This is page numbers 545 - 573 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 assembly.

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Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 556

Michael McLeod Deh Cho

So it's really been interesting sitting next to him and I wish him all the best.

Mr. Dent is also leaving us and he's been really a great person to ask for advice on rules and some of the history and I'm sure we're all going to miss his expert little opinions on a lot of things. Although, I've been finding out over the years that some of the rules that he's been telling me I had to follow were not always correct and were sometimes in his favour. So I wish him all the best.

Mr. Speaker, our Premier is also moving on and I really want to thank him for setting a work ethic that I've tried to follow over the years. I've never been able to beat him to work, even though I've tried to come in earlier and he's got a half-hour drive and he's always here, he has the coffee on and he's provided some very good advice for me that I really appreciate and I want to thank him.

I also want to wish Mr. Braden the best of luck. I didn't always like his questioning and his line of questioning, but Mr. Braden has always been very sincere and very respectful and I really appreciate that and I want to wish him the best of luck.

Everybody else here, I'd like to also wish you all the best and hope you do well on your campaigns. Thank you.

---Applause

Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Members' statements. The honourable Member from Weledeh, Mr. Handley.

Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 556

Joe Handley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wasn't going to say anything today either because I'm not good at saying goodbye, but I, like Mr. McLeod, didn't want to be the odd man out and this would be pretty obvious, especially after he said that.

---Laughter

Mr. Speaker, almost eight years ago I decided to leave my job as a deputy minister after 14 years and run for office to represent Weledeh. I used to joke, I said I did it because I wanted the food, because I heard that these people ate shrimp and all sorts of things in here.

---Laughter

So I found out that that really wasn't worthwhile. So I said, well, I did it because I wanted to make a difference in the world and that seemed kind of lofty and pretentious. So I gave that one up.

You know, as people talked to me in Weledeh and said, well, why do you want to run, we think you should run, but why do you want to, and I said, well, because I enjoy working with people. Certainly to me the most satisfying part of this job has been when you're able to help a person. It's something as simple as helping somebody to get their son's employment straightened out and you can tell that they're very thankful. Those things are more important to me than is building a bridge or something, and I hope to be remembered for those kind of things where we made a difference to I'll say the little people that we all represent and I hope we can continue to do that in future governments. That's what government is about.

Mr. Speaker, I think the hardest part for me has been when you're not able to help people, you just have to say no. That's hard, especially when it may seem small to us but it's really important to someone. Again, it may be a very small thing, but that's the hardest part. The second hardest part, of course, is we all have had tough days and when you have to open a newspaper and you know it's not good, maybe oh my God, that's got to be one of the toughest pieces of this job. Certainly the nicest part is when you're able to anticipate it's going to be good news and then you get fooled.

I want to thank everybody here. I want to thank all of you, Mr. Braden, Mr. Dent, everybody, the people who are not running again, Mr. Bell, but those who are coming back as well. You've been great people to work for and the thing that I've appreciated most in here is the honesty and the openness with which people ask questions, make statements and so on. I believe that what you say is what you mean and I've certainly tried to operate...

Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 557

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Mr. Handley, your time for Member's statements has expired.

Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

August 23rd, 2007

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Joe Handley Weledeh

Can I seek consent to conclude my statement? Thank you.

Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Paul Delorey

The Member is seeking unanimous consent to conclude his statement. Are there any nays? There are no nays. You may conclude your statement, Mr. Handley.

Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Joe Handley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the leaders across the Territories that I've had the pleasure of working with, and that's everybody from chiefs and mayors and so on, to Nellie, to Fred, to Frank, to all the people up and down the valley and in Yellowknife, Mayor Van Tighem and everyone.

I want to thank the people in Weledeh in particular. I hope I have not disappointed you over the past eight years. I think there's been great improvements in the very diverse, very dynamic and very vibrant constituency.

My friends; my old friend Michel Paper, I have to mention him. He's a great man and he's a man I've always enjoyed meeting with and talking to. Particularly Hilda. Hilda has been in this Legislative Assembly longer than any other person and I know she's going to be staying on because lots of people will want her to work with them because she's a great person and a great source of advice to Rick, to Lisa, to the others who have worked with me.

And last of all to my wife, Theresa. I don't know what it is going to be like if I hang around the house too much. I think she will get pretty tired of me pretty fast. She will be wanting me to get out of there and go get a job or something. To her, I look forward to the days that we have to spend together and do stuff around the house and so on, or whatever we are going to be doing. We will see how that works out.

---Laughter

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Appreciation And Best Wishes
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Handley. The Chair has noticed that Members on my right have been out of making Members' statements for quite awhile because they have no idea what two and a half minutes is.

---Laughter

I guess I will settle for being the odd man out. Thank you, Members. Reports of standing and special committees. The honourable Member for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty.

Committee Report 7-15(6): Report On Transitional Matters
Item 4: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 557

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Introduction

Committee Report 7-15(6): Report On Transitional Matters
Item 4: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight is pleased to present its Report on Transitional Matters. As the 15th Assembly draws to a close, this report captures our recommendation for improvements to the committee processes as well as our thoughts on several ongoing and emergency issues we expect or require attention of the next Assembly.

Committee Processes

Mr. Speaker, many people think of session as the time when Members of the Legislative Assembly do most of their work. However, much of the detail, discussion and decision-making that results in changes to legislation, policies, programs and spending happens in standing committee meetings. Throughout this Assembly, Members have been concerned that many of our constituents seem unaware of the work that committees do, in particular the opportunities they have to influence their work through written submissions and presentations at public hearings.

One of the major obstacles to public awareness and understanding the work of standing committees is that so many of our meetings are held behind closed doors. There are times when information must remain confidential; the meetings must, therefore, take place in camera. However, there have been many discussions when committees have met with Ministers to receive briefings or updates that could easily have taken place in public.

The committee believes it is time that closed door meetings are made the exception rather than the rule. We respectfully recommend that the 16th Assembly establish at the outset a convention that all meetings of standing committees be open to the public unless the committee is satisfied that there is a compelling reason to hold

meetings in camera. The details of the convention should be developed and agreed to by both the Regular Members and Cabinet.

We also believe that more focussed effort is required to promote public awareness and understanding the role of the committees. The soon-to-be launch of the legislative broadcasting system will provide an excellent tool to achieve this as it has the capacity to bring committee meetings as well as formal sessions to the television and people across the Northwest Territories. We respectfully recommend that the 16th Assembly take full advantage of the new broadcast system in order to make committee meetings accessible to all NWT communities.

---Applause

Ongoing And Emerging Issues

Legislative Agenda

Early in the 15th Assembly term, Members agreed to strive for completion of a number of legislative items. Several were achieved. For example, the new Liquor Act, the Tourism Act, the Northwest Territories Hydro Corporation Act, the Workers' Compensation Act and the Public Health Act, as well as substantial amendments to the Child and Family Services Act. However, the government failed to bring several others forward despite consistent probing from committees. These include: the Species at Risk Act, the Wildlife Act, the Planning Act, the Residential Tenancy Act, and amendments to the Maintenance Enforcement Act. We encourage the next Assembly to keep these initiatives as priorities and introduce these items early in the term.

Review Of Boards And Agencies

During the 15th Assembly, a joint Cabinet and AOC Working Group completed a tremendous amount of data, compilation of and policy work towards better coordination of our government's 112 assorted boards and agencies. Further progress on this initiative stalled because the government chose not to allocate the recommended resources. Given the efficiencies that can be realized through better administration of boards and agencies, we encourage the next Assembly to pursue this issue at the earliest opportunity.

Support For Front-line Agencies

Throughout our term, we have heard repeated concerns from front line agencies that they are near or have reached a crisis point as a result of the inadequacy of government support. While some improvements have been made over the life of this Assembly, particularly in the area of multi-year funding, these improvements are not consistent across all the departments and are not adequate to ensure continued operation of many agencies the government depends on to deliver essential services. We expect that this will continue to be a critical issue for the 16th Assembly.

Loan Guarantees

Mr. Speaker, the committee has had several concerns for the provision and management of loan guarantees by the government, most recently for the diamond manufacturing companies and the Deh Cho Bridge project. Concerns centre on how much risk the government undertakes with taxpayers' money in granting these guarantees as in the case of the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation and conversely how it goes about protecting its exposures as in the case of Arslanian Cutting Works. Regular Members received advanced notification of loan guarantees but do not have an opportunity to vote on them. We would encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to approach proposed loan guarantees with caution and to ensure they hold the government accountable for its handling of them.

Corporation Capital Planning And "Carry-overs"

Mr. Speaker, the committee has observed a disturbing potentially crippling trend of soaring cost overruns and delays on capital projects. This makes prioritizing and decision-making about infrastructure investment extremely difficult. The budget voted by the Assembly often bears little resemblance to what is actually spent over the course of the fiscal year.

A consequence of this is that projects are often delayed or extended. This results in carry-overs or previously approved projects have to be re-approved by the Assembly; over $70 million in 2007-08. The greater impact, however, is for staff that must handle ever increasing workloads.

We encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to press the government to develop a new corporate capital planning process that demands more accurate costs and time estimates to allow the Legislative Assembly to make better informed decisions about infrastructure investments and priorities. A review of the causes and consequences of carry-overs would also insist in more efficient project completion.

Infrastructure Projects

At the time of this report, two massive infrastructure projects requiring some level of government investment are being contemplated: the expansion of the Taltson hydroelectric facility and the construction of the Deh Cho Bridge. We would encourage that Regular Members of the next Assembly to press the government to provide a cost-benefit analysis business cases for these projects before endorsing any further investment of public dollars.

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would like to hand it over to Mr. Braden to continue with the report. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Report 7-15(6): Report On Transitional Matters
Item 4: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 558

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. The honourable Member for Great Slave, Mr. Braden.Environment And Sustainable Development

Committee Report 7-15(6): Report On Transitional Matters
Item 4: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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Bill Braden Great Slave

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker and Mr. Lafferty. The committee expects that the environment and sustainability will be some of the leading concerns of the 16th Assembly as resource development continues to grow within the NWT, demand for water by upstream industries increases and the impacts of climate change continue. Earlier this year, committee members initiated formal motions to recognize water as a human right, to recommend the government adopt a comprehensive strategy to address climate change and the important work of the Inuvik Caribou Summit. We encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to pursue these issues with the government.

Implementation Of Land Claims Agreements

The Government of the Northwest Territories has many outstanding obligations under land claims agreements, some dating as far back as the Inuvialuit Final Agreement which was signed over 20 years ago in 1984. We strongly encourage the next Assembly to make it a priority to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the government's outstanding land claim obligations and to develop a firm plan and timeline for fulfilling these responsibilities.

NWT Housing Corporation Audit

In early 2006, Mr. Speaker, committee members initiated a request for the Auditor General of Canada to conduct a performance audit of the NWT Housing Corporation. A request was made as a result of several serious concerns with the corporation, many of which were documented in our 2006 Report on Pre-budget Consultations. Unfortunately, the audit was not completed during our term. However, we expect the report will be submitted early in the life of the next Assembly. We have found the reports of the Auditor General to be insightful and extremely useful in pointing to areas requiring action and hope that Regular Members of the next Assembly will find likewise.

Whistleblower Protection

At the committee's urging, the Department of Human Resources has recently issued a public discussion paper to explore the options for implementing whistleblower protection. We encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to pursue this matter with the government to ensure the work on this issue progresses and public consultations are undertaken.

Review Of Power Rates And Subsidies

Over our term, Mr. Speaker, we have seen both increases in power rates and continuous unsustainable growth in a Territorial Power Subsidy Program. A review of rates and subsidies by the government is underway. We expect that this matter will require the attention of the 16th Assembly early in its mandate.

Auditor General Investigations

Mr. Speaker, further to Auditor General investigations, the Auditor General for Canada is also the auditor for all GNWT accounts. The Auditor General's office is also well versed in audits and investigations of other matters as demonstrated, for example, by its 2006 audit of the Workers' Compensation Board. However, in any given four-year term of the Assembly, perhaps only two of these in-depth audits can be undertaken. Committees of the 16th Assembly might carefully consider which departments or agencies will benefit from compliance, performance and value-for-money audits by our reviews by the Auditor General.

Further, Mr. Speaker, provinces and the federal government are also trending toward automatic five-year performance and compliance audits, especially of their Crown corporations in addition to the annual fiscal audits. With the exception of the NWT Power Corporation, which is covered under the Public Utilities Act, no NWT Crown corporation is subject to this kind of review. It will be well worth considering.

Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy

Every year, Mr. Speaker, the committee meets with the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review her annual reports and has made recommendations to the government as a result of these meetings. The government has yet to move on several of these recommendations, some of which date back to the 14th Assembly. Of particular concern to committee are the gaps in information in privacy legislation for community governments and for the local private sector. The committee encourages Regular Members of the next Assembly to pursue these and other information and privacy issues with the government to ensure they are addressed.

Addictions

Throughout our mandate, this committee has voiced concerns about the need to direct more resources to the prevention and treatment of addictions. Earlier this year, committee members initiated a motion recommending the government implement a strategy to denormalize alcohol abuse, building on the success of its tobacco action plan. The need for such a strategy was most recently confirmed for us as we undertook public consultations throughout the NWT on the Liquor Act and again heard firsthand about the devastating impact of alcohol abuse on individuals, families and communities. We encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to press the government to make the denormalization of alcohol abuse a strategic priority.

Mr. Speaker, to conclude the committee's report, I will return it to the chair, Mr. Lafferty. Thank you.

Committee Report 7-15(6): Report On Transitional Matters
Item 4: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Conclusion

Committee Report 7-15(6): Report On Transitional Matters
Item 4: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this concludes the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight Report on Transitional Matters. We wish the members of committees of the 16th Assembly success in tackling the issues and meeting the challenges they will face during their term in their service to the people of the Northwest Territories.

Motion To Receive And Adopt Committee Report 7-15(6), Carried
Item 4: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 559

Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Great Slave, that Committee Report 7-15(6) be received and adopted. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.