In the Legislative Assembly


Historical Information Edward Picco is no longer a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Last in the Legislative Assembly March 1999, as MLA for Iqaluit

Won his last election, in 1995, with 48% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills December 6th, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to report to the Legislative Assembly that the Standing Committee on Infrastructure has reviewed Bill 24, Community Employees' Benefits Program Transfer Act, and wishes to report that Bill 24 is now ready for the committee of the whole. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to waive rule 70(5) and have Bill 24 ordered into committee of the whole for today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 265-13(6): Health Benefits Agreements December 6th, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, when the Minister is getting that information, I wonder if he could follow up, indeed, on the same area. I have had some calls from constituents who have been informed, if they are living in Nunavut on a temporary basis, let us say on a contract from September to June, for nine months, they are not eligible for the NWT Health Care card. That seems to me, to be a conflict with the inter-jurisdictional agreements and arrangements we have with other jurisdictions, provinces and territories. Could the Minister speak to that or at least, follow up with the other information that he has? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 265-13(6): Health Benefits Agreements December 6th, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. It is my understanding that new residents of the Northwest Territories receive health benefits on their health cards from their own jurisdiction for the first three months of residency in the Northwest Territories. I am wondering if that is correct. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 231-13(6): Suicide In The Northwest Territories: A Descriptive Review December 6th, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health and Social Services released a document summary, Suicide in the Northwest Territories, a Descriptive Review. This document is a plain language summary and technical report entitled, Suicide in the Northwest Territories, a Descriptive Review. It was a joint project between Sandy Isaacs and Janie Hawkin of Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, or LCDC, in Wellington, Duff and Guelph Health Unit. Susan Keil, the Department of Health and Social Services, and Kathy Menard, office of the Chief Coroner, both of the Government of the Northwest Territories. The Department of Health and Social Services invited the LCDC to work together on reviewing data and identifying subgroups of the population who are at most risk of suicide and describing the circumstances surrounding the suicides. The study defines suicide as follows: when a person

takes his or her own life with the intent to do so. The report was submitted on March 31, 1998, to Health and Social Services.

Mr. Speaker, suicide has touched many of our families. I found the document to be quite thorough. It dispels some of myths around suicide, for example, that drugs or alcohol used prior to the suicide was not a major factor as some have felt. Mr. Speaker, I suggest that Members, and the public, review the report. I would like to thank Minister Ng and his department, for commissioning the review and, indeed, it is a good starting point to help us address this very serious concern. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters December 3rd, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, last weekend when I was home in Iqaluit I spoke to numerous constituents concerning the Conflict of Interest Report by Ms. Crawford. Indeed, I have had public service announcements on CBC Radio in Iqaluit and also ads on the local cable television and I have had copies of the report available at my office. I have asked for feedback from the constituents. As of today, I have

received something like 70 e-mails, numerous phone calls and faxes. I guess because the public service announcements, Mr. Chairman, have been on CBC radio, I have received faxes from across the territories, including Arviat I might add.

Mr. Chairman, policing your own is very difficult in any walk of life and that includes politics. For example, here in the Northwest Territories, and I will specifically refer to Breakwater Project in my riding, where there is a limited number of contracts. I knew the scope of the project and budgeted amounts before being approved in the budget. It would have been very easy for me to call a supposed blind trust partner and say, bring in extra C7 caterpillar, bulldozer and bid x number of dollars on the said project. Here in the Northwest Territories the conflict of interest filings are done by each Member with an honour system. That is to say, Mr. Chairman, they are not being checked by a third party or an independent person. The reality is, the public at large has so much current cynicism towards politicians that not only do you have to be perceived to be clear of conflict, but you also have to demonstrate it almost on a daily basis.

Mr. Chairman, allegations of conflict could be made for example in the Northwest Territories by anyone in the general public at large. That could end up having x number of complaints of conflict, causing the government to be impeded in its legislative agenda. Also, since we have no party politics here in the Northwest Territories, a complaint becomes non-partisan. It is not a Conservative against a Liberal or a Liberal against an NDP for example. It can become personally based. The optimum would be to find legislation that is not onerous enough to stop government from doing its job, but is officious enough to carry on the mandate required of disclosure to the public at large, so it allows the public trust to be fulfilled, without hamstringing the government.

Now I say this in all seriousness. When we look at the approach being brought forward in legislation, and what has been written about in the public at large over the last couple of years and indeed, Mr. Chairman, over the last couple of weeks and months here in the Northwest Territories. I would like to give a couple of examples. An example, Mr. Chairman, is the formal federal Cabinet Minister, Mr. John Crosby. Mr. Crosby, in his recent biography talks about the implementation of the blind trust policy in the federal government. Which he said, matter of fact, did not work because the blind trust of course is only blind to the person who cannot see it. It is not necessarily blind to the person involved in it. That was Mr. Crosby.

As politicians, we are trusted with guarding the public purse. Indeed, my friends and fellow politicians, the cynicism out there suggests in a political way that sometimes the position we are in puts us in a conflict. I believe Mr. Morin referred to that earlier in his statement. In our jurisdiction, that conflict is quite prevalent because of our small population number, as Mr. Morin said, and the number of contractors that can do public work and public contracts. When you bring up an idea or subject like this, as politicians, it can be very touchy.

The reality is unless you have an alternative solution to the problem it is hard to debate it. I do not have a solution to the problem of how you would disclose without a third party to investigate the claims being made. When I filed my conflict of interest guidelines, or if I filed my conflict of interest guidelines, and I say my wife is holding x number of shares in a corporation in which I have a fiduciary interest, there is actually no one to check to see if indeed that is correct. It is on an honour basis. So Mr. Chairman, I think this speaks to the whole area of concern today.

What is our intention with conflict of interest legislation and conflict of interest guidelines? In fact that is the issue. Our intention is to somehow demonstrate to the public we are no better and no worse and we are making the appropriate, ethical decisions, based on the decisions we are making. Aside from the issue of what our intention is in dealing with conflict of interest, we should not loose sight of the fact that conflict of interest legislation is designed for disclosure, Mr. Chairman.

The fact is we were elected and required to disclose what our assets and income are. For better or for worse, in most cases most of our electors do not know that, but we are forced to file public documents which indicate where our interests are and where they lie. A judgement can be made, based on our disclosures as how and whether we are, Mr. Chairman, voting appropriately, and that includes taking ourselves out of a meeting and declaring a conflict of interest when that type of item comes up.

Mr. Chairman, what kind of legislation do we have in place that deals with the politician who lays up treasures in heaven in anticipation of the day when he or she is going to get out of office and maybe reap the benefits of that? I do not know, Mr. Chairman, because we do not cover that in our legislation. When you are in a position to enhance the prospects of certain companies, and then after you are out of office or out of employ of the government of certain companies or placing yourself on various boards of directors as appreciation for your help while you were in office, what legislation is there in place to deal with that? I think that is also an issue.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to quote just briefly here from Speaker Glen Hagel of Saskatchewan. Mr. Hagel, the Speaker of Saskatchewan had something profound to say this summer when I was at a meeting with him. I would like to quote "Wise indeed is a Member who, when anticipating being accused of something, heads it off by getting to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner first and asking for a private, written ruling on something you anticipate may be coming down the pipe. As we know in this modern day and age where public officials are accused of being in conflict of interest, the public judges us to be guilty until proven innocent. Often it is just the passage of time by which it becomes clear later on that a Member was not in a conflict of interest but the accusation itself was enough to kill their political reputation. We should be seeing the Conflict of Interest Commissioner as somebody we can go to in advance to provide ourselves with political assurance."

Mr. Chairman, the inquiry demonstrated a haphazard following of policies, misleading statements given in this House by Ministers, less than complete responses during the inquiry. What are we to take from that? What does the public think, Mr. Chairman? These are dark days for all residents of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Out of chaos comes opportunity. Opportunity to do the right thing. To demonstrate we have learned from the report and indeed stop this behaviour before it goes on to the two new governments. Indeed that is what Mr. Dent alluded to earlier.

Mr. Morin stated that he declared a conflict of interest at the May 16, 1996, meeting concerning the Fort Resolution project. The minutes of that meeting does not show that. Mr. Avison, who attended the meeting, does not remember any declaration made by Mr. Morin at the meeting. Mr. Avison was at that meeting. So we have contradictory evidence. Evidence that contradicts itself throughout this report. Mr. Chairman, each Member has to decide the validity of the report and vote with their conscience and vote and accept or reject the report, based on the facts as presented.

On page 70 of the report, Mr. Chairman, and I am reading from the July 28th briefing note, leasing the Lahm Ridge Tower. It suggests that the DPW was induced to negotiate by the power of substantial cost of savings of which there were none relative to all the February letters coming forward. In responses to an oral question asked by Mr. Ootes, not only on the 6th of February but also on the 11th and 12th of February, 1998, by Mr. Antoine, it states which is clearly not true, departmental officials were not engaged in negotiations about the lease extension or about the Lahm Ridge Tower, prior to August 3, 1997, with individuals outside the department, other than the owner, Mr. Marceau.

In response to an oral question by Minister Antoine on February 4, 1998, and that was document 7951 in the report, Mr. Chairman, it states untruthfully the negotiations on lease extensions took place exclusively between Mr. Dixon and Mr. Marceau in the superintendent's office, supplemented by a few phone calls between the two. Neither Mr. Mrdjenovich or Mr. Bailey were involved in negotiation. That was untruthful.

Mr. Chairman, the point here is that indeed the contradictory evidence presented by Ms. Crawford in her report begs us as Members to ask certain questions. When the report came out last week, Mr. Chairman, and indeed here in the public in Yellowknife, downloaded onto Internet, not only here in the Northwest Territories but across Canada. We have had national editorials in newspapers.

I guess we have to ask ourselves what do we do about it? Who do you believe in the report? We have heard from Mr. Morin and it is very difficult for any of us in this House to take one person's word against the other. What I have tried to do in the report and I have had it for a week, I had it the first night and Mr. Morin talked about reading it three or four times. Indeed I have read it five or six times. From the statement today, from some of the information I gathered on researching this topic, you can see I must have read the report, it is hard for me to judge what is being said is right between one or the other party. I can only go on the collaborative evidence that has been presented. The documents, the documentation, the thousands of issues paper being put forward by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

What has come out of this report, Mr. Chairman, is indeed, some serious concerns with the way this government carries on business. We have policies, Mr. Chairman, to run the government. The Conflict of Interest Commissioner said there was nothing wrong with the legislation, and indeed, Mr. Chairman, there is nothing wrong with our policies. The problem is, Mr. Chairman, it seems like the policies were not followed.

When I look across the floor of this House today, to my friends over in the Cabinet, indeed, when some of the questions were being asked, some of them knew that the policies were not being followed. Indeed, some of the questions that came up in the inquiry were not answered very well, as reported by Ms. Crawford. What does that mean?

Mr. Chairman, that is a rhetorical question. What does it mean? Mr. Chairman, what it means is that there are serious concerns in here. There are serious concerns that need to be debated and there are serious concerns that need to be addressed. Will they be addressed by us, today and on Monday? Probably not. They will be addressed at a higher court, Mr. Chairman, and that higher court is the court of public opinion. I do not think it is going overboard to state that public opinion today, and the cynicism surrounding politics and politics in general, is at an all-time low. That is what we have to remember. I will accept the report as presented and I will be prepared to vote on the recommendations when presented in this forum. I would ask, Mr. Chairman, that indeed, the Members who speak to this today, and as Mr. Dent and Mr. Morin have already, remember that is what we are here for. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters December 3rd, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, if the committee would like to take a short break, then I will begin my comments after the break. I would be conducive to that.

Question 263-13(6): Status Of Iqaluit Health Facility December 3rd, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there was a concern with the construction of the hospital and the financing of the project with the Auditor General for Canada. I am wondering if that concern has been alleviated or rectified? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 263-13(6): Status Of Iqaluit Health Facility December 3rd, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if through the negotiations and the meetings in Iqaluit two weeks ago, if there is indeed, an agreement with the Nunavut deputy minister for Health and if, indeed, Mr. Anawak's office, on the dollar value and the process for construction of the hospital? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 263-13(6): Status Of Iqaluit Health Facility December 3rd, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the Minister of Health, Mr. Ng, could update the House at this time on the negotiations and progress to date on the construction of the new Baffin Regional Hospital? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 255-13(6): Aboriginal Language Community Contributions December 3rd, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in the answer just given by the Minister, am I to understand that, indeed, each language group, for example, in Nunavut would it be NTI, they have to submit some type of proposal of how they will use this money and then the department will review the proposal and then submit the allocated $50,000, if that was the amount? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.