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Legislative reports: Northwest Territories.

The Third Session of the Fourteenth Legislative Assembly reconvened on February 14, 2001. Joe Handley, Minister of Finance, gave notice that the budget address for the fiscal year 2001-2002 would be presented on Thursday, February 15, 2001.

In his Budget Address, Mr. Handley highlighted some of the aspects of the tremendous economic potential in the Northwest Territories. These include incredible opportunities in the oil and gas sector, diamond mining and manufacturing, hydro-electricity and tourism.

He also highlighted some of the key initiatives for the year, including initiative to match northerners with jobs that utilize their training and skills and ensuring that our children get every opportunity to lead fulfilling and productive lives. The government will continue to work with aboriginal governments, the federal government and with industry to ensure the future prosperity of the Northwest Territories and will focus on the need to create business and employment opportunities for Northerners, while being mindful of the need to protect the environment.

The Northwest Territories is in a position that is unique in Canada, and perhaps the world," said Mr. Handley. "We are beginning to experience significant new economic development opportunities while continuing to enjoy clean water, air and land, and abundant wildlife and fish.

In the budget there was a continued emphasis on maximizing northern employment and ensuring that the jobs that are going to arise in the next few years in the developing industries in the NWT, can be filled with qualified, educated Northerners.

The government will continue to focus on literacy as a priority for Northerners. There is a need to emphasize the importance of literacy and to ensure that all Northerners with literacy needs have access to programs and services that strengthen their skills.

The Assembly has identified Early Childhood Development as a priority. They have responded to this challenge and are prepared to implement an Early Childhood Development Action Plan.

The government intends to focus on these key initiatives and continue to invest in education, health care and Income Support. There will also be significant contributions to upgrading highways throughout the Northwest Territories over the next four years.

During this sitting, five Bills received Royal Assent. These include:

* Bill 14, An Act to Amend the Student Financial Assistance Act

* Bill l7, An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act

* Bill 19, Appropriation Act; 2001-2002

* Bill 20, Supplementary Appropriation Act, No. 2

* Bill 21, An Act to Amend the Labour Standards Act

During the previous sitting, Bill 13, Hotel Room Tax Act, received Second Reading and was referred to the Standing Committee on Governance and Economic Development. The Standing Committee met on several occasions to discuss and review the background research material and legal issues. The committee also conducted public hearings on Bill 13 in Inuvik, Hay River, and Yellowknife. The Committee reported back to the House that a majority of the Committee Members came to a position that they could not support the implementation of the Hotel Room Tax Act. Subsequently, the Bill was not reported back to the Assembly and ultimately died on the Order Paper when the Session was prorogued.

The Legislative Assembly also struck two Special Committees during the previous sitting, before the House was recessed on November 16th.

During the February/March Session, Terms of Reference for the Special Committee to Review the Official Languages Act and the Special Committee on the Implementation of Self-Government and the Sunset Clause were adopted.

Joe Handley, Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development announced that the GNWT had finalized the Non-Renewable Resource Development Strategy. The Strategy was developed at the encouragement of federal Finance Minister Paul Martin. It is the only comprehensive plan of action for non-renewable resource development that identifies all the issues that need to be addressed, irrespective of which government is responsible.

Minister Handley, along with Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Secretary of State for Children and Youth and Member of Parliament for the Western Arctic, met with Mr. Martin in early March. Mr. Handley reported to the House that the meeting was very positive and very productive. Mr. Martin stated that, after reviewing the GNWT's Non-Renewable Resource Development Strategy, he is prepared to support the initiatives it includes when they are brought forward through federal departments. He also recognized the GNWT's commitment to move ahead on infrastructure developments and has agreed to increase the borrowing limit to allow the government to proceed with the proposed Highway Strategy. Mr. Martin said that he is prepared to meet again and to continue discussions on these issues.

Jane Groenewegen, Minister of Health and Social Services reiterated the government's commitment to developing a social agenda. She indicated that work on the initiative is underway. The purpose of the Social Agenda is to address how the NWT can collectively improve social conditions and the quality of life for all Northerners. The Agenda will outline the broad direction that the government is taking with respect to addressing social conditions, affirm the partnerships necessary to address social conditions and identify concrete actions that the government, communities and non-government agencies can jointly work toward. An initial conference that will bring together front line workers will be held on the Hay River Reserve from June 18 to 20, 2001.

On March 7th, David Krutko, Member for the Mackenzie Delta, introduced Motion 19-14(3): "Support for the Protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." The Motion resolved:

That the Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories proclaim their opposition to oil and gas exploration and development activity being carried out in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its Coastal Plain and further that the Honourable Stephen Kakfwi, Premier of the Northwest Territories, communicate this resolution to the Right Honourable Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada and furthermore that the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada, through the office of the Minister of the Environment, be encouraged to continue to vigorously oppose any threat to the shared natural resources of northern Alaska, the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.

The Motion was carried on a recorded vote by a ten to zero margin, with all Cabinet Ministers present abstaining from the vote.

The Third Session was prorogued on March 7, 2001. The Fourth Session of the Fourteenth Legislative Assembly is scheduled to convene on June 5, 2001.
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Publication:Canadian Parliamentary Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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