This is page numbers 6501 - 6564 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was know.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Mr. Edjericon, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong

The House met at 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 6501

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, delivering the energy Northerners need, in our climate and territory as large as the Northwest Territories, is challenging. We must constantly maintain and improve the territory's energy systems, so our people and businesses have the energy they need when they need it.

Throughout this Legislative Assembly, the GNWT has made significant progress on a number of energy initiatives and on our mandate commitment to increase the use of alternative and renewable energy that is guided by the 2030 Energy Strategy. We are making great strides in developing secure, affordable, sustainable energy for transportation, heat, and electricity across the territory.

Since 2018, this government has invested approximately $165 million across the NWT to improve our energy systems, stabilize our energy costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We continue to advance the planning of transformational energy projects, such as the Fort Providence-Kakisa and Whati transmission lines and which will help decrease reliance on diesel generation in those communities. Work also continues on the Taltson hydro expansion project, which will provide the clean energy we need to fuel our natural resources industry and connect our two hydro systems in the South Slave and the North Slave regions.

Mr. Speaker, we celebrated a big milestone this summer when I attended the Inuvik Wind Project ribbon cutting on July 31st. A key initiative of the 2030 Energy Strategy, Canada's northernmost wind turbine will offset diesel consumption in the town by an estimated three million litres per year and will reduce the territorial greenhouse gas emissions by 6,000 metric tonnes. This project is critical to helping us meet our objectives of reducing emissions from electricity generation in diesel communities by 25 percent, and it will continue to provide positive benefits to the Beaufort Delta Region over the coming decades.

Last year, the Department of Infrastructure also released an energy action plan which outlines plans to invest approximately $194 million to advance the objectives of the energy strategy for the 2022-2025 period. Through 68 proposed actions and initiatives, this new plan provides a roadmap to push forward key projects and provide financial support over the next three years.

Mr. Speaker, another important aspect of the 2030 Energy Strategy is finding ways to reduce our GHG energy use and operating costs. The GNWT is leading by example in this area through its Capital Asset Retrofit Program. Since the program began in 2007, we have completed 102 energy retrofit projects for GNWT facilities in 23 communities across all regions. In 2021-2022 alone, these projects reduced the GNWT's energy costs by $4.1 million.

The Arctic Energy Alliance's programs and services are central to meeting the 2030 Energy Strategy's goals and objectives. During the last fiscal year alone, 2,656 rebates and incentives provided through the AEA resulted in the reduction of 1.1 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and 1400 megawatt hours of electricity use in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, the world is changing, and our energy and climate change strategies must as well. When the 2030 Energy Strategy was released in 2018, the GNWT committed to reviewing in 2023-2024, along with completing a similar five-year review of the Climate Change Strategic Framework. A review of both strategies over the next two years will determine what changes should be made based on lessons learned, access to new information and opportunities, as well as the feedback we received.

On October 12th, we will complete an over three-month long engagement period on the review of the 2030 Energy Strategy and Climate Change Strategic Framework. As part of this review, the GNWT hosted a three-day in-person event in Yellowknife involving 150 representatives from Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, energy and climate change partners, and stakeholders. We have also engaged with energy utilities and industry, the Northwest Territories Climate Change Council, Indigenous governments and organizations through in-person meetings and targeted communication.

Mr. Speaker, our future energy and climate plans need to be ambitious and effective, but they must also be reasonable so that we can ensure we achieve the strategy's vision of secure, affordable, sustainable energy systems in the NWT. I am glad to report that we have successfully struck that balance over the life of this Legislative Assembly. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Education, Culture and Employment.

R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, three years ago, this government set a mandate to increase employment in small communities. Since then, meaningful progress has been made.

Under the Small Community Employment Support Program, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment has provided funding that has supported almost 2900 jobs in communities across the NWT since 2018. In addition, the department provided direct financial support to over 1100 individuals and 285 employers over the life of this Legislative Assembly through its suite of labour market programs. These programs provide a range of supports, including funding for training, wage subsidies, and supports for organizations to design and deliver employment initiatives.

The comments and testimonials from clients of these programs have been moving. In the Sahtu Region, a youth canoe program accessed funding through community training partnerships. In addition to increasing employability, it assisted youth in connecting with their land, culture, and other youth across the region while promoting wellness and resiliency. In the Deh Cho Region, three cousins accessed the Skills Development Program and completed the Surface Miner Training Program together. In doing so, they created a unique support system and are now all currently employed at various mines in the NWT. And There are many more examples like this, Mr. Speaker.

To be prepared for future job and business opportunities, residents need to know what is on the horizon. This is why the department published a 20-year forecast for jobs in demand in the territory. Using updated labour market information, the forecasts provide information by education level and include the number of anticipated openings and wages for each occupation. These forecasts will inform students of the jobs that are, and will be, in demand, and how to access education and training to secure those jobs.

Skilled tradespeople continue to be in high demand across the territory. To help meet this demand, the department released updated occupational standards for the housing maintainer program in 2022. This program prepares individuals to perform preventative and on-demand maintenance, minor repairs, and modernization improvements. Housing maintainers provide an important service, particularly in our small communities and are trained in a range of areas from basic plumbing and electrical to tiling, woodwork and drywall.

To build our skilled trades workforce, the department helped 110 employers access financial supports to offset the wages of hiring and training 407 apprentices. Recognizing that one of the challenges for developing the skilled trades workforce in our small communities is the availability of certified journey persons to mentor new apprentices, this government offers a designated trainer stream to address this. If an employer does not have a certified journey person to provide training for an apprentice, they may apply to have an experienced tradesperson, without a certificate of qualification, be recognized.

We have also supported the launch of new learning supports designed to assist apprentices in addressing academic gaps and learning barriers. These programs, including Building Your Skills and the Virtual Learning Strategist pilot, help fill a key gap and have been well received.

Mr. Speaker, this government has been committed to enhancing employment and training opportunities in small communities and continues to work collaboratively with communities to identify and address their specific needs and challenges, and to create new jobs and opportunities for the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to update the Legislative Assembly on the Government of the Northwest Territories' fiscal situation since the tabling of the 2023-2024 Budget. It goes without saying this has been an extraordinarily difficult financial year not only for the government but for many Northwest Territories' residents and businesses. Despite the challenges, our actions to address fiscal pressures, combined with federal disaster assistance, means that our fiscal outlook remains stable over the medium term.

We will end 2022-2023 with an operating surplus, despite last year's expenditure shocks of floods and high inflation. Unfortunately, this year's expenditure shocks are even more significant.

The wildfire season will cost approximately $100 million for fire suppression. Low water levels have forced significant additional costs for transporting goods to many communities and caused increased pressure on electrical systems, which are pushed backed to diesel, another a high cost item. High inflation continues affecting Northwest Territories supply chains, which in turn impacts our capital budget.

As of now, these natural disasters have reduced our projected operating surplus in 2023-2024 from $178 million to approximately $5 million. By the time we know the final actual costs of a prolonged firefighting season, there is a risk that the Government of the Northwest Territories could realize an operating deficit this fiscal year. Operating surpluses are used to fund the capital budget. Without a larger operating surplus, we will likely need to incur more debt in order to invest in the much-needed infrastructure outlined in this year's capital budget.

Part of what is helping to keep our medium-term outlook stable is that federal disaster assistance programs should help us recover the majority of emergency expenses related to the wildfires and last spring's flooding. As a result of the anticipated federal recoveries and our actions to defer some expenditures, we are confident that the Government of the Northwest Territories will remain in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Policy this fiscal year. While short-term borrowing is expected to increase this year, the Government of the Northwest Territories is projected to be $192 million below the federally imposed $1.8 billion limit at March 31st, 2024.

Although the unplanned response to this summer's wildfire season has challenged the 2023-2024 Budget, actions we have taken during the 19th Legislative Assembly should return operating surpluses to more robust and sustainable levels by 2025-2026 and provide the fiscal flexibility to take steps to reduce our short-term borrowing and total debt.

This stable medium-term forecast is mainly due to right-sizing the capital budget this year, which now better reflects the Northwest Territories' capacity to complete infrastructure projects, which improves the cash balance and debt outlook. We also strengthened the Fiscal Responsibility Policy so that the government's total borrowing is more closely linked to the federally-imposed $1.8 billion borrowing limit and establishes our own internal monitoring threshold $120 million below the federal limit.

The mineral resource industry, which accounts for almost one-fifth of the Northwest Territories' economy, is in a position to benefit from strategies happening at the national level, like the focus on Canada's critical minerals action plan. This in turn would boost prospects for other Northwest Territories businesses and employment. That said, our economy is also precarious with diamond mines having set closure dates and other industries experiencing their own financial shocks as a result of the wildfires, evacuations, low water levels, seasonal resupply challenges, and a lack of labour supply. A strong public sector across all levels of government mitigates some of this risk on a territory-wide level by providing employment across the territory and contributing income to the territorial economy. Adopting proactive approaches to issues such as climate change, supply chain disruptions and cyber security, to name a few, will allow us to confront and wisely manage strategic risks.

As we move into 2024, the 20th Legislative Assembly will benefit from the fiscal decisions made in the 19th Legislative Assembly. That said, Mr. Speaker, we are not ending the 19th Legislative Assembly in a fiscal position that allows the 20th Legislative Assembly to relax on fiscal discipline.

Going forward, it will be important to consider that if revenue growth is forecasted to be limited to 3.8 percent growth per year, expenditure growth will need to be capped at an amount lower than this if we are to remain fiscally sustainable over the long term. As well, the current medium-term outlook assumes capital investment continues to be restricted to $260 million annually. Further, our projections are also subject to changes in interest rates as short-term debt will need to be used until the Government of the Northwest Territories starts recovering its cash resources from the federal government under federal disaster assistance programs.

Clearly, prudent management of the government's fiscal health must continue to be a priority. By this path, the Government of the Northwest Territories can start to reduce its short-term borrowing and free up more space between its ability to borrow and the federally-imposed borrowing limit. This approach will allow us to continue to address our significant capital requirements without compromising much needed programs and services. That, in turn, can help stimulate the economic potential we have throughout the Northwest Territories and make it more accessible to the private sector.

I believe we have overcome many critical challenges during the 19th Legislative Assembly, establishing a good foundation for the 20th Assembly to confidently address future challenges and help build opportunities on behalf of Northwest Territories residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize this year's historic wildfire season, the challenges faced by so many NWT residents and others across Canada, and the heroic efforts of firefighters and emergency management personnel to protect our communities.

Before the 2023 wildfire season began, weather forecasts predicted an early start to the season and a high risk for many areas in the NWT. We saw record temperatures, little rain, and severe drought throughout the summer and fall. All of this resulted in extreme fire conditions for most of the season.

Based on the forecasts, the Department of Environment and Climate Change brought on fire crews, air tankers, and helicopters earlier in the season than normal, and added additional resources. Unfortunately, all of our wildfire personnel and aircraft were put to work right away.

We saw our first wildfire of the season on May 4th, almost a month earlier than normal, which was followed by a record number of fires, area burned, and community evacuations because of fire.

The first major fire followed on May 14th, threatening K'atlodeeche First Nation and Hay River. By the end of June, four NWT communities had been evacuated given the threat of wildfires, including K'atlodeeche First Nation, Hay River, Sambaa K'e, and Wekweeti.

In July, residents of Behchoko, and people living along parts of Highway No. 3, also had to leave their homes, and by mid-August the residents of Kakisa, Enterprise, Fort Smith, Yellowknife, N'dilo, Dettah, the Ingraham Trail, and Jean Marie River had been evacuated. Additionally, Hay River and the K'atlodeeche First Nation had to evacuate for a second time this summer.

As of this week, 299 fires have burned over four million hectares across the NWT this season. These fires resulted in 12 community evacuations, displacing more than two-thirds of the NWT residents from their homes.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard from some people that wildfires are not managed like they used to be 40 or 50 years ago and that with more initial attack, we would have avoided the worst of this. I want to be clear: We monitored for new fires throughout the season and responded to every wildfire that was threatening an NWT community.

These fires grew not because of a lack of action or resources but due to the perfect storm set in motion by nature. With record temperatures and severe droughts in the Deh Cho, South Slave, North Slave, and Sahtu regions, we had fires that burned deeper, hotter, and faster.

With the buildup of forest fuel twice which is considered extreme, the forests were primed for explosive fire growth. This, combined with relentless wind events, intense smoke, and proximity to communities, made conditions very difficult for our crews. On the most difficult days, there was no amount of firefighters or aircraft we could have put in front of these fires to stop them.

Mr. Speaker, behind this year's response are people, people who are our friends and neighbours, making critical decisions and are working hard to keep the places we care about safe.

Over the course of the season, more than a thousand wildfire experts and crew members were brought in from across the NWT, Canada, and around the world. Hundreds more structural firefighters helped to protect our communities. Hundreds of armed forces members, workers from communities and private companies joined the effort, and dozens of additional aircraft and heavy equipment also assisted.

Crews did an incredible job FireSmarting and building fire breaks that will now serve as long-term protection for many of our communities. Thousands of homes, cabins, camps, and businesses were saved thanks to the help of so many. Everyone who rose to this occasion deserves the deepest gratitude of this House. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, House and colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, as the fire response slows down, we will turn our attention to learning everything we can from this year's wildfire season. Over the fall and winter, we will conduct an after-action review of this year's fires that impacted communities and apply these lessons to our operations as we do every year. Some lessons we can immediately take away including:

  • Continuing to invest in wildfire and climate resilience to get ahead of challenging seasons;
  • Ensuring we all play a role in FireSmarting; and,
  • Strengthening coordination between local firefighting forces and wildfire management teams.

Mr. Speaker, I want to close by acknowledging the immense human toll of this season. This has been the most damaging wildfire season the NWT has ever experienced. The community of Enterprise has been devastated. More than two-thirds of all NWT residents were separated from their homes for weeks. Some people lost their homes, cabins, and others had their businesses or livelihoods impacted by wildfires.

We also lost a firefighter when Fort Liard's Adam Yeadon tragically passed away while protecting his community earlier this summer. My thoughts remain with his family, his friends, and his colleagues.

To everyone who was impacted by this year's wildfire season, our government gives not only our heartfelt thoughts but our commitment to help you as we work to rebuild. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, today I want to speak about the ongoing negotiation regarding the new collective agreement for the Union of Northern Workers, UNW.

Mr. Speaker, all throughout my life I have always been someone that is worker-friendly. I have always cared deeply for my community, and for the well-being of all my constituents and for all the people of the NWT. Plus, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the major employer of many NWT residents, so it is extremely important that the new collective agreement is fair and beneficial for all employees. That is why I am concerned about the status of talks between the UNW and the Government of the Northwest Territories which seem to have halted and broken down for some reason.

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Government of the Northwest Territories expressed to have a tentative agreement in place before the upcoming territorial election. However, at this juncture, it appears that this desired timeline will not be achieved. I also understand that as of mid July, a mediator has been called in to help facilitate both parties into a mutually agreed-upon collective agreement. I am also told, Mr. Speaker, that a third-party lawyer from Vancouver has been hired to help with this process as well, which is an aspect of this process that I have a problem with.

I do not understand why the Government of the Northwest Territories always seeks help from outside the territory, outsourcing work and paying people to come to the NWT to try solving these types of matters. That's not always the right decision to do. The people of the NWT are very much capable of making their own decisions, especially in decisions that affect people's livelihoods and everyday lives. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, the cost of living in the NWT is always rising, particularly over the last year and a half. According to the bureau of statistics, within the last year alone the price of food in Yellowknife has gone up 10.7 percent; the price of clothing has gone up 7.6 percent; electricity has risen by 3.4 percent; and, fuel oil has risen by 7.3 percent. Also, the key interest rate from the Bank of Canada is at its highest rate in over 20 years. All of these factors are making it increasingly harder for people to put food on the table and get by.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I know that many Government of the Northwest Territories' employees are wondering when a new collective agreement will be finalized and signed by the Government of the Northwest Territories and the UNW. I certainly hope that the negotiations will not be drawn out too long, and I also have hope that these negotiations do not break down entirely and result in strike action as we have seen recently with many industries across the country and around the world. I have questions for the Minister of finance at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, the communities of Hay River, Enterprise, and K'atlodeeche have been through not one, not two, but three evacuations in 15 months. This fact is not lost on me, nor should it be on this government.

Mr. Speaker, we have not recovered from the 2022 flood or, for that matter, from the 2023 spring fire, and now we add to that the most recent fire and the extensive damage it caused in Enterprise and Hay River. Considering the rate of which government moves, in addition to the lack of labour, trades, and contractors, I see flood and fire recovery going beyond the life of the next Assembly unless we do things differently. We need to add a level of support with sufficient financial resources to action each file in an efficient and timely manner. We need a clear, concise, and transparent process for those impacted.

Mr. Speaker, there are residents who have been living in motels for over a year and who have been asking for our help to either provide them with a replacement home or more suitable long-term accommodation. These are people who have lost everything; they are people who may not know how to navigate a system we have created; they are people who may not have the financial resources to find a temporary rental home; they are people who want their life back. Let us provide that help.

Mr. Speaker, we have residents in Paradise Valley who, rightly so, are concerned that property values have substantially declined to the point that their properties are unsaleable. Many are at a loss on what to do. Do they walk away from their properties and mortgages; do they push for property acquisition or buyback which some residents consider as the only viable option, an option that is allowed and set out in Section 3.4.1 of the federal "Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement Program, which states that, "any solution that reduces or prevents recurrence of damages up to an equivalent of the cost of repairing and replacing actual damaged facilities, plus mitigation enhancement values as appropriate, will be considered for eligibility..." - a program this government refuses to use.

Mr. Speaker, it is time to ramp up support for those wanting to get their life back before they throw up their arms and say enough is enough and to hell with the NWT. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the 19th Assembly made history when a record number of women were elected in 2019. With the subsequent election of my colleague, the Member for Monfwi, our small Legislative Assembly broke through the glass ceiling to become a legislature with a majority of women. This is one of our achievements that I am the most proud of. As a result, this Assembly has addressed critical issues impacting women, youth, 2SLGBFQIPA+ people, and families. Issues such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, intimate partner violence, universal child care, suicide, fertility, mental health, and family well-being among many others. And Mr. Speaker, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank you, and the rest of our colleagues, for not only allowing us the space to do so but for also taking up the mantle for issues that have typically been considered only for women. While the Northwest Territories made huge strides electing record numbers of women, the work to support gender equity and gender equality cannot stop here.

Mr. Speaker, people who identify as women, or are from the 2SLGBTQIPA+ community, face serious barriers to running, including financial barriers as men are typically better poised to self-fund their campaigns or to solicit funds from others. Colonial political environments have traditionally been patriarchal and unfriendly to those who do not identify as male. Women and 2SLGBTQIPA+ people are discouraged from putting their names forward as candidates because of the threats of violence and verbal attacks that often use social media to target, bully, and demean. Many women and 2SLGBTQIPA+ people also face negative perceptions of competency and qualification despite our intelligence, experience, and education.

The Legislative Assembly and our territory need to take bold steps to overcome these challenges for women and 2SLGBTQIPA+ people to have full and effective participation in politics and our democracy. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and my colleagues. So the Legislative Assembly and our territory need to take bold steps to overcome these challenges for women and 2SLGBTQIPA+ people to have full and effective participation in politics and our democracy. They must be sitting at the table and in this very room to share their perspectives, values, and goals to ensure that decisions made will support gender equity efforts and achieve gender equality.

With the end of this Assembly and the election around the corner, it's an important time to remember the political and social barriers that prevent women and 2SLGBTQIPA+ people from entering politics. I hope that the momentum for a more diverse group of MLAs will continue beyond this Assembly as we will continue to see complex economic, social and environmental issues impacting our communities over the next four years, however, through a diverse leadership group and new perspectives we can inform how we address those issues in a more holistic way. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the NWT has faced a truly historic wildfire season. This has put all of our communities at risk, tested all of our communities, and displaced 70 percent of the entire population. This has also shown how vulnerable we are. I want to first talk about my communities, but I recognize that this has impacted all residents of the NWT in some way. We will need to further discuss what has happened here and make sure this does not happen again.

Mr. Speaker, Fire No. ZF015 which began in Awry Lake area spread to Behchoko, and towards Yellowknife. This fire destroyed millions of hectares of land and made countless animals suffer a painful death. These lands are very important to the Indigenous people of the region. That is where people practice their culture, language, and way of life. Many people have used those lands as a source of income for trapping and hunting. Many residents also use these areas for spring hunting like trapping for beaver, muskrat, fishing and duck hunting. The impact of this destruction will help to destroy our culture and language.

Mr. Speaker, on July 24th, 2023, the community of Behchoko was issued an evacuation order due to wildfire. This was the first time in the history of Behchoko, residents were forced to leave their homes. This tragic event resulted in four houses and 15 traditional cabins destroyed.

On June 28th, 2023, Fire No. ZF015 was ignited due to lightening. This fire was reported twice but deemed not a threat and it was left alone to burn itself out. Like all fires, this one began small but grew much larger over time. But soon enough, this fire grew so large and got out of control, it threatened to wipe out much of Behchoko's key infrastructure. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So, it threatened to wipe out of much of Behchoko key infrastructure like the fibre optic, Frank Channel Bridge, and the highway itself. Then it began to threaten the city of Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, in my view, though, the action taken to deal with this forest fire done was too late. The policy of letting fire take care of themselves in the hottest driest year on record makes no sense.

In talking with the Minister of ECC, he made reference to his experts and their management of the fire. Well, Mr. Speaker, fire management is not the word that I would use to describe this year's fire situation in NWT. It is clear to me that anyone with a little common sense would reach the conclusion that these fires should have been fought much earlier before they had a chance to get out of control.

Mr. Speaker, I will continue with this tomorrow, thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Yesterday I tabled a report and legally-binding order from our Information and Privacy Commissioner on the summaries of the secret meetings held between GNWT and the Chamber of Mines. It proves regulatory capture is alive and well in the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment. If you don't believe me, read the Commissioner's reports. These were secret meetings with summaries that the department then tried to heavily redact to keep much of the content secret.

There's nothing wrong with GNWT officials meeting with the mining industry. In fact, I have encouraged this practice. However, when information is kept secret and shared only with selected groups, that is simply wrong.

Here's what the Information and Privacy Commissioner said: "The Department seems to say that it is appropriate to share policies with select members of the public before the policies are known to the general public. The rationale offered so industry can "prepare" does not appear to appreciate the dangers inherent in giving private individuals or organizations privileged early notice of government policy before it is made public. It is concerning to see that the department redacted not just the information about a policy decision but also redacted the admonition to the working group members not to discuss it until it was announced publicly. This is the sort of behaviour that could lead to the perception of regulatory capture."

This is a recurring pattern with this department. Discussions about COVID recovery quickly evolved into a high-level lobbying campaign to fundamentally change the way the mining industry is regulated. More than 25 secret meetings were also held on the new mining regulations with the mining industry. The Minister refused to make ITI presentations at those secret meetings public. As part of the so-called targeted engagement on the mining regulations, 21 surveys on mining administration and policy were only open to those with prospecting licenses. The public should not have to buy a prospecting license to participate in the development of the mining regulations, Mr. Speaker.

Regulatory capture is rampant in this department. The interests of the mining industry have replaced the public interest. The culture of secrecy within the department must stop and that clearly requires direction from the Minister. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Premier made supportive comments on the Inuvik high point wind turbine and some of the benefits that it's bringing. Today, Minister Archie praised this project as she has done many times in this House. I am in full agreement with this project. There are many benefits of this project from jobs to clean energy. Not only will this help our energy needs, but it will help our greenhouse gas emissions as we have seen climate change devastation continue to get worse every year in this our territory. But, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned to hear that some of businesses in my region have yet to be paid for actually installing this road to the high point wind turbine. From the reports that I have received, there are payments that are just almost $1 million outstanding, by some of our local and regional contractors. I'm sure that these contractors would feel the same as the Premier and the Minister do on this project if they were paid for their work. So, Mr. Speaker, today I will have questions for the Minister responsible for this project as to when our local and regional contractors can expect to be paid for the work that was completed. While we can stand in this House and praise the benefits as government are starting to experience from this project, I think it's also very important that the businesses actually who built that road get paid for their work. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, every year we are at the mercy of the Mother Nature as we face one disaster after another. One moment we have floods and then the next we have wildfires. What we know and have experienced is that these disasters are as unpredictable as to when they will strike.

Mr. Speaker, we may not prevent or predict all natural disasters, but perhaps we can be proactive to prevent most. I believe the department of ECC promotes fire breaks around communities and FireSmarting within communities.

It is shown that fire breaks around the perimeter of the community can prevent wildfires from reaching and destroying valuable infrastructure such as homes and businesses. I believe the south end of Enterprise had been widened an extra 50 to 100 feet which saved that end of the community, so it goes to show that fire breaks can quite possibly save a community. The challenge here is funding specifically aimed at creating wide enough fire breaks around the perimeter of communities. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the ECC minister in this regard. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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