This is page numbers 495 - 544 of the Hansard for the 15th Assembly, 6th 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 going.

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Tabled Document 62-15(6): Government Of The Northwest Territories Contracts Over $5,000 Report: Year-to Date Of The Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 2007
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

August 22nd, 2007

Page 527

Brendan Bell Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following document entitled Government of the Northwest Territories Contracts Over $5,000 Report: Year-to-Date of the Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 2007. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 62-15(6): Government Of The Northwest Territories Contracts Over $5,000 Report: Year-to Date Of The Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 2007
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Bell. Tabling of documents. The honourable Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs, Mr. McLeod.

Tabled Document 63-15(6): Community Development Programs Annual Report 2006-2007
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

Michael McLeod Deh Cho

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following document entitled Community Development Programs Annual Report 2006-2007. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 64-15(6): Legislative Assembly Capital Accommodation Allowance October 1, 2003 To June 30, 2007 Audit Report
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Tabling of documents. I wish to table the Audit Report prepared by the GNWT's Audit Bureau on the Legislative Assembly Capital Accommodation Allowance October 1, 2003 to June 30, 2007. Tabling of documents. Notices of motion. Motions. The honourable Member for Kam Lake, Mr. Ramsay.

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 527

David Ramsay Kam Lake

WHEREAS a Deh Cho Bridge would be a desirable, permanent road link in the NWT's transportation infrastructure;

AND WHEREAS considerable public expense and effort has been invested in creating a public private partnership with the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation to complete the project;

AND WHEREAS the projected cost of the bridge has escalated from $60 million to $150 million within four years;

AND WHEREAS substantial public funds, as well as toll fees, will be required for 35 years to pay for the project;

AND WHEREAS the government has not disclosed business and economic impact models for the current project, in contrast with broad disclosure made in 2003;

AND WHEREAS other transportation and energy projects, namely the Bathurst Inlet port/road project, the Taltson River hydro expansion, may have significant impacts on the economic viability of the project;

AND WHEREAS the government has said a toll of $6 per tonne in 2002 dollars is constant, but has not disclosed rates of inflation that will be assessed to the toll fee;

AND WHEREAS significant investment in other infrastructure is anticipated and desirable, yet no current macroeconomic feasibility for the bridge project has been demonstrated;

AND WHEREAS there may be liabilities associated with the project as a result of contracting procedures used;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada has not committed to contribute to the Deh Cho Bridge project;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Sahtu, that this Legislative Assembly strongly recommends the GNWT undertake and disclose updated economic modelling showing the Deh Cho Bridge project's anticipated socio-economic impact and benefits, as it did in 2003;

AND FURTHER that this Legislative Assembly strongly recommends the GNWT defer signing any further agreements concerning the Deh Cho Bridge until after the 16th Assembly is in office.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 528

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. The motion is on the floor. The motion is in order. To the motion. The honourable Member for Kam Lake, Mr. Ramsay.

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 528

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This topic of the Deh Cho Bridge has been a topic that was discussed back in May when we were here. I even brought the subject up three years ago, Mr. Speaker, with the concerns I had over the project at that time.

I want to state, first and foremost, that my opposition to this bridge being built is nothing personal, it's nothing against the community of Fort Providence. I think the community of Fort Providence deserves to have economic development and opportunity. My big issue with this bridge project is the fact that the government has gone ahead based on five-year-old legislation and made some decisions without consulting Regular Members of the House on how that money is going to be spent and what it is going to be used for. The $1.8 million a year that goes into the ice road crossing and the ferry operation at Fort Providence is going to be used on paying for the bridge for the next 35 years. In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, another $2 million indexed for the next 35 years is going to be required to pay for this bridge. Mr. Speaker, that's where my issue is with the government.

At no time, Mr. Speaker, over the last four years has the government had a discussion with Regular Members of this House on that decision to spend the additional $2 million. We did not have a vote on it; we did not have a debate on it. We did not have an opportunity to discuss it whatsoever. We got briefed by the government from time to time on the project. It was we are doing this and we had no opportunity for input in that.

Every time the loan guarantee was increased over the last four years, and it happened on a number of occasions, Mr. Speaker, the government's excuse was we are waiting for federal money to come and help us pay for the Deh Cho Bridge project, to be a partner with the Deh Cho Bridge project. So it was very surprising back in May when the Premier alluded to the fact that the bridge was going to go ahead. He came to committee and said the bridge is going to go ahead. We don't have any federal money, but the bridge is going to go ahead. How are we going to pay for it? We are going to roll that money in, the $1.8 million, plus we are going to spend another $2 million a year on the Deh Cho Bridge.

We talk about consensus government, we talk about trying to get people the information we need to make decisions. In this instance, Mr. Speaker, and again it's nothing personal, but the government failed in its obligation, in my mind, to come back and consult with Regular Members. Not only did it fail to consult with Regular Members, Mr. Speaker, it failed to consult with the same people it consulted with in 2002 and 2003 when the project was anticipated to cost 60 to 70 million dollars and tolls were anywhere between $4.50 and $5 a tonne.

Things have changed tremendously over the past five years, Mr. Speaker. As my colleagues know, the project is now $150 million. Tolls are now going to be $6.75 a tonne. By the time the project is completed in 2010, the tolls will be over $7. The government has been unable to come back to Regular Members and say there won't be an adverse effect to the cost of living to over half of its citizens here in the territory, in Yellowknife, Behchoko and the rest of the North Slave region. I think the government has to deliver on the information. That has been all I have been asking for for the past four months: a similar cost-benefit analysis, as we've done in 2002, on the new numbers.

The government made quite a stir when it launched the macroeconomic policy shop, one that I felt at the time we probably didn't need to hire five more people to study that in an office in the Department of Finance. Mr. Speaker, if I could, I am thinking that this bridge project would have been a perfect opportunity to test the waters on that macroeconomic policy shop. Let them run the numbers. Let them see us spending $150 million on a bridge as something the government should be doing. I know some of that would be offset by tolls, Mr. Speaker, but certainly the government, in the process, should have done much, much better. We just haven't had a chance. To me, that's the bottom line here.

We haven't had a chance to discuss competing infrastructure projects here in the Territories. We know in all our constituencies we have competing demands out there. How does the bridge jump to the front of the queue? How does that $150 million become more important than other projects in the Northwest Territories? We haven't had that type of discussion, Mr. Speaker. We haven't had that level of discussion. That is why the motion is here again today.

This is very similar to the motion I moved in May asking for more information. I know 48 hours from now, a deal will be signed in Fort Providence. The horse is out of the barn, folks. It's gone. The government has made that decision. Like I said the other day, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Premier, for Cabinet and I really want to be able to stand next to them on Friday in Fort Providence. It's a great day for Fort Providence. It's going to be a huge economic opportunity in Fort Providence. For that, that's one good thing that's coming out of this; but the process has been flawed, Mr. Speaker. I don't understand how the government can rely on five-year-old legislation to make decisions that are going to affect governments for the next 35 years without consulting Members of this House.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to comments other Members may have, but this may be too little too late. Again, I want to send the message. I have been consistent all along. All I want is proof and evidence. That's all I want. It's nothing personal. I will leave it at that, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 528

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. To the motion. The honourable Member for Sahtu, Mr. Yakeleya.

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 528

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to say to my colleague in Kam Lake, thank you for this motion and having an opportunity to discuss the motion. Mr. Speaker, we say sacrifice is an ongoing process and not a one-time thing. Mr. Speaker, with the Deh Cho Bridge, it's sacrificing a lot of people in the Northwest Territories to get the bridge in here. It's not a one-time payment of $150 million over 35 years. I think it may be a long, long time. There is some uncertainty about some of the number and creating about the federal government's contribution. They are the biggest stakeholders in this process here in the Northwest Territories and they aren't even at the table in terms of making a strong commitment for infrastructure up the

Mackenzie Valley highway, let alone the Deh Cho Bridge. So the biggest stakeholder hasn't even come to the table.

I wonder if they are going to be down there on Friday along with the Premier's invited guests to be there. We should all be celebrating this process here. We should really be celebrating. Good for the people in Deh Cho and Fort Providence. Good for people in the Northwest Territories. Why is it going to be such a sombre party? Because of some information that has not come over to our side to really have a good, strong economic political debate on this infrastructure here. We are committing our children's future to 35 years of payments and we are making sacrifices. This is not a one-time payment. This is an ongoing process as it says here. All I am asking in this motion of Mr. Ramsay's is that information be disclosed regarding the economic model of this project and the impacts and benefits of this project here. Ground zero is Fort Providence. I don't really hear anything about it positively or strongly on the radio or in newspapers.

I know the Member for Deh Cho is really happy for this project here. I said it's good news and we should be really celebrating. Who is going to be really benefiting out of this project, number one? For me, I have very strong views on it. I think the proposed Mackenzie Valley highway and putting the bridge in the Mackenzie Valley is being left out for whatever reasons. We do not want to get into those areas right now. I would like to see that any other types of signed agreements be deferred to ensure we know what we are getting into with this project here. At least go down to Ottawa and make some calls to get the federal government to come to the table.

Mr. Speaker, when we were briefed on the Deh Cho Bridge, it seemed like it was going along okay. There were certain things that need to happen before we can get solid on some decisions here, Mr. Speaker. Somewhere, somehow, we just need to get up there without some things that weren't quite, I wasn't too comfortable with and some of the other Members, when we talked about some of the infrastructure in our communities. Yet it seems to somewhat have been pitted against the bridge in Bear River. The Bear River Bridge seems to be falling off and all we hear is this red flag. The Deh Cho Bridge seems to have the green light to go ahead.

My colleague here has commented on three months of funding and the federal government in terms of the royalties. I think it's 66 days, $55 million in three months. That's what they are taking out of this beautiful land, this country. Sixty-six days he said. Mr. Speaker, maybe they should be calling that bridge "Route 66 Bridge" in terms of this issue.

I want to say to Members here that I will strongly support this motion here that Mr. Ramsay has put on the floor here. Thank you.

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 529

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Yakeleya. To the motion. The honourable Member for Great Slave, Mr. Braden.

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 529

Bill Braden Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier today I spoke in some detail in my Member's statement about some of the factors that have caused considerable concern about the affordability of the project. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, not based on information I know but information I do not have access to even if it exists, because in this round of business arrangements to actually get this project underway, unlike the process that we all had benefit of four years ago, the government has not repeated to update the same kind of information that was available in extensive reports of this four years ago and this is a great disappointment, Mr. Speaker. As I said, I would really like to endorse this project but I need to be confident in what we are getting into for the next 35 years, which amounts to potentially eight more Legislative Assemblies, if you want to look at it that way, that will still be carrying the can for a project that this government wants to start.

I think it's the kind of thing people in the Northwest Territories, when they are talking about big new ideas or big projects, we have a thirst, hunger, appetite, maybe an addiction for consultation and information. Witness the process we are going through right now with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline almost to the point of exhaustion, but this one, in contrast, we are starved for information that is willingly provided and yet is not before us now.

Mr. Speaker, going through some of the information that was provided back in 2002, I am looking at a press release that was issued on November 15 entitled the MOU, signed for construction for the Deh Cho Bridge. At that time, of course, Premier Handley was the Minister of Transportation and did a really good job of getting the project to this point. I would like to quote from that press release, Mr. Speaker. The release goes on to say that: "The president of the Fort Providence Metis Council and a member of the alliance's bridge committee, Alfred Lafferty, says public consultation is now the most important task facing the alliance." This is November 15th of that year. He said there will be a commercial vehicle toll on the bridge. We need to ensure the people understand the proposal and know that it's a good deal for them. Why don't we have the information now?

The other aspect of this that has been a major...

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 529

The Speaker Paul Delorey

The Member is rising on a point of order. What is your point of order, Mr. Handley?

Point Of Order

Motion 10-15(6): Socio-economic Impacts And Benefits Of The Deh Cho Bridge, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 529

Joe Handley Weledeh

Mr. Speaker, the Member is referring to a document that has not been tabled in the House. I believe that's outside the rules.

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 529

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Handley. I am not aware that that document has been tabled in the House and the rules do state that you are not to refer to documents that have not been tabled in the House. Therefore, I will rule that the Member has a point of order and I will advise the Member not to be quoting from a document that is not before the House. Mr. Braden.

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 529

Bill Braden Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I respect the point of order. A further part of this whole discussion, Mr. Speaker, was that there has been a longstanding expectation and many tantalizing offers or suggestions or hints that Canada would be coming into this, recognizing what a significant piece of infrastructure this is for this region and for Canada. Yet we still do not have a tangible certainty from Canada that it's going to say we do have a responsibility to come into something like this. We do have evidence that this is a good thing for Canada because it is a significant part of the transportation link for

the diamond mines now, Mr. Speaker, that are pouring a big chunk of the $750,000 a day that Canada is getting in taxes and royalties from the Northwest Territories. Why is it so difficult for Canada to appreciate that there is ample evidence that this a good deal? This is a win/win for everybody. If you do the math, you will find out that in just over two months, that revenue and royalty stream would actually pay the $50 million that is generally expected and anticipated that Canada just might come in for.

So in the absence of that kind of guarantee or that kind of certainty from Canada, why are we pushing ahead with this now? The Premier and the Minister of Transportation have told us in meetings with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Transportation, oh, yes, there are national programs that you might quality for, that you are on top of the radar screen for, but we still don't have it. We won't know until at least later on this year, this fall, after the next Assembly is in place, Mr. Speaker. What is the rush to put this on?

The previous Assembly and this Assembly have pushed this along. We have taken prudent steps to negotiate and find out what the deals are. Hopefully we haven't made too much of a mistake, because one company is already challenging some of the negotiations. Mr. Speaker, I really think the prudent thing for this Assembly to do is to sign off on the work that we have done for now, recognize that not enough is in place yet in terms of the knowledge and the information, confidence that the public and the companies who are going to be paying for this for the next 35 years are not there and also the potential. I would like to be optimistic and positive. The potential for Canada to come into this project and in the relatively near future is still there.

We are undertaking a major risk on the part of the economy, the people and the economy of the NWT for quite awhile by coming into this project at this time with the uncertainties that are still out there. I still do want to see this infrastructure done, but I want to see it done in a way that we all know about and we all have confidence about. That's why we have asked, in our motion, for a deferral of this over to the next Legislative Assembly, Mr. Speaker.