Debates of May 23, 2024 (day 14)

20th Assembly, 1st Session
Members Present
Hon. Caitlin Cleveland, Mr. Edjericon, Mr. Hawkins, Hon. Lucy Kuptana, Hon. Jay Macdonald, Hon. Vince McKay, Mr. McNeely, Ms. Morgan, Mr. Morse, Mr. Nerysoo, Ms. Reid, Mr. Rodgers, Hon. Lesa Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mrs. Weyallon Armstrong, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Mrs. Yakeleya


Good afternoon. Please join me in thanking Elder Marc Casaway for opening words and blessing today. Thank you.

I'd also like to thank the Aurora Fiddle Society's Fiddle Cats for the exciting performance today. What a wonderful way to kick off this sitting of the Legislative Assembly. It is great to see and hear our youth in this Chamber. Please join me in thanking the Fiddle Cats and wishing them success at the Pan northern Youth Fiddle Summit in Yukon later this summer.

Colleagues, I want to say a final thank you to our recently retired Commissioner, the Honourable Margaret Thom. Commissioner Thom was appointed as the 17th Commissioner of the Northwest Territories in June of 2017. For seven years, it was our pleasure to have her join us in this Chamber. She will be missed, but I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Gerald W. Kisoun as the 18th Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Kisoun, or Gerry as I know him, is an Inuvialuit Gwich'in elder who has dedicated his career to serving the people of the Northwest Territories. He served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, worked with Parks Canada, and was Deputy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories from 2011 to 2017.

Like some of you, I have known the new Commissioner for a long time. The first time I met him was at Colin and Rita Allen's kitchen table in March 1988. Throughout the years, it was great to hear his stories and you actually felt like you were there witnessing or living the event. As a family member, I am going to have to train myself to not call him cousin anymore.

Colleagues, in late April the Legislative Assembly hosted youth from across the territory who took part in our 20th Youth Parliament. This year Commissioner Thom opened and closed the Youth Parliament. I presided from the Speaker's chair and the mace was in the Chamber for the first time. The youth also had the chance to meet their Premier, their Member of Parliament Michael McLeod, and the Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Bill Blair.

It was an honour to share the Chamber with our youth, listening to them share their concerns and ideas freely in this Chamber. These youth are our future. Members, we are in good hands.

I would like to thank the staff who made this event possible and the Members who took the time to meet with their Youth Parliamentarian representatives and serve as pages. This is a great program, and it would not be successful without your support and dedication.

From April 29th to May 2nd, I was very excited to take our mace to the people of Sachs Harbour, Ulukhaktok, Paulatuk, Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik. Our mace is rich in history and symbolism and honours the culture of the Territories by bringing together the northern elements, carvings, metalwork, beadwork, quill work, and pebbles from each of the 33 communities. As your Speaker, I am proud to have opportunity to visit our communities and share the mace with our residents.

I was especially excited to be joined by the former Youth Parliamentarians in Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik. In Tuktoyaktuk, we had Miley Wolki; and, in Inuvik, we had Kamdyn Alexie and Kurt Loman. I thank each of you for the warm welcome and introductions.

Members, today we continue the first session of the 20th Assembly. This sitting will be a little longer than we usually have this time of year as we are required to consider and pass the budget for the 2024 2025 fiscal year. There will be some differences in opinions and perspectives. We can and must be agreeable even when we do not agree with each other. Difficult conversations do not have to be, and should not be, disrespectful conversations. As Speaker, I believe I made my expectations clear and, in this Chamber, I expect to hear thoughtful, meaningful, and honest debate. I expect our rules to be followed, and I expect each of us to show respect for each other, this institution, and the people we represent.

Members, it is my pleasure to inform you we have interpreter service for the following languages:

Dene Suline Yati




Dene Kede

Dene Zhatie

Dinjii Zhu Ginjik

Tlicho Yati, and


Members, remember to speak slowly. I repeat, please speak slowly as the interpreters, they need the time to interpret for us clearly. It is an honour for us to have these interpreters here. And please join me in thanking them for their service and dedication to using and preserving and growing our language.

I am also pleased to announce that we have added Dene Zhatie to our self-guided audio tour of the Legislative Assembly. We now have four languages available on the Smartify app.

Colleagues, I have received the following correspondence from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Gerald W. Kisoun. It states: Dear Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of:

Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), 2024-2025; and

Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 1, 2024-2025,

during the first session of the 20th Legislative Assembly. Yours truly, Gerald W. Kisoun.

Thank you for your time and attention, colleagues. Let's get down to business.

Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 32-20(1): Mandate of the 20th Legislative Assembly

Mr. Speaker, later today I will table the mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories 2023 to 2027. This mandate will be our guide as we work to advance the priorities of the 20th Legislative Assembly.

The Northwest Territories has always been a land of opportunity. Since time immemorial, it has sustained thriving and resilient Indigenous peoples, and it has welcomed and provided opportunities to new community members who have made the NWT their home. This land and its people have made significant contributions to Canada's cultural, economic, and environmental prosperity, and we still have much more to offer to Canada and the world.

The world, Mr. Speaker, is changing. We can see it in the shifting political landscapes at home and abroad, in the rising costs of goods and services, in the advancements in the technologies that are reshaping how we work and communicate, in rising temperatures, and the increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, and in virtually every other facet of life.

Mr. Speaker, as the world changes, we must ensure that our government is a source of stability for our residents that can be relied on to provide dependable and high-quality basic services. This need is reflected in the priorities of the 20th Legislative Assembly, which were developed collaboratively by all 19 Members of this Assembly.

The priorities focus on housing, the economy, health care, trauma, and safety. Although this is a small list, addressing these issues is an enormous task and will require a departure from the status quo. To face these challenges in a changing world, our government must be flexible, have the courage and compassion to embrace risk, the humility to trust and to learn from each other, and the willingness to work together in true partnership.

The mandate is not an itemized list of actions the government intends to undertake. It is a guide to focus our efforts in those priority areas, and it is a commitment to change the way the government operates so that we can better serve residents now and into the future.

It is organized into six areas of focus:



Access to Health Care

Addressing the Effects of Trauma

Emergency Management, and

Public Safety.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that there is a housing crisis in the NWT. Ensuring that there is an adequate housing stock that meets the needs of residents is essential to the present and future prosperity of our territory. People need safe homes to raise their families, businesses need accommodations to attract workers, communities need houses to help keep teachers and nurses. The GNWT cannot address this issue alone but through collaboration and coordination with Indigenous governments, community governments, and the private sector, we will work to attract more federal investments in housing, make more land available for development, and increase the construction of new homes.

Next, we must ensure that residents can afford a good home, which means strengthening our economic foundation and creating opportunities for good paying jobs. This is more important than ever because we all know that residents are feeling the pressure when paying their rent or mortgage, groceries, heat, power, gas, and all the other necessities of life.

Thanks to the hard work of countless entrepreneurs, the NWT has a diversified economy:




Professional Services



Agriculture and, the backbone of our economy,

The resource industry.

This government is committed to doing what is necessary to grow our economy, including building our workforce through training opportunities, closing our infrastructure gap, cutting red tape and reducing administrative and regulatory burdens, and being responsive to the needs of the private sector.

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of the impending closure of our diamond mines, which, for a quarter century, have driven the NWT's economy. It will be difficult to replace their economic contribution, but we have an abundance of natural resources from traditional commodities, such as gold, to the minerals and metals needed to fuel the global transition to a green economy. And we will work tirelessly to increase exploration and development and ensure that our residents have the opportunity to benefit from these resources.

Mr. Speaker, this government is also committed to improving access to health care. Residents need to feel confident that they can access the basic medical care they need in a culturally-safe and trauma-informed way no matter where they are in the territory.

This will be no small task. There is a severe shortage of health care professionals across Canada. This means we must find new innovative ways to attract workers to the NWT while ensuring health care workers feel supported, so they want to remain in the field and in the territory. Of course, it is vitally important to incentivize and support Northerners to pursue careers in health.

As part of this government's work to provide better access to health care, we are committed to addressing the effects of trauma. This government is dedicated to ensuring that our policies and programs are designed and renewed in a trauma-informed, anti-racist, and culturally-sensitive way. We are committed to supporting Indigenous governments and other partners in developing and delivering culturally appropriate trauma treatment, mental wellness, and addiction programs. With a focus on healing, we will make programs and services easier to access through an integrated and person-centered approach to service delivery. We will encourage community wellness and self-determination by supporting, developing, and delivering community-based wellness programs that address mental wellness, early intervention, and holistic well-being.

Next, our government is committed to taking action that will improve our ability to manage and respond to emergencies.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT is on the front lines of climate change, so it is imperative that we strengthen our ability to respond to more frequent and severe climate-driven disasters and other emergencies. By learning lessons from recent emergencies and working in partnership with Indigenous and community governments, we will ensure that our emergency management systems are robust and effective, advance innovative climate change mitigation and adaptation responses, and work to increase redundant community, energy, telecommunications, and transportation infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, the sixth area of focus for the government over the next four years is public safety. From Yellowknife to regional centres to small communities, we are all feeling the impact that the increase in drug trafficking is having on our communities and, in many cases, on our loved ones. Ultimately, substance abuse is a public health issue but there must still be a focus on enforcement. We need to make the NWT a less inviting place for drug dealers to do business. We will focus on crime prevention through public education, early intervention, person-centered delivery, and community-driven solutions while at the same time ensuring communities and the RCMP have access to more tools to help combat the drug trade.

Mr. Speaker, these six areas are focused to concentrate government efforts on the 20th Legislative Assembly's four priorities but still broad enough to ensure there is space to incorporate and be guided by input from MLAs, Indigenous governments, the public, communities, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations. Specific actions, targets, and measures will be set out annually in the GNWT Business Plans to support a meaningful progress and transparent reporting.

As I have stated many times before, the GNWT cannot do this work alone. Success will only come through partnership with Indigenous governments.

We are committed to collaborating with Indigenous governments and residents to achieve the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our work will be further guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls to Justice. We will work shoulder to shoulder with our Indigenous government partners as we engage the Government of Canada to advance issues of shared interest, accelerate the settling and implementing of land claims and self-government agreements, and support economic reconciliation.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT's relationship with Indigenous governments is integral to the future prosperity of the NWT, and I am excited to continue to strengthen relationships as we work together for the benefit of all residents.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I must mention the integral role of the public service. The public service is the GNWT's most valuable asset and deserves to be supported, validated, and respected. It is crucial that we create a positive environment that empowers employees to bring their best selves to work every day and to realize their full potential. To create this working environment, we must foster a culture that values and supports individual and team efforts, encourages empathy and efficiency in service delivery, and recognizes and incentivizes innovation and adaptability. Mr. Speaker, I am confident that this mandate will help our government make meaningful progress in advancing the priorities of the 20th Legislative Assembly.

I look forward to a busy four years working alongside Cabinet and Regular Members, Indigenous leaders, other orders of government, and of course residents, to set the Northwest Territories on a path to a strong and prosperous future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Premier. Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister’s Statement 33-20(1): Notice of Budget Address

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the House that I intend to deliver the Budget Address on Friday, May 24, 2024. Thank you, Mr. Speaker

Members’ Statements

Member’s Statement 155-20(1): Supporting Families with Disabilities

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Supporting families with disabilities.

Mr. Speaker, under the income assistance program, the GNWT requires applicants to provide proof of income which they can do through a notice of assessment provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. I have clients in my region who have filed their taxes with the federal government, and the GNWT has access to this information, but instead of the GNWT using the tools they have to access a client's CRA notice of assessment, they ask the client to provide the financial information.

Mr. Speaker, this unnecessary step is delaying the review of their file. While the income assistance office tries to gather all the paperwork they require from clients, the burden is put on the clients to provide information even when the GNWT has the ability to obtain the information itself quickly and easily.

Mr. Speaker, people are struggling to navigate the income assistance program. The level of information required is confusing. It is hard to locate documents and information. Clients who are trying to access income assistance have no time and resources to navigate this system. There seems to be a lack of trust and empathy between the clients and staff. While clients are trying to access the income assistance program, having meetings, phone calls, finding people to support them, and even translators, they still have to pay their bills. In some cases, these families are supporting children or elders with disability. Mr. Speaker, as you know, family who are supporting those with disabilities face extra hardship and challenges. Not only do they carry more stress, they face greater financial hardship.

The Minister has spoke in this House about the changes coming to the income assistance program, and these are good changes. But, Mr. Speaker, we need these changes today. While we wait for these changes, families are being left out, forgotten.

I will have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment today. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Monfwi. Members' statements. Member from Range Lake.

Member’s Statement 156-20(1): Liquor Tax

Mr. Speaker, the future of beer brewing belongs to craft breweries. Over the last ten years, Canada has witnessed a craft brewery boom as hundreds of these small businesses have sprung up across the country. Demand for a unique, locally sourced, craft beer grows exponentially year after year and, as a result, craft breweries have become a vital aspect of any city's economy.

In Alberta, craft brewers actually employ more people than the oil and gas industry. Thanks to the great talent of these brewers, the ability of these locally produced beverages to compete with the products of big namebrands instills a sense of local pride and purchasing them guarantees a strong investment back into the community.

Here in the North, it is no surprise that we have a highly esteemed craft brewer of our own, the NWT Brewing Company. Based in Yellowknife and established by a team of young entrepreneurs, the NWT Brewing Company produces a diverse array of products sold across Canada, and their continued success contributes greatly to the North's tourism and hospitality industry. They have quickly become a staple in our community, providing dozens of workers good paying jobs and generating thousands of dollars each month into our local economy.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories remains well behind the curve when it comes to welcoming these brewers into the economy. And so the NWT Brewing Company struggles with outdated policies and regulations that other provinces and territories have updated. Furthermore, the NWT Brewing Company is dealing with skyrocketing inflation as the cost of some ingredients needed to produce their beverages have recently jumped by 80 percent. Together, these circumstances, along with high taxes, threaten our local craft brewing industry and only the territorial government has the power to create the economic environment they need to thrive.

Mr. Speaker, I know we all want to keep the NWT Brewing Company in business producing tasty beverages of a sociable nature here in the Northwest Territories. Then that means giving them the runway they need to expand their production and keep their prices competitive so they can grow their market share and compete with bigger brands, not just in the North but across Canada. The Minister and I have had extensive meetings on the subject, but now is the time to see words turned into action. Let's act today to modernize our policies so our craft brewers can be confident that their future is here in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 157-20(1): Mackenzie River Water Levels

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. Welcome back. Part 1 of 2, Sahtu climate change and unprecedented low water levels.

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by expressing my deepest appreciation and sincere gratitude to NWT's Buffalo Airways for their recent announcement to provide air barge freight services to the Sahtu region. It's homegrown northern companies like Buffalo Airways that not only recognize a crisis but, most notably, step forward to help.

Mr. Speaker, the Mackenzie River covers a distance of 1650 kilometers starting from the Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean. This waterway, and the coastal communities along it, are serviced by the Government of the Northwest Territories' MTS, or Marine Transportation Services. Mr. Speaker, with historic low water levels experienced by the many communities along this route, customers are on the brink of wondering are we going to see barge service deliveries at all.

Mr. Speaker, this vast distance presents numerous shallow points, including the Hay River harbour. Mr. Speaker, the Sahtu is completely dependent on barging resupply during summer months. This includes industry, governments, and commercial sector, and the public residents at large.

Leadership means making decisions, not allow us not to deny a low water situation but more importantly admit that we are facing an unprecedented crisis.

The 2023 sailing season last August cancellation of the barging services is a witness to the impacts of delayed and cancelled projects. Most recognized is the airlifting of two community power generators. These are minimal impacts on what is potentially expected. Assurances are in place and underway by this government. I request an extension to conclude my statement there, Mr. Speaker. Mahsi. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, developing a sound logistical plan to ensure comfort in the short term is the only punctual way to do a project of this nature. However, the long-term solution for the Sahtu and is fully behind in support of the 20 percent secured capital committed to the all-season road. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from the Sahtu. Members' statements. Member from the Deh Cho.

Member’s Statement 158-20(1): Residents Affected by Enterprise Wildfire

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to my colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to -- Mr. Speaker, on August 13th, 2023, residents of Enterprise were evacuated from their communities from the threat of a wildfire. As we have spoken about this in the House before, the evacuation of Enterprise was chaotic and traumatic. And for some very unfortunate people, Mr. Speaker, the chaos of the evacuation has not ended.

Mr. Speaker, it is May 24th, 2024. It has been 284 days later, and some NWT residents still have not been able to return home. Some have already left. For many Enterprise residents, there is no home to return to and for people that did not have enough insurance coverage, there is no options.

The Prime Minister and the GNWT visited the community of Enterprise in the aftermath of the wildfire, and they made promises to support the residents. Yet, Mr. Speaker, residents feel these were false promises. The residents who do not have the insurance funds to rebuild new homes feel they have no option but to leave the NWT to find better options down south.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT prides itself in taking care of each other. We talk in this House about the need to help one another, to be there for our fellow Northerners in their time of need. I recognize the government can't be everything to everybody, but the reality is many people have left the North and there are many more on the brink of leaving because they don't have the resources to rebuild on their own.

We also have spoken in this House many times about the fact that we are in a housing crisis. How has the GNWT responded to the housing crisis created from natural disasters? We recognize that natural disasters are on the rise in the NWT. How will the GNWT work with federal and Indigenous partners to respond to this crisis with housing solutions that house Northerners?

I will have questions for the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from the Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member from Mackenzie Delta.

Member’s Statement 159-20(1): Inadequate Housing in Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to bring forth the concern of inadequate housing in the Northwest Territories; in particular, the Mackenzie Delta.

As we are all aware, housing is deemed a human right. It is clear that this government, or any government, cannot build enough houses to meet our needs. But with the collaboration of the Indigenous governments and the network within our communities, we can renovate the vacant units in our communities to house some of our residents.

Mr. Speaker, in the community of Fort McPherson alone, there is a waitlist of up to three years. If we work collaboratively with the network of organizations in Fort McPherson, Aklavik, and Tsiigehtchic, we may be able to get some of our residents into their homes, own homes with their families. At the present time, we have some of the most vulnerable residents who are couch surfing just to have a roof over their heads for the night.

Mr. Speaker, with the warm weather, these unfortunate people are somewhat lucky. But in the colder months, these unfortunates are left out in the cold.

In the community of Aklavik, they have a program where the local Indigenous governments provide housing for the homeless. The recipients of these programs are able to stay in the units until they can secure permanent homes for themselves. It would be very beneficial if this program would be made available to the other communities of Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic.

Mr. Speaker, the community of Fort McPherson is renovating some of these vacant units so that they can assist their residents in having a home for their families. The local housing authority, the Tetlit Gwich'in Council, and Tetlit Zheh Development Corporation are networking to renovate these units, but they can only do so much with the limited financial resources they have at their disposal. It is evident that they have the network of trades people to do the work, but they require the financial resources to continue this venture to accommodate their residents in living in a place they can call home.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Mackenzie Delta. Members' statements. Member from Great Slave.

Member’s Statement 160-20(1): Health Care Workers

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to read a letter I received this week from a constituent.

As a concerned resident of Yellowknife, I am urging immediate action on the critical issues facing the NWT's health system. Our chronic staffing shortages and overreliance on temporary physicians and nurses are compromising patient care and alienating our permanent staff. Our health care workers are enduring burnout from extended hours and high stress environments leading to distressing turnover and unsafe patient care.

The current impasse in collective bargaining reflects the government's neglect in addressing these concerns. Privatizing the delivery of care via agency staffing while the stop gap undermines care consistency, reduces accountability in health care, threatens cultural safety, and incurs exorbitant costs. The NWT must offer competitive wages and conditions to attract and retain dedicated health care professionals.

I propose the Legislative Assembly immediately consider improved working conditions such as legislate safe nurse-to-patient ratios following British Columbia's model, acknowledge and accommodate health care's unique roles with a distinct collective agreement for health care workers, also retention strategies such as offer housing allowances, child care, flexible schedules, and bonuses for permanent health care workers who make long-term commitments, enhanced access to care, such as increasing staffing and beds at Stanton Territorial Hospital, and introducing a walk-in urgent care service for at least four hours daily.

Investing in health care workers translates to superior care and safety for our residents. I implore you to take decisive steps in safeguarding our territory's health system.

I will have questions for both the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health and Social Services at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 161-20(1): Aurora College

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on May 16th, the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment received a presentation from Aurora College leadership on the status of transition of public college to a polytechnic university.

Mr. Speaker, I was encouraged to hear from the president and board chair that they are committed to seeing the transition through; however, I am disappointed to note that they also shared that they are off track from the established timeline and are not expecting to be able to deliver the NWT a renewed polytechnic university in May 2025 as planned.

If we take a look at the implementation plan in the college's 2022 to 2024 mandate agreement, it is clear that a number of signs have been pointing to the transition beginning to get off track. A number of milestones have either been already missed or will be. For example, community learning centre plans were supposed to be complete in December 2023, as was a three-year strategic plan. A made-in-the-NWT degree was supposed to be identified in 2023. Organization design was scheduled for completion in January 2024. And recruitment, marketing, and communications strategy for 2024 to 2026 is also not complete. The college was also supposed to have several new programs established in fall 2024 and has acknowledged that this won't be happening either. So I think it is clear that this project is not moving forward as planned.

Although the board emphasized to committee that they were committed to moving the transition forward, they also shared that they felt the project has been underfunded and is not receiving the required support to achieve transition goals. I find this incredibly concerning, not only because of how important the project is for our social and economic development goals but also because expediency is required for this project to succeed.

The 2018 foundational review, which sparked this transition, was clear that if the decision to create a polytechnic was made that action needed to be taken quickly because the post-secondary sector is becoming increasingly global and competitive. The review was also clear that if we lost commitment to this transition along the way and allow the project to be whittled down over time, it will not result in an institution which serves to build up our future generations.

Mr. Speaker, I believe in the vision of establishing a world class polytechnic university in the NWT. My question now, at this critical moment, is whether our government is similarly committed, or are we simply going to give up and let this project fall to the wayside? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Member’s Statement 162-20(1): Hamlet of Fort Resolution Fire Plan

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my constituents in Fort Resolution have now been controlled by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs for a full year. The legislation stipulates that iin these circumstances, the senior administrative officer must meet with the public to ensure proper transparency and accountability is upheld. It is essential for residents to observe and participate in their public institution. They must also feel confident in their local government in the face of emergency and uncertainty as well.

I am glad to have recently brought several of my Cabinet colleagues to see Fort Resolution's problems firsthand. It is clear, though, that more work must be done by the government in response to the threats of the wildfire.

Fort Resolution is increasingly concerned with the lack of information sharing with the department officials and the administrator appointed by them regarding their emergency plan. It is legislated that all communities must create and retain and execute their emergency plan but without a local government in Fort Resolution, the task of providing such plans therefore falls on the Minister.

The territorial government surely has to be able to establish and carry out a comprehensive plan for Fort Resolution yet the community remains uncertain about the details of any emergency plan, especially in regards to wildfire threats. Over the last year, there has been ineffectively no functional fire department in the community, no professional volunteers, or fire brigade. They still don't know when they'll see or even get a functional fire truck that's properly maintained, a water truck, and a backup water truck.

Mr. Speaker, Fort Resolution is totally in the dark about our government's capability to keep themselves safe in a wildfire emergency, especially in the event of an evacuation. The threat of wildfires grows stronger by the season, starting earlier each year. Due to the inaccuracy of a community administrator, there is potential that the Minister may be putting the safety of the community at risk. I hope that our people will get some clarity in the coming days on this matter at this time.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member from Inuvik Boot Lake.

Member’s Statement 163-20(1): Carbon Tax

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on April 1st, 2024, the federal carbon tax increased by 23 percent. The federal government, in an attempt to offer relief to some residents in Canada, decided to exempt diesel fuel. This was welcome relief for those who burn diesel fuel. Not so much, Mr. Speaker, for those who burn much cleaner natural gas.

Mr. Speaker, information provided by Inuvik Gas Limited states that from April 1st, 2023 to April 1st, 2024, the carbon tax charged to customers ranged from $3.32 a gigajoule to $3.93 per gigajoule. As of April 1st, 2024, the additional carbon tax rates charged will range from $4.09 to $4.83 per gigajoule.

The residents of Inuvik, Mr. Speaker, have been burning natural gas since 1999 and as such have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions significantly. The cost of the 23 percent increase to natural gas is equal or close to a 10 percent increase for the residents of Inuvik who heat their homes with natural gas.

Mr. Speaker, when the cost of heating your home is between $900, in the early winter months, to $1,400 as those months get colder, that's significant.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government must realize that the gigajoule cost for natural gas in the Northwest Territories is not 4 to $5 a gigajoule. In Inuvik, Mr. Speaker, it's closer to $40 a gigajoule. People are already struggling to make ends meet. The cost of groceries, gasoline, home and auto insurance, has all increased too much. To not exempt natural gas in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Speaker, is absurd.

Mr. Speaker, Inuvik is essentially being penalized to burn a cleaner fuel, and isn't reducing greenhouse gas emissions what this ridiculous tax is supposed to be all about? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Members' statements. Member from Yellowknife North.

Member’s Statement 164-20(1): Education

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the mandate of this Assembly includes a focus on the economy, which is welcomed. But if you look closely, it actually refers to economic foundations, which is an important distinction. I believe that the most basic foundation of any healthy NWT economy is education.

Recently, we had economist Grant Clinton make a presentation to our economic development committee, along with the Chamber of Mines, and he noted that we tend to get excited about workforce training when a mine or a big project is about to open, but by then it's too late to reap the socio-economic benefits that we all want if we haven't already been properly investing in JK to 12 education.

We focus in our mandate on skills training, workforce development, and entrepreneurship, but I want us to step back. Are we successfully teaching our young people how to read and write? Are we teaching them how to figure out basic math problems? How many adults do we have who may be struggling to get work because they do not have enough reading and writing and math skills to be able to function independently in their lives?

To get some of these answers, I went looking on ECE's website under literacy where I found that our last literacy strategy framework was written before 2008 and has a great photo of a young, fresh-faced Jackson Lafferty who was education Minister at the time. It mentions a study from 2003, which found that 70 percent of Indigenous adults in the NWT cannot read or write well enough to fully participate in our society, as well as 30 percent of non-Indigenous adults. An even higher number are below functional literacy levels in math. So that's 76 percent of Indigenous adults in the NWT, and 38.5 percent of non-Indigenous adults. So that is not only a labour market issue, that's a human rights issue.

Being able to read and write and communicate in any language, well enough to fully participate in society, is a basic human right. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, there are many factors inside and outside the classroom that are causing this problem, but none are insurmountable if we tackle each one systematically. No one can focus on learning if they're hungry or if they do not feel safe at home. Many children have learning disabilities. Some have brains that work differently. But there are tools and best practices that we know have been shown to help in other parts of the world, so let's get serious about implementing them here. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member from Yellowknife Centre.

Member’s Statement 165-20(1): Supports for Senior Citizens

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's a pleasure to be back here.

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, becoming a senior or elder is certainly a privilege and as I look around this Chamber, I see a lot of people heading in that direction. Some of us a little closer than others, obviously. But, you know, Mr. Speaker, respectfully, I certainly hope we all join that rank and privilege of being called a senior or elder.

That said, as an elder in training, Mr. Speaker, okay, I view my part here is to help support the seniors and the previous generations that have brought us to where we are today. I view this as a great responsibility of myself, and I know in this room many of us believe strongly in supporting the aging and the dignity of our seniors.

It's a personal commitment of mine, Mr. Speaker, to dig deep every day on their issues because I do not take them lightly. Mr. Speaker, today I want to highlight the importance of empowering independent living of our seniors and the struggles they may have.

Now, Avens, in particular, was borne out of a kindness and need to support seniors in our community. It may have been started back in 1983 -- before a few of us might have been born -- and that said, it was designed to help lobby the government so programs and services and supports can be met and grow from there on in to help seniors. Now, the principle mandate, Mr. Speaker, hasn't fundamentally changed, which is the affordability for seniors.

Mr. Speaker, as I heard the Premier say just a few short moments ago, we must ensure residents can afford good homes. Thank you, Mr. Premier, for setting up my statement.

Mr. Speaker, the issue here is the government support is shrinking and that cost is now being borne on those residents or renters at Avens. Mr. Speaker, the society has a -- sorry, Avens as an organization is a society, but it works similarly to a business, whereas in they cannot weather these costs forever, which means they fall on the individual renters.

Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, the NWT Housing Corp needs to put back the hundred thousand dollars of support that they used to help support seniors with so we can maintain low and affordable housing. I had to slow down; it feels weird talking so slowly.

Mr. Speaker, ultimately I want to further finish my Member's statement by highlighting the words quickly by saying it's important more than ever because we know residents are feeling the pressures to pay their rents and, as such, I will be asking questions to the Minister of housing on how we can help seniors afford to live there later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Members' statements.

Member’s Statement 166-20(1): Eulogy for Roy Joseph Mouse

Colleagues, on April 1st, 1946, the Creator gifted Alexi and Anna Mouse with a son Roy Joseph Mouse, whose Dene name was Eh'tsoa.

Roy was born on the land and from that moment onwards, this is where you could find him. Roy carried the sacred knowledge passed down from the people of the region. He knew all the traditional traplines, hunting grounds, and gathering spots of various animals and, most importantly, the gift of giving. Roy was the quiet member of his family but when he spoke or had ideas, the family would listen to him.

I can tell you the family and friends would talk about how he supported and provided for his family and those around him by using the amazing gifts given to him by the Creator. People always said that he was very much about nurturing. He did this with his genuine humbleness, kindness, and always had a smile and would always offer his hand to shake when you met him.

Roy would always provide a safe place for those in need, provide moose meat for elders, make use of providing offerings to the land and, as his sister said, he would give his last piece of bannock to others in need. He was always so trusting of people.

Roy attended the Fort Providence residential school. His friends and family spoke about how his strength and survival skills helped him navigate during this moment in time. Those strengths helped him move forward but also gave him the momentum to pursue sports like hockey and helped him to be able to fight fires to help the region and territories. Everyone that spoke of Roy, said he was a hard worker, and you could see his work along the highways, the survival cabins, and trails that his brother and friends opened.

I can tell you, him and his brother Jonas were always the first people to walk across the Liard and go into town after freeze-up. Once we saw the brothers in town, we knew the ice roads would be completed and operational soon. The same could be said about the ferry. He and his brother would always be the first ones to walk on the ferry and hitch a ride into town. I can say I have had the honour of giving him several rides into town throughout the years and greatly appreciate his humour and wit.

Colleagues, I can tell you Roy will be sadly missed by his friends and family. However, in saying this, they are happy that he will be joining his family, especially his brother Jonas, that have already joined the spirit world. God Bless.

Returns to Oral Questions

Return to Oral Question 62-20(1): Consultation with Members of the Legislative Assembly on Policies and Strategies

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a Return to Oral Question asked by the Member for Yellowknife Centre on February 20th, 2024, regarding Consultation with Members of the Legislative Assembly on Policies and Strategies.

The Member asked about the government's internal employee survey requesting input to suggest where the government can save money. When we released the fiscal sustainability strategy on February 12th, 2024, we noted that all Government of the Northwest Territories' employees would be given the opportunity to provide input. That same day, we opened an online survey so employees could provide anonymous feedback and suggestions to help us meet our fiscal sustainability targets.

Employee insight and experience are an invaluable part of the process as this government seeks to address the territory's economic challenges and ensure that every government dollar spent on programs and services supports the needs of residents and communities across the territory.

That survey closed on March 1st, 2024, and we received 928 anonymous submissions from employees, with more than 1,800 ideas and suggestions. The feedback from GNWT employees on fiscal sustainability has been amazing, and I am truly grateful for all the responses and ideas shared. I believe that this response reflects the level of commitment of GNWT employees to making the public service more effective for NWT residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to recognize several of the pages who are helping us out this week from Yellowknife North. We have Alexandra DaCoste from Alain St. Cyr; Nuka Gaudette from Alain St. Cyr, and also Sophie Hawkins at Range Lake North School, who are all Yellowknife North constituents.

And while I'm at it, I also wanted to thank the Aurora Fiddle Society for opening our session in such a wonderful way, and its director Andrea Bettger who is also a Yellowknife North constituent. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Yellowknife North. Recognition of visitors in the gallery.

For all those people that are here that haven't been recognized, thank you very much. We greatly appreciate you being here, and welcome to your House. So thank you very much.