Mr. Speaker, the government has reviewed and considered the recommendation from the Standing Committee on Government Operations to defer the amalgamation of the NWT Housing Corporation with the Departments of Transportation, and Public Works and Services.
In response, let me start by saying that, as a government, we recognize the time and consideration the Committee put into reviewing this document. In discussing the report tabled in the House earlier this week, we were pleased to see that the Committee agrees the proposed amalgamation would, if accepted, take us one step closer to creating a more efficient and effective government. We are also pleased to receive comments and alternate options from them on how we could reduce duplication and improve coordination among the three departments. And finally, we agreed and acknowledge along with the Committee that division is indeed quickly approaching.
But while we all appear to agree on these fundamental points, overall what the Committee is telling us are all of the reasons why we cannot, or should not, proceed with this amalgamation. Therefore, I think it is important at this time to take a few moments to revisit why this amalgamation proposal was put on the table in the first place.
This initiative is not simply one aimed at cutting the budget, or creating a more efficient and effective government structure. While it is noteworthy that this amalgamation would produce a leaner, less expensive government structure, and it would create cost savings -- minimal at first, but up to $3 to $5 million a year beginning in 1998-99 -- the amalgamation proposal is really aimed at two key things.
First, it was an attempt to better meet and serve the needs of our clients --the people of the north. What we who are in government often forget is that the people who need to access the services do not care about how the services are managed, or who manages them. What people care about is that what they need is available to them when they need it. When you go to a grocery store, do you really think or care about how the food got to the store, about the person who stocked the shelf, about the person who manages the store, or about how that store was able to buy that product in the first place?
The second key reason behind this amalgamation is preparation for division. It is about laying the groundwork for the future of two new and progressive governments, and about improving financial and structural situations that they would inherit as part of our legacy to them. It would be an easy solution to put off any new initiative until 1999 -- to push this kind of difficult decision onto the elected officials for the two new governments, in which, if I can remind everyone here, people in this House may play a role. But this government believes that would be a step backwards. It would mean turning our backs on a situation we could fix today, while it is still one problem for one government, not a problem for two governments.
In the government's review of the comments from the Standing Committee on Government Operations, we recognize we do not have the support to fulfil this positive and productive initiative. That is to say the least, disappointing. However, in an attempt to work with our colleagues in the House, we are prepared -- based upon the input provided -- to defer this initiative. But let me be clear. While this government is not going ahead with amalgamation at this time, we firmly believe it was necessary and right for the people of the north today, and in the future.
This amalgamation was a good idea in that it was aimed directly at improving services and programs for the people who elected us to serve. But as the Premier has stated many times, this government also believes in working together with all of the Members in this House to best serve the people of the north. This is what consensus government is all about. Therefore, we are prepared to work with you on this issue to help you see the long-term benefits for the north, and to see beyond the short-term workload and challenges it may cause.
Mr. Speaker, let me remind Members of the Premier's comments earlier this week, and in fact, over the past year. Good effective leadership is about making the hard decisions. About accepting the short term pain for the long term benefits of change such as this. We have the opportunity to improve this situation now. An opportunity which will diminish over time as we move closer to division, and as we develop a more complicated set of problems.
Given the lack of support shown in this House, we cannot proceed with this initiative. If Members do not believe amalgamation offers us a good opportunity, we invite them to offer us other ideas that will address the issues this amalgamation proposal is designed to address. In our minds, postponing this kind of decision, and making it the responsibility of a future government is not good government. Nor is it what we were elected to do. In fact, it is the opposite.
For the record, Mr. Speaker, this government believes the amalgamation initiative was the right thing to do. While the process may need some fine tuning, the outcome is vital. It is our hope for the next two years that we will still be able to make decisions that will improve the quality of life and the quality of services this government offers to people no matter what part of this territory they call home. How many more issues are we going to shift to the plates of the two new governments, rather than do the jobs we were elected to do? Thank you.