This is page numbers 171 - 209 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 6th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was report.

Topics

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 191

The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

The honourable Member for Aivilik, Mr. Arvaluk.

Generating Revenue

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 192

James Arvaluk Aivilik

Thank you, Madam Speaker. One of the critical elements in ensuring future fiscal stability for the NWT lies in the development of a stronger local revenue base. The more revenue we, as northerners, can generate and control, the more we will be in control of our future. It is for this reason that the successful negotiation of the northern accord is so crucial. Successful completion of this agreement with the federal government will allow us to make our own decisions about priorities in areas such as finance, economic development and environmental protection.

In view of the fact that all of these fiscal policy matters are interrelated, Members would like to emphasize a message contained in the committee's response to the government's options paper report on deficit management. That is, the committee encourages the government to continue developing and implementing a budget strategy using the concept of a "package" approach. The package approach is comprehensive and incorporates issues such as health billings, funding for social housing, incremental added costs for division, land claims implementation, the formula financing agreement and others. Also included are revenue-producing initiatives such as the northern accord, including a mineral accord.

Managing Government Business Effectively

Business Incentive Policy

The committee supports the objectives of the business incentive policy. Members want to keep money in the north. We want to ensure that northerners receive the maximum benefit for the money the government is spending.

However, the committee sees the present policy creating an increasingly convoluted system of criteria for evaluating and awarding contracts. People in the communities see the system as excessively bureaucratic and, in many cases, detrimental to the well-being of the business community.

The Department of Public Works and Services has agreed to undertake extensive consultations with a view to revising and improving the business incentive policy. Departmental officials have developed a new policy proposal to serve as the basis for community consultation. From the information that committee Members have seen regarding the proposed new policy, it appears that the difficulties with the present policy will not be adequately addressed.

Therefore, committee Members feel that an innovative way of accomplishing the objectives of the business incentive policy must be found. Committee Members encourage the department to look for new and innovative ways through the consultative process.

Negotiated Contracts

During its review of the 1994-95 main estimates, the committee noted a number of concerns relating to the government's way of negotiating contracts. These concerns are summarized in the following excerpt from the committee report:

"In many communities, negotiated contracts have helped establish successful aboriginal enterprises. However, there is a perception that negotiated contracts may be, somehow, less "fair" than tendered contracts. As well, there have been serious problems with some negotiated contracts. Committee Members feel that all contracts, whether negotiated or tendered, must be better monitored. The committee also believes that full public disclosure of negotiated contracts would help to ensure that value for money could be assessed."

The committee, therefore, recommended that the government develop policies and procedures for providing full public disclosure of the details of negotiated contracts, and for monitoring all contracts in order to avoid cost overruns and poor management. The committee asked that this policy and these procedures be in place before August 1, 1994, and that copies of the policy and procedures be provided to the Standing Committee on Finance.

The committee did not receive a response to its recommendation by the deadline date. However, on September 13, 1994 the committee was informed that the Department of Public Works and Services had undertaken to draft policies and procedures in conjunction with the Financial Management Board Secretariat, the Department of Transportation, the NWT Housing Corporation and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism. The response suggests that the departments are working toward a completion date of December 1994. No indication was given as to why an extension of the deadline is necessary. The Standing Committee on Finance will follow up on this issue when it meets in January 1995 to review the main estimates.

Project Management

Concerns arose throughout the committee's September 1994 review about the way in which capital projects are planned, designed and managed by the Department of Public Works and Service. Committee Members wonder if the means of coordinating and managing capital projects adopted by the Department of Public Works and Services, on behalf of the government as a whole, are as efficient and effective as they should be.

There is a concern that the standards set by the department may be higher than necessary. As a result, construction projects managed by the department end up costing more than similar projects managed in a different way. Members noted that, in particular cases, projects funded through block funding arrangements have proven to be more cost-effective than projects managed by the Department of Public Works and Services on behalf of a client department. Members feel that the project management approach, adopted by the department, can and should be streamlined. The department should assess the current procedures and look for alternatives that are more cost-effective.

While recognizing the significance of the project management function, it is important to remember that it is an overhead expense. In times of tight financial resources, it is particularly important to ensure that capital spending brings about maximum benefit to communities and that overhead expenses are minimized. It is also important to ensure that the procedures used for estimating capital expenditures be as accurate as possible because it is on the basis of these estimates that the Legislative Assembly approves the allocation of capital dollars.

Therefore, at the appropriate time, Madam Speaker, the committee will make the following motion.

Recommendation 3

The Standing Committee on Finance recommends that the Financial Management Board, in consultation with the Department of Public Works and Services, assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the current practices of managing capital projects, and provide a report on the results of that study to the Standing Committee on Finance on December 23, 1994, along with the 1995-96 operations and maintenance documents.

Government Tendering

During the recent review, a number of problems with the current means of tendering government projects were identified. The most critical problem relates to the timing of contract tendering. The chairman of the Financial Management Board committed to investigate the reasons for contracts being tendered later than desired and offered to try to resolve the problem. The committee looks forward to discussing, with the chairman of the FMB, the reasons why the process has not worked as planned and the proposed resolution. Committee Members expect this discussion to take place during the committee's January 1995 budget review.

Madam Speaker, that concludes my part of the presentation. With your permission, I would like to ask Mr. Charles Dent to continue. Thank you.

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 193

The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

The honourable Member for Yellowknife Frame Lake, Mr. Dent.

Bringing It All Together

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 193

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, the section I'm presenting from our report is entitled "Bringing it all Together." It focuses on social issues.

Madam Speaker, this government is perceived as a government focused on economic development. While committee Members recognize the critical importance of economic development for the Northwest Territories, there's a fear that this focus may be diverting attention away from pressing social issues. There is a fear that basic social programs may be eroded. Committee Members feel that the time has come to focus on the pressing social problems facing our government today. A shift in philosophy is also required. The future of the territories lies in its people. Therefore, what is required is investing in people -- a focus on the social issues. Further, the committee feels that in order to support this shift in philosophy, a shift in resource allocation must follow.

Committee Members, during the September review, identified three areas where the government could focus for the next year. These three areas are consistent with emerging priorities and with the recommendations of the various standing and special committees of the Legislative Assembly.

Early Intervention - Children With Special Needs

More than half of the residents of the Northwest Territories are under 18 years of age. It is with these people that our future rests. It is imperative, therefore, that the needs of this group be identified and addressed.

The Special Committee on Health and Social Services identified a very serious gap in responsibility for services for youth. The committee's final report describes the situation in the following excerpt:

"We were told about one complete gap in authority, in that no department has the responsibility for providing services to special needs children, especially preschoolers. In 1985, a report was prepared, suggesting clarification of departmental roles and financial obligations and recommending early intervention with children with special needs. This recommendation rose, in part, out of the evaluation of a successful early intervention pilot project conducted in Pond Inlet. Despite this project's success, the government took no action to allocate the responsibility and funds for such programs.

Six years later, a tri-ministerial committee -- Education, Health, and Social Services -- was formed to review the issue. The committee made further recommendations but still no action was taken. No one department has the legislative mandate for such services so no funds were allocated, despite the continued acceptance that early intervention was crucial to helping these children." (Page 39).

Based on this assessment of the problem, Madam Speaker, the Special Committee on Health and Social Services made the following recommendation:

"Interdepartmental agreements must be put in place quickly to ensure that early intervention services are available right away. Due to the urgency of this matter, a report must be provided to the Legislative Assembly during the 1994 winter session." (Page 44).

Madam Speaker, the Standing Committee on Finance supports this recommendation and believes that it should be one of the three major initiatives undertaken by this government in the next year. Committee Members expect to see specific budget plans to support this initiative in the 1995-96 operations and maintenance budget.

School-Based Youth Service Model

"Partners For Youth"

During its review of the 1994-95 main estimates, the committee identified a model for a school-based youth service program. the model, called "Partners for Youth," was based on a pilot project being implemented in Edmonton. With this model, which was initially developed in San Diego, a social services team is put together in the school. In the Edmonton example, at one of the schools the team includes a nurse, a police constable, a social worker, a probation officer and a therapist. The goal of the project is to ensure that "at risk and potentially at risk" students and their families will have school-based access to a wide range of community services. Further, committee Members noted that the program is designed to require little extra funding. Instead, existing resources are reassigned. Based on this information, the committee made the following recommendation:

"That the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, in cooperation with the Departments of Social Services, Justice and Health, examine the "Partners for Youth" model and implement pilot projects, based on that model, in one school in each region for the 1994-95 school year."

Madam Speaker, none of the departments responded to this recommendation for the 1994-95 school year. Instead, the standing committee received the following status report on September 13, 1994:

"A memorandum of agreement has been signed by the Ministers of three departments as the first step. The collaborative concept is already in place in many schools across the NWT, and is being promoted actively. This concept is not currently known by the title, "Partners for Youth." It is acknowledged as the most effective way to provide coordinated support to children and youth."

When the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment appeared before the committee during the September, 1994 review, this issue was discussed. Committee Members, once again, outlined the many benefits of this model and strongly urged the department to "get on with it." Committee Members noted that no action had been taken to implement pilot projects in the schools for the 1994-95 school year.

In response to this reluctance, and because of the potential benefits for our youth and their families, committee Members decided to follow up on the recommendation themselves. The committee has invited the coordinator of the Edmonton project to make a presentation on the model to the committee, other interested MLAs and Ministers. The meeting is scheduled to take place in late October, 1994.

Family Violence

The Standing Committee on Finance supports the efforts of the Department of Justice in preparing the declaration on family violence on behalf of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories and in developing and tabling a strategy for dealing with violence. However, the committee was very disappointed to find, during its review of the 1994-95 main estimates, that few, if any, new resources had been allocated in any department, to help ensure that the goals set out in this declaration become a reality. If resources are not dedicated to this important statement of principle, it raises expectations without much chance of achieving objectives.

As a result of these concerns, the committee recommended that the Department of Social Services, in consultation with social agencies and special interest groups, develop a range of program options and training plans for family violence prevention services, child sexual abuse programs and family counselling.

The government response to this recommendation, received on September 13, 1994, is as follows:

"The Department of Health and Social Services has begun work on a community wellness strategy. The strategy will develop a range of options for responding to family violence and sexual abuse issues, in the context of individual, family and community healing and development. Community involvement in service delivery, training, prevention and awareness will be emphasized.

The development of the strategy is directed by a working group of representatives of approximately 35 non-government and community organizations. The Departments of Justice and Education, Culture and Employment are closely involved and other departments are being consulted.

A comprehensive progress report will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly this fall."

The standing committee would like to see this initiative fast- tracked. Members would like to see very rapid progress in moving from strategy to implementation. Committee Members expect to see specific budget plans to support this initiative in the 1995-96 operations and maintenance budget.

Madam Speaker, there are many urgent problems that could be addressed by undertaking these three initiatives. These problems deserve prompt and proactive solutions. Therefore, the Standing Committee on Finance will make the following recommendation to the Government of the Northwest Territories:

Recommendation 4

The Standing Committee on Finance recommends that the Government of the Northwest Territories assess its spending priorities and current initiatives and, based on that assessment, develop a plan to deal with early intervention services for special needs children; a school-based youth services program and family violence. The goal of the plan is to focus on long-term investments in the people of the Northwest Territories. The committee further recommends that the plan be initiated and implemented during the final year of the government's term.

Madam Speaker, I would now like to request that the chairman of the committee be allowed to conclude the report.

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 194

The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Thank you. The honourable Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Antoine.

A Transition Plan For The Next Government

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 194

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mahsi, Madam Speaker. During the September 1994 review, the Standing Committee on Finance found itself, of necessity, working toward a deadline of October 1995 -- the date of the next territorial election. Committee Members recognize that recommendations and expectations need to reflect the fact that the term of this government is drawing to a close.

With our consensus style of government, there are few mechanisms for easing the transition from one government to the next. Committee Members feel that it is important for the next government to have a blueprint to follow. This is particularly important in view of the potential consequences of a worsening financial reality -- a situation where a deficit may be accumulated. Committee Members feel, for example, that this government should be setting the scene to make this transition to two new territories, with all the associated activities implied, as soon as possible.

The Institute of Public Administration of Canada, in its recent publication entitled "Taking Power -- Managing Government Transitions" offered the following comments about changes of government:

"Transitions of power represent a critical moment in our democratic systems. These peaceful coups are greeted with a mixture of euphoria and anxiety. Intense activity occurs within a very limited time frame as efforts are made to mesh the new political apparatus with the administrative machinery. Attention must be paid to policy, machinery of government and personnel issues all at once."

Because of the consensus model of government, legislators in the Northwest Territories, unlike those in other jurisdictions, are well positioned to plan and execute a relatively smooth transition from one government to the next. The Standing Committee on Finance recommends that the current government assume responsibility for initiating transition planning. Assuming this responsibility would involve, as a first step, the development of a "blueprint" document that includes, as a minimum, the following elements:

- the current government's vision of the future;

- government spending priorities and the supporting rationale;

- fiscal and operational strategies and plans with particular emphasis on commitments made to interest groups and communities;

- a description of the planned evolution of the organizational and program change over the long term; and,

- a plan for moving toward division.

The previous government of the 11th Assembly submitted a report, "Strength of Two Levels," to the chairman of the Financial Management Board of the 12th Legislative Assembly. This report summarized the work of a review project that was intended to provide a blueprint for government organizational and program change over the next ten years. Even though the report was not fully implemented because of changing political and fiscal realities, it did serve as a reference point for the current government. While the committee is not expecting the current government to undertake an initiative as extensive as the project to review the operations and structures of northern government, Members would like to see a substantial transition plan as outlined above.

The Standing Committee on Finance would be pleased to assist the government in undertaking this crucial initiative.

Moving Toward Division

The committee Members believe that there will be incremental costs associated with division. With developing constitutions and governing structures and with some models of self-government. It is essential that these incremental costs be fully identified and recognized in government fiscal strategies, plans and funding agreements. It is also essential to recognize that in preparing for division, it is necessary to target for a balanced budget. The committee Members feel strongly that it is highly desirable that the government's fiscal house be in order in anticipation of 1999 which promises to be a very challenging year. It is important that dividing an accumulated deficit not be added to the problems of dividing the assets and the base budget.

Balanced Budget Legislation

The Standing Committee on Finance remains committed to targeting for a balanced budget. At the same time, Members are very cognizant of the many obstacles to prudent fiscal management in the current environment of turbulent change and increasing demands for government services. Members recognize how difficult it is to maintain a delicate balance between avoiding an accumulated deficit while at the same time protecting the public interests. This government has, over the last few years, been faced with tremendous fiscal pressures ranging from significant decline in the level of federal government support to the need to provide for extraordinary unanticipated expenditures.

As a response to the need to maintain the "delicate balance", the Standing Committee on Finance makes the following recommendation:

Recommendation 5

The Standing Committee on Finance recommends that the Financial Management Board, as part of its transition planning, seriously consider protecting the interests of the people of the Northwest Territories by introducing, during the life of this Legislative Assembly, legislation that requires the Government of the Northwest Territories, in preparation for division, to ensure that, on March 31, 1998, no deficit has accumulated.

Finance Committee To Maintain A "Watch-dog" Role

In concluding this report on Investing in Our Future, the Standing Committee on Finance wishes to assure all Members of the Legislative Assembly that the committee will continue to comply with a mandate by serving as a financial "watch-dog". Members of the Standing Committee are committed to finding solutions to problems identified and to exploring new and innovative approaches to conducting the business of government.

Madam Speaker, at this time, I would like to express the committee's appreciation to the staff of the committee who served, as well, during this review; Joan Irwin, our researcher, who provided excellent expert and professional support; Robert Slaven for his analytical abilities; and, Doug Schauerte for his ongoing effectiveness in support of the standing committee.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 9-12(6) And Move To Committee Of The Whole, Carried

Madam Speaker, that concludes the report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Investing in Our Future, October, 1994. Therefore I move, seconded by honourable Member for Yellowknife Frame Lake, that the report of the Standing Committee on Finance, Investing in Our Future, October, 1994, be received by the Assembly and moved into committee of the whole. Mahsi.

---Applause

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 196

The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Your motion is in order. To the motion.

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 196

An Hon. Member

Question.

Committee Report 9-12(6): Investing In Our Future, October 1994
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 196

The Speaker Jeannie Marie-Jewell

Question is being called. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Item 12, reports of standing and special committees. Item 13, reports of committees on the review of bills. Item 14, tabling of documents. Item 15, notices of motion. Item 16, notices of motions for first reading of bills. Item 17, motions. Item 18, first reading of bills. Item 19, second reading of bills. Item 20, consideration in committee of the whole of bills and other matters: Tabled Document 14-12(6), "Open for Business" - Privatizing the Northwest Territories Power Corporation; Tabled Document 23-12(6), Report of the 1993-94 Electoral District Boundaries Commission, Northwest Territories; Minister's Statement 11-12(6), Return to Session; Committee Report 4-12(6), Report on the Review of Bill 6 - Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act; Committee Report 5-12(6), Report on the Review of the Financial Statements of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Report of the Auditor General for Canada for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1993; Committee Report 6-12(6), Report on the Review of Bill 3 - Guardianship and Trusteeship Act; Committee Report 7-12(6), Report on the Review of Bill 7 - An Act to Amend the Arctic College Act; Bill 1, Appropriation Act, No. 1, 1995-96; Bill 2, Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act; Bill 3, Guardianship and Trusteeship Act; Bill 6, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act; Bill 7, An Act to Amend the Arctic College Act; Bill 8, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, with Mr. Lewis in the chair.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 196

The Chair Brian Lewis

I'd like to call the committee to order. What would the committee like to do today? Mr. Ningark.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 196

John Ningark Natilikmiot

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to recommend that we deal with Committee Report 5-12(6) and subsequently, if time allows it, Committee Report 4-12(6). Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 196

The Chair Brian Lewis

Do Members agree?

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 196

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

---Agreed

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Brian Lewis

Okay, so we deal with Committee Report 5-12(6). We have some business in front of us, which is the Standing Committee on Public Accounts Report on the Review of the Financial Statements of the GNWT and the Report of the Auditor General for Canada for the Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 1993. Mr. Zoe is the chair of that committee and would like to have a pause to think about what they want to do next. Therefore, we will take a five-minute break.

---SHORT RECESS

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Brian Lewis

I will call the meeting back to order. During the break, I had an opportunity to discuss the report with the chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Zoe. We would like to be guided by the committee on what you would like to do. Mr. Zoe, perhaps I will ask you to deal with the issue.