Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly.
May 2 was budget day in the Territories with the release of Finance Minister John Todd's first budget and the first budget of the 13th Assembly. The release of the Capital and Operating and Maintenance budgets was delayed to allow new MLAs an opportunity to have input into the budget and the cutbacks necessary to eliminate the deficit.
Mr. Todd started his Budget Address by saying the government has to change the way it does business and that would mean reductions in all areas. He said with the changes proposed in the 1996-97 budget the deficit would be $43 million rather than the projected $150 million, leading to a balanced budget in 1997-98.
The $1.2 billion spending plan for 1996-97, down $70 million from those forecast a year earlier, also included a number of new initiatives aimed at diversifying the Northwest Territories' economy. Some of the new initiatives introduced in the budget include a $5 million Community Initiative Program, establishing creative partnerships with aboriginal groups, businesses and other levels of government and $5 million to set up a Mortgage and Loan Company.
In his Budget Address, Mr. Todd said the Northwest Territories is open for business and will do all it can to attract new dollars to the territory. There were no new taxes or tax increases announced in the budget.
In conjunction with the passing of the 1996-97 Capital and Operating and Maintenance budgets, the Legislative Assembly also passed Bill 10, The Budget Measures Implementation Act. This Bill made legislative changes -- amending several Acts and repealing two others -- necessary to implement the budget and help the government meet its financial targets.
Numerous bills also received passage in the May sitting including the first Private Members Bill of the 13th Assembly. Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus brought forward Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. The amendment requires motorists to use headlights or daytime running lights of a vehicle at all times. Other legislation that received passage included:
* Appropriation Act, 1996-97: authorizes the government to make operations and maintenance expenditures and capital expenditures for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997.
* An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 2: requires a Member of the Legislative Assembly to file a supplemental disclosure statement where there is a change in his or her financial circumstances as reported in the annual disclosure statement.
* Loan Authorization Act: authorizes the government to make loans to municipalities for 1996-97.
* An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, No. 3: eliminates cost of living increases in respect of allowances and constituency expenses paid to Members and to roll-back the increase made to the amount of the allowances and constituency expenses on April 1, 1996.
* Statute Revision Act: provides for the appointment of a Statute Revision Commissioner and for the preparation, approval and coming into force of the Revised Statues of the Northwest Territories, 1998 and the Statutes of Nunavut, 1999.
After May's month long session most Members of the Legislative Assembly headed home to spend some time with their families but many have been called back for committee work. Five members of the Government Operations Committee travelled with Finance Minister John Todd to the Maritimes as part of the Investment Search Sub-Committee. The sub-committee is looking for new ways to attract investment capital to the Northwest Territories.
Other Committees also met during June and July including the Working Group on the Western Constitution, the group drafting a constitutional package for the Western Arctic after division of the N.W.T. in 1999.
The Governor General of Canada, Romeo LeBlanc and Madame Diana Fowler LeBlanc were the guests of honor at a luncheon in the Legislative Assembly June 20. The luncheon was hosted by Speaker Sam Gargan and Goo Arlooktoo, Deputy Premier of the Northwest Territories.
David Hamilton, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, hosted the Conference of Canadian Election Officials, electoral officials from across Canada, at a four-day conference in July where election issues and new initiatives for elections were discussed.
The Northwest Territories also hosted the Seventh Annual Visitors Services National Conference with delegates from seven provinces and the host territory attending. Delegates work in Public Relations and Visitors Services offices at Legislative Assemblies across the country.