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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

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

Yes, I do. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am pleased to present the 2009-10 main estimates for the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Chairman, this year marks the second year of the Assembly’s expenditure reduction exercise. The Board of Management has approved an operating budget of $15.65 million for the Assembly this year.

This represents an expenditure increase of 1.8 percent over last year’s budget.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to fully implementing the Board of Management’s two-year target expenditure reductions, the 2009-10 main estimates includes a number of important new initiatives. These include funding for the work of the independent commission to review compensation and benefits which must be established in the upcoming fiscal year.

Funding is also included to host the Canadian Regional Commonwealth Parliamentary Seminar in October. This seminar will be attended by Legislatures from across Canada who will have a rare opportunity to visit the North and learn how our unique system of consensus government works.

Mr. Chairman, the main estimates before you include $14 million to support the work of the Assembly’s various statutory officers. Of note is the additional funding required to implement amendments to the Human Rights Act approved by this Assembly. These amendments will see a clearer distinction drawn between the activities of the various agencies established under the act. Mr. Chair, as was the case last year, all our statutory officers were given the opportunity to appear before the Board of Management to substantiate and defend their operating budget requirements. Their valued input is reflected in the Assembly’s estimates.

While not included in the current operating budget, I wish to advise Members that planning is well underway to repair the Legislative Assembly roadway system and increase its parking capacity.

---Applause

A budget request will be put before the Assembly this fall, with work being scheduled for completion during the 2010 construction season.

Mr. Chair, the global economic slowdown and its resulting impact on capital markets have had serious implications for private and public sector pension plans throughout the world. As Members know, the Board of Management manages over $38 million in assets held in the Legislative Assembly’s two pension plans. While these investments have not been immune to capital market downturns, I am pleased to report that both plans continue to hold healthy surplus positions and will not require the infusion of any public funds for the foreseeable future. I want to thank my colleagues on the Board of Management in both this and the last Assembly for the prudence and foresight they have demonstrated in protecting the interests of past, current and future plan beneficiaries.

Mr. Chair, I want to take a few moments to advise the House and the public of a number of initiatives my office is undertaking to show leadership in environmental and personal responsibilities. First, I am pleased to advise the House that the Board of Management has approved the installation of a wood pellet boiler at the Legislative Assembly during the upcoming fiscal year.

---Applause

This system will reduce the Assembly’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 90 percent and reduce its annual heating costs by 18 percent. The system will work in tandem with the building’s existing boiler, which will still operate to handle peak loads and provide emergency redundancy.

It should come as no surprise to any of you when I say that this institution is addicted to paper. If we were to take all the paper that we use in this building in a year and stack it in piles, it would reach the top of this Chamber more than six times. Placed end to end, this paper would stretch from Yellowknife to Fort Providence. Maybe it’s one way we could use to fill all the holes between here and Enterprise.

The Assembly’s recent decision to allow the use of laptop computers in Committee of the Whole and standing committees provides a key opportunity to change our processes and reduce this waste. While information technology will unquestionably provide convenience and efficiency to the activities of Members while in the Chamber and committees, the greatest benefit will be in using this opportunity to change the way we do business, to reduce our dependency on paper and help the environment.

I have set an ambitious target of reducing our paper consumption by 80 percent in the next year and I look forward to the cooperation of all Members in assisting with this transition.

More than one Member has expressed an interest to me in finding ways to make their activities carbon neutral. I am pleased to advise Members that I will introduce regulatory amendments early in the new fiscal year to allow Members to use their constituency budgets to purchase carbon offsets from institutions meeting the Gold Standard. This will enable any Member to use their budgets to promote a carbon neutral approach to representing their constituents.

Finally, the Legislative Assembly has in recent years lead by example with respect to social and personal responsibility. In these halls we need to both talk the talk and walk the walk in this spirit. I want to advise Members that the Legislative Assembly is going to Drop the Pop and ditch the disposable water bottles effective June 1st of this

year. I have directed the Assembly’s catering contractor to discontinue the sale or distribution of soft drinks and bottled water in the Legislative Assembly, including at private meetings and functions.

The Legislative Assembly is the most important public institution in the Northwest Territories. As lawmakers, role models and politicians, we must each practice the habits that we want people to emulate. I know you will all cooperate as we make these important changes.

Before I conclude, I want to take advantage of this rare opportunity at the mike to recognize some outstanding work at the Legislative Assembly this year. For the past year the Government Operations committee has been conducting an exhaustive review of the implementations of the NWT Official Languages Act. The committee, under the leadership of MLA Kevin Menicoche, has travelled extensively throughout the NWT, hearing and documenting the concerns of our language speakers and communities. The report of this committee will be tabled in the House during this session. I have seen some early drafts of this report and I want to state how impressed I am with the work that has been done on this important file. This is the bread and butter work of legislators. Our committee has done work here that we can all take great pride in. I hope all Members and the public pay close attention to this report when it is made public in the days ahead. I want to make special mention of the work of the committee staff who assisted with this review; particularly the research and drafting that Regina Pfeifer has done in support of this committee’s work, which rivals that of the highest paid consultants we too often rely upon for advice and expertise.

---Applause

Advice and expertise that is usually available to us in house. Congratulations to all the committee members and staff on this excellent piece of work.

This concludes my opening comments. I would be pleased to answer any questions Members may have.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

We will continue to look at the possibility of doing that. We have had a private firm come forward with a proposal to do with pellet conversion. We have shown some interest in that, but we haven’t heard back from them yet as to what they see as the possibilities of doing work here with the building. We will continue to look at ways that we can possibly make some improvements in that area. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That certainly is an area that we’re conscious of all the time. We have been taking some steps to try to deal with the environment and the whole issue of greenhouse gassing and the amount of energy that we use in this building, from lighting to the amount of electrical equipment that’s left on for long periods of time when it’s not being used. We’ve tried to make some improvements in there, and we’re always open to suggestions.

As far as a pellet boiler is concerned, it’s not on the books right now. We are doing some experimenting and are investigating the possibility of using some solar tubing to heat water for the building to create energy savings. The building is not a totally friendly building to convert to a different type of heating system right now because of the way the furnace is set up in here and the crawl space. We anticipate that if we were to put a wood pellet boiler in here, it would have to be in a separate building from the Legislative Assembly and then have some piping work to connect the systems together.

We have some very high priority areas, like the road that we were just talking about. Right now what we’re anticipating is that the road is going to be our priority area and then the possibility of looking at wood pellets and how to tie the building into that type of a system, probably after the ’09–10 or ’10–11 year.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

I guess that is an issue we could look at. I know there is a capital site committee that looks at what happens out here that we would certainly have to consult with. We would also have to consult with all the Members before we

would make that drastic a change out there. But I think that is one area that could possibly be looked at. We just have to take the money to drain that area and fill it in properly and whatever we do out there. We certainly wouldn’t do it without full consultation. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

The officials level. That project went through with all the capital projects and was prioritized and didn’t make the list, because other ones took higher priority. So I guess that could be said. Now we have looked at a different approach to it, where we will be coming forward with money. It will be done at the Legislative Assembly. We’ll be putting forward a report, and it will not be reviewed by this committee. We’ll be going forward with that project in 2010–2011.

An interesting thing that she brings up is that dip out there. It’s one that we’ve had some engineers look at to see the best way we could work with that to try to improve the situation. As long as we want to maintain that natural habitat out there, I guess it’s’ going to be a problem to try to get a road in there that stays. I think that with the permafrost and everything in there, it’s bog, so there are different opinions as to what we could do to make that road more stable. As long as we leave that area out there the way it is, I suspect we will continue to have problems. Certainly, we’ll have to make it so that it stays driveable until we get the total reconstruction done. We’ve had a number of engineers look at it to see what the best way to do it is.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

Yes, that is also part of the proposal that we’re going forward with. Along with the road reconstruction there are going to be an additional 21 parking stalls put on the north side of the road over here, and that’s all part of the same project. We have been working on that, looking at it for a number of years. There was at one point in the capital site talk about putting a courthouse in, and we were going to redesign our parking lot out there with some additional parking stalls. That hasn’t materialized, so we will now be going forward with 21 additional parking stalls when we do the road reconstruction.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Chair. The condition of the road out there is certainly one that is in dire need of attention and one that I’ve been really interested in trying to get something done with. As the Member has indicated, it is almost at the emergency stage. We have been trying to do something with that road. We have a mere $75,000 to try and do some upkeep or patchwork on the road in the parking lot.

We have put in a submission for a capital project to do the entire road out there. Our project was not accepted. Some other projects with higher priority were accepted. It was turned down at the authorities level. We have, since then, instructions from the Board of Management to really take this project seriously and to say that it has to be done. We are coming forward with a submission to do the complete drive out there in the ’09–10 or ’10–11 budget year as a capital project.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Chair. With me on my left is the director of corporate services, Olin Lovely, and to my right is the Clerk of the Assembly, Tim Mercer.

Tabled Document 93-16(2): NWT Capital Estimates 2009–2010 October 16th, 2008

Yes, I would, Mr. Chair.

Main Estimates 2008–2009 Legislative Assembly June 16th, 2008

Thank you, Mr.

Chairman.

Again, these are details on the finances of staffing and the director’s position. I would ask Olin Lovely to walk you through the detail on those.