Roles

Elsewhere

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

Canadian Study Of Diet And Lifestyle On Health April 7th, 1995

So I have a dilemma because I really believe in health and I think the Canadian health establishment is incredibly good. We have some of the best medical research going on in this country, in the world, Mr. Speaker. But, as an individual, I worry about the ownership of my genetic make-up. I wonder whether I should send this to somebody, giving somebody else, voluntarily through this letter, this information, clippings from every one of my toenails. And by the way, I do

have some. My nails are kind of gone, but my toenails are still intact. My hair is receding and I can't afford to give up very much of it.

So, I would like to ask for some advice over the next day or two about whether, in fact, I should be a good democrat and participate to help advance science in this country, or whether I should be cautious and not give up the means by which I could be recreated some time in the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Laughter

---Applause

Canadian Study Of Diet And Lifestyle On Health April 7th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, there has been a tremendous amount of concern expressed over the last three years, especially over the last three months, about who owns the patent for recreating each individual that we are through DNA. So, my dilemma is this: being a good democrat and wanting to participate in a health survey, I would, in fact, be giving to somebody who I don't know, my genetic make-up so that some time in the future, I could be recreated...

---Laughter

Canadian Study Of Diet And Lifestyle On Health April 7th, 1995

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I've taken an interest in medication, health, economics and, of course, accountability. Today, however, my statement is about health, Mr. Speaker.

This is a letter from the University of Toronto addressed to me from Tom Rohan, professor in the Department of Preventative Medicine.

"Every year thousands of Canadians develop diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The conditions appear to be related to the way in which people live, our eating and drinking habits and exercise patterns. Therefore, it is thought that by modifying our diet and lifestyle, it might be possible both to prevent some of these diseases and to allow us to live more of our lives in good health.

"Researchers at several Canadian universities, Alberta, BC, Toronto and Western, presently carry out jointly one of the largest studies to date to investigate the effects of eating patterns and other lifestyle factors on future health. The study, called the Canadian study of diet and lifestyle on health, has been coordinated by the Department of Preventative Medicine at the University of Toronto. In order to carry out the study, we must recruit approximately 100,000 adults from across Canada. Our purpose in writing to you now is to see if you would be willing to be a participant."

Being a good democrat and believing in participating in the life of this country, then, of course, I need to get some advice from Members. This is the crucial paragraph, Mr. Speaker.

"To participate, all that you need to do is complete the two questionnaires, one dietary and one lifestyle, which accompany this letter and to place a few strands of your hair (including the roots) in the small envelope marked "hair" and some cuttings from each of your toenails in the small envelope marked "toenails." Then, seal the questionnaires and the small envelopes in the large addressed envelope and mail them back to us. Postage has been prepaid.

"It is estimated that it will take you one hour to complete the questionnaires. Please be assured that the information you provide will be treated completely confidentially."

I have about 12 seconds, Mr. Speaker. I need unanimous consent to complete this statement because I need some advice.

Bill 31: Recall Act April 6th, 1995

That was the point he made in his opening comment. If you read Hansard tomorrow, and I'll quote him, he said he would be voting against this bill. Well, you're not going to be voting against this bill at the second reading...

---Applause

You're going to be voting against the principle of the bill and he's already said in his opening comment that he agrees with the principle. If you read Hansard tomorrow, the philosophy of this bill, the basis of this bill, he agrees with. We're not going to have a chance to vote on this bill today because it will never get to be a bill on which that would make a difference at all to what happens to this thing. We're talking about ideas, the basic foundation of it. If we ever get there, well fine, if it's not good enough despite all the work that's done, he can vote against it.

But at this time, we're only talking about one thing, do you believe that the public should have the opportunity to recall a Member before that person's term is up. I've heard very, very few people who have given me one good reason why the public shouldn't have that power.

I'm a democrat, I believe in the democratic process so, therefore, I'm quite happy to sit down now and I will ask for a recorded vote on this particular motion, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Bill 31: Recall Act April 6th, 1995

I'm not going to go into great detail but this is what has happened. If you read Hansard tomorrow, I hear Mr. Ballantyne saying that he has no problem with the principle of the bill. Those were his opening comments. The opening comment was, I've got no problem, the public agrees with this, accountability is a fine thing. He went on at great length then, to explain all the problems with the detail. That's what we're talking about, getting the bill out there so the people can deal with the detail. If he has no problem with the principle of the bill then, obviously, he's not going to vote against the principle.

Bill 31: Recall Act April 6th, 1995

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I believe under our rules, I do have a chance to conclude debate before we go to a vote. Mr. Speaker, there's been a suggestion that this could have been referred to SCOL and I'm glad that the debate is, in fact, taking place here on the principle, so the onus was not placed on SCOL or committee of the whole to delay the issue further. It's important, I believe, that we deal with this in a very responsible fashion at second reading and the public would be very upset if further ways were found to delay something that has been in the works for so long.

I note that some Members have given reasons why they cannot support the principle. For example, our Premier vows she cannot support the bill because there are no reasons in the bill. Well, Mr. Speaker, the reason why I didn't put a whole bunch of reasons in the bill is because I got the very best legal advice that's available not only in this government but other governments and also other legal people in town. They told me that if I had said, for being drunk and disorderly, then people would attack the principle of the bill and would say they don't agree it's a big issue in the territories and there are other issues far more important than that.

And, if I had gone with a list of reasons, I would never have the list in such a way that everybody would agree that that is a principle they could support. So, I left if very simple, on the advice of the best legal brains I could get hold of to keep it simple because if I didn't do that, people would attack the principle of the bill on the grounds that it didn't go far enough or went too far, and so on. The principle is a simple one because of the advice I was given. That was the only argument that I can hear from the government for not supporting the bill, because we don't have reasons in it. That was the main point made for the Cabinet, presumably, on whose behalf the Premier spoke, on why the Cabinet can't support the bill. It is because of the advice of the people who also advise them.

Mr. Koe has raised the point that this can be dealt with now, he supposes, but he has concerns about the details. Many people will have concerns about the details, Mr. Speaker, but the problem is, if we defeat this bill now, we will again be the privileged ones. We are the only ones who can talk about this bill, nobody else can, just the privileged people in this House. It will never get to the public and it is to serve that purpose that I wanted to get it to where it could be thoroughly debated, because at last we will be dealing at least with something that has to do with accountability.

I appreciate Mr. Koe's comments and I agree with him that there are things that perhaps could be made better in this bill. Because, like everybody else, I'm an imperfect human being and I've tried many times to improve it by sending it around and changing it, accommodating, trying to find ways of solving this person's problem and that person's problem. I've done the best that I can. I can't do any more work on it. I need the wisdom of the public now. It is only in that way that we can make the bill better than it is.

Now, I come to the most unusual comments that I've heard and they came from my bearded friend from Yellowknife North, Mr. Ballantyne.

Bill 31: Recall Act April 6th, 1995

I'm a Liberal and you're a Liberal, Mr. Zoe.

---Laughter

---Applause Every workshop recommended to the conference that governments in Canada allow for recall of elected Members. On no item of direct democracy did a more clear consensus emerge. I've heard it said by Members that the direct democracy bandwagon is just a fad, just a passing whim; people are promoting it because it is a politically correct thing to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the NWT, the principle of removing elected people is already a well-established practice in many of our communities. Mr. Bill Erasmus, who was contacted in connection with this issue, says that he serves at the pleasure of his members and he can be removed at any time. The chiefs in our communities as well as band councillors can be removed from office before their terms have expired. The process may vary from band to band but the result is the same and elected members can be removed from office. As I've pointed out, Members even in this Assembly are not safe if the majority decide that they no longer want to have them serve as Cabinet Ministers.

I've heard many times that our system of government should more closely reflect the values of the people it serves. It's clear to me that accountability is one major value that all northerners share. Outside of our Legislature, throughout the territories accountability is widely practised. Since the principle of recall exists and flourishes in other institutions of the people we serve, we should surely, if we want to have any credibility at all, embrace that same principle here. Recall is the means to do it, at least one of several that have been looked at and we've never advanced much beyond talking about it. How can this Legislature achieve credibility if it won't adopt the fundamental values of the people that it's supposed to serve?

Mr. Speaker, two years ago Members treated the issue of recall as some wild, eccentric idea; interesting, but not really worth spending too much time on. It was something that could never happen in Canada. Well, Mr. Speaker, it has happened. Our close neighbour, British Columbia, now has a process which allows the public not only to recall its Members but also to initiate its own legislation, legislation that is meaningful to the people that governments are set up to serve.

In Alberta, and I'd like to point this out, Mr. Gary Dickson, a Liberal MLA, tried and will try once again to introduce a recall bill which failed in 1993, if he's given the chance to do so. Mr. Zoe has pointed out, and perhaps it was not recorded, that this is a Reform Party idea. It would be a mistake to associate the idea of recall with any particular party or ideology, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps the most influential supporter of direct democracy and recall is Patrick Boyle, a Tory Member of Parliament who wrote the definitive book on direct democracy and has written a whole chapter on the issue of recall. Initiatives on recall have been sponsored by a New Democratic Party government in British Columbia, not a Reform Party government. Social Credit has attempted to introduce legislation when Weisgerber, before British Columbia's Mr. Harcourt, tried to introduce legislation on behalf of the Social Credit Party in British Columbia. I've also pointed out that Dickson in Alberta who was a Liberal also tried to introduce this piece of legislation. So, it has nothing to do with the Reform Party, it just happens that it is an idea they're associated with.

I've read everything I can get my hands on about the growing movement towards involving people more in the ongoing struggle for good government. The argument that recall is unworkable was used only once or twice in the debates on recall which I referred to. The argument that it is unworkable, Mr. Speaker, is no argument at all. It has operated in three Swiss cantons -- or provinces, if you like -- since 1848. In the United States, 16 states have recall provisions for state-elected Members and 36 states have provisions for recall of elected Members below the state level.

Experience with recall shows that in the US, it has not been used very often and very, very seldom with success. Professor McCormick, a Political Science professor at the University of Lethbridge has written: "The power is not used very often. Recall in the United States has claimed one state Governor, along with an Attorney General and a Secretary of Agriculture, seven state representatives and one state Senator."

Out of the total number of years that recall has been in place -- and in the 16 states where recall is in effect, if you add up all the years that those state Legislatures have had recall, you get about 1,000 years that recall has been in place in those states -- only 10 successful attempts have been made to use recall and those were on matters that were so grievous, so serious, that you did get people out in numbers to support recall. McCormick goes on to state that this low level of success is an effective reply to most of the objections made to the idea of recall.

The arguments are very well-known: it would be used for narrow, partisan purposes; to harass office holders; punish legislators for innovative or controversial measures; or, help organized and well-funded organizations to achieve their goals. Mr. McCormick agrees that all of these things are true about the idea of the initiative of recall. Unfortunately for the promoter of recall, almost all petitions fail to get the required threshold of signatures.

What recall does is make elected officials accountable through a transparent process. People have to come out into the open and be counted, and our current system of elected officials are subject to incredible political pressures that many members of the public are not even aware of. Some Members, I'm sure, have felt the impact of subtle and indirect attacks which are difficult to defend against. Recall brings these things right out into the open. The wisdom of the act would strengthen rather than weaken the standing and stature of the Member if he is, in fact, the target of malicious and self-serving office seekers. That's been the experience in the United States and elsewhere.

If recall were in place, we would have a mechanism that would make sense in our system because we have no form of accountability. What must be understood in the debate on the principle of this bill, Mr. Speaker, is that we are servants of the electorate. They've put their trust in us and, unfortunately, whether you like it or not, we have to put our trust in them. It's a two-way street.

At the appropriate time, I shall ask for a recorded vote on the principle of this bill. I'm sure the public will be interested in who will be present at that time.

Bill 31: Recall Act April 6th, 1995

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Members know that I've raised the issue of accountability many times in this Assembly over the past seven years. Members will recall I worked on a system for electing the Premier-at-large so that people would know, in fact, who is in charge of the government and was going to be providing it direction and so on. I've also worked on various ways in which party politics could emerge in the Northwest Territories if there were legislation in place in order to support it. In fact, Mr. Speaker, accountability was a major issue when I first ran for election in 1987. I've worked on things that I've promised to work on and since accountability was the major issue, this is the one on which I spent quite a bit of my time.

During the past seven years many changes have taken place across the country. The effect of the debate over the Meech Lake Accord and the referendum over the Charlottetown Accord showed us how out of touch politicians are with the electorate. The rise of the Reform Party with its dedication to direct democracy is a very clear indication that the public wants to be more involved in the political process. The extensive national debate on the Constitution has focused public attention on other ways of making the country, the government and Parliament work better. There's a clear message that the government should connect with the public in a far better manner.

Three years ago, Mr. Speaker, I began working on recall legislation as one of the ways to reinforce that an elected Member in our system be directly accountable to the electorate. In the absence of political parties, all Members of the Legislature are elected as independents. No one gets elected as part of a territorial team that raises money and develops a platform to obtain a majority of party Members in this Assembly. Despite the apparent accountability to the public in the Northwest Territories, however, Mr. Speaker, the public has no disciplinary powers over its Members in the way that a political party does in the provincial Assemblies or in the House of Commons, although there is a gradual movement to allow people free votes in some jurisdictions.

Recall, Mr. Speaker, is one of the ways to establish the linkage of accountability in our system of government. I know that Members have wrestled with the problem in the past but nobody has brought forward a solution. Read Mr. Braden's letter to me which I tabled yesterday, and Members will know how much has gone into this bill and how long the delay has been, how many times this has been referred to different places. So I should like to point out to Members and to the public that this is not a last-gasp initiative. It's taken years.

I would like to remind Members that at second reading we're dealing only with a very simple question. Do you believe that the electorate should have the power to remove its Members before his or her term of office has expired? Do you believe in accountability to the public in the absence of party politics? Do you trust the people who elected you well enough to give them the power to remove its Member?

At this stage, we're not discussing the details of recall, Mr. Speaker, we are discussing only the principle of recall itself. There have been two lengthy debates on recall over the past year: one in the House of Commons in June 1994, and one in the British Columbia Legislature in July 1994. These debates provided a full range of arguments over the advantages and disadvantages of recall. It's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the main argument used in the House of Commons against recall was that no nation state had ever adopted it yet. I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that below the level of the nation state, it does exist in the cantons of Switzerland and in the state legislatures of the United States and there's widespread use of the mechanism at municipal and regional levels. The principle of recall exists in aboriginal governments and it exists in the way we operate in this House with regard to the recall of Cabinet Ministers.

In British Columbia, there was little question about the principle of recall. The major criticism of the NDP government-sponsored bill was that it didn't go far enough. The main fault found was that 60 days was too short a time to organize a petition and there were too many regulations governing the recall campaign. Social Credit Members who originally supported a private Member's bill on recall introduced by Jack Weisgerber from Peace River, claimed the bill gave the public no real chance of recalling a Member. Others argued that the 60-day period was more than twice as long as the election campaign which lasts 28 days and therefore provided ample time. The debate showed all Members to be appreciated about the introduction of the legislation. Each Member who introduced this particular bill was treated with tremendous courtesy, they were thanked very much for the opportunity to debate perhaps the most important change in parliamentary democracy in over 700 years. In fact, everybody seemed delighted that this issue was on the floor for debate.

During the two debates on recall which I am referring to, several references were made to a conference called "Reinventing Parliament" which was held in Lethbridge on February 25 and 26, 1994 and organized by the Canada West Foundation under the direction of Dr. Elton who was referred to in Mr. Braden's letter to me yesterday. Over 100 people from across Canada were invited to attend and to speak on innovative approaches to public participation in their Legislature, on the basis of unusual approaches to decision-making. What makes the NWT government unique, of course, is our consensus style of government and how we achieve accountability in it. Now, out of the blue, although I was aware of this conference and really wanted to go, I suddenly got an invitation. I attended this conference with Mr. Zoe, chairman of our Rules, Procedures and Privileges Committee. We participated at that very important conference in Lethbridge on the dates I referred to. At that very important meeting where leaders from across this country were in attendance, there was a vote on recall in the conference working groups and there was a majority support for it. The conference report...

Bill 31: Recall Act April 6th, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife South, that Bill 31, Recall Act, be read for the second time. Mr. Speaker, this allows voters from an electoral district of a Member of the Legislative Assembly to apply to the chief electoral officer for the issuance of a petition for the recall of the Member. Where a recall petition is issued and is signed by the required number of voters, the chief electoral officer shall declare that the seat of the Member is vacant and direct that a by-election be held to fill the seat. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 421-12(7): Status Of Bill C-68 In House Of Commons April 6th, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the Minister since the gun control legislation has received second reading, therefore whatever the principle was in that bill has been established and accepted, could the concerns of Northwest Territories residents about the legislation now be dealt with in these hearings that are being proposed?