This is page numbers 17 - 42 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 2nd 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 communities.

Topics

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

You can if you want? Since no one had any general comments, I will make some comments with regard to the document that the Premier presented yesterday. In general, I guess I am certainly in favour of most of the areas. There are some areas that I feel I have some objections to.

I would like to make a comment about the statement that the deficit will be eliminated over two years. I have a concern in that area. First of all, we are looking at a $150 million deficit. We are also looking at eliminating that over a two-year period. What happens if we have further cutbacks from the federal government? From what I understand, that may be a likelihood. That means we have a further deficit in the upcoming year. That could really put us in a difficult situation. It might mean even if we plan this over two years, we will have three years in order to eliminate the deficit. We have to remember that our term really is only three years. I really don't want to go into two new territories with a deficit.

There was a comment made that we can no longer afford to be spending nearly half of every dollar for administration costs. I would like to clarify that because the percentage of spending by the GNWT administration is only 17 per cent of the budget, but 20 per cent is spent on boards and agencies.

I am very glad to hear that the Premier is looking at tackling this particular problem of the boards and agencies. They spend more than the administration of this government. My attitude would be let's immediately start tackling that and I would hope that that is being tackled from today on. The longer we talk about this, the more that is being spent. These are areas that can be tackled quickly.

With respect to the amalgamation of Renewable Resources, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and ED&T, I am certainly one that is in favour of that. I think it will become a more efficient administration. But I would also like to know if the Executive has considered developing an economic revenue-generating plan. All we are doing is looking at amalgamating, reducing and so forth. This particular department will be the only one in the government that is a revenue generator. It is extremely important for us to tackle that area and to have some foresight.

I can't remember the figures those departments generate now, but I am sure that can be improved. For instance, there is a good program in Coral Harbour for caribou hunting. I understand that more of that product can be sold. Muskox can potentially be sold. The forestry area is a great economic generator. That is an area that can be developed.

Regarding the transfer of occupational health and safety from the Department of Safety and Public Services to the Workers' Compensation Board, at the moment I have a lot of questions in that area because I wonder what the philosophy behind this is. My concern is that this is transferred to the Workers' Compensation Board, but the Workers' Compensation Board is driven by industry and employers. They pay the bill. If occupational health and safety is transferred there, could we possibly have pressure placed on the Workers' Compensation Board by the employers to say we don't want to pay this much for health and safety; therefore, we are going to lobby to reduce the inspections, et cetera? That is an area of concern I have. Again, I would like to hear some comments about the philosophy behind the transfer.

I certainly agree with the Premier's statement that we can no longer afford expensive procedures and delivery systems. Too many government departments, too many committees and too many boards and agencies, but I would like to refer later on where the Premier states: "I intend to move quickly to establish a panel of independent advisors on the economy and employment and on how to improve the business climate to attract jobs, investment and capital to the Northwest Territories." In other words, we have too many boards and agencies and now we are going to establish another panel of independent advisors to advise us how to handle and look at the economy and employment. I have some concerns in this area, one is we all have our network of people who we want to be consultants and so forth.

I would hope that, if this comes about, there would be a very good cross-representation of individuals.

There are some extremely good business people in this territory. I don't believe we need anyone from the South, number one, to help us consult on how we generate revenue up here. We know that ourselves. This is the first time I have seen this.

Another area I am concerned about is in this Legislature we have a number of people who are former business people and I am wondering if it wouldn't be advisable to have a committee of people from this Legislature to have a first crack at this and to pass back some comments to the Premier and Minister before we get into establishing committees and so forth. I don't see any reason also why the Premier and the Minister can't call on the people they know for ideas and so forth and feed them into a group of people here for consultation.

The Premier spoke about having met with the aboriginal summit and the development of protocol agreements. I am wondering if the Premier could explain how this works. Since there is a Constitutional Development Steering Committee, how does this tie in with that committee? We all are Members of the Constitutional Development Steering Committee. I am wondering if that protocol will be something he will seek consultation from us on, as well as from the Constitutional Development Steering Committee.

The northern accord is an area that is certainly of great interest to me. I think we all see the need for developing that. Could I get an explanation of why the northern accord didn't succeed the last time? What are the reasons for the failure? Why do we think we can accomplish a northern accord now, especially considering the possibility of some mines going ahead? That possibility is extremely good. I lost my train of thought, I am sorry. I'll let someone else carry on from here. Thank you.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

General comments, Mr. Erasmus.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Chair. I, too, would like to begin my comments looking at the comment that we will eliminate our deficit situation within two years. I favour trying to eliminate the deficit in a one-year time frame; however, if we cannot do this without making the people who can least afford it suffer too much, then I don't believe that we should.

Also, I think that if we can't do it in such a way that Yellowknife isn't taking the brunt of the cuts, then I think we should take two years to do it, as well. I know that from what I am seeing so far -- of course Yellowknife has the greatest amount of people working for the government, and we are always the favourite target -- that if we cannot do this without Yellowknife being hit unfairly, then I think it should be done in two years, as well.

I believe the block funding and empowering the communities is a very good strategy. The community people have been saying for years that they want to take over programs and have the ability to focus on certain areas that they wish, and that they are being restricted in funding and the rest of that, so I completely agree with this and I think that we should find ways of implementing this as quickly as possible.

I believe the consolidation of the three economic areas into a one-window shopping area for resource development and economic activity is very good, as well. For years, fishermen have been complaining that more fish have been thrown back into Great Slave Lake than the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation is actually sending out for sale. This is depleting our resources. Hopefully, consolidating these three departments into one will help us to get away from that and to use that fish that is now being wasted. I know people have talked about cat food, dog food, fertilizer and all those types of things. Certainly, if we can package those things with the fish that is now being thrown back, that would certainly improve matters.

With the refocusing of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs within the Executive department, I hope we are not sending the wrong message to the aboriginal people. I hope that it's not just going to be swallowed up and disappear, because there are definitely things that can be done that have not been done before. I hope we take this opportunity to refocus the energies of the people within those areas so that we get things done with the aboriginal people. The majority of the people in the Northwest Territories are aboriginal, and aboriginal and treaty rights have been protected under the constitution for over 10 years, yet there has been very little done to define those rights. It's probably time that we as a government tried to define those rights; at least as far as we understand them and how those rights can be practised in the territories.

The amalgamation of the Personnel Secretariat into the Department of Executive. Here again I have a concern that we have to ensure that affirmative action and other policies are still maintained. We have to have a watchdog out there. Without that, nepotism, favouritism or whatever "ism" you like can happen. I know that it's already happening that friends are being hired. Many people have complained to me that they see things happening every day, such as job descriptions being written to favour someone's resume and then that person just steps into the job. Hopefully, while reorganizing the Personnel Secretariat into the Executive we will find ways of ensuring that the old practices are done away with. I am sure that this is the intent, and I look forward to seeing some exciting results through there. In particular, women and aboriginal people have very low numbers in management. Hopefully, this will help us to increase those numbers.

Also in the area of partners operating health and education boards and asking people to eliminate duplication and save money by entering into new arrangements, we have received a letter from the Canadian Mental Health Association which is very timely in this area. They are proposing that a community health centre model be implemented where there would basically be a one-stop shopping centre in the mental health area as far as research and those types of things, and I think this is a very good idea that fits well into our new direction. Hopefully, we will be able to follow up in this area.

The Premier indicated that we have a young, capable and willing population which can benefit from opportunities we create. This is true; we do have a very young population, but we have to ensure that this young population is trained, and we have to take advantage of the jobs. We also have to ensure that we are in a position for them to get jobs from development that occurs on our lands in the Territories. People who are born here, northern aboriginal people and other people who are born here, should have a priority on all jobs. We have to find a way to ensure that this priority is implemented.

The northern accord is one way that this can happen. The Premier spoke of northern control over northern resources. I am sure that he's talking about the northern accord. Here again is a method of ensuring that our workers actually benefit from the development that occurs on the lands in the Northwest Territories. We have to start working on a northern accord as soon as possible. I know that monetarily we probably can't benefit for a couple of years, so it's certainly not going to help us in the 1996-97 fiscal year. However, it can help us in the future, and it can help us to try to ensure that our people get jobs. So we need to start working on this as soon as possible. I certainly agree with the Premier's message that we must be prepared to deal with change and change won't manage us, we will manage it. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Further general comments to the Premier's statement. Mr. O'Brien.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Kevin O'Brien Kivallivik

Thank you, Madam Chair. In general, I agreed with the overall comments that were made by the Premier, with two exceptions. Regarding the time frame to deal with the deficit, I, for one, would like to see the Premier and this government add another year to the equations for us trying to deal with the problem. I would say it would be only fair that we would look at between two and three years.

The second point I would like to make is regarding the Premier's comments on the proposed establishment of an economic advisory committee. My question to the Premier on this is, is he going to allow the ordinary MLAs to have some input into the selection process. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

General comments. Continue, Mr. Henry.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

I would like to start off with comments that I have made numerous times at Caucus meetings when it was realized that there would be a requirement for cuts. I reiterated a number of times that I would support cuts as long as they were done fairly. That commitment still stands. I think from initial documents that I have received, at first glance, it appears that it is not very fair looking; certainly not for the community that I represent. So I would be looking for a lot more balanced approach and fairness, because the people of the Northwest Territories will accept the cuts that are coming as long as they are seen to be fair and they are fair. So from the initial documents I've seen, I believe there is still quite a bit of work to be done in that regard.

On comments with regard to balancing the budget, I certainly would be in favour of balancing the budget in the first year. I would welcome any comments from any individuals who can show me how I can spend more money than I take in. I would suggest that this government should not be conducting business in any other fashion. Don't live beyond your means. I think we have seen the negativeness of those particular attitudes over the last few years and it has contributed greatly to the situation we find ourselves in today.

Overall, I was pleased with the Premier's statement. Some comments I will make regard specifics that the Premier had mentioned. They have been referred to earlier and I would like to add a different sort of twist to them. The Premier has suggested; make no mistake, we will have to be aggressive with mining companies so that northern workers replace southern workers. I would encourage the Premier to be encouraging the peoples of the North to get out and take those jobs and not be demanding that the companies do everything to create them. I believe there's an obligation for people who require a job to get out and more encouragement should be put to people to take the jobs which are rightfully theirs. They're living in this Territory. So rather than hammering the investors who come to the Territories, let's us do our part. We need to train a workforce to make people employable by companies.

With regard to the comment about the independent advisors, I had not thought of it but I certainly support the idea that many times a profit is not recognized in its own land. I would suggest looking around the House. There may be sufficient input that you may want to talk to who can produce a northern advisory built and made in the North.

I think something that can go a long way to attracting jobs, as you've talked about, is a Territory -- as in our case -- with a balanced budget, balanced books and also keep taxes at reasonable levels to encourage developers to come. We will be able to benefit down the road from a northern accord, the taxes that those jobs generate and the business spin-offs that will be created from it.

I see the exercise that we're presently in as a great opportunity for the Territories. In the past number of years, we have had some bad habits that have to be corrected. We've had the bad habit of spending more than we have taken in a lot of times. I welcome the opportunity to get a little more creative. Hopefully we can rid of some of those bad habits, get our house in order, be in excellent shape to encourage the investment and also to take advantage of being creative when we are spending. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Further on general comments. Mr. Krutko.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

February 15th, 1996

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David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Madam Chair. With regard to the Premier's statement, I support a large majority of what was said. There are comments in there that I basically feel have to be supported fully by everyone here, especially with regard to the question about not cutting in only one area. I think in the larger centres looking at the smaller communities that have not had the opportunity to manage themselves in the past, they have always been sort of dictated to from the top down. I think it's now time through this process of empowering communities and allowing them more responsibility, to say how those communities operate by ways of block funding and streamlining government. We need to allow the administration of a lot of these programs and services to be done at the community level, not from the top down. I think that's what we're looking at here to save revenues and consider cutting the deficit. But we have to look at it in the context of how we can save, not in the context of what am I going to lose. I think we have to look at it in the context of not winners and losers, but looking at a new way of governing the Northwest Territories.

We've had a system in the North for the last 30 years which was brought from Ottawa and imposed on people in the North who lived up here all their lives. We have been stuck in a situation especially from the smaller communities where you have band councils, settlement councils and hamlet councils. But there seems to have always been the clash between the aboriginal groups; the imposed government structure within those communities. I think this gives us the opportunity now to work collectively in the community formulating one central government system so that everything basically flows from one level; that your administration costs will be down with regard to how they conduct the meetings in the community without have to run through three or four different agencies. You'll be basically dealing with one group.

The same thing with the northern accord and the other issues that relate to aboriginal people. I think you have to look at that in the context that we have always had two levels of government here. We had a government that was in charge of band councils -- basically, Indian Affairs out of Ottawa -- and we had another government which was in charge of municipal affairs and communities. I think we have to look at a way of dealing with problems in the communities which always seem to be handed off from one responsible authority to another, especially if it's a federal issue such as a health issue in which basically the individual is usually stuck in the middle wondering where to go from here. With regard to what was imposed by the Premier in his presentation, I support it fully but I think people have to also realize that we cannot get back into the mould of saying well, if I'm going to lose, I'm not going to support this. I think we have to look at it in the context that this is change and change is basically for the betterment of all people in the North; we can't just look at the larger centres versus the smaller centres but have to look at it in the context of how government is going to be moulded to operate in the North for the betterment of everybody. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Mr. Steen.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Chair. My comments relate to a refocus of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs. I'm not clear about just exactly what that means. I'm also unclear as to what downsizing of the Housing Corporation means. Does that means we'll do away with the Housing Corporation? I'm not clear on that point.

I have comments with regard to page 5, where there is reference to independent advisors on the economy. I'm surprised that we have reached that point already where we are now deciding that maybe we need advisors on how we can improve the economy when we haven't really had the opportunity to discuss it ourselves. I'm also concerned that we heard many comments from people that the government basically studies everything do death. They spend so much money studying it that there's no money left to do anything with it. With regard to that, I would be very concerned about how much these advisors are going to cost us and also whether or not we already have these people employed in the departments.

Furthermore, I would question why they aren't employed in the departments if they're that good. Why do we always have to hire consultants in order to accomplish anything? I think it's quite common now that there are more and more consultant firms being set up in the Territories and they're all being funded by the government. In other words, we talk about a lot of things, we study a lot of things, but we don't do anything. We're spending all our money importing consultants or assisting them to get established. I'm very concerned about that particular clause. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Any further general comments to the Minister's statement? Mr. Ningark.

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John Ningark Natilikmiot

Thank you, Madam Chair. The planning session, Madam Chair, that we have had for the last two months, I think, was worth it. There were many people across the Territories very anxious to know what was happening. The business plan in this case has been drafted by all 24 MLAs. I think we should congratulate ourselves that we have done a good job. I basically like the Premier's statement on behalf of this government. I know there is apprehension among the public, among the politicians. I wonder at times why we are so apprehensive when, in fact, we are living in a wealthy land in terms of renewable and non-renewable resources. We have a high potential for tourism; in fact, we are living in the last frontier and people like to come to this country, to the NWT, to see the culture, the wildlife, and to take photographs, et cetera.

Madam Chair, in the recent past, there was an article in the paper talking about caribou clothing. In fact, according to the scientific findings, caribou skin was far more practical than the conventional factory-made clothing. This finding gave us the great opportunity to enhance the use of caribou skin clothing.

I have stated earlier that we are living in a wealthy land; we've merely scraped the surface of the potential that we have within the land. How can we use the full potential of renewable and non-renewable resources? What is the stumbling block in this case? I think, unless we can speed up the land claims process within the jurisdiction, Madam Chair, only then can we realize the use of non-renewable and renewable resources. The claimants in the Eastern and Western Arctic are willing to work together and they want development. Before that can be realized, they want to settle the land claims. That's where it's at.

I speak not as a person from the Nunavut area, I speak as a public person. Madam Chair, most of the people in the Northwest Territories, the majority, rely on the fur industry. During the last 30 years, the sale of furs has declined. This government has tried to talk to people in Ottawa and in other countries but I don't believe that we have used our full potential to try and promote and enhance the trapping industry.

Madam Chair, we have people in the communities across the Territories who depend mainly upon carving. Carving, being a by-product of wildlife, has been rejected by some of the countries. Again, in this area we have done very little to promote our industry within the jurisdiction. In terms of creating jobs for the communities, the Premier, who was the Minister of Public Works and Services, has come a long way in terms of using the community manpower, made in the Territories, made in the communities, but I think we have not used the full potential of the local labour force that is available in every community.

We are still seeing in my area that when there are government projects in the communities, we still see contractors coming from outside of the Territories. I believe if there is a project taking place in Yellowknife, Yellowknife should have the first crack at it. If there is a community project in Iqaluit, Pelly Bay and other communities across the Territories, it should be likewise. People in the communities should be awarded contracts because when you award a contract to a local business, the community people will get the jobs and many people only depend on seasonal work. The only time people are able to afford to buy hunting equipment is when they get the opportunity to work during the summer, get their hunting equipment and supplement their income by hunting and trapping. Those are the areas we should really concentrate on because of the bad financial situation we are faced with.

Madam Chair, with regard to trying to balance the budget within two years, I believe we should have a mid-term review of the financial situation of this government. I don't think we should be committed to balance the budget in one or two years. We should leave that open, have a mid-term review of the financial situation and take it from there.

Madam Chair, within the last two months, people have asked me what is happening with this. Are you still planning? Yes, we have plans for two months. Now we have a business plan in place and we can take it from there. We can make that plan work so when the time comes for division, two territories in this jurisdiction, we will be able to realize that, even through difficult times. I have every confidence, Madam Chair, with the Cabinet Ministers, the Premier, the politicians and the people of the Territories that we'll be able to pull through. We will be able to say we stood by the business plan, we made it and we will be able to reminisce that we were the great ones. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you, Mr. Ningark. Are there any specific questions to the Premier specific to the statement? Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister's Statement 1-13(2): Sessional Statement
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Madam Chair. I was going to say I heard at least 25 questions during the general comments. I don't know if the Premier is making a list or if those were just rhetorical questions and now we will get down to the real questions. Thank you.