This is page numbers 2893 - 2920 of the Hansard for the 16th Assembly, 3rd 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 communities.

Topics

Report of Committee of the Whole
Report of Committee of the Whole

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Krutko. A motion is on the floor. Do we have a seconder on the motion? The honourable Member for Nunakput, Mr. Jacobson.

---Carried

Item 22, third reading of bills. The honourable Minister of Justice, Mr. Lafferty.

Bill 1: An Act To Amend The Historical Resources Act
Third Reading of Bills

Monfwi

Jackson Lafferty Minister of Justice

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Thebacha, that Bill 1, An Act to Amend the Historical Resources Act, be read for the third time. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 1: An Act To Amend The Historical Resources Act
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Bill 1, An Act to Amend the Historical Resources Act has had third reading.

---Carried

The honourable Minister of Justice, Mr. Lafferty.

Bill 3: International Interest In Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act
Third Reading of Bills

Monfwi

Jackson Lafferty Minister of Justice

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Deh Cho, that Bill 3, International Interest in Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act, be read for the third time. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 3: International Interest In Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Bill 3, International Interest in Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act has had third reading.

---Carried

The honourable Minister of Finance, Mr. Miltenberger.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

March 9th, 2009

Thebacha

Michael Miltenberger Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, that Bill 10, Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010, be read for the third time. Thank you.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. A motion is on the floor. The motion is in order. The honourable Member for Weledeh, Mr. Bromley.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I support this bill and the third reading, but I want to raise a note of caution. I think it’s well acknowledged that we’re in a serious financial collapse, at least in the United States, and it appears to be rolling out globally. As a resource extracting economy such as Canada, and to which the Northwest Territories seems to compare, we

are extremely vulnerable to this sort of financial situation. We already know from some of the announcements we’ve heard and that residents are well aware of that the impacts are already being felt here. It’s been about 18 months in the United States that it’s been going and much less than that in Canada. Canada, though, through its better banking and financial regulations and practices may, indeed, be buffered somewhat. But, again, indications are that this is being felt throughout the economy reaching us here.

The Minister of Finance has highlighted in his opening budget address that we are carrying some vulnerability in this area. It’s very difficult to be totally insulated from this, and given our over-weighted reliance on an export economy, the ripple will certainly be felt more and more right here.

What I want to do is really caution this government, of course, encourage them to be very frugal, be very alert and on the lookout for opportunities for savings and increased efficiency, but particularly savings. We don’t know what the impacts yet are on our revenues but they are predicted to be noticeable and they could, in fact, be quite significant. There are opportunities where we can, and we know already from discussions during review of this bill, that there are opportunities.

I want to highlight a couple that we would like to see expenditures go forward and that’s, of course, the Skills Canada one, which we highlighted with the Minister of ECE, and, of course, the milk subsidy which has been raised repeatedly. Those are things that we support going ahead even during these times of recession.

However, when it comes to filling the positions with regard to the Mackenzie Gas Project, which has not been approved yet and so on, we recommend deferring those and other expenditures on that project until such time as, indeed, the Joint Review Panel and the National Energy Board actually approve the project and stipulate the conditions under which it might go forward if approved.

Mr. Speaker, we frequently hear about a lot of spending towards the end of a year and so on and every year seems to be the same. This is actually an opportunity for savings rather than mad expenditures at the end of a year, and I think it would be really smart of us to be aware of that and making sure that those savings are realized, given the possibility of finding ourselves in more financial stress than we are at this moment. Mr. Speaker, I’m very positive, again, with the Cabinet on guard and making sure we capitalize on opportunities for savings and deferred costs that we can come out alright. I just wanted to share those comments. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Bromley. To the motion. The honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Krutko.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, would like to put the government on caution in regard to this budget. I believe that we are spending $1.2 billion, but I think, Mr. Speaker, we have to be aware that we’re not immune to what’s happening around us with the economic downturn and potential of a deficit. I think Members who are still in this House from the 13th Assembly can relate

to what happened in the 13th Assembly, which we

weren’t under this type of situation. Again, because of the dependency on the federal government, we had to cut $130 million because of the deficit we were in. I think that because of that we have seen the effects of programs and services having to do with certain departments, consolidation. I think those days are still out there.

I think as a government we have to be cautious and, more importantly, that we have to realize that there are still certain projects which we are looking at by way of the Taltson project is a $500 million project, and we all know about the Deh Cho Bridge -- $165 million -- capital projects in excess of $100 million. Mr. Speaker, we have to realize that we, as government, are accountable to the public purse and we cannot be seen to be spending for the simple sake of spending.

Just on that, Mr. Speaker, I believe we do have to do what it takes to keep our economies going in our smaller communities and in regard to all communities in the Northwest Territories. We have high unemployment. We have high dependency on government programs and services, and when they’re not there we all feel it. I’d just like to mention that we do have to stimulate those economies regardless if it’s a make-work project in a particular community, implement the motions that were passed here in the House in regard to chipseal projects for small communities. Those things will stimulate the economy in those smaller communities. It will make work during the downturn and, more importantly, the effects we’re seeing in the private sector by way of what’s happening with the oil and gas, what’s happening in the diamond industry, I think we have to realize that we, as government, are not seeing the revenue flow that we have seen in the past from corporate taxes to personal income.

More importantly, Mr. Speaker, we do not have the ability, like other provinces and jurisdictions, to be able to hike up the taxes and generate those extra revenues from royalties, corporate taxes, even personal income tax, because the 40,000 people here already pay enough as it is.

Mr. Speaker, I think it’s important that we, as government, be cautious going forward and, more importantly, that we do not, for the sake of spending or creating positions because we feel it should be done, but, more importantly, when it should be done. The pipeline positions have been a controversial item in this House over five years and yet we’re still waiting for a decision on the pipeline. That’s probably nowhere closer today than it was last year. I think until that decision is made, we should not be filling those positions.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to caution the government and the Ministers to at all costs avoid unneeded expenditures, especially where we see we can see savings and, more importantly, save the dollars for that rainy day which is not that far ahead. Mr. Speaker, I think as this government, the former Minister of Finance and Premier who were here in the 13th Assembly can perfectly state the big

challenges we had then, which were probably not as deep as we’re going to get ourselves into in the next couple of months going forward. I think as governments, especially in regard to territorial governments, we cannot afford to find ourselves in a major deficit and have to make those tough decisions of either having to shut down programs and services, selling public assets or even having to lay off people. We’ve already had a taste of that in regard to last year’s budget. Again, those clouds are still over us and I think until we basically have to make a decision on where we’re going, we should walk cautiously, carry a big stick and make sure you’ve got the dollars to bail yourself out when we get there.

With that, I would just like to caution the Cabinet and the Ministers that this is not full speed ahead and spend, spend, spend. Walk cautiously, see where you’re spending your money and make sure that you have those dollars there so when we do find ourselves in a major deficit situation that we’re able to get out of the hole instead of how we had to deal with it in the 13th Assembly. Thank you, Mr.

Speaker.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just very briefly, as the other Members have alluded to, we are passing this budget. It was the best we could do with the information we had available to us. Rainy days are on the horizon here and if there are opportunities for savings, I think we should be looking for them -- efficiencies. But, Mr. Speaker, let’s be very clear that we do not want this government to be taking any kind of efficiency or cost-saving measures without talking to us first. Because many times we’ve said something on this side of the House but the manifestation of what is

being delivered we don’t recognize. When the initiative comes forward it’s either gone so far beyond what we thought or, somehow, something was lost in translation.

Mr. Speaker, I think we do need to be cautious in our spending going forward, but anything that is significant -- and I’ll use Mr. Krutko’s words -- I caution the government that they should make sure they have buy-in from this side of the House before they proceed with any major changes. Thank you.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. To the motion. The honourable Member for Kam Lake, Mr. Ramsay.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to say a few words too. I share the concern that other Members have on spending. I think for the most part the budget, obviously, is something we all agreed to. Given the difficult times we’re in, I think it’s a good budget all in all. Going forward, I think we have to keep our eye on spending. I think if the government sets targets on reductions, they should try to keep those targets in mind.

I’m also looking forward to some tangible work coming out of the program review office, because I do believe that there are areas in our operation where we can look to more efficiencies and we can do things a little bit better, Mr. Speaker. It’s obvious that revenue is going to be an issue for the government going forward. The high cost of living is hurting people. It’s hurting people in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and even more so in the smaller communities in the Northwest Territories. I think we always have to keep our residents in mind when it comes to revenue. I don’t want to see the Government of the Northwest Territories implementing any more taxation or things that are going to negatively impact residents on the ground in the Northwest Territories.

We have to start looking more long-term in the area of revenue. I’ve spoken many times about the government’s lack of an equity stake in the Mackenzie Gas Project. I think we should be taking every opportunity as a government. I mean, let’s face it, our future here in the Northwest Territories is going to hinge on resource extraction from our Territory, and our government should be taking every opportunity to get involved in the resource extraction and getting some benefits for the people that we represent. We could use that as a revenue source for years and years to come, Mr. Speaker. I think we have to start looking at that.

Also, I was happy to hear the Finance Minister talk about a heritage fund. I think that’s an important part of our future as well. How we fund that, how that works...You know, getting back to the equity stake in a potential pipeline or resource

development, we could take some of that revenue and put it into the heritage fund. Fund the heritage fund through those investments and I think it will pay dividends well into the future, Mr. Speaker.

Also, one issue, and not too many people want to talk about this, Mr. Speaker, but it’s the issue of gaming. I’m not saying or suggesting that the government rush headlong into building a casino in the Northwest Territories, but in terms of revenue, almost every jurisdiction in our country is looking to gaming as a way to boost their revenues. With the exception of two provinces, every province in this country has gone to gaming. They’re making millions of dollars. What I’m suggesting, Mr. Speaker, is perhaps the government could take a look at what we’re losing. When people travel south, they travel to Edmonton or B.C. or to Las Vegas, they take their money with them and most of the people, Mr. Speaker, will leave their money in those destinations, in Las Vegas or Edmonton. I think it’s important that we try to get a handle on what people are taking away with them and what we’re losing as a government in potential revenue. I think it’s something that unless we know what we’re dealing with, I don’t know how we can make a decision. I do think gaming, in some way, shape or form, does have the opportunity to provide this government with some additional revenue. Those revenues could be put back into social programs, Mr. Speaker, at some point in time. What I’m trying to say is I don’t think we should turn our back on any potential revenue source. The taxation that hits people and increases the cost of living is something that I think we have to be super cautious about, Mr. Speaker.

The other day I was speaking about the jobs that are located in Gatineau and in Ottawa. Those jobs, devolution or no devolution, pertain to activity in the three northern territories, Mr. Speaker. Those jobs rightfully belong in the three northern territories. Whether we have devolution or not, those jobs and this government should be doing everything in their power to suggest to the federal government that these jobs are located in Iqaluit, in Whitehorse, in Yellowknife or somewhere else in the Northwest Territories. That has to happen, Mr. Speaker. We can continue on with the devolution negotiations and talks, but those jobs have to be moved here, Mr. Speaker. They’re high paying jobs -- most of them are in the range of $90,000 to $100,000 a year -- and most of these people that are working on those files haven’t even stepped foot North of 60. That’s the sad reality. Even though they’re dealing with social development and development of the three northern territories, they’re not even here. They need to be on the ground here, Mr. Speaker.

With that, again, I’d like to thank the government for the work. I know it was a good go-between with the

government. It seemed a lot less adversarial, the budget process, this time out. I think, Mr. Speaker, that’s because we had an opportunity to sit down with the Ministers and with the departments to go through it. Certainly this time I felt much more included in the process than I did last time. I want to thank the government for that and thank you.

Bill 10: Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures) 2009-2010
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Paul Delorey

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