This is page numbers 1229 - 1250 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 premier.

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Item 13: Tabling Of Documents
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Item 13, tabling of documents. Item 14, notices of motion. Item 15, notices of motions for first reading of bills. We will take a 15-minute break.

---SHORT RECESS

Item 13: Tabling Of Documents
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The House will come back to order. We're on item 16, motions; Motion 21-12(7). Mr. Patterson.

Item 13: Tabling Of Documents
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

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Dennis Patterson Iqaluit

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Without Mr. Kakfwi being here, I have decided not to proceed with my motion today. I understand that it will die on the order paper, but I may have the opportunity to reintroduce it. Thank you.

Item 13: Tabling Of Documents
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The motion will be dropped from the order paper. Item 17, first reading of bills. Item 18, second reading of bills. Mr. Pollard.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
Item 18: Second Reading Of Bills

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John Pollard Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, that Bill 33, An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 3, be read for the second time. Mr. Speaker, this bill amends the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act to provide that the Executive Council shall be composed of persons appointed by the Commissioner on the recommendation of the Premier. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
Item 18: Second Reading Of Bills

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. To the principle of the bill. Mrs. Marie-Jewell.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
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Jeannie Marie-Jewell Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With respect to the principle of this bill, initially I supported the concept of it but, after discussions with my constituents, there seems to be a concern. This bill will give the ability to the Premier to hire her Cabinet Ministers and to dismiss them accordingly, as he or she sees fit. The concern that has been expressed to me is that it's, number one, moving towards a party politics system; number two, the particular concern is that basically, once the Members agree on a Premier, then you're giving them full authority to select their Cabinet. Many people feel that in the event this bill goes through, the Premier should be elected by the people of the Northwest Territories and not just the Legislative Assembly.

I find that this bill is going to allow for manipulation in our democratic process that we've adopted as Canadians. I also find that with this particular bill, if it's allowed to go through, as our consensus system of government now operates will take a great step towards party politics and I don't know if all northerners agree with that.

So, with all due respect, I do not support the principle of this particular bill. Thank you.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
Item 18: Second Reading Of Bills

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

To the principle of the bill. Mr. Dent.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
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Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I was a little bit surprised when the Standing Committee on Legislation made the recommendation for Bill 33 to come forward. I know that the Standing Committee on Finance had recommended a bill that would allow the Premier -- for technical reasons that we saw -- to dismiss Cabinet Ministers. I had not expected that in

addition to that bill, we would now be talking about Bill 33 which would allow the Premier to select Cabinet Members.

Mr. Speaker, three and a half years ago when this first came up in the House during the Territorial Leadership Committee, I spoke in favour of allowing the Premier to select Cabinet and, given the opportunity to do it again, will speak in favour of it again. I think over the last three years I have seen increasing evidence to support the idea that our government would in fact be better if we were to allow the Premier to select the Cabinet Members.

As I see it, Mr. Speaker, our system has a weakness; it doesn't foster a cohesive team approach right now. Over the past three and a half years, a number of times an individual Member of Cabinet, in my opinion, has been left by his or her colleagues dangling and twisting in the wind.

Mr. Speaker, I think we need something that will foster a team approach so that a comprehensive plan of action can be proposed and there's a sense of discipline in government. Rather than constantly shifting priorities as a response to political pressures, we need, especially as funds get tighter and tighter, leadership which can take a global look at problems, set the course and then provide the leadership so we can stick to it.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that discipline requires allegiance. When Cabinet Ministers are elected by other Members, to whom do they owe their allegiance if not directly to those people who elected them?

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compare the Premier to the coach of a sports team. If a coach cannot enforce discipline, how do they ensure the team will perform as it should? We've all seen sports teams where the coach has benched or fired a so-called superstar because they weren't contributing as part of the team. Sometimes you have to be able to do that.

Some suggest that this move would be a step towards party politics. Mr. Speaker, I would argue that allowing the Premier to select Cabinet would actually slow down the drive towards party politics because it would increase accountability. The lack of accountability is something that I think has been a major issue the last three and a half years among the people of the north.

I would also point out, Mr. Speaker, that our system is, in many ways, already operating in a system similar to party politics. We have the different caucuses: Western Caucus; Nunavut Caucus; Ordinary Members' Caucus. Members form and have allegiances to different groups at different times. But, because these shift, it means that the priorities of this House tend to shift much more quickly than is usually the case in government. Government needs to have some stability. The only way we can achieve that stability is if we have some longer term allegiances built up.

I think we have to remember that one of the biggest safeguards we have in our system is our Legislative Assembly works very similarly to a minority government. The Cabinet doesn't have enough votes on its own to set a certain course of action and stick to it. There has to always be enough support from ordinary Members so Cabinet can achieve a majority in this House.

Mr. Speaker, I would also argue that allowing the Premier to select the Cabinet need not be tied to a territories-wide election for the Premier. I think, in fact, that idea leads us down the road towards a Republican style of government, ones we've seen in other parts of the world; the closest one to us being, of course, the United States. I think that form of government, where you have one very, very powerful leader, is one that is even more foreign to the peoples of the north than the style we now have, which I think can be modified to deal with northerners' concerns.

I think, Mr. Speaker, in fact, all the people of the Northwest Territories have a say now in who the leader is in the Legislature, because they speak through their representatives. I was elected to represent the people in my constituency and I don't have any problems voting for the Premier. But I have a real problem with the way our system works after that, Mr. Speaker, because it doesn't lend itself to the team approach.

I think the only way we're ever going to get real accountability, to the point where the Premier is the person this House can look to for a statement of government principles, is to allow the Premier to select the Cabinet. The plan of action would come out during the campaign for Premier during the Territorial Leadership Committee meetings. Those promises and plans would then be on the record and would be something that Members could hold the Premier accountable for, and make sure he or she has a team working with them to achieve those goals.

So, Mr. Speaker, I support the principle of this bill and would urge other Members to do likewise. Thank you.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
Item 18: Second Reading Of Bills

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Mr. Ballantyne.

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Michael Ballantyne Yellowknife North

Mr. Speaker, eight years ago I supported this principle and at that time, I think we managed to get five Members or so to support it. Four years ago, like Mr. Dent, I supported it but I think we only got up to six Members. So, it's been a slow process. I'm going to stay consistent. I've felt very strongly for many years that this is the way we have to go. I think if we don't do something, there is more danger that we're going to get into party politics. What I see as the direction for the Northwest Territories -- both in the east and the west after division -- is not party politics but team politics. If team politics doesn't win then party politics is an inevitable fallback position, there's no doubt in my mind.

You need a system that transcends regional differences. Without some kind of approach that can rise above regional differences, the collective won't work. It is my belief that the individual parts are too weak to work, so we need something that can unify us. I think having the Premier choosing the Cabinet would go along with the path of having at least one cohesive force here in the Legislative Assembly which transcends, at least theoretically anyway, regional differences.

Now, I've read in the paper alarmist statements that, somehow, this is going to lead to some sort of a dictatorship but that's nonsense. The reality is, even with this new power, the Premier of the Northwest Territories will have one-tenth of the power of a provincial Premier or the Prime Minister. If we're talking about dictatorships, in fact we presently have 11 quasi-dictatorships across the country. It's called the system, by the

way, and we won't nearly approach that with this system. I think that was an alarmist statement.

There is the other factor of accountability, which I think is a valid factor, but the Premier still has major checks and balances to keep the unbridled power of the Premier in check. In this House, the eight Cabinet Members still need to find five colleagues to support them on every issue. And, rather than calling it a minority government, the way I look at it is as an ever-changing coalition government. The very nature of an ever-changing coalition government means that the government can never really be arrogant because of the different groups, issues and MLAs who may support the government. I think our system actually has some really good safeguards against a Premier running amuck.

We also have the ongoing safeguard that if the Legislative Assembly is not happy with either the performance of the Premier or of the team, they can come up with a vote of non-confidence for one or the other and take the Premier out. Mr. Speaker, I think it's very important to the next Assembly that there is a plan that people can agree on, that there is a strategy to implement the plan and that there's a team to ensure the strategy is carried out. I think that, unless we bring in this critical component, it won't be possible. You have to give the Premier that power. Otherwise, in my own personal estimation, the system is going to ultimately break down.

As the fight about division, the problems with division, the lack of money, and the different aspirations of the different regions take hold, the whole system as we know it can break down. The ultimate result of that would be the big cry for party politics in a lot of corners of the Northwest Territories. I fully support this and hope Members support it. I think it's a step in the right direction. With this critical component, I think there's a very good chance that the next government, the Premier and the Legislative Assembly, can lead us through the very difficult times we'll face in the next four years. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
Item 18: Second Reading Of Bills

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An Hon. Member

Hear! Hear!

---Applause

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
Item 18: Second Reading Of Bills

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. To the principle of the bill. Mr. Patterson.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
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Dennis Patterson Iqaluit

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the chance to give my views on this. I, too, have spoken on this matter as it has been considered in previous Assemblies and I'm going to remain consistent. I've had the difficult job of being Government Leader and I would like to think that I'm adding that experience to my consideration of this bill.

I want to say that I strongly support the bill. I think if we want to have a strong Premier, a Premier who is a leader, and if we are going to continue to demand accountability of the Premier for the actions and decisions of Cabinet and from Ministers and departments of the government, we must find ways to strengthen the accountability of Ministers to the Premier. We must find a way to ensure that Cabinet Ministers are loyal to the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, it's a tough job and I recall seeing a wonderful cartoon during the life of the 10th Assembly that appeared in News/North. They used to have good cartoonists, then. It showed the Government Leader as a chuck wagon driver. Unfortunately, although the Government Leader had the reins, had a whip and was seated in the driver's seat of the chuck wagon, the horses -- and there were seven horses, each with the name of a Cabinet Minister of the day on their saddles -- were all galloping at full tilt, each one in a different direction.

Mr. Speaker, I think that -- and that was, of course, an extreme illustration -- the problem that we are trying to guard against with this bill is simply that a Minister who is challenged by the Premier for not following government policy, for not being loyal to a Cabinet decision, for undermining a colleague, may say to the Premier and can say to the Premier under the present system: "Well, you are challenging me but I don't have to listen to you; I was put in this job by MLAs and I know who they are, and if you are going to challenge me then I am going to take it to the people who put me here, and your job, Madam Premier, your job, Mr. Premier, is going to be on the line, because I don't owe my job to you. I owe it to the people who supported me in the Caucus." That is the danger, Mr. Speaker, and the weakness in our system.

Now, I would like to say, and I think I agree with the honourable Member for Thebacha, I have grave reservations about the party system and it being applied in the Northwest Territories. I think we already have, with our huge geography, our many languages and cultures, our many geopolitical interests within the Northwest territories, more than enough divisions and reasons for not working together in the territories. I feel that party politics would add to an already complicated political mix in our consensus system. So I don't believe that party politics would help.

I don't agree, however, Mr. Speaker, with the Member when she says, this will take us on the road to party politics. In fact, I agree with Mr. Ballantyne that by putting this extra measure of accountability into the office of the Premier, we will be avoiding that step to party politics. Party politics will guarantee loyalty and discipline of Ministers, and if we don't put this measure in which I think will guarantee that Minister will be loyal to the Premier, then the next alternative is going to be that we will have to create a party system and the party whip will make sure that there's loyalty.

So I see this as a safeguard against party politics rather than taking us inexorably towards party politics, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I want to say that, although I personally think there is a lot of merit in the idea of going further and electing the Premier at large, that procedure certainly will not flow from this bill and should not be confused with this bill. That is another issue and another step, and that might take us perilously close to party politics. This measure need not do so.

Basically, what we are proposing with this bill is something we have considered in Caucus seriously the last two times we have selected a Premier, and that is, we've considered having the Premier select the Cabinet rather than having Members of Caucus select the Cabinet. I know Members like to sometimes have their voice, but I would agree with Mr. Ballantyne: ordinary Members have an awful lot of power in this Assembly, mainly because, Mr. Speaker, there are 15 of us and eight Cabinet Ministers. So, at any time, the ordinary Members can choose to remove a Minister; indeed, the whole Cabinet. They have a lot of power and a lot of ability to demand accountability without insisting that they vote on secret ballot to select Cabinet Ministers.

There is one thing that I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker, and I intend no criticism whatsoever of the current Cabinet, but I do believe that having the Premier select Ministers could ensure a better balance geographically, in terms of gender and those things that are important in a government.

Right now, with Cabinet Ministers being elected by secret ballot, there is nobody really there to ensure that the result is balanced. So, for example, and again I don't intend to criticize the current Cabinet Ministers who are all discharging their responsibilities across the territories, but right now, we have a Cabinet that has three Ministers from one region of the Northwest Territories out of eight, and the largest region in the Northwest Territories doesn't happen to have any representation on Cabinet.

So, Mr. Speaker, I cite this not because it was anyone's strategy or plot but because when you have the present selection of Ministers occurring by secret ballot, it's a bit of a lottery. No one really knows what the outcome is going to be. So one advantage of having the Premier select Cabinet Ministers is that there is, I think, more likelihood that there would be a better balance, geographically and otherwise, within the Cabinet.

So, Mr. Speaker, for those reasons, I am going to vote for team politics. I think that's what we are voting on here, to ensure that there's a team and that the Premier selects that team and that team has loyalty to the Premier. I think that what we are voting for here today; team politics, not party politics. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 33: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 3
Item 18: Second Reading Of Bills

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. To the principle of the bill. Mr. Antoine.