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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Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Mr. Speaker, the reason why I ask is that anyone who lived and spends time in small communities, they would understand what we're talking about because Indigenous people, they have close connection to the land. You know, we -- it provides and sustain us. And even you, you understand that. Now we use the land for healing. That is the reason why I ask that question, is because we have close connection to the land.

But anyways, Mr. Speaker, the GNWT says it will take seven years for burned land to naturally replenish itself. Does that mean it will take seven years for any lost wildlife to also replenish their numbers given the state of our dwindling caribou herds across the NWT and considering that several caribou herds' habitats have been disrupted this year and in years past, does the GNWT calculate how many caribou and other wildlife are lost annually due to wildfire? How many years for caribou herds to grow back? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there was two or three questions in there so I will try to answer which ones they are.

Do we -- if it's seven years, does it have the impact on wildlife? I'd have to get back to the Member on that. I don't know that detail. I don't get into that detail. I understand the importance of fire and what it does to the environment. It's part of the regrowth. It has happened in the past. It used to be part of it, the way of life. I was actually talking to an advisor, an elder who lives on the land, and we talked about, you know, the importance of fire and what it did. And he talked to me about in the old days they used to find areas that were really dry and that and they would burn it so it would be regrowth and that. So we do look into those things. And if the habitat on the caribou, it is an asset, a value. So it's a value to us. We look at that. We try to fight the fires there as best we can because caribou are important, so is their environment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Mr. Speaker, thank you. Since 2009, we have caribou restriction in place and our people need to know because we do rely on caribou. That's why I'm asking. And this is where they failed to work closely with the traditional knowledge. We do need those people. ECC needs to have to be working with the Indigenous government and traditional knowledge keeper so that they can be informed of what is happening with our caribou, and we do rely on that. So that's why I asked.

And, Mr. Speaker, okay, this is another question that I don't mean to be disrespectful in a time like this, okay. And I know it's too early to ask. And I don't know if MACA can answer me this or Minister of finance. And I want to know how much money have we spent to evacuations, and if all this money was spent to fire breakers, just like my colleague said here, knowing it is going to be dry season with less precipitation, we did -- we did not need to evacuate and respond to the fire as it started -- respond to the fire as it started. Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you. I'm going to answer the caribou question. The other one is a different one, and I'll just go on to that later, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in regards to the caribou, the traditional knowledge, we work with our Indigenous governments about caribou. We talk about that. We talk about how we protect it. We talk about the environment. We see where the area is that we need to protect. What we need to do is make sure our caribou survives for generations to come. So it's just not now. Yes, we have had the mobile zone, but that there was what we worked with the Indigenous governments on there. In regards to the complexity of the questions about how much money is spent and that, we're going to have to take that as notice because we still don't have that information, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. A final short supplementary. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you. Yeah, with the climate change here now --

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

-- sorry, the Minister took that on notice. Yes, I know, but it's taken as notice. So moving on, oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to thank my colleague from Frame Lake and the Minister for MACA for answering the questions. And I look forward to an after-action review, and I'm happy to hear that the public's involved. Although I just have a few clarifying questions on why exactly the city of Yellowknife evacuation order was issued by the GNWT and what exactly occurred in that very rapid 24-hour period there. So my first question is for the Minister of MACA. Can he explain why all the other communities were community evacuation orders, but the capital region was done by the GNWT, why that was the case? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this is probably going to be a little bit of a longer answer, and I apologize to the House, but we need to get the information out there.

The GNWT used the territorial state of emergency. The decision was based on a combination of multiple factors and not one factor. They included starting in May, the NWT had already experienced multiple community evacuations. In one week alone, just before Yellowknife evacuation orders had been issued, Enterprise, Fort Smith, Hay River, Jean Marie, K'atlodeeche First Nation had also learned -- been evacuated and we've also seen the devastation that happened in Enterprise. Very aggressive and unpredicted wildfire behaviour near Yellowknife area was causing significant concerns to certain -- to very knowledgeable firefighters. Previous wildfires had, in fact, critical infrastructure like the fibre optic link, highways, impacted communications and transit corridors. The fire break that was here around Yellowknife today were not in place when those evacuation orders were issued. There were potentially risk to the highway and airport given the current fire conditions. There were many factors that led to Yellowknife evacuations but, ultimately, the right decision was made. Given the same information that I had today from -- or when we did it, I'd do it again twice on Sunday, Mr. Speaker. The city is right from their perspective. The NWT health and social services is right from their perspective. But the GNWT had considered all perspectives. The fire conditions, one road, one airport, system capacity, etcetera. Conversations about what was said are largely irrelevant because of how quickly the situation changed from Sunday to Thursday, the day before the Yellowknife evacuation. But the city did formally ask for assistance with its shelter in place and a scenario for a city evacuation on the 15th, the day before the evacuation order was issued.

Mr. Speaker, NWTHSSA was focusing on the hospital. They had patients there. They had long-term patients. They also had 60 evacuees from Hay River in Fort Smith that they had to get out there. So to do a shelter in place and to set up an evacuation centre, they would not be able to do that. So when the city came to us, we sat there and looked at everything. We looked at every avenue, what the situation was happening, and we made the decision that we had the time to evacuate the community, we'd give the 48 hours to get the community out because the fire was coming. 15 and 11. 85 was burning as well. These situations were occurring. If 15 and 11 connected, that highway would have been closed off. Then we would have problems with the air quality in for our residents. We'd also have the problem of getting -- to use the airport because we were seeing it, and the predictions were that Saturday it was going to hit, and we were going to see all the problems there. So that's why the decision was made moving forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that answer. And, you know, I appreciate the Minister made the decision, and he stands by it. I guess I'm still a little confused about the jurisdictional question. You know, Hay River has issued multiple evacuations in the last couple years and it's always the town of Hay River. And there is an understanding that's who does it. I don't believe we would ever step in front and evacuate their town without them doing that first, but that's what occurred in Yellowknife. And I'm just wondering, you know, god forbid we ever have an evacuation, whose call is it at the end of the day and is there a reason that the exception was made in Yellowknife?

For all the reasons the Minister just said, it seems to me he could have gone to the mayor, I'm asking you to issue an evacuation order. That's the chain of how we did this everywhere else. So I'm just -- is going forward, that's what we would do, or is it when we evacuate the capital, it's a GNWT decision; is that the current process? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, it's the community. Hay River evacuated that. They called evacuation. What happened there, we declared a state of emergency. We declared a state of emergency not because of just Yellowknife. We had Inuvik being threatened. We had Kakisa. We had Jean Marie. We evacuated Hay River, Fort Smith, and K'atlodeeche First Nation, Enterprise. We were seeing -- we're not like Alberta. We don't have all these aircrafts that we needed and we were sitting there seeing that we needed to get these aircrafts to be able to do that. Part of the evacuation order -- or the state of emergency was to be able for us to get the tools that we needed. So we were able to declare the state of emergency. Then we looked at it. At TEMO, we brought in the federal government. So the process, it starts out local, goes right to the territories, and then we look at the federal or ask our counterparts across the country to work with us. We had a situation where we had the military in with us. We had a situation where we were looking at sheltering in place. That wasn't a viable option. So at that point in time, we declared with the state of emergency. Hay River, Fort Smith, K'atlodeeche, we were not under a state of emergency at that point in time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North. Oral questions. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. These questions are for the Minister of ECC. I'd ask the Minister have any assessors visited the communities that had structural damage to assess those damages as of today. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

That would be Municipal and Community Affairs. But, yes, so we've had assessors come into Behchoko. We've had assessors -- or we still have assessors in Enterprise. And then we would then be -- once we've done Enterprise, we would go on to Paradise Gardens that were impacted, those homes there, and then also Patterson. So we do have the assessors in there. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once the assessors do their job and the information is gathered, who will be responsible for working with those businesses and persons who had structure and equipment damage by the fire? Will it be Pathfinders; who will it be? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you. I think the Member answered his question. He's correct. But it did depends. If it's -- it's an insurance company it's with the insurance company. If it's -- they don't have insurance, it would be with the Pathfinder. And we are looking at trying to get a Pathfinder strictly for Enterprise because what we found is having Pathfinders specifically in the communities that were impacted seemed to be working better than not. So we are looking at getting a Pathfinder for -- specifically for Enterprise. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, considering that, you know, we still have, I think, 22 files left over from the flood that -- you know, that haven't been completed, haven't even started to be actioned yet, and we do have, I think, three Pathfinders in Hay River, and I'm not sure what we have for staff here, but now with the fires and the magnitude of, you know, what happened in the South Slave, will there be additional staff added in the South Slave to help people, you know, deal with their claims? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So right now we're adding an additional one right now. But as we see fit, if there's more -- if the damages we're seeing, we need more Pathfinders and then we will look into that. Right now, we feel we have enough Pathfinders right now, whether it's here in the city or in Hay River, part of that team. But we are adding an additional one right now to help with that Enterprise file. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some confusion, or there has been anyway right from the start with Pathfinders in place, as to who was actually making decisions to either approve or decline applications. You know, I think that's very important so that when people are going to see a Pathfinder, you know, sometimes they think the Pathfinder is the one who might be approving an application, but I don't -- my sense is that they're -- it's not them. So I'd like -- I'd ask the Minister to provide, I guess, maybe with a flow chart of the process of who is responsible for the different aspects of the application as it goes from -- from when it gets taken in to when it's finally approved. Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I don't know if he's asking me to provide one or to talk about it now. So the Member is asking me to provide a flow chart; yeah, we will work on that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Colleagues, our time for oral questions has expired. Written questions. Returns to written questions. Mr. Clerk.

Clerk Of The House Mr. Glen Rutland

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a Return to Written Question 65-19(2) asked by the Member for Frame Lake on May 25th, 2023, regarding Public-Private Partnership Projects Capital and Operating Costs and Revenues.

Over the past ten years the Government of the Northwest Territories has taken part in three. Public-Private Partnership, or P3, projects which include the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link, the renewal of the Stanton Territorial Hospital and recently the completion of the Tlicho All-Season Road.

The Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link project involved the construction of a fibre optic line connecting from McGill Lake to the community of Inuvik to extend the delivery of high-speed broadband connectivity to several communities along the Mackenzie Valley. Construction of the project was completed in partnership with Northern Lights General Partnership and was fully operational in June 2017.

A renewal of the Stanton Territorial Hospital was also completed as a P3 project in partnership with Boreal Health Partnership. The project was initiated to address the aging building systems in the former Stanton Hospital building and provide upgraded facilities to ensure that effective services could be provided to residents of the Northwest Territories. Patient services delivered in the newly constructed hospital commenced on May 26, 2019.

The most recent P3 project to be completed is the Tlicho All-Season Road which opened officially on November 30, 2021. The Government of the Northwest Territories worked with North STAR Infrastructure to extend an all-season road 97 km from Highway No. 3 to the community of Whati. Completion of this project allowed for greater year-round access to Whati which had formerly only been accessible via winter road or air travel.

The Member had requested the original projected capital and operations costs and associated revenues for all P3 projects that have occurred over the past ten years. The projected costs for each project are as follows:

  • For the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link the projected capital cost was $91 million and the projected operating cost was $85.6 million over the life of the project agreement, a debt servicing cost, which includes principal and interest costs of $147.8 million and $124.6 million was expected in revenues.
  • The capital projection for the Stanton Renewal project was $350 million, the projected operating expenditures were $326.4 million and the debt servicing costs were projected at $270.7 million.
  • In relation to the Tlicho All-Season Road a total of $215.33 million was projected in capital costs along with $149.6 million projected for operating costs over the life cycle of the project agreement and $152.3 million for debt servicing costs.

The Member also requested the actual expenditure and revenue totals for each of the last ten fiscal years for these projects.

Actual capital expenditures for the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link over the past ten years were as follows:

  • $69.142 million in 2015-16;
  • $25.894 million in 2016-17;
  • $3.28 million in 2017-18.

Actual operating expenditures for the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link were:

  • $1.212 million in 2016-17;
  • $2.861 million in 2017-18;
  • $3.418 million in 2018-19;
  • $3.445 million in 2019-20;
  • $3.541 million in 2020-21;
  • $3.473 million in 2021-22; and
  • $5.172 million in 2022-23.

The actual debt servicing costs related to the fibre link over the ten-year period were:

  • $9 million in 2017-18;
  • $7.4 million in 2018-19;
  • $7.5 million in 2019-20;
  • $7.4 million in 2020-21;
  • $7.6 million in 2021-22; and
  • $7.4 million in 2022-23.

Revenue generated by the fibre link over the requested period was:

  • $232 thousand in 2016-17;
  • $756 thousand in 2017-18;
  • $1.184 million in 2018-19;
  • $1.461 million in 2019-20;
  • $1.457 million in 2020-21;
  • $1.844 million in 2021-22; and
  • $2.073 million in 2022-23.

Capital expenditures occurring over the past ten years related to the Stanton Territorial.

Hospital Renewal project totaled:

  • $4.153 million in 2014-15;
  • $36.632 million in 2015-16;
  • $105.393 million in 2016-17;
  • $92.556 million in 2017-18;
  • $80.331 million in 2018-19; and
  • $3.924 million in 2019-20.

Operating costs over the same time frame for the hospital included:

  • $2.924 million in 2018-19;
  • $6.764 million in 2019-20;
  • $7.704 million in 2020-21;
  • $9.64 million in 2021-22; and
  • $11.512 million in 2022-23.

Costs related to the servicing of debt for the Stanton Renewal project over the ten-year period were:

  • $2.9 million in 2018-19;
  • $10.3 million in 2019-20;
  • $10.4 million in 2020-21;
  • $10.325 million in 2021-22; and
  • $10.258 million in 2022-23.

Construction of the Tlicho All-Season Road resulted in the following capital expenditures:

  • $7.232 million in 2017-18;
  • $24.917 million in 2018-19;
  • $45.357 million in 2020-21;
  • $41.167 million in 2021-22; and
  • $1.604 million in 2022-23.

Operating costs associated with the road were:

  • $3.87 million in 2021-22; and
  • $5.304 million in 2022-23.

Additionally debt servicing costs for the road over the past ten years totaled:

  • $1 million in 2021-22; and
  • $6.1 million in 2022-23.

As a percentage of the Capital and Operational budgets presented in the main estimates and capital estimates during the past ten years costs for these projects represented the following percentages of the budgets. I would like to note that I will be providing the percentage of the capital costs as a total of the overall project budget as some expenditures were recorded in specific fiscal years as a result of substantial completion check points.

Capital costs for the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link accounted for 139 percent of the original P3 budget largely due to additional capital costs that were agreed upon between the Government of the Northwest Territories and the project partner after the completion of the project and for which a supplementary appropriation was approved in 2022-23.

Operating and debt servicing costs accounted for the following percentages in each fiscal year:

  • 17.3 percent in 2016-17;
  • 84.8 percent in 2017-18;
  • 77.34 percent in 2018-19;
  • 77.53 percent in 2019-20;
  • 78.22 percent in 2020-21;
  • 79.16 percent in 2021-22; and
  • 96.49 percent in 2022-23.

Revenue generated by the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link over the past ten years as a percentage of the allocated budget was:

  • No revenue budgeted in 2016-17;
  • 64 percent in 2017-18;
  • 152 percent in 2018-19;
  • 122 percent in 2019-20;
  • 121 percent in 2020-21;
  • 154 percent in 2021-22; and
  • 122 percent in 2022-23.

Capital expenditures on the Stanton Renewal Project accounted for 92 percent of the original budget.

Operating and debt servicing costs accounted for the following percentages in each fiscal year:

  • 32 percent in 2018-19;
  • 93 percent in 2019-20;
  • 99 percent in 2020-21;
  • 109 percent in 2021-22; and
  • 119 percent in 2022-23.

The percentage of actual capital expenditures related to the Tlicho All-Season Road in respect to the budget was 98 percent.

The operating and debt servicing costs accounted for:

  • 271 percent in 2021-22, this was due to the projected commencement date reflected in the original model; and
  • 81 percent in 2022-23.

Prior to the decision to enter into any P3 agreement a series of analysis is completed to determine the financial, structural, environmental and legal impacts on the territory and the government with respect to the existing infrastructure and service delivery along with proper consultation with Indigenous governments that may be impacted. There is also a Public-Private Partnership Policy that guides the government's use of P3 agreements to complete large scale projects. While the analytical documents are not publicly available the policy documents are. An offer has also been made to present the audit findings in regards to the Stanton Renewal to standing committee to provide greater understanding of this project. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.