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Last in the Legislative Assembly November 2003, as MLA for Sahtu

Won his last election, in 1999, with 61% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Tabled Document 75-14(6): GNWT Annual Report On The Affirmative Action Policy - March 31, 2003 June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to table two documents. First I wish to table the document entitled Beyond the Northwest Territories: Annual Report on the Affirmative Action Policy - March 31st, 2003.

Question 331-14(6): High Cost Of Power In Small Communities June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I had made a commitment to Members of the legislature, through the Accountability and Oversight committee a number of months ago, that we will not be bringing up issues that were deemed to be controversial and divisive in the closing months of this government, that we had our opportunity early on to deal with these issues. We, as a Cabinet, have taken the position that we do not want new rate zone proposals to come from the Northwest Territories Power Corporation until this legislature has dealt with the draft energy strategy. That draft energy strategy was shared with the Accountability and Oversight committee recently and there is yet to be some discussion on what to do with the draft energy strategy. So the Cabinet has made a decision. We made the decision over a year ago and the decision was to wait for some discussion on the draft energy strategy before any new initiatives were undertaken. As I said, the idea of a rate zone change potentially could be very divisive and controversial. So I will just point to the fact that I also agreed with a commitment to the Accountability and Oversight committee to avoid bringing up issues that would create controversy at this time. Thank you.

Question 331-14(6): High Cost Of Power In Small Communities June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Public Utilities Board some years ago rejected the notion of a one-rate zone and basically ruled that the application that was made at that time was unacceptable because it placed an unreasonable burden on one group of rate payers for the benefit of another group and that that was not acceptable. Having said that, we also saw the Robertson report that was taken by this government two and a half years ago that basically proposed a two-rate zone. We asked for an energy strategy to be developed, which is here for consideration or will be very shortly. We have always said an energy strategy will help us decide how to focus the discussion on it. Ultimately it is the Public Utilities Board that determines rates and rate zones. The Northwest Territories Power Corporation will, I am sure, decide when and if they should proceed with applications. At this time it is not for Cabinet to address this. We indicated earlier that there are issues that are controversial, divisive, that should not be brought to Cabinet and to this legislature because of the proximity to the elections and that these issues, because they would be controversial, very divisive, should be left to the next legislature. Thank you.

Question 331-14(6): High Cost Of Power In Small Communities June 13th, 2003

Yes, I agree that everybody should be treated fairly. Thank you.

Question 331-14(6): High Cost Of Power In Small Communities June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Public Utilities Board determines rate zones and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation is a corporation that conducts the business of providing power to many of our communities, but not all of them. Some of our communities are on diesel. Others are on hydro. The government does provide a huge subsidy that diminishes the actual cost of the power that is provided to residents in many of the smaller communities. So we recognize that there is high cost and that there will be extreme hardship and this is the reason that governments in the past, this government included, continue to provide a way to diminish the difference between communities that have affordable rates and those that do not. Thank you.

Question 328-14(6): Specialist Physician Negotiations June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As Minister Miltenberger indicated, the government is open to resuming discussions once we receive a proposal offer from the specialists. We are sincerely trying to do our best to try to resolve this in a fair and reasonable way. Thank you.

Question 328-14(6): Specialist Physician Negotiations June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday we had the pleasure of seeing many of our medical staff, doctors and specialists and nurses, visit this House, this legislature, and I took that as an indication of their desire to find some way to resolve the present impasse that we find ourselves in. The Minister spoke on behalf of the government and indicated that he is open to receiving a proposal or offer from the specialists and he spoke on behalf of the Cabinet. I indicated to the medical staff that I talked to personally that we would be open to that as indicated by the Minister. So we will proceed to look at whatever it is that they communicate with us. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 75-14(6): Minister Absent From The House June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Jim Antoine will be absent from the House today. He is attending the Ministers of Agriculture meeting that is taking place in Vancouver today. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 73-14(6): Update On The Government's Response To The Special Committee On The Review Of The Official Languages Act June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to briefly update Members on recent decisions the government has made concerning its response to the recommendations of the Special Committee on the Review of the Official Languages Act. The committee's report made some very detailed recommendations that may result in changes to government structures and responsibilities under the Official Languages Act. These are changes that will affect this and future governments. We believe it is necessary to consider these recommendations very carefully.

At the same time, the committee has made some very useful recommendations on matters that will be relatively easy to address. Earlier this week Bill 28, An Act to Amend the Official Languages Act, was read for the first time. The government's intent in introducing this bill was to make some of those simpler changes right now while still considering how best to implement the rest of the committee's recommendations

Yesterday, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment and I had an opportunity to meet with the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight to discuss this bill. During that meeting, Members expressed the desire to see the government address the recommendations of the special committee in a more comprehensive and integrated way. Following consultation with Cabinet, government has agreed that we will not proceed with second reading of Bill 28.

Instead, we will take advantage of the next few months to prepare a new bill for introduction in the fall sitting of the legislature. This bill will address the establishment of an aboriginal languages board and the reassignment of responsibilities for languages promotion consistent with the special committee's recommendations. We will also ensure that, as with all legislation, while one Minister is responsible for implementing the act, the act applies to all government departments, boards and agencies.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to supporting official languages of the Northwest Territories. We recognize the value of the work being done by the special committee and will continue to work on implementing its recommendations and we look forward to working with all Members on this important task. We will continue to advise you of our progress. Thank you.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 72-14(6): Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus June 13th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about Bill Erasmus, the national chief of the Dene Nation, who has announced that he will be stepping down from his position at the 33rd Dene National Assembly scheduled for early July in Aklavik. Mr. Speaker, Members of this House are quite aware that holding public office is a special privilege and honour. It would be fair to say, however, that public office also demands sacrifices, particularly from your family. Chief Bill Erasmus has served the Dene of the Northwest Territories as their national chief for 16 years. As someone familiar with the pressures of that position, I know that represents an incredible commitment from both him and his family.

To give you some idea of what that means in political terms, Chief Erasmus has served the equivalent of four terms in this Legislative Assembly, he has seen five Premiers, many other Ministers and Members of this government, seven Ministers of DIAND, countless chiefs sitting around the Dene Nation table representing communities from across the Northwest Territories. As national chief he has dealt with all the leaders with a sense of dignity and respect.

Through his entire career Chief Erasmus has been a strong and tireless advocate for the Dene of the Northwest Territories and for aboriginal and treaty rights throughout the country. I would note that Chief Erasmus leaves his position with all regions again sitting around the Dene Nation table. This is an important legacy and one that he should be rightly proud of.

Even with his hectic and demanding schedule it is important to point out also that he has excelled in his important role as a dedicated father and husband to his son, Lonny, his daughter, Sarah, and his wife, Reanna. I ask all Members to join me today in thanking and acknowledging Chief Erasmus, his work over the past 16 years not only for the Dene, but for all residents of the Northwest Territories. I am sure the future holds only good things for Bill Erasmus, but I am also certain that he will find ways to continue serving his people in the North in new and exciting ways and I wish him and his family the very best on behalf of the Cabinet. Thank you.

---Applause