This is page numbers 6289 - 6352 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 assembly.

Topics

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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Recommendations

12. That several options for a revised Cabinet selection and appointment process be presented to the 19th Legislative Assembly for consideration.

13. That nominations for Premier take place in advance of the selection process, as was the case with the 18th Legislative Assembly, to allow Members to consult with their constituents and leadership on a preferred candidate.

14. That the 19th Legislative Assembly establish an independent committee to study and make recommendations on the functioning of consensus government, including the preferred selection process for Premier as well as the structure and appointment of Cabinet.

4.2 Standing Committees

The Member for Kam Lake presented a paper, included as Attachment 5 to this report, calling for the creation of one or more "parliamentary groups" to conduct much of the business currently falling under the mandate of Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning. The parliamentary group would include all Regular Members and would receive funding from the Legislative Assembly to retain political advice and support and develop policy alternatives. Unlike standing committees, which are required to meet in public, the parliamentary group of Regular Members could conduct its political discussions in camera, as does Cabinet. Regular Members who did not demonstrate good behaviour and effective collaboration could be subject to discipline by the leader of the parliamentary group. Specifically, the report recommended the following:

  • That the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning be dissolved and a new caucus established with mandatory membership for all Regular Members;
  • That the policies and/or legislation governing the Legislative Assembly be amended to provide for fair and effective funding for causes and establish minimum thresholds for caucuses funding; and
  • That the Rules of the Legislative Assembly be amended, where appropriate, to give formal standing to the Chair of the Regular Members Caucus, allow for certain discretionary appointments over legislative assignments, and increase remuneration of the role commensurate to these new responsibilities.

Committee thanked the Member for Kam Lake for his proposal and expressed some support for the justifications for the recommendations. Members were supportive of the establishment of a formal Public Accounts Committee to focus exclusively on the government's expenditures and oversee the conduct of audits. Others felt that the Member's concerns might be more appropriately addressed through changes to the existing system such as increased funding for committee support and changes to the way Caucus operates. Committee agreed that, given the increasing workload of the Assembly and its committees in the more complex, post-devolution environment, additional support for standing committees will be required.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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Recommendations

15. That a Public Accounts Committee, with terms of reference similar to those in other jurisdictions, be formally established in the Rules of the Legislative Assembly.

16. That increased resources be provided by the Legislative Assembly to support the work of standing committees in the 19th Legislative Assembly, including additional funding to retain outside expert advisors, hire additional research, public affairs and clerk staff, and engage the public in more effective ways.

Committee discussed the means of soliciting interest and recommending appointments with respect to standing committee membership. It was agreed that the use of a striking committee was not effective and that all Regular Members should be involved in developing a consensus position with respect to standing committee appointments. Committee chairs should continue to be selected by each committee.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
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Recommendation

17. That reference to a "Striking Committee" be deleted from the Rules of the Legislative Assembly and that the membership of standing committees be recommended by the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning.

4.3 Caucus

While not part of its formal mandate, the committee reflected upon the effectiveness of Caucus. Although the Consensus Government Process Convention on the Role of Caucus does allow for the discussion of strategic policy issues in Caucus, some members felt Caucus was not being used for this purpose. Whereas the Caucus is used extensively at the commencement of a term to develop priorities for the Legislative Assembly, once these priorities have been agreed to and Cabinet selected, Caucus becomes largely a forum for administrative matters as opposed to a place where all Members can discuss issues as equals and free from cabinet or committee solidarity.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
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Recommendation

18. That the 19th Legislative Assembly make greater use of Caucus as a forum to discuss strategic policy issues among all Members of the Legislative Assembly not only at the commencement of a Legislative Assembly but throughout its term.

Committee also discussed several other options to make Caucus a more effective institution including holding more frequent meetings, changing the lay-out of the caucus room and having Caucus co-chaired by a Regular Member and a Member of Cabinet.

4.4 Board of Management

Committee discussed the makeup and the means of recommending appointments to the Legislative Assembly Board of Management. Pursuant to legislation, the Board of Management is chaired by the Speaker and consists of two Regular Members and two Members of Cabinet. Immediately following the selection of Cabinet, the Speaker seeks expressions of interest from Regular Members who may wish to sit on the Board of Management. The Speaker then recommends to Caucus two Regular Members for formal appointment. The recommendation of Cabinet Members to the Board is made by the Premier. The Deputy Speaker, who is called upon to chair meetings of the Board if the Speaker is absent or unable to attend, may not be one of the Regular Members appointed to the Board. Four alternatives are also appointed, two Regular Members and two members of Cabinet, who are called upon to attend meetings only if necessary to achieve a quorum.

Committee expressed concern that Regular Members have little say as to who represents their interests on the Board of Management. It was felt that the recommendation of Regular Members to sit on the Board should be made at the same time as overall committee assignments to ensure that a holistic approach could be taken to the sharing of workload. It was noted that the appointment of the Board of Management must take place on the first sitting day of a newly elected Assembly pursuant to legislation.

Recommendation

19. That all Regular Members be involved in deciding which Regular Members are recommended for appointment to the Legislative Assembly Board of Management.

5.0 Budget and Business Planning

Committee reviewed a discussion paper on potential improvements to the Budget and Business Planning processes. Committee noted that many of the options identified in this paper were focused on making these processes more efficient (i.e. less time-consuming) rather than more effective. The options of selecting only certain departments' budgets for detailed review in Committee of the Whole and of conducting concurrent reviews of business plans and budgets were not concurred with.

5.1 Consideration and Adoption of First Budget

The consideration and adoption of an incoming Legislative Assembly's first budget is a perennial challenge. Even with an early October election, the time available for the drafting and consideration of business plans and the conduct of public consultations is highly compressed, particularly given that so much time in the early months of a new Assembly is occupied with orientation, leadership selection, and priority setting. As noted earlier, these challenges are offset by the benefits of getting an earlier start with implementation of the priorities and mandate.

Committee is of the view that future Assemblies are well positioned to adopt a full budget prior to the commencement of their first full fiscal year in office. While this eliminates the need for an interim supply budget, it was felt that the supplementary reserve included in an Assembly's first budget should be increased to allow work to begin on specific mandate items once they have been fully costed, rather than waiting for the second budget.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
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Recommendations

20. That the first budget of the 19th Legislative Assembly be adopted prior to the end of 2019-2020 fiscal year pursuant to the process detailed in Table 1.

21. That the Supplementary Reserve included in the 19th Legislative Assembly's 2020-2021 budget be substantially increased to allow work to commence on specific mandate commitments in year one of the legislative term.

5.2 Four-year Business Plans

Given the tight timeframes in the run-up to consideration and adoption of the first budget, it is impractical to draft, consider, and adopt detailed business plans prior to the end of the first fiscal year of a new Legislative Assembly. Furthermore, committee expressed dissatisfaction with the consideration of annual business plans, as they tend to be repetitive, short-sighted, lacking in sufficient detail, and often disconnected from an Assembly's priorities and Cabinet's mandate. Committee is of the view that future Assemblies should adopt four-year business plans in the spring following the adoption of its first budget. In subsequent budget years, departments would prepare and present updates to these four year plans in conjunction with draft estimates. Both the four-year plans and the annual updates should be consistent in format and focus on specific measures that are being taken to implement the Priorities and Mandate.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
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Recommendations

20. That the 19th Legislative Assembly adopt four-year business plans to guide the implementation of the priorities and mandate and that annual updates to these business plans be presented to standing committees in conjunction with draft main estimates.

21. That both the four-year business plans and annual updates be consistent across departments and focused on specific short and long-term measures to implement the priorities and mandate of a Legislative Assembly.

5.3 Consideration and Adoption of Subsequent Budgets

In previous Assemblies, the involvement of standing committees in the budget development process commenced with the consideration of annual business plans in September. Consequently, committees have found themselves reacting to substantial planning, direction, and proposed new initiatives on the part of Cabinet in the preceding months. As one of the fundamental characteristics of consensus government is the ability for all Members to have meaningful input into the development of budgets, the committee is of the view that the involvement of standing committees should commence, at a high level, prior to setting of broad direction by Cabinet and the drafting of annual business plans updates. To achieve this, committee agreed that Cabinet should hold broad and high-level consultation with standing committee in the period between the adoption of the old year budget in late March and before the establishment of budget planning targets and direction by Cabinet in June.

Committee was also of the view that the previous practice of having the Minister of Finance conduct pre-budget consultation with the public be re-established. The results of both the pre-budget consultations with standing committee and the public could then be reported back to standing committee in late September and tabled in the Legislative Assembly during the October sitting of the House. This report would then be used to guide the drafting of annual business plan updates and draft main estimates which would be presented to standing committees for consideration in late November and early December. Consistent with current practice, a final meeting between the Minister of Finance and the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning would occur in mid-January. This meeting is intended to provide the Minister of Finance a final opportunity to advise standing committee on what changes have been made to the final draft estimates document prior to the budget address in February.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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Recommendations

24. That the Minister of Finance hold pre-budget consultations with standing committees in May or June of each year and prior to the setting of broad budget direction and targets.

25. That the Minister of Finance conduct annual pre-budget consultations with the public prior to the setting of broad budget direction and targets.

26. That the results of the standing committee and public pre-budget consultations be reported to standing committees in September of each year and tabled in the house during the October sitting.

27. That the second and subsequent budgets of the 19th Legislative Assembly be drafted, considered, and adopted according the process detailed in Table 2.

6.0 Mid-Term Review

In contrast to the mid-term review of priorities addressed above, the term "mid-term review" generally refers to a political review of Cabinet performance, both individually and collectively. The 18th Legislative Assembly conducted the first mid-term review since Division. During Prorogation of the Second Session, Members met in the Chamber to evaluate the performance of each Minister and the Cabinet as a whole. Following statements by each Minister and a question and answer period, Members proceeded to vote, by secret ballot, on whether the Cabinet and each Minister should continue to hold the confidence of the house. This process resulted in a secret ballot expression of confidence in Cabinet as a whole, the Premier and five of six Ministers. The vote expressed a lack of confidence in one Minister. When the 3rd Session commenced shortly thereafter, a formal motion was introduced to withdraw the confidence of the House in the Minister in question. The motion did not carry and the Minister retained his appointment to Cabinet.

Committee expressed near-unanimous dissatisfaction with the results of the mid-term review. Some felt the concept itself was ill-advised. Reasons included the negative impact the prescribed process had on relationships, which are fundamental to the effectiveness of consensus government, the existence of other, more effective mechanisms to hold Ministers to account for their performance, a reluctance to act on perceived poor performance either before or after the mid-term review, and the amount of time required to conduct it. Others felt the process failed because of unclear expectations as to the implications of a secret ballot vote of non-confidence.

Committee was not prepared to recommend that the 19th Legislative Assembly conduct another mid-term review. Rather, it was felt that the development of a consensus government process convention on expressions of non-confidence would bring some clarity to the landscape regarding ministerial accountability and performance. Further, the committee feels strongly that the effective use of so-called "firside chats" would greatly assist in addressing performance issues with Ministers as they arise. It was agreed that these firside chats should take place regularly throughout a legislative term, be conducted in a room other than the Committee Room, focus on relationships and performance rather than issues, and include Ministers where appropriate.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

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Recommendations

28. That the 19th Legislative Assembly not conduct a formal mid-term review of cabinet and Ministerial performance.

29. That the Consensus Government Process Convention on Communications between Cabinet, Ministers, Standing Committees and Regular Members be amended to solidify the requirement to hold a fireside chat at least three times a year and that these meeting be conducted outside the Committee Room.

7.0 Introduction and Consideration of Legislation

While not part of its terms of reference, the committee reviewed the process for introducing and considering legislation. This discussion was largely informed by the unusually large volume and complexity of legislation that was referred to standing committees in the last year of the 18th Legislative Assembly, the unique challenges resulting from the process of co-drafting legislation with Indigenous governments in the post-devolution era and perceived uncertainty and confusion on the part of the public as to the process for enacting legislation and the respective roles of Cabinet and standing committees.

7.1 Complexity of Legislation

Committee made note of the challenges that standing committees often face when conducting public hearings on legislation. Members of the public are often confused as to the purpose of proposed legislation, particularly those that are more technical or complex, and have difficulty distinguishing the role of standing committees from that of Cabinet. Potential solutions included the drafting of plain language summaries for large or complex pieces of legislation, having departmental staff travel with committees to provide an overview of the bill on behalf of the Minister and answer technical questions that may arise, and the development of effective educational materials with respect to the legislative process. Committee also agreed that more clarity was required with respect to the process for introducing and considering legislation that is the product of co-drafting with Indigenous governments and that committees require additional staff support in terms of procedural, research and public affairs staff including communications. Finally, Committee expressed support for meeting with the Minister responsible for a complex or large bill following public hearings but before public clause-by-clause review in an effort to get answers to any lingering questions that arose from the public hearings and help build consensus around proposed amendments.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
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Recommendations

30. That the Consensus Government Process Convention on Standing Committee Review of Legislative Proposals be expanded to address the entire process for drafting, introducing and enacting of legislation.

31. That the revised process convention include a requirement for the sponsoring Minister to draft a plain language summary of complex or lengthy pieces of legislation when requested to do so my committee.

32. That the revised process convention include a requirement for knowledgeable departmental staff to accompany standing committees on public hearings on complex or lengthy bills when requested to do so by committee, and be prepared to make a brief introduction of the bill's content and answer technical questions from the public and referred by the committee chair.

33. That the revised process convention acknowledge and make provisions for effective standing committee involvement in the drafting and review of legislation that is the product of co-drafting with Indigenous governments.

34. That the revised process convention make allowance for standing committee meetings with the sponsoring Minister following the completion of public hearings and before the public clause-by-clause review of the bill.

35. That public education material be developed by the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly that describes the process for drafting, introducing and enacting legislation, and highlights the differing roles and authorities of Cabinet and standing committees.

7.2 Volume of Legislation

It is not unusual for a large volume of legislation to be referred to standing committees in the final year of a Legislative Assembly. Committee agreed that the 18th Legislative Assembly has been no exception to this rule. Sixteen bills, many of which are complex and lengthy, remained before standing committee heading into the final session of the 18th Assembly. Once referred to a standing committee after Second Reading, standing committees have 120 days to study the bill, conduct public hearings, propose amendments, and report back to the House. In most circumstances, this 120 days is adequate. However, for unusually complex or large bills, committee agreed that there may be merit in having a longer period of time to report. This is particularly the case when a large volume of legislation is already before a specific standing committee. In evaluating the current approach, committee discussed the potential benefits of categorizing bills in terms of their length and complexity and establishing different reporting timeframes for each. It also discussed the potential benefits of placing limits on the number of bills that can be referred to a single committee at one time.

Committee Report 35-18(3): "Lessons Learned" Report of the Special Committee on Transition Matters
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Recommendation

36. That the Consensus Government Process Convention on Standing Committee Review of Legislative Proposals be amended to establish longer reporting timeframes for complex or lengthy bills and place limits on the number of bill that may be referred to a standing committee at one time.

7.3 Regulations

Committee noted that there is currently no process for standing committees to review proposed regulations prior to their implementation, notwithstanding the fact that important matters of policy are often and increasingly deferred to these subsidiary forms of legislation. It was noted that some jurisdictions have provisions in their rules for standing committee or public review of regulations in their draft form. It was also noted that the high volume and complexity of many regulations would overwhelm standing committees if they were all referred for consideration.

During the review of the post-devolution environmental and resource management legislation, committee received numerous submissions from Indigenous governments, community governments, non-governmental organizations and business for involvement in the development of regulations. Unfortunately, there are very legal requirements for such involvement although the mirror legislation for oil and gas management does contain provisions for the publication of regulations in the Northwest Territories Gazette and that there will be a reasonable opportunity for public comment.

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Recommendation

37. That the 19th Legislative Assembly adopt a Consensus Government Process Convention on the consideration of draft regulations by the public and standing committee.

8.0 Conclusion

The committee is well aware that the newly elected Members of the 18th Legislative Assembly paid limited attention to the recommendation of its predecessor Assembly's Transition Committee recommendations. Nothing in this report should be construed as an attempt by Members of the 18th Assembly to reach into and fetter the discretion of the 19th Assembly. To the contrary, the recommendations included in this report were drafted carefully to provide the members of the next Assembly with the best advice it can offer based on the lessons learned over four years in office. It is the hope of the committee that the 19th Assembly will review its recommendations in the spirit in which they were offered. Consensus government is a unique and ever-evolving system of parliamentary democracy. We are confident that the next Assembly will identify many areas for improvement that were overlooked by this committee. This is as it should be.

The committee wishes to extend its very best wishes to all elected Members of the 19th Legislative Assembly. No matter what priorities the next Assembly sets out to achieve, it is our hope that our recommendations and advice will help to improve the underlying practices necessary to facilitate this important work.

The committee would like to thank all Members who took the time to attend and participate in its various meetings as well as the staff of the Office of the Clerk and the Executive who provided objective and thoughtful research and advice.

I would like to thank the Members of this special committee; the Member for Frame Lake, the Member for Great Slave, the Member for Hay River South, the Member for Kam Lake, and the Member for Nahendeh.

The Special Committee on Transition Matters commends its final report to the Legislative Assembly for consideration and offers its best wishes to the 19th Legislative Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Great Slave, that Committee Report 35-18(3) be received and adopted by the Legislative Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. The motion is in order. The motion is non-debatable. All those in favour. All those opposed. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 35-18(3) is now received and adopted by the Legislative Assembly. Masi. Reports of standing and special committee. Item 13, reports of committees on the review of bills. Item 14, tabling of documents. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Tabled Document 509-18(3): Draft Code of Conduct and Guide for Members of the Legislative Assembly
Tabling Of Documents

August 21st, 2019

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, hereby table the Draft Code of Conduct and Guide for Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. Mahsi.

Tabled Document 509-18(3): Draft Code of Conduct and Guide for Members of the Legislative Assembly
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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Tabling of documents. Member for Frame Lake.

Tabled Document 510-18(3): Draft Rules of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, August 2019
Tabling Of Documents

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I wish to table the Draft Rules of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, dated August 2019. Mr. Speaker, this document reflects the comprehensive review of the rules undertaken by the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures to modernize our rules and to better reflect our current practices and procedures. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.