This is page numbers 5839 - 16 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.

Topics

Motion 40-18(3): Extended Adjournment of the House to August 12, 2019, Carried
Motions

Page 5870

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you. The motion is in order and non-debatable. All those in favour. All those opposed. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Motions. Item 18, first reading of bills. Item 19, second reading of bills. Minister of Justice.

Bill 58: Justice Administration Statutes Amendment Act
Second Reading Of Bills

Page 5870

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River South, that Bill 58, Justice Administration Statutes Amendment Act, be read for the second time.

This bill amends various statutes administered by the Department of Justice to:

  • repeal provisions of An Act to Amend the Children's Law Act and to amend the Children's Law Act to establish a recalculation service;
  • amend the Coroner's Act to clarify the responsibilities of the chief coroner and coroners in respect of inquests, and authorize the release of the body of the deceased if an investigation is complete;
  • amend the Evidence Act to add provisions in respect of the admissibility of electronic records, and repeal provisions that allow the court to refuse to admit photographic film prints into evidence;
  • add an updated definition for "prime time" to the Judicature Act;
  • add a reference in the Jury Act to exemptions from jury service contained in the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act;
  • increase fee rates in respect of the registration of instruments and caveats under the Land Titles Act;
  • amend the Public Trustee Act to establish a mechanism for the disposition of unclaimed property;
  • amend the Residential Tenancies Act to provide for the appointment of a chief rental officer, adjust provisions relating to service and the giving of reasons, and allow regulations to be made in respect of fees for services provided; and
  • amend the Retirement Plan Beneficiaries Act to provide for the discharge of the administrator of a plan.

This bill also deals with other matters of minor, noncontroversial, and uncomplicated nature in several of these statutes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 58: Justice Administration Statutes Amendment Act
Second Reading Of Bills

Page 5871

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Minister. To the principle of the bill.

Bill 58: Justice Administration Statutes Amendment Act
Second Reading Of Bills

Page 5871

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Bill 58: Justice Administration Statutes Amendment Act
Second Reading Of Bills

Page 5871

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Question has been called. All those in favour. All those opposed. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Bill 58 has had second reading and is referred to the Standing Committee on Social Development. Second reading of bills. Item 20, consideration in Committee of the Whole of bills and other matters: Committee Report 19-18(3), Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2017-2018 Public Accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories; Minister's Statement 151-18(3), New Federal Infrastructure Agreement; Minister's Statement 158-18(3), Developments in Early Childhood Programs and Services; Tabled Document 442-18(3), 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework 2019-2023 Action Plan, with the Member for Mackenzie Delta in the chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5871

The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, committee. I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. What is the wish of committee? Mr. Beaulieu.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5871

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Committee wishes to consider Committee Report 19-18(3), Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2017-2018 Public Accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories. 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

Page 5871

The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Are there any general comments from the committee chair? Mr. Testart.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5871

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. This marks the final review of public accounts for the Standing Committee on Government Operations in the life of the 18th Assembly. Over the years, the standing committee has gained a great deal of knowledge about the public accounts process and has developed its own best practices for dealing with public accounts. This is a really fascinating area of legislatures in Canada and around the world, and there is a great deal of knowledge to learn. It's our hope that some of our knowledge and experience will be transferred on to future Assemblies, and we will be able to see stronger public accounts, processes, and committees to review them moving forward.

Speaking to the contents of the report, we read the report into the record yesterday. I think our findings speak for themselves. We will get into the specific recommendations, but I did want to take this opportunity to recognize the incredible collaborative efforts that the committee recognized from the Comptroller General, Mr. Jamie Koe. Over the years, we have been reviewing the public accounts. Every time the public accounts came back, they were always a bit better.

The public service was very responsive to the concerns that were brought forward from the standing committee. I think we see a much-improved public accounts process and much more legible and public-facing public accounts document at the end of the day. That is exactly one of the things the committee really hoped we would see, a public sector accounting that is transparent, relatable, and as plain-language as possible. It couldn't have been done without both the hard work of my colleagues on the committee with the assistance of the Auditor General of Canada's office and, of course, with the Comptroller General's Office. We greatly appreciate, again, that collaboration and the Comptroller General's attention to the committee's recommendations and the concerns that have been raised over the years.

That being said, the big sticking point remains the privacy concerns around student loan remissions. Although some changes have been made, the committee remains concerned that this marks a breach of student privacy and should be address. At this point, the committee is convinced that it will require legislative change, and that is outside our role as an audit committee. The recommendation speaks for itself, and our findings over the years speak for themselves, too. This is an issue that matters. Privacy, of course, matters. Students who are receiving a benefit and were encouraged to return to the Northwest Territories ought to have their privacy protected. We hope that successor committees and future governments will take this issue seriously and make the required changes to ensure that student privacy is protected in the issuance of the public accounts.

With that, I again would like to thank the Comptroller General, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, and all the Members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations for their hard work over the years and their diligence in reviewing the public accounts. 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

Page 5872

The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Testart. I will now open the floor to general comments from committee on the committee report. Thank you. 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

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the hard work of the committee in reviewing the public accounts. I sat in on the proceeding. I also want to recognize the work of the office of the Auditor General of Canada and of the staff who have been very helpful over the years. I agree with the assessment by the chair, the honourable Member for Kam Lake, about the working relationship with the comptroller general.

For me, there are a couple of areas that are still outstanding. One, of course, is this issue of naming individual students, which now includes our daughter, and the loan amounts that have been remitted. I just want to read into the record here one paragraph of the complete report:

"Committee is of the view that it has exhausted the debate on this matter with the Department of Finance, and the best way forward to affect further protection of student privacy is to consider legislative amendments that would exempt student loan remissions from the degree of disclosure that GNWT views is required under current legislation. Given that the term of the 18th Legislative Assembly concludes later this year, committee suggests this matter is best pursued by its successor committee in the 19th Legislative Assembly."

For the record, and I think I tabled these earlier in the 18th Assembly, there were two letters from the Information and Privacy Commissioner who was of the view that this practice breaches privacy and is not legally required. If I come back here in the 19th Assembly, I am prepared to bring forward a private Member's bill to fix this problem for good.

I guess there is some work that is going to be done on environmental liabilities. I look forward to seeing how that plays out over time, as well. I agree with the chair. There has been a huge improvement in the public accounts, and I think it is a good thing for the public and for MLAs. Great progress was made. Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5872

The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. O'Reilly. Any further questions from committee? Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 153-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2017-2018 Public Accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories - Consolidated Budget, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

June 6th, 2019

Page 5872

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I move that this Assembly recommends that the Department of Finance annually table a consolidated budget that shows anticipated revenues and expenditures for the larger government reporting entity, consistent with the information that will be reported at fiscal year-end in Section I of the Public Accounts: Consolidated Financial Statements. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 153-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2017-2018 Public Accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories - Consolidated Budget, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5872

The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. Okay. There is a motion on the floor. The motion has been distributed. To the motion. Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 153-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2017-2018 Public Accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories - Consolidated Budget, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5873

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will just point out that, in our ongoing quest for more plain-language documents when it comes to very complex public-sector accounting such as the public accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories, we have always pushed for better ways to show how much the government plans to spend, how much they have actually spent, and everything in between. In our conversations this year, the committee noted that a consolidated budget would be a good way to get this around, and the comptroller general at the time indicated that the GNWT believed it was in a position to actually bring forward a consolidated budget somewhere in the middle of the year, after the public accounts are done, after the budget has been approved.

This motion just calls for that process to go forward so we have a very plain consolidated budget that is very easy for the public to follow the money and ensure there is good value for money in the commitments made in the budget and how the appropriated money is actually being spent. We believe this is a strong recommendation for a better public accounts process. I hope my colleagues will support it today. Thank you, Mr. Chair.