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Crucial Fact

Last in the Legislative Assembly September 2019, as MLA for Nunakput

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 19% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committee Motion 167-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on the Review of Bill 36: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Resources Act and Bill 37: An Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Operations Act - Government Response to Recommendations, Carried August 13th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am looking at the second page, and I am just going to read this sentence here, this paragraph: "This bill was developed through an extensive policy development effort, including significant legislative research. Two months of open multi-platform engagement with the public industry. Indigenous governments and NGOs, not as stakeholders, feedback, and also the Intergovernmental Council." I'm just wondering if the Minister can elaborate on that? Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Question 792-18(3): Effects of Salmon in the Canadian Arctic August 13th, 2019

I appreciate the response from the Minister. What about the Arctic char, the coney, the whitefish and the herring, and other fish species that we rely on in the Arctic? They make up a high percentage of food and nutrients for Nunakput residents. This can be looked at as a threat to our food security, not just in Nunakput, but all communities across the territories. My question is: what will the department do to ensure the planning for community-based monitoring of these species, as well as other type of species that are now entering our waters, for the fall season as the ice will set in and the nets are put under the ice in the communities across the Northwest Territories?

Question 792-18(3): Effects of Salmon in the Canadian Arctic August 13th, 2019

Earlier on, the Minister made a statement about funding for community-based projects, and this sounds like a project that can increase capacity in the region. Mr. Speaker, this increase has salmon has been occurring for a few seasons in higher numbers, but this year has been quite noticeable. My question to the Minister is, will ENR partner with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, hunters and trappers committees in the Northwest Territories in tracking these invasive species?

Question 792-18(3): Effects of Salmon in the Canadian Arctic August 13th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier on, I spoke about the amount of salmon being caught in fish nets across Nunakput, and my questions are for the Minister of ENR. Mr. Speaker, my first question is: has the department responded to communities who are experiencing higher than normal salmon catches this season? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Report 25-18(3): Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment Report on the Review of Bill 36: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Resources Act and Bill 37: An Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Operations Act August 13th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What We Heard

This part of the report is organized around the key themes or subject areas raised during the committee's public hearings and in the written submissions received.

Confidentiality in Bill 36

Committee appreciates the steps taken by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment to improve and modernize Bill 36 and Bill 37 by amending the confidentiality provisions in both bills. Improving accountability and transparency is a fundamental component of the Government of the Northwest Territories' Mandate. Ensuring in legislation that all information is made available while determining certain criteria for confidentiality is contributing to achieving a better balance between increasing transparency and the need to protect confidential information.

Stakeholders commented on the importance of transparency in all aspects of regulating oil and gas-related activities in the Northwest Territories. One stakeholder remained unconvinced that the bills strike the appropriate balance between confidentiality of proprietary information and public transparency. Currently, all information provided for the purposes of the Petroleum Resources Act and the Oil and Gas Operations Act, and the regulations under those acts, is deemed privileged and kept confidential, with few exceptions.

Bills 36 and Bill 37 change this and reverse the process in that all information required to be provided will be made available to the public unless the recipient of the information, which would be either the Minister or the Regulator, determines the information meets the test for confidentiality. Committee recognizes and supports this important step in the modernization of the legislation.

Role of Minister and Regulator

The Regulator is designated by the Commissioner in Executive Council under the Oil and Gas Operations Act (OGOA). The Minister has designated the regulator, however, delegated those powers to the Executive Director of the Office of the Regulator of Oil and Gas Operations (OROGO). Generally speaking, the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment has stronger responsibilities under the Petroleum Resources Act, and the regulator has a more robust role under the Oil and Gas Operations Act.

Committee received several comments on the importance that the roles of Minister and regulator do not overlap or interfere with either mandate. For example, where the Minister has the authority to classify information as confidential, this discretion must not overlap or infringe on the authority of the regulator. It was pointed out clearly that the regulator must be an independent decision-maker, if its rulings are to be viewed by the public as being free from political interference. However, there also was a clear desire expressed for more clarity around what information the Minister and the regulator should make publicly available. Committee considered carefully these concerns when discussing publication and annual report requirements.

Publication Requirement in Bill 36

Committee heard a number of comments on what is required to be published in the Petroleum Resources Act. Currently, the Minister is required to post notices in the Government of the Northwest Territories Gazette and "in any other publication the Minister deems appropriate"; this was seen as too vague. Stakeholders asked to improve the transparency of government decisions by setting out where the notices should be published.

Committee heard that the Gazette is an antiquated system of public notification and that it cannot be considered widely used. It was suggested that information be made available on websites or electronically to broaden the reach and accessibility of the information. Committee agreed that specifying where information needs to be made available is consistent with the Government of the Northwest Territories' Open Government Policy and the commitment to make information accessible in a way that is responsive to the needs and expectations of Northwest Territories residents.

Committee also wanted to ensure that information is being made accessible consistently and is user-friendly. Committee therefore moved Motion 1, which requires the administering department to publish information in the Gazette, make information public more widely, and publish it in a timely manner on a website.

Mr. Speaker, I now pass this on to the honourable Member for Hay River North. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Salmon in the Arctic August 13th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Every day Nunakput constituents are posting on social media about the high amounts of salmon they are catching in their fish nets in the Beaufort Sea. The Arctic char at this time are usually feeding along the coast before they migrate up the lakes and rivers for the winter. I am worried that these invasive species will take over some of the lakes and rivers where we harvest Arctic char, whitefish, coney, herring, lake trout, and other fish species, ultimately affecting the ecosystem as a whole.

The ocean currents have been warming and allowing species that do not usually migrate to the Arctic to traverse the waters through the high seas, affecting the ecosystem on and offshore. We see the effects of climate change with the sporadic and unpredictable weather patterns all over the globe. The warm ocean currents are bringing species such as salmon to colder water, which means that they are changing the balance of the ecosystem in the Arctic.

Fish farming in Alaska is likely contributing to this increase, and we must work with our co-management groups across the Northwest Territories and abroad to ensure that we are doing our best to support the rivers, lakes, and communities along the rivers and coast to ensure that this does not become a food security issue.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there is a need to take a look at this and get involved and partner with Indigenous governments, hunters and trappers in the Northwest Territories, and the federal government to ensure that we can take a picture of this invasion of salmon and do our best to understand the underlying causes that are affecting the harvesters' catch in Nunakput and across the Northwest Territories. Partnering on projects and collaboration and cooperation has never been as important as we learn why this is occurring. We need to understand this from a global prospective to ensure that we do our best to protect our way of life in the Arctic.

Mr. Speaker, local Indigenous knowledge is key to the planning, conservation, and protection of the species in the Northwest Territories and across Canada. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 788-18(3): Shoreline Erosion in Tuktoyaktuk August 12th, 2019

I remember the community of Tuktoyaktuk was talking about the regulations of the funding. I think when it comes to issues like this, we need to provide additional support and capacity so that we can utilize this. Homeowners have also expressed additional concerns about damage to their homes during the move and after being placed on new foundations. My question is: can the Minister explain how the integrity of these homes will be maintained so that the homeowners can be assured their houses will remain liveable? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 788-18(3): Shoreline Erosion in Tuktoyaktuk August 12th, 2019

Thanks for the update. We have definitely been getting a lot of pressure from constituents. Talking about funding, when the federal government announces funding for projects like this, we really need to ensure that there are government-to-government relationships where the Ministers are working with their ministerial counterparts with the federal government to ensure that the funding is utilized and ensures that it is as effective as possible.

There are concerns in the community that some homeowners need more time to move their homes and want someone to protect the shoreline until they are ready to move. Can the Minister explain why the houses need to be moved now and why there is no effort or funding to protect the shoreline?

Question 788-18(3): Shoreline Erosion in Tuktoyaktuk August 12th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier, I spoke about the shoreline erosion in Tuktoyaktuk. My questions are for the Minister of MACA. My question to the Minister is: what is the status of work currently under way to address the shoreline erosion issue in Tuktoyaktuk? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tuktoyaktuk Shoreline Erosion Mitigation Project August 12th, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Climate change has affected many countries around this world. Our NWT communities are seeing the effects on the land and in our coastlines. There are global commitments being made to help mitigate and deal with climate change. However, Tuktoyaktuk residents are facing those challenges today, Mr. Speaker. Homes, community infrastructure, and the cemetery are at immediate risk, with several metres of shoreline disappearing completely each year.

In this 18th Assembly, the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs made the announcement that the Government of Canada provided $800,000 to fund adaptation initiatives to deal with the eroding shoreline in Tuktoyaktuk. This funding announcement was good news for the community, which is bearing some of the worst effects of climate change. Specifically, the homes most at risk were to be moved inland, away from the storm surges that are becoming increasingly common and destructive. CBC reported last week that work has been under way to prepare to move homes further inland but that the foundations may not be ready, which could result in damage to the homes. Many social media videos were posted stressing the need for attention and action to help protect the homes.

Mr. Speaker, the homeowners are stuck: move the homes inland and risk shifting foundations damaging the home, or stay where they are and risk the ocean carving out the land underneath their homes. My constituents do not want to lose their homes, but neither should they bear the expense of repairs to any damage caused during this ongoing project.

Mr. Speaker, homeowners are now taking matters into their own hands and building makeshift storm barriers, trying to keep the shoreline underneath their homes intact. According to the story on CBC, there does not appear to be any funding to protect these homes until the foundations inland are ready for them. I have spoken to the hamlet, and they are concerned that the funding process has too much red tape to get this project and homes move sooner. The homeowners want to be assured their homes will be moved safely to a stable and safe location. Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories must step in and encourage our federal counterparts to work more closely with both the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk and with Municipal and Community Affairs and also the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

I know the community has been working hard with both the federal and territorial governments to address this challenge. We must continue to support their efforts to mitigate this important issue. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.