This is page numbers 135 - 148 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 decision.

Topics

Members Present

Honourable Jim Antoine, Honourable Goo Arlooktoo, Honourable Charles Dent, Mr. Erasmus, Mr. Evaloarjuk, Honourable Sam Gargan, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Henry, Honourable Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Miltenberger, Mr. Morin, Mr. Ningark, Mr. Ootes, Mr. Rabesca, Honourable Floyd Roland, Mr. Steen, 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 135

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Roland. Good morning. I do not recognize a quorum in this House. Mr. Clerk, would you record the names please.

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

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Clerk Of The House Mr. David Hamilton

Mr. Evaloarjuk, Mr. Rabesca, Mr. Miltenberger, Mr. Henry, Mr. Roland, Mr. Antoine, Mr. Todd, Mr. Arlooktoo, Mr. Dent, Mrs. Groenewegen, Mr. Steen, Mr. Ningark, Mr. Ootes.

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

We have a quorum now. Thank you. Thank you to the Members. It is my understanding that the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories is prepared to enter the Chamber and assent to bills. Mr. Clerk, would you ascertain Her Honour the Commissioner is available to assent to bills.

--Order

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

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Commissioner Maksagak

Please be seated.

Mr. Speaker, Premier, and honourable Members of the Legislative Assembly, greetings. It is my pleasure to be able to address you once again, but today is a day of mixed feelings for me. Sadness because today's assenting to bills will be my last official public act as the Commissioner for the Northwest Territories.

Over the past four years I have come to know most of you well and now on the eve of division, I must say farewell to some of you, and to others, we will have the opportunity to continue working together for the betterment of our people in a very short time. I was very moved by your kind remarks and the recognition you gave me last Tuesday in this House. The gift of flowers was beautiful and thoughtful. The traditional fur shawl and the beautiful picture of the Mackenzie will receive a special place in my new home.

Now, I would like to again express my heartfelt thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime to have served the people of the Northwest Territories as their 12th Commissioner. The experience has been both a challenging and rewarding one for me and has provided memories that will last a lifetime. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few additional thank yous. To the people of the Northwest Territories for your confidence in me and the City of Yellowknife for making this my home. I want to thank Colonel Pierre LeBlanc of the Northern Regional Defence Headquarters and his wife, Jane, for their personal care and friendship to me and my family, as well as to the Office of the Commissioner over the years.

I want to thank my aides-de-camp, Mr. Bettgar and Mr. Esligar, for their dedicated service, and a special thank you to my previous executive assistant, Russell Look, whose guidance and care helped me over the transition from Deputy Commissioner to Commissioner. Mr. Speaker, please convey my appreciation to all your staff for making my visits to this Assembly always such a pleasure and I wish you all the best for the future.

As Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, I am pleased to assent to the following bills:

- Bill 1: Division Measures Act, 1999

- Bill 2: Nunavut Statutes Amendment Act, 1999

- Bill 3: Legal Registries Division Measures Act, 1999

- Bill 4: Northwest Territories Power Corporation Division Measures Act, 1999

- Bill 5: Nunavut Power Utilities Statutes Amendment Act, 1999

- Bill 6: An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act

- Bill 7: Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 1999

- Bill 8: Interim Appropriation Act, 1999-00

- Bill 9: Supplementary Appropriation Act, No. 5, 1998-99

- Bill 10: Forgiveness of Debts Act, 1998-99

- Bill 11: Write-off of Assets Act, 1998-99

- Bill 12: Write-off of Debts Act, 1998-99

- Bill 13: An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act

- Bill 14: An Act to Amend the Risk Capital Investment Tax Credits Act and the Income Tax Act

Thank you.

--Applause

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

Minister's Statement 26-13(7): Resignation Of Ministers
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 136

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the House that I have received the resignations, effective today, of the Honourable Manitok Thompson and the Honourable Kelvin Ng. They are leaving us to begin a new political life in Nunavut. I am grateful for their hard work and dedication, especially during these challenging years leading up to the creation of two new territories on April 1st, 1999. On behalf of the government they have served so well, I wish them prosperity and happiness in the years ahead. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the House that I will take over responsibility for their portfolios on an interim basis. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause.

Minister's Statement 26-13(7): Resignation Of Ministers
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Ministers' statements. Mr. Todd.

Minister's Statement 27-13(7): Fiscal Status
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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John Todd Keewatin Central

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as my term in office winds to a close I feel that it is incumbent upon me, as the Finance Minister, to provide the Members of this Assembly and members of the public with an overview of the fiscal status of this government as we reach division, and to offer some words of advice, if you will, for the future.

Mr. Speaker, the good news is that, with prudent fiscal management, this government has balanced the budget, and will wind up with an accumulated surplus at the end of 1998-99 of about $58 million.

--Applause

However, while our expenditures are going to increase over the next few years, this will not be matched by growth in our revenues. This means we are facing some immediate deficits that will quickly eat up the surplus we have managed to accumulate.

If we do not do something about this, and do it very soon, the consequences of our inaction will be significant. Thankfully, there are steps we can take to address the problem. However, to have any measure of success, we will need to encourage an understanding of the problem and garner support for our proposed actions both within the NWT and at the national level.

The fiscal problems we see on the horizon have not been unexpected, they are just hitting us much sooner than anticipated. When we negotiated the new formula financing agreements we were able to get all of the money we needed to administratively run two territories. We negotiated improvements to the way the formula caps work and a federal commitment to look at a larger tax window for the territory. However, getting more money for programs will require some additional creativity, as it was not on the agenda during the formula discussions. And so, we are now being dramatically affected in the west by our restricted population growth in relation to the Canadian average. Declining or very low population growth is resulting in virtually no revenue growth over the next few years.

As I have already pointed out, Mr. Speaker, the problem arises not because population and revenue growth is flat, but because, at the same time, expenditures are on the rise. The bottom line is that our residents need more services and support in almost all areas. This translates into more spending in education, health care, housing, and economic development.

Naturally, spending reallocations are an option to meet these needs, but over the past few years we have cut current spending to the bone. There is simply no political appetite left for any further spending cuts. To add to our dilemma, we also need to make strategic investments in many areas to prevent even higher cost increases in the future. Where can we get this money to invest? Mr. Speaker, the answer if simple. We must increase our revenues and we must increase them substantially. There is no alternative. We have a narrow window of opportunity to do just that. Earlier I said that during the formula financing negotiations, the federal Finance Minister had indicated a willingness to look at a larger tax window and a restructuring of our financial arrangements with Canada. Following up on that commitment, we have made these revenue-generating objectives a major part of the new Western Agenda, and we have started the process of building support locally and federally for this change.

But turning this opportunity into reality is not going to be easy. We have to stop fighting over a diminishing pie and start looking at ways to cooperate to make the pie larger. We must move quickly, we must build wide northern support, and we must convince the federal government that not only is this essential and in their interests but that it can be done without negatively affecting federal fiscal objectives. If we fail to take advantage of this opportunity because of narrow, parochial self-interest, we will all be losers and so will our children.

Mr. Speaker, just yesterday the Premier and myself met with the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Paul Martin, and the Minister of DIAND, the Honourable Jane Stewart. I am pleased to report to the House today that we are each in agreement to move forward in an orderly way to pursue the possibility of a tax window. We have also been busy trying to build northern understanding and support for the proposal largely through the Premier's meetings on the Western Agenda. At the end of the day, I think we can make this happen, but only if all northern groups are pulling in the same direction.

Mr. Speaker, although being Finance Minister can, on occasion, present complex and difficult challenges, there are only a few basic ways of finding the financial resources to meet the needs of our constituents: either we increase taxes, which is not a viable option in this constituency; we cut spending, which we have done; or we find new sources of revenue. I would urge this Assembly, and in particular the next Finance Minister, to heed this advice. We must move quickly to take advantage of the unique opportunity that has presented itself, in the form of federal willingness to listen to our case, so that we may find the means to increase our revenues now and prevent a looming fiscal crisis. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Minister's Statement 27-13(7): Fiscal Status
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 136

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Ministers' statements. Item 3, members' statements. Mr. Steen.

Member's Statement 69-13(7): Springtime Activities In Tuktoyaktuk
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 137

Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, with Easter approaching next weekend I would like to take this opportunity to wish my constituents in Sachs Harbour, Holman Island, Paulatuk and Tuktoyaktuk a very happy and safe Easter break. I know the children have been looking forward to it for a couple of months now and they really appreciate the break and so will the teachers. Mr. Speaker, I would also like to mention here that on the weekend of April 9, Tuktoyaktuk will be holding their Beluga Jamboree and they are looking forward to many people coming in from the other communities on the ice road. I will be asking the Minister of Transportation for his assurance later on today that the ice road will be kept in a safe condition for that particular event. Thank you.

--Applause

Member's Statement 69-13(7): Springtime Activities In Tuktoyaktuk
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. Evaloarjuk.

Member's Statement 70-13(7): Task Force On The Future Of The Baffin Summit
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 137

Mark Evaloarjuk Amittuq

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to inform the House that the Baffin leaders created a subcommittee last July, 1998. The Baffin leaders held a conference in Iqaluit and they made a motion that they would create a subcommittee to oversee the operations of the Nunavut area. Mr. Goo Arlooktoo and myself were selected for this subcommittee. Our job was to review what would happen in the Baffin region if this motion went ahead.

During the past week, March 2nd, to be exact, they held another meeting in Iqaluit and considered three options as to how the subcommittee will operate and this will be on the agenda of the next annual meeting. I have sent out a letter to all the mayors in the Baffin region notifying them of the subcommittee meeting; I also sent out copies to some organizations within Baffin; and a letter to the divisional board of education and health boards in each region, to inform them that we would have a next meeting which will be very important to the people of the Baffin region. I wanted to notify the people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Translation ends)

Member's Statement 70-13(7): Task Force On The Future Of The Baffin Summit
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. Erasmus.