This is page numbers 27 - 40 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 1st 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 nunavut.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Jim Antoine, Hon. Goo Arlooktoo, Mr. Barnabas, Hon. Charles Dent, Mr. Enuaraq, Mr. Erasmus, Mr. Evaloarjuk, Hon. Samuel Gargan, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Henry, Hon. Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Krutko, Mr. Miltenberger, Hon. Don Morin, Mr. Ningark, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Ootes, Mr. Picco, Mr. Rabesca, Mr. Roland, Mr. Steen, Hon. Manitok Thompson

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 27

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Erasmus. Good afternoon and welcome back. Orders of the day...Excuse me, Mr. Morin. I wish to inform the House that I have received the following message from Her Honour, the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

"Dear Mr. Speaker: I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passages of Bill 1, Borrowing Authorization Act; Bill 2, Supplementary Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96, during the First Session of the 13th Legislative Assembly."

It is signed by Commissioner Helen Maksagak.

Orders of the day, item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Premier.

Minister's Statement 1-13(1): Sessional Statement
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 27

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. No government in the history of the Northwest Territories has ever taken office faced with the number and degree of challenges facing the 13th Assembly. Some of these challenges are similar to those faced by other governments in Canada: poor fiscal situations; high unemployment; and, the impact of changing federal structure and cutbacks are causing all levels of government to change the way they do business.

Other challenges are unique to the North. We have to get ready for division in 1999, develop a new constitution for the West and settle outstanding land claims and treaty land entitlements. In addition, aboriginal self-government aspirations must be met and devolution must continue.

We have to get on top of some of the extremely serious social problems and find new ways to stimulate the economy so that the dignity of work is available for people who presently survive on social assistance.

Mr. Speaker, since taking office less than a month ago, all Members of the 13th Assembly have been working together to develop an action plan that will address the many challenges we face in these difficult financial times.

The challenges aren't new. Those of us who have been here before started the process of figuring out what to do through the transition planning. All of us heard about the challenges from the people who elected us to this Legislative Assembly.

We heard about how we needed to change the way the government works; about how aboriginal government and public government can work together; about the need for new forms of government; and, the need to protect the inherent right to aboriginal self-government. We heard that the budget needs to be balanced, so that we won't be creating two debt-ridden governments 40 months from now and so that our children will have an opportunity for a meaningful future.

Since we took office, Cabinet and Members of this House have reached an agreement about what the key challenges are and about where we are going to concentrate our resources and attention during out term of office. Despite these obstacles, we have agreed that addressing social conditions in the Northwest Territories must remain a key priority.

Our people are more poorly housed, our communities are less healthy and are faced with more social problems, such as alcohol and drug abuse, than people in most other areas of Canada.

At the same time, our population is growing at two and a half times the national rate. Demands on our programs and services in the areas of health, education, community structures and social services are growing even faster.

Mr. Speaker, people in the Territories are also faced with difficult economic conditions, high unemployment and limited job opportunities, many of which are taken up by transient workers. Our economy is not creating new jobs fast enough to meet existing needs and those that will be required a few years from now.

These conditions make it difficult for the government to implement solutions and they require a great deal of money and resources to treat without necessarily addressing the root cause of the problem.

Mr. Speaker, substantially improved economic conditions are key to a long-term future in the Northwest Territories. Fortunately, many exciting opportunities exist for us to develop our resources and to develop them to our advantage. Other opportunities in industry and small business, in making the things we use, also need to be developed.

Mr. Speaker, we have also agreed that all the work necessary to have two new governments up and running by April 1, 1999, will and must be done. The selection of Iqaluit as the capital site for Nunavut is a signal for all of us to get on with the job that has to be done.

The political aspirations of the people in both new territories will be met. In order to do this, Ottawa must live up to its commitment to pay for incremental costs associated with division. A failure by Ottawa to meet these obligations would rob us, not only of our heritage, but also of our hopes and dreams.

In the western territories, Mr. Speaker, we will strengthen our relationships with aboriginal groups. We need to talk with them on a regular basis in order to develop new partnerships and give input into the directions we will be taking.

It will also be important to strengthen our dialogue with business and industry throughout the Territories in order to develop an economy and create job opportunities. Mr. Speaker, this government knows with certainty that the people who live here need the tools to exercise full control over northern jobs, northern land and our northern resources.

Make no mistake about it: a northern energy and minerals accord can assist our economic situation, particularly if a new diamond mine goes ahead. We can't let our land and our resources continue to be managed or controlled from Ottawa.

The fly-over economy of some who come here to remove resources needs to be challenged and managed in a manner that makes sure that northern residents benefit the most. We have a young, capable and willing population who can benefit from any opportunities we can create.

Mr. Speaker, our main priority remains balancing the budget as early in our term as we can. We will be facing a significant budget shortfall next year if things aren't changed. The federal government has cut our grant for next year by $60 million and increasing demands from our growing population will require about $40 million more.

This means that unless we take action, we will be short by over $100 million next year. That is nearly 10 per cent of our current expenditures. If this happens, interest costs will start to accumulate and we could find ourselves financially crippled. As a result, we agree that everyone must share the burden of solving this problem. We can and must manage our way out of our current situation. This will be done in a manner that does not unreasonably threaten essential programs and services, particularly for those who need them the most.

Mr. Speaker, we have also examined the impact that our shortened term of office will have on planning and action. We have spoken about public expectations and the needs of the people. We have reviewed the instruments and resources we have at our disposal and we have looked at the institution of the Assembly to see if there isn't a better way for us to conduct our business.

We have agreed that all Members of the Assembly must play a meaningful role in the decision making, in monitoring and evaluating government action, in consulting the people and in developing and maintaining a consensus for change.

We have to work together to make sure that all our communities understand the nature of the challenges we are facing. Everyone must understand the big picture before we start to make decisions about what can be cut and what should be maintained. We have to take the time to make sure that in dealing with the financial problem we are not prevented from addressing the other very important challenges we face. The decisions we make in this House must be part of an overall plan of building for the future.

Mr. Speaker, some people might have been expecting the Assembly to have everything figured out already and that we would be bringing forward a comprehensive plan today that would detail how the government is going to tackle the challenges it faces. That, Mr. Speaker, would be completely reckless. Instead, Mr. Speaker, Cabinet and the Assembly will be taking the necessary time to make well-reasoned decisions.

We want to get more information about various options, about what each might mean for the Northwest Territories as a whole, and what they will mean for smaller communities where conditions are most in need of fixing. We want to make sure that the decisions we make are balanced and that the burden of meeting the challenges falls where it can be carried the easiest and that those least able to take a hit are protected.

As a result, we're going to meet again as Caucus in January to further discuss the options and to consider goals and objectives. Following that meeting, a multi-year agenda for action will be prepared for discussion in the Assembly in early spring. And we will be providing opportunity for public input before we work it into the budget that will be brought forward before summer.

Mr. Speaker, there are some things that we can tell you about what our common agenda will look like, even though the strategies to implement it and many of the specific details still need to be worked out. The biggest thing that needs to be said is that there is going to be change. Make no mistake about it, change is coming. Whatever is not essential to our objectives -- to meeting our common agenda -- must be considered for cutbacks.

Mr. Speaker, government can and will become smaller. Costs will be contained. The deficit will be managed. We're going to change the machinery of government so that it is more cost-effective, so that any duplication and over-management is eliminated, and so that our resources are focused on program delivery instead of administration and overhead. Everything is on the table.

Wages and benefits will be reduced and we will need to work with employee associations on developing a made in the North approach. We're going to make sure the package we offer employees is affordable and is what is needed to live in the North. This Legislature will lead by example.

Mr. Speaker, there will also be changes to programs and services. Some programs will have reduced service levels and others might have higher user-pay charges. Others will have to be cut. The question we still need to resolve is how to do this in a balanced way that will give us the best mix of what we need with what we can afford. And let me assure you, we will be taking a compassionate approach that recognizes the needs of each and every community. In return, every community will have to recognize that this government can't afford to offer all of the programs and services that it presently operates.

As I stated earlier, everything is on the table. But we will be even-handed. This is not going to be a cut and slash government. Changes will be fair. No one will be exempt and no one will be singled out. Any cuts will be consistent with our priorities and objectives.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, if this Assembly is going to make difficult but responsible choices, it will need the cooperation of more than just the 24 Members of this House. Aboriginal organizations, interest groups, our employees and their unions, the private sector, and the people will all have to work out a consensus for change. We will all have to take a long, hard look at the big picture and place the needs of the whole Northwest Territories before our individual wants and desires.

When Members leave this House tomorrow, they will be going back to their constituencies to talk with the people. We have to spend time listening to people. We have to get their views on what can be done here in this Assembly to empower communities, to give them more control over decisions that affect their lives.

We need to hear from people on how we should find the best balance on the difficult choices that need to be made in the coming months. This process has to be completed early in the new year. If we wait much longer, we will find ourselves so far in debt that we might never get out, and even further behind on meeting the social, economic and political challenges that we face.

Our plan to address these challenges can be constructed on the foundation of hard work laid by the last Assembly, by Cabinet, the committees and the Caucus of this Assembly, as well as input from aboriginal groups, interest groups and the public.

This will be a key part of building both the budget for this year and towards establishing a common agenda for action that will guide our collective decisions through our term and into the future. Working together, we can do this. All of us in this House welcome the challenge.

On another matter, Mr. Speaker, I will be tabling a borrowing bill later this afternoon on behalf of the Minister of Finance. It's not part of our projected deficit. The bill is designed to help us over the tight money situation we presently find ourselves in. Mr. Todd will be speaking to the bill when he returns from Ottawa tomorrow. Mahsi Cho. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 1-13(1): Sessional Statement
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 29

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Morin. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Arlooktoo.

Minister's Statement 2-13(1): Division
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 29

Goo Arlooktoo Baffin South

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It gives me great pleasure today to make my first statement to this Assembly.

For the past two decades, people in the Central and Eastern Arctic have pursued the dream of public government in Nunavut. The realization of this dream is just 40 months away and there is much work to be done between now and 1999. (Translation ends)

Since passage of the Nunavut Act in 1993, a great deal has been accomplished. The last Assembly established a Special Joint Committee on Division that focused on the critical issues to be dealt with, and developed recommendations that the Government of the NWT has adopted. Other accomplishments include:

- the establishment of the Nunavut Implementation Commission;

- the division of Arctic College into two new colleges;

- the development of GNWT public service training plans for Nunavut and the western NWT;

- the realignment of electoral boundaries in the East and West to correspond with the division boundary;

- the establishment of separate headquarters in Nunavut and the West for Health Services and the Petroleum Products Division;

- the completion of draft transition plans for division by all GNWT departments; and

- the start of research and policy development on intergovernmental agreements, expenditure and revenue management, infrastructure and administrative requirements, and many other division-related issues.

The government of the NWT and the 12th Assembly also supported the Constitutional Development Steering Committee as a forum for the people of the Western Arctic to reach consensus on the restructuring of government and a constitution for the future western territory.

Although much has been accomplished, many significant and complicated issues remain to be resolved in the next three-and-a-half years. A number of projects begun during the 12th Assembly need to be completed. Electoral boundaries for Nunavut and the West will have to be established. Constitutional development efforts in the West must continue. In the area of incremental costs of division, a more precise agreement with the federal government is required; given the fiscal cutbacks imposed on this government, we cannot divert money from programs and services to cover a federal obligation resulting from the settlement of a land claims.

These and many other issues will require our time, our effort and our cooperation.

In short, Mr. Speaker, division of the NWT is a tremendous challenge and we must work collectively and with determination to meet this challenge. Thank you.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 2-13(1): Division
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 30

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Arlooktoo. At this time I would also like to recognize in the gallery a class of grades 10 and 11 students from Chief Jimmy Bruneau School of Rae-Edzo visiting us today. Their instructor is Mr. George Mackenzie. Welcome to the Assembly.

---Applause

Mr. Morin.

Minister's Statement 3-13(1): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 30

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to advise Members that the Honourable John Todd will be absent from the House today to attend a Ministers' of Finance meeting in Ottawa. The Honourable Kelvin Ng will also be absent from the House today to attend a meeting of the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform in Calgary. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 3-13(1): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 30

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. The Member for Kivallivik, Mr. O'Brien.

Selection Of Iqaluit As Capital Of Nunavut
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 30

Kevin O'Brien Kivallivik

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to sincerely congratulate the people of Iqaluit on their successful bid for the capital of Nunavut. I strongly believe and support the adage that it's now time to move forward in a positive and constructive fashion in order that we will achieve the greater goal which is the successful formation and completion of Nunavut.

In closing, as a reminder, I wish to add that it's my sincere hope that the new capital of Iqaluit will keep in the Christmas spirit when it comes to sharing the possible resources and jobs with the smaller, have-not communities in Nunavut. Thank you.

---Applause

Selection Of Iqaluit As Capital Of Nunavut
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 30

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Item 3, Members' statement. The Member for Aivilik, Mrs. Thompson.

Remarks To Media Re Capital Of Nunavut
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 30

Manitok Thompson Aivilik

I was with the other Members of the Eastern Caucus during the announcement that Iqaluit was chosen capital of Nunavut. After the announcement, I was interviewed and made some remarks about how I felt about the vote.

Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize to Members and the people of Nunavut with respect to my comment. I didn't mean to suggest that non-aboriginal people were going to have a problem with the decision. We're all in this together and strongly support the creation of public government in Nunavut. If there is going to be any healing process needed, we will work on it together. Thank you.

---Applause

Remarks To Media Re Capital Of Nunavut
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 30

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 3, Members' statements. The Member for Baffin Central, Mr. Enuaraq.

Nunavut Capital Vote
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 30

Tommy Enuaraq Baffin Central

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my Member's statement today is about the Nunavut capital vote held on Monday in Nunavut. I was very impressed by the high 79 per cent turnout of the people of Nunavut for this important vote, even though the weather was cold and windy in many places.

I was to congratulate the Iqaluit for Capital Committee and the people of Iqaluit for their clear victory. I wish to make special mention of the people who worked on this campaign in the communities. Those community workers deserve credit for the high turnout in Baffin communities and in my riding.

I also wish to congratulate the people of Rankin Inlet and their campaign committee for their hard work and for making this an exciting contest. I know that the community of Rankin Inlet will make an important contribution to Nunavut.

I wish to make it clear to the Nunavut Implementation Commission, Nunavut Tunngavik and the governments of the Northwest Territories and Canada that my constituents were very much aware of the Iqaluit for capital model when they voted in this plebiscite. With Iqaluit as capital, the NIC model of a decentralized government distributes more jobs in the Baffin region to communities like Pangnirtung, in my riding, than the Rankin Inlet as a capital model did. I feel that it is therefore very important that the decentralized model proposed by the NIC be very much kept in mind as we move to design and implement Nunavut.

After all, the new capital of Nunavut is for all the people of Nunavut. It should not be seen as a win for only one community or even one region. Now that this important step has been taken, we must all work together. The people of Nunavut must unite to ensure that Nunavut is implemented in a manner which is fair to all.

Mr. Speaker, I request unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Nunavut Capital Vote
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 30

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Baffin Central is seeking unanimous consent to conclude his statement. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Conclude your statement, Mr. Enuaraq.