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

Committee Report 1-13(8): Report Of The Special Committee On Western Identity
Item 11: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

September 9th, 1999

Page 59

Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would request unanimous consent to waive rule 93(4) and have Committee Report 1-13(8) moved into committee of the whole for today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Report 1-13(8): Report Of The Special Committee On Western Identity
Item 11: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 59

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Yellowknife South is seeking unanimous consent to waive rule 93(4) and have the report move into committee of the whole for today. Do we have any nays? There are no nays. Mr. Henry, you have unanimous consent. Committee Report 1-13(8) will be moved into committee of the whole for today. Item 12, reports of standing and special committees. Reports of committees on the review of bills. Mr. Erasmus.

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills
Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills

Page 59

Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to report to the Legislative Assembly that the Standing Committee on Government Operations has reviewed Bill 4, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Statutes Amendment Act. We wish to report that Bill 4 is ready for consideration in committee of the whole.

And, Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to waive rule 70(5) and have Bill 4 moved into committee of the whole for today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills
Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills

Page 59

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. The Member for Yellowknife North is seeking unanimous consent to waive rule 70(5) and have Bill 4 moved into committee of the whole for today. Do we have any nays? There are no nays. Mr. Erasmus, you have unanimous consent. Bill 4 will be moved into committee of the whole for today. Reports on the committees on the review of bills. Item 13, tabling of documents. Item 14, notices of motion. Mr. Miltenberger.

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills
Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills

Page 59

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not being in my seat. I request unanimous consent to return to tabling of documents.

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills
Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills

Page 59

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Thebacha is seeking unanimous consent to go back to item 13, tabling of documents. Do we have any nays?

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills
Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills

Page 59

Some Hon. Members

Nay.

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills
Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills

Page 59

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

There are nays. Mr. Miltenberger, you do not have unanimous consent. Notices of motion. Item 15, notices of motion for first reading of bills. Item 16, motions. Item 17, first reading of bills. Item 18, second reading of bills. Item 19, consideration in committee of the whole of bills and other matters. Bill 3, Bill 4, and Committee Report 1-13(8). By the authority given the Speaker by Motion 1-13(8), the committee of the whole may sit past adjournment until it is prepared to report with Mr. Krutko in the chair.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 59

The Chair David Krutko

In committee of the whole of bills and other matters, we are dealing with Bill 3, Committee Report 1-13(8) and Bill 4. I would like to ask the wish of the committee. Mr. Dent.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 59

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to recommend that we consider Bill 3, followed by Bill 4 and then perhaps the committee report, if we have time.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 59

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Dent. Does the committee? Agree?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 59

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 59

The Chair David Krutko

We will start to deal with Bill 3, Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Bill 3. Mr. Dent, do you have any opening comments?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 59

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

On behalf of all Members of the Legislative Assembly, I would like to present Bill 3, the new and much improved Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. The bill before you will replace the current act, which is sadly out of date as a result of outdated terminology and numerous amendments over the years. In addition to the technical wording updating, there were two reports commissioned by the Legislative Assembly that made recommendations in two major areas. The first was the report of the Conflict of Interest Review Panel on its review of matters relating to the conflict provisions of the act. The second was the report of the MLA Compensation Commission that reported early

in the life of this Assembly. Both of these reports Mr. Chairman, made a number of recommendations that were reviewed by the Management and Services Board.

After lengthy discussions with all Members, the bill before the Committee today provides a streamlined compensation system for Members of the Legislative Assembly. There are four principles that form the basis of a simple and accountable system for compensating MLAs those principles are:

1. Members are entitled to receive fair compensation for the work that they undertake and for their expenses in representing their constituents;

2. Members have a right to certainty -- to know their entitlements and to be clear about how allowances can be used;

3. The public has the right to understand the pay received by MLAs; and

4. MLAs have the right to be able to account for allowances in an atmosphere that is not clouded by issues and debate surrounding a system that Members of the public are unable to understand.

The proposed changes are major strides in providing the transparency that the public wants and will make the system easier to understand. One of the main changes would streamline the current system where MLAs are paid various indemnities for different aspects of the job, such as for committee and constituency work. These indemnities would be rolled into an annual salary. The bill proposes that the annual indemnity for a Member be $71,000. This would mean that all of the 19 Members of the 14th Legislative Assembly would receive this as a guaranteed base salary. The only other salary payments will be to those Members who take on the additional responsibilities as Speaker, Premier, Minister, Deputy Speaker or Chairperson of a standing committee. The additional payments for these positions will be: for the Speaker, $25,000; the Premier $54,000; a Minister $38,000; the Deputy Speaker $5,000; and the Chairperson of a standing committee $3,000. These amounts are clearly set out in the schedule to the bill.

The current act provides for non-accountable living and expense allowances. The bill before us today proposes instead that an accountable allowance be paid on the Members' behalf for accommodation in the capital city. The allowance would not exceed $15,000 a year. Expenses will be paid for travelling on assembly, committee or constituency business. The bill also proposes streamlining Members' allowances to operate his or her constituency. The system is flexible, while still maintaining public accountability for expenditures made by and on behalf of members. A detailed report containing the indemnities, allowances and expenses paid or reimbursed to a Member by the Legislative Assembly will be tabled annually.

Under current legislation, an increase or decrease in Members' indemnities, requires a decision of all Members and amendments to the act. Some concern has been expressed in the past about Members deciding how much of an increase or decrease they will receive. The bill before you today provides that any adjustments to Members' indemnities will match any increase or decrease in public service salaries. Another change in the system will be the deduction of $100.00 for each morning or afternoon a Member fails to attend a sitting or committee meeting without a reasonable explanation. The bill also provides a transitional allowance for Members who do not become Members after a general election.

The name of the Management and Services Board will change to the Legislative Assembly Board of Management and its meetings will be open to the public. The regulations approved by the Board of Management will be published and the Speaker will table the Board of Management's policies to allow for public scrutiny. I think, not only the general public, but the Members will appreciate the fairness, simplicity, transparency, ease of understanding, and accountability of the proposed compensation system for Members of the Legislative Assembly.

Part 2 of the bill provides for the establishment of the Executive Council, the appointment of its members, and the selection of the Premier. It also provides for the appointment of a Deputy Premier and Ministers. In addition, Part 2 clarifies the termination date of the terms of office of the Premier, Deputy Premier, and Ministers.

Other major changes deal with conflict of interest. These changes include implementing the recommendations made by the Conflict of Interest Review Panel in its report last April. Panel members recommended changes in four main areas:

1. A stronger and more accessible Conflict of Interest Commissioner's office;

2. A defined procedure for dealing with conflict of interest investigations;

3. A less expensive and more timely alternative to full public inquiries where warranted; and

4. A regime where NWT residents know what is expected of MLAs and senior appointed GNWT staff and how and where to voice concerns.

I think it is important that we remind ourselves that the conflict of interest provisions were put in place so that the public may be satisfied and have confidence in the actions of elected representatives. The bill provides the definition of the obligation of a Member. It states:

A Member has a conflict of interest when the Member exercises an official power or performs an official duty or function in the execution of his or her office and at the same time knows, or reasonably should know, that the performance of the duty or function or the exercise of the power may further his or her private interests or the private interests of his or her spouse or dependent child.

The process for filing a complaint, its investigation and disposition, has been refined to make it less complicated for the complainant and the Member named in the complaint. The bill provides that a Member, or any person, who believes on reasonable grounds that a Member has contravened any part of the conflict provisions, may file with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, a written complaint setting out the grounds. In addition, the bill provides that the Conflict of Interest Commissioner may receive an oral complaint from a person where the Commissioner considers it appropriate to do so.

The efficiency and independence of the complaint process is apparent at this point. Once a complaint is filed, an investigation is conducted by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner who can find that the complaint was frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith and there are no sufficient grounds to proceed.

However, if the Commissioner determines that there was an infraction but that infraction was trivial or inadvertent, or due to an error of judgement made in good faith, the Commissioner can dismiss the complaint. The findings would be reported to the Legislative Assembly.

If the Conflict of Interest Commissioner determines there are sufficient grounds to warrant an inquiry, he or she would direct an inquiry before a sole adjudicator be held. A list of sole adjudicators will be named by the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly. The sole adjudicator will conduct an inquiry in a manner provided for in the act and must report to the Legislative Assembly. Once the report of a sole adjudicator is tabled, the Legislative Assembly shall consider the report within 15 sitting days.

The other change to the act deals with paying costs related to a complaint. The bill proposes that the reasonable costs of a Member complained against shall be paid according to a policy of the Board of Management. The bill also proposes that no payment be made for a complainant's costs.

The other significant changes being proposed are in the following areas:

- disclosure by the Premier of a conflict in a meeting of the Executive Council;

- establishing a trust arrangement by the Speaker or Minister;

- application by the Speaker or Minister for authorization for a contract;

- all disclosure statements to be filed with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner;

- mandatory requirement for the members to meet with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner; and

- the appointment of a special Conflict of Interest Commissioner, where necessary.

If this bill is approved by the Legislative Assembly, it will come into force on December 7, 1999, the day after the next general election. This means that this Assembly will have provided the 14th Legislative Assembly with a new act that will allow Members to focus on the many significant issues that they will face. The Members, I hope, will see that they have a simple, fair, transparent and accountable compensation system. It allows for increased public confidence when complying with conflict of interest requirements as Members carry out their duties as elected leaders in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Chairman, I will do my best, on all Members' behalf, to answer any questions. Mahsi.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 61

The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. As this bill has been referred directly to committee of the whole there is no committee report. At this time, I would like to ask the Minister, Mr. Dent, if he wishes to bring in any witnesses.