Roles

Elsewhere

Last in the Legislative Assembly December 1999, as MLA for Tu Nedhe

Won his last election, in 1995, with 68% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters July 28th, 1999

Thank you, Madam Chairperson. I, too, had the ability and the time to go and visit communities up and down the valley this summer on Bill 15. As Members are well aware, previously I sat in Cabinet for seven years, and you do not have a lot of time when you are a Cabinet Minister to do a lot of other things other than be a Cabinet Minister and take care of those duties. I remember when living back in Fort Resolution, there was always a cautious approach to Yellowknife and what it represented, but I did not realize what people really thought of our capital city until you went and listened to what they had to say. I told a lot of them that I have lived here going on seven years now, and there are a lot of good people in Yellowknife. There are a lot of good people who are very, very interested in the future of the North. They are very, very interested in the development of the North. They are strong supporters of the inherent right of self-government, aboriginal government. There are good people here. I know a lot of them. So never judge a place only on the actions of a handful of them that are very vocal or on the actions of some of their elected representatives. You cannot judge a complete community.

Definitely people out there see very clearly the power shift that is going to happen in this Legislative Assembly. Those that say it is not, have either run out of fingers to count or they do not have the ability to embrace reality. When you have 11 of 19 Members that come from major centres and seven of them from our capital, you do have power. Ultimately everything comes through this House. The final decisions are made in this House. You may not be able to tell that the way the government of the day operates, but ultimately that is the way it should operate. Things should come through this House, and that is where the final decision should be made. People up and down the valley that we have heard, regardless whether they were aboriginal or non-aboriginal, are very concerned about the power shift. I have heard everyone say they want a political solution. Every last one of those people said the judges overstepped their boundaries, they entered the Legislative Assembly, made decisions - political decisions instead of justice decisions.

The Legislative Assembly Cabinet, after the decision was made, chose not to come up with a solution, but to take the advice and not appeal the decision and bring this bill forward, Bill 15. Everyone, even in that debate, was saying they have to come up with political solutions. Now everyone knows that we are all in the dying days of the 13th Legislative Assembly. Everyone knows that, but we are all still being paid as well. We are all still being paid to make decisions on behalf of the people of the whole Northwest Territories. Nobody wants to see a lame duck government. It is one of the worst things to watch.

People have to remember where they come from. People have the responsibility to stand up for what they believe in. If people believe that there is no hope to hold the Western Territory together, then they should say that. But if Members believe that we should show some leadership and supply the glue that holds the fabric of the new Western Territories together, then you should make bold decisions and move ahead.

As far as our report goes, there will be recommendations and motions. Some are useless without the other ones passing. But we went out, we have heard the people and we are repeating what people have said to us. I know the government of the day has already shown, regardless of a motion passed in this Assembly giving it direction, does not have to listen to that. I hope that it never stoops to the level of not listening to the people because we have, went out there and listened to the people. We agree with what the people are saying. You have to come up with a political solution. It should be a solution that carries, or a process for that solution, that carries the same weight as the legislation you are introducing today. It is your committee of the whole as well, Bill 15.

The two have to be equal because, if they are not, then you end up giving nothing. It is not the time to pass the buck onto the 14th Assembly. It is not the time to shrink from our responsibilities. It is a time to make decisions and it is a time to offer solutions. So with that, Madam Chairperson, I will be happy to hear other solutions than the ones we brought forward, but we do need a solution. Or the Members of the 13th Assembly and the Members of the Cabinet of this day, they will be the ones that go down in history and said we have given up, we can do nothing. Or we will not do anything, or we will not do anything or we do not have the political will to do something.

We are all elected by our people to come here and vote. We are all elected to do what is right for all of the Northwest Territories, not just a selective few. So hopefully you will all think of that when it comes time to vote and I hope that, in those cases where it does not include spending money, that you will not only allow a free vote of the Cabinet Members, but allow free debate on this issue. On an issue of this importance, no elected Member should be allowed to hide behind their chair. They should all speak so the voters know what you really feel. With that, I look forward to the debate, questions and motions. Mahsi Cho, Thank you.

Question 243-13(7): Consultation On Correctional Facility Change July 28th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was interesting to listen to that long-winded speech with very little substance. The Minister said and the question was very clear, it was never answered in his little speech, but it was interesting what he said. Medical services, in Hay River, for example, are not good enough for YCC correctional people. I wonder if they are good enough for the people of Tu Nedhe. Are they good enough for the people of Hay River? I would think so. But the question was, and God forbid, if you ever had to have hardship on people in YCC or the staff of this government, that they would have to draw on the services applied south of the lake and move down there. But the question is, was there any process, within the Minister's review, of changing this from a renovation to a capital project, was there any process available for any community in the Northwest Territories, other than Yellowknife, to submit what they had to offer to attract that to their region or their community? Thank you.

Question 243-13(7): Consultation On Correctional Facility Change July 28th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As one of the MLAs that represent one of those little constituencies, as the Minister said, I do have a concern about the Minister's approach saying not necessary to consult because we are doing the same as previous decisions of previous governments. Well, he should stand on his own two feet and take possession of the decisions he makes, but he lacks that political will or backbone. As far as the consultation process goes, the Minister said in this House previously, he made the decision that this building could not be built in any other community. He made that decision, so maybe now he can tell this House how he came about to make that decision. What process did the Minister use to consult with other regional centres or other communities of what they would put forward to this government, of what they would offer to this government in order to get this facility in their communities that would help them out economically? Thank you.

Question 243-13(7): Consultation On Correctional Facility Change July 28th, 1999

I thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday yourself, Mr. Speaker, laid the rules down in this Legislative Assembly very clear. Ministers are to answer their questions directly. We, when we ask our questions, are supposed to use our questions in the proper way. We have done that. I have listened to this Minister grandstand and pass the buck for the last five to ten minutes. I would like him to answer the question and follow your ruling to be direct and answer the question. Thank you.

Question 243-13(7): Consultation On Correctional Facility Change July 28th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Minister, in his long-winded speech passing the buck and taking no responsibility for decisions he makes, it is completely amazing to watch. But the question was, and I will try to keep it simple so he can understand it, the question is very clear, when did you meet with the social programs committee to consult with the major change of a renovation to a new capital project? Thank you.

Question 243-13(7): Consultation On Correctional Facility Change July 28th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question will be to the Minister of Justice. In previous sittings of this Legislative Assembly as well as when we all came here a little over three years ago, Mr. Speaker, we had agreed on a process, we had agreed on a consultation process of developing policies,

developing programs, any major changes. I believe our government in the past have been censured for changes to the capital budget before but what I am wondering, Mr. Minister is, when did you meet with the social programs committee to consult with the social programs committee on change of renovation to the Yellowknife Correctional Centre compared to a brand new building? Thank You.

Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery July 28th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to recognize Mrs. Esther Braden who is the chairperson for the NWT Seniors' Society. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

--Applause

Member's Statement 190-13(7): Cabinet Decisions To Construct Yellowknife Correctional Facilities July 28th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I talk about the Yellowknife Correctional Centre once again. It is with a heavy heart that I heard about this decision, Mr. Speaker, by the Minister of Justice. Ultimately it was the Minister of Justice that sent this proposal forward to Cabinet and his Cabinet colleagues. They in their wisdom decided to build a new facility in Yellowknife, not to renovate an old facility but to build a new facility in Yellowknife. It is also public knowledge that the majority of the dollars are going into Yellowknife at this time. Everything announced recently coming out of this government has been Yellowknife, Yellowknife, Yellowknife. Yellowknife's economy is bad, so they have to shore it up with a housing program. Yellowknife's gold mines are being threatened, so we have to help them out. Yellowknife's diamond polishing needs help, so we help that out. Now we take the government money and we spend it in our great city of Yellowknife again. I wonder whatever happened to places like Inuvik, Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution. Maybe they do not exist anymore. Maybe because they are outside the boundaries of the city of Yellowknife, they are not qualified anymore to put in proposals to this government. This government has shut the door on other regional centres to even bring forward a proposal to build a new correctional centre for the Northwest Territories. They have shut that door. They never even had the door open. The Minister in

his wisdom felt no one else was qualified. It is here. We will keep it here.

They even carried on further, Mr. Speaker. Before the money for that budget was approved in this Legislative Assembly, they put an ad in the Globe and Mail. That was a week ago today, an ad in the Globe and Mail. I tabled that in this House. I checked through all the newspapers in the Northwest Territories. Now they are shutting the door to northern businesses because they have not even put an ad in a northern newspaper. They have given southern businesses a hand-up against northern businesses. Maybe there are no northern businesses qualified. Maybe they have made that decision already. I do not know. But what I do know is that the government of the day and especially the Minister of Justice has forgotten that anything exists outside this Legislative Assembly and Yellowknife. They are a government for Yellowknife, not the people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you.

--Applause

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters July 27th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to report progress.

Committee Report 2-13(7) Report On Bill 15: An Act To Amend The Legislative Assembly And Executive Council Act July 27th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Political Solutions

The standing committee heard many expressions of legitimate concern among people in the regions about the role of the courts and the legislature. Debates are occurring in many parts of Canada surrounding decisions in which unelected judges have overruled express choices of elected representatives. Many presenters felt strongly that the courts in this case have gone too far in taking over the role of elected legislators.

The standing committee also heard that while Bill 15 may be one legal solution, it creates political chaos. Better solutions can be devised through consultation and cooperation. From the views expressed by presenters, the committee is convinced that the vast majority of people, from Yellowknife, the other larger centers and from the regions want a political solution and new ways developed for governing the North.

It was also pointed out that the court decisions did not specifically recommend Bill 15. The NWT Supreme Court did lay out parameters for the government to follow, but the particular boundaries created by Bill 15 were chosen by the government. The courts also made it clear that effective representation issues require political solutions.

The standing committee is disappointed that the government did not display more creativity in devising solutions to the boundary issues in consultation with aboriginal people. Bill 15 will have a deep and lasting impact. This government spent money and effort trying to convince Northwest Territories residents that we had a "new" Territory after the creation of Nunavut. This was an opportunity to truly develop a new Territory "owned" by all residents.

The committee did attempt to find ways to make Bill 15 more acceptable to the leadership and residents of the rural Northwest Territories, and to address the concerns of aboriginal governments that Bill 15 reduces opportunities for First Nations to participate in public government. Committee members questioned all presenters on their thoughts on other issues relating to governance that had come to the attention of committee members.

Most presenters expressed their preference for maintaining the status quo of fourteen seats. As Norm Prevost of Fort Simpson said, it would be better to "start small, stay small and build according to our needs". Presenters also questioned the cost associated with an increase in the number of Members, saying that this money is needed for education and health, not MLAs.

The standing committee notes that the Honourable Michael Miltenberger, MLA for Thebacha, recommended that a Legislative Assembly of 15 Members could be accomplished within the rules set down by the NWT Supreme Court if some of the smaller constituencies were amalgamated and some residents moved to different constituencies. The committee cannot support this suggestion. Members feel strongly that it is essential that the small constituencies be retained, and that the redistribution of voters into different constituencies should only be done in consultation with the people affected.

Generally, presenters understood that the standing committee was painted into a corner and had little scope to change Bill 15. However, if Bill 15 is to come into effect, presenters wanted accompanying changes. People felt that there were positive steps that could be taken now and in the long term to partially address the political impact of Bill 15.

Sunset Clause.

Many presenters and committee Members were concerned that once Bill 15 was passed, this would be the end of any meaningful constitutional development or discussions in the Northwest Territories.

Committee Members sought presenters' opinions on the inserting of a time limit for Bill 15. A time limit or "sunset clause" could allow the legislation to exist as law for only a certain period of time. The vast majority of presenters questioned by the committee Members were in favour of a "sunset clause" being included in Bill 15.

For example, Gary Bohnet, President of the Metis Nation - NWT, thought that the addition of a "sunset clause" would make it clear that Bill 15 was a temporary fix and would be useful in ensuring that other types of solutions were looked at.

If Bill 15 were in force for only the life of the next (14th) Assembly, the GNWT, aboriginal governments and all Northerners would have a target date to work towards in the formulation of a new constitution for the Northwest Territories. This is something that has not occurred before.

Cabinet Composition (2-2-2) Proposal.

Committee members were interested in hearing the views of presenters on a proposal that had been suggested to ensure regional representation on Cabinet. The "2-2-2" proposal calls for Cabinet membership to comprise two Members from northern NWT constituencies, two from southern constituencies and two from Yellowknife.

The 2-2-2 proposal is based on the previous convention that existed under which four Ministers were selected from the east (Nunavut) and four Ministers were selected from the west (the present Northwest Territories). This practice, while not formalized in law, did provide some assurances to the residents of both east and west that their needs would not be forgotten in Cabinet deliberations.

The 2-2-2 balance could be achieved through political convention, as was the case before division. Alternatively, it could be formalized, either in the Rules of the Legislative Assembly or in legislation.

This proposal received widespread support during the public hearings. The majority of presenters from all regions of the Northwest Territories felt that the proposal might provide some measure of assurance to the smaller rural regions that their voices would be heard and their needs recognized in relation to all NWT issues.

However, not all presenters agreed that the proposal should be embodied in legislation. Gary Bohnet, President of the Metis Nation - NWT did not favour mandated regional representation on Cabinet. Mr. Bohnet raised the question of what the Legislative Assembly would do if none of the Members elected from a particular region were suitable Cabinet material. In further discussions, Mr. Bohnet indicated that he did not object to regional representation through political convention.

Similarly, Robert Slaven of Yellowknife felt that the suggestion for regional representation was reasonable, but that legislation would be too inflexible and the proposal should be restricted to political convention.

Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission.

While the addition of a "sunset clause" to Bill 15 may provide some comfort to territorial residents, it is only a temporary measure to obtain more time. Committee members also realized that there must be a process in place to establish a new constitution or form of governance for the Northwest Territories, and discussed options to ensure that a process be instituted.

Gary Bohnet of the Metis Nation - NWT proposed that the committee develop legislation providing for an independent body that reports to the aboriginal leadership as well as to the Legislative Assembly to settle electoral and constitutional issues. Committee members agreed with Mr. Bohnet's assessment that the commission should have a relatively broad mandate. As well, there must be a commitment to the process by both the GNWT and aboriginal governments and there must be time constraints placed on the commission.

Several presenters emphasized that any recommendations or proposals from a commission must not be restricted to the approval of MLAs. There must be a process established to allow ordinary residents of the Northwest Territories to vote on the recommendations of the commission.

Additional Issues.

Many other issues were brought to the attention of the Standing Committee on Government Operations during their public hearings. These included such issues as changing the name of the riding of Nahendeh to reflect its inclusion in the Deh Cho region, changing the names of constituencies to include "territory" to more clearly recognize aboriginal governments, creating a separate constituency for Rae-Edzo and creating constituencies in Inuvik with members elected at large. As well, presenters suggested creating constituencies reflecting traditional land use, creating aboriginal or cultural constituencies and establishing guaranteed aboriginal and/or regional representation.

Most of these requests cannot be accomplished at the current time, within the limitations imposed by the NWT Supreme Court decision and the federal Northwest Territories Act. However, Committee members agree that these are valid and worthy of consideration within the scope of further constitutional and electoral reform.

Mr. Speaker, I will now turn the reading of the report over to my colleague, Mr. Erasmus. Thank you.