Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Since the last session the government has spent a great deal of time considering the direction our Territories should be going. We have been encouraged in this process by the comments of Members of the Legislative Assembly and the recommendations of its committees. Of particular note were several of the recommendations made by the standing committee on finance in its report on the 1992-93 capital budget. I would like to quote a few of them:
1) The committee recommends that the Legislative Assembly, as a whole, work together to change the future course of the Northwest Territories, which will be bleak if we do not do the right things. The committee supports the Minister of Finance and Government Leader in this goal, but with a watchful eye.
2) The committee recommends fundamental changes in the way government does things. This means, among other things, that government must review its management and leadership style at the political level and bureaucratic level in order to achieve more with less. The committee feels that there is a need for a government program of change -- to become more goal-oriented, service-oriented and people oriented.
3) The committee recommends that the Members of the Legislative Assembly look beyond constituency interest and determine what is in the best interests of all Northerners.
These recommendations confirmed to Members of cabinet that change must be its guiding light -- not just in terms of running government with less money, but fundamental change in how government is structured and delivers services.
Cutting back on the number of departments and agencies through consolidation, decentralization of programs and services to regional centres, equalization of budget reductions, community transfer, and returning to a balanced budget within two years are all essential elements of that change.
As you know, cutbacks in federal transfer payments and continued poor economic performance have cut deeply into our budget. We had to move quickly to implement a short-term restraint program last fiscal year. This year's budget is based on similar projections and the need to consolidate wherever possible. The target is a $25 million deficit in 1992-93 and a balanced budget in 1993-94. It can be met if we begin implementation immediately.
The most visible part of our plan is to cut back on the number of departments and agencies through consolidation. For example, plans for merging the Department of Government Services with the Department of Public Works, and the Department of Culture and Communications with the Department of Education are finalized and will be implemented early this summer. The Reshaping Northern Government working group, which includes three MLAs, has provided sound advice and assistance in this area and we will continue to benefit from their input as we move to the next step of consolidations. Consolidation, however, is just the beginning of what must be a comprehensive process of reform. While important and necessary, it does not greatly affect the public, particularly in the regions where people are more concerned about how and where government spends its budget of over one billion dollars.
In many communities government expenditures are virtually the sole economic base. As a result, we tried to avoid reductions affecting the smaller, more vulnerable communities in developing the 1992-93 operation and maintenance budget. Cabinet's focus was to reduce overhead, not programs. We wanted to reduce services to government, not services to the public.
This approach has meant that 160 positions have to be eliminated. Positions that were vacant were selected first for elimination. Others were left vacant so that affected employees could compete for them. Unfortunately, layoff notices will have to be given to 21 of our 5500 government employees. This is not a happy fact and is one we tried to avoid in every possible instance. These employees are eligible for the workforce adjustment program which forms part of the recently negotiated contract between the Union of Northern Workers and the government.
We are prepared to implement the program before ratification of the contract. We believe that this is in keeping with the spirit of the negotiations and a commitment to fair treatment of all employees. The program will be available to union and non-union personnel where jobs are affected by restraint and consolidation. The Minister of Personnel will be speaking on this matter later.
In deciding which areas would be affected by restraint, cabinet did everything it could to protect programs in health, education, social services and housing fields. The most in need, such as the elderly, the youth and those suffering from poor health, must be assisted and given hope. Forced growth requirements must be accommodated and service levels maintained. However, this has meant that we had to reduce expenditures in other areas to a greater degree. Unfortunately, that is the choice we face in sustaining our most important social programs and continuing to offer our rapidly growing numbers of youth the best possible education. We must be prepared to invest in our young people and meet obligations to our elders.
In our determination to equalize the burden of budget reductions across the Territories, it became clear that we must shift more of the economic benefits associated with government spending to centres which are just on the verge of becoming self-sustaining. Communities such as Fort Simpson and Rankin Inlet are stranded in the never-never land of being too small to be big, but too big to be small. Others, like Fort Smith and Inuvik, have seen their economies decline dramatically over the past number of years, They have seen some growth associated with education and health expenditures but have not enjoyed anywhere near the degree of prosperity of Yellowknife.
For example, the recent addition of more specialist services at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital has meant almost 30 high-paying professional jobs in the capital; the number of teachers has increased by over 10; and close to 80 jobs have been created by growth in government spending. In addition, the move of CBC Northern Services has brought nine new jobs. National retail chains and fast-food franchises are establishing themselves. In the capital city there is a fair amount of construction activity such as elementary and junior high schools and a new multi-million dollar Legislative Assembly building. In addition, there is a new Woolco store and plans for a Canadian Tire outlet and other retail and commercial buildings.
All of us welcome these jobs to the North and the enhancement they bring to the quality of life in the city. Yellowknife's excellent economic prospects and improved levels of communications facilities throughout the Territories, now make it possible for the government to devote more time and money to other centres.
Accordingly, we are committed to the development of a decentralization program which will assist in developing those centres which are being more severely impacted by the sluggish economy and are losing positions due to budget reductions. Decentralization will also provide the opportunity for staff to live, work and make decisions closer to the people they serve.
The following facilities and agencies will be decentralized beginning April 1, 1993 and ending in April of 1994:
1) Airport and other transportation programs will be moved to Fort Simpson, Norman Wells and to Baker Lake; 2) To take advantage of existing infrastructure and support services, the head office and administration of Arctic College will be moved to lqaluit and Fort Smith; 3) In recognition of the distinct supply routes for products delivered by the POL division, its headquarter's operation will be placed in Rankin Inlet and in Fort Simpson; 4) Given the availability of the necessary communications and processing facilities and available infrastructure, the health insurance section, which primarily processes health billings, will be located in Inuvik and Rankin Inlet; 5) The Science Institute headquarters will be moved to its laboratory and research facility in Inuvik, Igloolik and/or lqaluit; 6) Recognizing the predominance of transportation and utilities companies in Hay River, the Highways Transport Board and Public Utilities Board will be moved there; and 7) In order to capture the economic benefits of government spending, cabinet is prepared to support the location of an aircraft maintenance facility in Fort Smith for its fleet of water bombers and to develop a training component in conjunction with Arctic College.
Mr. Speaker, this program of decentralization has obvious benefits for recipient communities and businesses but will also have an impact on our budget. We know that decentralization will cost a little more, but it is an investment we think is worth making to provide new job opportunities to people living in smaller centres. To those who might complain that decentralization is too high a price to pay, I would remind them that it would have been more economical to have the territorial capital in Ottawa.
The incremental costs of decentralization will take two forms. The first will be in the training and infrastructure necessary in each community to accommodate the new positions. I would invite all MLAs, mayors, chiefs and local chambers of commerce to help us in the planning process. The second area of incremental cost will be to assist employees to move to new locations or find alternative employment. I can assure all employees affected by decentralization that they will be treated fairly and be provided with transitional assistance, to be determined in consultation with the union.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that while our focus regarding government decentralization has been to communities in the Deh Cho, Inuvik, Keewatin and Baffin regions, we are also taking action to work with other regions to maximize benefits associated with mineral development in the North Slave and Kitikmeot regions. New discoveries and encouraging drilling results have confirmed world class deposits of lead, zinc, gold and diamonds. If transportation and energy infrastructure can be developed, the Northwest Territories will be the most exciting mining region in the world, and the employment and economic development opportunities will be enormous.
The Departments of Transportation, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, and Economic Development and Tourism, along with the NWT Power Corporation, are working with communities and companies to explore all opportunities. The options range from traditional economic development strategies such as bebfits agreements and training and business development assistance, to bold new initiatives such as ports and hydro dams built and owned by communities on a joint venture basis. When the drilling results come in, we will be prepared to support initiatives which will maximize local benefits. Mr. Speaker, because of the size of these projects, we will require federal government assistance, and we will continue to lobby the Prime Minister and the responsible federal departments.
Mr. Speaker, infrastructure made it possible for the West to be opened up, and the same holds true for the North. As a sign of our commitment, and in preparation for what we expect will be a new, jointly financed infrastructure program, the government will be completing the Wrigley extension as the first leg of the Mackenzie Valley Highway. The focus of this pilot project will be local involvement and innovative training projects to get people off social assistance and into the work force. The prospects of federal participation are made easier by the significant progress our government has made on the national scene. For the first time, we have been full participants at First Ministers' meetings on the economy and the Western Premiers' Conference. The Northwest Territories is no longer viewed as an outsider looking through a window into the rest of Canada. It is an active participant. This success has been complemented by the progress at national constitutional talks, which the Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs will be reporting on later in this session.
Another area in which we have spent considerable time in trying to balance out our economy are the smaller communities which have only minimal government services and limited infrastructure. In those cases, we must find ways to maximize every job in every community by increasing local content. Two recent initiatives by the government will go a long way toward making this happen. The first is the new business incentive policy, and the second is the federal government's agreement to our proposal that the business incentive policy be applied to Housing Corporation. projects.
The latter initiative will assist communities in capturing term positions associated with capital projects. Over the longer term, the best way of injecting real employment opportunities into smaller communities will be by transferring greater responsibility and associated jobs to community governments. Community transfer agreements and ownership of programs will mean community priorities are set and delivered locally. By transferring corrections from Social Services to Justice, we will be able to facilitate the development of community justice and corrections programs that are uniquely tailored to the northern environment. By having responsibility for policing, corrections and the justice system under one mandate, the opportunity is there to develop programs that will focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration. It will also encourage community involvement in the justice system.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, people of the Territories are demanding change because the old way of doing things simply does not meet the needs of today's northern society. I believe this need for change is being reflected in how the business of this chamber is conducted. Since the election and through the rest of this fiscal year, the House will sit a record number of days; committees will meet more than ever before; and communities will be given the opportunity for direct input into the capital planning process. What this signals to me is a strong desire by MLAs, mayors, chiefs and other interested parties to be directly involved in the decision making process.
Together, cabinet and the Legislative Assembly have taken a few tentative steps to accommodate these calls for participation by moving to a fall capital budget, by opening the legislative review process to the public, and by creating special committees such as those on reshaping northern government and the constitution.
The package I have presented today will build on these earlier initiatives, move government closer to its constituents, and result in an administration that is more closely tuned to the people it serves. Thank you.