- His favourite word was million.
Last in the Legislative Assembly October 2015, as MLA for Nunakput
Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Bill 55: Mental Health Act October 8th, 2015
Question has been called. Motion is carried.
Bill 55 has had third reading.
---ApplauseSpeaker’s Closing Comments
Colleagues, this is the last time we will meet formally as the 17th Legislative Assembly.
After today, we will head in many different directions. The work of the Executive Council will, of course, continue. Many of you will begin to prepare for our November election, and some of you will be looking forward to starting a new chapter in your lives.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Members for allowing me the honour and the privilege of serving as your Speaker. I have taken my role very seriously, to protect both the privileges of the House and for all Members and to uphold the dignity of the institution. I have tried to assist each of you to carry out your duties to the best of your ability as you serve the people of the Northwest Territories. I appreciate the respect you have shown me and the assistance you have given me over these last four years.
I would like to take a moment to share some of my most enjoyable memories with you.
I particularly enjoyed working with the youth of the territory, whether as Pages in the Chamber, as participants in our Youth Parliament, or meeting them in schools and communities during our Mace tours. It has always been a pleasure and a source of great pride to meet and speak with our young people. It gives me great hope for our future.
It was equally inspiring to meet and listen to the generous advice shared by our elders when I hosted our Elders Parliament.
I have also enjoyed my work with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with colleagues from all across Canada and the world. I have learned a great deal from them and have also taken the opportunity to promote and educate everyone I meet about our unique form of government and about our beautiful land.
Certainly a highlight during my term as Speaker was the honour of presiding over the 20th anniversary celebration of our Assembly building. The celebration marked the final payment on the building mortgage and was a wonderful opportunity to bring together former Premiers and Government Leaders, both former and current Members, former Commissioners and other territorial leaders. The celebration event was filled with stories and laughter and were a testament to our shared history and to this institution.
As part of the celebration, and due to the dedicated stewardship of the board of the Legislative Assembly Building Society, the Assembly was able to develop the Water’s Edge Park and add new signage to enhance the capital site. The Assembly was also able to establish a scholarship for Northwest Territories political science students.
Legislation was also adopted during this Assembly to establish the Order of the Northwest Territories, with our first investiture ceremony yesterday.
I would now like to extend my personal thanks to those people who have assisted me in my role as Speaker.
Thank you to my executive assistants, starting with the late Ms. Shirley Firth-Larsson; my current assistant, Ms. Nina Larsson; and Ms. Melanie Coleman.
On behalf of all Members, I would like to thank our contract staff for their excellent service. Thank you to PIDO Productions, Thien Huyny Janitorial, and Epic Grill for feeding all of us for the last four years.
Finally, Members, I would like to acknowledge the love and support we receive from our families and friends. They support us and care for us and we cannot thank them enough.
I wish you all safe travels and good fortune as you leave today, whatever your future may hold.
Mr. Clerk, would you ascertain whether the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable George L. Tuccaro, is prepared to enter the Chamber to assent to bills and prorogue the Fifth Session of the 17th Legislative Assembly.
Question has been called. Motion is carried.
Since the start of the 17th Assembly, the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure (“the committee”) has worked steadily on the complex matter of hydraulic fracturing in the Northwest Territories (NWT), looking at horizontal hydraulic fracturing in particular. We have gathered information, undertaken study tours, monitored government strategic planning, and stayed abreast of developments in scientific knowledge and public policy.
Most recently, this work led the committee to review the proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Filing Regulations, including observation of public engagement across the NWT in which hundreds of residents have shared passionate and insightful views.
Hydraulic fracturing is clearly a matter of great significance to residents and to the future of the NWT. The committee continues to insist on meaningful public consultation and to recognize the vital need for a diversified economy – one that provides all communities in all regions with opportunities – and an environment that will sustain present and future generations.
As knowledge and best practices respecting hydraulic fracturing operations, regulation and impacts continue to evolve, so does the committee’s understanding. As such, the committee agrees that engagement, consultation and investigation must continue into the 18th Assembly. Here, we contribute to this process with a report on our work during this Assembly, highlighting areas that have not been adequately addressed and providing comments on the proposed regulations. We identify six themes emerging from our work and make eight recommendations.
As we have previously reported, it is beyond the committee’s mandate and capacity to comprehensively address all regulatory and policy issues associated with hydraulic fracturing. We look forward to the work of the next Assembly and our successor committee, and we encourage all residents to review the committee’s reports and recommendations, including the Research Summary: Hydraulic Fracturing Filing Regulations, tabled on June 4, 2015.General Themes
The following themes emerge from the committee’s work on hydraulic fracturing.
Question has been called. The motion is carried.
The Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning remains fully engaged in matters with government-wide implications as the 17th Legislative Assembly draws to a close. Through this transition report, the committee highlights areas Members believe will require the ongoing attention of our successor committee in the 18th Assembly. We have footnoted some key documents that may be of use.Background
The Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning includes all 11 Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly. The committee's role is to:
1. review issues which have government-wide implications including the overview of the budget and fiscal framework;
2. review Government of the Northwest Territories reports on financial and performance results and program and policy evaluations to ensure anticipated outcomes are being achieved and accountability is maximized;
3. coordinate sessional business scheduling and planning in cooperation with appropriate ministerial representatives;
4. coordinate committee public consultation efforts with respect to budget and fiscal matters;
5. coordinate committee strategic planning efforts;
6. monitor and evaluate ministerial performance issues;
7. consider the budgets and financial management of any boards and agencies that are outside the responsibility of any standing committee; and
8. consider any other matter referred by the House.Transition Issues Devolution Legislation, Land and Resource Management, Resource Royalties and Taxes
Now that the Northwest Territories is the steward of its own land, resources, water and environment, our government must deliver on its pledge to devise an effective, efficient and made-in-the-NWT regulatory system. It must reflect the values of our residents and partner governments. Consistent with the Land Use Sustainability Framework and evolving regional land use plans, we must ensure the right balance between development, sustainable use, and conservation. The tax and royalty regime should provide fair revenue in return for the use of public land and resources. This regime has not been fully reviewed since devolution. Members of the 18th Assembly may wish to consider doing so.
Devolution implementation is substantially hampered in regions lacking settled Aboriginal land claims, increasing the need to advance negotiations that have gone on for decades. With the Government of the Northwest Territories in a more senior role, there is both new opportunity and advantage in resolving outstanding claims. This should be a high priority for the 18th Assembly.
The Intergovernmental Council was created as the forum for collaboration with Aboriginal governments. Its mandate is to review the existing regulatory system, including land-management and resource revenue, and recommend improvements. The lack of participation by some Aboriginal governments without completed land claims is not productive. Every effort should be made to include them in the Intergovernmental Council. Advancing this work, along with public engagement – a crucial process that is currently undefined – is the necessary next step to take in the 18th Assembly.
To date, the Intergovernmental Council has agreed to invite the chair of the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning to attend council meetings with representatives of the GNWT. Members of the next standing committee should assess whether this level of involvement, coupled with the government’s public engagement process, is sufficient and whether additional action is needed.Decentralization
The transfer of federal positions to the GNWT as a result of devolution has provided both an opportunity and a challenge in the process of building the government’s presence across the territory.
While progress has been made, human resource and infrastructure planning have not kept pace. This contributes to growth of the public service in Yellowknife and the inevitable difficulty of transferring positions to the regions once they have been established elsewhere. Implementation efforts to implement the decentralization policy should be thoroughly evaluated on a regular basis, with a view to ensuring strong coordination between departments. Every effort must be made to locate remaining devolution-related positions in the regions. The new committee may wish to request the government’s plan for doing so early in its term.NWT Energy Plan
The challenges of providing abundant, cheap and clean energy to the people and businesses of the Northwest Territories are reflected in the fact that, after decades of study and debate, there is no comprehensive NWT energy plan. Most communities using diesel-generated power still lack clean, supplementary, renewable alternatives. Hydroelectric generation is declining due to low water levels, causing greater reliance on diesel generation in the North Slave region, at much higher and unsustainable cost. The government has taken large strides to reduce its own energy use through attention to heating systems and building efficiency. An NWT energy plan must address all these issues, based on patterns of community energy use.
Investments in individual projects in biomass energy, a solar-diesel hybrid generation system in Colville Lake, potential wind-generation projects at Storm Hills and the Snare River, and others, are encouraging and should be expedited under the aegis of an NWT energy plan. Creating and implementing it should be an immediate priority of the 18th Assembly.
Following up on the 2014 NWT Energy Charrette, the committee recommended that in 2015 the government prepare a public discussion paper to begin work on an NWT Energy Efficiency Act.To date, this has not been done. If it remains undone in early 2016, our successor committee may wish to expedite it.Planning for the Impacts of Climate Change
The impacts of climate change on the Northwest Territories are already very serious and expensive, with fallout in many aspects of our lives, business and government. As a small sample, forest fires have caused community evacuations, low water is restricting transportation and power generation, permafrost is melting and Arctic coastlines are fast eroding. Costs to government already tally in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The impacts of climate change will likely accelerate. Scientific knowledge is advancing daily. The GNWT must adapt, develop and adopt best practices and plan for what is ahead. Working with affected communities and informing our residents will be crucial as we mitigate impacts and reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions. Specific plans and targets are required. The committee should ensure the government responds to these needs.Cost of Living
Controlling the rising cost of living in the NWT is a daunting but extremely important task. The cost of living is closely related to the growth of the population, expansion of the economy, and GNWT employment and retention. It also has a substantial bearing on the health and well-being of NWT residents. High cost of living is a major contributor to the high rate of poverty and hinders the ability of people in entry-level jobs to support themselves. Implementation of the holistic approach taken in the Action Plan to Reduce and Eliminate Poverty in the Northwest Territor
would improve the lives of low-income earners and likely deliver substantial community, economic and health benefits, and help control health care costs. The committee urges its successor to ensure this takes place.
Food security is another close relative of the high cost of living and poverty. Members are extremely pleased to see so many communities growing their own food, renewing traditional harvests and building local knowledge. The committee strongly supports the successful Small Scale Foods Program component of the Canada-NWT Growing Forward strategy and advises that it continue and expand as opportunities arise.
Changes to the federal Nutrition North program have done little to lower the cost of food sold in remote NWT communities. The criteria for inclusion are so restrictive that many high-cost communities are left out; need is not the decisive factor. Our successor committee may wish to urge the government to exert pressure on Canada to follow up on the Auditor General’s suggested reforms and ensure that Nutrition North serves NWT communities as intended.Population Growth
Concerted action is required to stimulate growth of the NWT population. Far too little has been done to date. Growing the NWT – Supporting Population Growth of the Northwest Territories,tabled in June 2015, does not describe a strategy. It is largely a description of current activities, lacking focus and a plan of action. Notably, the background document does contain the admission that “current actions will not be enough to achieve the NWT Population Growth Strategy’s five-year goal.” The committee could not agree more and suggests that the situation be remedied as quickly as possible, with encouragement from the 18th Assembly if necessary.Financial Reporting
The government’s financial reporting to standing committees and the public is good, and has improved steadily over the past decade. Business plans describe the work to be done each year, the resources required, cost, and often outline challenges and future needs. The main estimates, stripped of operational detail, list the specific expenditures Members vote on in the House. And finally, the public accounts report how the money was actually spent.
Information about the activities and spending of boards, authorities and agencies could be improved in annual business plans. The need is most acute for Aurora College and education authorities, which account for $187 million of Education, Culture and Employment’s budget for 2015-16. Health authorities are somewhat different, as most are run by public administrators and will be amalgamated into a single authority. However, business plan information is lean for individual health authorities, in light of their total spending of $287 million in 2015-16. Standing committees have raised this issue before; the Committee on Priorities and Planning recommends that it be remedied in subsequent business plans. By contrast, financial reporting on the NWT Housing Corporation is excellent.
In addition, direct comparisons between main estimates and the public accounts can be difficult and could be improved, as several provinces have done. Additional recommendations have been made by the Standing Committee on Government Operations.NWT Heritage Fund
Legislation to establish the NWT Heritage Fund was passed at the end of the 16th Assembly to benefit future generations from today’s non-renewable resource development. Members of the 17th Assembly approved the first deposits to the fund. It is a modest start.
The committee requested the government act upon the following recommendations within the life of the 17th Assembly, but this did not occur:
• Amend the act to entrench the current practice of contributing an annual minimum of 25 percent of the net fiscal benefit to the GNWT from resource revenues to the Heritage Fund;
• The Heritage Fund should be managed at arm’s length from the government, with independent management in place by the time the fund balance reaches $40 million;
• An independent committee must be established to oversee management of the Heritage Fund, and it should be required to table an annual report in the Legislative Assembly for review by the Standing Committee on Government Operations.
Legislation should be amended as needed to incorporate these changes. These measures should be seriously considered by the 18th Assembly.Hydraulic Fracturing
To date, very little horizontal hydraulic fracturing has occurred in the Northwest Territories. The government proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing and the responsible Minister has extended consultation on them into the 18th Assembly. This is a welcome development. Much remains to be done to ensure that regulations and policy on hydraulic fracturing are consistent with the Land Use and Sustainability Framework and protect precious resources and health. Industry practices for “fracking” are advancing rapidly, with study of the environmental and health implications emerging more slowly. It is essential that ongoing developments are considered and applied in the best interest of NWT residents now and into the future.Departmental Matters Health and Social Services
Ongoing problems with mental health and addictions treatment, support for rehabilitation and recovery programs, extended care, staff shortages and nursing services were identified in committee business and resulted in motions passed in the House. It is worth noting that despite the Department of Health and Social Services’ large budget, spending on its programs is proportionally smaller in the Northwest Territories than in other Canadian jurisdictions, even with high northern operating costs. This is both a credit to our system and an indicator that adjustments may be needed in certain areas.
Critical vacancies in community-based Health and Social Services staff must be filled. These vacancies hamper program delivery most in smaller communities where backup is limited or non-existent, casting a dark shadow on the accepted Canadian tradition of universal health care.
Mental health and addictions treatment, including follow-up support, is another critical area insufficiently addressed by the current government. The only residential treatment centre in the NWT was closed and service is now provided primarily by southern facilities. A territorial treatment centre and an associated mobile treatment program are options that have been under study for some time, but decisive action must be taken.
The committee recommends that the 18th Assembly focus on remedies to these problems and improved efforts to promote better health and combat preventable conditions.
The replacement of Stanton Territorial Hospital will present challenges for service delivery, project management and fiscal control. Committee members advise vigilance by the committee as the project moves into the construction stage. Attention should also be given to extended care services, which are being removed from the hospital itself to a new facility nearby. The renovation of the current Stanton Territorial Hospital building and its new role in the community may also require scrutiny.Education, Culture and Employment (ECE)
The Standing Committee on Social Programs has made extensive comments on the many transition issues facing the department of Education, Culture and Employment. There is no need to reiterate them here. However, slow progress on the Education Renewal Initiative and others is a serious concern and may warrant intervention by all Members.
Junior Kindergarten implementation has been another major issue for the committee. The program is being delivered in 19 communities. It has recently been evaluated in preparation for a decision about expanding junior kindergarten to the regional centres and Yellowknife. However, funding reallocations for junior kindergarten have already impacted schools in the larger schools. For example, pupil-teacher ratios in Yellowknife schools have been driven to the legal limit of 16 to 1, which is significantly higher than any other school district. This is not ideal for students, teachers or staff. At this writing, results of the evaluation of junior kindergarten are overdue. Decisions on junior kindergarten will have profound effects on both education and child care – and young people across the territory – and therefore should be addressed both carefully and promptly by the 18th Assembly.
It is well-known that educational success is strongly rooted in each child’s first years of development. Research done by ECE and education authorities during the 17th Assembly shows that an alarming number of our children – more than 38 percent – are behind in their development at age five. Developmental delays are especially common among children in small communities. This is a burning social issue, but the economic implications and impacts are equally important to the well-being of NWT residents and society. Coordinated efforts by the departments of Education and Health are essential, covering children from the prenatal stage through age five and involving health programs, early childhood development programs, child care, kindergarten and potentially junior kindergarten. Much work remains to be done by the 18th Assembly in these critically important areas.
There is currently no system for accrediting institutions of higher learning as universities or colleges, although there has been interest in their establishment. The Education Act requires that an act be passed to establish or create any degree-granting institution; the Aurora College Act is the only one to date. In addition, the Minister must authorize any institution operating as a university. The committee advises the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to examine the need for an accreditation system in the NWT, compare accreditation methods in other jurisdictions, and publicly report the findings early in the life of the 18th Assembly.NWT Housing Corporation
The NWT Housing Corporation has done good work during the 17th Assembly and implemented creative solutions to address housing shortages in the face of declining federal support for public housing. Nevertheless, housing remains a critical problem in the Northwest Territories, with one in five homes in core need. The situation is even worse in smaller “non-market” communities, where more than 32 percent of homes are in core need. Among smaller community homeowners, core need stands at 38 percent. Behind these numbers are the real impacts on residents’ quality of life and health.
Members observe that homelessness is a growing problem, despite the best efforts of the Housing Corporation and the government.
The committee suggests that its successor committee encourage the NWT Housing Corporation to adjust its stock to meet the need and demand in each community. In addition, the federal government must be persuaded to renew its investment in northern housing.Conclusion
This concludes the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning Report on Transition Matters. We wish the Members and committees of the 18th Assembly great success in serving the people of the Northwest Territories.
Question has been called.
As the 17th Legislative Assembly draws to a close, the Standing Committee on Social Programs continues to monitor a variety of important programs and initiatives. Through this transition report, the committee wishes to highlight areas that are likely to require attention in the 18th Assembly.Background
The Standing Committee on Social Programs is comprised of five Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly. The committee's role is to perform the following, with respect to the departments of Education, Culture and Employment; Health and Social Services; Justice; and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation:
1. review multi-year business plans and budgets, bills, boards and agencies, including the Status of Women Council and programs for seniors, youth and persons with disabilities;
2. review departmental performance, including that of boards and agencies; and
3. consider any other matter referred by the House.Transition Issues
1. Service Delivery
The committee has long-standing concerns about limited access to services in small communities. The reason is often a lack of presence on the ground; for example, no local police officer, social worker, nurse, mental health worker or addictions counsellor. This weakens the effectiveness of government programs. It is especially concerning in light of evidence from the Early Development Instrument and other sources, which shows that small communities are home to a disproportionate number of vulnerable individuals and families.
Another long-standing concern is departmental silos that create fragmented experiences for people trying to access services. The committee has consistently urged the government to provide services in a more integrated manner and to revise policies that operate at cross-purposes. An integrated case management pilot project is underway in Yellowknife, and the government has committed to adopting integrated approaches in a range of other settings. The successor committee is urged to promote this way of doing business because of its proven success in other jurisdictions and its far-reaching potential to help our most vulnerable residents.
1. Inter-Departmental Strategic Frameworks
2. Anti-Poverty Action Plan
In response to a motion carried in the 16th Assembly, the government began working on an anti-poverty strategy. In June 2013 the government tabled an anti-poverty framework. In February 2014 the GNWT action plan followed. In June 2015 a territory-wide action plan was released. The action plans are based on five priorities: 1) child and family support; 2) healthy living and reaching our potential; 3) safe and affordable housing; 4) sustainable communities; and 5) an integrated continuum of services.
While the committee supports this initiative, it has urged the GNWT to allocate more funding to it. In 2014-15, $2.5 million – the equivalent of $60 per resident – was spent on a patchwork of activities. Moreover, the action plan contains no systematic approach for dealing with homelessness, a growing problem in the Northwest Territories. The successor committee is urged to track the progress of the action plan and to push for stronger, more comprehensive and longer term funding.
1. Early Childhood Development Action Plan
Scientific evidence shows that the degree of support and appropriate stimulation children receive before the age of four will have a crucial impact on their well-being and productivity in adulthood. Citing this evidence, the committee has repeatedly called for enhanced services for infants, very young children and their parents. A motion carried in May 2012 called on the Ministers of Education, Culture and Employment and Health and Social Services to develop a comprehensive plan. The Government produced a one-year strategic framework and a three-year action plan. While these documents were well-conceived, the government’s commitment was disappointing. In the budget for 2014-15, only $511,000 in new money was allocated, while the remainder of the budget was re-profiled from health promotion and prevention activities (Department of Health and Social Services) and the K to 12 school system (Department of Education, Culture and Employment).
A controversial component of the ECD Action Plan was the implementation of junior kindergarten. The rollout was to be accomplished by adjusting the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) just within the legislated threshold instead of infusing new money into the school system. Implementation was to take place over three years, beginning in small communities in 2014-15, and following in the regional centres in 2015-16 and Yellowknife in 2016-17.
The proposed rollout drew a number of criticisms. First, the committee felt that the adjustment had been made without due consideration to the impact on the overall learning environment. Second, the committee felt that the funding model was ill-conceived, as it unfairly impacted mill rate communities. Third, the committee was concerned about the quality of programming, noting that junior kindergarten is most effective when it is delivered by specially trained early childhood workers in well-equipped play-based learning spaces. The evidence shows that schools are often not the appropriate place for early childhood programs such as junior kindergarten. Fourth, the committee observed that developmental delays are already well underway by the age of four and asked why the government was not focusing resources on children aged zero to three. Regular Members also voiced concerns along these lines, as did numerous stakeholders, including representatives from the Yellowknife school boards and Aboriginal Head Start program.
The government subsequently suspended implementation in the regional centres and Yellowknife and agreed to complete an evaluation of the implementation that took place in small communities in 2014-15. The government has left it up to the 18th Assembly to determine whether or how to proceed. The successor committee is strongly urged to look for the government’s evaluation and review it carefully.
The successor committee is also urged to review the government’s feasibility study on universal daycare, which was prompted by a motion of the Legislative Assembly in 2013. The study compares the funding and policy frameworks of the Northwest Territories, Quebec and Scandinavia, and shows that our jurisdiction spends considerably less on early childhood development, including daycare, than other jurisdictions. As a percentage of GDP spent on early childhood development, the Northwest Territories allocates 0.4 percent, while Canada allocates 0.6 percent; Quebec 1.1 percent; and Denmark – the highest among countries belonging to the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – 2.2 percent. On average, OECD countries allocate 1.1 percent of their GDP to early childhood development.
A related topic is government support for daycare infrastructure. In the spring of 2015, Kids Corner Daycare in Fort Simpson asked for a contribution toward the cost of a new facility. The request was turned down, despite the fact that Children First daycare in Inuvik had received $1 million in 2013 for similar purposes. The GNWT has promised to produce a multi-departmental policy on infrastructure funding for non-profit and private-sector organizations, and the successor committee should inquire into its estimated date of completion.
1. Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan
Released in February 2014, the updated Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan combines the 2012 action plan with the recommendations from the 2013 Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness. The updated plan points to a range of government services across the continuum of care. However, as Members are repeatedly told by their constituents, the reality on the ground does not always match up with the government’s promises. The committee has asked for improvements in a number of areas, including withdrawal management services, community counselling and after-care. Members have also encouraged expansion of on-the-land healing programs. The successor committee is urged to push for stronger action in all these areas and request performance evaluations of pilot programs and established activities.
In addition, the committee has expressed repeated concerns about the closure of the Nats’ejee K’eh Treatment Facility in 2013. Members would like to see more northern-based treatment options and less reliance on southern facilities. Moreover, the committee has urged the GNWT to partner with Nunavut and the Yukon in establishing a pan-territorial residential treatment centre. The incoming committee is encouraged to pursue this proposal.
The successor committee is also encouraged to push for stronger interdepartmental collaboration on the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan. Three potentially fruitful collaborations are recommended. First, a stronger partnership between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Justice would allow offenders to address addiction and mental health issues more effectively and increase their chances of rehabilitation. Second, a stronger partnership between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment could pave the way for a mental health strategy specifically for youth, with schools serving as settings for service delivery. Third, a stronger collaboration between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation could set the stage for implementing the “Housing First” model in communities across the Northwest Territories. “Housing First” is an evidence-based intervention model whereby permanent housing is secured for individuals who are homeless and living with a mental illness.
During its review of Bill 55, which will replace the outdated Mental Health Act and come into force in the 18th Assembly, the committee made a number of recommendations, including developing a strategy for addressing the mental health needs of youth and adolescents, hiring staff to fill long-standing vacancies among front-line workers and expanding suicide prevention efforts. The successor committee is urged to track the government’s response to recommendations arising from the review of Bill 55 and the development of regulations for the new act.
1. Departmental Programs and IssuesDepartment of Education, Culture and Employment Education Renewal and Innovation Initiative
During the 17th Assembly, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment launched the Education Renewal and Innovation (ERI) Initiative. Through a one-year strategic framework and a three-year action plan, the aim is to enhance relationships between schools and communities, promote student wellness, renew the K to 12 curriculum, and ensure that the education system is monitored, evaluated, and financially accountable. While Members are impressed with the scope of the initiative, they have expressed several concerns: first, the volume of new activities runs the risk of intensifying workloads for principals, teachers and support workers; second, the large number of working groups, operating simultaneously, seem to be making slow and unwieldy progress; third, not enough attention is being given to the problems of truancy and poor attendance; fourth, there seems to be a lack of focus on educational basics: reading, writing and arithmetic; and fifth, the amount of new funding is very limited so there is a danger of attempting to accomplish too much with too little. The successor committee is also urged to monitor the effectiveness of strategies to promote “self-regulation,” defined as the student’s ability to stay calm, alert and ready to learn. An update on the ERI Initiative should be requested early in the 18th Assembly.Auditor General’s 2010 Report on Education
In 2010 the Auditor General’s report focused on education in the Northwest Territories and included nine significant recommendations for improvement. While the department committed to fulfilling these recommendations, it has made slow and uneven progress. For example, the Auditor General recommended that the department report regularly to the Legislative Assembly on key performance indicators, noting in particular that the department has not been tracking the extent of compliance with the directive on Adult Literacy and Basic Education (ALBE), which is run by Aurora College, or whether training is yielding the desired results. The department promised to evaluate the ALBE Program under the Accountability Framework for the Education and Training of Adults in the Northwest Territories, yet no results have been tabled. Thus, more than five years have passed since the Auditor General’s report and we are no closer to knowing the strengths and deficiencies of the department’s educational programs. The successor committee is strongly urged to look into the department’s readiness and capacity to generate results on key performance indicators. In addition, the committee should request an update on governance reform at Aurora College and on the department’s compliance with daycare legislation, including annual inspections of daycare facilities.Inclusive Schooling
The Inclusive Schooling directive was reviewed during the 17th Assembly, and the government’s plan is to continue funding it through an enrolment-based formula. The committee believes this disadvantages “magnet communities” which attract higher numbers of students with complex needs. Moreover, the committee wants assurance that funding assigned to support any particular student will migrate with the student if he or she moves to a different school. Members have recommended an alternative funding formula, based on a blend of enrolment numbers and the actual number of students who have special needs. The successor committee is encouraged to pursue this line of reasoning and to monitor a number of related activities, including the department’s methods for identifying student needs and evaluating the true effects of inclusive-schooling expenditures on market communities.Skills 4 Success
In the closing months of the 17th Assembly, the government presented its 10-year strategic framework known as Skills 4 Success. The goals of this initiative are to build residents’ skills and post-secondary credentials, enhance employment supports, improve the recruitment and retention of qualified workers, and provide Northerners with the information they need to make smart career decisions. In the 18th Assembly, the committee is encouraged to monitor this strategic framework for its effectiveness. The labour-market forecast and the territorial needs assessment, as prepared by the Conference Board of Canada, may also be of interest.Auditor General’s 2013 Report on Income Security Programs
In 2013 the Auditor General’s report focused on income security programs. Deficiencies were identified in a number of areas, including the management of client files, financial oversight, program evaluation, staff training and staff safety. The department responded with an action plan, and the committee has been tracking the department’s fidelity to its commitments. The successor committee should continue tracking the department’s progress, including the corrective action plans for addressing deficiencies, the evaluation of five new employment transition officer positions, and the expansion of public housing units for clients on income assistance.Enhancements to Student Financial Assistance
Since before the 16th Assembly, the committee has been asking for enhancements to the Student Financial Assistance program. Members are pleased that some enhancements are finally in place. Students can now give their consent to be connected with potential employers in the Northwest Territories. In addition, basic grant amounts have increased, and debts will be forgiven more quickly if students reside in the Northwest Territories. A northern bonus will also be offered to any student who settles here. As these enhancements are part of the government’s Population Growth Strategy, the successor committee should monitor data on key performance indicators, including the current proportion of students who have chosen to settle in the Northwest Territories upon completion of post-secondary studies and any subsequent increases. In addition, the incoming committee may want an update on the appeals process.Anti-Bullying Legislation
During the 17th Assembly, a motion was passed urging the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment to address bullying in the schools. The government’s subsequent decision to amend the Education Act was also based in part on compelling independent research. A survey of 1,600 NWT students showed significantly higher levels of bullying here than in most of Canada. In addition, cyber-bullying has had tragic results across Canada, sometimes leading young people to take their own lives. Accordingly, the amendments to the Education Act sought to define bullying, including cyber-bullying, and provide, through regulations, for a territorial school code of conduct and safe school plans. The bill was passed on November 1, 2013, but the regulations have not been developed to date. This points, once again, to the department’s tendency toward slow progress. The successor committee is encouraged to request a status update on the development of the regulations, territorial school code of conduct and safe school plans.Aboriginal Language Revitalization
Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories are struggling to keep their languages alive. This is largely due to the combined impact of colonialism, residential schools and the dominant use of English in the North. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of residents who speak their Aboriginal language has declined by nearly 20 percent. If this trend continues, the Northwest Territories may lose its Aboriginal languages altogether. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment, together with key stakeholders, has initiated a new approach to language revitalization. Funding has been allocated for five‐year regional Aboriginal language plans, including enhanced funding to help Aboriginal governments build capacity in implementing the plans. The department also recently reviewed its directive on Aboriginal Language and Culture-Based Education (ALCBE) under the Education Renewal and Innovation Initiative. The incoming committee is urged to track the effectiveness of the five-year language plans and the renewed ALCBE directive and to ensure that financial accountability mechanisms are in place for the five-year language plans.Department of Health and Social Services System Transformation
During the 17th Assembly, the Department of Health and Social Services began to modernize and streamline the health and social services system. Bill 44, the amended Hospital Insurance and Health and Social Services Administration Act, received assent in March 2015 and will allow the Minister to combine the regional authorities into a single territorial authority. The new legislation will also allow for the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority to be brought into the public service at a later date, but at considerable cost. The committee urges the Minister to continue communicating openly with the committee and the public on this important endeavour. The successor committee should request status updates on several activities, including contract negotiations with the Union of Northern Workers Local 21 in Hay River; the Privacy Impact Assessment, which is the formal process for identifying potential privacy risks associated with the amalgamation of regional authorities; and the implementation of new provisions pertaining to critical incidents.Child and Family Services
In recent years, the child and family services system in the Northwest Territories has received significant scrutiny. The committee’s 16th Assembly report on the review of the Child and Family Services Act contained over 70 recommendations, and called for a less adversarial approach, including the use of least-intrusive measures.
Then in March 2014, the Office of the Auditor General released its audit of child and family services. The audit identified serious deficiencies in a range of areas, including accountability, investigations, risk assessments and screening of foster homes. The department responded with an action plan that promises to provide greater voluntary supports for families and to usher in a more collaborative approach. While some progress has been made, several initiatives are delayed or stalled, and the annual compliance audits have yet to be released. The successor committee is urged to assess the extent to which these audits replicate the Auditor General’s key indicators and thus provide a sound method for tracking improvements over time.
In addition, in the spring of 2015, the committee completed its review of Bill 47, the government’s long-awaited response to the committee’s 2010 report. The successor committee is urged to monitor the department’s response to the committee’s recommendations, including its recommendation to rewrite the Child and Family Services Act during the 18th Assembly.Continuing Care
Over the next 15 years, the Canadian population is expected to age dramatically, and one of the highest proportional increases in the over-65 population is expected to take place within the Northwest Territories. This demographic shift will strain the health care system and increase demands for housing and infrastructure. Hundreds of new care beds will be required, and demands for home care services will rise. Indeed, the needs of seniors are already pressing, as there are waitlists for long-term care and concerns that home care services are too thin on the ground. The committee has urged the government to go beyond its preliminary framework entitled Our Elders: Our Communities
by establishing a comprehensive action plan. The lack of thorough long-term planning is a serious concern, and the successor committee is encouraged to pursue this issue.Pharmaceutical Strategy
In 2012 Alberta Blue Cross prepared a report for the GNWT to look at cost-saving options for the management of drug benefits. A pharmaceutical strategy was subsequently initiated for the purpose of revising the GNWT’s policy and regulatory framework, establishing procedures for bulk procurement, introducing catastrophic drug coverage and considering alternatives to the NIHB formulary. A comprehensive rollout of the pharmaceutical strategy did not take place as planned in the 17th Assembly. Accordingly, the successor committee should request an update.Medical Travel Policy
Since the 16th Assembly, the committee has been urging the government to modernize the Medical Travel Policy and address inconsistencies in its application. The committee asked the government to complete this task within the life of the 17th Assembly, but the goal was only partially realized. The incoming committee should ask for an update on the new ministerial directives in the first quarter of 2016.Water Quality Testing
During the 17th Assembly, the committee repeatedly urged the government to improve its water testing regime through more rigorous standards and better public reporting. Concerns about water quality have been amplified by recent drought conditions and boil-water advisories. A new public website on drinking water quality was launched in 2015, and the successor committee is encouraged to monitor the website, the frequency of monitoring activities and overall compliance with national water testing guidelines.Health Information Act
Bill 4, the Health Information Act, received assent in March 2014 and is expected to come into force on October 1, 2015. With this legislation, the Northwest Territories is joining several other Canadian jurisdictions with health-specific privacy legislation. The successor committee is urged to request an early status update on the implementation of the act, including the Health Information Act Manual; the risk-management tool kit; the delivery of staff training across the Northwest Territories; the communication plan, which should include broad circulation of plain-language materials; and measures being taken to ensure that Aboriginal language speakers understand their rights and what the legislation means.Health Promotion and Prevention
Throughout the 17th Assembly, the committee has recommended more resources for activities that promote good health and prevent diseases or family dysfunction. The successor committee may wish to request an update on these activities, including how funding has been allocated and results from key performance indicators.Chronic Disease Management
Many chronic diseases are preventable, yet they cause a lot of suffering and drive up health care spending. The committee urges a stronger response to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Diabetes is a particular concern, as more than 3,000 NWT residents have the disease and over 200 new cases are diagnosed every year. The committee may want to request an update, including results from the diabetes prevalence study, which is due in January 2016, and evaluations of the various prevention and disease-management programs.Health and Social Services Professions Act
Once in force, the Health and Social Services Professions Act will enable the GNWT to regulate numerous professions under a single law and ensure that only qualified professionals are licenced to practice. The legislation will also empower the Minister to establish a mechanism for reviewing professional conduct. The successor committee may want an update on the drafting of regulations, including the extent of stakeholder involvement and an indication of the professions that are next in the queue for regulation. Fee amounts may also be of interest.Department of Justice Auditor General’s 2015 Report on Corrections
In 2015 the Auditor General’s report focused on the correctional system within the Northwest Territories. The audit found that the Department of Justice has not met its key responsibilities for inmates and has failed to comply with key rehabilitation and reintegration requirements. Deficiencies in case management were also found to limit the department’s efforts to rehabilitate inmates. The successor committee is strongly urged to track the department’s action plan for correcting deficiencies and to assess the extent to which the audit tools replicate the Auditor General’s key indicators and thus provide a sound method for tracking improvements over time.
In addition, during its review of Bill 63, An Act to Amend the Victims of Crime Act, the committee noted that corrections services division is struggling with capacity issues and that the changes associated with Bill 63 will place even greater strain on the courts and correctional resources when offenders cannot pay their fines. There will also be greater pressure to find work opportunities for offenders who participate in the territorial work/Fine Options Program. The successor committee should urge the government to track additional costs and fund the anticipated shortfall.Wellness Court
In the previous Assembly, the Standing Committee on Social Programs conducted research on specialized courts which divert accused persons from mainstream courts and address underlying causes of criminal behaviour. During the 17th Assembly, the government responded by introducing the Wellness Court. This alternative court provides treatment and community support for offenders with addictions, mental disorders or cognitive challenges. The successor committee may want an update on the program’s effectiveness in providing timely and reliable supports such as counselling, housing and income assistance. The new committee may also want to inquire into the potential for expanding the program beyond Yellowknife.Integrated Case Management Pilot Project
The Integrated Case Management (ICM) Pilot Project is adopting a client-centred, multi-departmental model of service delivery and is geared to clients with complex needs. The successor committee may want to inquire into the results of the first evaluation phase in Yellowknife, the number of clients in the program, the proposed expansion to Inuvik and strategies for overcoming barriers to multi-departmental program delivery.Outdated Information Systems
The IT systems supporting the courts of the Northwest Territories, corrections services and legal registries are outdated and at risk of failure. Minor improvements and interim measures are no longer proving adequate and the committee believes these aging systems should be replaced. The incoming committee is encouraged to take up this concern and push for its inclusion in the 2016-17 operations budget.Recalculation Services
Recalculation services allow for adjustments to court orders for child or spousal support, based on updated financial information. Most Canadian jurisdictions offer this service, but the Northwest Territories does not. The only recourse for our residents who fall behind on support payments or become unemployed is to seek legal counsel and have the matter resolved in court. This is expensive and inefficient. The committee has repeatedly asked the government to provide recalculation services. The Department of Justice completed a feasibility study in 2013 and has since advanced the policy work necessary to develop a bill. The successor committee may want a status update on the development of a legislative proposal.Northwest Territories Housing Corporation Housing for Seniors
The committee’s view is that the government is placing too much emphasis on aging-in-place strategies and should do more to address seniors’ housing by retrofitting existing stock and constructing new facilities. Members believe that future housing needs of elders and seniors cannot be handled by the government alone. To this end, Members urge the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to engage in creative problem-solving with other GNWT departments, non-profit organizations and private-sector investors. Members also urge the successor committee to pursue this theme.Core Need and Public Housing Quotas
The committee would like the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to review its method for evaluating core need. Members question the extent to which housing shortages throughout the Northwest Territories are accurately captured by the existing core-need template. The method for determining community quotas for public housing should also be revised in light of local needs and demand. With the recent decline in housing affordability in Yellowknife, the demand in the capital city far outstrips the supply, and this trend seems likely to continue. The successor committee is urged to pursue these concerns.Recommended Actions
The Standing Committee on Social Programs recommends the following actions:
1. that the Government of the Northwest Territories focus on delivering services and monitoring performance in a more responsive and efficient manner, working against the current preoccupation with process and bureaucratic complexity.
2. that the successor committee strategically review the reports released by the 17th Assembly Standing Committee on Social Programs.
3. that the successor committee hold a two-day strategic planning retreat early in the 18th Assembly.Conclusion
This concludes the Standing Committee on Social Programs’ Report on Transition Matters. Members extend best wishes to the successor Committee.
Question has been called. The motion is carried.
Committee Report 26-17(5) is deemed read and reprinted in Hansard in its entirety.Introduction
As the 17th Assembly concludes, the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure continues to monitor several issues and initiatives with long-term implications and to remain engaged with the vital themes of energy and devolution.
The next Assembly will be the first to inherit post-devolution responsibilities from territorial colleagues. These will require close consideration in the next committee. Energy and heating concerns also remain a priority, including costs of living and cost-effective power delivery, continuing low-water conditions and territory-wide dependence on diesel and other fossil fuels, the regulation of resource extraction, and the incorporation of renewable energies into our daily lives.
The committee recognizes challenges of the projected downturn in mining, prospecting and exploration. Going forward, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has the opportunity to use its legislative, regulatory and economic strengths to increase community sustainability and self-sufficiency through growth in “green” jobs and in traditional and conservation economies, in addition to established industries. This will empower current residents, encourage much-needed population growth and foster economic diversification.
This report informs the public and Members of the 18th Assembly of work in progress and highlights areas we believe will require the continued attention of our successor committee.Background
The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure includes six Regular Members of the Legislative Assembly. The committee’s role is to consider the following matters with respect to the departments of Environment and Natural Resources; Industry, Tourism, and Investment; Municipal and Community Affairs; Public Works and Services; and Transportation:
1. review multi-year business plans and budgets, bills, and boards and agencies, including the Workers’ Compensation Commission of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, the Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation and the Public Utilities Board;
2. review departmental performance, including that of boards and agencies; and
3. consider any other matter referred by the House.Legislation and Regulations
Hydraulic fracturing has been a matter of great public interest throughout this Assembly. Our successors are encouraged to consider the committee’s Research Summary and Report on Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing, and seek an update respecting ongoing developments.
The committee also encourages our successors to pursue the merger of the Territorial Lands Act
and Commissioners Lands Act and to ensure that mandatory financial security applies consistently.Interdepartmental Matters
Appreciation For Constituents, Colleagues And Supporters October 8th, 2015
Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. Well, I’m going to do one today. I’d like to start by saying hello to my son Joseph, who’s watching this back home in Tuk – he’s two and a half years old now – he can switch it back to cartoons. I can’t wait to see you, son.
I’d like to start off by thanking my Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Groenewegen, for all the hard work you’ve done with me in the last four years and supporting me and making some crucial decisions during our time and working together. Thank you so much.
To my board of management, thank you so much for all the hard work you’ve done for the benefit of all our Members. It’s been a good time. I really cherish all you guys, and my two friends. Before you, I was there in the middle between Wendy and Bob. Obviously, I was the rose between two thorns. But they taught me so much, just like you, and I respect them so much.
Bob, yesterday Ms. Spence brought up your mother. God rest her soul. She was always here and always giving us encouragement. She was an awesome lady, and I know you have that in you too. You have a good heart and you want the best for the people.
Wendy, I always called you Mother Superior, because you’re always so hard, making sure everything went down. But I really admired you for that and I really thank you because you’ve been helping me, too, along my way as a Member and as a Speaker too.
To all the Cabinet, thank you so much for all the hard work you guys did, and all my Regular Members, every one of you. I could go on for an hour or so if I was allowed to, but I’m not going to do that to you.
Our support, my support staff, I’d like to thank Nina Larsson, my executive assistant; and my CA back home, Donna Bernhardt, who does so much for us, for the people of Nunakput. People don’t see the hard work that you guys do and the hours you put in and I want to thank her.
I want to also thank Wendy Morgan. Wendy has been there for me too. So, I think there’s about four or five of us that share Wendy. Thank you so much for all your work that you’ve done for the people of Nunakput.
Where do I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement?
And there are no nays. How about I keep going? To all my constituents back home, thank you for your support and being there for me when I go visit the communities. To my elders, who we cherish so much across our territory, thank you so much. To all the families that are hurting right now with the stuff that’s going on back home, thoughts and prayers are with all the people who are hurting across our great territory today. Thoughts and prayers are with you from this House.
I’d like to thank my clerks, which I have the best clerks in the Northwest Territories and in the Commonwealth of 170 countries.
Thank you, Gail; thank you, Tim; and thank you, Doug; and thanks to all your support staff and our security. Like you guys said earlier today – you said it best, Bob – like you said, we have the best.
To my wife, Jenny, who has been the biggest supporter here, and to all my kids, Chelsey, Kristin, Matthew, Mitchell, Mikayla, and my son Joseph, and my grandson, Alexander. I know I’m a young grandfather too.
It’s been really an honour to work with every one of you. Bob, Wendy, I’ll never forget our times together and Sandy always trying to hit me.
But like I said, again, thank you guys so much, every one of you. God bless you and good luck in your future endeavors. We have 17 days left in this government. So I want all my Members to try to finish all of your constituency work in the last 17 days to try to get some help for the constituents and for the people that we serve. So thank you, Members.
Speaker’s Ruling October 7th, 2015
Colleagues, I will now provide my ruling on the point of privilege raised by the Member for Range Lake on Tuesday, September 29, 2015. To start, I find Mr. Dolynny raised this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
The point of privilege relates to a press conference held by the Premier and Minister of Finance on September 2, 2015. During the press conference, the Premier and Minister announced funding to the Power Corporation for up to $29.7 million to prevent an increase in power rates for all NWT residents.
The Member for Range Lake stated that the announcement of this funding left the impression that a final decision had been made on this matter and there was no meaningful role for the Legislative Assembly in debating and approving it. In his view, this is a breach of parliamentary privilege or contempt.
I have reviewed the rulings of other Speakers noted by the Member, specifically in Ontario and the House of Commons. Those cases are very similar to what we are dealing with here. In both cases the Speakers ruled that there was no breach of the privileges of the House. Mr. Miltenberger, in speaking of the matter, stated, “There was no impairment of freedom of speech. There was no attempt to obstruct the final decision of the House.” I agree with him on this and find that there is no prima facie breach of privilege.
Now we must deal with the contempt issue. The best definition I have found of contempt comes to us from Speaker Charbonneau of the Quebec National Assembly. “Contempt is any act or omission that hinders the work of the Assembly or that undermines its authority or dignity.”
In stating his case, the Member quoted from the press release that was issued the same day as the news conference. The news release says the following: “The GNWT will provide NTPC with up to $29.7 million.”
“Without this decision, NTPC would have had to apply for a two-year rate rider.”
“Our government doesn’t believe it makes sense to pass these costs on to residents and has decided to cover them instead.”
The Member stated that these comments make it seem like the funding is a “done deal,” like there is no meaningful role for the Legislative Assembly in approving it. I find it hard to disagree.
The news release creates an improper impression about how our government works. In my view, it undermines the important work of MLAs in this House and the dignity and authority of this institution. To quote former Speaker Fraser in the House of Commons case: “We are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy, nor a so-called administrative democracy.”
Not long ago this Assembly wrote down what consensus government means. One of the principles that we agreed to is: “Except under extraordinary circumstances, Members of the Legislative Assembly should be made aware of and have opportunity to discuss significant announcements, changes, consultations or initiatives before they are released to the public or introduced in the Legislative Assembly.”
In speaking to the point of privilege, both the Premier and the Minister indicated that a decision was urgently required. I do not dispute this, but the timing of the media release and press conference raised some questions. A letter was sent to Members from the Minister of Finance on August 31st, indicating that the proposed funding would be included in the upcoming supplementary appropriation bill. The letter said nothing of an urgent situation. It does not say that the funding request would be made public prior to the upcoming session.
The media release and press conference occurred two days after the letter was sent. On the day of the press conference, all Members of the Legislative Assembly were in Yellowknife to attend Caucus meetings. If an urgent or emergency situation did indeed exist, a committee meeting during this time to discuss it could have been easily arranged.
Also in the case of a real emergency, legislation allows the government to request a special warrant. This was done for the forest fire situation this summer. It was not done for the matter at hand. I don’t want to suggest that the low water situation would have met the conditions for a special warrant. That’s not the issue here, but it does raise question as to why a public announcement of the proposed funding was so urgently required before a bill could be introduced in this House.
Many Members, in speaking in favour of the point of privilege, noted that the government followed a similar process last year. They also noted that concerns were raised by Members at the time, who assumed that same approach would not be repeated.
I accept the Minister’s statement that Cabinet holds this institution in high regard. I believe that neither he nor the Premier intended any lack of respect for the institution they have made honourable careers serving. In fact, when you read the speaking notes drafted from the Premier’s press conference, which are posted to the website, there is clear and appropriate reference to the role of the Assembly. The notes make use of words like the “GNWT intends to fund” and “the funding will be included in a bill for the consideration of the Assembly later this month.” Although none of this language is reflected in the press release, it is included in some of the media reports that followed. I am, therefore, confident that they were expressed at the news conference.
Colleagues, this is a good point of privilege and one that could go either way. I want to thank the Member for Range Lake for raising it as well as all the Members who spoke to it.
I find that the wording “September 2nd press release,” although very inappropriate, does not constitute prima facie contempt of this Legislative Assembly. A future Speaker, including this one, might not rule the same way under the same or similar circumstances in the future. I will have to remind all Members that we do not operate like a majority Parliament. Our House and committees have important roles to play in making decisions that affect the territory. If we want others to take the work here that we do seriously, we have to start with ourselves.
Thank you, colleagues. I know you will take my advice seriously. Mr. Clerk, orders of the day.
Question has been called. The motion is carried.
1. That the Department of Health and Social Services ensure that its operational practices align with the principles of the new Mental Health Act.
2. That the Department of Health and Social Services review its clinical standards and protocols for the release of voluntary patients, including the use of risk-assessment screening tools and provision of follow-up care.
3. That the Department of Health and Social Services renew its efforts to recruit and retain front-line mental health workers, targeting positions with long-standing vacancies.
4. That the Department of Health and Social Services guarantee access to safe and affordable housing for front-line workers as a way of strengthening recruitment and retention.
5. That the Department of Health and Social Services ensure appropriate housing is available for patients being discharged from designated facilities, including patients receiving psychiatric care under community treatment plans.
6. That the Department of Health and Social Services strengthen efforts to re-establish a residential addictions treatment facility for the Northwest Territories or establish a pan-territorial facility.
7. That the Department of Health and Social Services expand its outreach, ensuring that health care workers provide services in remote communities on a more frequent basis.
8. That the Department of Health and Social Services offer mobile treatment services.
9. That the Department of Health and Social Services introduce a comprehensive after-care and relapse prevention program for use by counsellors across the Northwest Territories, based on the model developed by Shepell, a national mental health organization.
10. That the Department of Health and Social Services ensure that individuals with a criminal record for a violent or sexual offence are not denied access to southern residential treatment facilities.
11. That the Department of Health and Social Services work with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to develop “integrated community plans” for Aurora College students who have mental health issues.
12. That the Department of Health and Social Services collaborate with other GNWT departments to offer cultural camps and on-the-land programs, focusing on mental health, healing, and traditional Aboriginal knowledge.
13. That the Department of Health and Social Services provide respite services for family members who are providing care for mentally ill family members.
14. That the Department of Health and Social Services employ local health care staff or lay dispensers in communities in order to increase patients’ compliance in taking prescription medication.
15. That the Department of Health and Social Services provide a mechanism for hearing the concerns of patients and their advocates regarding prescription medication, focusing on measures to offset negative side effects.
16. That the Department of Health and Social Services review its official languages protocol to ensure that patients are receiving interpretation services as required.
17. That the Department of Health and Social Services introduce job sharing and part-time options for mental health workers in order to reduce the risk of burnout and make front-line positions more attractive.
18. That the Department of Health and Social Services adopt an approach that relies on therapy and counselling as a viable alternative to prescription medication.
19. That the Department of Health and Social Services hire additional psychiatrists in order to reduce lengthy wait times.
20. That the Department of Health and Social Services hire a dedicated psychiatrist to address the needs of children, adolescents and youth.
21. That the Department of Health and Social Services simplify job titles for front-line mental health workers so that workers will be more approachable.
22. That the Department of Health and Social Services strengthen its services for seniors who are experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
23. That the Department of Health and Social Services hire additional medical social workers who can provide services at the intersection of mental health, counselling and social services.
24. That the Department of Health and Social Services work with community agencies, non-profit organizations and local churches to establish safe spaces where people with mental health issues can gather and receive support.
25.That the Department of Health and Social Services provide à la carte options which communities may use to support the implementation of assisted community treatment.
26.That the Department of Health and Social Services ensure that psychiatrists, medical doctors and other health care workers receive appropriate training in the use of assisted community treatment.
27. That the Government of the Northwest Territories take measures to limit the liability of people who agree to monitor an ACT patient.
1. That the Department of Health and Social Services monitor and evaluate each community treatment plan on an annual basis, looking for deficiencies and employing corrective actions.
2. That the Government of the Northwest Territories take stronger measures to address homelessness among residents who have mental health and addiction issues, looking to the success of “Housing First” initiatives in other parts of Canada.
3. That the Department of Health and Social Services expand its suicide prevention efforts across the Northwest Territories, ensuring the use of culturally appropriate messaging.
4. That the Department of Health and Social Services develop, and widely disseminate, a protocol for small-community residents on steps to be taken when someone has committed suicide or when someone is threatening to commit suicide or engaging in self-harm.
5. That the Government of the Northwest Territories adopt a proactive approach, providing training for community leaders and GNWT employees in Mental Health First Aid or Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), so that more people are alert to signs of trouble, equipped to intervene and able to prevent situations from escalating.
6. That the Department of Health and Social Services ensure that front-line workers are appropriately trained in the use of valid, reliable, evidence-based screening tools for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, schizophrenia, suicidal ideation and other mental disorders.
7. That the Department of Health and Social Services develop and implement a stand-alone, multi-departmental strategy and action plan for addressing the mental health needs of youth and adolescents, drawing on proven methods, programs and expertise in other jurisdictions.
8. That the Government of the Northwest Territories ensure that child protection workers, social workers and school attendance counsellors are placed in schools, recognizing that K-12 schools are natural and effective settings for early intervention.
9. That the Department of Health and Social Services appoint a lawyer as the chair of the review board.
10. That the Government of the Northwest Territories ensure that peace officers receive cultural-competency training in the use of force, including mechanical means or medication, for apprehending, conveying, detaining or controlling individuals under this act.
11. That the Department of Health and Social Services provide training for all authorized persons who apprehend, convey, detain or control individuals under this act.
12. That the Department of Health and Social Services post sample applications online to guide people who are preparing applications to the review board.
13. That the Department of Health and Social Services collaborate with the Department of Justice to ensure that a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist assesses potential clients for dangerous-offender status prior to inclusion in the Domestic Violence Treatment Options (DVTO) diversion program.
14. That the Department of Health and Social Services specify the purpose of the registry in the regulations.
15. That the Department of Health and Social Services include a description of the purpose of the registry in its plain-language communication materials.
16. That the Department of Health and Social Services stipulate in regulations that only pertinent information from certificates be entered into the registry, in accordance with Section 28 of the Health Information Act, which states that personal health information must not be used if non-identifying information is adequate for the intended purpose.
17. That the Department of Health and Social Services regularly remind peace officers and other authorized persons of their duty to respect the confidentiality of patient information.
18. That the Department of Health and Social Services inform patients who receive services outside the Northwest Territories that they are subject to privacy laws in outside jurisdictions rather than privacy laws of the Northwest Territories.
19. That the Department of Health and Social Services consult with the Standing Committee on Social Programs, key stakeholders and the public on the development of regulations.
20. That the Department of Health and Social Services provide training for staff on the new legislation, highlighting relevant sections of the
and regulations, and giving direction on required procedures.
21. That the Department of Health and Social Services develop an agreement with the RCMP regarding their role under the new Mental Health Act, including cultural-competency training for RCMP officers.
22. That the Department of Health and Social Services ensure that the new act
harmonizes with the requirements of the Wellness Court Diversion Program.
23. That the Department of Health and Social Services establish in regulations that an Aboriginal chief may serve as a peace officer.
24. That the Department of Health and Social Services make efforts to educate the public about mental health issues, with a focus on informing residents of available services and reducing stigma for mental health consumers.
25. That the Department of Health and Social Services implement a comprehensive communication plan for the new legislation, including the circulation of plain-language materials.
Question has been called. Motion is carried.
Over the course of the 17th Legislative Assembly, the Standing Committee on Government Operations (SCOGO or “the committee”) has conducted a number of reviews and issued 19 reports containing a number of recommendations to the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT). In many instances, the GNWT has agreed with our recommendations and made commitments which it has not yet fulfilled. The intent of this report on transition matters is to advise members of the incoming Standing Committee on Government Operations of the 18th Legislative Assembly on the status of work in progress.Mandate of the Standing Committee
The Standing Committee on Government Operations plays an important oversight role with respect to government operations. Its mandate includes the:
• review of the departmental performance, budgets and multi-year business plans of the departments of Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, the Executive, Finance and Human Resources and their boards and agencies;
• consideration of bills sponsored by these departments;
• statutory review of the Official Languages Act;
• review of the annual and special reports of the statutory officers of the Legislative Assembly, including the Languages Commissioner, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the Equal Pay Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission;
• examination of the reports on the annual financial statements and public accounts of the GNWT and the reports of the Auditor General; and
• consideration of any other matter referred by the House.Review of the Official Languages Act
The Official Languages Act requires the committee to review the legislation at five-year intervals. In its report, the standing committee found that Education, Culture and Employment failed to respond fully to the findings of the 2009 review. The committee also found that the department’s model for the delivery of official languages programming and services differed from that recommended by the standing committee of the 16th Assembly, without adequate public explanation for its “new approach.”
The committee is particularly troubled by the fact that the department has, since 2006, been knowingly operating the Official Languages Board and the Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board in contravention of its own legislation and has yet to revise its legislative proposal to remedy this.
The committee is also concerned about the funding model for Aboriginal language revitalization and how the department intends to ensure accountability for the funding provided to language communities.
The department’s response to the standing committee’s report on the 2014 review was tabled in the final session of the 17th Assembly and was reviewed by the committee. The incoming committee is encouraged to monitor the department’s implementation of the committee’s recommendations and to ensure that the department responds fully to the recommendations of the next review to take place towards the end of the 18th Assembly.Reviews of Reports of the Auditor General
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) is the Auditor General for the Northwest Territories. The committee reviewed the following reports of the Auditor General during the 17th Legislative Assembly:
2012Status Report to the NWT Legislative Assembly (following up on recommendations made in previous audits)
2013Report on Northwest Territories Income Security Programs: Department of Education, Culture and Employment
2014Report on Child and Family Services: Department of Health and Social Services and Health and Social Services Authorities
2015Report on Corrections in the Northwest Territories: Department of Justice
For each of these performance audits, the committee tabled a report of its own. These reports contain 69 recommendations to the relevant government departments. Progress on the recommendations is being monitored by the Standing Committee on Social Programs (SCOSP), whose mandate includes oversight of the departments of Justice, Education, Culture and Employment and Health and Social Services. The incoming SCOSP is encouraged, in particular, to watch for the implementation of a renewed strategic approach by the Department of Justice, referenced in their Corrections Action Plan and their response to recommendation 6 of the committee’s Report on the Review of the OAG’s Report on Corrections.
The departments tabled their responses to the Committee reports in the fall Session of each year following the presentation of the Auditor General’s report.
The OAG advises that, effective in 2016, performance audits to the Legislative Assembly will be tabled in the fall instead of spring. The next performance audit will, therefore, be tabled in the fall of 2016.Review of the Public Accounts
The Auditor General performs an annual financial audit of the public accounts of the GNWT. This year the committee completed its third annual review of the public accounts. Over the three-year period that this committee has undertaken reviews, Finance has made progress in completing the public accounts in a timely manner.
The committee encourages its successor committee to continue to conduct this annual review, which is an important mechanism for monitoring government accountability, and to ensure compliance with current recommendations.Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees
SCOGO participates in the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees (CCPAC). Members have found the annual conference held by the CCPAC to be very informative. The committee encourages members of its successor committee to take advantage of this networking and learning opportunity.
The standing committee also notes that the Northwest Territories has been selected as host for the 37th Annual CCPAC Conference, to be held in Yellowknife August 21-23, 2016. This is only the second time in the history of the conference that the event has been held in the Northwest Territories. The committee is confident that its successor committee will ensure that visiting Public Accounts committees from other Canadian and international jurisdictions have an informative and memorable visit.Reviews of Reports of Statutory Officers
The Legislative Assembly’s statutory officers include the Languages Commissioner, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Equal Pay Commissioner and Human Rights Commission.
In reviewing the annual reports of the Human Rights Commission and the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the committee made a number of recommendations and continues to monitor progress on the issues identified.
Vacancies in the office of Languages Commissioner have resulted in the committee’s inability to complete thorough reviews of the Languages Commissioner’s annual reports for the last three fiscal years. The standing committee is confident that with the appointment of a new Languages Commissioner, routine reviews of that office’s annual reports will resume during the 18th Assembly.
With respect to the Legislative Assembly’s statutory officers, the committee wishes to bring the following related matters to the attention of its successor committee:Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) Legislation for Community Governments
With the exception of one year, the Information and Privacy Commissioner has, since 1997-1998, annually called for legislation to be passed or amended so that municipal governments are bound by access and privacy requirements similar to those binding the GNWT. This committee supports this recommendation, as did our predecessor committees in the 15th and 16th Legislative Assemblies. As well, the NWT Association of Communities expressed support for this initiative in a resolution passed in 2012, encouraging the government to commence consultations.
In May 2015 the GNWT provided the committee with a “What We Heard” report, summarizing the consultations. The GNWT has committed that the “final report will be completed in the fall of 2015 as a transitional issue for the consideration of the 18th Assembly.”
The standing committee strongly encourages its successor committee to follow up on this long-standing issue.Update to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) Act
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the ATIPP Act. It has long been a matter of concern for the committee and the Information and Privacy Commissioner that this act is outdated and requires modernization.
The committee is pleased that a review of the act will be completed in 2015-2016, according to the Department of Justice’s business plan. The committee encourages the GNWT to include a triggering provision requiring a mandatory statutory review, to ensure that the act is kept current in future years.
The committee encourages its successor committee to carefully monitor the department’s progress on this important initiative.Amendments to the Human Rights Act
The NWT Human Rights Commission, established under the Human Rights Act, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2014. The commission has conducted a comprehensive review of the act and will submit its recommendations early in the life of the 18th Assembly.
The committee stresses the importance of monitoring this work to its successor committee.Establishing an Ombudsman for the Northwest Territories
Establishing an office of the ombudsman for the Northwest Territories has been intermittently under discussion since the 12th Legislative Assembly. Most recently, three motions passed during the 17th Assembly have punctuated the dialogue. The first called on the GNWT to bring forward legislation establishing an ombudsman for the NWT. In response, the GNWT argued that the various appeal processes provided for in NWT legislation reduce the need for an ombudsman.
This prompted a second motion referring the matter to SCOGO for further research and analysis. In June 2014 the committee tabled its report, which found that the complexity of the appeal processes in NWT legislation make it difficult for members of the public to understand their rights and that an ombudsman provides a single point of contact for people who have difficulty dealing with the GNWT.
A final motion again called for legislation establishing an NWT ombudsman. The GNWT’s response was tabled in February 2015, concluding that the matter would be referred for consideration by the 18th Assembly.
The committee recommends that incoming SCOGO members urge their Caucus colleagues to set the creation of an ombudsman’s office as a priority for the 18th Assembly.Departmental Issues Finance Legislative Initiatives
The Department of Finance has an ambitious legislative agenda.The department has advised the committee that it will be bringing forward legislative proposals for establishing a Public Private Partnerships (P3) Corporation Act
for amending the Tobacco Tax Act, the Petroleum Products Tax Act and existing Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) legislation. The department will also propose amendments to liquor regulations to allow for direct sales from a manufacturing facility.
The incoming committee is encouraged to watch for these proposals.Implementation of the Financial Administration Act
A new Financial Administration Act was given assent on June 4, 2015, and comes into force on April 1, 2016. One of the key thrusts of this legislation is a movement away from the requirement for the GNWT to seek Legislative Assembly approval for expenditure decisions that have already been made, in favour of increased reporting requirements. The committee’s report provides a discussion of the key changes to the act.
The incoming committee is encouraged to monitor compliance with the new Financial Administration Act, particularly with respect to ensuring that government is meeting its new reporting requirements.Fiscal Responsibility Policy
The GNWT introduced the Fiscal Responsibility Policy during the 16th Assembly. This policy is composed of the 1400 Section of the Financial Administration Manual and contains key rules that bind the government’s borrowing. Despite the significance of the policy and the GNWT's commitment to it, the policy was never formally approved by the Commissioner in Executive Council or signed by the Premier.
During its review of Bill 37,
Financial Administration Act, the Minister clarified for the standing committee Finance’s interpretation that Section 13(2)(d) of the new act requires the Minister to bring forward the Fiscal Responsibility Policy for formal approval before the April 1, 2016, coming-into-force date. In addition, the Minister concurred with an amendment to Bill 37 to ensure that the Legislative Assembly or one of its standing committees is consulted before the Financial Management Board (FMB) approves or amends the Fiscal Responsibility Policy.
The incoming committee should expect to review the
Fiscal Responsibility Policy very early in its term.Enterprise Risk Management Framework
The committee is pleased that the department is responsive to the observation made by the OAG that the lack of a comprehensive risk management framework was an issue for the GNWT. However, the committee is concerned about the lack of transparency with respect to the work the government is doing in this area. The committee has not been provided a copy of the framework document, if one exists, and the department has declined to share copies of the departmental risk assessment profiles when they are completed.
The committee feels that some of the confusion surrounding this work could be addressed by determining with the Department of Finance what role, if any, the standing committee has in this work and what some of the public deliverables are with respect to enterprise risk management. Enterprise risk management is both a process and a series of outputs. The standing committee must have access to outputs and the information they contain, if it is to have any meaningful oversight role with respect to the process.
The incoming committee is strongly encouraged to explore this further with the department.Planning and Accountability Framework
The new Financial Administration Act is intended to increase fiscal accountability by giving the FMB authority to establish a framework for planning by and accountability of government and public agencies. The act requires that the Planning and Accountability Framework be tabled in the Legislative Assembly at the earliest opportunity after being established and after any amendments.
The act ensures that the Legislative Assembly or one of its standing committees is consulted before the FMB approves or amends the Planning and Accountability Framework; therefore, the incoming committee should expect to review this document.Internal Audit Bureau
The standing committee is concerned with the lack of transparency and public accountability with respect to the Internal Audit Bureau (IAB). In its Report on the Review of the 2013-14 Public Accounts, the committee recommended that, “in the interests of transparency and accountability, the Department of Finance share the findings and recommendations of the Internal Audit Bureau with the committee in confidence, particularly where the Government of the Northwest Territories relies on those findings and recommendations as substantiation for actions taken.”
The department replied that the “Internal Audit Bureau provides independent assurance and advice to senior officials within the GNWT, whereas the OAG performs the same role for GNWT elected representatives to the Legislative Assembly. Therefore, disclosure to the committee of IAB findings and recommendations related to a particular audit would only be appropriate if it formed an integral part of a department's response on a particular question that committee had related to the public accounts.”
The committee is dissatisfied with this response, as it fails to take into account the standing committee’ oversight role. The committee feels strongly that there should be full disclosure and encourages the incoming committee to seek it from the next government.NWT Tax and Resource Royalty Regimes
The standing committee has repeatedly challenged the department to find ways to increase the NWT’s own-source revenues. Some of the suggestions made by the committee include maximizing self-reporting taxes, adding an upper bracket to the NWT’s tax regime and making innovative changes to the resource royalty regime.
The committee urges its successor committee to continue to press the department to find ways to generate additional revenues for the GNWT.Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations Timely Receipt of Quarterly Negotiations and Implementation Status Report
These confidential reports provide the Committee with useful information for understanding the status of the department’s work with respect to the negotiation of land, resources and self-government agreements. Although these reports are quarterly, the committee has received fewer than four reports in the last four years and the most recent report was received late.
The incoming committee is encouraged to pursue the timely submission of these reports from the department.Executive Government Service Officers
In its review of the department’s 2015-2016 Business Plan, the committee acknowledged the positive public response to the department’s flagship program placing 18 government services officers (GSOs) in smaller communities. The committee urged the department to take the necessary steps to create at least one or two more GSO positions in 2015-2016 and to confirm the overall rollout plan for this initiative, which would see a GSO in each of the 23 small communities.
The committee hopes that its successor committee will continue to pressure the government for full implementation of this program in all small communities.NGO Stabilization Fund
In May 2013 SCOGO issued a news release calling on the GNWT to increase the funding to the $350,000 Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Stabilization Fund. The committee was concerned that the total funding available to NGOs had not increased since the program’s first full year of operation in 2010-2011. The committee was also concerned about the need to provide clearer information to applicants, overly-restrictive screening criteria, prioritization of projects and the transfer of fund administration from the Department of Executive to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.
Oversight of the NGO Stabilization Fund now falls to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure (SCEDI). The committee encourages the incoming Members of SCEDI in the 18th Assembly to continue to monitor the disposition of this fund.Human Resources Direct Appointments
In the 2013 calendar year, 6.4 percent of the GNWT’s employees were directly appointed to their positions in the public service. In its review of the 2015-2016 Business Plans, the standing committee expressed concern that this tool is being used too liberally by government.
Whenever a direct appointment takes place, potential applicants for that job are deprived of a fair competition for the job. The committee called upon the Minister to work with his Cabinet colleagues to review and strengthen the guidelines governing the use of direct appointments and to require stronger reasons for their use.
The department’s response indicated that Cabinet supports and will continue to use direct appointments to the GNWT public service. The committee is disappointed by this response and urges the incoming committee to follow up with the GNWT to minimize the use of direct appointments wherever possible.Management of Vacant Positions
The standing committee is also concerned with the management practice of accessing unspent funds from vacant positions to use in other ways. The committee worries that this provides a disincentive to managers to keep positions fully staffed and has the potential to enable the use of funds for expenditures for which they were not appropriated.
The committee has called on the Department of Human Resources to demonstrate leadership in this area, to reduce and eliminate the practice of artificially maintaining vacancies as a means for increasing funding flexibility. The committee recommends that its successor committee be vigilant in monitoring this issue.Safe Disclosure Legislative Proposal
The standing committee was expecting a legislative proposal from the department to develop safe disclosure (whistleblower) legislation to protect those who come forward with information regarding government impropriety or illegal activities. The committee was displeased with the department’s decision to suspend work on this initiative pending the results of SCOGO’s work on establishing an ombudsman.
In the absence of any discussion between the committee and the department on the relationship between these two initiatives, the committee views this delay as unfortunate. The establishment of an NWT Ombudsman might enhance the implementation of safe disclosure legislation by providing a system for independent investigation of questionable government activities, but it does not replace the statutory protection that would be provided to whistleblowers under appropriate legislation.
The committee sees no valid reason to delay this work and encourages its successor committee to ensure that this initiative is back on track.Workforce Planning Strategy (Staff Retention and Regional Recruitment)
During the 2015-2016 Business Plan review, the committee noted that six of the eight key sub-strategies in the Workforce Planning Strategy are directly related to matters of recruitment. The committee is also concerned that the department has not done enough work in the area of succession planning. The committee has urged the department to increase its focus on retention activities as a means for stabilizing the NWT workforce.
The committee encourages its successor committee to continue to pay close attention to the department’s efforts to recruit and retain a qualified and stable NWT workforce.Conclusion
This concludes the Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on Transition Matters. Members respectfully suggest that our successor committee consider requesting updates on the above matters from committee staff and government and wish them the utmost success in fulfilling their mandate.
Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters October 2nd, 2015
Yes, all the signage will be completed this year.
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