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Crucial Fact

Last in the Legislative Assembly October 2011, as MLA for Hay River North

Won his last election, in 2007, with 61% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committee Motion 39-16(5): Defer Consideration Of Health And Social Services Department Summary, Carried March 1st, 2011

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

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Assembly and the first six months of the

17

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Assembly.

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

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Legislative

Assembly on September 4, 2011, to allow for an October 3

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election.

Costs related to the transition from the 16

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to the

17

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Legislative Assembly are also included in next

year’s budget.

Although Members have yet to debate the recommendations of the 16

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Legislative

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.

Recorded Vote February 24th, 2011

The results of the recorded vote: in favour, nine; opposed, zero; abstained, seven. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Item 18, first reading of bills. Item 19, second reading of bills.

Colleagues, I want to take a moment to thank all of the Pages that have worked for us over this past week. They are doing a great job. In particular, I would like to recognize two Pages from Hay River South from my colleague’s riding, Taylor Price and Morgan Giroux. I would also like to thank chaperone Linda Theriault for being here all week chaperoning for the Pages.

---Applause

Item 20, consideration in Committee of the Whole of bills and other matters: Tabled Document 4-16(5), Executive Summary of the Report of the Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project; Tabled Document 30-16(5), 2010 Review of

Members’ Compensation and Benefits; Tabled Document 38-16(5), Supplementary Health Benefits – What We Heard; Tabled Document 62-16(5), Northwest Territories Water Stewardship Strategy; Tabled Document 75-16(5), Response to the Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project on the Federal and Territorial Governments’ Interim Response to “Foundation for a Sustainable Northern Future”; Tabled Document 103-16(5), GNWT Contracts Over $5,000 Report, Year Ending March 31, 2010; Tabled Document 133-16(5), NWT Main Estimates 2011-2012; Tabled Document 135-16(5), Response to the Standing Committee on Social Programs Report on the Review of the Child and Family Services Act; Bill 4, An Act to Amend the Social Assistance Act; Bill 14, An Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest Act; Bill 15, An Act to Amend the Fire Prevention Act; Bill 17, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act; Bill 18, An Act to Repeal the Settlements Act; Bill 19, Municipal Statutes Amendment Act; Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Evidence Act; Minister’s Statement 65-16(5), Devolution Agreement-in-Principle, Impact on Land Claims and Protection of Aboriginal Rights; Minister’s Statement 65-16(5), Devolution Agreement-in-Principle, Impact on Land Claims and Protection of Aboriginal Rights; Minister’s Statement 88-16(5), Sessional Statement, with Mr. Abernethy in the chair.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters February 22nd, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We’ll just get that information on the other expenditures here. I’ll refer the question to Olin, and he’ll run down the list of other expenses.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters February 22nd, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the comments from the Member for the Sahtu. We have had a fair bit of interest shown in this Elders’ Parliament and we’re going to work to make it as successful a week as possible with the elders when they come here. Thanks for those comments.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters February 22nd, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. To my left is director of corporate services, Olin Lovely, and to my right is the Clerk of the Assembly, Mr. Mercer.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters February 22nd, 2010

Yes, I would, Mr. Chairman.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters February 22nd, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am pleased to present the 2010-2011 operations budget for the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Chair, the Legislative Assembly is seeking appropriation authority in the amount of $17.24 million.

Mr. Chairman, I want to provide a brief update on some of the initiatives I announced in this House last year. Our Paper Reduction Strategy includes initiatives such as posting tabled documents on the Legislative Assembly website as opposed to distributing paper copies. Posting electronically has allowed us to meet our 75 percent reduction target for tabled documents. The Legislative Assembly has also reduced committee paper usage by 50 percent and House paper usage by 30 percent. Altogether, the Legislative Assembly used 450,000 fewer sheets of paper in 2009 than we did in 2008. That’s a 55 percent reduction in paper used. We are steadily moving toward our overall goal of an 80 percent reduction in Legislative Assembly use of paper.

Mr. Chair, I know that the decision to Drop the Pop and bottled water in the Legislative Assembly last year was challenging for some Members, but I think it has been an effective way for each of us to lead by example and play a small role in promoting good environmental stewardship and healthy personal choices.

Mr. Chairman, today crews began clearing the site at the north end of the Legislative Assembly in preparation for the installation of a wood pellet boiler. This initiative will result in a reduction of over 82,000 litres of diesel fuel usage a year and a cost

savings of $37,600 annually. At current fuel prices, the wood pellet boiler will pay for itself in just over nine years.

Mr. Chair, this year's budget includes a $50,000 increase to the grant provided to the NWT Human Rights Commission to provide assistance to unrepresented parties before the Human Rights Adjudication Panel. This assistance is viewed by both the commission and the adjudication panel as an effective way to streamline the adjudication process. In addition to providing assistance to unrepresented parties in a complex and often intimidating process, this new initiative should reduce the time and money required to see a complaint through to conclusion.

Mr. Chair, for the first time in the history of this Assembly, we have employees on our books that do not reside in Yellowknife. As Members know, the Board of Management last year decided to relocate the office of the Languages Commissioner from Yellowknife to Inuvik. I am pleased to report that this budget includes funding for office space and staff in Inuvik for our new Languages Commissioner.

Mr. Chair, our broadcast system continues to evolve. Earlier this year, Assembly staff successfully negotiated an agreement with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to bring all but two of our communities onto our broadcast network. Late last year I, along with the Speaker of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly, appeared before the Canadian Radio and Television Commission to call for the designation of our Assembly proceedings as a “must carry” on direct-to-home or satellite television systems. Our presentation was well received by the commission and we are hopeful for a positive response that will significantly increase our broadcast coverage.

Mr. Chairman, this year’s budget includes funding to continue the important work of the Standing Committee on Social Programs’ review of the Child and Family Services Act. Since the get-go, the Social Programs committee has shown significant determination and drive on this important legislative review. In addition to the many hours already spent on this initiative, the committee will hold extensive public hearings throughout the Northwest Territories in April. I want to congratulate Chairman Beaulieu and his committee, their staff and the staff of the Department of Health and Social Services for their excellent work to date. I particularly want to draw attention to the work of the committee’s research assistant, Ms. Robyn Stewart, who has demonstrated a remarkable ability to absorb the many aspects of this complicated file in a very compressed time frame. I am confident that this review will set the standard for how consensus government can and should function when all

parties agree to work together for the good of the people we represent.

Mr. Chairman, the report of the Independent Commission to Review Members’ Compensation and Benefits falls due early in the next fiscal year. As we speak, members of the commission are studying the many complex and important issues before them. I look forward to tabling the commission’s report during our May sitting and proceeding to a thorough and public debate about the recommendations contained therein.

Mr. Chairman, on November 17, 1993, this impressive building was formally dedicated to the wisdom of our elders and the spirit of their children. I know that I speak for all Members when I say that the experience and insight of our elders is among our greatest assets as a Territory. Mr. Chairman, in recognition of this, I have invited elders from across the Northwest Territories to assemble in Yellowknife for the first ever Elders Parliament from May 3 to 7, 2010. This unique initiative, which has already garnered significant interest, will provide our elders with an opportunity to learn more about the workings of our Assembly and express their views on important matters of public policy. I’m so excited about this initiative that I have decided to serve as Speaker of the Elders Parliament myself. After all, I meet the age requirement. I’m not sure whether they will be easier or a more challenging group to keep on track than you are. If all goes well this year, we will, in future years, alternate between a Youth and an Elders Parliament.

Members, by the end of the coming fiscal year, we will have only five months remaining in our term. This year marks the beginning of a two-year ramp-up of our elections office in preparation for the October 2011 General Election. We will be proceeding to recruit a permanent Chief Electoral Officer in the months ahead and hope to be fully staffed by this October. Brace yourselves, Members; it will come faster than you think.

Colleagues, this concludes my opening remarks. As always, I want to thank my colleagues on the Board of Management for their excellent work and dedication to the best interests of this institution. Mr. Chairman, if there are any questions, I will be pleased to respond to them. Thank you.

Speaker’s Ruling February 17th, 2010

Good afternoon, colleagues. Colleagues, before we begin, I wish to provide my ruling on the point of privilege raised in the House last Friday by Mr. Miltenberger. As Members know, the responsibility of the Speaker when a point of privilege has been raised is to determine whether, at first sight, a case of privilege has been established and that the matter has been raised at the first possible opportunity.

To start, I will quote Mr. Miltenberger’s point of privilege in its entirety from page 24 of the unedited Hansard for February 12, 2010, as it is relatively short: “Mr. Speaker, we have an understanding that we have confidential briefings with committee. We share information. It should be respected. The Member is clearly aware that there are processes and negotiations underway. This information was shared last night, yesterday morning and Tuesday night. My point of privilege is that by disclosing the specifics, the scenarios and all the various things that we are trying to talk about as we try to resolve this issue are bringing forward into a public forum from a confidential forum, information that was agreed to be kept confidential until we concluded our arrangements. Thank you.”

Colleagues, our rules do not exhaustively lay out the collective and individual privileges of the House. Rule 19(6), however, does provide some guidance. The rule states: “unless otherwise directed by the Assembly, it is not a breach of privilege for a Member of a standing or special committee to discuss with other Members of the Assembly, on a confidential basis, matters that are under consideration by a committee.” This rule would appear to imply that discussing confidential matters in any other way could constitute a breach of privilege.

Other parliamentary authorities support this conclusion. Citation 850 of Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms (6th Edition) states that “a committee, having the right to exclude strangers at any time, has the right to sit in private

and have its proceedings protected by privilege.” Citation 851 goes on to say that “when a committee chooses to meet in camera, all matters are confidential. Any departure from strict confidentiality should be by explicit committee decision which should deal with what matters should be published, in which forum and by whom.” Further, O’Brien and Bosc, on pages 1077-78 of House of Commons Practice and Procedure, Second Edition, states that “divulging any part of the proceedings of an in camera committee meeting has been ruled by the Speaker to constitute a prima facie matter of privilege.“

It is quite clear, Members, that when an unauthorized breach of committee confidentiality has been established, the House may deal with it as a matter of privilege. The question before me is whether a breach of confidentiality has been established. Making a determination on this is complicated by the fact that I do not, nor should I, attend committee meetings. It is also complicated by the fact that a press release was issued on this matter that made public at least some of the information that was shared with the committee in camera. Mr. Krutko was helpful in pointing this out in speaking to the point of privilege and I thank him for that.

It appears to me that Minister Michael McLeod, on his own initiative, scheduled an urgent briefing with standing committee to provide Members with the most up-to-date information on the status of the Deh Cho Bridge Project. He made it clear that sensitive negotiations were underway with both a new contractor and the project's lenders and that the information that was being provided to committee was confidential as a result of these ongoing negotiations. While the Minister did provide some of the details on the status of the bridge project in a media release issued last Friday, he also noted that negotiations between the parties continued. Although no one in debate made specific reference to this, it seems that the point of privilege was brought about by the mentioning of a specific piece of information that was not mentioned publicly in the media release. Again, I was not present at the briefing and have no knowledge of what information was or was not provided. I am, however, persuaded by the interventions of Minister Miltenberger, Minister Michael McLeod and MLA

Hawkins, each of whom I assume was in attendance at the full in-camera briefing. Other than Mr. Krutko’s above-mentioned intervention, no other Member who was present at the meeting provided a different account. On page 26 of the unedited Hansard, Mr. Hawkins, in speaking to the point of privilege, stated, “I think today is another example of where consensus government isn’t working, yet it’s supposed to be the principles of how we share and work together. I don’t think stating a ballpark number or an actual number does anything to our process but destroy it.”

Members have several times in this session made reference to the principles of consensus government that were adopted by Caucus last year. I'm glad to hear this as I thought for a while that all the hard and honest discussion that went into agreeing to these principles may have been lost. These principles clearly define what it means to "do" government in our consensus system. They define how we are unique. Principle number four talks about the “double-edged nature” of the dialogue we enjoy in our system between Cabinet and committees. Committees and Regular Members enjoy far more access to sensitive information and have greater opportunity to influence public policy in our system than in any other. This open and honest exchange of information is what makes our consensus system stand out. It is why Members consistently show very strong support for how we do business here, often in the face of public criticism and calls for fundamental change. As principle number four suggests, however, this sharing of information comes with great responsibility. If Members want to be kept up to speed on sensitive matters as they develop, they must agree to keep information confidential until it is properly ready for release. Failure to do so breaks the bargain that we have all agreed to.

Minister Michael McLeod, in my view, met the standard that Members have consistently called for when he came forward and shared highly sensitive information with committee in an open, timely, straightforward, yet confidential manner. This is what Members seem to consistently call for and it would appear that the Minister, to his credit, met the standard. In making reference to specific pieces of information from that briefing that were not intended for release to the public, the bargain was broken. I find that a prima facie matter of parliamentary privilege has been established in this instance and that the matter was raised at the earliest possible opportunity. My duty done, it is now up to the House to determine how to proceed.

Colleagues, before I proceed, I want to comment on the recent surge of points of privilege and order in the House. Whenever I am asked to rule on a matter, the appearance of winners and losers is created. This is not a game, however, and there is

no scorecard. Our rules are in place to help us debate the important matters before us in a respectful, dignified and efficient manner. The rules of the House are a means to this end. They are not an end unto themselves. When Members consistently use provocative and accusatory language and others respond by raising points of order or privilege, we have entered into a "race to the bottom" and lose sight of what we are really here to do. Consensus government is not intended to be tame or absent of heated debate. It should, however, take on a tone that reflects the importance and gravity of the issues before this House as opposed to the “showmanship” we often see in other Legislatures. If nothing else, the tone should be dignified, even in times of high emotion and fundamental disagreement. As we move forward from today, I urge you all to recommit yourselves to the principles of consensus government that we agreed to last year. If Members collectively tone down the rhetoric a notch or two, and thicken our skins a little, I am confident that we can get back to serving the people of the Northwest Territories in a manner that will reflect positively on this institution. The public expect to see us debate issues that make a difference in their daily lives. I don't believe parliamentary procedure is one of these issues. It rests with you. As your Speaker, I will, of course, continue to apply your rules in as fair and objective a manner as I am able. Thank you, Members.

Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, Mr. Robert McLeod.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters March 5th, 2009

The staff positions are the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer position, the administrative assistant position. As far as how long they have been staffed, maybe ask Tim if he has that.

Consideration in Committee of the Whole of Bills and Other Matters March 5th, 2009

I will commit to getting the information to Members on salaries. It would probably be better to get the information to the Members on that.

On the municipal election front, the CEO is very keen on doing some stuff for municipal elections. She has raised the issue a number of times with the Association of Communities, but there is some pushback in that area where they are reluctant to turn that over to the Chief Electoral Officer. They are still reviewing their options. For the time being, they want to continue to maintain their own elections. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.