Mark Rendell
Mark Rendell

On the Ledge: It’s a Wrap

What the assembly accomplished this time; plus a domestic violence death review, ice road mayhem, Hollywood North and more

Well, that’s a wrap. The winter session of the legislative assembly, which finished last Thursday, saw the passage of the 2015/16 budget. A number of significant pieces of legislation were introduced or passed, including one which saw Deline become the first community in the NWT to achieve self-government, and another that kicked off a major reform of the health system that will see the amalgamation of regional health boards.

The justice department received a cutting report on corrections and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment got a wake-up call on the language front last week. There were heated discussions of Stanton security, a motion for a new Aboriginal Health Centre at the hospital and another motion to establish a lobbyist registry.

As per usual, the day-to-day grind of the ledge saw the usual back and forth banter with members trying to score points against cabinet.

Here’s a few final things that happened last before things closed down. The next session is scheduled to start on May 27.

Domestic Violence Death Review

Citing the NWT’s disproportionately high levels of violent crime and domestic violence, the legislative assembly passed a motion last Wednesday “strongly” recommending the Department of Health and Social Services takes steps to establish a domestic violence death review committee.

“Over the last five years, there have been nine cases of family and domestic violence in the Northwest Territories that resulted in death,” said Alfred Moses, the MLA for Inuvik Boot Lake who introduced the motion. “This needs to stop.”

According to the motion, the death review committee would “establish a forum for experts, community advocates and family members to study trends, risk factors, and systemic concerns and to recommend changes that will prevent future tragedies.”

The NWT’s chief coroner is already looking at other jurisdictions, such as Manitoba, Ontario and B.C., to see how it would work.

At this point, it’s unclear what form the committee would take and whether it would answer to the Department of Health or the Department of Justice. But the motion received vocal support from MLAs and Health Minister Glen Abernethy.

Planning Hollywood North

Last Thursday, Minister David Ramsay released a new action plan for improving the NWT’s burgeoning film industry. The film industry contributes $10 million to the GDP every year, Ramsay pointed out, and described the strategy as a guide for “planning and implementation of policies, investments and actions by our government.”

The strategy has five objectives:

  • Strengthening government/industry roles and partnerships;
  • Enhancing funding and financial support;
  • Creating training opportunities;
  • Investing in building infrastructure, below-the-line crews and support services;
  • Developing efficient and effective marketing and communications.

Each objective has a set of actions that are supposed to be accomplished in the coming years. Those marked as highly important include:

  • Implementation of the Film Rebate Pilot Program, with around $200,000 in available funding, announced last month;
  • Support of professional development worships in Yellowknife during the International Film Festival and other events;
  • Attendance at festivals like the Toronto and Banff Film Festival and development of relationships with national and provincial funders;
  • Investment in the making of a short film or a series of web shorts that brings in professional mentors;
  • Start offering tours to production companies from outside the territory to show off different locations and communities.

The strategy outlined challenges the territorial film industry faces, including high production and transportation costs, limited access to national grants and federal funding sources, and limited professional equipment available for rent. But overall, the tone of the document is optimistic.

Ice Road Mayhem

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley brought a chaotic scene of untested ice roads and snowmobilers crashing headlong into six-foot berms to the legislative assembly on Wednesday.

He was speaking about the private ice roads that have crisscrossed Prelude Lake this winter. “Snowmobilers are being injured, including one lady this week,” he said.

“With lands and waters now our responsibility, this government has an obligation to make sure that regulations are in place to manage their use for the safety and benefit of all,” he argued. “The proliferation of private ice roads on Prelude is, as best, inconvenient and, at worst, dangerous for the people living there and recreating there and the health of the land.”

When asked about regulating the ice roads, Minister of Lands Robert C. McLeod said he wasn’t sure what regulations were in place. He did say his department would be working with the Department of Transportation and ENR: “I think we’ve already formed a working group, and we will attempt to find some resolution to this issue before next winter.”

Static funding for foster families

The 2014 report from the Auditor General on Child and Family Services came up again, with Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny questioning the static rate of money given from the government to foster parents in Yellowknife.

Dolynny brought up the shortage of foster parents in the NWT that continues to this day — “Maybe the shortage is somehow financially linked” — and pointed out that the amount paid to foster parents had not kept pace with inflation.

The current rate is $24 per day, with a bonus of $4 a day for children between zero and five, $3 a day for children between six and 12, and $5 a day for children between 13 and 18. Yellowknife was one of the few communities that did not get a funding increase following a 2007 report.

Dolynny asked Health Minister Glen Abernethy that the amount for Yellowknife be changed to at least $33.90 per day based on the interest rate from the last change.

Abernethy wouldn’t commit to a dollar figure but said that “we are doing another analysis to make sure that the rates are still appropriate, and we’re working very closely with the Foster Family Coalition who is partnering with us on this review of the individual rates,” said Abernethy.

“I’m not arguing with the Member. I’m agreeing we need to do this review,” said Abernethy in response.