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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

Deh Cho Bridge Project August 22nd, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Two days from now, a major event, an historic event, will take place on the banks of the Deh Cho River and the community of Fort Providence. The event will mark the start of construction of the long anticipated, much beleaguered Deh Cho Bridge.

---Applause

Mr. Speaker, I am old enough...

---Laughter

...seasoned enough to remember the pro-bridge campaign of the 1970s when enterprising business owners here championed the building of a bridge, then estimated to cost in the single million dollar digits.

It has been a pledge of mine, and I think every other MLA for Yellowknife since then, to finally see a permanent, affordable link between Yellowknife and the Tlicho region with the rest of Canada. So I wish I could stand and endorse the Premier and the Deh Cho Corporation this Friday, but I cannot, Mr. Speaker. This is because the people and the businesses who will be paying for this project for the next 35 years have been kept in the dark about the costs and the impacts and the other options we have. There are substantive benefits, too, to this project but, likewise, we don't know what they will be.

Mr. Speaker, this is in stark contrast with the excellent job of public disclosure and debate that the government provided us in 2003. But now as the costs have mushroomed to more than double the estimate that we started with then and we face sustained crunches in future costs of materials and labour, the Premier continues to insist that everything is the same. It's not. The government has decided to kick in $2 million every year of new money; money that this government will need to finance other more vital projects. The Premier insists the toll will be the same as in 2002: $6. Technically that's correct, but let's remember that cost is indexed and at the rate of about 4 percent a year that means that by 2012, when this facility will be transporting traffic, the toll in real dollars is actually going to be $8.21 per tonne. Do the math, the real new math, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask for unanimous consent, Mr. Speaker, to conclude my statement.

Committee Motion 21-15(6): Amend Clause 128 Of Bill 6, Workers' Compensation Act, Carried August 21st, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I move we report progress.

Committee Motion 19-15(6): Amend Clause 118 Of Bill 6, Workers' Compensation Act, Carried August 21st, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Chair. In this area and related to it was a considerable piece of change in here in going from a three person panel with the expectation that there would be a chair and a nominee from the employer sector and a nominee from the workers' sector to hear appeals and thus have more assurance that there was going to be balanced decision-making through this process.

We are, in this bill, making a shift from a multiple person panel to sole adjudicator process for the appeal mechanism. I am speaking in favour of this. It also reflects what we have already done, I believe, Mr. Chair, with our human rights appeal process and also, much more recently, with the employment standards process. The sole adjudicator model is one that has some consistency here and it is also reflected in this act.

Mr. Chair, I would like to reflect in this clause and in this amendment the interests that were expressed at least to me and to the committee as reflected in the report that has already been read and tabled by three labour organizations, the NWT Federation of Labour, the PSAC, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Union of Northern Workers, who expressed their opposition to the sole adjudicator model. They wanted to retain the security of knowing that in an appeal there was going to be somebody from the labour, their sector, who would be hearing the whole course of a worker's appeal or potentially an employer's appeal. It works for both sides, of course. I spoke with a couple of the labour leaders. I wanted to make sure I understood very carefully what their position was. I am going to support, though, the motion to amend and continue on with the sole adjudicator model as it is being proposed here. Also, Mr. Chair, I want to express my confidence in the Minister in being able to appoint people who indeed are going to be professional, unbiased and objective in hearing the case and making their rulings.

The amendment proposes that we want to see people with broad experience in administrative tribunals or courts or who have equivalencies that can reasonably expect to give us that same skill level. So I wanted to put it on record, Mr. Chair, that I listened. I know that other committee members did as well to those concerns, but I do believe that the model that is being proposed here and, of course, thorough consideration by the Ministers in making these appointments is indeed going to give us a workable system; I very much would like to think an improved system through the sole adjudicator model. That is my comment, Mr. Chair. I have no question. My endorsement is for the amendment as proposed.

Committee Motion 13-15(6): Amend Clause 124 Of Bill 15, Liquor Act, Carried August 21st, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Chair. The bill before us now is like the one we just previously considered, one that has been long anticipated. I want to acknowledge that it was back in 2000 or 2001 when the comprehensive survey undertaken by a special panel resulted in the report called Act Now. So we know we have at least six years of work, review and anticipation involved in the bill that is now before us. Many people have had a hand in the matter that we are going to be considering today and one that I am very happy to be saying to committee, Mr. Chair, that I would be supporting.

In the past term, especially the last term that I have served here, I have come to know the issues of the WCB especially through the eyes of injured workers and those workers who have fallen through the cracks of our system. When they have been challenged with less conventional injuries, diseases or disabilities, our WCB has not been the kind of organization that I would have liked it to be. In other words, a responsive and compassionate organization, one that does not give away everything that is expected, anticipated or asked for, of course. There is very much an onus of due diligence and due process, but there were, Mr. Chair, a very large number of issues, as supported by the findings of our Supreme Court of the NWT, the Auditor General for Canada, where there was indeed room for improvement.

Mr. Chair, I know that the Minister and the Board of Governance, the executive of the WCB, has already engaged in making many of those changes. It gives me optimism that, combined with this new act, we will indeed have a Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission that is going to be the kind of responsive, professional and compassionate organization that our whole labour sector needs. We must be able to rely on this and to expect the highest level of service and it is with those comments, Mr. Chair, that I welcome getting into the detail of the bill. I know this is not going to happen over night that our workers' compensation system that we share with our sister territory Nunavut is indeed going to be one that we can all count on and rely on to deliver the kind of services that our workers, employers and especially our families require, Mr. Chair. Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters August 21st, 2007

Madam Chair, thank you. My remarks will be brief. First of all to acknowledge the willingness of the Minister, Mr. Roland, to accept the pleas from a number of us on this side, myself included, to engage in the review and in the modernization of this bill. I believe we are the third Assembly in more than a decade to have attempted to do this and we can actually check this one off as something that was long overdue. So I want to acknowledge, again, the Minister's willingness to engage, and, of course, the work that he and his staff and contractors have done to get us to this day.

Madam Chair, I believe that the greatest achievement, if you will, in this bill is not so much in the technical areas or the modernization or even the areas in which we're focusing on offences and penalties and where we want to make changes in how those are regarded. You know, we're bringing in minimum fines, we're bringing in more attention to illegal supply and distribution of liquor. I think the greatest thing here, Madam Chair, is that we have come off almost, I think, sort of a philosophy of government that a set of centralized rules and standards will work for all situations in all communities in all regions in the NWT. We have dispensed with that. We are enabling communities through an improved plebiscite mechanism to take more control of the way liquor will and can be distributed and managed in their own communities. I think that is a real leap forward, Madam Chair, in the way government is allowed to be managed and directed by the people who are closest to its results. So I think that's a considerable achievement. In that, Madam Chair, I hope that communities will undertake to engage in debates, engage in discussion in community action about how they can change the way liquor is administered in their communities. I don't think this is going to be easy, Madam Chair. We have so many, sort of, I think, conventions and systems, if you will, tolerances that have been built up in communities about the way that we put up with bootlegging, with various kinds of behaviour. This is a way the communities can take at least some control for themselves in the way this can be changed. As I say, I don't anticipate this is going to be easy, but it's going to be very necessary, Madam Chair, if the people of the NWT are going to do a more effective job of curbing the abuse and the cost that alcohol brings in this society. Those are my comments, Madam Chair. It's a very good piece of work. I'm proud to have been part of it. Thank you.

Question 169-15(6): Deh Cho Bridge Project August 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, those are all very valid arguments and discussions. It is precisely the kind of thing that I and other Members of this Assembly are pleading for. Get this information out here so that we have some sense. I can't believe that the Premier is saying to us that nothing has changed. Mr. Speaker, this thing has gone from $60 million to $150 million. That is still just an estimate. That has changed. He has suggested that the toll fee isn't going up from that originally projected. Arguably he is right. But we are going to be paying the same fee for twice as long. Twice as much money is going to go into the same thing. That is what has changed. It is astonishing that the Premier does not at least recognize that and give us some of the information to back up why this is a good project.

In 2003, Mr. Speaker, a significant study, well over 50 pages, was produced on the cost-benefit analysis of the Deh Cho Bridge. Why doesn't the Premier give us the same thing updated five years later with a project that has doubled the cost to show us that this is still a good one? That is what we are asking for. Prove it.

Question 169-15(6): Deh Cho Bridge Project August 21st, 2007

Thank you for the information. Now we know that $5 million is what we have on the table for the initial start of the construction. Mr. Speaker, looking back at some files from the previous debate on the Bridge Corporation from 2003, in March of 2003, the NWT Association of Communities passed a resolution. It is in support of the construction of a bridge. It resolved that the NWT Association of Communities supports the proposal so long as the benefits to users can be shown to significantly exceed the costs. Can the Premier produce information that would support and endorse the Association of Communities' support for this as long as there are significant benefits? Where are those benefits, Mr. Speaker?

Question 169-15(6): Deh Cho Bridge Project August 21st, 2007

Conditional contractual. Mr. Speaker, the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation, to the best of my knowledge, has an extremely limited equity that they have been able to put forward for this project. It is all on the basis of collecting tolls and of the additional investment that we are going to make through the costs we are otherwise putting into the ferry, the ice road and the additional $2 million.

I have to continue asking. Just what are the commitments, then, that the GNWT is either directly or indirectly put on the line here when this agreement will be signed by the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation, who, in effect, are agents of the GNWT in constructing this bridge, Mr. Speaker?

Question 169-15(6): Deh Cho Bridge Project August 21st, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, would like to probe a bit more on the Deh Cho Bridge. My question would be directed to the Premier. I, too, would like to thank him for the invitation to attend his celebration on Friday, but it came as quite late notice. I am afraid I have some other engagements that day. Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier for some detail on exactly what it is that will be signed on Friday. Can he outline the particulars and the extent of the commitments that will be made on Friday by this government, Mr. Speaker?

Question 164-15(6): Caribou Management Issues August 21st, 2007

Thanks for the information. Mr. Speaker, given the high profile, the seriousness, the significance of caribou in our economy and our lifestyle up here, can the Minister advise is there a solid communications strategy in place that will be distributing this information and helping to inform everybody of the results and the steps as they are developed, Mr. Speaker?