This is page numbers 15 - 38 of the Hansard for the 13th 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 nunavut.

Topics

Members Present

Honourable Jim Antoine, Honourable Goo Arlooktoo, Mr. Levi Barnabas, Honourable Charles Dent, Mr. Erasmus, Mr. Mark Evaloarjuk, Honourable Sam Gargan, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Miltenberger, Mr. Ningark, Mr. Kevin O'Brien, Honourable Floyd Roland, Mr. Steen, Honourable Manitok Thompson, Honourable John Todd.

Oh, God, may your spirit and guidance be in us as we work for the benefit of all our people, for peace and justice in our land and for the constant recognition of the dignity and aspirations of those whom we serve. Amen.

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 15

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. Good afternoon and welcome to the reconvening of the Seventh Session of the 13th Legislative Assembly. I hope that all of you have had enough time with your family, friends and constituents since we last gathered. For our Members from the east, I know that for some of you, the election in Nunavut has brought new political challenges and for others, it has opened the door to new opportunities outside of the political arena. I am sure that you will agree that it has been an honour serving this Legislature and I am going to miss all of your valuable participation in the future.

I note the presence in the gallery today of the Premier elect for Nunavut, Mr. Okalik, and welcome him to the Legislative Assembly where I am sure we will show him only our good side today. We are in the final stretch to the historic date of April 1, 1999 when the Northwest Territories will divide and two new jurisdictions in Canada will be created. There is still a lot of work to be done between now and then. With only 15 days left, there are still many significant issues to consider and legislative initiatives to deal with.

So, I remind Members that I intend to be strict with the rules of the House so that we are able to move with the business of the Assembly as efficiently as we can. I ask Members to continue to be aware of their commitment to serve the people of their constituencies, indeed the whole NWT, in their deliberations with mutual respect and good intentions.

Welcome to the reconvening of the Seventh Session of the 13th Legislative Assembly.

Before we get on to the orders of the day, I wish to inform the House that I have received two letters dated March 11, 1999 which is in accordance with section 76.05 of the Nunavut Act from the Acting Interim Commissioner of Nunavut. I would like to read the following letters received.

Dear Speaker:

The formal creation of Nunavut is now less then a month away. As we continue our preparation for this historic event, this bill amends several statutes that will be duplicated for Nunavut.

As required by section 76.05 of the Nunavut Act, it is with pleasure that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of the bill entitled Nunavut Statutes Amendment Act, 1999, during the Seventh Session of the 13th Legislative Assembly.

Yours truly,

Joe Adla Kunuk

Acting Interim Commissioner of Nunavut.

The second letter, again signed by the Interim Commissioner.

Dear Mr. Speaker:

The formal creation of Nunavut is now less than one month away. As we continue our preparations for this historic event, this bill reflects the determination of all parties to ensure uninterrupted service to the people of Nunavut in the critical area of electrical power generation and delivery.

As required by section 76.05 of the Nunavut Act, it is with pleasure that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of the bill entitled Nunavut Power Utilities Statutes Amendment Act, during the Seventh Session of the 13th Legislative Assembly.

Yours truly,

Joe Adla Kunuk

Acting Interim Commissioner of Nunavut

There is also a third letter that was written by the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. I would like to advise the House that I have received the following message from Her Honour, the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, the passage of the Supplementary Appropriation Act, No. 5, 1998-99, and the Interim Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, during the Seventh Session of the 13th Legislative Assembly.

Yours truly,

Helen Maksagak

Commissioner

Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Antoine.

Minister's Statement 6-13(7): Sessional Statement
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 16

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome all the Members back and to welcome to this House, visitors in the gallery and those people at home who have joined us through television.

Before I begin I would like to join you, Mr. Speaker, in greeting two very important people in the gallery today. I am sure that all Members will join me in welcoming the Premier-Elect of Nunavut, Paul Okalik,

--Applause

and the Acting Interim Commissioner of Nunavut, Joe Adla Kunuk, to the House today.

--Applause

This session is very special. It is the last one of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, as we know it today. It marks the end of an era, and more importantly, it is a new beginning for all northerners. The work during this session will be critical as we complete the last of the legislative requirements for the smooth transition to the two new territories. Before reviewing where we are in the division agenda, I would like to take a few moments to review how far this government has come and where we plan to go.

Mr. Speaker, when this government was elected in the fall of 1995 we were facing very difficult fiscal challenges. We had a rising deficit and a mounting debt. Spiralling expenditure requirements, particularly in the social envelope, combined with significant reductions in federal transfer payments, meant that we had to take some tough decisions in the way that we ran the government. For the sake of our children, and those who will follow them, the debt, the deficit, and the rising costs could not be ignored. We had to get our House in order.

Mr. Speaker, we were faced with tough choices, to cut programs or cut the cost of delivering them. When this government was elected, we were spending almost half our program dollars on administration. This had to change. The choice we made, and I firmly believe it was the correct one, was to save programs and to find more efficient and effective ways of delivering them. The most visible example of more efficient program delivery was the creation of the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development from three different departments that had overlapping mandates. This saved $10 million and made sure that we could continue the delivery of programs previously offered by the three departments. Throughout every department, we have found ways to work more effectively and for less money.

Fiscal restraint meant reducing the size of the territorial civil service, rearranging certain departments and privatizing some services. We knew that would not be easy. Under the circumstances, our staff has been very patient. They have shown true dedication to their work and I would like them to know how much that is appreciated.

The hard choices have begun to pay off. The Finance Minister, the Honourable John Todd, was faced with a huge challenge and the objective was reached. We have balanced our budget and plan to introduce a balanced budget for the next fiscal year.

--Applause

The new territories can begin their separate journeys without the burden of debt holding them back. Mr Speaker, we have been able to give our employees the security of knowing there would be no more layoffs during the life of this government.

Last fall Mr. Todd negotiated and signed a funding agreement with the federal government for the new Western Territory. This government had a pivotal role in the finalization of a similar agreement for Nunavut. These agreements give us the stability we need to plan our futures. Mr. Speaker, it is important to note the work that we have done over the past three years to ensure a smooth transition to two new territories. This session, we will naturally focus very closely on the work we must complete by March 31st. As MLAs, we will enjoy our last few days with our eastern colleagues, and we offer our congratulations to those who will be serving in the new Legislature and Government of Nunavut.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to briefly point out the size of what we have achieved with our other partners in this process. It is an encouraging sign for the future, Mr. Speaker, that we have been able to reach agreement on virtually all major tasks required to implement division.

As I stated earlier, two new formula financing agreements are in place for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We have successfully negotiated an equitable division of the assets and liabilities of this government with our partners in the Office of the Interim Commissioner, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Western Coalition. Transition agreements have been reached with respect to the Workers' Compensation Board and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation. We have completed agreements on the transfer of records between the Government of the Northwest Territories and the future Government of Nunavut. The Government of the Northwest Territories has over 200 intergovernmental agreements with the Government of Canada and other governments. We are working to ensure that these agreements are in place for both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories after division and a great deal of progress has been made to make sure that this occurs.

In the short term, the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to deliver some services in Nunavut until the government there has reached full capacity. I am pleased to note that we have been able to reach agreement on every single program requirement.

--Applause

Mr. Speaker, these agreements have not been reached without the occasional difference of opinion. However, it is important to note the spirit of goodwill and cooperation needed to make sure that it did happen. This government and the Legislative Assembly can be proud of the work that has been accomplished.

Mr. Speaker, the division measures legislation that will be introduced later today is the final step in this journey. During the first years of our mandate, our focus was on the smooth transition to two new territories. The most pressing priority was the creation of Nunavut. As we entered the final year of our mandate, our focus has included the future of the new Northwest Territories. The establishment of a new territory gives us a new opportunity to take a fresh look at where we are going. We all want a society that meets our needs and reflects our values. Northern society is made up of many different cultures. I believe that fundamentally we have common interests, although at times we express these interests in very different ways.

- I believe we all want to participate in a political system which respects aboriginal rights and the rights of all northerners;

- We all want to become independent and self-reliant;

- We want our children to live in safe homes, free of violence; We want them to get a good education, through the school system and through their elders and other role models in our communities;

- We want to be sure that we all have access to excellent health care, no matter where we live;

- We want northerners to benefit from our northern economic potential, in terms of jobs, training and business opportunities;

- We want to protect our northern environment for generations to come;

- We want to be able to continue to pursue our traditional relationships with the land and its resources;

- We want our children to grow up in healthy communities and inherit a society which respects differences and makes them feel proud to be northerners;

- We want to show that we can work together and have a strong northern voice on the national agenda.

These things just do not happen. They must be built and nurtured with hard work, trust and respect. The role of government is to provide leadership, to listen, to take action.

This government has been listening. As a result we developed the "Western Agenda" -- a plan to provide us with the means to meet the needs of the northerners. The agenda includes:

- Getting governance right

- Restructuring our fiscal relationship with Canada

- Harnessing our economic potential, and

- Taking control of our resources

The society that we want can be achieved if we all work together and move ahead together. We all have to be part of developing the new territory. We listened, we took action and developed the western agenda, and now we are taking it to the people, discussing it and listening again. I introduced the agenda on television last month and have attended meetings with northern leaders from the south of the territory to the north, including members of the Western Caucus. Other Cabinet Members have been meeting with northerners. It is our belief that this agenda will lead to a stronger territory and a better future for our children and grandchildren. But we can not do it alone. To achieve this we will work with our partners to create a form of government that is right for the new Northwest Territories, one that will meet the needs of northerners.

Mr. Speaker, this government and this Assembly have undertaken great tasks.

- We have balanced the books.

- We have paved the way for the smooth transition to two new territories.

- We have developed an agenda for the new Northwest Territories and are working with our partners to achieve a better future for our children.

While doing all this we have carried on the normal day-to-day business of the government, and, I believe, have improved the lives of northerners.

When this government was elected, Members gave themselves a special responsibility. We could have continued providing services the same way we always had. We could have just let change happen to us. Instead, we chose to take charge of our future. Under the leadership of Premier Don Morin, we agreed to make the hard choices because we knew that, in the end, we would build a stronger territory. As the current Premier, I plan to continue that work, right up to election day. There is still much to do to make a better future. We do not have the luxury of relaxing now.

In closing, Mr Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the hard work by all the Members of this Assembly during a very challenging period in our history. I am sure that all of us from the west join with me in wishing our eastern colleagues and all the people of Nunavut the greatest of success in the future. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Minister's Statement 6-13(7): Sessional Statement
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 17

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Ministers' statements. Mr. Antoine.

Minister's Statement 7-13(7): Minister Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 17

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Stephen Kakfwi will be absent from the House today to attend the Prospectors and Developers Conference in Toronto, Ontario.

As well, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Kelvin Ng will be absent from the House for today to attend to a personal matter. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 7-13(7): Minister Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 17

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

Member's Statement 18-13(7): Nunavut Election Results
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 18

John Ningark Natilikmiot

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, 16 new Members were elected during the Nunavut election. I congratulate all the candidates and I also recognize the Nunavut elected candidates during the first election of Nunavut. I will not say all their names because there are too many of them, and I do not have enough time. I am also very glad that they have had elections in Nunavut and have elected people who are capable to work, and different races and responsibilities is quite obvious. As of April 1, 1999, for the four coming years, the Members who will be in that term I am glad that they will continue with their work. It is obvious that Nunavut will be looked after quite well, but I am saying that the Nunavut people will be represented by their own people.

Also the challenges that we face in our language in Inuktitut, that it will be put forth and they will be able to speak both in English and also I am sure in French who will be also learning in this class. We will be leaving you behind in the Western Caucus so I thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Translation ends)

--Applause

Member's Statement 18-13(7): Nunavut Election Results
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 18

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. Miltenberger.

Member's Statement 19-13(7): Western Electoral Boundaries
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 18

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would just like to state for the record that I have not, I do not, and I will not be supporting the proposal for 19 seats for the western Legislature. I believe it is too much government, I believe that it is also too much money, over $1 million a year as we tell educators and communities, hospitals, needy groups that there is not enough money, that we have no more money.

I also believe that it is very clearly, a major shift in political battles of the fabric of the Northwest Territories as we now know it. This is going to have negative political implications for us as we move into a new territory after April 1st. Especially as we ask our summit partners, as the Premier indicated in his statement, as we go to our summit partners and ask for their support for a northern accord. As we ask for their support for a tax window, as we ask for their support for the transfer of jobs from Ottawa and such to the north. It is going to be very difficult to once again spurn their position and not recognize their concerns on this issue and, on the other hand, ask them for their support. I think we are all going to pay a price for that down the road. We are going to have to work through it, but it is going to make our job much more difficult.

I think we should be looking at doing the minimum necessary to comply with the judgement, which is a 15 member option. We, as a Legislature very clearly, also have to make a decision and time is of the essence. Above all as we debate this very emotional and important issue, we have to protect the ability of the Legislature to function of course. Mr. Speaker, I will be prepared to accept once the final vote is in, the decision of the House on this issue. Until that time, I will be making the case as strongly and as often as I can for the people I represent, and for myself on this very important issue, that the need to be very careful to do the minimum amount necessary. Until the final vote is in, Mr. Speaker, I feel that I have an obligation to raise these concerns. I think it is a fundamental importance to how we are going to evolve as a territory after April 1st. Thank you.

Member's Statement 19-13(7): Western Electoral Boundaries
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 18

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mrs. Groenewegen.

Member's Statement 20-13(7): Western Electoral Boundaries
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 18

Jane Groenewegen Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker and colleagues. The issue of the electoral boundaries was very easily settled in Nunavut, but here in the west the controversy continues. I want people to understand some of the difficult issues that we have been grappling with since the result of the court challenge by the Friends of Democracy. A Judge ruled that three ridings in the west are deemed unconstitutional by virtue of their constituents being under-represented. These ridings are Hay River, Yellowknife North and Yellowknife South. The Legislature has until March 31, 1999, pending the results of an application for a stay to fix the numbers problem.

So let us look at the options. We can redraw all the boundaries, but with less than two weeks to work in, I do not think that is practical. We can address the problems of being too far over the average in two ways. By making a large riding smaller or making the small ridings larger. Either of these solutions would make some people unhappy. In making a large riding smaller, we need to add more seats in electoral districts. To make the small ridings larger, we have to combine them or attach them to parts of larger ridings. The Deh Cho, for example, could be increased by adding part of Hay River to it. Tu Nedhe could be made larger by adding part of Yellowknife North to it. But there are problems with both of these scenarios however. People are worried that the balance of power to Yellowknife would have a negative impact. That this would become an issue of major centre versus regions. Adding a seat in Hay River and Inuvik make people concerned that the balance of power between larger centres and smaller communities will negatively impact small ridings. Aboriginal people are concerned that any detraction of power and representation from the small ridings in favour of larger predominantly non-aboriginal centres will have a negative impact on the fulfilment of the goals and aspirations of aboriginal governments.

Some people are concerned that we should not be spending more money on more MLAs with other pressing requirements on our financial resources. Every one on all sides of this issue are concerned about their rights to fair representation. They say that the most sure way to avoid criticism is to say nothing and do nothing and be nothing. I think we have already tried that option and ended up with a successful court challenge.

What to do from here is a difficult question because no matter what we do, not everyone is going to be happy. Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Member's Statement 20-13(7): Western Electoral Boundaries
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 19

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Hay River is seeking unanimous consent to conclude her statement. Do we have any nays? There are no nays. Mrs. Groenewegen, you have unanimous consent.

Member's Statement 20-13(7): Western Electoral Boundaries
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 19

Jane Groenewegen Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In spite of what my colleague from Thebacha says about 15 seats, I want to state for the record that I will not, have not, and cannot consider lopping off a significant part of my constituency, diminishing Hay River's presence in the new Western Territory in the interests of balancing the numbers. I am not prepared to impose extinguishment on small ridings, or rolling them up with non-traditional components in the interests of balancing the numbers. From a very pragmatic position, does Hay River need two MLAs? Probably not, but we have a court ruling and a judgement which says fix the numbers. Given the options for adding or taking away, I believe that it is better to add.

The question of appealing the judge's decision is risky at best. We have not heard any good grounds for doing that to date. To be non-compliant with the order is to render three ridings non-existent on March 31st, one of them is my riding. Appeal is also a risk, in that appeal judges may not agree with Justice DeWeerdt's opinion that over-representation is acceptable in our unique territory but under-representation is not acceptable. An appeal could bring about the need to address the ridings which fall below 25 percent average. Right now, we are only being asked to address the situation of the ridings which exceed 25 percent over the average.

One advantage of adding to the number of Members is the number that would be available to share the committee workload, and the number of Members available to hold the government accountable. Required greatly in this mix is a healthy dose of trust, fairness and respect for each other in our very diverse, new, emerging territory. As stated in our press release, this matter and proposed changes to legislation will receive full debate in this House prior to being voted on.

As I have said, it is easy to be a critic, but if anyone out there has any ideas of how these concerns can be addressed differently, while still satisfying the test of constitutional compliance, of course we would greatly appreciate hearing from them. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 20-13(7): Western Electoral Boundaries
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 19

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. O'Brien.