Debates of February 8, 2024 (day 4)



I'd like to thank Lillian Elias for opening prayer and the wise words. Greatly appreciated.

Just one little bit of housekeeping. Please be a little bit slower when you talk. We have some translators that are not asking to do a sprint for the whole marathon. So they said if we could please be a little bit slower, they would greatly appreciate it. So now let's get down to business.

Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 6-20(1): Capital Delivery Status Update

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, living and travelling throughout the Northwest Territories, I have seen firsthand the many housing challenges faced by residents. All people of the Northwest Territories deserve a quality standard of living.

During the 19th Legislative Assembly, Housing NWT consistently advocated to the federal government for funding to address housing needs across the Northwest Territories. I would like to recognize the dedicated work of the 19th Legislative Assembly and former Minister Paulie Chinna in this area. The advocacy that took place in the 19th Legislative Assembly supported significant federal investments in housing, including money being provided directly to Indigenous governments through distinctionsbased funding, as well as many other housing delivery agents having their projects approved for funding. Housing NWT recognizes the importance of working together with all partners to find solutions to the housing challenges here in the North.

Mr. Speaker, Housing NWT advanced a multiyear capital plan valued at $130 million which includes the construction and repair of approximately 500 housing units, with a combination of federal and Housing NWT funds. In 20222023 Housing NWT held discussions with Indigenous governments and communities and did the planning and finalized construction contracts for 100 additional public housing units 60 units designated for singles, 30 duplexes designed for families, and 10 units designated for seniors in communities outside of our regional centres. These seniors' units are in line with our government priority to support aging in place. These 100 units are the first expansion of the public housing stock made in decades. Now, as the 20232024 fiscal year comes to an end, all 100 of those new units are either complete or will be complete within the next six months. These units were all constructed by companies from the North.

Mr. Speaker, this construction commitment was achieved as a result of significant onetime federal funding support, which included a $25 million contribution from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to construct 60 modular housing units; a contribution from CrownIndigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada for $25 million to construct 30 public housing units; and, an additional contribution from CrownIndigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to support 10 modular duplexes for seniors.

Mr. Speaker, to support small communities in developing skilled tradespeople, Housing NWT has leveraged every opportunity to build and maintain this capacity. Housing NWT's new construction contracts have supported 55 apprenticeship work assignments since 2020 thanks to our requirement for general contractors to hire at least one apprentice in new construction contracts.

The last few years have presented extraordinary challenges for housing due to the impacts of climate change, disruptions to material supply chains, and increasing costs of fuel and construction materials. In addition, the marine transportation system has experienced low water levels on the Mackenzie River which resulted in the cancellation and delays to barges. This delayed some projects as material or modular units had to wait until the 2024 winter road season to be sent into communities.

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the NWT construction sector on its ability to be responsive to these challenges by adapting to changing and challenging logistics.

Housing NWT considers climate resiliency in design to ensure appropriate foundation systems and lowmaintenance climatedurable materials are chosen, as well as maximizing energy efficiency to reduce operating costs over the service life of housing units. Housing NWT continues to closely monitor the cost of construction and is implementing mitigation measures where possible by looking at innovative and creative solutions to address the many challenges of building and maintaining homes in our environment.

Mr. Speaker, I support Housing NWT's focus on increasing the wellbeing of individuals and communities by providing fair access to quality housing support for people most in need. I hope to build on this work by promoting a culture of working together as a community, focusing on partnerships to help foster innovation.

Looking forward, Mr. Speaker, there are many exciting projects on the way in 2024, including partnerships with Indigenous governments, the city of Yellowknife, the Department of Infrastructure's energy division, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Arctic Energy Alliance, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and other federal funders.

Through 2024, Housing NWT will continue to implement renewable energy projects, advance a climate change risk analysis, and continue research and development on technology. I look forward to continuing to update this House on the outcomes of these initiatives.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister of Housing NWT. Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister’s Statement 7-20(1): AME Roundup 2024

Members’ Statements

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I look around, and I see people in various states of overwhelm and depression. It reminds me of some of the toughest times our territory has been through when I was growing up in the early 90s but perhaps it seems even worse now that I'm grown and have adult responsibilities. It's also why I'm here. Running for office is born of my desire to help. The only thing I'm certain of doing in hard times is using my skill sets to help when and where I'm capable.

Mr. Speaker, this is an important note. Your capacity to help will look different in every day, hour, and moment. Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual burnout is real in our territory and achingly present, and I want to acknowledge and respect that.

Mr. Speaker, over the coming weeks of this session, I want to speak of how we can build a stronger territory that provides many kinds of help to our neighbours to withstand hard times. One of the largest looming hard times is that of financial hard times, Mr. Speaker. We will do what we do best, support people as much as we can, but we also need a government that we can rely on to support us when times are tough to ensure nobody gets left behind.

Mr. Speaker, one part of a strong foundation that we can rely on could and should be a guaranteed basic income to remove the paternalistic reach of income assistance. As I mentioned in this House, the Senate of Canada is studying basic income and Alternatives North is preparing a draft implementation report for what it could look like in this territory. I'd like this Assembly to begin to look at it seriously and why it could be beneficial as compared to income assistance. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Great Slave. Members' statements. Member from Frame Lake.

Member’s Statement 44-20(1): Maximizing Northern Employment and Benefits

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday I spoke to one of the underdeveloped sectors of our economy. There are several other underdeveloped sectors, which I will speak to in time, but today I want to focus on the significant economic activity we already have and how we can maximize benefits from it.

Mr. Speaker, for such a small territory, we have a huge amount of economic activity happening; so much so that we are often unable or unprepared to fully benefit from it. Our diamond mines rely on a significant number of employees from outside of the NWT to sustain their operations for example. I suggest that there is more we can do to incentivize northern hiring than we currently do. I shared frustration with a lot of Northerners when the mines moved their head offices out of the North, and the territorial government did not take substantive action to hold them accountable for moving more benefits out of the North. I think we should be looking into what measures we can put in place to incentivize all companies who operate in the North to ensure benefits stay here. We also need to ensure our royalty regime is robust and ensures benefits to Northerners from resource extraction are maximized, which is a statement unto itself.

Another sector which is poised to grow here in the near future, Mr. Speaker, is mine remediation. The Giant Mine project alone is projected to cost billions, and I believe we are not currently prepared to maximize the benefits to the North from this project. In order to fully benefit from the remediation, we are going to need to look at how procurement processes can help to create capacity and maximize northern benefit, and we need to be preparing our workforce. Ideally, our new polytechnic could develop a program which teaches mine development through the lens of remediation through a mine cycle technologist program. We are uniquely poised to be a leading jurisdiction for this kind of training with some of the biggest and best regulated remediation projects occurring in the country, if not the world.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member from Sahtu.

Member’s Statement 45-20(1): Colville Lake School

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, during my campaign and recent trip to the community of Colville Lake, previous Assembly capital plans approved the Colville Lake School. Mr. Speaker, some progress was accomplished. Site geotechnical assessment, two modular units constructed. We can view this progress as our government's precommitment to ensuring approved value education for our children.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from the Sahtu. Members' statements. Member from Range Lake.

Member’s Statement 46-20(1):

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Kent Cooper, former executive director of the Associated Press, is often credited with coining the term "right to know." Stated as early as 1945 that the citizen is entitled to have access to news fully and accurately presented. There cannot be political freedom in one country, or in the world, without respect for the right to know. In the years since, the public's right to know has extended to public governments as well.

As noted here in the Northwest Territories, our Information and Privacy Commissioner Andrew Fox stated: Government has to facilitate the access to information and to protect the privacy interests of everyone, every one of us. But Commissioner Fox also notes that one of the key parts of having these Acts work is to ensure that people who are making it happen are sufficient in number and are trained to a level of competence. Without that, it doesn't work. And there's the rub, Mr. Speaker, is making the system work, and ours just isn't working it.

In the fiscal year 20212022, one third of access requests were late. Now that number is over half of all access requests. The government is also noted to be lacking in policies, resources, and training to adequately serve our Access to Information and Protection of Privacy regime. This is a chronic and pervasive deficit within the Government of the Northwest Territories, especially in the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services agency who Commissioner Fox notes is the worst example.

It is not only high staff turnover and lack of policies and resources that are creating this problem. It's also the sheer number of access requests that have increased it more than 20-fold in recent years. Also of note is the timelines for the access regime have been shortened in an effort to improve citizens' access and responsiveness to the regime. These were all well intentioned choices, but it's unfortunately burdened the system with timelines that are just too short. And recently, there was a high-profile case where someone had to wait more than 180 days/six months to get their access request granted after the IPC had made an order to do so.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Range Lake. Members' statements. Member from Inuvik Boot Lake.

Member’s Statement 47-20(1): Government of the Northwest Territories Indigenous Procurement Policy

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the 19th Legislative Assembly committed to ensuring that government procurement maximizes benefits for the NWT residents and businesses. In order to fulfill this commitment, in December of 2020 the GNWT hired an independent panel to provide recommendations to strengthen GNWT procurement policies. This independent panel conducted public consultation, engaged with stakeholders, and reviewed years of contract data.

Mr. Speaker, on August 2023 the GNWT responded to this panel review report with a report on the review of GNWT procurement policies and practices. Mr. Speaker, in this report, it notes that the GNWT has been working with Indigenous governments on approaches to Indigenous procurement policy. The report also includes an implementation plan on several key topics, one of which is an approach to Indigenous procurement.

Mr. Speaker, the implementation plan for GNWT to address the Indigenous procurement policy includes the following actions:

Work with the Council of Leaders and the modern treaties and selfgovernment partners to explore ways to promote inclusion of NWT Indigenous business and individuals more effectively;

Develop an approach that recognizes the interest of parties and recognizes the implementation of modern treaty obligations;

Executive and Indigenous affairs lead a departmental working group to coordinate GNWT efforts in engagement with these bodies;

Engagement efforts ongoing since 2021, Mr. Speaker, include reviewing the panel's report on recommendations, confirmation of GNWT procurement principles, draft common procurement principles, jurisdictional scan, discussion and definition of Indigenous businesses for the purposes of GNWT policy, and introduction of potential policy mechanism.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Inuvik Boot Lake. Members' statements. Member from Yellowknife North.

Member’s Statement 48-20(1): Biomass District Heating Systems

Mr. Speaker, today I'm following up with my statement from yesterday by delving deeper into opportunities for biomass district heating systems in the territory. So this is a good example of where the barrier to reducing emissions is not necessarily money. We can do more with existing resources by getting our policies and regulatory systems in order and better coordinating with partners.

While we often focus on community electricity projects, in fact heating our building with oil has a much greater overall impact on our emissions in the NWT than electricity does. And it's up to 10 times cheaper to switch our heating systems than our electricity systems.

Now, the GNWT has made good progress on switching over some of its own buildings to biomass in lots of communities and, notably here in Yellowknife, the jail, the Stanton Hospital has biomass boilers, and by the way the new boiler in the Legacy Stanton Building is saving $1,500 per day in heating costs.

Where we are stalling on progress is getting organized with district heating projects. So that's where one big boiler pipes heat to all the large buildings nearby. If we look at downtown Yellowknife, most of those big buildings still use heating oil, and there's not enough room to put a separate boiler beside each of those buildings. So recently there was a technical feasibility study completed for a downtown Yellowknife district biomass heating project, and that was done by Alternatives North in partnership with the city of Yellowknife and Arctic Energy Alliance. The study found that there is a business case for either a private company to build and run the system or even a stronger case for a nonprofit enterprise with access to federal grant funding to build and run the system, and there would be even estimated 20 percent return on investment. The barriers, though, are partly regulatory. So figuring out if this would count as a utility and, if so, how the Public Utilities Board would manage it, and also how to get all of the downtown business owners to the table and agree on how this could work. So the GNWT can help drive projects like this by committing to be an anchor customer.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Member from Yellowknife North, your time is up.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So I was just saying that in this case, it's the carbon tax that makes the alternative feasible economically.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 49-20(1): Fort Resolution Governance and Fire Fighting

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On June 5th, 2023, the hamlet of Fort Resolution had its elected council dissolve and replaced by an administrator appointed by municipal and community affairs. The department's now responsible for the hamlet's governance with senior authorizing official making all their decisions on the daytoday operation.

The people of Fort Resolution see this intervention as an example of modern-day colonial type of attitude. They feel punished. The GNWT is accusing them of mismanagement but how could they have managed their community effectively when they never had adequate support they needed? Now the GNWT's officially responsible for our Fort Resolution government. They can't ignore the serious lack of services the community struggles with.

One of the most urgent services they lack is a fire department. Long before Fort Resolution council was dissolved, it became clear that the fire department was in jeopardy. The situation was left to spiral out of control until the fire department was hit with a mass resignation. Today, they only have the bare minimum protection for fire and all they can manage is a preventative approach. A preventative approach is a polite way of saying the community of Fort Resolution is unable to respond to a serious fire. Their community is totally unprotected from that threat.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Tu NedheWiilideh. Members' statements. Member from Monfwi.

Member’s Statement 50-20(1):

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, [Translation] so at this time I'd like to talk about housing. There are not that many houses throughout our community so at this time I would like to ask to talk about housing. [Translation ends]

Mr. Speaker, we know that Indigenous people in Canada are 11 times more likely to be homeless than nonIndigenous people. We know the majority of homeless people on the streets in Yellowknife are from Behchoko.

Mr. Speaker, the Tlicho region has over 200 people on the waitlist. We know that the Tlicho region, 18.37 percent of homes are overcrowded with six or more people. This is the highest in the territory. The Tlicho also has the highest number of homes in core needs in the territory. More than one out of every three homes in the Tlicho region are either not adequate, affordable, or suitable for residents. Mr. Speaker, this 37 percent of homes in Tlicho region are in core need. This is three times the national average.

Mr. Speaker, for Indigenous people living in the Tlicho region, housing is a nightmare. I do not see Housing NWT doing enough to increase housing stock and to implement repairs. The Tlicho are the most in need so what is being done to prioritize action in my riding?

Mr. Speaker, based on the capital estimates, over the last five years from 2019 to 2020, 2023 and 2024, Housing NWT have planned to build nine new homes and complete major renovations of 51 units between Whati, Gameti, and Behchoko, and also to build a new LHO in Behchoko, which was completed and it is in operation.

Mr. Speaker, this is not enough to address the housing crisis in Tlicho region, and I do not and I have not seen any new units in the communities. Also, I have not seen any renovations on 51 housing units in Tlicho region over the last five years.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Monfwi. Members' statements. Member from Mackenzie Delta.

Member’s Statement 51-20(1): Income Assistance Policies

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As an elected official, I would like nothing better than to see the residents of the Northwest Territories succeed. No matter what kind of lifestyle we choose, we all possess potential. This potential that we all have can only grow and make us better citizens of our respective communities. But, Mr. Speaker, the income support system is failing our residents and helping them develop on their given potential. We have many members of our communities who choose not to seek a productive, meaningful choice for a brighter future for themselves and their families merely for the fact that the system is handing these individuals everything on a silver platter. The department must find a better alternative in allocating the funds that are given to the recipients of this program. Providing a cheque to the individuals is just not working.

Mr. Speaker, how can we help our own people build on their potential if we continue to provide them with monetary gain when they are contributing nothing in return? It is time that the income support system changes its approach and start the process of building the selfesteem of these recipients of the program.

Mr. Speaker, the income support program should change its policies, encourage these clients to conduct some sort of productive choices when they are receiving benefits from the income support program. Like I stated earlier, we all have potential and we can build on the potential with a little encouragement. Conducting productive choices can only improve the process. It is time for the system to help and expanding on the potential of our residents and not take away their selfesteem.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Mackenzie Delta. Members' statements. Member from Yellowknife Centre.

Member’s Statement 52-20(1): Closing the Municipal Funding Gap

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, successive Ministers of MACA over the years have continued to blame the feds on the closing of the funding gap for municipalities. Mr. Speaker, if they moved any faster, it would almost look backwards in my humble opinion. I mean, it's effectively perfunctory at best.

Mr. Speaker, only hiding behind the feds and blaming them is a play book that can only be used so many times. The issue is perennial. We hear it over and over and over again, moving slow, yes, we want to do this. The next page on the Minister's blame book usually has to do with I'm fighting for you as hard as I can at the Cabinet table, so when people like me ask prove it, show me the money, they go, wow, that's Cabinet confidentiality, you know, what happens in Vegas oh, sorry, what I mean is what happens in Cabinet stays in Cabinet, Mr. Speaker. We all know how that rolls.

Well, the good news is I read some unedited Hansard the other day, and a Member and I want to make sure I get it correctly is quoted by saying: My community, like others, struggle with health care issues, education concerns, formula funding for the town of Hay River. The good news, Mr. Speaker, is they might even be in Cabinet, the Member who made that, and even maybe even potentially the better news is they may even be the Minister for Municipal and Community Affairs. One will only tell if Members on this side of the House have an ally there. They will do the work. We'll find out.

In the meantime, our communities, all of them, struggle daytoday and then you hear that we're going to have to put a 16 percent tax increase to meet the basic needs of our community. Shame. It's terrible. Then they were able to work it down to seven and then to six, and thank goodness, the city of Yellowknife settled on five. My goodness. They're carrying the weight and responsibility of the territorial government.

Mr. Speaker, every one of our communities on this side of the House I don't care about yours ours, Mr. Speaker, are stealing from Peter to pay Paul. Well, I can tell you right now, we're running out of Pauls, Mr. Speaker. Our towns can only do so much.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Members' statements.

Member’s Statement 53-20(1): Liidlii Kue Elementary School Boat Purchase

Good afternoon, colleagues. I would like to share with you some excited things that are happening to further develop the cultural programming in Liidlii Kue Elementary School. Thanks to the school's administration and partners, they were able to secure grants, equipment, and a new garage to store these resources. This helps was a good start, however the lack of transportation in the fall and late spring to have students set fishing nets, go to camp across the river, and to even experience life on the water was challenging. Sometimes, they were able to access local boats but most times they were hard to find, and most local boats were too small to carry out the cultural activities. So the administration sent out an application to Jordan's Principle to see if they would be willing to help purchase a boat big enough to help them offer cultural programming needed in the school. The big selling point was the preservation and revitalization of cultural programming at their school especially after three years of school closures and social distancing from the COVID pandemic.

As the application was going through the process, the Deh Cho Divisional Education Council agreed to help with the delivery of the boat, ongoing maintenance, and boating insurance. Again, the community partners are working together to preserve and promote cultural language and traditions.

I can tell you that I was present when the principal made the announcement at the Christmas feast and everybody was very happy.

I can tell you that in addition the school boat will help with their cultural programming in eight areas. Due to the time, I will ask the clerk to have the rest of this statement be deemed as read and printed in the Hansard. Thank you, Mr. Clerk.

The eight areas are:

Assist students with missed opportunities to get out ontheland/water to experience culturally relevant programming;

Assist in teaching students about the area around our community and Deh Cho region;

Assist with being able to set fishnets with elders. Also, fish using a rod and reel;

Assist the school and community in being able to participate in spiritual gathers and fire feedings;

Assist in creating community events and visit culturally significant sites along the Mackenzie River and surrounding area of Fort Simpson;

Assist in having our students participate in cultural leadership roles and sharing of learned knowledge;

Assist in teaching of the Dene language as our school's Dene Zhatie teacher and Culture Coordinator both participate heavily in the Dene language process and implementation.

Assist in building relationships among staff, students, parents, and community partners in part of our dedication to the Truth and Reconciliation process.

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It gives me good and great pleasure to recognize Mr. Mark Heyck. He is the current executive director of Arctic Energy Alliance, a very important organization to our whole territory on helping people live better and more efficiently and fighting many of the challenges of our environmental impacts that we're making. As well as he's also, I'd like to acknowledge, a former city councillor and a former city mayor of our great community of Yellowknife. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member from the Sahtu.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to recognize my constituent assistant, Sierra Kaitlin Nasagaluk. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from the Sahtu. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Hay River North.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to recognize my CA again, Myrtle Graham. I will acknowledge that she was the former CA for Minister Schumann and CA for the former MLA Robert Bouchard, so. I'd also like to recognize Stacy Barns who was my official agent and campaign manager during the campaign. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member from Great Slave.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd also like to rise and recognize Mr. Mark Heyck who was the first person who teach me how to door knock and look where it got me, so thank you for that. As well as being my mother's last former employer before her retirement. So thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Recognition of visitors in the gallery. If we missed anyone in the gallery today, welcome to your Chamber. I hope you are enjoying the proceedings. It's always nice to see people in the gallery.

Oral Questions

Question 25-20(1): Housing Northwest Territories Board Policy