News March 14, 2012

Standing Committee on Social Programs’ Priorities

YELLOWKNIFE (March 14, 2012) – Alcohol and drug treatment and an anti-poverty strategy are the two top priorities of the Standing Committee on Social Programs in the 17th Assembly.

“Addictions and poverty are the biggest problems we’ve got in the Northwest Territories, and there is no one who is not touched by them,” said committee chair Alfred Moses. “We are determined to make concrete progress. The government has been coasting on these issues for too long. Now that an Alcohol and Drug Treatment Strategy is being developed, we have good reason to think the current cabinet will be on side.”

Addictions and poverty are integral to many of the challenges identified by the Standing Committee on Social Programs including low incomes and unemployment, school attendance and low educational achievement, poor health outcomes, inadequate housing, as well as crime and rehabilitation.

The standing committee’s five members met in Hay River from February 29 to March 2 for an intensive planning session and visits to local facilities, including the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre, Nats’eejee K’eh Treatment Centre, H.H. Williams Hospital, and the Family Support Centre. The committee is responsible for the regular MLAs’ oversight of the Departments of Health and Social Services; Education, Culture and Employment; Justice; and the NWT Housing Corporation (NWTHC).

“We were very impressed by the good work being done in the facilities we visited,” Moses said. “We really appreciated the dedication and frankness of the staff everywhere we went.”

The committee believes there is a solid foundation for government departments to cooperate and collaborate on services with broader impact. “To make headway on our priorities we need Education, Justice, Housing, and Health to work together,” added committee member Wendy Bisaro. “For example, Corrections might need an alcohol treatment program in one of its facilities, and that would involve the health department at the very least.”

Committee members noted that their predecessors in the 16th Assembly had also emphasized prevention, early intervention, and a good education starting at an early age. “We will build on their work,” Moses said, “and follow up on the recommendations they provided.”

The committee is undaunted by the fiscal challenges facing the new government. “Sure, we wish there was more money,” Moses said. “We have a lot of ideas. But we will take it one step at a time, and press the government to do things that really make a difference – even small things. We believe we can help people in ways that will also save money.”

Another way to help accomplish this is for the government to partner with non-profit and volunteer organizations in more meaningful ways. The committee plans to hear from these groups in the course of its work as well.

The departments and agencies that fall under the mandate of the Standing Committee on Social Programs account for 60 percent of the GNWT’s annual spending. Committee members look forward to working with the ministers in charge, all of whom were members of the committee in previous assemblies.

“We are also looking forward to the government’s business plans, and seeing how our priorities are addressed,” Moses said.

The current committee consists of MLAs Alfred Moses (Inuvik Boot Lake), Daryl Dolynny (Yellowknife Range Lake), Wendy Bisaro (Yellowknife Frame Lake), Norman Yakeleya (Sahtu), and Jane Groenewegen (Hay River South).

For more information, contact:

Alfred Moses, Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Programs
MLA Inuvik Boot Lake
Legislative Assembly of the NWT
P: 867-669-2282