Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to present the 2011-2012 main estimates for the Legislative Assembly.
The upcoming fiscal year is perhaps the most unique in the four-year cycle of the Legislative Assembly. It will be marked by the last five months of the 16
Assembly and the first six months of the
This year the Assembly is requesting operational funding to the tune of $18.9 million. This constitutes an increase of just over 9.7 percent compared to last year’s budget of $17.22 million. This year’s increases are the result of several important initiatives.
By far the most substantial reason for the increase is the requirement to fund a general election in the fall of this year. The cost of conducting a general election in the Northwest Territories is approximately $1 million. I am pleased to advise Members that the positions of both Chief Electoral
Officer and Deputy Chief Electoral Officer have been filled and that preparations for the vote are well underway. Returning officers have been appointed in all ridings and pre-election training has been scheduled. All we need now is the approval of the federal Cabinet to dissolve the 16
Assembly on September 4, 2011, to allow for an October 3
Costs related to the transition from the 16
Legislative Assembly are also included in next
Although Members have yet to debate the recommendations of the 16
Assembly’s Independent Commission to Review Members’ Compensation and Benefits, the Assembly has budgeted additional funds to ensure that Members who represent ridings with multiple small communities are able to hold at least three constituency meetings in each community annually. This additional funding reflects the unique costs that Members representing small communities must incur, most notably translation and interpretation services.
The 2011-2012 draft main estimates include an increase to the budget for the office of the Commissioner of Official Languages in the amount of $100,000. The Languages Commissioner has outlined a set of exciting initiatives she wishes to undertake in future years. This funding will assist her in fulfilling her critical mandate.
This year’s budget also reflects the completion of the terms of reference for the Standing Committee on Social Programs’ review of the Child and Family Services Act. Other sunsets include funding for the work of the Independent Commission to Review Members’ Compensation and Benefits, and interest payments on the capital lease of the Legislative Assembly building. Members will recall that in approximately two years the capital lease for this building will be paid in full.
Last year witnessed the successful implementation of a number of important initiatives at the Legislative Assembly. Outreach efforts were continued with a highly successful Mace tour to the communities of Fort Simpson, Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake. The first Elders’ Parliament was hosted by the Assembly and was, by all accounts, a resounding success. As stated, the terms of reference for a major review of the Child and Family Services Act were fulfilled by the Social Programs committee. Finally, the Assembly successfully installed a biomass heating system last fall. This initiative is, as we speak, handling more than 50 percent of our peak heating needs and, in so doing, saving money on fuel costs and reducing the Assembly’s environmental footprint.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide opening comments and I welcome any questions Members may have.