This is page numbers 2895 - 2924 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 2nd 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 mandate.

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

Some Honourable Members

Agreed.

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

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, committee. I understand that the Premier had some opening comments. Premier McLeod.

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

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Chair. To open this discussion, I’d like to make some brief remarks on the proposed revised mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories, 2016-2019.

In June of this year, Cabinet and Regular Members each tabled their respective reports reflecting on the government’s progress on our mandate. These reports provided a critical evaluation of our progress on the almost 200 commitments in the mandate, including suggestions to ensure we continue to work effectively toward fulfilling the priorities of the 18th Legislative Assembly through the second half of our term.

Since June we have engaged in a collaborative process with Regular Members to revise and improve our mandate. This process has required us to listen carefully to each other, find common ground, and compromise when it is in the best interest of Northwest Territories’ residents, all of which are items essential to the functioning of a consensus government. Based on the feedback received from Regular Members, as well as subsequent discussions in Caucus and correspondence back and forth between Regular Members and Cabinet, we have proposed a revised mandate for consideration by Committee of the Whole, which we tabled at the beginning of this sitting. The proposed revised mandate is the product of a great deal of coordination and collaboration between political leaders and government departments, and takes into account Regular Members’ feedback as well as the fiscal and operational realities that our government must face.

The proposed revised mandate continues to follow the priorities of the 18th Legislative Assembly that the original mandate followed, while also recognizing that new information and changing external factors may warrant an adjustment to our approach. To this end, the proposed revised mandate includes new commitments regarding emerging issues, such as the legalization of cannabis, youth suicide prevention, revised wording to clarify existing commitments, and restructuring of existing commitments to allow for progress to be tracked and reported.

Additionally, we have responded to the standing committee’s concern about duplicate commitments by removing or combining copies of commitments that were found under multiple headings. Once the Legislative Assembly has adopted a revised mandate, departments will develop new milestones for added commitments, and revise the milestones for existing commitments to ensure they accurately capture and report on the activities undertaken by government to fulfill our mandate. These milestones will be tracked and reported on the mandate website, which will also be updated to reflect the revised mandate.

I look forward to our discussions today on the revised mandate, and I am confident we will have a much improved document that will guide us through the remainder of the life of this Legislative Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Premier McLeod. Does committee have any general comments on the documents? Mr. Vanthuyne.

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

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I simply want to state I’m happy that we have undergone this process. I think it’s very becoming of us as a government to take an opportunity halfway through our term to review the priorities that we made as a government. Certainly, when you’re fresh off the campaign trail and newly elected, there are a lot of burning issues. We seem to at times even get emotional about those.

We put a lot of work and lot of effort into drafting our original mandate, but as I noted, I think this is the right thing for us to do. I’ve appreciated the steps that we have taken as a government: meeting earlier in the spring and again later in the fall, and now coming to a revised mandate halfway through our term. I think it only makes sense. I’m a small business kind of guy, and it’s not uncommon for small businesses to have to pull out their business plan ever once in a while, dust it off, and make revisions so that they can stay current.

We hear from our constituents on a regular basis and they’re the ones that matter in this. They’ve informed us time and time again on those things that they value and that they want to see us work on collectively. We’ve come to realize over time that maybe some of those things didn’t get fully captured in the original mandate. With that, I want to simply say thank you to everybody for all the work that everyone has done in getting the mandate to where it is today, and I look forward to completing the process. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Vanthuyne. Ms. Green.

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

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’d also like to express my appreciation to my colleagues for the work they’ve done in revising the mandate and in hopefully improving it. I want to reflect on some of the limitations of the mandate, though, while I have the opportunity. The first is that it doesn’t really contain priorities. In it there are 200 priorities that range from building a new road at a price tag of $67 million in the current capital budget, to supporting initiatives that will get women elected, at a cost of $15,000 or so. There is no sense of the weighting in this mandate, of the relative importance or scope or cost of those different items. The thing that I regret most is that we have too many priorities, and with too many of them we don’t really have a sense of urgency around which ones need to be accomplished immediately and which ones don’t.

It’s also worth noting that there are some major initiatives being undertaken by the government that never were in the mandate. I’ll give you a few examples. One is departmental amalgamation. There was nothing in the governance section that talked about theneed to undertake departmental amalgamation. I believe that was driven by the fiscal realities, which I don’t necessarily disagree with. It was not something, however, that we had agreed to as a priority, and it wasn’t something that we made a priority, and yet it became a priority. Likewise with the drive to set up the airport revolving fund. The change in governance for the Yellowknife Airport is not something that appears anywhere in this document, and nor does removing the board of NTCP or Aurora College.

What has developed is a kind of two-tier approach. There are the priorities of the government and there are the priorities of the Caucus, and this document represents the priorities of the Caucus. It doesn’t represent what the government has decided to do for reasons of its own. That’s a real limitation.

Having said that, this document is cited by every Minister every time something is done, that it is in the mandate. If it isn’t in the mandate, then it doesn’t get done. There’s kind of a double jeopardy that goes on with this document.

It’s full of good intentions, but it’s not necessarily full of ways and means. As a result, I think we’re setting ourselves up, despite the glowing reviews on the government’s mandate tracker, for a lot of unfinished business in this 18th Assembly because we’ve simply taken on way more than we can possibly accomplish, not only fiscally, but in terms of the capacity of the departments that we work with to get the job done. I’m happy that this work is done. I think it’s better to revise the mandate than not, but I think the document has some real limitations, revised or not. Thank you.

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

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Ms. Green. Next is Mr. O’Reilly.

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

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I’m agreeing with the sentiments raised by my two previous speakers, colleagues from Yellowknife North and Yellowknife Centre, respectively. I think we had a more collaborative process this time around. That’s a good thing. There are, however, a number of conflicting items and commitments in the mandate, and it’s not possible to do it all. It’s so big that you could drive trucks through it. I’ll use one example. When we say that we’re going to try to accomplish three major road projects all at the same time, I think it’s unrealistic and raises unrealistic expectations among residents. It’s just not possible financially, capacity-wise, and so on. I’ve always said that I think we’re doing our residents a disservice by having too many items in the mandate. In some cases there are even conflicting items. There is no way we can build a Mackenzie Valley highway, a Slave geological province road, and a road to Whati at the same time. Even if the federal government gave us gazillions of dollars, there’s no way we could do it all at the same time. I think we should have spent more time setting some priorities, as my colleague from Yellowknife Centre said.

I think the process that we went through was a sound one. I do worry, though; I think some of the discussion and debate that we have had around changing parts of the mandate should take place on the floor and in public. This is not just about tweaking in some cases. This is about fundamental changes to our priorities and the things that we have agreed to try to work together on.

I will just use one example which I will speak of later: child care. There is a fundamental change in the priorities in this new document. We are not aspiring for universal child care anymore. We are just going to try to improve affordability and accessibility. I think that is a fundamental change. I think it represents a broken promise, and I will raise that again when we come to that part of the discussion later today. Those are my remarks, Mr. Chair. Thank you.

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

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. O'Reilly. Before we continue, I just want to take a minute to thank all the Pages, not just the ones here today, but the ones who have been here this sitting and this entire session as we are coming to the end of our third session. Thank you to all the Pages that have been with us this year. Next, Mr. Thompson.

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

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will try to be as quick as possible here. I would like to thank both sides for working together on this revised document. It was a lot of work throughout the process of developing it and to revise it. I really have to say that youth suicide prevention, to me, is very important, and it is getting the recognition it does need to deserve as we move forward on that. My colleagues talked about other priorities, and there was a lot of give and take. I know there were some issues on the mandate that I had to give up that were unrealistic, and I understood they were important for my riding, but for the global picture, sometimes you have to give some things up. I would like to thank everybody for working together and working hard as we move forward.

It is a challenge, and it would have been nice to do some stuff in the open, but sometimes work has to get done. As I said during it, I just want to move forward on this mandate. Sometimes we are able to achieve some stuff behind closed doors that we might have taken longer to do here. No disrespect to my colleagues who wish to do it in the open. I believe in open, transparent government, but sometimes we need to get work done. Sometimes it can be done behind closed doors. Some meetings are challenging. I know I was part of committees, and we had some pretty good conversations. I do not know if we could have done that out in the public.

I thank everybody for the hard work they did in developing a revised mandate that I think we can hopefully achieve through the remainder of the term, if not at least the majority of it. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Next, Mr. Nadli.

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

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I provided my thoughts, just acknowledging that we did revise our mandate. As colleagues have put it, it was a collaborative process between Regular MLAs and Cabinet. It is commendable that with 19 MLAs with diverse backgrounds and, of course, the diversity of the ridings that we represent, we came together and came up with a product that we think will serve at least the agenda of this government. We have two years to try to set our sights in terms of ensuring that the goals that we have set for ourselves are measurable in respect of at least being timely, following up at the same time, and at least having a measure of resources allocated to those initiatives that we might undertake during the two years of our term.

I have got some notes here. We were elected in November of 2015, and together, as a Caucus, we developed a mandate for the 18th Assembly. We are halfway to completing our terms as MLAs. The mid‑term review offers an excellent opportunity to pause and reflect on our work. It is a good time to look at what we have accomplished with our mandate and to reassess our priorities for the remaining two years. Likely, we will shift or reposition our expectations and huddle as a team once again.

I will offer a few thoughts on our mandate from a SWOT perspective: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I think our weakness could be how we work together as Regular MLAs and Cabinet. I think it is very important that we try to work collaboratively and cooperatively, with mutual respect and understanding. We are all in the same boat trying to strive for the betterment of the NWT. We are trying to at least build on our common interest in ensuring that we address very hard core needs, sometimes fundamentally, that small communities have or larger centres or even cities, for that matter, have. We are trying to better our society in general.

Of course, the other one, and I did not want to spend too much time on it, is threats. It is the unity. It is how we work together. It is very important that we be mindful that if we do not have unity amongst ourselves, we are in a weak position.

In light of that, I did not want to build upon the weaknesses or the threats that we might have, but trying to build upon the opportunities and strengths that we have. One of our greatest strengths is the resilience and creativity of our people. Mr. Chair, as we know, the cost of living, including the cost of goods and services, is higher here because of our distance from larger markets and the remote locations of our communities. I have been encouraged by the efforts being made regarding the domestic production of food in areas such as agriculture and greenhouses. We need to support more of this innovation. We need to roll up our sleeves and plant initiatives for the long‑term.

The Dehcho Process presents an opportunity to fulfil a long‑standing commitment to create certainty. Mr. Chair, the Premier and Minister Bennett have the report of the ministerial special representative, which was well-received by the Dehcho First Nations. The GNWT should work towards completion of the process within the year, including outstanding negotiations, including the Akaitcho, Metis, and K'atlodeeche First Nation. Let's get this done before an opportunity to create certainty becomes a missed opportunity that puts us into the blame game.

Now, once again, the TRC had outlined recommendations that the government needs to act upon. It could be that this government, in the spirit of reconciliation, ensures that we complete all outstanding land claims. Mahsi, Mr. Chair.

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

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. Next, Mr. Testart.

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

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I want to thank all of the honourable Members of this Assembly for their hard work and dedication to finding that common ground that has produced a stronger mandate than we initially started with. One of the hallmarks of our governing system is that we put aside our political differences and come together as a Caucus and work collaboratively and constructively. That does not mean we disagree, but it means the diversity of our opinions gives us a stronger basis to draw upon and make better decisions for our people.

This is a more refined version of the original document in many respects. It is less ambitious, more realistic, and is practical within the short time we have left serving our constituents before we head to the polls. The priority actions that are going to make the biggest impact on diversifying our economy, creating jobs and growth, and taking care of people in need are all centre stage in this document.

As many people know, I am a big believer in transparency and openness in our political processes, and this mandate speaks to that in the first place. By having a public debate on this document and by tabling it for all Northerners to see, we are letting our constituents into the decision‑making process, and allowing them to do that is one of the reasons I ran. Of course, this process is capped with the mid-term review that will be taking place tomorrow, which, again, speaks to greater accountability and transparency in our consensus government.

Many of the processes that we have in place have been in place for a long time. They just have not been particularly public. Now we are able to do that. I think laying a road map for where we want this government to go, what kind of priorities are important, and what will be the best value for our money are all important considerations, as well as ensuring that the viewpoints and aspirations of all of our people, regardless of whether they are from Yellowknife or from smaller communities or regional centres, all equally reflected in this document.

Now, members of the public and, of course, honourable colleagues will note that there are changes, and there is a tracked change document that has been tabled as well as a companion to this revised mandate. I hope that the government will be in a position to speak to some of the changes and why they were made. In many cases, it is to have more realistic outcomes, but in some respects, many of the mandate commitments have not been advanced sufficiently within the last two‑year period that marks this review period. If we are going to move off those mandate commitments, I think it is important to tell people why and to communicate very clearly with the public why some of the more ambitious goals that we have set for ourselves have to change. I hope we have the opportunity to do that today in this House and, if not, to communicate that through other means, through the government's own communication channels.

That being said, democracy is about compromise. That is its great strength, and we all have to give a little to get a lot for our constituents. At the end of the day, we will have a new revised mandate that will give more impact for the two‑year period we have left. I look forward to continuing the debate on this document and to considering any potential changes that come forward on the floor today. Thank you, Mr. Chair.