Last in the Legislative Assembly December 1999, as MLA for Yellowknife South

Won his last election, in 1995, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committee Report 1-13(8): Report Of The Special Committee On Western Identity September 9th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Members of the Special Committee on Western Identity, I am pleased to present the report of the committee.

Division of the Northwest Territories into two new jurisdictions require many changes to take place. Legally, politically and socially. One area identified for review was that of the official symbols which includes, among others, the flag, the mace and the coat of arms.

Symbols such as these have always been important to the public they represent. A great deal of ownership and pride is placed on these images, images that are seen as a reflection to the world. It was, therefore, important to Members of the Legislative Assembly to ensure that the official symbols of the new western territory be truly representative of the new geographical region and its people. They must reflect the identity of the people and the land, an identity that would truly be worth celebrating. To that end, the Special Committee on Western Identity was established on June 4, 1998 to consider and make recommendations on officials symbols and celebrations for the Northwest Territories.

Each of the five committee Members had a keen and genuine interest in how the people of the new NWT would consider their new identity and were honoured to accept a position on the committee that would help to define and reflect that reality. A coordinator was hired to handle administrative affairs and ensure the business of the committee proceeded as directed. One of the main tasks of the committee was to review the current official symbols and heraldry of the Northwest Territories. Members needed to determine if the symbols were appropriate for the new territory or whether they should be revised or completely changed.

Designs for a new flag and coat of arms were deemed appropriate by the committee as well. It was crucial to the Members that the people of the NWT have an opportunity to communicate their thoughts on these symbols. A nation-wide competition for designs was initiated, which resulted in 250 submissions for ideas for the new flag and the new coat of arms. The committee is pleased to have selected three designs for each symbol and due to time limitations, has recommended that the work of the committee in this area be passed onto another committee of the 14th Legislative Assembly to carry on with the final selection process.

The final official symbol under consideration by the committee was a mace. The Northwest Territories needed a new mace that would reflect the new territory. A call for proposals was awarded to three artists well known in the North. The mace is due to be completed by the end of October and the committee recommends that it be unveiled at the beginning of the 14th Legislative Assembly in the new year.

To develop an awareness of 1999 as a special year of change and new direction for the territory, the committee developed a visual identity program with an event name and logo, "NWT '99, Catch the Spirit". A line of promotional items featuring the festive and colourful logo was developed and distributed at a wide variety of events in the NWT, Canada and overseas.

The NWT '99 spirit set the stage for western identity celebration activities which was another mandate of the committee. It became apparent to the Members that the most appropriate way to celebrate the life of each community, would be in each community. It also seemed appropriate that each community should decide how and when during the year they would like to celebrate their identity in the new territory.

A one-time grant of $5,000 was made available to every community in the Northwest Territories for events or projects which reflected our new western identity. Those events were posted on the NWT 99 web site calendar and communities are welcome to post photos of their events afterwards.

While official symbols may depict the land and the people, a true western identity in the hearts of the people is not something that happens over night. The new NWT is on a road to a new future and it is this future, "of one land, many voices," that will create new identity.

Mr. Speaker, that concludes my overview of the report of the Special Committee on Western Identity and I move, seconded by the Honourable Member from Nunakput, that the report be received by the Assembly and referred to committee of the whole. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 29-13(8): Amendments Proposed In Bill 5 September 9th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my question is to Mr. Miltenberger, with responsibility for the Workers' Compensation Board. Yesterday, Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act, was passed in the Legislature. My question to the Minister is does this legislation prohibit the ability of workers to sue their employers? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 25-13(8): GNWT Costs Incurred In Court Cases September 9th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice, Mr. Kakfwi. It is regarding the potential costs incurred in the form of personnel costs or dollar amounts incurred by his department in the defence of government officials regarding that law suit against the government and various parties by Workers' Compensation. My question to the Minister is, can he confirm that indeed the department is incurring personnel or dollar costs in defending actions in that particular case? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 18-13(8): Reporting Methods Of The "yellowknifer" Newspaper September 9th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. For this reason, the people of Yellowknife deserve to know that what they read in the newspaper is reported on fairly, objectively, and accurately. They also deserve to know that the paper cannot be used as an indiscriminate weapon.

Nick Russell, in a leading textbook on morals and the media in Canada, points out that freedom of the press continues to be earned or lost, depending on performance, and it brings with it clear responsibilities of stewardship. What does this mean in practical terms for the editorial staff at the Yellowknifer? Mr. Russell thinks it means that newspaper publishers who are, after all, only in the business to make money, do not own freedom of the press, the people do. Despite what the editors may think, the Yellowknifer does not have some kind of license allowing it to systematically and vindictively destroy someone's perception in the community. Our own Legislative Assembly agrees with Mr. Russell and has seen fit to protect members of the public from this type of behaviour by passing the Defamation Act. Under the act, a newspaper can be sued for publishing statements about a person, which are designed to harm their reputation, rather than simply reporting on the facts.

For example, a few years ago, a Hay River businessman successfully sued the local newspaper for publishing a defamatory cartoon about him. The court said that the suggestions were made by the paper about the businessman's character that were not fair comments and were intended to make people in the community ridicule him.

Judging from the conveniently anonymous editorial comment published in the Yellowknifer on Friday, July 17, 1998, July 31, 1998, August 7, 1998, May 7, 1999, and finally August 27, 1999, the editors seem to have embarked on a self-appointed mission to portray me as a shameless profiteer in the eyes of the people of Yellowknife.

The fact is that the business of which I am a part owner strengthens the economic well-being of this community and of the Territories and employs upward of 100 people in entry level positions and is a viable part of the Yellowknife business community, and I contribute to the tax base of this city.

In the editorial comment published on Friday, August 27, 1997, the editorial suggested that all MLAs who own their own business should place them in blind trusts. As an ordinary MLA, this requirement is duly unrestrictive and will discourage some business people from entering the public arena. In my view, a Legislative Assembly that does not have the opportunity to hear from and benefit from the expertise of the North's business people will suffer a loss. Along with the rights to speak freely, citizens of this country also enjoy the right of free enterprise. This is one of the reasons Canadians enjoy such a high standard of living.

Mr. Speaker, in 1981, the Kent Commission on newspapers realized the kind of impact a newspaper such as the Yellowknifer can have on individuals who fall out of its good graces when it said, "In a one-newspaper town, it means nothing except the right of a proprietor to do what he will with his own...freedom of the press." The commission concluded that sometimes the practical reality in a one-newspaper town is that because "enormous influence without responsibility is conferred on a handful of people...(its) over-riding responsibility is to the society which protects and provides its freedom." Is the Yellowknifer living up to its responsibility to the people of Yellowknife by writing with a poisoned pen, shrouded in the anonymity of an editorial?

I am out and about in this community as an MLA, as a business person, a volunteer, a church member, and a parent. I, too, see and hear what people in this community have to say. What I do not understand is why Mr. Valpy, and I wonder how he can say that you are reflecting the views of the community. I went and visited this gentleman in his office regarding one of the editorials and was very surprised to see that I had never seen the gentleman before, and I have lived here for 23 years. I had thought I would surely recognize him considering his position in the community which apparently represents the views. I have never seem him at public meetings, I have never seen him within the business community, I have never seem him in my children's school, I have never seen him anywhere. So then I ask, where do you get your worldly perspective from? Where are you that you hear all these opinions and have all these people, why not have them put their views in writing or bring them to me directly?

Another author, J.L. Hulteng, warns newspapers against abusing their right to freedom of the press in his book, "Playing it Straight: A Practical Discussion of the Ethical Principles of the American Society of Newspaper Editors". In it he wrote, "To prevent further erosion, editors and reporters should refrain from excessive or unjustified appeals to public opinion . A knee-jerk invocation of press freedom every time some public official or special interest representative criticizes the performance of the press will only harm the cause. Cry "Wolf" only when a genuine predator is on the prowl." This is something which the lampoonists at the Yellowknife should keep in mind.

In closing, I wish to remind the editorial staff of the Yellowknifer to heed the ethics of their own profession. Like public officials, they too owe a duty of fairness and stewardship to the public they sever, lest they offend the very principles for which freedom of the press was enshrined in the Charter in the first place. And before calling anyone a profiteer, they should take a good, long look in the mirror.

Mr. Speaker, I have not yet come to a decision as to whether I will allow my name to stand as a candidate in the December election. I will reserve that judgement for the next couple of week. I would like to sincerely thank my fellow colleagues for allowing me to continue with my statement, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Member's Statement 18-13(8): Reporting Methods Of The "yellowknifer" Newspaper September 9th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, after much consideration and encouragement from the people in this community, I feel that I must respond on the manner in which the staff of the Yellowknifer has reported on my involvement with the extension of a commercial grant from the City of Yellowknife to a local business of which I am a part owner. Since July 10, 1998 there had been no few than five editorial comments and numerous articles, some with a decided personal slant published on the subject. While I supposed I should be honoured to be Yellowknife's biggest news, I feel that the Yellowknifer's coverage of this story has gone far beyond objective, fact-finding and has steadily degenerated into a scathing, personal attack on my credibility and reputation as an MLA and a business person.

As a public figure, I expect a reasonable amount of criticism. After all, no one is perfect. I have come to realize that accountability plays a big part in the life of the public servant. Furthermore, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The freedom to speak and write freely about public administration is one of the many benefits of living in a democratic society. Without these freedoms, our government cannot function properly, so we all understand that the Yellowknifer has a duty to report on the way in which government officials, myself included, do their jobs. However, the editors of the Yellowknifer need to be reminded that freedom always comes with responsibility. Since when does objective reporting necessitate the kind of damming, brutal remarks published about me by the Yellowknifer again and again over the past several months? I ask why has the Yellowknifer set out to so damage my perception in this community that the well-being of my family has been affected?

I suppose one answer is that by sinking to the levels of a tabloid smear campaign, the publishers of the Yellowknifer hope to sell more newspapers and take home a bigger profit. Perhaps the editors think the people of Yellowknife would rather read light-heart satire and silly cartoons than actual news stories. I personally do not think they do. I also think that the issue of responsible journalism is too important to lend itself to simple answers. The reality is that we live in a community which has only one English-speaking newspaper, a newspaper with a captive audience and a great deal of influence. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize in the gallery today, Mrs. Dolly Ablitt, who is the newly elected regional vice-president of the North Great Slave region of the Union of Northern Workers. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Member's Statement 10-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker and thank you colleagues. The meeting last night surely provoked my fellow MLAs, as it did me, to take whatever action we can to assist the Giant Mine workers whose fate is uncertain at this time. We have agreed to explore other options in their favour and I am confident that this government will support any viable solution to this crisis situation. We cannot afford to lose these people from our community, nor can the community absorb the impact of the Giant Mine closing. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the time. I certainly will be working toward ensuring that the employees of Giant Mine are as well looked after as this government can possibly do. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Member's Statement 10-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My colleague, Mr. Dent, I noticed talked earlier about the constituency meeting that the Yellowknife MLAs had in the Great Hall last night and I would like to continue and add some of the points that I noted at that meeting.

The vast majority, as was mentioned, of the constituents at the meeting were Giant employees who were very concerned about the potential of losing their jobs, security and also pensions that they worked so hard for. For about two and one-half hours, the four MLAs from Yellowknife listened to the union officials and family members and concerned constituents about their fears of losing up to 300 jobs in our community because of a deal being negotiated with Price Waterhouse Coopers and Miramar Con Mine to potentially take over the Giant Mine.

Yesterday afternoon union officials were advised by Price Waterhouse Coopers that rumors of Miramar takeover of the Giant Mine are official. Last night we heard the many pleas for help and direction from the people of our community soon to be affected if this takeover proceeds. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we MLAs felt powerless to provide any concrete direction to the employees of Giant, nor were we able to offer any assurances that this government has any jurisdiction to intervene in the negotiating process. DIAND officials should have been the ones hearing the voices of the people here last night. These constituents came to us for help and guidance and we were powerless to offer anything that would reassure them that help was on the way.

How easy it would have been to have officials with responsibility and jurisdiction meet with these employees if these officials were in Yellowknife. Instead, Mr. Speaker, the people in the driver's seat are sitting in Ottawa behind their bureaucracy of the federal government. This again, is another example of why we need to have control and responsibility in the North. As MLAs we are certainly limited in what we can do and this was displayed last night. As much as we may want to help in an economic crisis of this magnitude, our hands are pretty well tied. DIAND had better heed what is going on. Not only can Yellowknife not afford to lose 300 jobs, the entire Territory will surely feel the effects as well, if the fear of those lost jobs come to pass.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Question 8-13(8): Feasibility Of Transporting Natural Gas September 7th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just a comment, if I will, hopefully followed by a question. I just note that Inuvik's subsidy ran to $500,000 and there was an additional amount of money in research. The Minister has not made that amount available. If I compare the population of Inuvik to Yellowknife, it would look about a $2.5 million subsidy that could be put towards that potential of a project. Will the Minister take this information in consideration when his department officials are looking at the possibility of bringing natural gas to Yellowknife? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 8-13(8): Feasibility Of Transporting Natural Gas September 7th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has told us that something that made this a feasible project was, I understood him to say, the large consumption of the Power Corporation. When I compare the size of the Power Corporation operation in Inuvik to the size of the power operation here in Yellowknife, surely that should help to make it a feasible or at least a very similar project to what would have been produced in Inuvik. Again, my question to the Minister is, will he have his department officials look at the size of Inuvik and the size of Yellowknife and see what type of a subsidy would be required to make it a feasible project to have natural gas brought to Yellowknife? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.