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Legislative Assembly Briefs
MLA wants Merv Hardie ferry moved north

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 25, 2013

Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake said since there are currently no plans to continue using the Merv Hardie ferry after the Deh Cho Bridge opened at the end of November 2012, it should be moved to service Tsiigehtchic.

It's a bigger vessel than the Louis Cardinal ferry which services Tsiigehtchic across the Arctic Red River and the Mackenzie River in the Beaufort Delta, he said, adding the Merv Hardie can run two more hours a day than the Louis Cardinal.

Transportation Minister David Ramsay said the department is looking into where the ferry will be moved and for what purposes, and will make a decision in the next few months.

Sahtu shelter

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya said while a lot of energy is focused on the issue of homelessness in the capital city, the problem is present in the communities as well.

"People are living in warehouses, they are living in tents, they are drifting from house to house, sleeping on floors and couches, they are overnighting in RCMP cells," said Yakeleya, adding a big reason for homelessness is alcohol and drug addiction.

He said there are emergency shelters in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Fort Smith, but nothing in the Sahtu.

Health Minister Tom Beaulieu said there are no shelters in all the communities because of the cost.

He said if an emergency shelter was started in the Sahtu, the cost to operate the shelter would come back to the legislative assembly to determine which department would support it.

Inclusive schools

Education Minister Jackson Lafferty was busy responding to queries by regular members concerning the territory's education system during Education Week. On Feb. 20, Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen said if the proper funding for inclusive schooling is not available, "the results can be quite dire."

Last year, the GNWT decided to reallocate up to $1 million from inclusive schooling - to allow children to be taught in the same classroom regardless of any special needs - to early childhood education. Groenewegen asked Lafferty what the department is doing to ensure there is adequate funding for resources for children with special needs in the classrooms.

Lafferty said the department is currently conducting an "engagement plan," hearing from stakeholders, parents and teachers about the educational programming.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche questioned why the territory's education system allows social passing - where students are passed through grades to be with their peers - saying it isn't working.

Lafferty said the information received from experts over the years shows that peer passing is the "best way to approach these students."

He added that the "complex" educational review being done will also look at peer passing.

Fracking guidelines

Concerns about horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or fracking continued to be a hot topic in the legislative assembly last week.

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya questioned Transportation Minister David Ramsay about guidelines which the department is developing on the process which could be used to tap into shale oil resources.

"We have to weigh the pros and the cons of this technology," Yakeleya said on Feb. 18, adding in the central Mackenzie Valley, shale play is considered a frontier development.

Ramsay said the department has conducted meetings in the Sahtu communities, met with the National Energy Board and is looking at the guideline developments taking place in New Brunswick.

"We can't afford to mess this up. If there's no fracking in the Sahtu there will be no development, so we need to ensure we get it right," said Ramsay.

Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger said the GNWT intends to come forward by the spring or fall at the latest with some guidelines on best fracking practices.

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