This is page numbers of the Hansard for the 19th 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 work.

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oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

December 9th, 2021

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I already got my early Christmas present from the Minister of Finance when she tabled the 2021 public accounts yesterday. And in those public accounts, Mr. Speaker, a trend that has continued for a number of years continues on with the GNWT exponentially getting sued for more and more money, well over a $100 million right now. I was just hoping the Minister of Finance could shed some light on what is going on here. Who is suing us? And why does this number just exponentially grow? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Minister responsible for Finance.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I didn't know I was going to get called Santa Claus today. But, you know, Mr. Speaker, there's -- I don't know I'd characterize it as exponential growth. I am able to look at of course all of the various lawsuits that are issued against the GNWT. We don't have any control over who decides to sue the government. And I've asked the department to find out whether in fact this is something where it's unusual for the GNWT as opposed to all governments across Canada. I can say from my past life, but there's sometimes a bit of a pension to sue the government on the assumptions that we have deeper pockets than what we actually maybe do. Anything that's been filed publicly, anyone can go and access the court filing records. And in those filing records, they would see who has sued the government and for what amount.

The number of the $107 million that's being described here, that is for a contingent liability. What that means, Mr. Speaker, is the total amount that someone is suing us for if it is unknown whether or not that will end one way or another, it's included at that point. It is not an actual liability. It's not the actual amount that we're expecting to pay. It's not even -- it's not reflective of where a settlement might be at. That's a different value entirely. That's your legal liability, and it's much, much lower. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll have questions at another time about if we can somehow perhaps take what's filed in the courts and get it somewhat public. I know there's some tension in doing that with matters before the courts. But I guess I want to talk about after that process.

You know, none of us want to see a $100 million all of a sudden show up in our budget. If we do settle these, and I assume we'll settle them for much less than that, does that get reported publicly anywhere, Mr. Speaker?

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, Mr. Speaker, so when there's a legal liability, that's where there's an amount that is more determined where it's, you know, at a point where there's some relative certainty around the final amount, that does get reported. That is reported in the financial statements. And when there's a final statement, in fact, that -- if there's a liability that's owing or an amount that's being paid for under a settlement, then that is included under the specific department that is involved with that particular litigation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know in the past, both by myself and by the media, there have been questions about, you know, when we do settle cases what happened, what lessons, and there's kind of been this tension and resistance to not answer them. Sometimes I have caught them in the specific department's public accounts or a supplemental appropriation if it's significant enough and they can't find it internally. I know that happened with the Norman Wells Health Centre as an example. But can I just get some clarification of when we can't answer questions about public money that has been settled or why there has been a refusal in the past. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, if a matter is still outstanding as a matter of ongoing legal determination, well, then we can't speak to the matter. I mean, obviously, as representative of the government, we'd be speaking on a matter that has lawyers involved that's before a legal decision maker. It's not appropriate for us to speak about the details. When it comes to this matter being settled, it is quite standard -- industry standard, not necessarily anything do with the government, that there would be confidentiality provisions associated. The confidentiality provisions, really, they benefit all the parties of litigation and, in fact, a lot of times litigants who have put themselves forward don't want their information shared.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I can say that having looked briefly at the list of outstanding litigation, a large number of it is individuals who have claims of past abuse against governments, government agents, government agencies, or who are looking to make those connections, whether that will actually tail back to the government or not. As an example, I suspect that many of those individuals would not want a final settlement detail to be included in public accounting documents.

So that's what makes it difficult for us as ministers to come out and to stand up and to try to detail all of this because they are matters where it's just simply not appropriate to give that kind of information. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Yellowknife North.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I suspect there's a much larger conversation here about the appropriateness of NDAs in society generally and with the government, you know, sometimes ask for NDAs when perhaps the victim does not even want them. But I guess I'll go to settlement agreements that are contract disputes, I know in the past they have had confidentiality requirements, which I think if we're paying out millions of dollars of public money in some sort of construction dispute, we should have a principle that there isn't one so that when I see that money in a corresponding budget or a public account, I can actually ask questions about it. Is this something the Minister of Finance is willing to review? Thank you.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I mean, as far as going back and looking at the settlement provisions, that's probably more of a question for the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Justice's department and the extent to which that would impede the ability to settle, whether it might, frankly -- you know, whether it would impede the ability to settle or whether it would breach expectations that are typically brought to us. I mean, I can certainly speak further about this not in the House but it would be drawing on my own experience as a lawyer where that's not the role I'm in anymore, Mr. Speaker. So, you know, we can certainly -- we are always looking for ways to improve our public transparency in the accounts and in the financial documents. We're going to continue to try and do that. When I went through our public accounts and contingent liabilities were mentioned by the auditors of the Auditor General's, there was no concerns raised. But if there's ways we can at least assist committee in terms of understanding that, Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to try and do that because this -- this shouldn't be made out to be something that it's not. And I think a little bit more information at least to Members can help alleviate that, then I'll certainly look for ways. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Monfwi.

. Oral QuestioN 891-19(2):
Addictions Education

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Weyallon-Armstrong

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm asking this question because I worked in the school for many years, and it's to the Department of Health and Social Services regarding the addictions.

Children are being exposed to alcoholism and drug addictions throughout their entire school experience. What programs are in place for school age from elementary through to high school to educate young people about the negative impacts of alcohol and drugs, drug addictions? Thank you.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I feel like I would like to consult my colleague, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, to provide a full response on that. I don't have that information off the top of my head. Thank you.

oral question 890-19(2): Public Accounts and Litigation against the Government of the Northwest Territories
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Monfwi.