This is page numbers 41 - 72 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 8th 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 information.

Topics

Minister's Statement 10-13(8): The Trans-canada Trail
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 44

Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, an official announcement of the designation of the NWT routes was made at a regional press conference at Yellowknife City Hall today at 11:00 am. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Minister's Statement 10-13(8): The Trans-canada Trail
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 44

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Ministers' statements. Mr. Steen.

Minister's Statement 11-13(8): Curtis Mercredi Wins National Grand Championship
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 44

Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday I recognized Mr. Curtis Mercredi in the visitor's gallery to call attention to the award of National Grand Champion he won in the National Airfield Maintenance Roadeo this August at the Vancouver International Airport. Today, I would like to tell the Assembly a little bit more about Mr. Mercredi and his award.

Curtis is an employee of the Department of Transportation who has worked at the Yellowknife airport since 1987; first as a trainee and then as a permanent employee in 1988. A father of two children, he was born and raised in the Northwest Territories and is a long term resident of Yellowknife.

To qualify for the national competition, Curtis came first at the Territorial Roadeo held at the Fort Smith Airport in June. Last year at the Winnipeg Airport, he placed second in the National Airfield Maintenance Roadeo. This year at Vancouver, he took first place.

The roadeo requires competitors from airports across Canada to run three pieces of airfield maintenance equipment through obstacle courses designed to resemble situations they regularly encounter in winter operations. The technician with the highest combined points is the over-all winner. At Vancouver, competing against the very best in the industry, Curtis placed first on two pieces of equipment and second on the third.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation is proud to have employees like Mr. Mercredi on its staff. As passengers, we fly in and out of our airports all the time without a second thought for our safety or security. It is thanks to our maintenance crews and workers like Curtis Mercredi, that we can travel so casually, at ease and in confidence.

I know the Assembly will join me in congratulating our National Grand Champion on his award and for a job well done in representing the Department of Transportation and the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Minister's Statement 11-13(8): Curtis Mercredi Wins National Grand Championship
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 44

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 3, Member's statement. Mr. Krutko.

Member's Statement 14-13(8): Streamlining Access To Seniors' Programs
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 44

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to raise an issue I have raised in this House several times, and it still continues to burden the people that we are supposed to serve and make things simpler so they can understand and be able to access programs and services for this government. Mr. Speaker, I am talking about our seniors. Regarding the seniors' property tax collection notice, there is an opportunity for our seniors to be exempt from property taxes. Mr. Speaker, year after year, our seniors have the difficulty of being given notices and then having to fill out applications to be re-established on the tax exemption list. The same thing applies, Mr. Speaker, in the seniors' fuel subsidy. Year after year, our seniors are put into the situation of having to continue to fill out applications. Mr. Speaker, I have raised this issue in this House and so have several other Members. I, for one, believe there is a simpler solution and that this government should seriously consider looking at the possibility of streamlining these programs by simply allowing an elder to consent that information relevant to different programs be accessed by those particular departments.

You hear concerns from the department saying well, there is a question about conflict in regards to access to information and their pensions. I believe there is a process that we can use, which is a consent of the senior and the person who applies to these programs, once they apply they consent through a form and the department automatically puts their name into the system and every year it rolls itself off where these people do not have to continue with the burden of filling out these applications year after year and be able to access these programs and services without having to worry about another concern and which they should be enjoying their retirement and enjoying the time that they have with us so that they can continue on with life knowing that they have put their time in, they paid their taxes and now let us help them out to have the rest that they earned without having to bear the burden of filling out applications year after year. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Member's Statement 14-13(8): Streamlining Access To Seniors' Programs
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 44

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Members' statements. Mr. Erasmus.

Member's Statement 15-13(8): "northern House" Aboriginal Students' Residence
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 44

Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to speak about an innovative idea that has been put into place at the University of Alberta, namely the Northern House that has been sponsored by the Native Student Services Department. I might add that it is also being supported and promoted by

various other departments within the University of Alberta.

Mr. Speaker, the Northern House is a project that is actually a residence for aboriginal students from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and currently has a support person and three students were enrolled in the first year of programs. The purpose, of course, is to provide support to these students who are away from their aboriginal cultures for long, long periods of time. The purpose is that they provide support to each other, as well as support from other staff persons. Mr. Speaker, this facility is just being started this year, and they do need a little bit of help for furniture, basic kitchen utensils, essentials, and a computer. They need a one-time small infusion of cash. I believe that this would be a very, very worthwhile project with this government as I know what it is like to be going to school. Fortunately, I had my family with me when I went to school, but this establishment is for single students, particularly for young students who, as you can see, are all in their first year of programs. So at the appropriate time, Mr. Speaker, I will be asking the Minister of Education some questions on this particular project for support. Thank you.

--Applause

Member's Statement 15-13(8): "northern House" Aboriginal Students' Residence
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 45

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Member's statement. Mr. Ootes.

Member's Statement 16-13(8): Wild Mushroom Industry
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 45

Jake Ootes Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to speak today about an economic issue which we know very little about but that has tremendous potential for a number of our people and our communities, but it is fraught with some real challenges. This past summer, we saw the first organized wild moral mushroom harvest here in the North Slave region. Last year's forest fire burn around the Tibbit Lake region, I am told, had the potential to harvest moral mushroom worth in the millions of dollars. That can be picked in a four to six week period. But this is a whole new venture for Northerners, and so only a small group went out to pick. One group of seven entrepreneurs harvested over $50,000 worth, and I am told it is much more than that, but that is the official reported, of morals early in the summer. Unfortunately, inexperience with international buyers resulted in the group losing much of their profit to individuals purportedly connected with organized crime. People were also physically assaulted, I am told, though charges have yet to be laid. The forest fire season this summer meant numerous new mushroom fields may be available next summer.

Morals are only one of several lucrative mushroom species for which there is a huge demand on world markets. The NWT may well be the most sought-after pine mushroom harvesting area next fall. Pine mushrooms sell anywhere from $15 a pound to $300 a pound, depending on the supply and demand at the time. While there is a huge potential for harvesting and income, it is also a sure thing that possibly violence and possible crime can follow. Next spring, it is possible that hundreds of pickers will come to the NWT for mushroom harvesting. The NWT needs to react quickly to this possible lucrative market, and we need to monitor and manage this resource for our own people. We need to be proactive on this. A first step could be to add mushrooms to the list of plants and animals protected under the Wildlife Act. This would give protection against exploitation of Northerners and their resources. Tomorrow I hope to be able to follow up with some questions on this, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

--Applause

Member's Statement 16-13(8): Wild Mushroom Industry
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 45

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Member's statement. Mr. Rabesca.

Member's Statement 17-13(8): Working Together During The Thirteenth Assembly
Item 3: Members' Statements

September 9th, 1999

Page 45

James Rabesca North Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We now have been working together for close to four years, and during that time, we collectively have had many issues to deal with. Some have been a pleasure, while others have tried our form of government to the limits. We have worked together to make the best decisions possible for our residents and believe that we have succeeded. We have accomplished a great deal over the life if this Assembly, and I feel proud to have participated in it all.

We worked very hard to ensure our constituencies have a say and our communities are treated equally and fairly. However, if it was not for the staff of this building and a good working relationship that is present here, we could not do nearly as much. To this, I would like to thank all the Assembly staff and the hard work and the perseverance. They are the people that really do most of the work.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank the Government of Canada for their cooperation over the last four years. Without their support, many of the issues we have dealt with could not have been completed. As I stated previously over the last four years, we have taken this government from a deficit position to one of a surplus. We have successfully witnessed and took part in the creation of two new Territories. This one item is a very historic event, and we should be proud that we were able to put together and work towards a successful division as we saw in April.

There are still many issues that must be dealt with, however, our time is up and we must move on. The next Assembly will take up where we left off, and eventually we will have a territory we can be proud of. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Member's Statement 17-13(8): Working Together During The Thirteenth Assembly
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 45

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Member's statements. Mr. Henry.

Member's Statement 18-13(8): Reporting Methods Of The "yellowknifer" Newspaper
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 45

Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, after much consideration and encouragement from the people in this community, I feel that I must respond on the manner in which the staff of the Yellowknifer has reported on my involvement with the extension of a commercial grant from the City of Yellowknife to a local business of which I am a part owner. Since July 10, 1998 there had been no few than five editorial comments and numerous articles, some with a decided personal slant published on the subject. While I supposed I should be honoured to be Yellowknife's biggest news, I feel that the Yellowknifer's coverage of this story has gone far beyond objective, fact-finding and has steadily degenerated into a scathing, personal attack on my credibility and reputation as an MLA and a business person.

As a public figure, I expect a reasonable amount of criticism. After all, no one is perfect. I have come to realize that accountability plays a big part in the life of the public servant. Furthermore, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The freedom to speak and write freely about public administration is one of the many benefits of living in a democratic society. Without these freedoms, our government cannot function properly, so we all understand that the Yellowknifer has a duty to report on the way in which government officials, myself included, do their jobs. However, the editors of the Yellowknifer need to be reminded that freedom always comes with responsibility. Since when does objective reporting necessitate the kind of damming, brutal remarks published about me by the Yellowknifer again and again over the past several months? I ask why has the Yellowknifer set out to so damage my perception in this community that the well-being of my family has been affected?

I suppose one answer is that by sinking to the levels of a tabloid smear campaign, the publishers of the Yellowknifer hope to sell more newspapers and take home a bigger profit. Perhaps the editors think the people of Yellowknife would rather read light-heart satire and silly cartoons than actual news stories. I personally do not think they do. I also think that the issue of responsible journalism is too important to lend itself to simple answers. The reality is that we live in a community which has only one English-speaking newspaper, a newspaper with a captive audience and a great deal of influence. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Member's Statement 18-13(8): Reporting Methods Of The "yellowknifer" Newspaper
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 46

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Yellowknife South is seeking unanimous consent to conclude his statement. Do we have any nays? There are no nays. Mr. Henry, you have unanimous consent.

Member's Statement 18-13(8): Reporting Methods Of The "yellowknifer" Newspaper
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 46

Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. For this reason, the people of Yellowknife deserve to know that what they read in the newspaper is reported on fairly, objectively, and accurately. They also deserve to know that the paper cannot be used as an indiscriminate weapon.

Nick Russell, in a leading textbook on morals and the media in Canada, points out that freedom of the press continues to be earned or lost, depending on performance, and it brings with it clear responsibilities of stewardship. What does this mean in practical terms for the editorial staff at the Yellowknifer? Mr. Russell thinks it means that newspaper publishers who are, after all, only in the business to make money, do not own freedom of the press, the people do. Despite what the editors may think, the Yellowknifer does not have some kind of license allowing it to systematically and vindictively destroy someone's perception in the community. Our own Legislative Assembly agrees with Mr. Russell and has seen fit to protect members of the public from this type of behaviour by passing the Defamation Act. Under the act, a newspaper can be sued for publishing statements about a person, which are designed to harm their reputation, rather than simply reporting on the facts.

For example, a few years ago, a Hay River businessman successfully sued the local newspaper for publishing a defamatory cartoon about him. The court said that the suggestions were made by the paper about the businessman's character that were not fair comments and were intended to make people in the community ridicule him.

Judging from the conveniently anonymous editorial comment published in the Yellowknifer on Friday, July 17, 1998, July 31, 1998, August 7, 1998, May 7, 1999, and finally August 27, 1999, the editors seem to have embarked on a self-appointed mission to portray me as a shameless profiteer in the eyes of the people of Yellowknife.

The fact is that the business of which I am a part owner strengthens the economic well-being of this community and of the Territories and employs upward of 100 people in entry level positions and is a viable part of the Yellowknife business community, and I contribute to the tax base of this city.

In the editorial comment published on Friday, August 27, 1997, the editorial suggested that all MLAs who own their own business should place them in blind trusts. As an ordinary MLA, this requirement is duly unrestrictive and will discourage some business people from entering the public arena. In my view, a Legislative Assembly that does not have the opportunity to hear from and benefit from the expertise of the North's business people will suffer a loss. Along with the rights to speak freely, citizens of this country also enjoy the right of free enterprise. This is one of the reasons Canadians enjoy such a high standard of living.

Mr. Speaker, in 1981, the Kent Commission on newspapers realized the kind of impact a newspaper such as the Yellowknifer can have on individuals who fall out of its good graces when it said, "In a one-newspaper town, it means nothing except the right of a proprietor to do what he will with his own...freedom of the press." The commission concluded that sometimes the practical reality in a one-newspaper town is that because "enormous influence without responsibility is conferred on a handful of people...(its) over-riding responsibility is to the society which protects and provides its freedom." Is the Yellowknifer living up to its responsibility to the people of Yellowknife by writing with a poisoned pen, shrouded in the anonymity of an editorial?

I am out and about in this community as an MLA, as a business person, a volunteer, a church member, and a parent. I, too, see and hear what people in this community have to say. What I do not understand is why Mr. Valpy, and I wonder how he can say that you are reflecting the views of the community. I went and visited this gentleman in his office regarding one of the editorials and was very surprised to see that I had never seen the gentleman before, and I have lived here for 23 years. I had thought I would surely recognize him considering his position in the community which apparently represents the views. I have never seem him at public meetings, I have never seen him within the business community, I have never seem him in my children's school, I have never seen him anywhere. So then I ask, where do you get your worldly perspective from? Where are you that you hear all these opinions and have all these people, why not have them put their views in writing or bring them to me directly?

Another author, J.L. Hulteng, warns newspapers against abusing their right to freedom of the press in his book, "Playing it Straight: A Practical Discussion of the Ethical Principles of the American Society of Newspaper Editors". In it he wrote, "To prevent further erosion, editors and reporters should refrain from excessive or unjustified appeals to public opinion . A knee-jerk invocation of press freedom every time some public official or special interest representative criticizes the performance of the press will only harm the cause. Cry "Wolf" only when a genuine predator is on the prowl." This is something which the lampoonists at the Yellowknife should keep in mind.

In closing, I wish to remind the editorial staff of the Yellowknifer to heed the ethics of their own profession. Like public officials, they too owe a duty of fairness and stewardship to the public they sever, lest they offend the very principles for which freedom of the press was enshrined in the Charter in the first place. And before calling anyone a profiteer, they should take a good, long look in the mirror.

Mr. Speaker, I have not yet come to a decision as to whether I will allow my name to stand as a candidate in the December election. I will reserve that judgement for the next couple of week. I would like to sincerely thank my fellow colleagues for allowing me to continue with my statement, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause