xiv

• the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee,

• Northwest Territories Association of Communities (NWTAC),

• and a co-drafted letter from Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association NWT Chapter and Alternatives North.

It is important to note that wildfires throughout the territory affected Committee's planned public meetings and that these fires resulted in evacuations in Hay River and K'atl'odeeche First Nation on May 14. Committee rescheduled all travel and held the following in-person public hearings:

• May 25 - Yellowknife

• June 14 - Whati

• June 15 - Fort Simpson / Liidlii Kue

• June 16 - Enterprise

Collaboration With the GNWT and Technical Working Group

Development of the Twenty-Eight Motions Brought Forward by Committee

It is important to note that the Department did not share any substantive information about the co-drafting process for Bill 74 while it was under development despite our requests for sharing of some information. Committee met with the Minister and representatives of the Technical Working Group publicly on April 28, 2023, to ask questions and seek clarification. Committee also met in camera with Departmental staff and representatives of the Technical Working Group on July 31, 2023, to discuss Committee's original motions for amendments. This was a very useful exchange and allowed all sides to ask questions, clarify intentions, and discuss potential solutions.

Committee exchanged letters with the Government House Leader (GHL) about Bill 74 as follows (appended to this report to extent permitted by consensus government process conventions):

• March 23, 2023 SCEDE letter to the GHL to highlight differences between Bill 74 and Bill 44 from the 18th Assembly, to get information on the Technical Working Group, any background research that may have been generated, to find out which co-management bodies were engaged in the development of the Bill (GHL responded to some of the issues raised on April 20, 2023);

• May 10, 2023 SCEDE letter to the GHL to follow-up on the April 28, 2023 meeting with questions on 17 areas of potential concern within the Bill and on s.35 Aboriginal rights consultations (GHL responded with a June 8, 2023 summary table that is partially disclosed in Appendix A);

• July 12, 2023 SCEDE letter to GHL to follow-up on forestry policy and practice concerns raised during the public hearing including fire prevention activities, GNWT and federal support, road access during fire emergencies, access to fire services and insurance, reforestation practise and policies, coordination on fire bans, wood cutting practices and compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (GHL responded on August 11, 2023);

• July 14, 2023 SCEDE letter to the GHL with 37 proposed motions to amend Bill 74 in response to public submissions and Committee's own deliberation with rationale pursuant to the Process Convention (GHL responded on August 4, 2023 with an indication of support for 22 motions and rejection of others with reasons, summary table in Appendix A); and

• August 4, 2023 SCEDE letter to the GHL with notice of six further motions for amendments in response to concerns and potential solutions raised by the Department in the July 31 meeting (the motions were subsequently shared with the Minister in advance of the clause-by clause public hearing held on August 11, 2023).

In addition to the formal correspondence, there were numerous exchanges between Committee staff, the Law Clerk, departmental staff and legal counsel and members of the Technical Working Group. All of this was done under very tight timelines and Committee greatly appreciates this work that made improvements to the Bill possible in a collaborative fashion. Committee initially shared thirty-seven draft amendments with ECC and the Technical Working Group on July 14. These motions were based on public comments and Committee discussion, and we are of the view that the amendments brought forward strengthen Bill 74, especially with regard to public participation in forest management. At the clause-by-clause public hearing held on August 11, 2023, the Minister concurred with twenty-two of these motions to amend the Bill.xxiii Committee advanced six additional motions with which the Minister did not concur.

What Committee Heard and How Committee Responded

Public Information

Committee heard during its public meetings in Whatì, Fort Simpson, and Enterprise, and in written submissions from NGOs and the NWT Association of Communities (NWTAC), that the Minister should make important documents and decisions on forest management public. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association NWT Chapter (CPAWS) and Alternatives North (AN) (collectively called non-governmental organizations or NGOs) and NWTAC recommended creating a public registry in their submissions. Committee notes these concerns were raised during Bill 44 and in the public engagement by ECC earlier this year. Public registries were also created in virtually all the resource management legislation in the 18th Assembly including the Mineral Resources Act, Protected Areas Act and more. Regular MLAs have also worked diligently to ensure greater public disclosure in other Bills such as the recent changes to the Elevators and Lifts Act that now has a public registry.

Committee brought forward motions (2, 4, 14, 26.1 and 26.2) to amend s.14 of Bill 74 by adding requirements to publish important documents and decisions on a website maintained by ECC. Committee prepared an extensive list of documents and decisions arising from the Bill and is of the view that all of this information can and should be made public with some appropriate conditions around exemptions for ecological, culturally and business sensitive information. Following extensive discussions and exchanges, Committee, the Department and the Technical Working Group agreed on a much shorter list of what information Bill 74 will require to be made public with a commitment that further consideration would be given in the regulations to the other items recommended by Committee.

Committee attempted to further broaden the scope of documents to be made public to include forest harvest agreements (with appropriate protection of sensitive information consistent with other resource management legislation and omitted from the agreed upon motion), fire prevention and preparedness plans for industrial activities, and for permits and licences issued for non-personal use forestry activities (following the Department's concerns that publishing personal use permits and licences would create too much work). The Minister would not concur with these additions, so the motion failed at the clause-by-clause review.

Residents voiced concerns about accountability for the position of Forest Superintendent carrying out forest management, given the broad discretion in Bill 74 as to whether or not forest ecosystem management plans and the forest monitoring are developed and implemented. Rather than make these activities mandatory, Committee thought another way to introduce greater accountability and communications would be for an annual reporting requirement for the Forest Superintendent. Committee drafted motions to amending s.15.1 so that important activities would be summarized and made publicly available through an annual report. There was considerable discussion with ECC and the Technical Working Group who share Committee's view that information about forest management should be made public. The Minister would only concur with a basic list of items to be reported on with further details to be worked out in regulation.

Committee attempted to broaden the list of items to be reported on to include research, basic inspection and enforcement activities without compromising individual cases so as to maintain public confidence in departmental capacity and direction. The Minister would not concur with these additions at the clause-by-clause review.

Climate Change

Committee heard comments both in public hearings and in written submissions about the effects of the changing climate on the forest ecosystem. For instance, during a public hearing in Whatì and Fort Simpson, elders and Traditional Knowledge keepers spoke about how forest fires from previous years impacted local wildlife and caribou migration.

Residents in Fort Simpson commented on the need to manage the species of trees in NWT forests, noting more poplar and birch trees could possibly help prevent out of control forest fires.

NWTAC noted that practices like wildfire breaks and fire smarting approaches “become even more critical as the Wildfire risk increases due to climate change.” (This was also noted by CPAWS and AN on page 7 of their submission). Written submissions from CPAWS and AN echoed these concerns about the changing climate in the NWT. Committee understands that these concerns were raised during the Bill 44 review process during the 18th Assembly, and as part of public engagement carried out by ECC in the 19th Assembly.

Committee considered carefully where climate change considerations would best fit within Bill 74 and decided this issue should be part of forest ecosystem management plans and monitoring of the state of the forest ecosystem. Committee therefore recommended amending s.24 and 26 of Bill 74 (Motions 6 and 12). The Minister concurred with these motions at the clause-by-clause.

Public Engagement

Based on what we heard from residents in communities and the NGO and NWTAC written submissions, Committee is of the view that public engagement is a key theme for both forest management as envisioned in Bill 74 and future regulations. This is a public government responsibility and consistent with Cabinet's approved Open Government Policy. Committee notes that public engagement requirements were also added to other resource management bills brought forward in the last Assembly. Committee supported amendments (Motions 7 and 8) to ensure more public engagement during the development of forest ecosystem management plans in s.24(2) and for forest harvesting agreements where no forest ecosystem management plan exists. Committee is of the view that public engagement on forest ecosystem management plans is not a substitute for public engagement that should be required for all forest harvesting agreements. Best practices and Cabinet's Open Government Policy should ensure that public engagement takes place any time important resource management decisions are made, including exclusive rights to harvest forests.

The lack of consideration of community governments in Bill 74 was noted by Committee in its initial review. This issue was initially raised during the review process for Bill 44 during the 18th Assembly, and in the public engagement conducted by ECC earlier this year. NWTAC also raised this concern in its written submission to Committee. For instance, under Bill 74, the review of wildfire prevention and preparedness plans required for some owners or operators of industrial activities is one area that would benefit from community government input. If a fire starts for whatever reason in or near a community, their resources are often called on for assistance. Committee therefore believes it is important that community governments be engaged during the development and/or review of these plans.

Committee drafted motions to ensure this collaboration would take place on wildfire prevention and preparedness plans. The Technical Working Group responded with changes that were less definitive and said the details could be worked out in regulations. Committee noted that this counterproposal would place the onus on the owner or operator of the industrial activity to circulate proposed plans to community governments when this should really be the responsibility of the Forest Superintendent who ultimately approves the plans. Committee also noted that there was no process identified for amending plans part way through a season and no deadlines for the submission and review of plans. Committee therefore proposed Motions 27.01 and 27.2 to specify regulation-making authority to cover these two areas, but the Minister would not concur at the clause-by-clause review.

Consistency of Forest Management

Decisions Committee pointed to the need for consistency between forest ecosystem management plans (FEMPs), forest harvesting agreements, and permits and licences that authorize specific activities. This is consistent with the purpose of Bill 74 which establishes FEMPs as the foundation for sustainable forest management. Once plans are developed and agreed to, they should be followed. Committee brought forward Motions 10 and 16 which the Minister concurred with at the clause-by-clause.

Another area of major concern Committee heard was the need to provide clarity and certainty around land use planning in relation to forest management. This issue was raised during the review of Bill 44 during the 18th Assembly, and earlier in the 19th Assembly during the ECC public engagement, as well as in written submissions from NWTAC and the NGOs.

Additionally, Committee received a submission from the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee (DLUPC), noting that the Bill “does not speak to authority of approved and legally binding land use plans to restrict the Minister or Forest Superintendent to authorize the use of forest resources.” NWTAC noted that forest management decisions should be consistent with “various types of community bylaws, including but not limited to, General Plans and Zoning By-laws, fire prevention by-laws, tree harvesting by-laws, soil protection by-laws, open air burning by-laws” among others. This issue was also raised by the mayors and councillors during public hearings in Fort Simpson and Enterprise.

Committee is of the view that Bill 74 needed to be consistent with land use planning in the NWT and any applicable bylaws, and thus recommended adding a subsection to s. 5 outlining this in our original Motion 1. Committee's original motion provided for a board definition for land use plans enacted under any federal or territorial legislation. This included community plans and zoning bylaws under the Community Planning and Development Act. However, ECC and the Technical Working Group preferred a more general approach for consistency of forest management decisions with legally binding land use plans as shown in Motion 16. The Minister concurred with this motion at the clause-by-clause.

Committee did, however, move a further motion 16.1, adding the need for consistency with zoning bylaws with which the Minister did not concur. Committee is disappointed that there will now be considerable uncertainty as to the status of zoning bylaws under Bill 74 and whether they could or should constrain the issuance of permits or licences for forestry activities within municipal boundaries. Committee is of the view that if land use plans under federal legislation are accorded status, so should municipal plans and zoning bylaws under territorial legislation. Committee also notes that there appears to be some misunderstanding on the part of GNWT as to purpose and authority of zoning bylaws which can regulate land uses (including forestry activities). According to the Community Planning and Development Act, s.18(1) “A zoning bylaw may include provisions respecting one or more of the following matters, either generally or with respect to any zone or part of a zone: [...] (o) the cutting of trees; (p) the preservation of habitat;” this is important to note.

Lastly, the NGOs in their written submission recommended including the Statement of Environmental Values (SEVs) be included in the Bill in the preamble. Unfortunately, after second reading of a Bill it is difficult to change its purpose or preamble. Committee was of the view that a more appropriate place in Bill 74 would be s.12(2) which sets out the way in which the Minister will carry out their authority. Committee is of the view incorporation of the SEVs would be a helpful addition in beginning to implement the Environmental Rights Act. This amendment would also ensure consideration of some helpful environmental principles such as polluter pays and even UNDRIP which are part of the SEVs. However, the Technical Working Group rejected this amendment during collaboration and Committee decided not to pursue it any further.

Application of the Bill and Surface Interest Holders

Committee noted in its initial review of Bill 74 that this legislation would be a law of general application, and that there is no clarity as to how it would apply to or be implemented on privately owned lands and land where there may be surface interests including leases. This issue is further complicated as some surface leases in the NWT reserve to the Crown the right to use of forests. This is similar to the Crown reserving subsurface or mineral rights. Committee notes that this issue was also raised by the NGOs during the ECC public engagement earlier this year, and the Department's response was that the issue would be dealt with in regulation. This lack of clarity may not provide much comfort or reassurance to those with surface interests and reiterates the importance of more public engagement during the regulation making process.

Committee brought forward a series of motions requiring the Department to engage what we called in Committee discussions, and what CPAWS and AN referred to in their written submission as, “surface rights holders.” Committee recognizes that whatever contractual rights surface lease holders may have are not equivalent to or of the same nature as Indigenous rights. Committee is also aware of the legislative regime in place for surface rights holders with regard to mineral rights administration under the territorial Surface Rights Board Act.

Committee developed a series of motions to ensure that the views of surface interest holders would be adequately considered during the forest management process and decisions. Motions 11 and 18 proposed language after s.25(6) to engage surface rights holders in discussions about forest harvesting agreements and other issues that could affect them. Motions 16.1 and 17 suggested a “Notice of Application” and “Notice of issuance” regarding permits and licenses that might affect surface rights holders. Concerning s.62(1) and s.66, Committee brought forward further amendments to clarify surface rights holders' right to appeal. However, during discussions with ECC and the Technical Working Group, Committee received both written and verbal assurances that current and future practices would not allow for licences or permits on privately owned or leased land unless initiated by or for the owner or with their consent. The Technical Working Group also said that the issue of surface interest holders and how Bill 74 would apply to them is a complicated matter requiring further study and consideration and could not be completed within the available timelines.

Committee agreed to forgo pursuing these motions having received assurances that this issue would be dealt with in a fair and thoughtful manner in the regulations.

Appeal Processes

Committee's initial review of Bill 74 revealed some potential problems with appeal processes as drafted. For example, it was unclear whether it was actually the intention to include potential appeals of inspection and enforcement actions when such matters may require some urgency and a better recourse may be the courts. It was also unclear why and when an adjudicator may be chosen and whether that person could be an ECC employee. The NGO submission received by Committee also recommended a number of changes to the appeal processes.

Motions 21, 22, and 23 were driven by uncertainty in the appeal mechanisms in Bill 74 as drafted. The proposed amendments Committee brought forward more clearly define the role of the Forest Superintendent and the Minister, to encourage fairness, transparency, and consistency in decision-making. The GHL also acknowledged that these sections needed improvement. After discussions with ECC and the Technical Working Group, Committee agreed to pursue Motions 21 and 31 at the clause-by-clause review, which the Minister concurred with. Motion 23 was deemed unnecessary and dropped.

Proof of Identification for Indigenous Citizens

Committee heard concerns during the public hearings from Indigenous residents questioning if and whether they would have to obtain permits or licences for traditional activities. Indigenous Governments stated very clearly during the review of Bill 44 in the 18th Assembly that such permits and licences were inconsistent with Indigenous rights. Bill 74 contains a clear exemption for Indigenous citizens from having to get permits or licences, but Committee noted that the wording of s.50(4) as drafted would require the immediate production of identification of Indigenous citizens claiming a right to harvest. Committee remains of the view that a reasonable period of time to produce documentation should be an option as not everyone carries identification when in the bush. A motion was prepared by Committee and shared with the Technical Working Group. They also identified the need to recognize regional differences and methods of checking Indigenous rights. Committee along with the Technical Working Group and representatives from Indigenous Governments worked together to find solutions that were moved as Motion 19 to resolve these issues. The Minister concurred with these changes at the clause-by-clause review.

Public Engagement on Regulations

The issue of public engagement in the development of regulations related to new resource management was a consistent theme in the 18th Assembly. Many of the resource management Bills contain broad frameworks and processes with many of the details left to regulations and the discretion of Cabinet and/or Ministers. Committee received submissions from NGOs and the NWTAC that raised the issue of inadequate public engagement on Bill 74. These organizations also specifically requested opportunities for public engagement on the development of any regulations to implement Bill 74.

Committee noted that the petroleum resources Bills from the 18th Assembly contain public engagement requirement for regulations, even if this was a hold-over from the federal pre-devolution legislation. Committee is also aware that public engagement provisions were built into the Child Day Care Act (s.47(2)) in the 19th Assembly and received Ministerial concurrence. In discussions with Committee, ECC staff noted that there is already a government-wide approach to public engagement on regulations called the Cabinet Operational Guidelines (found as Appendix 4.11 of the Executive Council Submissions Handbook). Committee noted that under this policy, publication and comment periods for regulations are at the total discretion of each Minister.

Committee is of the view that Bill 74 is not a regular or ordinary Bill given that it was codrafted pursuant to the Legislative Development Protocol. The Bill also received special treatment during its review by Committee pursuant to the new Process Convention. There is also strong public interest in the content and substance of the Bill, particularly sustainable forestry, and fire management. A government-wide approach is not appropriate or desirable for the development of the regulations and public engagement should not just be encouraged, it should be required. Committee proposed Motion 32 at the clause-by-clause review, but the Minister did not concur.

Other Matters

Committee received submissions for a number of other changes to the Bill and identified some minor technical corrections that should be made. These are summarized below:

• An amendment to remove some superfluous wording in s.7 on the purpose of the Bill, to ensure a focus on collaborative management rather working relationships (recommended by the NGOs, developed as Motion 4.1 which received Ministerial concurrence);

• A new requirement for written reasons where the Minister determines it is necessary to take action on forestry matters where there is no consensus with Indigenous Governments (proposed by the Wek'eezhii Land and Water Board, developed as Motion 5 which received Ministerial concurrence);

• A correction to the terminology used in s. 25(2) (Motion 9 proposed by Committee which received Ministerial concurrence);

• A correction to the terminology used in s.29(3) (Motion 10 proposed by Committee and received Ministerial concurrence);

• Consistent approach to public notice for a number of actions by the Forest Superintendent (recommended by the NGOs, developed as Motion 14 which received Ministerial concurrence)

Matters Raised Outside the Scope of The Bill

Committee heard about many issues during the public hearings regarding fire prevention and fire suppression policies and practices. This is completely understandable given the devastating summer fire season NWT residents are experiencing in 2023 and the widespread evacuations across the territory that due to wildfires. Committee also recognizes the outstanding dedication of our fire fighters and those assisting us and all the GNWT staff and others supporting those efforts. The fires have had a profound impact on us all and have resulted in the loss of life, homes, and businesses.

Given the severity of the 2023 fire season and the changing ecology of fires largely driven by climate change, it would be wise to conduct a lessons learned exercise following the end of the current season. This review must include the fire fighters and other support staff. Such was the case in 2014 following another severe season when a comprehensive internal review was undertaken. Committee is of the view that an independent review of our fire prevention and fire suppression policy framework and practices should take place and makes the following recommendation.

Recommendation 1: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that the GNWT undertake an independent, third-party comprehensive review of GNWT fire prevention and suppression with public engagement. This review should consider the policy framework, coordination with other governments and agencies, funding for these activities, as well as Departmental practices concerning firefighter safety. The findings of the review be made publicly available on a GNWT website.

Committee heard a variety of concerns and issues related to specific fire prevention and fire-fighting operational practices. Traditional Knowledge keepers who attended the public meeting in Fort Simpson spoke about the importance of forest renewal. Attendees at the hearings in Fort Simpson and Enterprise also asked for more information about forest management and replanting practices. Another area of concern identified was the need to provide clarity and certainty with respect to fire suppression crews in remote communities. In Whatì, Committee heard from residents about forest fire prevention and better forest management. Residents discussed the need for the Department to respond to fires faster in the Tłicho region. Residents noted that money and the creation of local fire crews will lead to more employment and a safer community. Sonny Zoe (councillor, and a member of the Tłicho Government) spoke to Committee about how the people of Whatì depend on the forest and referenced recent fire-related evacuations in the NWT, noting “each community should have a [local] forest fire suppression team.”

Many of these concerns raised to Committee are well beyond the scope of Bill 74 and Committee did not have sufficient time or resources to conduct a thorough review of these matters. As part of the independent review as recommended above, the issue of fire-fighting capacity in each community, and implementation of NWT-wide teams and establishment of and access to national team(s) should be considered.

Committee also learned of graphic interactive fire databases that are very detailed and available internally to the Department as the result of a visit to the Fort Simpson office. Committee thanks Jamie Chambers, ECC Dehcho Regional Superintendent for hosting our visit and showing us firsthand some of the assets and tools available. Committee appreciates that the Department has also has a lot of information on its website with regard to fire prevention and fire suppression:

• All communities below treeline have a publicly available Wildfire Prevention Plan;

• Recently added fire-smarting information for individual home and cabin owners;

• And other helpful information for protecting communities and national review processes for fire prevention and suppression

However, Committee heard that communities and their residents do not know about this sort of information and may not be using it. Committee fully recognizes that Departmental staff are currently focusing on our severe fire situation but there is a need for improved access to information on fire prevention and suppression and better communications.

Recommendation 2: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that the Department review what information it can and should provide regarding its internal interactive fire databases, its communication efforts and how information is presented and organized on its website to improve access to and knowledge of fire prevention and suppression activities and practices.

Whati residents are still seeing the effects of the 2014 fire that threatened the community. They noted the current firebreak is overgrown and too close to the community. A fire at the current line would put the dump and other infrastructure at risk. Residents noted it should be bigger and further away, and that they need more money for fire prevention and fire smarting to protect community values, especially the forest on the west side of the lake which did not burn in 2014. This is of high importance to the forest ecosystem because it provides habitation for local wildlife and migrating caribou. Residents also expressed uncertainty about the locations of historic fires in the region.

Recommendation 3: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that there be an annual meeting between relevant GNWT departmental staff and each community to review values at risk, fire prevention and suppression preparedness, coordination of efforts and related matters.

Observations on the Process and Next Steps

The co-drafting process appeared to work well with Indigenous Governments and comanagement bodies that participated. Committee recognizes the immense amount of time and effort that went into the development of Bill 74 and the improvements that were made compared to Bill 44 from the 18th Assembly, particularly in integrating comanagement and a collaborative approach to decision-making. However, a number of important Indigenous Governments did not participate. For example, the Dehcho First Nations and Akaitcho Territory government do not appear to have been directly involved. Committee understands that there are also capacity issues for Indigenous Governments and co-management bodies. A number of co-management bodies do not appear to have been engaged (the land use planning boards and Deh Cho Land Use Planning Committee).

Despite requests from Committee for an opportunity to discuss what might be shared with Committee during the co-drafting process, the Department did not share any information with us beyond what was publicly available: no policy options, policy intentions or rationale for approaches were shared.

If information on policy options and policy intentions could be shared earlier than the receipt of a Bill, this would reduce the amount of time spent on understanding how issues are dealt with during the review of a Bill. There were several significant areas of concern for Committee and the public: coordination with land use planning, annual reporting, a public registry, surface interest holders, collaboration with municipal governments and others. All involved could have benefited from earlier communication, information exchanges, and more time.

Recommendation 4: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that representatives from Technical Working Groups should meet with Standing Committee earlier in the process, closer to the beginning of the co-drafting process, to discuss opportunities to share information on policy options and policy intentions for resource management legislation.

The co-drafting process took a lot of time and energy but pushed Bill 74 to the end of the term of the 19th Assembly. The timelines set out in the Process Convention are very tight. Further progress may have been on possible on some issues had there been more time allowed under the Process Convention for this kind of collaborative review.

Recommendation 5: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that if the overall legislative timeframe allows, there should be the ability to extend Standing Committee reviews of resource management Bills to allow for completion of the collaborative review process.

Recommendation 6: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that exchanges between Standing Committees, the Departments and Technical Working Groups on the review of resource management Bills should be made public where possible and documented in Committee reports on resource management Bills.

On the issue of resourcing, Committee notes that GNWT received a permanent and indexed offset as part of the Territorial Formula Funding arrangement of $24 million in 1987 during the devolution of forestry responsibilities from the federal government. In 2023, the value of this offset is roughly $55 million according to the Department. The Department usually spends about $35 million annually on forestry, including wildfire suppression. While there are some years where significant additional resources are required for fires such as this 2023 season, and while some of this money may be recoverable from the federal government as part of emergency response, not all the funds secured through forestry devolution appear to be spent on forest management.

Committee notes that concerns were raised in the 18th and 19th Assemblies about the resourcing of Departments for co-drafting and public engagement for resource management legislation. The Department informed Committee that the Forest Act review and engagement would be conducted using internal resources. Committee notes that the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) has been very successful in acquiring additional resources for staffing and for the development of regulations to implement the Mineral Resources Act. ITI has also secured an additional $3.7 million for the Mineral Administration and Registry System (MAARS) which will include a public registry component. Resourcing of the Department for the co-drafting process appears to have limited public engagement which was abbreviated and left to the end of the process.

Several important issues were raised during the review of Bill 44 in the 18th Assembly and persisted during the review Bill 74 in the 19th Assembly. For example, a public registry - or public access to important documents and decisions - and public reporting on key activities have been raised numerous times but were not dealt with in Bill 74 as drafted. Committee is of the view that the public engagement undertaken as part of Bill 74 was not adequate. The public engagement can and should be conducted concurrently with the co-drafting process.

Recommendation 7: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that Departments undertaking the co-drafting of resource management legislation and regulations should secure additional resources for this process and conduct more robust public engagement.

Recommendation 8: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that Departments undertaking the co-drafting of resource management legislation and regulations should share more information with the public about policy options and policy intentions and conduct public engagement earlier in the process (i.e., not wait until the end of the co-drafting process). Public engagement can and should run concurrently with the co-drafting process.

The Department will take on significant new forest management responsibilities as a result of Bill 74, especially in the areas of creating and implementing forest ecosystem management plans, collaboration with Indigenous governments and co-management bodies, making more information public and annual reporting, and much more. Committee notes that the last publicly available map showing forest vegetation management inventory is dates 2015. There does not appear to be much research or forest inventory work publicly available. The 2019 Forest Health Report and 2020 Forest Health Report were released in March 2022. The status of overall forest management research and inventory work is not clear.

Additional resources are clearly needed to ensure forest inventory and planning work that is required to identify areas for sustainable forest harvesting. With these areas and opportunities identified, new economic diversification can and should take place, with government supports where necessary. New forestry operations can create jobs in all of our communities by replacing much of the timber and forest products we currently import. Bill 74 sets the stage for sustainable forestry and new business opportunities. The Department needs to ensure it has the resources and business cases in hand to make this happen.

Recommendation 9: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that the Department of Environment and Climate Change prepare a detailed budget and work plan for continued co-development of regulations necessary for a new Forest Act, allowing for more public engagement on those regulations, and the implementation of its new responsibilities under a new Forest Act.

Conclusion

Committee sincerely thanks all those who participated in the development and review of Bill 74 Forest Act. The new Process Convention has worked and should continue into the next Assembly. This concludes Standing Committee's review of Bill 74: Forest Act.

Typically, Committee includes a recommendation in each report requesting a response from government within 120 days. The recommendation is then moved as a motion in the House and Cabinet is required to respond. However, since the 19th Legislative Assembly will dissolve in less than 120 days, Committee requests that the government provide a public response to this report at the earliest opportunity.

Committee Report 62-19(2): Report on Bill 74, Forest Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 6446

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Kam Lake.

Committee Report 61-19(2): Report on Bill 81, An Act to Amend the Education Act, No. 2
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

September 27th, 2023

Page 6446

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, your Standing Committee on Social Development is pleased to provide its Report on the Review of Bill 81, An Act to Amend the Education Act, No. 2, and commends it to the House.

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Member for Great Slave, that the entirety of this report be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. 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.

---Carried.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Introduction

Bill 81: An Act to Amend the Education Act, No. 2 (Bill 81) received second reading on March 30, 2023 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Development (Committee) for review. Bill 81 makes changes to the Education Act (Act). The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) took what they referred to as a phased approach to legislative changes. Phase 1 focuses on operational and administrative amendments designed to improve the existing system within the life of the 19th Assembly. According to ECE, Phase 2 will focus on education system structure and governance amendments in the 20th or a later Assembly.

Phase 1 amendments recognize the role of Indigenous governments in education; seek to clarify roles and responsibilities between the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment (Minister) and education bodies; protect parental consent in student grade placement and education program modification decisions; mandate for student transportation; and supporting information sharing among education bodies. These amendments respond to the findings and recommendations from the 2020 February Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly.

Members of the Committee, Indigenous Governments, Dene Nation, and many residents of the Northwest Territories (NWT) were disappointed with a phased approach, sharing that it did not allow for a more thorough engagement process with holistic and meaningful changes to address the uneven and poor state of education in the territory. In response, Committee sought and gained a verbal commitment from the Minister that Phase 2 will include a robust engagement process resulting in substantive amendments to the Act aimed at improving educational outcomes of NWT students.

Committee Considered Public Input

Committee sought public feedback on Bill 81 with a public notice, targeted engagement letters, and in-person engagement. Committee had face-to-face meetings with:

• Beaufort Delta Divisional Education Council

• Behdzi Ahda' First Nation

• Community members of Delįne

• Community members of Inuvik

• Community members of Norman Wells

• Deline Got'ine Government

• Norman Wells Land Corporation

• Sahtu Divisional Education Council

• Yellowknife Education District No. 1

Committee received written submissions from:

• Behdzi Ahda' First Nation

• Commission Scolaire Francophone des Territoires du Nord-Quest

• Deline Got'ine Government

• Dene Nation

• Mary Ann Villeneuve

• Ndilo District Education Authority

• Yellowknife Education District No. 1

All written submissions are included in an Appendix to this report.

Public Review

Committee held a public review of Bill 81 on May 31, 2023. At that meeting, Committee heard remarks from the Minister, and asked questions to the Minister and ECE officials regarding concerns with the phased legislative approach; engagement with Indigenous governments; mandate for student transportation; parental consent in student grade placement and education program modification; “social passing”; roles and responsibilities of education bodies; and students' readiness to attend university, especially students in the small communities.

Committee also heard from David Wasylciw, Chairperson for Yellowknife Education District No.1, at the public review. Mr. Wasylciw highlighted concerns with the mandate for student transportation, including the budgetary impact on education bodies.

Summary of Public Concerns

Committee received an abundance of comments and concerns from Indigenous Governments, Dene Nation, residents of the NWT and education bodies across the NWT on the proposed legislative amendments to Bill 81, and more broadly on education in the NWT. In summary, these included, but are not limited to:

- Disagreement with a phased legislative approach. Amendments are inadequate and do not effectively address changes to the uneven and poor state of education in the NWT;

- Flawed stakeholder engagement process;

- Need for trauma-informed approaches in legislative drafting and engagement;

- Roles and responsibilities of education bodies are unclear and lack accountability, including at the Ministerial level;

- Lack of support for mandatory student transportation;

- Indigenous governments' want a more meaningful role in education;

- Extent of parental engagement sought for consent of grade placement and education program modification currently does not go far enough;

- Need to prevent the misuse of social passing;

- Absenteeism;

- Lack of supports for students with disabilities;

- Barriers for contracting teachers in small communities;

- Desire for local teachers and administrators;

- Curriculum is not rigorous;

- Curriculum needs to reflect local Indigenous knowledge and be made available/translated in Indigenous languages; and

- Overall, parents are highly concerned that students are not being taught at their grade level and do not graduate ready to attend post-secondary institutions.

In response to the quantity and substantive nature of comments and concerns received, Committee advanced five motions with amendments to Bill 81. Committee also makes recommendations that are considered out of scope for the current legislation and is more appropriate for consideration in Phase 2.

Committee Amended Five Clauses

Education Program Modification

Committee is concerned the extent of parental engagement sought for grade placement and education program modification does not go far enough. In many cases, students have been placed or “socially passed”, rather than promoted, into higher grade levels without parental support. Parents have been surprised and angry to learn of these changes without their active consent. Clause 12.1 of Bill 81 are amended to expand the type of decisions a parent can make, including disagreement and complaint to the District Education Authority, as it relates to a student's education program modification.

Student Transportation

Stakeholders expressed serious disagreement with a provision to make the delivery of student transportation mandatory given the capacities of education bodies; communities; schools; labour shortages; inflation and rising costs; lack of storage infrastructure; lack of access to mechanics, automotive, and other parts; and a general lack of funding to provide transportation. Clause 26, Clause 27, and Clause 33 of Bill 81 is amended by removing the provision to make the delivery of student transportation mandatory.

Oversight Committee

Stakeholders supported the Minister establishing an ad hoc oversight committee to identify opportunities to improve the delivery of the education system and support implementation of those improvements. Behdzi Ahda' First Nation added that Indigenous governments should be informed when an oversight committee is active. Clause 30 of Bill 81 is amended to provide notice to any Indigenous government having Aboriginal or treaty rights in the area over which the oversight committee's power and duties extended; and to provide a terms of reference for the participation of an Indigenous government in the work of the oversight committee.

Committee's Recommendations for Phase 2

Approximately 8,600 students across the territory have vastly different experiences in the NWT's 49 schools. Stakeholders shared that educational experiences across the NWT are uneven. Yellowknife and regional centres are considered resource-rich having, with greater access to experienced teachers and administration, sports and extracurricular activities, and sound schools with supporting infrastructure. In contrast, schools in the small communities are inadequately funded, with many schools in dire need of repairs, renovations or replacements. As a result, Indigenous governments and members in the small communities shared that their children and youth are routinely marginalized in the NWT's educational system, which results in lower educational outcomes and a lack of readiness for post-secondary institutions. For example, in the 2020-2021 school year, 74% of high school students in Yellowknife graduated grade twelve, compared to just 45% in the small communities. Stakeholders discussed the negative impact this had on students, their families, and communities. In some cases, leading to poor mental health, substance abuse and addiction, and premature death. Committee is highly concerned that the NWT education system is not supported to set students up for educational achievement and lifelong success after high school.

Engagement Process

Stakeholders shared that the engagement process facilitated by ECE was flawed citing that the language in Bill 81, and the plain language and supplementary materials were difficult to understand and amendments were unclear. Not enough time was provided to allow for meaningful feedback. Further, Indigenous governments want meaningful engagement; face-to-face meetings; and Ministerial visits to the communities to meet youth, students, community members, elders, and to see schools firsthand. It was emphasized that youth need to be engaged as a special group on the Act.

Committee therefore recommends:

Recommendation 1: The Department of Education, Culture and Employment create a stakeholder plan that prioritizes meaningful engagement and face-to-face meetings with Indigenous governments, youth, students, community members, and elders.

Administrative Focus

In addition to dissatisfaction with the engagement process, stakeholders overwhelmingly shared that a phased approach to legislative amendments was wrong. Proposed administrative amendments do not effectively address the changes needed in the Act to improve educational outcomes for NWT students. Phase 1 does not include amendments that address absenteeism; educational outcomes for students; increased readiness for university; supports for students with disabilities; the curriculum; on the land programming; trades programming; wrap-around supports for students; trauma-informed approaches; need for local and Indigenous teachers; and new infrastructure and schools.

Committee therefore recommends:

Recommendation 2: The Department of Education, Culture and Employment draft aspirational legislation for its next iteration of the Education Act that takes a holistic, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive approach to education that is accountable to all NWT communities, its residents, and most of all its youth.

Absenteeism

Community members, and in particular parents, identified the issue of chronic absenteeism impacting students' educational outcomes in the NWT. Community members shared various reasons why students may not attend school, including lack of parental or other caregiver support, unstable home environments, and/or having responsibilities in their families that take priority over school. ECE has identified causes of absenteeism in numerous reports and initiatives over the decades. Committee wants to build on the strengths of NWT students and communities and calls on coordinated strategies between communities, education bodies, and schools.

Committee therefore recommends:

Recommendation 3: The Department of Education, Culture and Employment work with education bodies and schools to promote school attendance by building on community strengths and parental involvement.

Wrap Around Services

Stakeholders shared that schools are natural hubs where wrap-around services are needed and can be effectively delivered. Schools that deliver a coordinated suite of health and social services, after-school programs, and engagement with families and communities are better positioned to meet the holistic needs of students and families in real-time. This is a model for supporting equity in education.

Committee therefore recommends:

Recommendation 4: The Department of Education, Culture and Employment build a northern-specific model of coordinated wrap-around services for NWT schools.

Supports for Students

Stakeholders from all communities expressed a serious need for supports for students. Committee hears about the need for supports for students with physical and invisible disabilities. Educators and staff lack training and tools necessary to support students with disabilities access meaningful education. In addition, people raised concerns about the lack of adequate data collection on students with disabilities to inform evidence-based decision-making to support students with disabilities best.

In addition to student supports and staff training to provide meaningful and accessible education for students with diagnosed disabilities, people also expressed frustration around inclusive schooling. The leading frustration that Committee heard about was “social passing,” the process of moving students to a higher grade to keep them with their peers regardless of whether they met grade level requirements. This is considered a best practice in education. However, its success relies on student access to additional support to work toward grade-level requirements. Time and time again, Committee heard from communities that these educational supports are not available in their schools and they need the help of ECE to make education accessible with a robust suite of classroom supports that help all NWT students achieve greater educational outcomes that prepare them for life after high school.

Committee therefore recommends:

Recommendation 5: The Department of Education, Culture and Employment:

A. Increase funding and expand professional development opportunities for staff to best support students with disabilities;

B. Expand the suite of programs and services available to students with disabilities in their home communities; and

C. Improve data collection as it relates to students with disabilities.

Recommendation 6: The Department of Education, Culture and Employment review the Territorial Based Support Team function to ensure teachers and students receive the support they need in a way that meets the community's needs and establish outcome-focused measures to determine if the team is achieving its goals.

Typically, Committee includes a recommendation in each report requesting a response from government within 120 days. The recommendation is then moved as a motion in the House and Cabinet is required to respond. However, since the 19th Legislative Assembly will dissolve in less than 120 days, Committee has decided to leave out this recommendation and request that the government provide a public response to this report, even of a preliminary nature, before the beginning of the 20th Assembly.

Conclusion

On August 15, 2023, Committee held a clause-by-clause review4. Committee passed the motions to report Bill 81 as amended to the Legislative Assembly and ready for consideration in Committee of the Whole. This concludes the Standing Committee on Social Development's review of Bill 81.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Deh Cho.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Member for Frame Lake, that Committee report 62-19(2), Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on the Review of Bill 74: Forest Act, be received by the Assembly and referred to Committee of the Whole. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. The motion is in order. To the motion? Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed? Any abstentions? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Member for Great Slave, that Committee report 61-19(2), Standing Committee on Social Development Report on the Review of Bill 81: An Act to Amend the Education Act, No. 2, be received by the Assembly and referred to Committee of the Whole. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. 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. Committee report is deemed read.

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

I have nothing else.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Deh Cho.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mr. Speaker, your Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment is pleased to provide its Report on Review of Bill 78: Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery Act.

And, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Member for Frame Lake, that Committee report 63-19(2), Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on the Review of Bill 78: Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery Act, be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. 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. Committee report 78 is deemed read.

---Carried.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Introduction

Bill 78: Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery Acti (Bill 78) received second reading on March 29, 2023, and was referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment (Committee) for review. Bill 78 repeals and replaces the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act (Act), which has only had minor amendments since coming into force in 2003.

Bill 78 is intended to improve how the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) manages waste reduction and resource recovery in the NWT by broadening the regulatory framework in accordance with GNWT's June 2019 Waste Resource Management Strategy and Implementation Plan, which set out the goals of preventing waste at the source, diverting waste from disposal, and improving “waste disposal facilities and practices.”

The new Act changes the following:

• Enables any new regulations required to implement amendments.

• Enables Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs, which could shift responsibility for managing the disposal phase of consumer products and packaging from communities and taxpayers to producers.

• Clarifies Environment Fund contributions, disbursements, and administration.

• Expands the Minister's authority to appoint officers, to delegate responsibilities, to enter into agreements, and to create landfill disposal bans.

• Extends how long prosecution can happen after an alleged offense.

• Updates and modernizes enforcement and inspection provisions.

• Enables more responsive surcharges and fees through Ministerial Regulations.

• Redefines and clarifies terminology.

Committee Considered Public Input

Committee sought public feedback on Bill 78 with a public notice and targeted engagement letters. On June 1, 2023, Committee held a public hearing in Yellowknife to review Bill 78. At that meeting, Committee heard remarks from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and his staff.

One area of concern identified was the need to provide clarity and certainty with respect to the Minister's authority to enter into waste management agreements, and where information about these agreements would be publicly available. The Minister and his staff committed to look at these practices and to make information available on a website maintained by the department.

Committee initially expressed concerns about how EPR programs and other waste reduction initiatives might impact small communities in the NWT and questioned whether subsidies would cover the cost for implementation. The department says it consulted Indigenous Governments during the engagement process. Committee previously sent stakeholder letters to small communities and Indigenous Governments. Committee was pleased to hear that small communities are represented on the Waste Reduction and Recovery Advisory Committee and that new initiatives would be a net benefit to small communities. The department is already actively working to reduce the build-up of materials in landfills that may later be prohibited by new regulations. The Minister commented that the new Act will have no impact on Indigenous Land Rights or self government agreement. Staff also noted that Indigenous Governments and small communities would be consulted during the development of regulations under the new Act.

Committee also raised concerns about bottle recycling, particularly establishing a new, satellite recycling facility in downtown Yellowknife. Committee asked questions about staffing the new depot, having cash on site for patrons, its location, and the feasibility of adding more recycling and waste disposal initiatives (i.e., removing tires from the waste cycle through EPR programs). Committee welcomed more of these initiatives.

Recommendation 1: Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment recommends that the GNWT and the Department of Environment and Climate Change continue their efforts toward opening a second recycling facility in Yellowknife to improve access for residents and increase waste recovery. The Department should continue to explore new technology and methods towards waste reduction, diversion and recycling while creating local employment. Committee, therefore, further recommends that this second recycling facility be a staffed site with cash available to pay patrons.

Typically, Committee includes a recommendation in each report requesting a response from government within 120 days. The recommendation is then moved as a motion in the House and Cabinet is required to respond. However, since the 19th Legislative Assembly will dissolve in less than 120 days, Committee requests that the government provide a public response to this report at the earliest opportunity. Committee also asked questions about whether the GNWT was investigating the disposal of industrial waste at accepted waste sites and how new initiatives might benefit the Remediation Economy.

Committee discussed seeking public input and the need for engagement before the creation of regulations under the new Act. For instance, Committee expressed an interest in more reporting and the need for transparency regarding the Environment Fund, as well as practical concerns about how EPR programs might affect residents trying to recycle tires for example, and whether they would have to bring that tire to a store rather than their local Solid Waste Facility.

After careful consideration, Committee supported five motions amending Bill 78. Committee negotiated the exact wording with the GNWT.

Committee Amended Five Clauses

Motions 1, 2, and 4

Both Committee and the GNWT supported the idea of making the Minister's delegated responsibilities and agreements public and that it was practical to publish agreements on the department's website. Committee and the GNWT agreed to add language after clauses 4(2), 4(5), and 16(3) regarding public notice. These changes would make public notice requirements mandatory for disposal bans and consistent with the provisions for public notice on prohibited materials.

Three motions reflecting these changes were passed and received concurrence from the Minister at the clause-by-clause review.

Motion 3

Committee recognizes that Waste Reduction and Recovery Advisory Committee plays an important role in bringing together various voices from communities, the private sector and the public about waste management initiatives. Committee discussed these bodies with the Minister at the Public Hearing and was of the view that the continuation of the current Committee should be a requirement and not at the discretion of the Minister. Committee and the GNWT agreed that changing the word “may” to “shall” in clause 5 would require the continuation of the Advisory Committees, their function, and the appointment of members. Committee agreed with the Department that the Minister should have the authority to establish more than one Advisory Committee. A motion reflecting these changes was passed at the clause-by-clause review and received Ministerial concurrence.

Motion 5

Committee is of the view that the Environment Fund is an important mechanism for cost recovery, encouraging better waste management, and creation of local employment but that there should be greater accountability through publication of a summary of its financial position. Following Committee's discussion of the Environment Fund and finances at the Public Hearing, Committee and the GNWT agreed to adding language after clause 17 about audited financial statements and publishing these on the department's website. A motion reflecting this change was passed at the clause-by-clause review and received Ministerial concurrence.

Conclusion

On July 5, 2023, Committee held a clause-by-clause review. Committee passed the motions to report Bill 78, as amended, to the Legislative Assembly as ready for consideration in Committee of the Whole (the Motions are found in Appendix A).

In the House on September XX, Bill 78: Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery Act, will be orally reported as ready for further consideration in Committee of the Whole. This concludes Standing Committee's review of Bill 78: Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery Act.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Reports of standing and special committees. Member for Deh Cho.