This is page numbers 695 - 716 of the Hansard for the 14th Assembly, 5th 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 project.

Topics

Members Present

Honourable Roger Allen, Honourable Jim Antoine, Mr. Braden, Mr. Delorey, Mrs. Groenewegen, Honourable Joe Handley, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Lee, Mr. McLeod, Honourable Michael Miltenberger, Mr. Nitah, Mr. Roland, Honourable Vince Steen, Honourable Tony Whitford.

-- Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

June 11th, 2002

Page 695

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Roland. Please be seated. Good afternoon, colleagues. I wish to advise the House that I have received the following message from 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 Supplementary Appropriations Act, No. 1, 2002-2003 during the Fifth Session of the 14th Legislative Assembly.

Yours truly,

Glenna F. Hansen, Commissioner

Colleagues, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you back to the House, as well to the staff and the visitors who are here, for a short summer session of the Fifth Session of this Legislative Assembly. Sadly, since we last met, we have mourned the passing of Mr. Goo Arlooktoo, a former Member of this Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Arlooktoo was the Member for Baffin South from 1995 to 1999. After the creation of Nunavut he returned to Baffin Island to live and to work. During that time, he retained many family and business ties with the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Steen and I were able to travel to Iqaluit to attend Mr. Arlooktoo's funeral and to represent this Assembly. It was a very sad time, as he left us much, much too early. I know I speak for all Members when I pass along our deepest condolences to Mr. Arlooktoo's widow Dorothy and to their children and their extended family.

After a very late spring, we are now able to enjoy the Northwest Territories' wonderful summer session. I know that the Members of this Assembly have been hard at work in their constituencies since we last met and I would like to encourage you all to continue to enjoy the summer with your families when we are finished this sitting.

At this time, I would like to advise the House of a very important event occurring today. It is the silver anniversary of the Honourable Jim Antoine and his wife, Celine. Congratulations.

-- Applause

Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Deputy Premier, Mr. Antoine.

Minister's Statement 43-14(5): Western Premiers' Conference
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and good afternoon. Welcome back, everybody. Today I would like to report back to the Members on the Western Premiers' Conference attended by Premier Kakfwi in Dawson City from June 4th to 6th. Premiers from all three territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba attended the conference. They were joined for portions of their meetings by the U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci; the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Michael Kergin; as well as Governor Knowles from Alaska and Governor Geringer from Wyoming. The Premiers reviewed progress reports and discussed several issues, including climate change, trade, infrastructure, and health.

I am happy to report that the NWT made significant progress by forwarding its position in support of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The Premier reiterated the position that I previously put forward at the Joint Meeting of Energy and Environment Ministers on May 21, 2002, that the Northwest Territories supports the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol while recognizing that all provinces and territories will have to work hard to do their part to reduce emissions over time. National consultations on the Kyoto Protocol led by the federal government are taking place all across Canada with engaged stakeholders and will be in Yellowknife on June 13th. Municipalities, industry, environmental organizations and government, including aboriginal and territorial governments, are expected to participate.

During their discussion of Canada-U.S. trade issues, Premiers talked about U.S. agricultural subsidies, the recent softwood lumber decision and energy. The Premier spoke out against the U.S. Senate energy bill because it would guarantee a floor price for Alaskan gas. Such a subsidy would work to strand Mackenzie Delta gas and would have a negative impact on all other Canadian gas producers.

The Premier made a convincing argument about the parallels between U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber, agricultural subsidies for American farmers and setting a subsidized floor price for natural gas. I am pleased to say that Premier Kakfwi got excellent media coverage, which is evidence that the Northwest Territories was successful in stating our interests and participating actively in the conference.

Working with our neighbours in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories called for economic development funding for the Territories. We managed to get agreement from all Premiers that the federal government should begin discussions with all three territories to determine how current and future federal programming can best meet the economic and diversification needs of northern people.

Premier Kakfwi, together with Premiers Okalik and Duncan, managed to gain the support of fellow Premiers to collectively urge the federal government to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to provide health care to aboriginal people, regardless of whether they reside on or off reserve. They also noted that that health status of aboriginal people continues to lag behind that of non-aboriginal residents, which is unacceptable.

In summary, the Western Premiers' Conference was a success for the Northwest Territories and placed us in an excellent position to continue discussions on energy and climate change at the upcoming Annual Premiers' Conference in Halifax this summer. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

Minister's Statement 43-14(5): Western Premiers' Conference
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Tony Whitford

Mahsi, Mr. Antoine. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister responsible for the Department of Finance, Mr. Handley.

Minister's Statement 44-14(5): Corporate Income Tax Changes
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Joe Handley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, one of the goals this Legislature set for itself two years ago was the creation of a healthy and diversified economy. We wanted to see more businesses starting up and more businesses locating in the Northwest Territories. To keep our economy healthy, and to encourage businesses to grow and to create jobs, our tax regime must be competitive.

The Northwest Territories has long maintained a very competitive tax environment, with both personal and corporate tax rates among the lowest in Canada. These competitive rates have helped us attract individuals and businesses to the North. In fact, our competitive corporate tax rates have, in the last two years, resulted in several large revenue gains. These corporate tax revenues have allowed this government to make important investments in programs and infrastructure that would not otherwise have been possible.

Recently, however, a number of provinces and territories have announced significant reductions in their personal and corporate income tax rates. These changes have reduced the NWT's overall competitiveness.

In the Budget Address last February, I announced changes to the personal income tax system that lowered taxes for all NWT residents. Effective this July, NWT taxpayers will see these changes reflected in their payroll deductions.

I also indicated in February that this government would be monitoring the changes made by other provinces and territories in order to keep our tax structure competitive. Our position, relative to other jurisdictions, could have negative effects on our tax base, as companies look to do business where the tax climate is most favourable. Even existing businesses may re-examine their corporate structures to minimize their tax liability.

Mr. Speaker, I am announcing today our government's intention to make changes to the NWT corporate income tax regime. If the Legislative Assembly agrees, effective July 1, 2002:

The general corporate income tax rate will be reduced from 14 percent to 12 percent, that is a reduction of 14 percent in tax payable; and

The "small business" rate, that is, the rate applicable to the first $200,000 in income of Canadian-controlled private corporations, will be reduced from 5 percent to 4 percent. This represents a reduction of 20 percent in the small business tax rate.

The legislation required to enact these changes will be introduced later this session. We will be looking for an early indication of Members' response to this proposed change, in order to be able to confirm the effective date with the federal government, who administer the corporate income tax on our behalf.

These changes will send a message, Mr. Speaker, that the Northwest Territories welcomes businesses that want to locate here, to create jobs here, and to contribute to our bright economic future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

-- Applause

Minister's Statement 44-14(5): Corporate Income Tax Changes
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Handley. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Deputy Premier, Mr. Antoine.

Minister's Statement 45-14(5): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Stephen Kakfwi will be absent from the House for today, tomorrow and Thursday to attend meetings in Ottawa regarding the Federal Infrastructure Program funding.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that, regrettably, the Honourable Jake Ootes will be absent from the House for the duration of this sitting. As you are aware, Minister Ootes is currently recuperating from coronary bypass surgery. His doctors have termed the surgery successful, are pleased with his progress and have placed him on a cardiac recovery program. I would also like to pass along a sincere thank you from Mr. Ootes to the medical staff for their excellent care and to all those who sent flowers, get well cards, personal notes and books. As well, I would like to extend his appreciation to all those who came to visit him in the hospital, but especially to his wife, Margaret, and son, Luke, for all their personal care, concern and love. On behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories, I would like to wish Mr. Ootes a speedy recovery.

Finally, I would like to advise the House that the Honourable Joe Handley will be acting Minister of Education, Culture and Employment until Mr. Ootes is fully able to return to his duties. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 45-14(5): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 696

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Mahsi, Mr. Antoine. Indeed, the House wishes Mr. Ootes a speedy recovery. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Hay River North, Mr. Delorey.

Selective Application Of The Business Incentive Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Paul Delorey Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in this House with yourself and the rest of my colleagues as we continue the Fifth Session of this 14th Legislative Assembly. Mr. Speaker, I had planned to make a statement full of good news and events that have taken place in Hay River. However, because of a situation that is unfolding as we speak, I feel it is imperative that I voice my concerns.

The issue I am referring to, Mr. Speaker, is the Business Incentive Policy and this government's intentions of cancelling the BIP in order to bring the construction costs of the correctional centre here in Yellowknife in line with projected estimates.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to say that there are no problems with the BIP policy or that changes are not necessary. I might go as far as to say, Mr. Speaker, that the time may have come to do away with the BIP. The problem that I have with this situation is process.

This government should have learned by now that when they make decisions in isolation, with no input from impacted groups or all Members of this House, then they are guaranteed to receive nothing but a negative response from all concerned.

It is very frustrating, Mr. Speaker, when as a Member of this government, I get questioned about a major decision that has been made on such a big issue as cancelling the BIP and the people who are asking the questions know more about it than I do, simply because I happened to miss a radio news broadcast.

There are many reasons as to why this project's costs are in a runaway mode. Mr. Speaker, it is time to look at how this project was designed from day one and why the decision was made to build it in Yellowknife. It certainly was not from a cost-saving point of view. In my mind, it is another indication that the vacuum was in full operation.

It has been mentioned by some, Mr. Speaker, that living conditions for inmates in this facility will be far more glamorous than what most of our law-abiding citizens can afford. It will be full of recreational equipment that most of our communities can only dream about. Mr. Speaker, there is far more wrong with this project than what cancelling the BIP can rectify. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I say this is not the time to cancel the BIP.

I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that if there are huge problems with this project, then maybe the government should get rid of the project manager and take control of this project and use the same approach that the Minister of Education used in Hay River when we tried to get changes made to the Princess Alexandra School project to better meet the needs of the community. His answer, Mr. Speaker, "You can make all the changes you want, but there is no more money." Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and happy birthday to you.

-- Applause

Selective Application Of The Business Incentive Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Tony Whitford

I knew there was a reason I let you run over your time, Mr. Delorey. Thank you, Mr. Delorey. Item 3, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Range Lake, Ms. Lee.

Suspension Of The Business Incentive Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 697

Sandy Lee Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, since this government, without any notice or consultation with the Members from this side of this House, unilaterally decided to suspend the BIP policy on the construction of the new jail in Yellowknife, we have been inundated with phone calls and letters from an outraged public. The general consensus is that this decision seems to have been a simple knee-jerk reaction to a very complex problem, which will not do much to address the cost overrun, but add many more serious problems in the process.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that this government must avoid further damage and embarrassment, reverse this decision immediately and work with the industry representatives to find better ways out of this situation.

Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to understand what the rationale of this decision is. I have to wonder what kind of debate Cabinet went through when making this decision. I wonder if Cabinet really thought about the wide implications of this decision. Have they thought about the damage and the message they are sending, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker, this government, from the Premier on down, has spent the last number of years convincing mega resource companies that they must engage in northern hiring and northern purchasing because it has been saying it is good for the North and we want to maximize the benefits that resource development will give to our people. The companies have agreed to do impact benefit agreements on this basis even though, Mr. Speaker, in many cases, this drives the cost of doing business in the North.

They have had little choice but to comply with the government's position, but apparently, this is not the principle the government has to live under. With this BIP flip-flop, how can this government expect to have any legitimacy anymore to take this position, Mr. Speaker? How can it have the moral ground to ask for this from the industry after this decision?

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware that the economy is on a high and there are not as many bidders on some of these contracts, but these times come in between very lean times. We know this is how our economy works. It has a lot of ups and downs and we should not lose sight of that. Our northern contractors maintain their businesses and keep their employees in the North through these lean times while waiting for the boom times. Could the government not come up with better ways to deal with this situation other than exempting themselves?

Suspension Of The Business Incentive Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Tony Whitford

Your time is up, Ms. Lee. Ms. Lee.

Suspension Of The Business Incentive Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Sandy Lee Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Suspension Of The Business Incentive Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you, Ms. Lee. The honourable Member is seeking unanimous consent to conclude her Member's statement. Are there any nays? There are no nays, Ms. Lee. You may conclude your statement.