Thank you, Madam Speaker. In accordance with its terms of reference, the Standing Committee on Finance is pleased to submit its report on, Investing In Our Future. This report describes the major, overall policy initiatives that the committee discussed during its September meetings.
September 1994 Review
The Standing Committee on Finance's budget review in September 1994 departed slightly from reviews in past years. Since February 1992, when the capital estimates were first considered in advance of the main estimates, the committee has reviewed the capital estimates in the fall and the main estimates early the following year. It has become increasingly apparent that reviewing capital plans, in the absence of considering the "big picture," is unrealistic. As well, the committee is fully aware of the tremendous pressures on the fiscal resources of the Government of the Northwest Territories.
The present government is entering the last year of its term and committee Members felt that it was necessary to consider the whole budget in anticipation of the transition to a new government. Therefore, the committee decided that it was necessary to consider the budget process as a whole and outstanding issues related to the operating budget, in addition to proposed capital expenditures.
The committee's review was conducted in the context of the larger issues of overall government fiscal policy and effective resource management. Committee Members carefully reviewed fiscal strategies and plans, as well as spending priorities.
Throughout the review, committee Members focused on finding solutions to problems identified. New and innovative approaches to conducting the business of government were explored and are reported in this and other committee reports.
Consultation And Learning
Committees of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories have committed to visiting and consulting with communities across the territories. In response to this commitment, the Standing Committee on Finance visited Iqaluit, Katannilik Park and Lake Harbour.
Katannilik Park And Lake Harbour
In its report on the 1994-95 capital estimates, the Standing Committee on Finance raised the issue of the cost-effectiveness of the parks and tourism program. Specifically, the committee had this to say on the issue:
"The committee is very concerned about the absence of a strong rationale for the overall allocation of capital funding to tourism projects. It is imperative that a comprehensive economic assessment, which clearly identifies the real and potential benefits to communities, be conducted. The results of such an assessment are necessary to determine the appropriate allocation of overall capital funding to parks development and other tourism projects. In light of the $4.5 million that the government plans to commit next year, this type of information will prove invaluable.
A specific example of the need for further information is provided by the Katannilik Park near Lake Harbour on Baffin Island. The planned investment in this park, between 1992 and 1998, is $1.4 million. Katannilik is a "destination" park where visitors come specifically to experience its remote location and Arctic environment. The park undoubtedly contributes directly to the community's economy, in terms of employment generation and local purchasing, but adequate measures of indirect benefit to the community and region have not been quantified.
The committee would like to see the department use Katannilik Park specifically for a detailed forecast of economic costs and benefits associated with the parks program."
Committee Members toured Katannilik Park and met with Lake Harbour's economic development officer, the community's park and tourism committee, the hamlet council, local outfitters and residents. These consultations allowed the committee to collect information first hand.
In Iqaluit, the committee held in camera budget review sessions, toured facilities and met with local and regional groups. Specifically, committee Members undertook the following activities:
- met with elders and toured the elders' residence;
- met with members of the Baffin Regional Inuit Association;
- met with members of the Baffin Chamber of Commerce;
- met with members of the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce;
- toured the new young offenders' facility and consulted with staff;
- visited the new Apex school;
- visited an archaeological site; and,
- met with local outfitters and residents.
The Standing Committee on Finance met in Yellowknife from September 12th to September 23, 1994, to conduct the budget review with Ministers and departmental staff. An initial briefing session was held with the chairman of the Financial Management Board on September 12th. This was followed by departmental reviews and a final review session with the chairman of the Financial Management Board to address remaining outstanding issues.
Committee Members would like to express their appreciation to the chairman of the Financial Management Board for his cooperation and efforts throughout the committee's review.
The Standing Committee on Finance has prepared three separate reports as a result of the September deliberations. This document, as the first report, describes the major overall policy and strategic issues that the committee discussed and contains five comprehensive recommendations.
The second report describes the committee's review of the five-year capital forecasts from 1995-96 to 1999-2000. This report focuses on policy and major financial issues, leaving the detailed line-by-line scrutiny of the 1995-96 capital estimates for review in the Legislative Assembly's committee of the whole.
The third report is a status report on the government's response to the Standing Committee on Finance recommendations made during the review of the 1994-95 main estimates.
Canada And The Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories has experienced tremendous change over the last few years. While much of this change has been positive -- for example, technological advances in medicine and education -- the change itself has created increasing volumes of social problems. Reported sexual assaults have increased by 25 per cent in 1993 over 1992 and violent crime in the Northwest Territories is six times the national average.
Pauktuutit, in their brief to the fourth round of public hearings held by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, presented what they believe should be the government's approach to these problems.
"Government should abandon, once and for all, the idea that society's problems can be separated, categorized and ordered...The overall health and well-being of our people is intrinsically tied to the social, political and economic development of our communities. We can no longer afford to pay the price of dividing issues into manageable portfolios, programs and services. A holistic integrated approach is necessary at every level and in relation to every issue or problem."
The Northwest Territories is unique, both in this country and in the world. The challenges facing governments in providing for its citizens are tremendous. The land mass of the Northwest Territories comprises one-third of the area of Canada and is larger than many countries in the world. There are over 60 communities spread across this vast area. Many of these communities are remote, have very few inhabitants and no road access. Residents endure harsh climatic conditions. As a result of these and other factors, living costs are significantly higher in the Northwest Territories than in the provinces.
The Northwest Territories is comprised of many different cultures and has eight official languages. In addition, many people wish to support traditional lifestyles and values. Many of the smaller, traditional communities suffer from high levels of unemployment, high dependence on social assistance and limited employment opportunities. While the government sector provides about 50 per cent of all jobs, government funding, at all levels, is getting tighter. In addition, the Northwest Territories has a limited tax base and, as a result, depends on federal funding for about 80 per cent of its expenditure needs.
Preparations are now under way for 1999, when the NWT will be divided and two new territories will be created. Organizations in both areas are involved in developing constitutions and government structures. The situation in the western Arctic is complicated by the fact that some aboriginal organizations are in the process of settling land claims. In addition, some organizations are negotiating self-government.
Madam Speaker, since this is a long report, we're going to divide it up amongst committee Members. I'd like to ask Mr. Ballantyne to pick up the report from this point on.