This is page numbers 4521 - 4570 of the Hansard for the 18th 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 work.

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Committee Motion 78-18(3): Concurrence of Tabled Document 215-18(3), Capital Estimates, 2019-2020, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

October 29th, 2018

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I move that Bill 24 be amended in subclause 2(4) by adding the following proposed definitions in alphabetical order:

  • "authorized representative" meaning a person authorized by a political party to provide the necessary consent to enable a person to be identified on a ballot as a member of a political party;
  • "political party" means an association, organization, or affiliation of electors comprising a political organization, one of the purposes of which is to nominate and support candidates in elections;
  • "registered political party" means a political organization that is registered by the Chief Electoral Officer under section 83.1.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Testart. There is a motion in order. To the motion.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Question.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, this motion simply lays out the definitions that clarify later amendments that will be proposed. Quite plainly, it speaks to what a political party is, what a registered political party is, and what an authorized representative is in terms of the regulations that will be proposed under the act.

Again, this provides absolute certainty to Northerners and, in particular, those who are subject to either the GNWT's code of conduct or other statutes that make explicit reference to Territorial political parties without defining them. This clarifies that issue and clearly defines what a political party is and the difference between a group of people who have formed one and an officially registered one that can participate in elections.

They are simple definitions, Mr. Chair. I look forward to the debate on them. I would like to request a recorded vote. Thank you.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Testart. To the motion. Mr. Vanthuyne.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that there are some other potential amendments that are going to be coming from the honourable Member from Kam Lake as it relates to his views and his opinions toward making amendments that would align for party politics. I think, on the onset, it is important for me to share some of my views and allow folks to get an understanding of where I will be positioning myself and what my opinion will be.

Mr. Chair, my colleague from Kam Lake has introduced an amendment and will be introducing others to the Elections and Plebiscites Act to promote the establishment of political parties in the NWT. It is not the first time, of course, that party politics have been proposed in the NWT. It likely won't be the last.

Mr. Chair, our unique form of government is an experiment to some degree. It is an ongoing attempt to find the best way to manage our affairs with respect to our unique history and the heritage of the diverse peoples of the NWT. As such, it is constantly growing and changing. In such a dynamic system, it is important to be open to new ideas and possibilities of change and improvement.

For that reason, I welcome my colleague's suggestions for change, as he has said the goal of his proposal is to enhance the democratic rights of our residents. That is the most important goal of any political system, to give citizens a clear voice.

Mr. Chair, my colleague believes that it is the right of Canadians to establish party politics. I agree that, under the charter, we have that right. I support him in bringing forward his position about changing how we conduct business in the House. However, I don't believe that a party system is the right answer for the NWT.

Mr. Chair, democracy emerged from the town meeting where citizens were afforded a chance to voice their opinions on issues of public interest. Parties emerged as a way of consolidating positions of broad interest into respective groups.

In the NWT, we are blessed with a small but hugely diverse population. It includes people from many different backgrounds, cultures, and languages. We are fortunate that, in our system, each person actually has the opportunity to speak up, have their voice heard, and make a difference. Importantly, our system also pays respect to the decision-making traditions of the Indigenous people of whom this territory we all live in.

Consensus is not a perfect system; I will admit it. All of us in this room know that it requires ongoing attention and vigilance to make it work, but in a territory with a diversity in population, I believe it remains the best system to respond to the needs of our society.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chair, I stated in an article in my recent newsletter that I don't want to be in a system where cooperation is out and control is in. I believe that a partisan system will begin to diminish somewhat the diversity, rather than enhance it. I believe that unique voices will be discouraged or even silenced in certain ways under a party system.

Mr. Speaker, you don't have to look very far to see the divisions that partisanship can cause. We live in a world that is increasingly divided. I don't believe that we need to divide into camps in order to manage our public affairs in the NWT.

Consensus isn't perfect, Mr. Speaker, but I believe it is uniquely ours, and it promotes unity, collaboration, and most importantly, it represents our identity and who we are as a people. For those reasons, I will not be in support of the amendment. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Vanthuyne. Next, we have Mr. Abernethy.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thank the Member for bringing this motion to the floor. I think it is important to have this type of discussion. However, I do have a number of concerns. I don't actually believe that this is the right venue to be having this discussion. I know the Member has said that this is a mechanism to get this into the floor to have those discussions.

In the Government of the Northwest Territories, if a government is moving legislation, it usually involves developing a legislative proposal based on what the MLAs, 19, heard during election campaign. From the LP, that would go to a committee for review to make sure that it is consistent with what we heard from the public.

The LP would then turn into a legislative process, which would involve going out to the communities, going out to residents of the Northwest Territories, listening to them, and making sure that the legislation meets the desires of the people, or at least the vast majority of the people of the Northwest Territories.

From then, there would be a first and a second reading, at which opportunity committee would then be given that piece of legislation to take on the road for 120 days, where they have an opportunity to check to see whether or not the Cabinet of the day actually got the legislation right. This is a great opportunity for input to be provided, amendments to be made, and the voices of the people to be heard, at which point, after amendments, if appropriate, there would be a motion or a bill would then come to the floor for third reading.

I think the honourable Member, Mr. O'Reilly, and his committee did a significant amount of work going out and engaging the public and getting feedback on the Elections and Plebiscites Act, and at no time did I hear anybody come in and say that we need to incorporate parties through this process, that we need to have that discussion at this point in time. I am not saying we don't need to have this discussion; I am saying that nobody brought it up.

I have had an opportunity to reach out to my constituents across the Northwest Territories, as well as my constituents in my riding, and what I have heard is some people saying, yeah, they like the idea of a party. I have heard lots of people say what they would prefer to see is a consensus government where people remember what the principles of consensus government are, and that we all, on every side of the House, work together in the best interests of the people of the Northwest Territories. I have also heard people say, in particular a lot of the Aboriginal governments, that they don't want a party system. They want to change the way that we provide services, and they want guaranteed seats.

There isn't consensus on the system that we need to have or whether or not there even needs to be change.

The honourable Member for Kam Lake responded to a constituent of mine recently, who raised concerns about what was being proposed, and the MLA indicated that it is important to have public discussion on the proposed amendment, but I think it's important that we are having the discussion publicly. I think what the Member has missed is to have the discussion with the public, and if this is something that we are going to discuss, we need to take it to the public and make sure that we get it right.

Frankly, if we move to a party system here in the Northwest Territories, it changes everything. It is a fundamental change in how we provide governance in this territory. It means no more budgets being shared with MLAs on the other side of the House. It means no more working on bills together. It means no more healthy debate and discussion. It is a different system completely, and if we are going to do it, I believe, without question, that the people of the Northwest Territories have to tell us to do it.

I have encouraged the Member to consider a plebiscite. I have encouraged the Member to actually bring forward a private Member's bill that could go through normal process and get proper feedback. I strongly believe that bringing to the floor through this means is inconsistent with the principles and tenets and is not giving the public their due course and their opportunity to have meaningful input into something. It is, to me, more like an end run, and I am frustrated that we are having the conversation here today; I am not saying that we don't need to have the conversation.

Having said all that, I also don't support party politics in the Northwest Territories. I believe, and what I have heard more than anything, is that we need to do better. We need to work together. We have to remember why we are here, and we have to stop the partisanship behaviour that happens on both sides of this House. We need to do better.

I can't support this motion. I don't believe, necessarily, all of the descriptions that the Member has provided. This does create the opening for party politics in the Northwest Territories. If this motion is defeated, I don't think we will necessarily see the rest of the motions, because they wouldn't make sense without this one passing first, but some of the motions that were being proposed include spending. By allowing a party to spend in advance of an election it is really creating unfair opportunity and disadvantage for those who actually believe in consensus government, as opposed to those who want to run a party system. I am frustrated, and I won't be supporting those motions either.

I thank the Member for bringing it. I wish he had used a mechanism that I feel would be more appropriate to have this discussion and not come by way of an end run. I hope that the Member continues to engage and have this dialogue because I am interested to hear what the people have to say.

As the MLA for Great Slave, because this is a review of the Elections and Plebiscites Act and we all speak as incumbents, not Ministers or Regular Members, this is an open vote for everybody, I cannot support this motion, and I don't think anybody should either. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, committee. I would like to remind Members that the debate should be to the motion. This motion proposes adding definitions to the motion. I realize it is a contentious issue here. Any further questions? Mr. Nadli.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I, too, would like to express my thoughts on this proposed amendment.

It is very interesting where we find ourselves at currently and what caused the movement to bring us inevitable point. My understanding is that there is frustration in terms of accountability and transparency. How do you make Cabinet, how do you make Ministers more accountable? That is the frustration. The consensus government does not foster a very transparent and accountable process. Some people believe that, and for those reasons today, an amendment has been proposed that, if you file your nomination or register as a candidate, you have to declare whether you affiliate yourself with a party or not, and it is very unfortunate that we have come to this point.

What is also interesting is my colleague had expressed, well, possibly what should have happened perhaps in terms of process is that, really, a venue to put forth this concept and ensure that a vigilant debate from all sides could happen. That initiative was never undertaken by Cabinet. There have been maybe some gestures towards reforming and looking at new concepts of democracy to ensure that it works within the confines of the consensus system, but that did not happen. That did not happen from Cabinet or the leaders from Cabinet. Instead, what's happening is, from outside, we proposed the idea of party politics because we need to ensure that there's a level of transparency and accountability. That's what precipitated this, is my understanding, this provision to amend the Elections Act.

Also in saying that, too, I'm not prepared to support the amendment. You know, we already have parties. We have Yellowknife. Interestingly enough, you know, we also have regional centres and we also have small communities. You know, so do we have a party system? Indeed, we do. We have a Cabinet and we have Regular MLAs on the side, so you can't tell me that we have one party. There are two parties. I think it's not a good time for us to make changes that are going to have a significant impact in terms of how people work together in the Northwest Territories. It's just not the right time to bring forth a concept like that.

Really, what we are kind of seeing, too, as my colleague expressed, "Well, this is a unique experience in terms of governance." First Nations and democracy, democratic principles and concepts brought together so that non-Indigenous and Indigenous people can live and work together.

What it is, is that we have a public government based on fiduciary obligations on behalf of First Nations to serve the interests of Dene, Inuvialuit, and Metis of the Northwest Territories. That's the experiment that we have now and we have to make it work.

At the end of the day, it's clear and acknowledged that the extent of consultation was not far and wide. You know, people at the community level need to understand of the implications of the changes that we are proposing. Therefore, I'm not in a position to support this amendment. Mahsi.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. Next on the list we have Mr. McNeely.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I respect the three previous presenters and agree with all the issues raised. I will not be supporting this amendment, for all the reasons being that it would deny the people who I serve the right in having their own deliberations within themselves as voters, the governments they sit on and represent.

There are several organizations in the Sahtu that I represent, and I will not stand in the way of their democratic right to voice and have an input into this process. We have a system, as mentioned by the Member from Great Slave, that there is a system to encounter and a process to engage with those individuals.

In short, for all the reasons raised, I agree and will not repeat the three speakers before me. In having said that, I don't agree with this. Mahsi.

Committee Motion 79-18(3): Bill 24: An Act to Amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act - Subclause 2(4), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. McNeely. Next on the list, we have Minister Sebert.