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Last in the Legislative Assembly September 2007, as MLA for Great Slave

Won his last election, in 2003, with 65% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Item 6: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery August 23rd, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier today, I spoke of volunteers. I would like to recognize two of the community's most dedicated volunteers, Glen Abernethy and Sue Glowach. I would also like to recognize Lynn White, Mr. Speaker, a former director of the Aven senior facility and a key consultant in the recently passed Liquor Act, the work that we just completed yesterday. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Committee Report 7-15(6): Report On Transitional Matters August 23rd, 2007

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker and Mr. Lafferty. The committee expects that the environment and sustainability will be some of the leading concerns of the 16th Assembly as resource development continues to grow within the NWT, demand for water by upstream industries increases and the impacts of climate change continue. Earlier this year, committee members initiated formal motions to recognize water as a human right, to recommend the government adopt a comprehensive strategy to address climate change and the important work of the Inuvik Caribou Summit. We encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to pursue these issues with the government.

Implementation Of Land Claims Agreements

The Government of the Northwest Territories has many outstanding obligations under land claims agreements, some dating as far back as the Inuvialuit Final Agreement which was signed over 20 years ago in 1984. We strongly encourage the next Assembly to make it a priority to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the government's outstanding land claim obligations and to develop a firm plan and timeline for fulfilling these responsibilities.

NWT Housing Corporation Audit

In early 2006, Mr. Speaker, committee members initiated a request for the Auditor General of Canada to conduct a performance audit of the NWT Housing Corporation. A request was made as a result of several serious concerns with the corporation, many of which were documented in our 2006 Report on Pre-budget Consultations. Unfortunately, the audit was not completed during our term. However, we expect the report will be submitted early in the life of the next Assembly. We have found the reports of the Auditor General to be insightful and extremely useful in pointing to areas requiring action and hope that Regular Members of the next Assembly will find likewise.

Whistleblower Protection

At the committee's urging, the Department of Human Resources has recently issued a public discussion paper to explore the options for implementing whistleblower protection. We encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to pursue this matter with the government to ensure the work on this issue progresses and public consultations are undertaken.

Review Of Power Rates And Subsidies

Over our term, Mr. Speaker, we have seen both increases in power rates and continuous unsustainable growth in a Territorial Power Subsidy Program. A review of rates and subsidies by the government is underway. We expect that this matter will require the attention of the 16th Assembly early in its mandate.

Auditor General Investigations

Mr. Speaker, further to Auditor General investigations, the Auditor General for Canada is also the auditor for all GNWT accounts. The Auditor General's office is also well versed in audits and investigations of other matters as demonstrated, for example, by its 2006 audit of the Workers' Compensation Board. However, in any given four-year term of the Assembly, perhaps only two of these in-depth audits can be undertaken. Committees of the 16th Assembly might carefully consider which departments or agencies will benefit from compliance, performance and value-for-money audits by our reviews by the Auditor General.

Further, Mr. Speaker, provinces and the federal government are also trending toward automatic five-year performance and compliance audits, especially of their Crown corporations in addition to the annual fiscal audits. With the exception of the NWT Power Corporation, which is covered under the Public Utilities Act, no NWT Crown corporation is subject to this kind of review. It will be well worth considering.

Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy

Every year, Mr. Speaker, the committee meets with the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review her annual reports and has made recommendations to the government as a result of these meetings. The government has yet to move on several of these recommendations, some of which date back to the 14th Assembly. Of particular concern to committee are the gaps in information in privacy legislation for community governments and for the local private sector. The committee encourages Regular Members of the next Assembly to pursue these and other information and privacy issues with the government to ensure they are addressed.

Addictions

Throughout our mandate, this committee has voiced concerns about the need to direct more resources to the prevention and treatment of addictions. Earlier this year, committee members initiated a motion recommending the government implement a strategy to denormalize alcohol abuse, building on the success of its tobacco action plan. The need for such a strategy was most recently confirmed for us as we undertook public consultations throughout the NWT on the Liquor Act and again heard firsthand about the devastating impact of alcohol abuse on individuals, families and communities. We encourage the Regular Members of the next Assembly to press the government to make the denormalization of alcohol abuse a strategic priority.

Mr. Speaker, to conclude the committee's report, I will return it to the chair, Mr. Lafferty. Thank you.

Support For Volunteer Sector August 23rd, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Braden. Members' statements. The honourable Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, Mr. McLeod.

Support For Volunteer Sector August 23rd, 2007

Thank you. Mr. Speaker, it is no coincidence here, that I chose to speak of volunteerism, which I believe to be as vital and rewarding as any kind of public service. So as I take my leave of this distinguished Chamber, it is with conviction that I say that I want to continue to contribute in some way to the tremendous future of this amazing territory and that while I'm going to be leaving the NWT to be going to school, it is only temporary, it is not good-bye; rather, it is only good-bye for now. Mahsi. Merci beaucoup. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Support For Volunteer Sector August 23rd, 2007

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. In Canada, volunteer sectors employ more than 1.3 million Canadians with salaries and benefits packages in excess of $40 billion a year. Here in the NWT, 53 percent of adult NWT residents volunteer with a group. An estimated 86 percent of us volunteer informally on our own. Collectively, it is estimated that the efforts of all these NWT volunteers contribute an estimated $50 million in value to our economy.

Mr. Speaker, in the 2005 pre-budget consultation documents, a statement was made that the value of the work of volunteer organizations cannot be underestimated. So last year it was with great disappointment that our colleagues in the federal government cut from the NWT volunteer initiative and many other NGOs across the NWT, but from the volunteer initiative that was underway here, $160,000, or 95 percent of its funding. Needless to say, that organization had to fold.

I know from being a volunteer and working with other volunteers in the past and in my term here as an MLA, that volunteers will strive, they do believe in what they're doing and they will succeed even in the face of this kind of betrayal, I would say. Mr. Speaker, we cannot take our volunteers and our NGOs for granted. Just two days ago, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment told us of strides that we're making in our income security framework redesign. He mentioned, by name, many of these organizations, 13 of which are volunteer driven. Hundreds of other NGOs play vital roles in the arts, recreation, youth and the professions, and I'm grateful to them all, Mr. Speaker. I plea that this government and future Assemblies loosen up the purse strings, lighten up the regulations and the paper burden and treat these people as the true partners they are, that we need and we value and that we, I will say again, can never take for granted. Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried August 22nd, 2007

Thank you, Madam Chair. I am going to speak in favour of Ms. Lee's motion to bring these new amendments and new ideas back through the committee process to the general public. Madam Chair, this bill is certainly one of the newer and I think bigger ideas that this Assembly has undertaken. Just on the surface of that, we should never be afraid of looking at new ideas and applying them as they can be appropriated here in the NWT. Universally, we saw a need. We appreciate the need in every one of our communities, big and small, for new ways to address the problems of addictions, bootlegging, drug dealing and other kinds of behaviour. Bringing in a new option and something that would allow communities to have more control over this kind of thing was conceptually very welcome. But the process under which that would happen, the mechanics as outlined in the bill, were found wanting in many areas. So, Madam Chair, as much as there is a need for this, the public, we found through our report, as Ms. Lee has referenced, is one of the most extensive, most detailed, objective and comprehensive reports that I have seen the committee do. It is a good piece of work. It proves that the public does not have confidence in the way this new law was being proposed. It wants to see something like it done, but we need to invest the time to correct misconceptions, to help get people better informed, to certainly amend and adjust some of the flaws that are contained in here. This Assembly and this Minister I think should be pleased with the amount of work that has been done on it, but it is not something that the public, the general people of the NWT I believe, are ready to accept and make work. Let's understand that time, awareness, education, discussion and consultation are a very important part of law-making and having new laws land on their feet with the people they are intended to serve. We have not allowed enough of that to happen. I am reminded, Madam Chair, that this idea or new law was not originally on the agenda of the 15th Assembly when we came into office. It came in a very rapid and unexpected fashion about midway through our term I think at the expense of other legislation, Madam Chair. So it has been a difficult one for committee to adjust to as well.

I believe this is a good start. It is one that I am supportive of, but that we should have no hesitation to hand it over with a very strong recommendation to our successors in the 16th Assembly to finish a job that got a reasonably good start. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried August 22nd, 2007

Succinct. Thank you. I am just digging around for my thesaurus but I couldn't find it. My colleagues have raised all the relevant issues. Mr. Handley has spoken to it from the government side. We recognize the process for soliciting ideas and nominations is already underway. We hope that the next government and our sister territory, Nunavut, accepts the discussion and recommendation in that spirit, as one of confidence and a positive outlook for the WCB in the future. With that, I welcome the vote, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried August 22nd, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is unusual, Mr. Speaker, that discussions about the appointment or proposed consideration of any individual be considered on the floor of the Assembly. This is something that is normally handled through another selection and screening and appointment processes. But while it is unusual to bring it in, Mr. Speaker, I would like to suggest that it is an unusual circumstance that this Assembly, and I believe the Workers' Compensation Board, finds itself in.

As the motion referenced, there have been a number of major shifts and transformations and transitions undertaken and underway within the Governance Council and within the board itself.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that Members here have noticed and have been very impressed with and pleased with under the chairmanship of Mr. Rodgers is that the Governance Council has really weathered some fairly stormy seas in the last couple of years and it has done so, I think, with a degree of confidence and certainty that gives us a lot of optimism, Mr. Speaker, for the future of the WCB as it continues to go through these transitions. We believe that it's really important at this time that we did not want to leave the continuance of this kind of leadership uncertain. While it is, as I say, unusual for this kind of thing to come before the Assembly in this fashion, that it was warranted, it was merited that we send a signal of confidence to our Cabinet colleagues, the Minister responsible as well as to our sister Assembly in Nunavut with who we share the mandate for the WCB. We believe that the organization has shown itself to be in good hands under Mr. Rodgers' chairmanship and that we would really like to see this continue. Therefore, the recommendation was to extend his appointment, which expires in October, until next April, for a six-month period I believe it is, at which time the next Assembly of the Northwest Territories can get its feet on the ground and consider the formal and extended reappointment of Mr. Rodgers to this organization. So it is a signal of confidence in the leadership that we know is there. I've spoke to Mr. Rodgers myself, I know that he is ready to undertake this for another term. Considering the complexity and the significance of this work, I don't think there are too many people in the NWT who are ready to undertake it. When you have somebody as competent as Mr. Rodgers and is willing to carry on, I say let's give him that endorsement and make sure he continues to be the leader of the Governance Council for the next appropriate term, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 11-15(6): Extension Of Appointment Of Mr. Denny Rodgers As Chair Of The Workers' Compensation Board Governance Council, Carried August 22nd, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

WHEREAS the past several years have been a difficult, but ultimately transformative time for the Workers' Compensation Board, with the recent appointment of a new president, the conclusion of an in-depth performance review by the Auditor General of Canada, the development of a bill to replace the 30-year-old Workers' Compensation Act, and the rendering of court decisions which have declared some of the board's practices flawed;

AND WHEREAS the Workers' Compensation Board has, on balance, maintained a sound financial base and stable premiums;

AND WHEREAS the Workers' Compensation Board faces increasing challenges with the acceleration of resource development in both the mining and hydrocarbon sectors;

AND WHEREAS the Governance Council, under Mr. Denny Rodgers' chairmanship, has demonstrated stability and consistency in their mandate as stewards of the Workers' Compensation Board;

AND WHEREAS consistency and continuity are needed to ensure that the work begun and changes made by the Governance Council are advanced in a positive manner, particularly through the implementation of the action plan to address the recommendations of the Auditor General and the new Workers' Compensation Act;

AND WHEREAS Mr. Rodgers' term as chair of the Governance Council is set to expire October 12, 2007;

AND WHEREAS the 15th Assembly will be dissolved on August 31, 2007;

AND WHEREAS, as a general principle, appointments to positions as significant as chair of the Governance Council of the Workers' Compensation Board should not be revisited during an election period when there are no Regular Members for Ministers to account to;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River South, that this Legislative Assembly strongly recommends the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board extend Mr. Denny Rodgers' appointment as chair of the Governance Council to April 12, 2008.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Speaker's Ruling August 22nd, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I respect the point of order. A further part of this whole discussion, Mr. Speaker, was that there has been a longstanding expectation and many tantalizing offers or suggestions or hints that Canada would be coming into this, recognizing what a significant piece of infrastructure this is for this region and for Canada. Yet we still do not have a tangible certainty from Canada that it's going to say we do have a responsibility to come into something like this. We do have evidence that this is a good thing for Canada because it is a significant part of the transportation link for

the diamond mines now, Mr. Speaker, that are pouring a big chunk of the $750,000 a day that Canada is getting in taxes and royalties from the Northwest Territories. Why is it so difficult for Canada to appreciate that there is ample evidence that this a good deal? This is a win/win for everybody. If you do the math, you will find out that in just over two months, that revenue and royalty stream would actually pay the $50 million that is generally expected and anticipated that Canada just might come in for.

So in the absence of that kind of guarantee or that kind of certainty from Canada, why are we pushing ahead with this now? The Premier and the Minister of Transportation have told us in meetings with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Transportation, oh, yes, there are national programs that you might quality for, that you are on top of the radar screen for, but we still don't have it. We won't know until at least later on this year, this fall, after the next Assembly is in place, Mr. Speaker. What is the rush to put this on?

The previous Assembly and this Assembly have pushed this along. We have taken prudent steps to negotiate and find out what the deals are. Hopefully we haven't made too much of a mistake, because one company is already challenging some of the negotiations. Mr. Speaker, I really think the prudent thing for this Assembly to do is to sign off on the work that we have done for now, recognize that not enough is in place yet in terms of the knowledge and the information, confidence that the public and the companies who are going to be paying for this for the next 35 years are not there and also the potential. I would like to be optimistic and positive. The potential for Canada to come into this project and in the relatively near future is still there.

We are undertaking a major risk on the part of the economy, the people and the economy of the NWT for quite awhile by coming into this project at this time with the uncertainties that are still out there. I still do want to see this infrastructure done, but I want to see it done in a way that we all know about and we all have confidence about. That's why we have asked, in our motion, for a deferral of this over to the next Legislative Assembly, Mr. Speaker.