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:
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.