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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

Minister's Statement 50-14(6): Western Premiers' Conference June 6th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I will be attending the Western Premier's Conference in Kelowna, British Columbia, starting Monday night, for Monday and Tuesday, along with the Premiers of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and Yukon. The Northwest Territories will be leading two agenda items at this year's conference.

I will be speaking to the issue of devolution, in the context of a general discussion on the state of federal/provincial/territorial relations and options to improve the currently rather strained relations between provinces and territories and the federal government.

I intend to make the case that devolution is an important step towards rebuilding these relationships by setting the stage for mutually respectful intergovernmental relations.

All jurisdictions must manage and control the scope and pace of development of their resources and benefit from that development. We will make it clear that a devolution agreement will allow northern governments to influence the scope and pace of future developments and will ensure, as well, that Canadians are ready to seize the economic opportunities brought on by development of northern resources.

It is imperative that First Ministers realize that a devolution agreement is an important element in ensuring that northern governments have the financial resources to invest in their people and their economies, and that it is, in fact, in the national interest to support a fair and equitable agreement.

The Northwest Territories is also leading the discussion on diamonds. As you know, Minister Antoine and the Department of RWED have worked hard to raise the national awareness about diamonds.

I will continue to make the case that Canada needs to develop a Canadian diamond strategy that aims to maximize the benefits to all Canadians from all stages of the emerging diamond industry, including exploration, mining and value added. I will seek support from Premiers to invite the federal government to join the provinces and territories in the development of a Canadian diamond strategy, including an open exchange of the issues associated with the promotion of a Canadian secondary diamond industry.

As in previous meetings of this nature, I will, of course, work closely with my northern colleagues, honourable Premiers Okalik and Fentie, to ensure that our collective northern voices are heard loud and clear.

I will report back to the House on any progress upon my return. Thank you.

---Applause

Question 250-14(6): Capital Planning Process Ratings Criteria June 4th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When we provide funds and support to communities we try to follow certain criteria and priorities. Without being explicit, I believe that certain services and facilities such as health services would receive higher priority than others that are considered non-essential services and projects and facilities. Thank you.

Question 250-14(6): Capital Planning Process Ratings Criteria June 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I must admit I don't really understand the question. If there are communities that have no government assets, then where it is deemed that they qualify or are in need of certain assets, then our job is to make plans to provide those required assets through our budgetary planning process. Thank you.

Question 250-14(6): Capital Planning Process Ratings Criteria June 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, no we have not. The capital planning process I thought was a process that the best effort was to get MLA input and support. We launched a new process. We've met with some criticism, but we are continuing to make the best efforts to meet the needs of the communities and the MLAs through that process. If there are suggestions that Members have, then we'd be pleased to receive those. Thank you.

Question 240-14(6): Benefits Of Negotiated Contracts June 4th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. No, we have not done such a study or review.

Question 240-14(6): Benefits Of Negotiated Contracts June 4th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as work required by the government is identified, there are sometimes communities or individuals in communities that request consideration for contracts to be negotiated with them, sole source contracts. I can't tell you specifically the process, but we receive these and we usually pass them on to the responsible Minister. That is assessed by the departments, the responsible department and the Minister checks with the MLA whose constituency that request comes and ensures that it is deemed in the best interest of the community and the public if we consider that and usually community support in some form is sought as well. When the Minister feels he has sufficient support, it would allow him to proceed to Cabinet to ask him for a mandate to negotiate such an arrangement, then it comes to Cabinet. Once that is done, the department, once it seeks approval to proceed, then tries to negotiate an acceptable arrangement within the mandate it receives. Thank you.

Question 240-14(6): Benefits Of Negotiated Contracts June 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, yes. We do look at the community capacity and the unemployment, the economic situation in communities when considering issues like this. Thank you.

Question 240-14(6): Benefits Of Negotiated Contracts June 4th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The government continues to hold those goals and objectives as its priorities. So we are still in support of trying to achieve and remove the inequities that are present in many of our communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 46-14(6): Minister Absent From The House June 4th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to advise Members of the House that the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment will be absent from the House for the remainder of the week to attend the Ministers of education and labour market meeting that is taking place in Halifax. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 42-14(6): Sessional Statement June 4th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, four years ago we, the 14th Legislative Assembly, promised the people of the Northwest Territories that we would be ambitious and we would challenge the status quo and that we would work together to realize the full potential of our new territory and its residents. In the coming months we will complete almost four years of our work to develop, establish and realize the social, economic and political agenda we are taking in our vision statement, Towards a Better Tomorrow. By the end of this summer, I believe the results and successes of our collective commitment will be much clearer, but still much work needs to be done.

Prior to the election in November, the Tlicho Agreement will need to be ratified by all three parties and signed at the Tlicho assembly planned for Fort Rae in August; that the recently completed Deline agreement-in-principle will need to be signed by all parties; that we will need to work hard to advance negotiations on all other lands and resources at the self-government tables; that the devolution framework agreement must be agreed to and signed by all parties, setting the stage for negotiations of an agreement-in-principle for the transfer of land and resources responsibilities to the Northwest Territories governments; that territorial and federal infrastructure agreements need to be finalized and completed; and that we must continue to work to ensure that northern governments and that communities and the people of the Northwest Territories will have access and can participate in a meaningful way in the pipeline regulatory and planning process; and that pilot projects encompassing the many goals and objectives of our social agenda still need to be initiated.

Mr. Speaker, as we return to the Assembly today, an extensive legislative agenda is ahead of us. We will have to be focussed, united, serious and committed if we are to complete the agenda we have laid out. One issue in particular will set the context for the session and for the remainder of our mandate. I am referring to the government's financial situation updated by Minister Handley last month. The short and long term elements of these fiscal challenges must be considered in context.

These challenges are not new. In the past, downsizing and federal cuts have created immense challenges for the Government of the Northwest Territories. In fact, when we first took office with this legislature we were within months of hitting the debt wall. We have consistently addressed our fiscal situation positively and with confidence and always with the fundamental belief that investment now in our territory and its residents will pay dividends in the future. Together we have effectively delivered this message of investment to the federal government, the provincial governments, to industry and to our aboriginal partners who now fully support this approach. Today the Northwest Territories is one of the most attractive places in Canada to live, to work and to raise a family.

There is a growing recognition by industry that the Northwest Territories has a stable and attractive investment climate. More importantly, there is growing recognition in Ottawa that changes need to be made to the Northwest Territories formula financing agreement and that per capita funding arrangements are inadequate. It was a point made clear by candidates in the recent Liberal leadership debate in Whitehorse, who all stated repeatedly that financial arrangements for Canada's northern territories need to take into account the unique needs and circumstances of each territory. It was also apparent in February from Canada's First Ministers, who were unanimous in their call for an independent health care fund to make up for the shortfall in federal transfer payments to the territories.

The Prime Minister himself admitted in the House of Commons that current per capita funding arrangements are not satisfactory for territorial governments in that it makes no sense to treat territories exactly the same way as provinces because their populations are too small. Soon after, we were able to reach an agreement with the Prime Minister to increase federal health care funding to the three territories by an extra $60 million over three years and, more importantly, to launch a process to explore long-term solutions to the inequity of federal per capita funding agreements.

A report, Mr. Speaker, will be provided to the Prime Minister this fall. In the meantime, we remain confident that the federal government, through Finance Minister Manley, will respond positively on tax effort and perversity issues as they relate to the formula. Meanwhile, we will continue to negotiate with our federal and aboriginal partners on the resource revenue sharing agreement that will provide long-term net fiscal benefit for all governments of the Northwest Territories.

This is going to be important during this time in the next few months to show Ottawa, industry and the people of the Northwest Territories that we are together, that we still have a vision and a plan and that we are sticking to it. Our residents and their governments, both aboriginal and public, are determined to reduce their dependency on the federal government and to have the ability and resources to achieve this objective. Current and projected economic activity in the Northwest Territories will soon make us a net contributor to Canada, contributing more than we receive. Clearly we have outgrown our current funding agreement with Ottawa. We will continue to call upon federal cabinet Ministers and the federal government to move quickly to resolve this issue. With a strong and consistent message from all Members of this House I am confident we will be successful. Thank you.

---Applause