Last in the Legislative Assembly December 1999, as MLA for Deh Cho
Lost his last election, in 1999, with 37% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to present the 1997-98 main estimates for the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly is requesting an expenditure of $12,539,000 which includes a capital appropriation of $540,000. When I appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations to present the business plan for the Assembly, I indicated as I have on a number of occasions in my term as your Speaker, that the estimates of the Legislative Assembly are expenditures that are driven by legislation and political direction, both of which carry a price tag. I must also reiterate, as you all know, we work in an environment that can and does change from day to day. The business of the Legislative Assembly, its Cabinet, standing committees and our Nunavut and Western Caucuses are constantly tackling many issues which may require realignment of expenditures. Since all government is downsizing, amalgamating and implementing initiatives such as user pay/user say, it will be difficult to seek new money for this work even though it will need to get done. But we are not asking for new money. We want to lead by example and do the same and more with less.
The main estimates do not contain any increase to Members' indemnities, living allowances or constituency expenses, as the provision for an automatic increase by the consumer price index was deleted from the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. Mr. Chairman, this means that each of us will have to budget very carefully as we will have to do the same amount of work, if not more, with less as the dollars will need to be stretched.
The Management and Services Board has undertaken a number of initiatives that will provide legislative and organizational direction to the Nunavut and Western Legislative Assemblies in 1999. These initiatives include processes for determining the electoral boundaries and general elections for the two new legislatures. The Management and Services Board is also developing options for dealing with post-division pension legislation and a human resource development plan for both Legislatures. It is anticipated that the activities surrounding the first elections for both Territories will require the establishment of election administrations in Nunavut and the western territory. Mr. Chairman, I can assure you that the Management and Services Board, and ultimately this Assembly, are in a good position to assist with a smooth transition in 1999 from a legislative perspective.
The main estimates before you today, Mr. Chairman, include the addition of the transfer of $2,574,000 which was contained in the Supplementary Appropriation, No. 2, approved on November 30, 1996. This transfer of funds is related to the user pay/user say initiative and deals with the operation and maintenance of the Legislative Assembly building and a number of elements of O and M at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and the transfer of funding associated with vehicle fuel, external mail, removal, recruitment and medical travel assistance.
Mr. Chairman, this is a significant transfer to the Legislative Assembly and expenditure management measures have been developed to ensure that we do our best to live within the funding transferred. If we do not and operational costs escalate, then we will have to cover our over-expenditures from within the existing funding allocations.
Mr. Chairman, the main estimates provide for the operation of a number of statutory functions that are the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly. These functions include, of course, the Office of the Languages Commissioner who appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations to present her budget, the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and the new statutory position of Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Commissioner. In addition, if negotiations are successful with the Government of Canada, it is hoped that we will be in a position to appoint the first resident Chief Electoral Officer in the coming fiscal year.
Mr. Chairman, I have kept my opening comments brief to provide more time for Members to ask questions on our main estimates. With that, Mr. Chairman, my officials and I would be pleased to answer any questions Members may have.
Item 20: Report Of Committee Of The Whole February 13th, 1997
Thank you. Seconded by Mr. Arlooktoo. The motion is in order. To the motion. Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.
Yesterday the Member for Yellowknife South requested whether or not a phrase used in this House was unparliamentary. I would like to make a ruling on that today.
The ruling today concerns a point of order that was raised by the Member for Yellowknife South, Mr. Henry, on February 12. The Member, Mr Henry's point of order relates to an incident that occurred in committee of the whole on February 11. During committee of the whole on that date, Mr. Henry, in making comments during discussion on the business incentive policy, stated, and I quote from pages 929 of the unedited Hansard:
"Mr. Kakfwi has said that he believes there is value for it. So there is a cost involved. So whether somebody gets struck off a list, I am not sure what that would achieve. What I am interested in doing is getting a better bang for the buck, getting more money, getting better value, getting more facilities, stretching the dollar that we have."
After Mr. Henry's comments, the Member for Sahtu, the Honourable Steven Kakfwi, during his response to Mr. Henry, indicated the following which is contained on pages 930 of unedited Hansard:
"that they were going to spend their money up here. So they took the initiative, and we are all the happier for it. Bang for the buck - I must remind the Member is not an acceptable phrase, and we should, without great prompting, retract that. It is not an acceptable phrase, and I thought we agreed last year from using that in this Legislature. Thank you."
The chairman of the committee of the whole, Mrs. Groenewegen indicated that, and I quote:
"as the Chairman, I understand in some peoples' minds, this particular saying has quite a negative connotation. The Member for Yellowknife South did explain that he did not feel that the phrase, 'bang for the buck' used in the context he did, was not meant to insult anybody, and in particular, Mr. Kakfwi. Mr. Henry did indicate that, if Mr. Kakfwi was insulted by the phrase, and he did not want to insult him, he would retract that, but he was not sure what the concern was about that particular phrase."
As indicated, the Member for Yellowknife South, Mr. Henry, the next day raised, in formal session, on a point of order, requesting if he should formally apologize for the phrase, "better bang for the buck." In reviewing the Hansards on this point to see if this phrase or any similar phrase had been ruled as unparliamentary, I found the following that are of the same nature:
On November 20, 1995, during the Territorial Leadership Committee, the Member for Tu Nedhe, Mr. Morin, in his speech, the Premier used the following phrase, "get a better bang for the dollar".
On May 2, 1996, the Member for Keewatin Central, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Todd, in his budget speech, used the following phrase, "more bang for the buck".
Again, on February 19, 1996, the Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Krutko, in the committee of the whole, used the words "double the bang for the buck".
It is interesting to note that the use of the phrase in this incident was identical to that which occurred on February 11, 1997, where this was a concern. February 19, 1996, was when Mr. Krutko made that comment while Mrs. Groenewegen was the chair in committee of the whole, and Mr. Kakfwi was the Minister being questioned. I noted that the use of the phrase at that time was not questioned by Mr. Kakfwi.
Finally, the phrase was used again on May 16, 1996, by the honourable Member for Iqaluit, Mr. Picco, who used the phrase, "the most bang for the buck". On that occasion, the Member for Sahtu, Mr. Kakfwi, did raise the matter and I quote from pages 447 of the unedited Hansard of May 16, 1996:
"phrases like, 'bang for the buck' are considered to be demeaning and sexist by a good portion of our public. I used it on occasion and other Members of the Legislature have as well, but I think it is time to address it. Perhaps the chair could speak to it at some point and decide whether or not it is an acceptable phrase to use in this Legislature."
Before the chair could rule on Mr. Kakfwi's point, the Member, Mr. Picco, did respond by saying, and I quote the Member's comments:
"Mr. Chairman, I do apologize for the flippant remark if it has offended anyone out there in the listening audience. I think people know that I would not normally try to demean any person by race, creed, colour, sex, or whatever. I apologize for that."
In my extensive review of the use of the phrase, I could not find that it had been ruled as being unparliamentary. I am conscious of the fact that, when ruling language as unparliamentary, you have to consider the context in which it is used. Also, what may be unparliamentary in one jurisdiction, may not be in another. I also considered that words or phrases may have a different connotation and interpretation by one Member and not by another.
I did not hear any arguments during debate on the point of order that would lead me to apply any unparliamentary connotation in the context. The phrase "bang for the buck" was used in this case. Therefore, at this time, I rule that the context used by Mr. Henry on February 11, the phrase "bang for the buck" is not unparliamentary. Thank you.
Item 21, third reading of bills. Mr. Clerk, item 22, orders of the day.
Question 217-13(4): Winter Road Openings February 4th, 1997
Oral questions. Supplementary, Mr. Krutko.
Speaker's Ruling February 4th, 1997
Thank you, Mr. O'Brien, this matter is now closed. I have another ruling here regarding Mr. Miltenberger.
On Monday, February 3, 1997, the Member for Thebacha, Mr. Miltenberger, rose on a point of privilege. In his statement, the Member said, and I quote:
"I rise on a point of privilege to clarify, at the first available opportunity, a concern about conflict of interest on my part."
Mr. Miltenberger then went on to state that it is difficult to know when we (referring to Members) can speak. He said, and I quote from page 566 of unedited Hansard:
"If a Member has a wife who owns a business, can he participate in discussions on BIP, which could benefit her financially? If a Member's wife works for a women's shelter, is it alright for him to question the cuts to funding in women's shelters?"
In response to the Member's point of privilege, the Member for Iqaluit, Mr. Picco, rose on his point of privilege, stating, and I quote from page 567 of unedited Hansard:
"The Member mentioned, in a veiled way, my earlier response last year on a question to another Minister concerning spousal shelter homes. Mr. Speaker, he has infringed upon my rights as a Member, the Member from Thebacha, in his statement, and I would ask the Speaker to rule that he would strike anything from the record infringing on my privilege as a Member."
The acting Speaker, Mr. Ningark, and thank you for yesterday, sought debate on the point of privilege raised by the Member for Iqaluit. In the course of debate, the Member for Hay River, Mrs. Groenewegen, rose on her point of privilege, stating at page 567 of the unedited Hansard:
"If Mr. Miltenberger feels that he said something on Friday that he should not have said, he has every opportunity to stand up and retract those and apologize for them. He does not need to try and implicate everyone else or other Members of this House in his mistake. I do take exception to him referring to the Business Incentive Policy and people who may have a spouse that owns a business. I not only have a spouse that owns a business, I also own a business, and I believe that he is misleading the House, by suggesting that all business deals need to take place in an arm's length fashion."
After citing from the conflict of interest provisions of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, Mrs. Groenewegen went on to state at page 568 of the unedited Hansard:
"I would like to suggest that Mr. Miltenberger, by his comments, not on a territorial basis, but in reference to Fort Smith specifically, and community libraries specifically on Friday, was probably over the line and he can stand up and speak about that and he can retract that, but he does not need to implicate the rest of us..."
In debate on the point of privilege, the Premier, the Honourable Don Morin, rose and asked the Speaker to review the comments of the Member for Hay River when rendering a decision on the points of privilege, pointing out that there is a process available through the Conflict of Interest Commissioner's office for the general public and Members to address the issue of conflict of interest.
Mr. Ningark indicated to the House that he would provide the House with a ruling, following a review of Hansard and the appropriate authorities. I would like to now provide the House with my ruling on the points of privilege raised, as well as to provide the House with some guidance in addressing issues relating to conflict of interest and decorum of Members generally.
The Member for Thebacha, in rising on Monday to comment on the questions asked by him last Friday, was not raising a traditional or normal point of privilege. Rather, his statement was one of clarification or explanation of his conflict and was in accordance with the conflict of interest provisions of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. Rule 20(1) of the Rules of the Legislative Assembly permits a Member to, with the leave of the Speaker, to "explain a matter, although not a contempt or breach of privilege, which concerns the Member in his or her capacity as a Member of the Legislative Assembly". Mr. Miltenberger's statement explaining his questioning, and his conflict, was a statement properly brought under that rule.
For the assistance of Members, both our Rules and the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act contain provisions to guide Members in addressing issues in which they may be in conflict. Rule 13 of the Rules of the Legislative Assembly provides:
No Member is entitled to vote upon any question in which he or she has a direct or indirect financial interest, and the vote of any Member so interested shall be disallowed.
As well, this Legislature passed laws in the 11th Assembly, defining conflict of interest and setting forth the obligations of Members addressing conflicts. These provisions are contained with Part Three of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. For the assistance of Members, a Member has a conflict where:
The Member, or the spouse or dependent child of the Member, has significant private interests that afford the Member, the spouse or dependent child of the Member, the opportunity to directly or indirectly benefit from the performance of any of the duties of office of the Member.
The above definition is found in section 66(1) of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. Many Members have, and will continue to have, conflicts in certain matters. We all have personal lives, whether before we were elected or presently, which will, on occasion, result in us being in a conflict in addressing certain issues. What is most important is how a Member resolves a conflict of interest, not necessarily the fact that a conflict exists.
The Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act places serious obligations on Members to resolve their conflicts in accordance with the public interest. Section 67(A) provides that:
Each Member shall perform his or her duties of office and arrange his or her private affairs in such a manner as to maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of the Member.
Section 67(C) and 67(D) places an obligation on a Member to:
Arrange his or her private affairs in conformity with the provisions of this part and act generally to prevent any conflict of interest from arising and make all reasonable efforts to resolve any conflict of interest that may arise in favour of the public interest.
If a Member has a conflict of interest in any matter that is before a committee of this Legislature or before the House, the Member must, pursuant to s.69(1) of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, disclose the general nature of the conflict and withdraw from the meeting without voting or participating in the consideration of the matter. This is an obligation that must be followed by all Members of this House.
If a Member has a question about whether they are in a conflict, they are able to seek advice from the Clerk's office or from the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. Indeed, the Legislation specifically authorizes the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to give advice to a Member which will prevent any conflict of interest prosecution against the Member if the Member has disclosed all material facts and followed the advice of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. While it may appear to some that conflicts are a "grey" area, there are very clear procedures to follow in determining what is or what is not a conflict.
A Member may rise, as did the Member for Thebacha, to explain to the House a line of questioning which may have been perceived as a conflict. As long as the statement is limited to providing an explanation of the Member's behaviour, it is acceptable. However, as Speaker, I am not comfortable with the idea that this forum is the appropriate forum for debating and ruling on whether a Member has contravened the conflict of interest provisions of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. There are clear mechanisms for invoking a complaint procedure under our legislation. Any Member who feels that another Member has "crossed the line" is free to file a complaint under the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. The complaint will then be dealt with by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and her decisions, including recommendations for a sanction, if any, will be tabled in this House for decision by this Legislature. Sanctions for violating the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act can range from reprimand, fine to expulsion of the Member as a Member. These sanctions are serious and should not be trivialized in political debate. Given that ultimately this Legislature plays a significant decision-making role in addressing complaints of conflict, I am not comfortable in pre-empting that role and politicizing the issue of conflict of interest. For that reason, I will not entertain an allegation that another Member is in conflict.
With respect to Mr. Picco's and Mrs. Groenewegen's point of privilege, some comments on the nature and function of parliamentary privilege might be of assistance to Members. Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th edition, citation 24, states:
Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the High Court of Parliament, and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.
Within the same citation, Beauchesne's goes on to further state:
...The distinctive mark of a privilege is its ancillary character. The privileges of Parliament are those rights which are "absolutely necessary for the due execution of it's powers".
Traditionally, individual privileges accorded to Members have been limited to issues relating to freedom of speech, freedom from arrest in civil actions, exemption from jury duty and exemption from attendance as a witness. Given that these privileges represent an extraordinary exception to the ordinary laws, it is generally accepted that the category of privileges is closed and cannot be added to without express statutory or constitutional amendment.
Notwithstanding the relatively narrow category of privileges that are protected, Beauchesne's does note, in citation 64, that the House has occasionally taken notice of attacks on individual Members as constituting a breach of the privileges of the House. Beauchesne's, citation 67, indicates that it is always the responsibility of the House to decide if the reflections on Members are sufficiently serious to justify action.
I am also aided by Beauchesne's citation 69, which quotes a Speaker's ruling from 1987:
The Speaker has reminded the House, "it is very important...to indicate that something can be inflammatory, can be disagreeable, can even be offensive, but it may not be a question of privilege unless the comment actually impinges upon the ability of Members of Parliament to do their job properly.
Mr. Picco and Mrs. Groenewegen, in their respective points of privilege, appear to be indicating that Mr. Miltenberger's use of examples in his statement go too far. They suggest that Mr. Miltenberger, in clarifying his questioning in the House, was acting improperly, in that he seemed to be citing examples relating to other Members' lines of questioning in the House and using those examples to illustrate how "grey" the area of appropriate questioning is, so as to avoid a conflict of interest allegation. Indeed, Mrs. Groenewegen used the word "implicate us all" in her point of privilege. Given that both points of privilege address the same issue, I will deal with them as a single matter.
As stated above, questions of privilege are, and should be, narrow in scope and limited to only those powers which are strictly necessary to permit a Member to carry out his or her functions as a Member. Mr. Miltenberger's citing of examples of questioning which may or may not constitute a conflict of interest is not so offensive as to impair a Member's ability to carry on as a Member. To paraphrase acting Speaker Paproski, the citing of examples may be inflammatory, disagreeable or even offensive, however, I cannot say that the comments are so clearly directed to one Member or Members as to prevent those Members and the House from carrying on its business.
So I note that although Mr. Miltenberger's comments went beyond his declaration of his conflict, and beyond what he is required to do under the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, I rule that neither the Member for Iqaluit or the Member for Hay River has a point of privilege.
However, before I leave this topic, I would ask all Members to be conscious of the need to avoid the provocative use of examples which, by their very nature, inspire disagreements within this Legislature. As the Premier very properly pointed out, this Legislature has enacted a process for identifying and resolving conflicts of interest. Raising these issues on the floor of the House ignores the legislative process that this very Legislature has adopted and serves to undermine that process, while trivializing the role of debate in this House. Thank you.
Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Picco.
Speaker's Ruling February 4th, 1997
Thank you, Mr. Enuaraq. Good afternoon. I have here a letter from the Commissioner, and it says, "I wish to inform the House that I have received the following message from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. Dear Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, the passage of the Forgiveness of Debts Act, 1996-97; Supplementary Appropriation Act, No. 3, 1996-97; and Loan Authorization Act, 1997-98. during the fourth session of the 13th Legislative Assembly."
It is signed, yours truly, Helen Maksagak, Commissioner. I also have here a Speaker's ruling regarding Mr. O'Brien, January 31, 1997.
I would like to provide some comments to the House concerning a matter that occurred during oral question period on Friday, January 31, 1997. The matter relates to an oral question that was being asked by the Member for Kivallivik, Mr. O'Brien. The question is contained on pages 546 and 547 of the unedited Hansard. The Member, Mr. O'Brien, was asking his first supplementary question and I quote:
"Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, can the Minister tell the House exactly what revisions and I use that word, that the Minister is looking at regarding these departments".
I listened to Mr. O'Brien's comments and I thought I heard the word "visions" which in my opinion, made his supplementary question hypothetical so, I reminded the Member of that. The Member then indicated that and I quote:
"Mr. Speaker, I think my question is fairly straightforward."
I would like to point out to the Members that this wording indicated to me that he was challenging my ruling. This of course, is not permitted. I did, after the Minister's response, remind the Members to be a bit clearer when directing questions as what I heard was visions, not revisions. That is why, I made the ruling on the supplementary question being hypothetical. On checking the unedited Hansard, Mr. O'Brien did indeed use the word "revisions". I apologize for the misunderstanding, but at the time, I did hear the word "visions" so I had to base my comments to the Member on that. So, in the future, if Members will assist the chair and Ministers in clearly pronouncing your words, I will listen intently to your every word as I always do. Based on the words and actions that occurred at the time, it was my ruling that Mr. O'Brien challenged the chair. As all Members know, you cannot challenge the chair, so based on the facts at that time, I would ask Mr. O'Brien to withdraw his comments whereby he challenged the chair. Mr. O'Brien.
Question 187-13(4): Funding For Aboriginal Self-government Negotiations January 30th, 1997
Thank you. Oral questions.
At this time, the Chair would like to make a ruling. Before we proceed to item 7, written questions, I would like to provide to the House my ruling on the written question posed by the Member for Hay River yesterday regarding support programs for seniors. As Members will recall, I indicated that the preamble to written questions should be very brief and the question should not raise a debate. Our rules stipulate that written questions are to be used when a Member is seeking information which requires, and I quote from Rule 39(1): "a detailed or complex answer which would not reasonably be assumed to be within the present knowledge of the Minister", end of quote. After reviewing the unedited Hansard from yesterday, I wish to offer some comments and advice regarding written questions that I hope will assist all Members.
Written questions differ from oral questions in that they should be used to seek information that is complex or detailed in nature. A good example of this is the question posed by Mr. Rabesca yesterday when he asked a written question regarding cancer statistics. The information he sought was detailed and a reasonable assumption was that it was not information within the Minister's present knowledge, nor would it have been easily accessible.
In addition to clarifying the general nature of written questions, I would also like to comment on restrictions covering the form and content of written questions. Citation 428 in Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th edition, lays out the list of prohibitions and includes matters such as and I quote: "a question must not contain an expression or of opinion, nor be a speech however short, nor be of unreasonable length nor to be framed so as to suggest its own answer". I find that the Member for Hay River's written question yesterday approaches the terms of these and other restrictions. However, I will allow her question to stand but I offer you these comments with the hope that all Members will in the future pay closer attention to the form and content of written questions. As your speaker I want to provide wide latitude to Members in asking your question and seeking information from the government. However, I will also enforce the rules. Written questions, Mr. Krutko.
Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery January 28th, 1997
Welcome to the Assembly. Recognition of visitors in the gallery.
I would like to make a ruling on the point of order raised by Mr. Kakfwi on January 24, 1997. The rules and procedures of this House require the Speaker to rule on all points of order and privilege as they arise in the House. I would therefore like to rule on the point of order raised by the Member for Sahtu, Mr. Kakfwi, on Friday, January 24 regarding dress and decorum.
In providing this ruling, I considered past practices and rulings that have been made on the question of dress and decorum in the Assembly. I do not intend to address, in great detail, the specific point raised by Mr. Kakfwi so as not to provide further profile to this particular incident.
First, to the question of what attire and dress in the chamber would be considered a matter for a ruling by the chair if Rule 12 is challenged. In our rules, under the heading, Order and Decorum, Rule 12(9), provides for the following and I quote:
"When in the Assembly, every Member shall be attired in native dress or in a manner appropriate to the dignity of the Assembly."
This is perhaps one of the most difficult rules that we have with respect to its interpretation and application. For example, other rules under the same section are far more clear, such as the following, and I quote Rule 12(10):
"Smoking is not permitted during any proceedings of the Assembly. Food and beverages, other than water, may not be brought into or consumed in the chamber."
By way of illustration, that rule is easy to interpret and when an infraction occurs, it is obvious to the chair and the rule can be clearly and quickly applied. This, as I indicated, is not as simple when considering the attire of Members. This question has been raised before in the 13th Assembly and it also has been raised in other Assemblies. The chair has previously allowed some latitude in the matter when it is raised more as a way of providing, some might say, comic relief. However, I feel that comic relief of this nature is not something that I will continue to tolerate and I am sure those who follow the actions of Members in the House, through television and radio, do not wish to see their elected members behaving in a manner that may discredit the Legislative Assembly as a whole.
To the specific point of order raised by Mr. Kakfwi, he felt, and I quote from Mr. Kakfwi's comments contained on page 343 of the unedited Hansard:
"Mr. Speaker, there are two points. One, that the wearing of a tie that has Mickey Mouse on it offends the dignity of the Dene jacket that is worn. The second point raised was that the wearing of a Mickey Mouse tie offends the dignity of the House in which the Member is sitting."
With regard to the first point, on the question of wearing a tie with a traditional Dene jacket, I would suggest it would be very difficult to deal with this issue in isolation of all Members' opinions on the matter. I do not intend to waste the time of the House to do this and will comment on this later. I do note, however, that the Member for Mackenzie Delta, in responding to the point of order, did indicate some understanding of Mr. Kakfwi's concern and I quote from his comments contained on page 343 of the unedited Hansard:
"I do have to agree with my colleague who raised the point in regards to wearing just the traditional jacket without a tie. I was told that I had to wear a tie. I do agree that when we are using traditional dress, that we should not wear a tie."
Other jurisdictions are not of much assistance to us in addressing this matter. The House of Commons' standing orders are virtually silent on the subject of Members' dress. Many Speakers in the House of Commons, and in other jurisdictions, have ruled that male Members must wear a jacket, shirt and tie.
In general, Speakers have enforced conservative, contemporary standards relating to dress. Native dress is recognized specifically in our rules, which should be the case, as rules should reflect the Members' cultures and traditions of the jurisdiction they are elected to serve.
I am of the opinion that it would be impossible for the Speaker to produce a dress code where certain items may or may not offend the dignity of the House and the many traditions in the Northwest Territories. It is also clear that there does have to be a standard that has to be applied to ensure the dignity of the House is maintained. I think the constituencies we represent expect more of us in this regard.
In researching this point, I noted that, in the House of Commons, it is usually up to the Speaker where he or she views the dress as disruptive to the conduct of the House. Problems rarely arise unless the attire has been chosen specifically intended to disrupt the House and then the Speaker must focus, not on the dress, but on the disruption.
I am confident that when Members get up in the morning and contemplate their attire for the day, that they do so without any attempt to cause disruption or discomfort to other Members or to make a political statement. I wish to be quite clear that, if I find that any Member does dress to cause a disruption, I will deal with that Member with the full authority you have given me as Speaker.
The present Rule 12(9) does not give the Chair a clear definition as to what or what is not an acceptable mode of dress. Comments last week indicated many Members are also uncertain. I therefore refer the matter of attire of Members and wording of Rule 12(9) to the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures, to provide guidance and direction so that we do not continue with this type of debate in the House.
In light of this referral and, in anticipation of additional clarity on the issue, I rule that Mr. Kakfwi does not have a point of order.
On another somewhat related issue, while considering this ruling, I am conscious of the fact that it was raised during question period. The matter of raising points of order or questions of privilege during question period has concerned me for some time. Such points of order or questions of privilege take up the valuable time allotted to question period. I agree that this is a concern and would point out that a number of other jurisdictions do not permit points of order or matters of privilege to be raised during question period. We have the longest question period of all the Canadian jurisdictions, which may be necessary in our consensus style of government. In our consensus style, it is equally important that we make efficient and, I would hope, effective use of the time available, so that as many Members as possible can ask questions. I therefore rule that:
Questions of privilege and points of order that Members may wish to raise during question period, ought to be taken up after the question period, unless the Speaker considers it to be an extremely grave or urgent matter.
Members, thank you for your attention. Item 6, oral questions. Mr. Enuaraq.
Minister's Statement 25-13(4): Rent Scale Moratorium January 22nd, 1997
Thank you, Mr. Arlooktoo. Ministers' statements. I would like to do my ruling today on the point of order raised by Mr. Dent. I want to provide the House with my ruling on that point of order. The point of order raised by Mr. Dent is contained on page 77 of the edited Hansard. Mr. Dent's point of order was based on a comment made by the Member for Yellowknife South, Mr. Henry in his Member's Statement also made on November 29th, 1996, and contained on page 58 of the edited Hansard. Mr. Dent's point of order was that Mr. Henry, in his comments, had indicated that he had mislead the public by alleging that the government had taken a particular position on a Draft Constitutional Package for the western Northwest Territories. Mr. Dent also contended, in his point of order, that Mr. Henry had labelled the government irresponsible. It was on these two points that I am basing my ruling.
It was not until the House resumed sitting yesterday, that I provided the opportunity to Mr. Henry to respond to the point of order. Mr. Henry in his comments, which are contained on Page 209 of the unedited Hansard, indicated that his comments were not intended to say the government had endorsed the proposed package. The Member also indicated, in speaking to his point of order, that and I quote, "I did not say the government was irresponsible but instead that, if the government endorsed the current constitutional proposal, that action would be irresponsible."
I reviewed carefully Mr. Dent's interpretation of Mr. Henry's comments, and likewise Mr. Henry's comments and find, as has been the case in other rulings that have been made, that the House, on occasion, may accept two contradictory interpretations of comments made. I refer to Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th edition, Citation 494, and I quote:
"It has been formally ruled by Speakers that statements by Members respecting themselves, and particularly within their own knowledge, must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible. On rare occasions, this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident."
Based on my review of the comments made by both Members, I do not find that there is a point of order and I am sure both Members accept and respect each other's interpretation and views on this matter.
Item 1: Prayer January 21st, 1997
Thank you. Good afternoon, Members. Welcome back. It is appropriate that as we start a New Year that we consider the many challenges we face as the last Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. As we enter our second year in the term of the 13th Assembly, we need to put the past behind us and move into this new year with hope, trust and a sharing of our common concerns, so that we can leave a legacy for our people and for the leaders of tomorrow.
I know we all want to do our best to achieve our goals, and although we may have differing opinions on issues, which is understandable, I know that we will discuss them in an atmosphere of mutual respect for each other's views. I am sure that each of you would like to move forward to complete some of the issues we have to resolve and to face head on the many more challenges in the coming year.
On a different note, I would like to offer not only my personal regrets but, I am sure that of all Members, on the unfortunate accident of the Member for Tu Nedhe, our Premier, The Honourable Don Morin. I would like to note that until he is back on his feet, so to speak, that I have given permission for the Premier to change seats with the Minister of Health and Social Services and Justice. Perhaps that seat may prove helpful from the health point of view, but I would not say there is any justice in it.
However, in conversation with the Premier, he advised me that despite his temporary disposition, he will still be able to keep on his toes with issues. Mr. Premier, we hope you have a speedy recovery. In addition, I have also given permission for the Premier to remain seated during formal sittings of the House if he finds he is unable to stand and respond to questions.
I look forward to the session ahead and to Members' continued cooperation with not only the Speaker but, with the Deputy Speaker and Chairs of Committee of the Whole, and each other as we all try to ensure free flowing debate of the important issues ahead.
Help us improve OpenNWT
Please only include contact information if you would like to hear back.