This is page numbers 4285 - 4326 of the Hansard for the 17th 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 public.

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MOTION 16-17(5): REQUEST TO GOVERNMENT OF CANADA TO EXTEND MAXIMUM TERM OF 17TH LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, carried as amended
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. To the amendment to the motion. Mrs. Groenewegen.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
Motions

March 10th, 2014

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Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Thebacha, that Motion 16-17(5) be amended by deleting the words “AND FURTHER, that should federal legislation be enacted as requested, the Board of Management of the Legislative Assembly propose a bill at the earliest opportunity to defer the next NWT election to October 2016,” and by replacing the second paragraph of the resolution portion of the motion with the following “AND FURTHER, that the Premier communicate this request to the Prime Minister and report back to this Assembly.” That is my motion of amendment. Thank you.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. I'll allow the seconder to the motion to speak. Mr. Miltenberger.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This amendment clarifies the motion and puts the focus where it should be. This is a process that has some steps to it, which I'll speak to in the main motion, but now it focuses the attention on what needs to be done, which is to get the authority to approach the Prime Minister to give us the tools to deal with our own affairs. So it's a good motion, a clarifying motion and puts the attention where it belongs on that particular step. Thank you.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. To the amendment to the motion. Mr. Bromley.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This amendment simply reduces clarity in what this motion is asking by saying we're going to change it however we like. It might be six months, it might still be a year, it might be eight months, it might be one month, but we're not going to let you know. At least the way it is now is clear. So I may vote for, I may abstain, I may agree or disagree with the motion, but the point is this buries the clarity that I think has already been revealed by the motion itself and certainly the public will be alerted.

I think we do need some flexibility, but the crux of the issue here is that we are asking the federal government to change legislation and this House to change legislation to allow us to extend our own mandate without hearing from the people. To that I disagree and I'll be speaking further to that during the motion. Mahsi.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

To the amendment to the motion. Mrs. Groenewegen.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are a lot of things that could happen that could affect whether or not we would exercise that flexibility to change our dates. For one thing, let me give you an example, the federal government that's in power right now has a majority. They might decide to change their election date, in which case a lot of the discussion around this motion becomes a moot point because we then would not have the overlap with the federal election campaign period.

So there are things that could change this, but right now, like some people have said, well, wouldn't it be a good idea if we held all the elections on October 19th, which is the date now scheduled for the municipal and the federal election? Wouldn't it be great to go into a voting station and go here to vote for your MP, go here to vote for your MLA, go here to vote for your mayor and council, go here to vote for your school board? Some people think that would be a great idea. We wouldn't even have the flexibility to even explore something like that because our four-year mandate ends, as it is now under the current legislation, on October the 12th. These other elections are scheduled for October the 19th. So we can't vary the territorial election under this by one, we can't move it forward, we can't move it back one day. Like, we can't change it all, there's no flexibility. So I think the operative word here is flexibility, and if anybody wants to speculate on where that flexibility ends up, well, I guess they can do that, but this is a very preliminary step. That is to the amendment. Thank you.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. To the amendment to the motion.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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Some Hon. Members

Question.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. The amendment to the motion is carried.

---Carried

To the motion. Mrs. Groenewegen.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to take up too much time speaking to this motion, but I think it is important to be clear about what this motion is asking for. This motion, if passed, would allow our government to request the federal government to amend the maximum term of the 17th Legislative Assembly.

Currently, under the NWT Act, four years is the maximum term. In the new legislation passed now and awaiting assent by the Governor General, Bill C-15, all future Legislatures in the NWT would have maximum allowable five-year terms. Again, maximum allowable, I don't think that any jurisdictions where they have maximum allowable actually have more than five-year terms, but they do have the flexibility to go to a maximum of five years. In every jurisdiction in Canada, with the exception of ours here in the NWT, maximum terms are currently five years.

This discussion was precipitated by the convergence of federal, territorial and municipal elections all in October of 2015. There are capacity issues and I think we need to be mindful that the challenges may not look the same in all communities. What might work in Yellowknife or Hay River may not work in some of our small communities.

In fairness to candidates who may want to run at any of these levels, I think it's safe to say that there could be competition for volunteers, nominators, financial contributors, campaign workers, returning office staff, all of the behind the scenes work done at the level of the chief electoral officer position and the elections staff here in Yellowknife.

As a consensus government, candidates running for MLA in a community like Hay River may draw supporters from residents who may be of all political partisan stripes. Could that be compromised by pressure on candidates who are running at the same time as the federal candidates or their supporters to show their loyalties if the mayoral, MLA and Member of Parliament candidates are all campaigning at the same time? In a community like Hay River, at one level you may be working to get a candidate elected to a level of government and your allies or opponents might completely change at a different level. Even in larger communities it's always a challenge to get people to come out, so to speak, for the candidate of their choice. Imagine this if all these elections are occurring this close together.

Some people have suggested that there are synergies that might bode well for voter participation if all the elections were held on the same day, and I've already briefly referred to that, but I think there's already enough potential confusion with overlapping roles, mandates, platforms, without having them all within a two-week period.

Without the changes being proposed by this request, even moving the territorial election to the 19th of October would be outside of the four-year maximum limit as it exists today. In some Canadian jurisdictions there is provision for an automatic trigger to move a provincial election out by a few months if it looks like the election period will overlap with a federal election. This solves the issue without requiring the elected sitting Members to vote on an extension of their own terms if that extension stays within the maximum five-year term. This legislation and regulation is definitely something that could be included in future revisions after the new provisions of Bill C-15 are in effect. That was another suggestion by constituents, is that these trigger regulations that are in other jurisdictions may work well here in the Northwest Territories as well.

Some people have expressed concern about the timing of this motion, citing the lack of time for public consultation, so to be clear, this motion today will not give this Assembly a five-year maximum term. It would merely enable this government to make a request to the federal government to permit our Assembly to bring forth a bill that would need to be debated and passed in this House to allow this Assembly the same provisions of every other jurisdiction in Canada to exceed the four-year term to a maximum of five years if there were compelling reasons to do so and they were duly debated and passed by the majority of Members of this House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. To the motion as amended. I will allow the seconder, Mr. Miltenberger.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to speak in support of this motion. Back in July of last year, I was at a videoconference call over at the Greenstone Building with the Finance Ministers from around the country, and as we were waiting for the call to start, we ended up talking about elections and things that were happening in our jurisdictions, and that's when I first heard from Manitoba and Saskatchewan that they had changed the dates of their election, and because they have fixed election dates, as do we, because of the possibility of those dates coinciding with the federal election and that the federal government, as a senior government, has made it clear that if there is any movement to happen, it will happen at the provincial and territorial level. They had taken advantage of that advance notice and they had gone to their systems to do that. Subsequent to that, we also know now, I believe, Prince Edward Island is looking at the same movement of their dates because of the overlap.

That issue, I brought back to Cabinet. We thought there was significance here. There are potential problems that we could all readily identify that have been outlined by Mrs. Groenewegen. We also took the matter over the months to Caucus and back to Cabinet to talk about how it was going, what are the options, what should we be doing, and to the point where as time has marched on, devolution is coming, we're not that far from the election, the decision was that somebody put a motion on this floor in the House, which Madam Groenewegen has done and I thank her for that. I'm happy to second it, to have the discussion about that we need the tools to manage our business.

We're the only jurisdiction in the country that doesn't have this authority. We are the only jurisdiction in the country that doesn't have the capacity to deal with the problem that's going to occur on our watch, which is this overlap with all the potential and practical problems that will occur by having three major elections, four major elections happening at the same time. This motion is a very common sense, practical motion that, as a Legislature, we need to be in a position to manage our affairs. We shouldn't stand here handcuffed, because for this period of time when we know there's a problem coming to be able to deal with the issue that's going to be before us here in the not-too-distant future. To me, this is a very practical, common sense motion that allows us to proceed; to talk to the federal government, to get the authorities so that we, in fact, have the tools to manage our affairs, and as Mrs. Groenewegen pointed out, when we get that and there is further discussion, there will be another process, a public process. That bill will have to be included. There are things that Madam Groenewegen indicated that are worth considering, things like triggers and those types of things, but this is the fundamental next step to pass this motion and to give us the tools to manage our affairs.

MOTION TO AMEND MOTION 16-17(5), Carried
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The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. To the motion as amended. Mr. Dolynny.