Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

The Nunavut Legislative Assembly and Its Independent Officers

Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

The Nunavut Legislative Assembly and Its Independent Officers

Article excerpt

Canada's newest territory, Nunavut, came into existence on April 1, 1999. Upon its creation Nunavut inherited the majority of its statutes from the Northwest Territories. A number of these statutes established independent officers of the Legislative Assembly including the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, the Languages Commissioner, the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Information and Privacy Commissioner. This article looks at the functions of these and other independent officers as well as recent developments in Nunavut.

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At the first sitting of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut in April, 1999, the Assembly approved terms of reference for its Standing Committees. Each Standing Committee consisted of five Regular MLAs (MLAs not sitting on Cabinet). The Standing Committee Ajauqtiit was empowered to conduct the initial recruitment and selection process for the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Conflict of Interest Commissioner and Languages Commissioner. The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly initially held the position of Chief Electoral Officer.

The Standing Committee undertook a competitive, merit-based recruitment and selection process. All positions were advertised in the media and prospective candidates were interviewed by the Committee sitting as a panel, using an agreed-to set of standardized questions. The Standing Committee's recommendations were brought to Full Caucus (all 19 MLAs) for review and ratification. In all cases, the Committee's recommendation was approved, and formal motions to recommend the appointments of the successful candidates were unanimously adopted by the House in the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000. The Standing Committee tabled a final report on each of the following appointments:

* Conflict of Interest Commissioner (Robert Stanbury)

* Languages Commissioner (Eva Aariak)

* Information and Privacy Commissioner (Elaine Keenan Bengts) who also served as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories)

A number of developments have taken place since the initial appointments of independent officers were made. In 2001, the Legislative Assembly passed a new Integrity Act during its spring sitting, which was held in the community of Cambridge Bay. This Act was the final product of a comprehensive review undertaken by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. The new Act consolidated conflict of interest provisions and other related matters applying to MLAs into a single statute, and replaced the position of Conflict of Interest Commissioner with an Integrity Commissioner. The incumbent office-holder was appointed as Integrity Commissioner.

In 2001, the Standing Committee Ajauqtiit undertook a competitive recruitment and selection process for a new Chief Electoral Officer. Sandy Kusugak was appointed by the Commissioner on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly. The Management and Services Board (MSB) of the Legislative Assembly approved the relocation of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (Elections Nunavut) to Rankin Inlet.

In 2002, a new Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act was passed. This Act provided clear definitions of the positions considered to be independent officers of the Legislative Assembly. The Act also confirmed the ability of the MSB to determine the remuneration of independent officers of the Legislative Assembly, as well as approving the budgets for the operation of their offices for inclusion in the annual main estimates of the Legislative Assembly. In 2007-2008, the total amount approved for the operations of all offices of independent officers was $1,510,000.

In 2002, the Legislative Assembly passed a new Nunavut Elections Act. In 2004, the second general election was held. The Integrity Commissioner and the Information and Privacy Commissioner were reappointed by the Commissioner of Nunavut following the passage of motions in the House to recommend their reappointments. …

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