This is page numbers 177 - 203 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 7th 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 federal.

Topics

Members Present

Mr. Antoine, Hon. Silas Arngna'naaq, Mr. Ballantyne, Hon. Nellie Cournoyea, Mr. Dent, Hon. Samuel Gargan, Hon. Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Koe, Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Marie-Jewell, Ms. Mike, Hon. Don Morin, Hon. Richard Nerysoo, Mr. Ningark, Hon. John Pollard, Mr. Pudlat, Mr. Pudluk, Hon. John Todd, Mr. Whitford, Mr. Zoe

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 177

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Before proceeding to orders of the day, I would like to advise the House that I have received the following communication:

"Dear Mr. Speaker: I would like to inform you and through you, the Legislative Assembly, that I have decided to resign my seat as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Aivilik effective immediately.

In making this decision, I considered it in the best interests of my constituents, who I thank from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity of endeavouring to represent them. I also made this decision for the well-being of myself and my family, and I trust and pray that I will now be able to return to being a good husband and member of my community.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. Respectfully, James Arvaluk, MLA, Aivilik"

In accordance with section 8(2), I have forwarded the resignation statement and affidavit to Her Honour, the Commissioner.

I would like to provide my ruling on the point of privilege raised by the honourable Member for Thebacha, Mrs. Marie-Jewell, on Wednesday, February 15, 1995.

Speaker's Ruling

In reviewing the unedited Hansard, the Member for Thebacha raised two points that she felt were of sufficient importance as to be impeding her ability to serve her constituents. The two points raised by the Member are contained on pages 220, 221 and 222 of unedited Hansard. The first point raised, and I quote from page 221 of unedited Hansard:

"First, I feel, as an elected Member, the filing of a lawsuit against me results in my inability to discuss this matter, to express it in plain language. The bottom line is the effect may be to keep me quiet as a result of this sub judice convention."

The Member for Thebacha's second point is contained on page 222, and I quote:

"My point of privilege as an elected Member, I feel, is my fundamental freedom of speech to speak out on behalf of the interests of my constituents has been impeded upon as a result of the lawsuit filed by Mr. Morin. The possible effect of this lawsuit is that I could be constrained from speaking vigorously, as I have in the past, on behalf of my constituents of Thebacha on other issues lest I again be faced with another lawsuit."

The points and questions the honourable Member put to the chair would require me to rule on a hypothetical situation which, by tradition, the Speaker does not do. Also, if at this time I made comments on the question of the Public Commission of Inquiry or on any court proceedings, I would be, as indicated earlier, addressing a situation that is hypothetical as no proceedings have occurred in this chamber that could potentially infringe on any Members' rights.

I have carefully considered the two points of privilege and find that the Member for Thebacha, Mrs. Marie-Jewell, does not have a prima facie question of privilege as there has, as yet, been no limitation on her right to speak in the Legislative Assembly.

I would like to point out that the chair's responsibility is to maintain order and decorum in the chamber and to protect all Members' privileges including freedom of speech and enforcing rules and practices of the sub judice convention. I would also like to caution Members that freedom of speech does have limits, and I quote from Beauchesne's 6th edition, section 77:

"Freedom of speech does not mean that Members have an unlimited or unrestrained right to speak on every issue. The rules of the House impose limits on the participation of Members and it is the duty of the Speaker to restrain those who abuse the rules."

As I have indicated, there have been no proceedings within this chamber that would give rise to a point of privilege. Mahsi cho.

Item 2, budget address. Mr. Pollard.

---Applause

Item 2: Budget Address
Item 2: Budget Address

Page 177

John Pollard Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and good afternoon. Mr. Speaker, today on behalf of my Cabinet colleagues, I am presenting, for consideration of the House, the

government's fiscal strategy for the coming year and the budget that will be required to advance it.

I will begin by acknowledging the efforts of the Standing Committee on Finance, as well as other Members of this House, who took the time to provide us with their counsel.

Mr. Speaker, this budget tries also to take into account information derived from listening to Members as they expressed the concerns of their constituents by way of motion, question, petition or statement on the floor of this Legislative Assembly.

This is the fourth budget we have brought forward since forming the government in 1991. With each of these documents, we have sought to position the government to be able to provide good government within available financial resources.

Overall, this period has been extraordinarily demanding. We have encountered more than our fair share of challenges, yet, for all the adversity, we have tried to act responsibly and in the best interests of the people of the Northwest Territories.

Recent History

The fiscal challenges we face are all the more daunting in light of unilaterally imposed changes to the formula financing agreement by the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, over the 1990-91 to 1994-95 period, the grant from Canada was $540 million lower than it would have been without the federal changes. For this year alone, the amount of money we have foregone is estimated to be $150 million.

Despite these reductions, we have continued to meet public needs. Over the past three years we have redirected some $20 million to $30 million annually, which allowed us to meet demand in high priority areas. We were able to allocate more funds to support foster parents, seniors and victims of violence, to meet health costs, and for student assistance and educational facilities. This has been achieved without significant tax increases.

Indeed, while the operational budget for social programs has increased by over $50 million in the last three years simply to keep up with demand, the operational budget for government overhead has declined.

Mr. Speaker, early in the term of this government, steps were taken to place the territories on a sound fiscal footing for the long term. This process involved structural changes including, but not limited to, departmental reorganization and downsizing, and privatization of a number of government functions.

Many of these changes were recommended to us by the previous government through a report they commissioned called "Strength at Two Levels," sometimes, Mr. Speaker, referred to as the "Beatty Report."

That report, Mr. Speaker, served us well as a transition document. This government, in cooperation with all Members of the House, must ensure that a transition document exists for the next government. Not to impose our will upon them, Mr. Speaker, but to make sure that pertinent information has been compiled and is immediately available to them as they take office.

Mr. Speaker, in 1991, when we took office, trends in expenditure growth indicated that we would experience a $50 million deficit for 1992-93. Through an aggressive approach to cost-cutting, we were able to revise this projection to a $24 million deficit and by year-end, the accounts showed a small surplus.

For 1993-94, the government presented, as promised, a balanced budget. Unfortunately, the objective of a balanced budget was undermined by unexpected events. Three factors, Mr. Speaker, accounted for most of the $35 million deficit that was posted for fiscal 1993-94.

One such factor was the federal government eliminated its funding for the construction of social housing, almost overnight. To make up for some of the loss in federal funding, we had to inject $10 million in unplanned spending into the 1993-94 social housing program.

Added to this was a bad summer for forest fires that resulted in a requirement for an additional $9 million. Finally, a change in the accounting procedure for recognizing liabilities for employee benefits caused us to book an added $14 million that we did not anticipate.

The 1994-95 Budget

In 1994-95, we maintained fiscal discipline, Mr. Speaker. We held the line on spending, negotiated hard at the collective bargaining table and introduced tax increases necessary to achieve a balanced budget. Members of the Legislative Assembly, along with management, teachers and non-union staff, accepted a zero per cent salary increase. Total budgeted expenditure growth was held below the revised forecast for 1993-94.

Despite this, we anticipated being able to meet increased demands for social assistance, to further extend school grades and to respond to the need for more municipal and community services.

Again, outside influences forced us to miss our budgetary objectives. The 1994-95 deficit is now expected to be over $40 million, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, through the perseverance of Minister Morin, other Cabinet Members, Members of the Legislative Assembly and our federal Members of Parliament, we were successful in obtaining some federal funding for construction of social housing.

However, to address the chronic shortfall in social housing, our government was pressured to find an additional $17 million, or watch the Northwest Territories' vital social housing program be totally undermined.

In addition, another dry summer in 1994 contributed to a record number of forest fires. An unprecedented extra $20 million had to be added to the firefighting budget.

These two events alone account for almost all of the projected deficit for this fiscal year.

The Economy In Brief

Mr. Speaker, the economy performed well in 1994. Employment is expected to have grown by 4.3 per cent last year. This represents 1,000 additional jobs in the Northwest Territories. Many of these jobs can be attributed to the direct and spin-off effects of mineral exploration. This strong employment growth has fuelled retail sales that are estimated to have grown by over 16 per cent last year. These are clear signs of the high level of consumer confidence in our economy. Although overall economic growth was held back by a retrenchment in the expenditures of the three levels of government and weaker investment expenditures, final domestic demand nonetheless registered a growth of 1.4 per cent after adjustment for inflation.

Employment growth of two to three per cent can be expected to continue for the next three years, Mr. Speaker, and this rate of growth could be much higher if the current boom in mining exploration leads to the construction of new mines.

Investor confidence in the mineral potential of the Northwest Territories is now at an all-time high. In 1993, exploration expenditures more than doubled to $76.8 million from their 1992 level and they are expected to have grown last year to $87 million. As much as two-thirds of expenditures are related to diamonds. This bodes extremely well for an accelerated development of our mineral resources.

Mr. Speaker, for 1995, economic growth is forecast to be over 2.5 per cent and an additional 500 jobs should be created. And the good news is that the medium-term outlook is for continued sustained increases in economic growth and employment to at least 1997. The economic fundamentals are there and we must build on them to ensure the increase in our self-sufficiency.

Where We Are Today

Mr. Speaker, this government has gone through some difficult downsizing, streamlining of our operations and learning to do more with less. Along with other jurisdictions, we have been facing up to the new fiscal facts of life.

For all our efforts, however, we still face difficult issues -- not the least of which is the pending federal budget. We recognize the need for the federal government to address its fiscal problems. We also understand that achieving a better balance between federal expenditures and revenues requires belt-tightening by all Canadians.

The federal debt and growing deficits have very direct and damaging consequences for the north. The Northwest Territories, more than any other jurisdiction, depends on Ottawa for financial support. That is why part of our strategy is to reduce this dependency relationship.

The 1995-96 Budget

This year, Mr. Speaker, the federal government has indicated its intention to freeze the formula financing grant at last year's level. This means we will receive $8 million less than if the grant had been allowed to grow according to the formula. Total revenues in 1995-96 will be only $11.9 million higher than they were in last year's main estimates, despite the fact that we need to spend almost $40 million more to meet the growing demands for social programs.

Mr. Speaker, the next decade will see a large number of young people looking for jobs and housing. To ensure we have the financial resources necessary to meet their needs, we have embarked upon another process of consolidation and rationalization.

We are actively pursuing alternative approaches to existing income support programs and health care delivery mechanisms. The government is encouraging people-oriented investment in education and training, but the fact remains that the existing social and health conditions in the north are not going to improve overnight. We will have to deal with these serious and persistent problems.

Choices will have to be made, Mr. Speaker. With the existing socio-demographic and economic factors, it will be very difficult to pare back on social spending. Savings from improved program and administrative efficiencies will not be sufficient to meet the needs of many of our communities. Many northerners will still require additional assistance in the areas of housing, education, medical care, training and employments.

And, Mr. Speaker, we cannot ignore the expenditure demands that result from the social problems that we face such as alcohol and substance abuse, a high rate of suicide and family violence.

Mr. Speaker, public service expenditures account for one-third of the total budget. The government values its employees and acknowledges their dedication. However, whether through changes to wages and benefits or through reductions in the number of public servants, the wage bill must be brought down to protect those most at risk. Mr. Speaker, we are committed to treating our employees fairly and it is our intention to work cooperatively with the unions -- be it at the bargaining table or in joint consultation -- to determine the most effective means to reduce wage and benefit costs.

One thing is certain, Mr. Speaker, just as other government bureaucracies are reinventing themselves in light of new fiscal realities, so, too, must ours. The status quo is history. The money is simply not there to perpetuate it. Rather than seeing inevitable change as a threat, however, we should view it as an opportunity to reprioritize, reorganize and renew our commitment to good government.

Mr. Speaker, while our 1995-96 budget proposes operations and maintenance expenditure growth of only two per cent over the 1994-95 main estimates, the government is obliged to forecast a $14 million deficit for this fiscal year on its overall budget of $1.2 billion. The grant from Canada, frozen at last year's level of $876 million, will make up 72 per cent of forecast revenues. Other transfers from Canada are expected to increase by 10 per cent from 1994-95 and recoveries to fall by 14 per cent. Taxation and general revenues, which are expected to rise by four per cent in 1995-96, will make up the remainder of the government's revenues.

Mr. Speaker, with our grant from Canada frozen this year and with further reductions likely for the following year, we must offset this shortfall.

Revenue Initiatives

Many fees charged by the government have not increased for some time. Cabinet has approved a number of changes to these fees that will come into effect during 1995-96. These revenue initiatives are estimated to generate $10 million, once they are in place for a full fiscal year. Details on these initiatives will be provided by appropriate Ministers.

I will summarize some of the more significant changes:

- The structure of the mark-ups charged by the Liquor Commission will be revised;

- Liquor licensing fees and import fees will be increased;

- The Department of Economic Development and Tourism will raise some of its charges for services and start charging for other services;

- The Housing Corporation will adopt a new, more equitable, rent scale which ensures those who can afford to, will pay a more reasonable amount in rent;

- Business licence fees, professional registration fees and lottery licence fees administered by the Department of Safety and Public Services will rise to levels closer to those in other jurisdictions; and,

- Medical co-payment fees will increase.

Restraint Measures

Mr. Speaker, in order to maintain critical social programs in 1995-96, a thorough review of all existing operations has been undertaken. Its purpose is to ensure we can meet forecast expenditure growth in such key areas as education, social assistance, health and justice. Three committees have been established, each assigned a number of departments, which were grouped into three categories or, as we call them, "envelopes."

The three envelopes are social, resource management and government infrastructure programs. The "envelope" committees reviewed all existing programs and all new requirements, prioritized needs, proposed reallocations of funding and developed a coordinated plan of action for 1995-96. These proposals were then reviewed by the Financial Management Board in a series of meetings.

Mr. Speaker, decisions made at those meetings yielded reductions totalling $36.7 million. This represents a four per cent reduction over the 1994-95 main estimates. Associated with these reductions is the elimination of 86 person years. The majority of the person year reductions will be accomplished by attrition. However, some limited lay-offs will be required and a number of positions will go from full to part time. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment has also proposed a new approach in 1995-96 for the delivery of in-service training programs that will not affect the delivery of the programs, but will reduce the number of person years required by 98.

Mr. Speaker, $16.8 million of the reductions will come from the social envelope which represents three per cent of the total envelope budget: $6 million comes out of the resource management envelope, a reduction of approximately four per cent; while the government infrastructure envelope will contribute $13.9 million, or five per cent of the total envelope budget. The specific reduction measures undertaken by departments to achieve these savings will be explained during each department's budget review in committee of the whole.

In addition to these reductions, Mr. Speaker, there is a very real possibility that further cost cutting may be necessary over the coming fiscal year. We must await the outcome of the federal budget to know precisely where we stand.

New Spending

While restraint is, and must remain, our primary fiscal objective, the government also has a responsibility to ensure the needs of the most disadvantaged in our society continue to be met. This basic fact governed our decisions as to which existing programs to enhance, and what new initiatives to undertake. Mr. Speaker, this budget contains net expenditure growth of $20.2 million. A total of $16.5 million has been allocated to new initiatives and an additional $40.4 million to meet growing demand within existing programs. And, as I mentioned earlier, $36.7 million in expenditure reductions were identified through the envelope process.

Educational Initiatives

Consistent with our priority of ensuring northerners possess the skills they require to compete in the new economy, over $6 million has been added to help school boards across the north cope with the challenges of tomorrow. A $1 million increase in funding for Arctic College is also proposed, along with an additional $3.8 million for student financial assistance. On behalf of Minister Nerysoo, I am highlighting a number of initiatives that the Department of Education, Culture and Employment will be undertaking.

To ensure that all Northwest Territories students, including those with special needs, are educated in regular classrooms with their peers, an additional $930,000 will be provided for the inclusive schooling program. Mr. Speaker, this will raise the total amount allocated for the inclusive schooling to $10 million in 1995-96, up from $750,000 in 1985. As well, $550,000 will be allocated to assist school boards to improve literacy and numeracy teaching skills.

Six million will be provided for the investing in people program, which is cost-shared 50/50 with the federal government. The investing in people program is a two-year initiative that began in 1994-95 to provide specialized counselling, career and employment development, life skills, on-the-job training experience and education to social assistance recipients.

While fiscal vigilance remains a priority, we cannot afford to be indifferent to the needs of future generations. These expenditures on education are vital to the future of our youth and, therefore, to the future of the Northwest Territories.

Health And Social Initiatives

Mr. Speaker, this budget also acknowledges the need to invest in activities that improve health and social conditions of northerners, both for today and for tomorrow. To address the increasing social assistance case load, an additional $3.8 million have been allocated for social assistance payments. An additional $1.45 million has been allocated to address the increased utilization of health programs by all northern residents.

I am pleased to announce, on behalf of the Premier, the Minister of Health and Social Services, a number of new initiatives in the health and social services field: to provide home support services and nursing services for the aged, disabled and chronically ill, $1.4 million has been allocated to implement pilot projects for a coordinated home care program in the communities of Arviat, Rae, Pond Inlet and Tuktoyaktuk.

Community-based mental wellness pilot projects are under way in the Inuvik and Deh Cho regions. For 1995-96, $250,000 will be spent on pilot projects in select communities in Nunavut. An additional $200,000 will be made available to provide training programs in the prevention of suicide. One million has been included in the budget for a new Metis health benefit insurance program.

---Applause

Premier Cournoyea will provide further details of this program during the committee of the whole review of the 1995-96 budget for Health and Social Services.

Mr. Speaker, in response to growing pressures on the justice system, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Kakfwi, has included an additional $3.4 million to address deficiencies in policing, courts and legal aid, along with $2.4 million for corrections.

In 1994-95, the Department of Justice undertook a detailed study of the corrections system and, as a result, it was delayed in finalizing its capital budget for 1995-96. The details of the budget are now being finalized and the government commits to presenting those details to the Legislative Assembly during this session.

Resource Management And Development

Mr. Speaker, the 1995-96 budget also acknowledges the importance of building on our economic strengths and preserving our assets. Mr. Todd, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, has allocated $650,000 for two three-person economic development officer teams to serve smaller communities where no economic development officer is present. This alternative delivery mechanism will better address the service requirements of remote communities, both in the east and the west.

An extra $550,000 is also being allocated to the business development fund and small business grants program and an additional $495,000 to the Northwest Territories Development Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, to ensure maximum long-term net benefits are realized by territorial residents, $960,000 will go toward a coordinated approach to mineral development.

Mr. Arngna'naaq, Minister of Renewable Resources, has included $225,000 to provide renewable Resources officers in the communities of Aklavik, Arctic Bay, Fort Providence, Holman Island, Tsiigehtchic and Baker Lake. A further $225,000 has been set aside to assist communities to develop resource management plans for their areas.

In all, some $7.8 million in new spending for resource management and development has been allocated.

Government Infrastructure

Becoming More Self-Sufficient

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that our best hope for the future is to become less dependent on the federal government. But, in order to reduce our dependency, we need to raise more of our own revenues, and, at the moment, we have a limited capacity to do so.

Besides a small tax base, we are hamstrung by federal policies that give us little incentive to aggressively promote economic development, and we have been living with a financing formula that discourages initiative or self-reliance.

Forging A New Relationship

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, we need a new fiscal relationship with Ottawa if we are to become more self-sufficient. Currently, our best prospects rest with the responsible development of our vast oil and gas and mineral resources.

We have said before, Mr. Speaker, and we say again, that development of these resources must result in:

-training and jobs for northerners;

-work for northern contractors;

-joint venture and ownership opportunities for northern companies and development corporation; and,

-revenues for the Government of the Northwest Territories in order for us to continue to deliver programs to all of our constituents in a meaningful way.

But, Mr. Speaker, until responsibility for mineral and oil and gas development is devolved to us, we will be unable to exercise full control over development and its environmental impacts. We will be unable to guarantee maximization of socio-economic advantages for northerners.

Mr. Speaker, it is said that Finance Ministers, by statements that they make, set the tone that influences investment in their particular jurisdictions. Whether it is true or not in the north, I do not know. But, just in case there are investors or potential investors listening, let me be quite clear.

We recognize and respect that shareholders in companies want a return on their investment. The people of the north are no different; they want a return on the depletion of their resources.

We recognize and respect that companies want some certainty if they are going to invest large sums of money in the north. Again, Mr. Speaker, we are no different; we want some certainty that northerners are going to benefit from large-scale developments.

We recognize and respect that companies require a regulatory regime that is clear, concise and fair. Again, Mr. Speaker, we are no different; we foresee regimes that are efficient, effective and orderly, regimes that respect traditional pursuits, protect workers' rights and safety, protect the environment and allow for profitable development.

To some, Mr. Speaker, it would appear that many of these things that I have mentioned are unachievable. Mr. Speaker, we believe that they are achievable and that, with communication, cooperation, understanding and goodwill, the north can be developed so that we can all be winners.

Devolution of responsibility for non-renewable resources must be accompanied by a fair share of royalty dollars. These dollars are necessary to assist us to become more fiscally independent. Without devolution, there is little or no fiscal incentive for the territories to promote development since all additional revenues will go to the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, there are those who say no to more devolution. There are those who say not at this time. While I respect those opinions, Mr. Speaker, I must point out that permits are being applied for and issued. Corporate dreams and aspirations are becoming reality. Development of the north, whether we like it or not, is taking place.

We must take control in order that decisions affecting the north, its people, its environment and its coffers, are made in the north.

We must not cause a future government to look back and wonder why we did not seize the opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, although I have spent a considerable amount of time talking about mineral and oil and gas development, this government is committed to improving the economic outlook in other sectors of the economy as well. We will continue to assist hunters and trappers. We will continue to assist the tourism industry. We will continue to assist small businesses through our grant and loan programs.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and Members of this Cabinet have undertaken a series of discussions with the Prime Minister, senior Cabinet Ministers and federal officials. We have stressed the need for a new relationship between our two levels of government.

We have acknowledged the fiscal realities confronting the federal government and indicated that, by becoming more self-reliant, we can be part of the solution. We have stated to them that it is in our mutual interest to start doing things differently.

To this end, and with advice from the Standing Committee on Finance, we have sought to resolve a number of outstanding federal/territorial issues so that we can move on to more substantial long-term matters.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that progress has been made on a number of these outstanding problems, including the health care billings dispute, official languages program cutbacks and responsibility for police services.

We are not working with Canada to develop the tools we need to reduce our dependence on the federal government and to generate real wealth in the north that benefits all Canadians.

More specifically, we require a new formula financing agreement that will allow both Canada and the Northwest Territories to meaningfully share the risks and rewards of increased economic activity. We want a formula that encourages and rewards initiative rather than complacency.

We need to ensure that the interest of major stakeholders, including the emerging Nunavut territory and aboriginal claimant groups, are protected in discussions leading to devolution. In the final analysis, all parties, including the federal government and industry, are seeking through devolution to establish a climate where key investment and resource management decisions can be made in an environment of certainty.

We need a reform of federal income support programs that allows us more flexibility to encourage residents of the Northwest Territories to become more individually self-sufficient. This flexibility is essential to the development of northern solutions to northern problems.

We need to intensify cooperation with the federal government to improve the efficiency of program delivery in the north. One example would be allowing the Government of the Northwest Territories to deliver, on behalf of DIAND, the infrastructure required for the new territory of Nunavut. This would make use of our existing expertise in building infrastructure in the north and would avoid duplication of existing administration.

Mr. Speaker, we are asking Canada to acknowledge the need for investment in essential infrastructure that is critical to non-renewable resource development. Improved transportation and communication links among our communities will lower the cost of living and doing business in the north, providing significant fiscal and social benefits.

We must not limit our infrastructure focus to gravel or asphalt. We have to get our minds around the potential of the new information highway.

These knowledge based technologies can open up previously unavailable opportunities to northerners. The information highway can overcome permafrost or seasonal shipping or any other physical barrier that has traditionally cut us off from the rest of the country and give us new access to the wider world. The north must be actively involved in the information highway's planning and implementation.

We are mature enough to recognize that self-sufficiency means more than just wresting financial concessions from the federal government, or substituting our decision-making authority for theirs, in terms of how to slice up the financial pie. It is also about how to create a larger pie and share it more equitably.

Self-sufficiency also means becoming more accountable for the consequences of the decision we take -- or those we fail to take -- to improve the quality of life for all northerners.

It means having an agenda and the discipline necessary to see it through. It is about making choices in times of diminishing resources -- not just about where we need to spend, but also where we need to cut to meet that agenda.

Mr. Speaker, the choices are stark. We can ignore the ominous rumblings from an increasingly indebted south, cross our fingers and hope the pain they inflict won't be too great. Or, we can move forward.

Realistically, the status quo isn't an option. Not only because the south is increasingly unwilling and unable to provide us with the resources we need, it's more because the status quo has condemned -- and without change will continue to condemn -- far too many of us especially our young people to a marginal existence.

That is why we have patiently and consistently made the case that we want to build a stronger northern economy, one which will create new jobs and business opportunities and, in doing so, reduce our dependence on federal transfers. We have demonstrated clearly that growth in the north benefits all of Canada, as much in the south as in the territories.

Until these discussions begin to bear fruit, however, we continue to face a challenging fiscal situation. Our revenue growth will be severely restricted, and spending decisions will become more difficult.

Conclusion

Mr. Speaker, developing a budget that is fair and balanced is a tightrope act each year. Each year the expectations raise the rope higher and yet the safety net seems to continually shrink.

We have again tried to walk the straight and narrow with this year's budget. We have sought to be fiscally prudent and, at the same time, compassionate about the impacts these measures will have. We have tried to focus on meeting the real needs of today, keeping in mind the likely demands we will have to confront tomorrow.

The times are changing, perhaps too fast for some and too slow for others. But change is our new reality. The task now is to make the most of our traditions while we capitalize on these transitions and forge a better tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, our job, as Members of this Legislative Assembly and as residents of our communities, is to take the next necessary steps to ensure we achieve progress along this promising path.

We must work, closely and cooperatively, toward our common goals: improving social conditions for our citizens, reducing our dependence on the federal government and beginning to realize our enormous potential to become more self-sufficient. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Item 2: Budget Address
Item 2: Budget Address

Page 183

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Pollard. Item 3, Ministers' statements. Mr. Nerysoo.

Minister's Statement 19-12(7): Heritage Day
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

Page 183

Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Canadians celebrate Heritage Day each year on the third Monday in February. Heritage Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate who we are and reflect on how our diverse cultures have shaped Canada and Canadians.

The idea for Heritage Day originated with Heritage Canada, a national, non-profit organization. Heritage Canada promotes activities on Heritage Day by producing a poster and educational booklet which centre on a particular heritage theme. This year, on February 20th, the theme is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Across Canada, museums and other heritage institutions will host special events which will focus on the end of the war and how far we have come as a nation in the past 50 years.

Schools, museums and historical societies in the Northwest Territories have received information from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to assist them in planning activities. Mr. Speaker, in Yellowknife, the city's Heritage Committee is preparing a newspaper insert with historical information. The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre's theme for Heritage Day is the role of aviation during and since the Second World War. The centre will hold special Heritage Day activities and encourage students from Yellowknife Education District No. 1, who have the day free from school, to participate in them. Buffalo Airways will be working in partnership with the centre to celebrate Heritage Day by providing a tour of their facilities.

Mr. Speaker, as Canadians we share a rich history and a magnificent natural environment. I encourage all northern residents to take time on February 20th to celebrate our heritage. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 19-12(7): Heritage Day
Item 3: Ministers' Statements

Page 183

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 3, Ministers' statements. Item 4, Members' statements. Mr. Ningark.

Presentation Of National Fair Play Award To 1994 Junior Men's Curling Team
Item 4: Members' Statements

Page 183

John Ningark Natilikmiot

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, one year ago, the Members of the Ordinary Members' Caucus shared with our colleague, Fred Koe, the exaltation and excitement as the NWT junior men's curling team, which included his sons, ably curled its way into the final at the

Canadian National Junior Men's Championship. Media reported the final game on CBC sharing...(inaudible)...as the game stayed a close contest into the last end. When the final rock was thrown, we shared the thrill of near victory.

However, Mr. Speaker, the victory slipped away in a manner which would have brought grown men to tears, and which had us shaking our heads in disbelief. It was then that those four young men -- Kevin Koe, Jamie Koe, Mark Whitehead and Kevin Whitehead -- showed us what fine people they are. All of them, and in particular their skip, Kevin Koe, accepted the judge's decision with grace and dignity seldom seen in the win-at-all-costs sporting arena.

As northerners, we were all proud of these young sportsmen. It is therefore with great pleasure that Members of the Ordinary Members' Caucus would like to congratulate Kevin Koe's junior men's curling team on the recent announcement that the National Fair Play Award would be given to their rink this year. Mr. Speaker, the award is given to a team that has exemplified outstanding sportsmanlike behaviour. We can think of no team better to receive this award.

To Kevin, Jamie, Mark and Kevin, congratulations. Thank you.

---Applause

Presentation Of National Fair Play Award To 1994 Junior Men's Curling Team
Item 4: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Lewis.

Timing Of Next Election
Item 4: Members' Statements

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Brian Lewis Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, on the weekend, I talked to constituents and other Yellowknifers while I was shopping. People in this city, Mr. Speaker, are sick and tired of so-called consensus government. All MLAs sense it, and some Members are urging others to call a snap election hoping to cash in on this public disenchantment.

Mr. Speaker, no election, whenever it is held, will overcome the inherent weakness of our present system; a weakness which could be fixed if there was the political will to do it. Rather than tackle the structural impotence, Mr. Speaker, Members would prefer to gamble that the next time around will be better.

There's no guarantee that anything will be improved following a snap election, Mr. Speaker. The idea that the electoral process will bring about our salvation is absolute nonsense. The faces may change, but the complete lack of accountability between elections will remain. Instead of Joe Blow being bowled over, it will be Joe Blow's replacement worker.

I argued two years ago, Mr. Speaker, that there should be a spring election for very good, solid, practical, fiscal reasons. It would give a new government enough time to put a budget together before the winter session. That was not favoured by MLAs, and they argued against my wonderful reasoning that our act provides for fixed elections every four years and the public mandate is absolutely clear in the law. The public fully expect an election next fall and potential candidates are already making preparations with that in mind. If we wanted a spring election, we should have made that clear this summer and done it for good solid reasons. Any move to have a spring election very soon would be seen as opportunism and an attempt by MLAs to catch the opposition with their pants down and would be seen by many of the people in Yellowknife as complete sleazy tactics.

In my opinion, that strategy will backfire and the people who will suffer most are the present incumbents. The mess, if there is a mess, is, after all, the creation of the people who sit right here. The time would be better spent redeeming ourselves rather than gambling on another swift throw of the dice. I look forward with great anticipation to a debate on this subject in this Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Timing Of Next Election
Item 4: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 4, Members' statements. Mr. Whitford.

15th Canada Winter Games
Item 4: Members' Statements

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Tony Whitford Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This will also be a good news statement, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, I was at the airport seeing off some of our NWT athletes to compete in the 15th Canada Winter Games now being held in Grande Prairie and in Jasper concurrently. Over the next week or so, there will be some 3,000 athletes from across Canada joining in the winter-type sports for gold, silver and bronze medals. We, as parents, hope that some of the athletes are there for the competitive challenge that these events will allow. We won't be able to win all the medals, Mr. Speaker, but the athletes intend to put their best foot forward. I heard some on the radio this morning talking about challenging themselves to do their personal best and that is to be commended. The NWT team will be competing in most of the winter games, including skiing, speedskating, short and long distance speedskating, rifle and air pistol shooting. I was only able to watch a short segment of the opening ceremonies on the television on Sunday that saw the Prime Minister coming in on a chairlift and the Alberta Premier being carried in on a dog team to the arenas and, Mr. Speaker, it was quite an opening ceremony. Most of all, we, here in Yellowknife, are particularly proud to have young Jamie Wainwright carrying the NWT theme colours into the Grande Prairie arena leading the athletes from across the Northwest Territories.

The NWT starts its competitions today and I would like to wish them all the best of luck for good, clean and safe competitions. While we all hope for gold, we must hope even more for good sportsmanship first and the medals will follow. We all know that our young people will not let us down; they will make us very proud of them. Good luck to them.

15th Canada Winter Games
Item 4: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 4, Members' statements. Mr. Pudluk.

Rebecca Mike's Appointment As Nunavut Caucus Chairperson
Item 4: Members' Statements

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Ludy Pudluk High Arctic

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On behalf of the Nunavut Caucus, I would like to advise Members of the Legislative Assembly that Ms. Rebecca Mike has been chosen as the new chairperson of the Nunavut Caucus. This appointment was made necessary following Mr. Allooloo's resignation from the position on February 6th. Members of the Nunavut Caucus would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Mr. Allooloo's contributions over the past eight years and thank him for his efforts in support of the aspirations

and needs of the people of Nunavut. Members of the Nunavut Caucus and I am sure, all Members of this House look forward to a continued cooperative approach to addressing the issues relating to the realization of Nunavut, under the able and dedicated leadership of Ms. Mike. I would like to thank her for accepting the position and wish her every success in our future endeavours. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rebecca Mike's Appointment As Nunavut Caucus Chairperson
Item 4: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Congratulations to you, too, Ms. Mike. Item 4, Members' statements. Mr. Zoe.