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.

Topics

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

Page 4294

Daryl Dolynny Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to thank the mover, Mrs. Groenewegen, for this amended motion, and to Mr. Miltenberger for allowing debate here today.

We are here to debate this motion because of an alleged concern that an overlap at potentially three levels of government elections in 2015 will somehow negatively affect the administration, the campaigning and overall voter participation of democracy from succeeding. I have stated on more than one occasion, the foundation of a democracy is built on our electoral process, a process that has rules and is bound by the social contract we share between the elected and the electorate body we represent. This motion today speaks to the first steps of changing this social contract for Members of the 17th Assembly. Before I indicate whether I will or will not support this motion, I believe it is prudent for me to evaluate some of the statements within the motion for a better understanding and transparency.

The motion mentions the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut and the Yukon already have five-year maximum term offices in their legislation. This is true, but this alone should not be the sole determinant for our decision-making today. If this were the case, I could cite many other examples where I stood before this House to point to legislation enacted in the Yukon where we don't have it in the Northwest Territories; yet, this has had little sway in making our government jump up and say, yes, I'd like to have that same legislation today as well. I wish it were that easy, but now when the shoe is on the other foot, it appears that comparing legislation with our sister territory is a bona fide tactic now. This is good to know, as I'll endeavour to try this someday myself.

Furthermore, the motion speaks to some provinces having extended their terms to avoid overlap in election periods. Actually, to be honest, only two have. Let me explain.

According to the original fixed election schedule of October 2015, six subnational jurisdictions would, by default, have general elections during this same period as our federal counterparts. They are Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and, of course, ourselves, the Northwest Territories. Only two of these provinces, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, have enacted such legislation so far. PEI has stated in December 2013 they intend to bring forward legislation to extend, but hasn't done so yet. Ontario has a minority government and, to my understanding, may hold polls this spring on the subject but has not considered a term extension as of this date, and at this time we have not heard any plans to extend the legislative term in Newfoundland and Labrador. Aside from Nunavut and Yukon legislation name dropping and failing to speak to the actual dilemma presented to the six subnational jurisdictions directly affected, this motion is a bit blasé without these solid facts.

To the statement of concern of overlapping elections, the motion references unease of communication, administration and lower voter participation. To be clear, the overlap for the proposed territorial general election of October 5, 2015, is overlapping the federal election date of October 19, 2015, by only 17 days. By all accounts, there is a perception that the elections are on the same day, but in fact they are actually two weeks apart. To the concern of such overlap, many have mentioned that this could actually serve better for administration function for more effective use of returning office functions and space and for increased voter awareness and turnout.

I would like to further point out that actually only six Northwest Territories tax-based communities are affected by this overlap for school board and municipal elections, and with these elections taking place in such larger centres, the argument of lack of labour and suitable office space have little merit.

As for the concern of voter turnout or fatigue with such overlap, there is some evidence to suggest that holding more than one election campaign during the same time period increases voter turnout, and many of my constituents have echoed similar sentiments of support and that multiple elections at once would be more convenient.

There is much being mentioned today of all the alleged issues of such overlap, yet there are little facts to substantiate the bold moves of extending terms for another year. Again, many agree there are no real concerns to be had and that many are crying wolf when there is no reason to fear. Therefore, as was cited by many of my constituents and many residents of the Northwest Territories, why not just leave the date as is? This in itself is a good question, yet it appears that this motion is already making the assumption that status quo is no longer an option for our residents. Sadly, for this Assembly to make a bold assumption of such magnitude without the formal input and concern of its residents, in my opinion, is breaching our entrusted social contract of office. I ask that this issue be further investigated before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, as implied with this motion.

Continuing on, this motion also raises the overall premise of the Northwest Territories being left out in the cold, of having no such power to extend our terms, and this motion, in some ways, is a triggering mechanism to catch up with the rest of Canada. We need to ask ourselves, is this the principle on how we should govern ourselves moving forward?

Many residents feel that this motion is the beginning or the unravelling of moral principles of those of us in office. In essence, it is a breach of ideals of our democratic value system we long uphold. Many believe we have not examined all options, such as an early election of June 2015, nor have exhaustively justified the status quo of leaving the date as is, that many have unilaterally fast-forwarded on the principle of extending one's term for an indefinite term that we see with the amendment as a justification of what's best for the devolution files.

Whatever the motivation, it is clear that the public was taken by surprise last Thursday when this notice of motion was read into the House and that 96 hours later we are thrust to make a hasty decision personally affecting everybody in this room.

I don't wish to repeat all the messages, e-mails, text messages, Facebook replies and phone calls that we all received in the past four days on this subject, but I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the public is not in favour of this request of extension, period.

As I stated at the beginning, and I want to make perfectly clear, I am not in favour of this motion. This motion jumps on the very foundation of democracy I hold true to our electoral process. Anything that would lengthen my term of office from the original mandate bestowed on me by the people of Range Lake would, in my humble opinion, be a breach of my social contract of such principles and values.

For the record, I have no problem looking at term extension legislation that will assist future Assemblies, just as long as I don't personally benefit from such a decision of the House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Page 4294

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

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

Page 4294

Robert Bouchard Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank my colleagues, Mrs. Groenewegen and Mr. Miltenberger, for bringing forward this motion. They were the mover and seconder of this motion, but we did discuss this topic in Caucus several times and it has been done with heavy heart and consideration of a whole bunch of different issues.

I will not be supporting the motion because I feel that it's not something we should be doing. I went home, talked to my constituents and a bunch of them had concerns and issues with it. The other thing is that as a member of the Board of Management here in the Legislative Assembly, we often look at agents and committees to look at what we do as an Assembly, as MLAs, and we typically take those recommendations and put them to the future Legislative Assembly. That's what the federal government is going to do with Bill 15, changing our mandate to be able to change it to five years if we want, but that's for future consideration.

I think the current Legislative Assembly should stay the course, status quo, keep that date. There are probably 50 different options. We can go early, we can go a month early, we can go three months early, we can go two months later if this motion passes. But my concept is we just stay the course, set those dates.

Mr. Miltenberger has said, since we've started this session, give us the time that we have, the hours and the days we have left in this Assembly. We should stay on that course. We have time to plan. I've heard from returning officers in my community that have concerns with those three elections happening at the same time, but I think over the next 18 months we're able to alleviate a lot of the issues that are going to happen with that, so at this time I cannot support the motion. Thank you.

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

Page 4294

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bouchard. To the motion as amended. Ms. Bisaro.

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

Page 4294

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to express my appreciation to the mover and the seconder of the motion for bringing it forward, but I, unfortunately, don't support that particular action.

On Friday I put some queries out on social media, through Facebook and through Twitter, and I asked anybody who saw it, listened, heard it, whatever, I asked them for comments and I asked them for positive or negative comments. I didn't care; I just wanted comments because I felt it very important that we get some kind of feedback.

I had considerable input from my constituents and from other people's constituents over the last three days. Of that reaction, 99 percent were against the action that's proposed in this motion.

I have concerns about the rationale for the motion, as I think many Members do. The federal election date is scheduled for October 19th, but I don't feel, as some Members do, that we have a guarantee that that federal election is going to be called for that date. There's certainly not a good track record on the part of the federal government which shows that they keep to a fixed election date. I don't think they've kept to one certainly in the last 10 or 15 years.

Another of the arguments is that the NWT is the only jurisdiction that doesn't have legislation which allows extension of a term to a maximum of five years, and Mr. Miltenberger spoke passionately to that. And that is true. But it goes against our current convention, and that convention is that any changes to legislation which will affect the Legislative Assembly are made in one Assembly for implementation in the next. In my time here, we have not ever made a change to legislation that has been implemented for the current Assembly. We do that, Mr. Speaker, to avoid the perception that the Assembly is doing something which will benefit us as Assembly Members.

One person's comment that I want to pass on: “I do not believe that you have the moral or ethical authority to even request this action.” That we are the only jurisdiction argument I find is rather weak.

We also know that Bill C-15 will allow the 18th Assembly to have the authority to extend an election up to five years, and every Assembly after that will have that authority, so in keeping with our convention and being true to ourselves, I think we need to ensure that we do it for the next Assembly, not for this one.

There's a very strong perception out in the public, certainly from what I saw, that Members are bringing this motion forward for personal benefit. That may or may not be true and I don't have an opinion on that, but public perception carries a really big weight and there are many people who believe that we are doing this for personal gain.

The timing for the consideration of this issue is normal. Part of our process when a motion comes forward, is we give notice of motion and then 48 hours later, or a little bit longer if it's over a weekend, the motion comes to the floor and we debate it. But for an issue which is as contentious as this one is, this timing is way too short. This needed to have consideration in the public realm for at least a month, more like two months or three months, and that certainly hasn't happened.

To quote another constituent, “Give us more time to debate and think about this issue.” That's a common theme that I heard in many, many comments back to me.

The public has said, and I believe them to be right, that they want to have a hand in any decision on this issue. Another comment: “Two days of so-called consultation is a sham. Why the rush?”

This issue needs to be discussed and debated and considered in the public. There needs to be formal consultation that should take place and it has not done so to this point.

Another concern for me is that there hasn't been adequate time to consider potential options. There was one option put forward and that was to extend our term for a year, but there are many other options and some have been mentioned already. We could extend for a week; we could extend it for two weeks; we could go earlier; we could go three months; we could go six months; we could have all the elections on one day, as has been mentioned; we could move the municipal election date; we could postpone it for the latest amount of time possible, so we could postpone for a day, for that matter, but we didn't have those discussions, certainly not in the public, and they need to be held.

I, like many of those people who I heard from, don't buy the argument that it is confusing to voters to have all three elections within the same month. Many people told me that they're affronted by that rationale, and I think more of my constituents than that suggests. I don't think they are quite as stupid as we think they are, or as some people think they are.

Constituents have mentioned that this action is undemocratic. The majority of the input that I received was very, very clear. This Assembly was elected for a four-year term. Our job contract is for four years. Any extension should be granted by the voters, not by the ones who are doing the job. That came through time and time again.

Another comment that I want to pass on: “I see voting to extend your own term as a huge conflict of interest.”

It's been said that there's a risk of poor voter turnout by having all three elections in the same month. I believe there's a risk of increased voter turnout if we have all the elections in the same month. People are already engaged; people are aware that voting is happening, and I think it's entirely possible that we could get greater voter turnout through doing this.

I also heard from people, similar to my own views, that I think if we have the election on the day as scheduled, October 5, 2015, and the other two elections a couple weeks later that that can be dealt with. Yes, it will make life a little bit difficult, but it's nothing that's insurmountable. It's nothing that we, as individuals in our communities and returning officers and CEOs, can't handle. There's certainly nothing, I don't think, that should delay it for a year and that came through again from people as well.

I'm very glad that the one-year date is off the table, but as has been stated, it leaves us with an unknown. We now don't know what's being contemplated.

This to me is an issue where every MLA should be representing the views and the wishes of their constituents. It's not a government issue. I don't feel there's any need for Cabinet solidarity. This is a Caucus issue in which we sit as19 individual Members wearing no hats, but simply representing our constituents. I look forward, hopefully, to hearing that Cabinet will have a free vote on this motion.

One last comment for those who do support this motion. This came from someone within the last day: “I beg of you to represent your constituents in an honest and ethical manner. I beg of you not to cross over the threshold of humiliation.” So I am not in support of the motion and I hope that my colleagues will see the light of day and vote against the motion as well. Thank you.

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

Page 4294

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. To the motion as amended. Mr. Moses.

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

Page 4294

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Before I begin I'd just like to thank the mover and the seconder for bringing the motion forward to bring out a good discussion and debate, which you are seeing before the House here and a lot of good points from both sides, actually.

Upon the notice of motion that was given last week, I almost immediately sent out e-mails and posted on social media to get feedback from residents of the Northwest Territories but also constituents from Inuvik. I heard a lot of good points for, and a lot were against. Some of the arguments that were for supporting this motion were for continuity within this government, but agree this government is doing a lot of good things and with a lot of the action plans coming up and implementing devolution is moving forward. Also, some people mentioned the cost savings that we'd have if the government moved to every five years, we wouldn't have to be putting the money into elections a lot sooner, rather than later, and we also got support that it allowed this government the option to extend. Just having that option for the 17th Legislative Assembly knowing full well in the NWT Act it does state that for future Legislative Assemblies of this government.

However, those that supported it, out of the numerous numbers that supported the concept of it, were just two constituents from back home. The majority of e-mails, the majority of phone calls, texts, responses to social media did not support the motion, mainly because there was a furthermore that was initially put into the motion and that furthermore was amended just recently today. So we're speaking about that amended motion now and that had the fixed date of extending to October 2016. After speaking to a lot of the constituents, there was a lot of options that were brought forward, too, such as having an early election, having it three months, two months sooner, talked about having elections in the springtime and also maybe six months later, having it in the springtime, it doesn't have to be a fixed date of putting it a year further.

However, the majority of people that I spoke to, and these are some very respected individuals in the community and also some leaders that I spoke to, they said just leave it the same, you know, status quo doesn't need to change, further governments can make those decisions when they happen. So the majority of the information I got was status quo and I'd like to thank all the constituents as well as residents of the Northwest Territories who did respond and send feedback in to me and to the office here.

Some of the comments that I did get was things like when residents last went to the polls, it was to elect MLAs for a four-year term in the 17th Legislative Assembly and they also talked about people of the NWT are capable of voting more than once in a month. They have that ability to choose a responsible government, whether it's territorially or municipally.

Just closing off, I want to say that even with the amended motion, the motion still speaks to the fact that if this goes through and there is an amendment to the NWT Act that this government, any Member of this Legislative Assembly can then bring forth a motion to extend our term, or extend it by however many months, and Mr. Bromley did speak to earlier, whether it's a year, six months, three months, a month, it just doesn't have that clarity and having this option for this government knowing full well a lot of people were mentioning that when we all got elected we knew that there was going to be a conflict in 2015 and some jurisdictions did address that. However, on this particular vote to the motion, I stated clearly right from the beginning that I will be voting with the voice of the people that I spoke to, the constituents, the people that did vote me in here, as well as residents of the Northwest Territories that all Members of this Legislative Assembly do represent because we do make decisions territorially with the territorial programs, projects. So with that, I do believe my constituents spoke up and a lot of concerned residents of the Northwest Territories spoke up and in that they don't support the motion as is, even the amended motion, because the motion still gives this government the opportunity to bring a motion further down the road to look at extending our term.

With that said, my vote is with the people, the constituents that I represent and some of the concerned residents of the Northwest Territories and I cannot be in favour of this motion. Thank you.

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

Page 4294

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Moses. To the motion as amended. Mr. Menicoche.

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

Page 4294

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It's too bad that the motion was a bit confusing when it first came out on Thursday because the media was quick to pick out a one-year extension and certainly it coloured the whole debate. But I think the principle of the motion was about seeking the authorization to extend. I believe that with the amended motion now it's more clear, it's just the authorization to extend from the federal government. Once again, this motion does not actually extend our term at all. We have a fixed election date of October 5, 2015, and that date has to be actually changed with another motion, another bill later on in this Assembly.

I believe that residents and constituents will then have time to consider if the apparent closeness of a federal and MLA elections will be confusing enough that warrants a change of our election date.

I did go to out to social media, as well, and sent out e-mails. Regretfully, because of the short timing, I was only able to get six comments and none from my outlying communities as well. But I am conducting my normal spring constituency tour and this will be the highlight of those discussions. I certainly agree we need the flexibility to have a solution for overlapping elections if need be. At the same time, I'm supporting this motion, but it does not mean I would not go out to the people and get their feedback for a second motion should we get to that stage.

Once again, in closing, with the amendment, this motion does not extend our term. That's why I'm voting in favour of it. There will be another motion, and as stated, I will be seeking full consultation from my constituency. Thank you very much.

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

Page 4294

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. To the motion as amended. Mr. Bromley.

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

Page 4294

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the first whereas mentioned in the motion, it's noted that the federal Bill C-15 already provides flexibility on extending the Legislative Assembly's length of term for the 18th and subsequent Legislative Assemblies and this is the crux of the matter. To avoid questions of ethics and avoid undemocratic stances, we as politicians should not be changing legislation that might provide benefits to ourselves, especially without clear direction from the electorate.

Yet this motion proposes that we circumvent normal public process and change both territorial and federal legislation, normally a huge and lengthy process, to allow the 17th Legislative Assembly, that's us, to unilaterally extend our mandate originally for a full year but now amended to a length of time that is not stipulated.

The disregard for the public and the voice of the electorate is widely regarded by residents as undemocratic. In the easily 25-plus e-mails I have received so far - and they're still coming in as we speak - only one person was in favour of the proposal put forward in this motion.

Given the lack of democratic process for the electorate here, I would like to provide an opportunity for their voice in speaking to this motion. Here are some amazingly consistent but uniquely stated samples of the comments I received expressing clear and adamant opposition to the motion. These are all quotes.

“In my view, such an extension would be a conflict of interest for sitting MLAs.”

Another: “The democratic chill sweeping the country is very disturbing. When I heard the motion yesterday, my first thought was that the PMO is now dictating to the GNWT not only on devolution and environmental regulation but on democratic rights and freedoms. Not only is the GNWT rolling over indigenous rights but also the rights of all Northerners, both equally unacceptable.”

Here's another: “The proposal to extend the life of this Legislature and its unelected Premier by another year is an outrage and insult to voters. It suggests that the electorate isn't capable of holding more than one thought at the same time and that voters will be overcome with fatigue if they are asked to exercise our franchise three times in one month. Nonsense.”

And another: “About this 2016 proposal, I'll accept the idea if the Premier will agree to postpone the implementation date of devolution one more year.”

Here's another: “Pair this up with the federal vote suppression law and why would the citizens bother to show up? Again, I am not in favour of this proposed extension. I believe we, as constituents, voted in the previous election and knowledge of the specific time frame for that term in office. I further believe I have another vote at the end of the term to continue supporting my vote or making another choice.”

Here's another resident: “With devolution scheduled to take place in about three weeks, I don't see the necessity of government continuity for an additional 2.5 years. In 1.5 years on the original election date, people should have a say about the performance of their MLAs and the decisions they have made about devolution.”

Here's another: “I do not believe that you have the moral or ethical authority to even request this action. The people of the NWT voted for their MLAs for a four-year term and without going back to the electorate for approval, this Assembly cannot extend its mandate.”

Here's another: “As a political science major, I strongly oppose the question to extend the term for MLAs. Simply, it is highly unethical and very undemocratic.”

Another voice: “When you were elected, you were given a four-year mandate by the voters, not a five-year mandate. To change the term of your office is very self-serving and not what the voters of the NWT signed up for. You and the rest of the Assembly will benefit personally. In my view, that is not appropriate.”

The people speak further: “This is to express my objection to the motion to defer my right to vote in 2015.”

And again, they say: “You have forgotten that you work for us, the people of the NWT. We have to offer the job to you if we want you to continue working for us.”

A colourful one and I think Linden MacIntyre said it best this weekend in his Fifth Estate piece on Mike Duffy: “When you mistakenly believe that privilege means entitlement, you're already on the threshold of humiliation.”

I believe my colleague Ms. Bisaro referenced that one, so, obviously, that went to many of us.

Again, politically correct: “What lessons would Ukraine learn from us at this crucial time in their walk towards democracy? If Putin had decided to consult the Russian people for two days over a weekend before extending his job for one more year, we would have said he was making a farce of democracy. In the NWT you are doing the same and claim it is so I can better vote next year. What's the difference? For those of you contemplating to vote in favour of extending your term, don't do it.”

And again: “While I do not disagree with the concept of a five-year term, or perhaps a term that could vary between four and five years for future Assemblies, it is an affront to democracy for sitting Members to essentially vote themselves in for another term.”

And finally: “There are many challenges and decisions to be made during this devolution transition and we need closer public scrutiny during this time, not less. This includes the public being able to vote on who they want to continue steering the devolution ship.”

Almost all were very concerned about the lack of voice they had and the failure to give people their due in terms of consulting with the electorate. This is something that I've tried to bring up throughout my term, is we have ample opportunity to check with the people, get our finger on the pulse, hear what people are saying, get their view, and adjust our views accordingly. Here are some of the ways that our people have spoken to us on their voice.

“This issue has come up far too suddenly for ordinary citizens to give it due consideration. We would ask the Assembly to delay or table a vote on this motion.”

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

Page 4294

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Mrs. Groenewegen. Point of order.

Point Of Order
Motions

March 10th, 2014

Page 4294

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, we have a rule in this House that suggests that you cannot quote extensively from a document or documents that are not before the House, and we have Members here that are reading things they would themselves be allowed to say in this House. I have heard the words unethical, immoral, self-serving. Now, if they want to stand up and say those things, go right ahead, but don't hide behind “and I quote.” Okay? Because I think that that is stepping over the line and it is just a cheap way of trying to impugn the motives of Members and just say, oh, and I quote somebody else. I mean, I could stand up and quote some pretty horrible things and say, oh, that's not me. I'm just quoting somebody else.

I rise on a point of order. I think that there have been several people out of line, and Mr. Bromley's quotes have just gone on too long.

Point Of Order
Motions

Page 4294

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. I'll allow Mr. Bromley to speak to the point of order.

Point Of Order
Motions

Page 4294

Bob Bromley Weledeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have to say that many of these quotes are from e-mails that were sent to every Member in this House, and I'm happy to table all of these from e-mails directly, and further, I cannot believe... The whole issue here is the voice of the people. We are trying to change our election process here. We are taking away the voice of the people. We have given them the weekend to comment. A few of them have, and this is their chance to have their voice heard. How can this Member try and repress their voice?