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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Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 530

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Braden. To the motion. The honourable Member for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty.

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 530

Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker...(English not provided)

Mr. Speaker, just to summarize what I've said in the Tlicho language, this bridge that we are talking about here is also in our backyard, the neighbouring Deh Cho area in Fort Providence. We call it...(English not provided)...in our language.

The bridge has already been announced that it's going to go ahead. We are here debating the accountability, the transparency. It's true that we should have gotten more information, whether it be business and economic impact models that have been requested by colleagues of mine around the table here. We met with the Premier on the briefings. Those types of requests have been laid on the table, but here we are still asking for that information. When we look at the true consensus government, we have government in Cabinet and we also have government here. We are supposed to work side by side and not to surprise us to say the bridge is going ahead.

Loan guarantees; words are said as Members here and we really didn't have a say in the process. That's why this motion was brought forward, to say be transparent. Where is the information you are supposed to be sharing with us? Also be accountable. We are accountable to over 40,000 in the North. We are individuals sitting here around the table. We are also responsible for our own region. If this bridge, the way it sounds it's going ahead anyway, how can we explain to our people, how can I explain to the Tlicho region, 3,000 people, that it's going ahead? They may be happy because it's in our backyard but, at the same time, there are others in the region that we have to take care of too.

Mr. Speaker, then again, reflecting back on the information that's been requested, that's all we are asking for. The information was requested awhile back and just recently, as well. Personally, I am not against the bridge because it's going to happen anyways.

---Laughter

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear -- and this is just a recommendation but we have to put it on the record -- this is the Government of the Northwest Territories that are pushing things through. They need to have our input. This is a major project. The ceremony is happening on Friday. I am glad to see my chiefs will be coming back from Smith to attend that. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend, but just to make a note that being transparent is all we are asking for from this government. The next government needs to consider that as well; whoever that may be in the next government. It's a consensus government, so let's work together government to government to government. Mahsi.

---Applause

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 530

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. To the motion. The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 530

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Most of what I want to say has already been covered by other Members, so I am going to be very brief. To the motion, Mr. Speaker, how we feel as Regular Members on this side of the House is happy about the bridge but demoralized by the process. That's how I feel. I mean who couldn't be happy for Fort Providence and be happy for the bridge? I don't know whether we need the bridge, but you know what? Representing Hay River, I don't really care because Yellowknife is paying for it anyway, ultimately.

---Laughter

Well, that $2 million a year, that is only going to offset inflation and the costs going up. That is not really a bad investment of this government. That can be rationalized. But what I can't rationalize is the attitude on the other side of the House, sitting there, basically thumbing their noses at us over here saying we are doing it, come to the celebration. So, sure, I am going to Fort Providence on Friday. I am going to stand there, I am going to applaud Fort Providence and the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation and we are going to celebrate the bridge, but I'll tell you, we are not feeling all that good about it just by virtue of this process which was not transparent, which did not show respect to the Members of this House and that

government, for that, should be ashamed of themselves. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 531

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. To the motion. Honourable Premier, Mr. Handley.

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

August 22nd, 2007

Page 531

Joe Handley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to speak briefly to the motion. Let's take a little look back at history. You know, we go back, we're either the eighth or the ninth Legislative Assembly to debate whether there should be a bridge or not. It goes back in to the '70s. In the 1970s, $6 million was too much to build the bridge. When it was $50 million, $75 million, it was always too much and today it's too much in people's minds, but we can't keep debating these things forever. We have to move ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I want to provide a little bit of background just on this project and point out that this was proposed in 2002 as a P3 project, a new, novel idea of how we could build a bridge. The model was based on a toll of $6 a tonne in 2002. That has remained the same and that is indexed for inflation. That's always been the agreement based on the consumer price index. Nichols Applied Management did an economic analysis in 2002 and updated it in 2003. A copy of that was provided to Members in the 14th Assembly and again in the 15th Assembly it was provided to everyone. The economic analysis focused on the impact of the bridge on the cost of living and compared the cost of the toll against the estimated savings of the bridge versus the current operation of a ferry and an ice crossing. The overall cost of the bridge was never looked at as a factor in determining the impact on the cost of living. It's always been based on the toll and we have remained consistent with that.

Let me say that the government, I did, I was there, and the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation did a briefing to Members on July the 12th. We went through the economic models. Andrew Gamble led us through that. We looked at the numbers from every which way, we reviewed the financial impact, the costs estimate, you talked about the changes in interest rates, the potential of other projects like the hydro development and the possible Bathurst Inlet port. We talked about all that on July 12th.

Mr. Speaker, the one thing that has remained constant throughout this whole debate, right up to the last briefing with Members on July the 12th, was the fact that this is based on a toll per tonne at $6 and adjusted for inflation. Mr. Speaker, the economic analysis, if you think back, go look back at your copy of the report that was done and given to you, you will find that that report shows that all vehicles, private and commercial, would be dollars ahead with the bridge rather than with a ferry or an ice crossing. In fact, it shows that the savings would be greatest for those who use the ferry and somewhat less for those that did the ice crossing. That was all shown.

Mr. Speaker, the communities that benefit most are the communities north of the Mackenzie River. Not just Yellowknife, but also Behchoko, Fort Providence and I would say, and I don't recall, but the report, I believe also looked at the communities that have their supplies, their goods, their people flown in from the Yellowknife Airport to somewhere on this side. The facts are, for the consumers, the savings from this project outweigh the costs. That was true in 2002; it's true again. Look at the reports that you have, think back on the July 12th briefing that you had with the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation and ourselves.

Companies have approached us because we're running into a crisis, and I mentioned it once before, that last year we had to shut the ferry down because of low water, temperatures are changing. Companies are coming to us now saying, can we run the ferry for 24 hours a day to deal with some of the backlog of traffic that they have today and they anticipate peaking in October? Those are all reasons why we need to move ahead with this. Even if we set aside the tolls, the savings to anybody who lives on this side of the river is great.

Mr. Speaker, some Members have asked about the urgency; I've heard Members here, I've listened carefully, they're talking about the urgency of moving on with this. It's true that the price of the bridge has increased substantially. If we had been able to move ahead quickly with it in 2002-2003, we were looking at about a $75 million bridge where today we're looking at a total cost of somewhere around $150 million; the contract being a good piece of that, but not all of it. Steel prices are going up; other goods and services in Western Canada are going up. In fact, globally we're seeing the same thing happen. There's no easy or quick turnaround. That's predicted with China, with India, with other places that are big on demand.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the investment by the GNWT of another $2 million a year to make this project move ahead now is a good investment. We've got additional revenues from the federal government and this is going to be an investment that in two, three, five, 10 years after the bridge was built we can say that this is the best decision we've ever made. We would have said that in the 1970s if the people had built the bridge at that time. We would have said it in 1980s, 1990s, we could have said it in 2002 if we had built the bridge then at the price of it those days. We'll say the same thing five years from now.

It should also be noted that we are receiving significant financial federal funding increase over the next while. We'll soon be signing a framework agreement with the federal government on Building Canada, the infrastructure money. There is additional revenue that we are receiving. It may not be tied directly to the bridge, but it's there.

Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to point out that we have come to an arrangement, come to a deal. We haven't signed a contract yet, there's still some paperwork to be done with Atcon Group out of New Brunswick who have stepped forward and offered to build the bridge for a guaranteed maximum price. This is not a management or a cost plus project at all, but it is for a guaranteed price, something which is a big step and I think a big win for us.

Mr. Speaker, in my mind, there's no reason to defer the bridge. Members may feel they need more information. I'd refer you back to the information given to you, I'd refer you back to the notes, I'll give you another copy if you want of the information that's been provided to you. There will always be questions, I'm sure, in people's minds about it, but I don't think you'd ever build a project like this without having some uneasiness about whether or not it is going to come in at the prices that we're voting, and with that guaranteed maximum price I think we've got as much assurance as we can.

A further delay is only going to add uncertainty and add more cost. It could easily kill this project and I think destroy the NWT's credibility. I think we have to stop acting like we're a little branch of the Department of Indian Affairs and the federal government and act like a government, make these decisions. We have to build infrastructure, we know we have to do it and we can't be always going hand out to the federal government. Let's make our own decisions here in this Legislative Assembly and be responsible.

The bridge across the Mackenzie would not only change the physical landscape, but I think symbolizes a lot of change in the political and the economic landscape in the Northwest Territories. This project, along with our work to promote other large transportation infrastructure projects like the Mackenzie Valley highway and the road to Tuk are critical in building a strong and prosperous territory. I'd take the same approach to those projects as I did with the Deh Cho Bridge and I hope the next government does the same thing, just keeps promoting that we need to build infrastructure and we have to get on with it.

So, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Members' comments. I've listened carefully. I understand what you're saying. The Cabinet will not be voting on this motion. It's a recommendation to us and I appreciate the comments and the positions taken by all of the Members. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 532

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Handley. I'll allow the mover of the motion to pose a debate on the motion. Mr. Ramsay.

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 532

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Premier for his comments. I also thank the Members who spoke in favour of the motion that we have before us today. I just wanted to close with saying a few more things.

I know the Premier spoke of making decisions as a territory and being accountable. That's all fine and good, Mr. Speaker, but at no moment in time were Members of this House, Regular Members, part of the decision-making process to spend the additional $2 million, and that, to me, is the fundamental problem that I have with the bridge project. That was a unilateral decision by Cabinet to go ahead and rely on that five-year-old piece of legislation to negotiate a deal. Like I said the other day, nowhere in the Deh Cho Bridge Act does it say build a bridge, Government, at any price. I think if the price has doubled, there should be an obligation on the government to come back and ask Members if they feel it's necessary to spend that additional money that's going to impact the governments for the next 35 years on the bridge project. We've never had that discussion. We've never had a vote on that. The government never brought that issue back here. We've never had a debate on whether or not we should spend $2 million more.

Mr. Speaker, that speaks again to the accountability and the transparency. How am I going to explain to my constituents, many of whom want to see a bridge built, I want to see a bridge built across the Mackenzie River, but not at any price and I want to know how it is that the government can make a decision without including us in the decision. How am I going to explain to my constituents how it is the government got into a deal with the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation to build a bridge for $150 million, charge tolls of $6.75 a tonne, which will be more in 2010, without, and I repeat, without going back to the stakeholders in the North Slave region as they did in 2002? The parameters have changed. Make no mistake about that. Things are much different five years later. The consultation wasn't done. I know Mr. Braden spoke of a press conference and I believe it was Mr. Albert Lafferty from Fort Providence spoke of the more people that understand this project, the more they will support it. I think a quote like that goes a long way, Mr. Speaker. The more people understand what is going on, the more they will support it. I firmly do believe that.

We haven't heard whether in fact the elders in Fort Providence are happy what the environmental impact on the river might be with a bridge across it, but we haven't seen that level of detail. We haven't been able to ask those questions. Again, Mr. Speaker, if I could, where is the economic modelling, where is the economic modelling on the Deh Cho Bridge project? The Premier says it's the same as 2002, you just plug in new numbers. The tolls are going up, it's $150 million and he expects us to believe it. He expects us to believe it. Show us the proof. That's all we want, that's all I want. I want to be able to tell my constituents the Premier is quick to say the cost of living will not go up in the North Slave region. I beg to differ with the Premier on that assertion that the cost of living will not increase here in the North Slave region with this bridge being built. They have yet to prove that, Mr. Speaker.

So I think the government should come clean on an economic benefit analysis on this bridge before it's too late, and too late is 48 hours from now, Mr. Speaker. Somebody should be paying attention. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Laughter

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 532

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Motion is on the floor. Motion is in order. All those in favour of the motion? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

---Applause

Speaker's Ruling
Item 17: Motions

Page 532

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Motions. By the authority given me as Speaker by Motion 9-15(6), I hereby authorize the House to sit beyond the daily hour of adjournment to consider the business before the House. Motions. The honourable Member from Great Slave, Mr. Braden.

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 532

Bill Braden Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

WHEREAS the past several years have been a difficult, but ultimately transformative time for the Workers' Compensation Board, with the recent appointment of a new president, the conclusion of an in-depth performance review by the Auditor General of Canada, the development of a bill to replace the 30-year-old Workers' Compensation Act, and the rendering of court decisions which have declared some of the board's practices flawed;

AND WHEREAS the Workers' Compensation Board has, on balance, maintained a sound financial base and stable premiums;

AND WHEREAS the Workers' Compensation Board faces increasing challenges with the acceleration of resource development in both the mining and hydrocarbon sectors;

AND WHEREAS the Governance Council, under Mr. Denny Rodgers' chairmanship, has demonstrated stability and consistency in their mandate as stewards of the Workers' Compensation Board;

AND WHEREAS consistency and continuity are needed to ensure that the work begun and changes made by the Governance Council are advanced in a positive manner, particularly through the implementation of the action plan to address the recommendations of the Auditor General and the new Workers' Compensation Act;

AND WHEREAS Mr. Rodgers' term as chair of the Governance Council is set to expire October 12, 2007;

AND WHEREAS the 15th Assembly will be dissolved on August 31, 2007;

AND WHEREAS, as a general principle, appointments to positions as significant as chair of the Governance Council of the Workers' Compensation Board should not be revisited during an election period when there are no Regular Members for Ministers to account to;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River South, that this Legislative Assembly strongly recommends the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board extend Mr. Denny Rodgers' appointment as chair of the Governance Council to April 12, 2008.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 533

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Braden. Motion is on the floor. Motion is in order. To the motion. The honourable Member from Great Slave, Mr. Braden.

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 533

Bill Braden Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is unusual, Mr. Speaker, that discussions about the appointment or proposed consideration of any individual be considered on the floor of the Assembly. This is something that is normally handled through another selection and screening and appointment processes. But while it is unusual to bring it in, Mr. Speaker, I would like to suggest that it is an unusual circumstance that this Assembly, and I believe the Workers' Compensation Board, finds itself in.

As the motion referenced, there have been a number of major shifts and transformations and transitions undertaken and underway within the Governance Council and within the board itself.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that Members here have noticed and have been very impressed with and pleased with under the chairmanship of Mr. Rodgers is that the Governance Council has really weathered some fairly stormy seas in the last couple of years and it has done so, I think, with a degree of confidence and certainty that gives us a lot of optimism, Mr. Speaker, for the future of the WCB as it continues to go through these transitions. We believe that it's really important at this time that we did not want to leave the continuance of this kind of leadership uncertain. While it is, as I say, unusual for this kind of thing to come before the Assembly in this fashion, that it was warranted, it was merited that we send a signal of confidence to our Cabinet colleagues, the Minister responsible as well as to our sister Assembly in Nunavut with who we share the mandate for the WCB. We believe that the organization has shown itself to be in good hands under Mr. Rodgers' chairmanship and that we would really like to see this continue. Therefore, the recommendation was to extend his appointment, which expires in October, until next April, for a six-month period I believe it is, at which time the next Assembly of the Northwest Territories can get its feet on the ground and consider the formal and extended reappointment of Mr. Rodgers to this organization. So it is a signal of confidence in the leadership that we know is there. I've spoke to Mr. Rodgers myself, I know that he is ready to undertake this for another term. Considering the complexity and the significance of this work, I don't think there are too many people in the NWT who are ready to undertake it. When you have somebody as competent as Mr. Rodgers and is willing to carry on, I say let's give him that endorsement and make sure he continues to be the leader of the Governance Council for the next appropriate term, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 533

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Braden. To the motion. The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried
Item 17: Motions

Page 533

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, let me say this in one sentence: new legislation, new Minister, new government, new CEO. We need stability, continuity, I support the motion. Thank you.