Last in the Legislative Assembly September 1995, as MLA for Yellowknife Centre
Won his last election, in 1991, with 32% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Study Of Sports In The Northwest Territories June 14th, 1995
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When I see that the government is conducting a study on this subject or that subject, then I first of all ask myself what the purpose of the study is.
I know that there is an individual who is trying to gauge how important sport is to the people of the Northwest Territories. He has talked to several Members today. A study on sport, whenever you see it come out of the blue like this, makes you think that here is one more thing, maybe, that's being examined as a frill. Maybe we could save some money it we don't do this or we can cut it back.
I would like to say something about that, Mr. Speaker, publicly, because all my life, and as I get older, I have become even more convinced that one of the ways in which young people grow is to really become involved in some kind of physical activity, whether an individual sport or a team sport, because in the long run, your society is going to depend on the health, the fitness and the vigour of your young people. Member's Statement On Nunatsiaq Coalition Against I see the huge changes that have taken place in the Northwest Territories, from camp life where people were very active and engaged and busy all the time, to urban life where there are different challenges. When you see young people getting. involved in vigorous activity, you realize that this is one way in which young people develop, learn all the values of cooperation, competition and associating with people, achieving goals and objectives that you set for yourselves; sport has always done that. At every school I have ever worked over a long career, Mr. Speaker, I found that it went together. You could get kids up at six o'clock in the morning to go to train or practice for some important events. You
couldn't get them out for an early math class but you could certainly get them out for something like that.
I would be very disappointed if this government sees the opportunity to save a few dollars by taking away something which is very valuable for young people in the development of their personalities and their lifestyles. I would hate to see us drawing support from it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman. I mentioned previously in this Assembly that I can recall vividly when the Education Act, which we now operate with, went through this Assembly in February of 1977. The difference between the process that led to it in those days and what has transpired over the last several years has been the way in which consultation has taken place. I recall that in 1976, the then Commissioner took it upon himself to take the Education Act around the territories to hold meetings. So what you had was a federal bureaucrat who went around and tried to get public input. I remember him reading into the record what all the communities had said about the act and so on.
So this has been a completely different process where there has been tremendous consultation with the public over a long period of time; several years. It's gone through our House, it's gone through committees, it's a completely different way in arriving at a piece of legislation.
The kinds of issues that were controversial at that time, though, are still with us. The major controversy in 1977, Mr. Chairman, was whether this government, in fact, had the legitimate right to establish an education system with its own act, as a territorial government. There were several interventions by many aboriginal people who said this government shouldn't even be dealing with this, this is a federal responsibility. There were special concerns about treaty rights and so on and constitutional rights, and it's been a controversial issue ever since that time. In fact, every Minister who I can recall has attempted to find out on what basis this government really implements education programs. What is the legal basis for it? Where is the document that says that this government should be responsible for education? A lot of time and energy has gone into trying to find some piece of paper as a directive from some Minister of DIAND to indicate that this transfer has officially taken place and this is the legitimate place for that activity to occur.
I don't think that that's any longer the fiery controversial issue it was when Mr. Erasmus was the president of the Dene Nation, because things have changed enormously over the last 20 years. The biggest change, of course, is the way in which we develop our legislation involving many, many sectors of the public who have a chance to express their opinions, and we can make accommodations. So there is tremendous consultation that takes place now, so that people's concerns can be addressed.
The two major ones, though, that were referred to in the committee, and I'm sure that they also were raised to the Minister, was the fact that there is nothing in the preamble specifically relating to treaty rights. I know there was some discussion about finding some way of honouring those or recognizing those, but it's very difficult when you don't know specifically how to translate some of those early treaty obligations into modern legislation.
The same thing relates to the collective rights of Francophones who, under our Constitution, have certain rights. This act goes some way towards addressing those concerns, but there are some questions that our Francophone friends have suggested need to be addressed. If there is one thing you expect from a piece of legislation, it's certainty; some degree of certainty as to what transpired under this legislation.
So one of the major concerns that I've heard expressed, and it's certainly been expressed to the committee, is that things still seem to be open for negotiations or open for further consultation. For that reason, some people feel uneasy because there is a certain certainty lacking in several clauses in the bill.
I know that one of the concerns that has been raised is the issue of school days. When you look at our act, although there is a promise to include in the regulations some reference to the exposure the children will get to the instruction program, there is nothing in there that tells you how long a student is going to be in a classroom. That's a source of concern because one of the other issues that was raised in a lot of the public hearings was standards. Standards was right up front. We want to have standards that are comparable to what other parents expect throughout Canada, and if you can't even specify in your act how many days a student is going to school so that you can compare and see what we do compared with other jurisdictions, then that's one place where parents will look and say, we don't even have an act that tells us how many days our kids are going to have to go to school. It's not there. That is one criteria, one little thing that you can look at to say this is what do they do in this place or this is what do they do in that place. It makes it very difficult for parents, if it's not up front, to see that spelled out in the law; although, I recognize that the Minister has said, well, we are going to consult further before we pin that down.
I was pleased to see that the department has shown a tremendous willingness to be flexible on many issues and on the issue of inclusive schooling where our jurisdiction has shown leadership, I think, right across the country. They recognize that they are only words if you just say, it's inclusive but we'll do our best and so on. There is some kind of obligation, I think, that is being made by the government to make sure that these are more than words and that there will be an act which recognizes that there is a new way of dealing with the total school population and not to have some children excluded from it so that they end up suffering, if you like, because they are not allowed to take advantage of programs in the same way that other students do so.
There also were concerns raised by students that they are not really that involved and they would like to be more involved. I think that the request to be full-fledged members of councils and other education bodies is probably farther than the Legislature would be prepared to go simply because, although as a client of the system you would like to be involved in the governance, then it becomes very difficult. Since there is a way in which any member of the public can be officially elected to a body like that, I think that they would have to be satisfied with the same kind of role that the principal or teacher has where you can be an ex-officio member of a school board so that your point of view or the office that you hold or the position that you hold in the system can be represented to that board.
In 1977, Mr. Chairman, the major emotional issue was that there was compulsory schooling and the fact that many parents were upset with the idea of fines. If you didn't send your children to school, you would be fined. That was the hottest issue in the whole debate because there were some people who said, why should we send our kids to a school system that we don't agree with. It's not our system, so why should you be fining us for not sending our kids to a system which is really not of our manufacture or design? We were never involved in it and not consulted much about it, and yet you want to fine us for not sending our kids.
What happened, of course, was that the act went through leaving the compulsory education clause in there but with no specification of penalties if you never did it. So we lived with an act which had a clause in it but had no teeth to enforce it, and that existed for quite a period of time.
The controversial issue this time was not whether people should be fined or not for non-compliance but the fact that if you are going to fine people for not complying with the act on the basis that you are not attending school, somehow the funds should be reverted or transferred to the local education body. That was an opinion that was expressed in some places. It's possible that some mechanism could be found in which, if you are going to fine people, some bookkeeping way could eventually be worked out so that those monies could be used locally.
There are two other issues that I have noted, Mr. Chairman. One of them that I am pleased with is the fact that there was tremendous debate and discussion on whether we should have more or less religion and spirituality in our school system. We all recognize that there is a Charter requirement that schools can't be used to evangelize people, to push young people in this direction or that direction on religious questions. I believe that the department did come up with a compromise eventually which will allow people to recognize that if there's anything that matters in a school system, it's those values that really guide us and if you don't find some mechanism whereby young people could be exposed to spiritual questions, the basic questions of human life, then really it's not much of a school system. I think that the government went a long way to giving people some comfort that we would have a school system which did recognize that those things that have deep meaning for people should find some place in the school system.
I have some concern about a proposal or plan to recertify teachers. I have gone along with it so I am not making a minority report to this committee. I have gone along with it, but I do have some concerns about recertification.
I know that in the past all kinds of ways have been devised or attempts have been made to release teachers from the system who are not easy to release because the whole area of labour relations is very difficult in many jurisdictions and especially in ours, as it relates to professional people. I really seriously wonder whether this is one other ploy, if you like...And I use that word, I suppose, unadvisedly because it suggests that it's been a deeply-thought-out subterfuge to circumvent some difficulties that you can't solve in the normal course of events. But I could see recertification, if it's not done right, being used as some method of simply getting rid of a person. What you do is just don't give them a certificate and then he can't work anymore and he or she has no job.
So, to me, I agree with the principle that if you are a professional, you should make sure that you keep up with your trade, that you keep up with your business, that you go back to school, that you take the kinds of programs that will put you on the cutting edge of things and not rely upon stuff that you learned 30 years ago, like a person such as myself, for example, Mr. Chairman. I started out in 1958 as a school teacher, and I then took advantage of whatever was going on so I could keep abreast of things. But I haven't really been a school teacher since 1967. That's when I finished my teaching career in the territories. I did other work in education over a long period of time but I finished teaching in 1967, and I would feel completely inadequate if I wanted to and if anybody wanted me to go back to the classroom because things have changed so much over that period of time.
However, if we are serious about this recertification, it should be made clear to the individual that these are the requirements that you have to meet to be recertified. It's not just the whim of a bureaucrat or a Minister. I don't like you so you are not going to get a certificate anymore; that's it. There should be something specified that you have to do to bring yourself up to speed or up to date or whatever, and this should not be used as a mechanism simply to get rid of somebody that you can't find a legitimate way of getting rid of under our current regime. That's a fear I've always had, that you try to find some other mechanism to do things which you can't do under the normal course of events.
There are two other things that I've heard, Mr. Chairman, in my discussions on this bill, and I've thought about them at length, in fact. What we have is a bill which is a very large bill, but although it's so large, there are many things that are not specified, that are still open. It may be that what we have is a piece of legislation that is, I don't know, maybe a sign of doing things in a different way, that we have a different process of doing things in the territories, that our legislation will evolve differently.
But the two major issues that I've heard are the fact that, one, we don't have a clear division of powers between the levels of authority. That's supposed to be worked out over a period of time and it will be set in the regulations. But normally in an act of this nature, when you specify powers, then you always put in what those powers are, because the whole point of legislation is to give you certainty so you know exactly just by looking at the act exactly what the powers are that you are expected to exercise. So the idea that you can negotiate, and so on, is in the act. It is implicit, I suppose, that there will be lots of things worked out through consultation. But it does get people used to a different kind of legislation, where things are spelled out. There is some cause for concern because this legislation is unlike any other legislation I've looked at. So much seems to be open. Maybe that's the way things have to be, and far bigger brains than us have said the only way to deal with this subject is to give people a bit of room.
But the idea of not having division of powers, not specifying the number of school days...I'll tell you why people of my generation find it unusual that you're not prepared to spell out the number of days in which a child would go to school. In the old days, and I'll only hark back to this once, we were always told that the register of the enrolment was a legal document. It told you where a child was supposed to be on any one day, and it would be used by the police, courts or whatever to indicate that the school was in session on these days and that's where the child was supposed to be. This is what we got from Justice in the old federal days. We understood that it was a legal document and in it, you spelled out all the days in which the school is in session and you would know, then, where that person is.
It is going to be more difficult if you're not prepared to specify days, the number of days when school is going to be in session. Maybe you've already thought ahead to redesigning the instruments for recording instruction, maybe the register is obsolete now, maybe there is a different method or system of keeping track of instruction. These are the types of technical things, no doubt, that the department has worked on to try to find some way of meeting their obligations to make sure the students get the right exposure to instruction that they should have. I know that if any parent looks at the system, they would find it unusual if you don't put a minimum of days in which a child is expected to be in school.
I know the arguments have been heard throughout the territories about flexibility. There are two words that seem to characterize this act: flexibility and negotiations. There should either be flexibility, so you could do the things you want to do so you won't be boxed in by some inflexible instrument that prevents you from doing what makes sense to you. The other thing is negotiation, that you can negotiate things, and you can petition the Minister.
Those are the concerns I heard, Mr. Chairman, but I congratulate the Minister and the department for having gone about this in the right way. This is the way in which an act should be done. There has been a tremendous amount of consultation over a long period of time, not rushed -- it may seem rushed not because we have so much work ahead of us still -- and a tremendous amount of effort has gone into doing the work. There has been consultation like, I believe, has never happened before in creating a very important piece of legislation.
We've all agreed that education is still one of the chief instruments of our social and economic development. If we get a good act, then of course we will have achieved something of major significance in this Assembly, through the good will of the committees and the government. With that, Mr. Chairman, I will leave it. I would like to say that this is where I began my career, as a school teacher, and also in the department, being much involved in the last act, and I'm quite happy to be involved with this piece of legislation too, which is close to the hearts of many of the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Snare River Hydro Project June 13th, 1995
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This afternoon, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Morin made a Minister's statement about using our own people and our own resources to solve our own problems. My statement this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, is on a similar theme.
Last Saturday, Mr. Speaker, I joined people from the Power Corporation, utility and mining companies, as well as Dogrib leaders on a visit to the Snare River hydro project. Mr. Whitford already referred to this visit yesterday. It was meaningful for him because he had been there early in his career with the Power Corporation 30 years ago. The visit was meaningful for me too, Mr. Speaker, because I've had a lifelong interest in northern responsible government and northern self-sufficiency.
Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted to see the development of our hydro potential. Although there will always be critics of man's attempts to harness the forces of nature, I believe hydro is one of the most responsible ways of generating power. It is clean and sustainable. The future of Yellowknife and the Dogrib people, although many Yellowknifers don't realize it yet, are very closely connected. The Dogrib own much of the land and will have a major say in development in the Yellowknife region. The Snare hydro project is exciting, Mr. Speaker. It's not huge or overwhelming, you can understand it, and it is much like others throughout the world which are a little bit overwhelming to the average individual.
The Snare project was begun over 40 years ago. We have learned from the experience. Now as the city of Yellowknife enjoys rapid growth and we seem on the verge of increased industrial activity in the region, it is nice to see the Dogrib people and the various companies planning to meet our future energy needs. It's nice to see groups working in harmony on such an important project. Soon, hopefully, Yellowknife will no longer be dependent on imported diesel to generate power. It's a perfect example of import replacement, which we all agree is one of the keys to our future economic well-being.
Using our own resources and our own people is the major road to economic self-sufficiency.
I was told over the weekend, Mr. Speaker, that we are in danger of losing the kind of harmony that we need to solve all our problems, but this is one example of where we are succeeding. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I thought that one of the things that this act did, and it may be one of the most significant things, is that, because of the work that's gone into this, we've suddenly been brought face to face with the fact that as a Legislature, we have all kinds of powers. They already exist, and they are not enshrined anywhere. It's just that convention means that we can do all the things that this particular amendment would achieve anyway. So I would like to ask, Mr. Chairman, what in this particular amendment can't be achieved under 6.2, because under 6.2, as I understand it, we can do all the things that are referred to in this amendment?
Will the guidelines that the Minister has referred to include the issue of special warrants, even for things like emergency situations?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister, will this also extend to what we call special warrants, whereby money can be spent and where it will be up to the next Legislature to approve money that has already been spent in this fiscal year?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker. In 1987, when both he and I ran and were elected to this Assembly, there had been a
period of about five months when the government spent an awful lot of money from the time that it prorogued in the summer until the fall election. A lot of the money was spent on all kinds of instruments that are available to government, when the Assembly was not sitting. I would like to ask the Minister when we prorogue either this week or next week, what controls will be placed on government spending until the October 16th election?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I've listened to all the arguments and I was trying to figure out if there was anything new to say that hasn't already been said.
I also remember eight years ago, or nearly eight years ago, when we had this debate. I was very much in favour, at that time, of the leader, as the person was called at that time, doing the art -- because it is an art -- of putting a Cabinet together that could do all the work that needed to get done; but, there were only five people in support of it and four years later there were six, today there may be as many as seven.
I know that in politics, change doesn't come quickly. Parliamentary systems act cautiously and move along quietly, and you don't do things by revolution; things evolve.
I would speak a little bit about all these bogeymen that people pose about imposing party politics. This Legislature can't impose party politics, but that's what happens; people do that. And if people get so fed up, sick and tired about what goes on here because we can't solve our problems, or don't evolve fast enough, then it will happen. There is a bigger danger in not doing something to improve our system, than setting up the fear that we're imposing party politics on people by what we do. If we don't do things to fix the problems that people are always telling us we have -- and they have been referred to earlier -- then it's very simple to start party politics.
If I wanted to, from now until October, all I would have to do is get enough people -- and I think I need three people -- decide on a platform, register under the societies ordinance, call myself whatever I wanted -- the Equality Party, the Freedom Party -- I could sell memberships, and I can ask people if there are enough of them to share my ideas about where I want to go. It doesn't happen from the top, it happens from the grassroots. That's what's going on right now in our system.
The idea that we don't understand party politics, team politics or the ideology is just nonsense. We have Members of Parliament in Ottawa. We send people there, that's our government. We have two Members right now; we're Liberals. Everybody understands what they are, what they represent, we vote for them and we send them there. That's our government. So, to say that we don't understand is just not right. People do understand. The territories votes in federal elections and send people to Ottawa that we want to have there representing us. It's nonsense for people to say they don't understand what party politics is; they do. Whether they want it in our Chamber here is a different question. That's the question we have to ask.
And, as far as I'm concerned, Mr. Speaker, the problem we have now is this: we've made some token gestures. We decided that we don't want our leader to be called the Government Leader any more and we want that person to be called the Premier, because when that Premier goes to all the meetings with all the other Premiers, we want to show that we are the same as everybody else; for that purpose. Yet, it doesn't mean anything if the Premier is no more than a chairman of the board who makes sure everybody stays more or less decorous, follows the order of business and whatever rules are set down. But, really, there are seven governments here; you don't have one. Whatever a Minister wants to do, he will; as much as he can, decide to do that. Some people like the broken field play, that they have tremendous autonomy to do this, this and this, even though it doesn't seem to be consistent with what other people are doing.
Mr. Speaker, since I promised not to repeat what other people have said, I'll say the danger is this: if we don't improve our own system and do something to fix the problems people say we have, then we will get party politics. And, it will have nothing to do with what people do here, it will have to do with what people do out there. They will decide what will happen. It will only happen, though, if we fail to make our system better, to improve it so that the consensus system that we have will evolve in a way that is consistent with many of the things that have been said in this Chamber about our uniqueness, how different we are and how we solve our problem in a modern way, if you like. It's not only modern, it's a way that is consistent with the traditions that have been passed down over a long, long period of time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Since, as I pointed out in the beginning, our Minister is considered to be a creative individual and very perceptive, what did he learn about the future of this industry during his visit to Santa Fe?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the Minister, since the arts and crafts industry in the Northwest Territories goes through cycles -- they go up and down and it's very difficult sometimes to plan the business because of the uncertainty of this field -- if there was representation from throughout the territories that he was able to observe while he was there in order to get a feeling about the way this industry is going.
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