Debates of May 26, 2023 (day 155)



Colleagues, before we begin today, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize some visitors to our proceedings today. I am pleased to welcome Ms. Martin's grade 6 class from Weledeh Catholic School. It's great to see students here learning about consensus government so please be on your best behaviour. Just kidding. Thank you, and please enjoy the proceedings today. Thank you.

Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 354-19(2): Housing Northwest Territories Housing Forum

Mr. Speaker, strengthening relationships with Indigenous governments is a priority of this Legislative Assembly and a key objective in Housing NWT's renewal strategy, so I am pleased to announce the formation of the NWT Housing Forum as another step toward this goal.

As we have been rolling out changes to Housing NWT's policies, programs, and ways of doing business through our renewal strategy, we have been guided by the Council of Leaders Housing Working Group. The working group told us clearly that it wanted to see more permanent venues to allow NWT governments to collaborate and share information on housing.

Mr. Speaker, we listened, and the result is the NWT Housing Forum, a body cochaired by an Indigenous government and Housing NWT. Based on a proposal brought forward by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the NWT Housing Forum replaces the working group, The structure of the Council of Leaders Leaders through reporting and eligibility for members while providing a more practical and broader focus on the subject matters of housing.

Mr. Speaker, the forum will meet four times a year and inperson. A housing symposium will also be held in Northwest Territories communities every second year. The Indigenous government cochair with an alternative and will be selected every two years by consensus of Indigenous governments members.

Mr. Speaker, this guided body will share information, discuss and advocate for improvements and changes to the NWT Housing's system and allows members to share their own housingrelated plans and activities, and find opportunities for collaboration. The forum also provides an opportunity for Members to interact collaboratively with the federal government on housingrelated matters, especially when speaking with one voice is very important.

Mr. Speaker, addressing the housing needs of the Northwest Territories is something that one government cannot do alone. Formalizing this group as the new NWT Housing Forum will build an already strong foundation and ensure Indigenous governments have a strong voice in the housing needs of their communities.

Mr. Speaker, Housing NWT's renewal is an ongoing initiative and Housing NWT will use this forum to seek input and guidance from members on future changes to programs, policies, and legislation relating to these matters within Housing NWT's mandate as well as provided an important ongoing venue for multilateral housing discussions between Housing NWT and NWT Indigenous governments, and any other groups they wish to include in this discussion. Having the Indigenous governments at the table and leading the discussions on how best to improve housing situations in the Northwest Territories is an example of reconciliation, collaboration, and will lead to improvements throughout the Northwest Territories. The NWT Housing Forum will hold its first official meeting on June 9th to confirm the selection of the Indigenous governments to colead. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Minister’s Statement 355-19(2): 2023 Winter Road Season Community Fuel Re-supply

Mr. Speaker, winter roads play a role in connecting families and businesses in the territory. Every year, they allow essential goods like fuel for electricity generation, heat, and transportation to be delivered to communities and homes. The Government of the Northwest Territories recognizes the importance of these community lifelines and remains committed to building, operating, and maintaining accessible winter roads for all residents of the Northwest Territories. Today, I am providing an update on the GNWT's successful 2023 winter road season and fuel resupply activities.

Each year, highway crews in the Beaufort Delta, Sahtu, Deh Cho, and North Slave regions build and maintain approximately 1400 kilometres of winter roads, ice roads, and ice crossings. This important work connects the nine NWT communities that are not served by allseason roads while reducing the cost of living for residents who live there.

Many communities rely heavily on diesel and gasoline for electricity generation, heat, and transportation. Transporting fuel by winter road is the quickest and most costeffective method of winter delivery. This year, the GNWT's season fuel resupply started on February 7th and was completed April 6th. The total volume of petroleum products delivered by winter roads totaled close to 5.2 million litres to six NWT communities.

The winter road season is always demanding on our fuel service and winter road teams, who have mere months to construct and make use of the seasonal connections. This year required particular diligence, attention to detail, and collaboration, as milder than normal temperatures early in the season, along with heavy snowfall, made conditions in some areas especially challenging.

The environmental challenges required even more oversight and administration from our teams. They conducted enhanced profiling and inspections, and responded to all issues, protecting the safety of the public and employees. Our team overcame challenging conditions by working closely with contractors, transport companies, and multiple divisions within the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge that the same conditions that required such tireless work from our staff and contractors also created challenging circumstances for our residents. To protect driver safety, it was necessary to open some winter roads later than usual and some closed with little warning in the spring. While this was necessary, I do recognize how frustrating this can be and I want to thank Northwest Territories residents for their patience as we all adjust to new patterns in the winter road season.

Mr. Speaker, our government's priority is to make strategic infrastructure investments that connect communities, expand our economy, and reduce the cost of living. The work done by our winter road staff and contractors helps achieve this priority, and this year required them to step up like never before. Thanks to their diligence and dedication, we had another safe and successful season. Our government will continue to work with the public and private sector's partners to maintain a dependable supply of essential goods and services to all Northwest Territories communities. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.

Minister’s Statement 356-19(2): Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission’s Skills Canada Northwest Territories Support

Mr. Speaker, the importance of workplace safety cannot be understated. The Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission works to emphasize this message in many ways, like through partnerships with organizations that share similar audiences and values. One such organization is Skills Canada Northwest Territories, which the WSCC has an ongoing, multiyear partnership with. Their recent territorial Skills Competition and Career Expo provided an opportunity for direct engagement with the youth.

As part of the career expo, the WSCC hosted a TryATrade activity, which enabled Yellowknife, N'dilo, and Behchoko high school students to experience what it is like to be a safety officer and conduct a mock inspection. Students were taught how to properly use personal protective equipment and how to identify hazards in the workplace. Students observed a traditional workplace with a beading station and an area for blocking hides as part of the activity. The WSCC helped students to observe the workplace and identify areas where potential hazards could occur. Students also learned about their three safety rights as workers: Their rights to know; their rights to participate; the right to refuse; and, who to talk to about safety in the workplace.

Mr. Speaker, over 250 high school students participated in WSCC's TryATrade activity, and they were curious, engaged, and excited to participate. Many students recommended their friends try the activity on the second day. The WSCC also helped organize the workers place safety territorial competition. Participants were tasked with completing an inspection of mock warehouse observation, other skill competitions, and identifying hazards and controls and research on a safety issue and delivering a toolbox talk. Yellowknife competitor, Liam Miller, worked hard and was rewarded with the gold medal in the safety workplace for their students. Liam moved on to the National Skills Canada competition and represented the Northwest Territories. The WSCC's partnership with the Skills Canada Northwest Territories continues to target the young workers since youth tend to be newer in the workforce and less experienced. Due to the factors, they can be more at risk and feel pressure to impress their employers, making them more vulnerable to injury risk. By supporting this important event and organizing them, they learned the experience that to work safe in a safety workplace and what that looks like and get valuable safety information. The WSCC offers a free young worker safety certificate course, online program that provides general safety certification.

Skills Canada Northwest Territories promotes careers in skilled trades and technology within the workplace that often present more hazards by promoting workplace safety and reminding all participants and organizations of its importance in the workplace. We all hope to foster even safer workplaces for our younger workers. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Deputy Premier.

Minister’s Statement 357-19(2): Communities Hosting Evacuees

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I stood up in the Legislative Assembly to thank residents and communities that hosted evacuees. I want to acknowledge that many communities have hosted evacuees that were not registered as part of the formal evacuation program. I want to thank the communities like Fort Resolution, and many others, that opened their doors and their hearts to their neighbours in this time of need. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Members’ Statements

Member’s Statement 1521-19(2): Procurement of Goods and Services

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the North is a pretty incredible community. When someone starts a new business, we show up and don't mind waiting to be one of the first to support a new venture. We love telling people about our experience and sharing encouraging words as our neighbours settle into entrepreneurship, and we love doing this because of the impact business brings to our community. While fulfilling their career goals, businesses step up when a sports team needs support, contribute to residents experiencing loss, and bring life to our communities.

But I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if all public servants who make procurement decisions realize the immense impact that they have on the business community. Not only procurement shared services but also public servants from every department can procure services less than $10,000 and goods less than $25,000 directly from vendors through informal quotes. It is the responsibility of each department to take reasonable steps to obtain the best value possible, operate within GNWT policies, comply with the business incentive policy, the northern manufacturers policy, and the Financial Administration Act, and be able to demonstrate that all reasonable steps were taken to obtain the best value possible. But ultimately, they choose where GNWT dollars go. So many public servants have the ability to make it possible for local businesses to continue to exist, expand, and support our communities, but it starts with the bread and butter, or GNWT dollars, needed to keep that business rolling.

A quarter of GNWT dollars are going to nonNWT businesses. This equates to $95 million of bread and butter leaving the Northwest Territories. Don't get me wrong, I know not every dollar will stay in the Northwest Territories, but I get phone calls from NWT businesses that are asked for informal quotes. They offer to provide similar goods for similar price points and then learn the department opted to hit “buy now” online. Sometimes it's because they wanted a different colour or were married to a different brand or have just always used that southern vendor. But what seems like an insignificant southern purchase are dollars that would have made a difference to small business. When you click “buy now” online, you take sport away from kids, you reduce business to capacity to grow in the North and job creation and, the truly devastating result, make NWT businesses ask if running their business North of 60, or just over the border with lower operating costs, is a way to go.

Mr. Speaker, I hope public servants listening hear me today. Your procurement dollars, no matter how small to your department's budget, matter to northern business owners and matter to your community's health. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Member’s Statement 1522-19(2): Services to Youth

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, youth in our territory face many challenges that we speak about daily in this House. Homelessness, violence, addiction, sexual abuse, and a lack of stability are putting a huge amount of stress on the young people of the Northwest Territories. Suicide rates are rising while the age of those identifying with suicidal thoughts is becoming younger and younger. Constituents with children as young as 12 have spoken to me about their concerns for their children after being alerted by their child's school as to words of selfharm. For Indigenous youth, this instability skyrockets when you add in systemic racism and the legacy of colonization, the 60s Scoop, and the residential and Indian day schools. Lack of resources in communities, including poor dental and health care, a high turnover and lack of teachers and support workers, and no access to recreational facilities only further compound the issue.

I said it here before, Mr. Speaker we are a have and have not territory. Many youth prosper in Yellowknife. They become renowned athletes, doctors, lawyers, and trades people. Yet one only has to travel a few hours down the road and it's a whole different story. Schools are mouldy and falling apart. There are no tennis courts or separate curling and hockey arenas like in Yellowknife. Some communities don't even have a youth centre somewhere safe for youth to hang out when their home is not. And the only community with a youth shelter is Yellowknife, which isn't even run by our government. Rather, it is the hearts and life's work of the dedicated employees of an NGO Home Base.

Home Base is constantly struggling to find money and staff to meet the overwhelming need of youth in our communities. And, Mr. Speaker, when you do speak to the youth at the shelter, many are Indigenous, and many have come from outside communities to Yellowknife to seek resources and support.

Mr. Speaker, this already paints a pretty bleak picture of what many of the youth in our territory face. However, some have further hurdles in their way. For youth who identify as 2SLGBTEQIPA+, our territory is even more dangerous.

Yesterday, my colleague from Inuvik Twin Lakes made an impassioned plea for anyone with knowledge of Frank Gruben's whereabouts to come forward. Today I want to make the same plea. We need to bring this young man home for his family and his friends. Often it is the information that we don't think is relevant that could lead to a break in the investigation. If you know something, call the police. Frank deserves better than this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1523-19(2): Thank-you and Congratulations

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, to begin today, I want to acknowledge all the residents of K'atlodeeche First Nation, KFN, and Hay River, who had to evacuate their homes due to the wildfires over the last couple of weeks. On that same note, I want to thank all the leadership and staff at the territorial fire centre, the Department of Economic and Climate Change, and all personnel involved in keeping our communities safe with the wildfires.

I also want to recognize all elected leadership in and around Hay River and KFN, which includes both MLAs Rocky Simpson and Minister Simpson, Mayor Jameson, Rest Point First Nation Chief Cayen, Hay River Metis Council Government President Trevor Beck, as well as my friend and a very strong chief, April Martel.

Similarly, Mr. Speaker, I want to strongly encourage all Fort Smith residents and all South Slave residents to remain vigilant. The NWT and much of Canada is experiencing extremely dry conditions and will likely be all summer long. So people must be very cautious as they light any type of fire, even cigarette butts. People must safely dispose of those and don't forget the South Slave has the largest trees and the thickest forest in the NWT. So we must care for our lands, our children, and communities, and take precautions this summer.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the ongoing search efforts that had taken places in Fort Smith over the last two weeks in search of Frank Gruben. I want to recognize and thank the acting Salt River First Nation Chief Brad Laviolette who opened a search centre for Frank at the Salt River First Nation Conference Centre. I also want to recognize mayor Daniels and the officials at the Town of Fort Smith, and a thank you to the grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Ken, for contributing funds to help in the search.

I also want to thank all volunteers who helped the search over the past two weeks, as well as the Minister of finance for granting approval of emergency leave for all Government of the Northwest Territories employees in Fort Smith to help with the search. And a thank you to the Minister of MACA for helping cover some of the costs of the search.

I also want to thank the offduty RCMP officer and his wife who had helped search almost every day, along with the staff of the Aurora College who have helped with the search of Frank Gruben. As well as Northwestern Air Lease in helping Frank's mother and son get flown to Fort Smith at no cost. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the graduating class of 2023 of PWK High School. Yesterday was convocation and tonight is their grad dinner. On behalf of Fort Smith, congratulations to all the grads.

I also want to thank all the amazing constituents of Thebacha for their continued support as their MLA. And I would also like to thank my family for always supporting me in my work, specifically my husband Peter, my sons Mickey and Jerry, and of course my dog Rambo. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Member’s Statement 1524-19(2): Creating a Tlicho Region

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I will again like to bring attention to the importance of creating a Tlicho region.

Mr. Speaker, currently, the GNWT is divided the Northwest Territories GNWT is divided into five regions. They are the Deh Cho, North Slave, Delta, and South Slave region. Then the population of the North Slave region is 23,144. The population of the Deh Cho is 2,073 while the Sahtu region is 2,500. If the Tlicho is carved out of the North Slave region, the population would be 2,650. Mr. Speaker, let me point out that if Tlicho region was created, the population would be greater than the population of the Sahtu and Deh Cho region.

Mr. Speaker, there is no cohesive group within any region of the Northwest Territories than the Tlicho. Their language, culture and way of life is distinct from all other regions. The cohesiveness was recognized by the Government of Canada with the creation of the Tlicho region. Mr. Speaker, let me remind this body that the GNWT was a party of the creation of the Tlicho government and signed off on its creation.

There is initial evidence that the Tlicho region should be formally established as an administrative region within the GNWT. Mr. Speaker, even the Government of Canada Statistics Canada has divided GNWT into six administrative regions and has separated out the Tlicho region from the North Slave region. I say good for them. They recognize the necessity to treat the Tlicho as a separate region.

In addition, I have to acknowledge that part of the GNWT also recognized that the Tlicho region is very unique from the rest of the North Slave region. I say good job to the Financial Administration Board Secretariat for having produced the geographic tracking of expenditure report. Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, this is a great report that not only tracks GNWT expenditures for the proposed Tlicho region but also tracks GNWT expenditures down to individual Tlicho communities. Mr. Speaker, this report should be required reading for all GNWT departments to verify that they are providing the necessary services to each Tlicho communities. For example, would be the emergency management office, fire prevention and response training, health promotion, children services, justice systems, etcetera. When there are cases where no funds are spent in some of these areas, the GNWT departments and Tlicho community government should dialogue to ensure that needs are met, that these needs are met. But how will they know in the absence of this report? This report is not only priceless for the future of the Tlicho region but also all other regions as well.

Mr. Speaker, the sad truth is that probably the most important financial document that GNWT has ever published has been discontinued. It has been for over ten years. This report must not be suppressed any longer, Mr. Speaker. This report is a huge accountability document for each GNWT department, and I see why it was discontinued. However, it needs to be brought back for transparency and for people's sake.

Mr. Speaker, the main estimates should identify proposed spending at community levels in the same way as reported in the geographic tracking of expenditures so people can really see what is being spent in small communities. Thank you. I will have question for the Minister of Finance at appropriate time.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1525-19(2): Paid Emergency Leave

Merci, Monsieur le President. For the second year running, Hay River residents have been driven from their homes and jobs by mandatory natural disaster evacuation orders. A recent letter from the Union of Northern Workers sent to all Members details these hardships and points out that many workers can't work remotely or don't have access to emergency leave. Workers are burning up their vacation leave to keep receiving a paycheque and likely don't have any sick leave credits coming out of COVID. Once evacuated, people face extraordinary costs of buying meals, gas, and travel expenses, and even hotel costs. The UNW's calling for the GNWT to establish an evacuation relief fund to cover lost wages, including lost banked leave, transportation, accommodations, food, and other necessities. Payments would be a dollar amount per adult and child.

This government has announced wage replacement support for individuals evacuated more than seven days of $750, and that's a good start. And some community funding as well to help cover the costs of hosting evacuees. But the $750 support is not nearly enough, and community government support doesn't put money in evacuees' pockets. The fact that appeals for support are being made also reflects the deficiency of our Employment Standards Act when it comes to paid emergency and paid sick leave.

Make no mistake, climate change has made these needs business as usual or what should be part of a reasonable response to the climate emergency. Consultations to improve the Employment Standards Act are now underway, and these issues need to be addressed in updating that legislation. Improved worker protection should include discussion and contributions from employees and employers in both the public and in a private sectors as mandated under the Employment Standards Act. These protections will become all the more necessary as the climate emergency progresses.

The Yukon has enacted legislation providing up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year at no cost to the employer. Ontario has introduced declared emergency leave providing support to those prohibited from working by public orders. But this is new ground, and we need to take the opportunity of opening up our employment law to address these needs. I'll have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment responsible for the Employment Standards Act later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Tu NedheWiilideh.

Member’s Statement 1526-19(2): Highway Intersection Lighting

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our roads are the lifelines of our communities connecting people, goods, and ideas. However, as the sun sets and darkness prevails, our roads become treacherous and pose a significant risk to both drivers and pedestrians. Road safety isn't just a matter of personal responsibility; it is a collective endeavour that require the commitment of cooperation of all stakeholders.

According to the global statistics, a significant proportion of road accidents occur during the night often resulting in severe injuries and tragic loss of lives as drivers, pedestrians, or policymakers, it is imperative that we do not turn a blind eye to these statistics but instead take a decisive action to mitigate these risks.

One of the most effective measures to enhance road safety during nighttime is afford proper illumination of our streets and highways. Adequate lighting plays a crucial role in improving visibility and enabling divers to anticipate and react to potential hazards promptly. It not only helps drivers navigate safely but also allows pedestrians to be more visible to motorists reducing the chances of accidents.

Investing in modern lighting technology, such as energy efficient LED lights, can provide numerous benefits. These lights offer bright and consistent illumination ensuring that entire roads is well lit and visible to the road users. Moreover, LED lights have long life spans, consume less energy, and require minimal maintenance making them a sustainable and cost-effective choice.

Furthermore, implementing intelligent lighting systems can significantly contribute to road safety. These systems can automatically adjust lighting level based on the surrounding conditions, such as traffic flow or weather. By dramatically adapting to the environment, we can maintain optimal visibility without wasting energy thus fostering both safety and sustainability.

However, improving light illumination alone is not sufficient. We must also focus on raising the awareness in educating individuals about the proper road safety. It is crucial to foster culture and responsibility where motorists adhere to speed limits, use seatbelts, and avoid driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Pedestrians too must exercise caution to follow rules when crossing the roads at night. Mr. Speaker, I'll have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Tu NedheWiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Member’s Statement 1527-19(2): Taltson

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, 30 years ago the GNWT had a great idea. That was to expand the Taltson Hydro Project, connect the North and South Slave region, and sell power to the upcoming diamond mines. And, Mr. Speaker, if we did that, it's pretty clear that the Taltson Hydro Project would have paid for itself and then some, as the diamond mines use a lot of power, Mr. Speaker, more than the entire territory combined. Yet, Mr. Speaker, here we are 30 years later and we have not built the Taltson Hydro Project and, seemingly, every single year the business case has gotten a little worse. So bad, in fact, that when we were promised it in the mandate for Spring 2020, it wasn't delivered. And here we are in Spring 2023 without a business case. And even more ridiculously, in the last session the Minister of Infrastructure said that business case would never be public, Mr. Speaker. It's going to be a confidential business case because they want to hide just how bad this project has become.

Mr. Speaker, the last business case we have which was public is from 2014. It estimated this project to cost $1.2 billion. I asked the Minister how much this project is going to cost now. She refused to tell me, Mr. Speaker. Well, some backofanapkin math putting into a construction producer price index tells you it's going to cost about $1.8 billion. If you look at similar hydro projects, it's more likely about $2.5 billion. Yet, Mr. Speaker, this is an insane way to have a public debate where I am ball parking within hundreds of millions of dollars the future of our energy needs, Mr. Speaker.

We need to release the business case. We need to answer some basic questions. How much is this project going to cost? Where is it going? Who are we selling this power to? How much are we selling the power for? Very basic questions that the public has a right to know and mines have a right to know and industry has a right to know.

Mr. Speaker, we need to know whether this project will lower or raise rates. Quite often, power hydro projects actually raise rates. Initially you have to find the money to finance the project and you do that on ratepayers. I'm fine with doing that, but let's know whether this project will raise or lower rates. A very basic question that ratepayers have a right to know, Mr. Speaker. Will this project pay for itself? Does it make any sense to do this, or are we just holding on to 1993 and the hope of getting power to the diamond mines which are now winding down. I'll have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure about what is going on and what's going to be made public. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to make a recognition as the MLA for Hay River North. In the gallery today, I have a couple residents from Hay River. First of all, of course my mother Bette Lyons, I'm always happy to have her in the gallery. And as well, longtime resident Mr. Edwin Morin is joining us today, too. So I just want to welcome them. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Hay River North. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Great Slave.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to recognize Beth Covey in the gallery today. While Beth is not my constituent, I have actually known Beth since 1994 when we both attended the University of British Columbia together and she took geology and I took geological engineering. So welcome, Beth.

Oral Questions

Question 1518-19(2): Taltson Hydro Expansion Project

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Infrastructure.

The last public business case estimated Taltson to cost $1.2 billion. We know construction inflation has gone up quite a bit so it's clearly not going to cost us $1.2 billion anymore. Can the Minister just tell us how much this project is going to cost? Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Mr. Speaker, the Taltson steering committee, comprised of leadership from the GNWT, Akaitcho First Nation, and Northwest Territories Metis Nation, have not yet selected a preferred transmission line route for this project. We are currently considering two options. Phase one of the project, one that travels west around the Great Slave Lake following the existing highway network and one that travels directly to Yellowknife via submarine cable. Cost estimates for both options have recently been updated and are being reviewed on a confidential basis by our Indigenous partners as well as Canada Infrastructure Bank. Mr. Speaker, we collect more information and proceed towards a final construction decision in the coming years. We will continue to refine our project cost estimates. This is a complex transformational project and providing a global project cost estimate at this time is very premature. We recognize it is important that this project is done cost effective so that we could keep public informed of the progress. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yeah, Mr. Speaker, that wasn't an answer. I just want to know whether  like, are we at a $2 billion ballpark? A $3 billion? I mean, hydro projects have really gone over budget in almost every other jurisdiction in Canada. The 2014 business case is entirely built on the idea of selling to the diamond mines, our energy strategy and our emissions reductions is entirely built on replacing the diesel from the diamond mines. I don't believe what the Minister's talking about involves that but that's not public. So can I just confirm whether any of this work is about being a transmission line and selling the power to the diamond mines in the Slave Geological Province Corridor? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as a general rule detailed business case information is not made public, and I just  I'm saying that again. I've said that numerous times, it's not made public. You know, we are pleased, however  talking about, you know, some of the mines that could buy the power. We're pleased to have received support and positive response from mining companies that are currently active here in the Northwest Territories and continue to monitor publiclyavailable information. We have assessed publiclyavailable information for ten mining companies with active interests here in the territories. We've had a number of conversations and there are significant interests in using green renewable energy from this Taltson project. Mr. Speaker, in fact, mining proponents have told us that access to green energy is critical to the successful advancement of their interests and its operations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe in the last few years I've met with every mining company in the Northwest Territories. I know many of them  the capital markets are tight, the investment market is tight, but many of them are struggling, you know, and it takes decades, you know, to get them to production. The diamond mines are winding down. I heard the Minister say they've talked to ten potential mines, and I honestly can't think of ten that are on a transmission line. I don't believe there are ten that are anywhere near hydro power. But can we make that public? Who are these mines; who are these ten potential mines that would buy power? It seems a stretch of imagination that there are ten mines that are coming into production. That would be great news if we had ten mines coming into production with power purchasing agreements, but I don't believe we do. Can we figure out who those ten mines are? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I don't believe I said that there would be ten mines coming on board. I think I said that we are speaking to some of the mining companies that could perhaps tie into the Taltson project. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Yellowknife North.

Yeah, well, I guess I didn't hear what mines those could potentially be. You know, Pine Point is the most obvious one if we're expanding Taltson. Now they're hopefully going to come online and buy power. Maybe Gold Terra, I don't know. Like, why am I just randomly naming mines that the Minister won't tell us?

I guess the last most important question is can the Minister explain what this is going to do to rates? Do we have any idea what rate we're going to sell this power for. Will it increase cost to ratepayers, or is the plan that we're going to sell so much and make a profit that it will lower it? I'll note most hydro projects have to initially increase rates to finance it and then, eventually, you know, maybe over 50 years, you get a pay back. But can the Minister tell us what effect this will have on ratepayers? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.