This is page numbers 6757 – 6826 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 health.


Bill 69: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act, No. 2
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. Bill 69, An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 2, has had third reading.


Mr. Miltenberger.

Bill 72: Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 2, 2015-2016
Third Reading of Bills

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Great Slave, that Bill 72, Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 2, 2015-2016, be read for the third time. Mr. Speaker, I request a recorded vote. Thank you.

Recorded Vote
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. The Member is asking for a recorded vote. All those in favour, please rise.

Recorded Vote
Third Reading of Bills

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Mr. Miltenberger, Mr. McLeod – Yellowknife South, Mr. Lafferty, Mr. Ramsay, Mr. McLeod – Inuvik Twin Lakes, Mr. Dolynny, Mr. Bouchard, Mr. Nadli, Mr. Hawkins, Ms. Bisaro, Mr. Moses, Mr. Bromley, Mr. Menicoche, Mr. Blake, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Abernethy.

Recorded Vote
Third Reading of Bills

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

All those opposed, please rise. All those abstaining, please rise. In favour, 16; opposed, zero; abstentions, zero. The motion is carried.



Speaker’s Ruling
Third Reading of Bills

October 7th, 2015

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Colleagues, I will now provide my ruling on the point of privilege raised by the Member for Range Lake on Tuesday, September 29, 2015. To start, I find Mr. Dolynny raised this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.

The point of privilege relates to a press conference held by the Premier and Minister of Finance on September 2, 2015. During the press conference, the Premier and Minister announced funding to the Power Corporation for up to $29.7 million to prevent an increase in power rates for all NWT residents.

The Member for Range Lake stated that the announcement of this funding left the impression that a final decision had been made on this matter and there was no meaningful role for the Legislative Assembly in debating and approving it. In his view, this is a breach of parliamentary privilege or contempt.

I have reviewed the rulings of other Speakers noted by the Member, specifically in Ontario and the House of Commons. Those cases are very similar to what we are dealing with here. In both cases the Speakers ruled that there was no breach of the privileges of the House. Mr. Miltenberger, in speaking of the matter, stated, “There was no impairment of freedom of speech. There was no attempt to obstruct the final decision of the House.” I agree with him on this and find that there is no prima facie breach of privilege.

Now we must deal with the contempt issue. The best definition I have found of contempt comes to us from Speaker Charbonneau of the Quebec National Assembly. “Contempt is any act or omission that hinders the work of the Assembly or that undermines its authority or dignity.”

In stating his case, the Member quoted from the press release that was issued the same day as the news conference. The news release says the following: “The GNWT will provide NTPC with up to $29.7 million.”

“Without this decision, NTPC would have had to apply for a two-year rate rider.”

“Our government doesn’t believe it makes sense to pass these costs on to residents and has decided to cover them instead.”

The Member stated that these comments make it seem like the funding is a “done deal,” like there is no meaningful role for the Legislative Assembly in approving it. I find it hard to disagree.

The news release creates an improper impression about how our government works. In my view, it undermines the important work of MLAs in this House and the dignity and authority of this institution. To quote former Speaker Fraser in the House of Commons case: “We are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy, nor a so-called administrative democracy.”

Not long ago this Assembly wrote down what consensus government means. One of the principles that we agreed to is: “Except under extraordinary circumstances, Members of the Legislative Assembly should be made aware of and have opportunity to discuss significant announcements, changes, consultations or initiatives before they are released to the public or introduced in the Legislative Assembly.”

In speaking to the point of privilege, both the Premier and the Minister indicated that a decision was urgently required. I do not dispute this, but the timing of the media release and press conference raised some questions. A letter was sent to Members from the Minister of Finance on August 31st, indicating that the proposed funding would be included in the upcoming supplementary appropriation bill. The letter said nothing of an urgent situation. It does not say that the funding request would be made public prior to the upcoming session.

The media release and press conference occurred two days after the letter was sent. On the day of the press conference, all Members of the Legislative Assembly were in Yellowknife to attend Caucus meetings. If an urgent or emergency situation did indeed exist, a committee meeting during this time to discuss it could have been easily arranged.

Also in the case of a real emergency, legislation allows the government to request a special warrant. This was done for the forest fire situation this summer. It was not done for the matter at hand. I don’t want to suggest that the low water situation would have met the conditions for a special warrant. That’s not the issue here, but it does raise question as to why a public announcement of the proposed funding was so urgently required before a bill could be introduced in this House.

Many Members, in speaking in favour of the point of privilege, noted that the government followed a similar process last year. They also noted that concerns were raised by Members at the time, who assumed that same approach would not be repeated.

I accept the Minister’s statement that Cabinet holds this institution in high regard. I believe that neither he nor the Premier intended any lack of respect for the institution they have made honourable careers serving. In fact, when you read the speaking notes drafted from the Premier’s press conference, which are posted to the website, there is clear and appropriate reference to the role of the Assembly. The notes make use of words like the “GNWT intends to fund” and “the funding will be included in a bill for the consideration of the Assembly later this month.” Although none of this language is reflected in the press release, it is included in some of the media reports that followed. I am, therefore, confident that they were expressed at the news conference.

Colleagues, this is a good point of privilege and one that could go either way. I want to thank the Member for Range Lake for raising it as well as all the Members who spoke to it.

I find that the wording “September 2nd press release,” although very inappropriate, does not constitute prima facie contempt of this Legislative Assembly. A future Speaker, including this one, might not rule the same way under the same or similar circumstances in the future. I will have to remind all Members that we do not operate like a majority Parliament. Our House and committees have important roles to play in making decisions that affect the territory. If we want others to take the work here that we do seriously, we have to start with ourselves.

Thank you, colleagues. I know you will take my advice seriously. Mr. Clerk, orders of the day.

Orders of the Day
Orders of the Day

Clerk Of The House (Mr. Mercer)

Orders of the day for Thursday, October 8, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.:

1. Prayer

2. Ministers’ Statements

3. Members’ Statements

4. Returns to Oral Questions

5. Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery

6. Acknowledgements

7. Oral Questions

8. Written Questions

9. Returns to Written Questions

10. Petitions

11. Reports of Standing and Special Committees

12. Reports of Committees on the Review of Bills

13. Tabling of Documents

14. Notices of Motion

15. Notices of Motion for First Reading of Bills

16. Motions

• Motion 51-17(5), Appointment of Chair to the Northwest Territories Honours Advisory Council

• Motion 52-17(5), Appointment of Languages Commissioner

• Motion 53-17(5), Language Training for Senior GNWT Managers

• Motion 54-17(5), Climate Change Planning

17. First Reading of Bills

• Bill 48, An Act to Amend the Mental Health Act

18. Second Reading of Bills

19. Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters

• Bill 54, An Act to Amend the Forest Management Act

• Minister’s Statement 221-17(5), Sessional Statement

20. Report of Committee of the Whole

21. Third Reading of Bills

• Bill 55, Mental Health Act

22. Prorogation

Orders of the Day
Orders of the Day

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Clerk. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until Thursday, October 8th, at 1:30 p.m.


The House adjourned at 8:15 p.m.