This Hansard has not been finalized - this is the "Blues" in Parliamentary speak, or unedited transcript in regular speak.

This Hansard is the unedited transcript and will be replaced by the final copy soon (generally within 5 business days). In the meantime, direct quotes should not be used, when the final is published it will seamlessly replace this unedited copy and any existing links should still work.

This is from the 20th Assembly, 1st 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 housing.

Topics

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. Oral questions. Member from Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister what is the total cost of the Snare Hydro Expansion to the community of Whati and how much of that funding has been secured? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member. Minister of Infrastructure.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There's -- I'll have to get the number to the Member, standing on the floor of the House I'm just looking at my notes and don't have it in front of me. So I will correspond back to the Member on where the budget is at. I can also say that there certainly has been some advancement. There are some funds already secured and discussions are underway with the Tlicho government on this project. Thank you.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Okay, well further to that question, what has been spent to date on this project and what is the remaining to be spent? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Colleagues, please one question and that has two. So Minister of Infrastructure.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I could tell you that I've got some notes. They're in a paragraph, and that's not going to be a good way for me to answer a question on the floor of the House trying to get numbers like this. But certainly I can give a general -- and I certainly don't want to miss out on the amount of money that's been secured. That's my bigger concern here. There's been money that's going back to 2022 that has already been -- that's already been secured. We are working with the Tlicho/Kiewit partnership. They are doing planning studies. And so at this point, the project is proceeding forward. There does appear to be, from my brief review here, adequate funds to proceed through the planning stages and the design stages, community engagement stages. And obviously, the next point will then to be to get to a fully cost estimated project so that the more detailed work can be done to connect the community. Thank you.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Okay, the Minister can tell me this, how much funding is the GNWT contributing and how much funding is required from partners?

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I mean, again, Mr. Speaker, I definitely will commit to providing here in the next couple of days detail to the Member from Monfwi about what has happened over the last several years and where the project's at in terms of its progress. Some of the funding certainly has come from CIRNAC. The GNWT is also, then, applying for additional funds from CIRNAC. I can't say off the top of my head whether the Tlicho government's contributed anything directly and I certainly expect -- and I know that they are involved as a partner as this is a project on their lands. And, again, I don't know what position I may be in to speak to that but I will commit to getting a letter to the Member so that she has that detail. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Minister of Infrastructure. Final supplementary. Member from Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you. Has the GNWT explored partnership that could implement the Snare Hydro Expansion within the life of this Assembly? Thank you.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there's quite a bit of work underway already with respect, as I've said, to different phases of the project to the extent that they're known. So, again, planning study that was completed with the Tlicho-Kiewit partnership, that was completed already in 2023. So, again, that does suggest that there is a good working relationship in existence. There does need to be some further conversation with that partnership in order to determine what the next steps would be based on their planning study. But phase 1 is where we would get to a point of having a more shovel ready project. The phase 1 of the project is next. That's where you get into your community engagement, your design, environmental studies. It's my understanding that that's where we're at, that discussions are underway with the Tlicho government. I don't know what the most recent conversations have been, but I will certainly find out. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Minister of Infrastructure. Oral questions. Member from Range Lake.

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Northerners keep getting told that our system of carbon pricing is more flexible than the federal model, but it seems to me that the only flexibility we have is to copy what they're doing in Ottawa when the dictates of Parliament come down to us. So can the Minister of Finance tell me, is the GNWT simply mirroring changes made to the federal backstop with our own carbon pricing regime? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Range Lake. Minister of Finance.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are limited in our flexibility in terms of what fuels are taxed and in terms of the tax rates on those fuels. And so to that extent, when the federal government has opted to exempt a particular type of heating fuel, yes, we did mirror what they did as that is the limited flexibility that we have. Thank you.

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Further to that, Yukon and Nunavut maintain their own rebate systems, including rebates to mines, yet they use the federal backstop for tax collection. Why can't we do the same in the Northwest Territories? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon and Nunavut are under, long before we did, many, many years ago created their systems with the federal system. At this point, we would come in under the federal system much like Alberta and Manitoba and others did when the last round of changes came through. So, and I wouldn't -- I mean, I can certainly provide a more detailed comparison between the Yukon system and ours and between Nunavut's system and ours. There's differences in terms of the rebates that go to individuals. There's differences in the rebates that go to businesses, including differences in the ways that there's rebates that go into large emitters and large systems. So the systems are quite significantly different, in my view, and I don't know that -- again, I don't know that I can do it briefly on the floor of the House, but I don't know that we necessarily want to put ourselves under that system at this point. The system we have was designed for the Northwest Territories' large emitters, and that's where we want to stay. Thank you.

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, BC's carbon tax is revenue neutral with all revenues going to rebates for clean energy programs or rebates to individuals. Why is our carbon tax generating net revenue instead of being revenue neutral? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, all of the revenue that comes in, there is -- what's left after the rebates to residents and businesses and then to the community governments, what's left at that point does not cover the full amount of programs and services that the government has, for example Arctic Energy Alliance, EV vehicle rebates, bike rebates, the carbon climate change efforts by ECC, and certainly does not cover the costs of infrastructure projects that we have underway to bring about cleaner energy. So, for example, the Inuvik wind project, studies that are on the transmission line into Whati that we were just speaking about to bring hydro, those projects far outweigh -- exceed whatever net revenue is left over after the rebates. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Minister of Finance. Final supplementary. Oral questions. Member from Yellowknife Centre.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, a very important issue downtown in Yellowknife is the wellness and recovery centre. Many of the residents in my riding, in Yellowknife Centre, are concerned. But equally so, I've talked to many of my community colleagues, including my good friends deep into the far reaches of the territory, all wondering the same thing, where their wellness and recovery centre is. Is Yellowknife getting everything again they say, and I say to them I support my communities and colleagues, but I'm concerned about that particular messaging that that does.

So maybe the Minister of health could give an actual update as to where the wellness and recovery centre project is, because I know they filed for a building permit with the city of Yellowknife, so something must be happening. Can she give the House an update. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Yellowknife Centre. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, within the wellness recovery centre in Yellowknife, as many may be aware, that there was a large federal announcement for that and right now, the Member is accurate, there are the -- as -- sorry, as there is moving forward on the accessing the land from the city and then for the permits and stuff, and then I guess they'll be -- the plan is to have it -- I think it's 2024, this coming year, to have the RFP go out, so for the building. And then, you know, if everything moves along smoothly, I think it would be hopefully before the end of my term, then we would have this facility, wellness recovery facility open within Yellowknife. But that doesn't take the fact away that we are continuously working with Indigenous governments and that we're trying to work with them on how to provide wellness within each region because that is the message that we heard. We all heard. We heard from Indigenous governments. My department is fully aware of those engagements that need to take place. Myself, as a Minister, is willing to engage with any Indigenous government that wants to, you know, discuss what they vision in their regions. And so, you know, because we say Yellowknife is getting this, you know, I can't -- gladly, as the government, will take money from the federal but it's them to decide where that goes, so. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I think I want to make sure it's clear to the House, and certainly the public, the merits of the project, they're not being debated in any form whatsoever. So I don't want anyone to misunderstand.

So, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the accessibility of information on this particular project, what is the Minister doing from the department's point of view of promoting and educating the public as to each step of what's happening? Because the impacts have neighbours and communities very concerned. Thank you.