Discussion on the creation of two new territories and amendments to the proposed Family Law Bills dominated the final days of the Fourth Session of the Thirteenth Legislative Assembly when it reconvened in October.
In the early days of the sitting, John Todd, Chairman of the Division Planning Committee, tabled "Creation of Two New Territories: Transition Action Plan". The draft plan identifies a number of priority issues that need to be addressed to ensure a smooth, orderly transition for the creation of the new Nunavut territory and the Western Territory.
The plan also estimated that $136 million in additional funding is required to cover transitional and incremental costs associated with the creation of the two new territories in 1999.
Mr. Todd said the plan would be many things to many people, including advice for Jack Anawak, the Interim Commissioner of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (the Inuit land claim organization), a guide to action for the Government of the Northwest Territories, and a comprehensive costing for the Federal Government.
In keeping with the move ahead to the division process, Premier Don Morin announced the appointment of Goo Arlooktoo as Minister Responsible for Nunavut Transition Planning and Charles Dent as Minister Responsible for Western Transition Planning. Both ministers will assist Mr. Todd, the lead Minister in the Division process.
Shortly after his appointment, Mr. Dent tabled, on behalf of the Western Caucus of the Legislative Assembly, a document titled "An Action Plan for Transition to a New Western Territory." The plan outlines a number of short, medium and long-term initiatives that are needed to ensure a smooth transition to a new Western Territory.
Members also agreed to recommend a 17-Member Assembly for the first Nunavut Legislative Assembly, following up on a similar recommendation from the Nunavut Electoral Boundaries Commission. The recommendation has been forwarded to Jane Stewart, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Members also made a number of changes to family law legislation with three bills -- Family Law Act, Children's Law Act, and Child and Family Services Act -- receiving Royal Assent. The three bills update the Northwest Territories legislation in this area and eliminate inconsistencies in past legislation. A fourth Bill, The Adoption Act, died on the order paper and a new, redrafted bill is expected to be introduced when the Fifth Session reconvenes in January.
The Commissioner of the NWT, Helen Maksagak, officially opened the Fifth Session of the 13th Legislative Assembly on October 21, 1997. During the abbreviated session, Members spent two days reviewing the Government's progress and the performances of the Premier and Cabinet Ministers in the first two years of its mandate, including a marathon 17-hour sitting on the final day of the review.
A number of bills, including the Power Corporation Act and An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, were also introduced and referred to the Standing Committees to begin the review process. The Power Corporation and Public Utilities bills seek to amend current legislation to allow for the NWT Power Corporation to be jointly owned by the Nunavut and Western Territory governments on and after April 1, 1999.
The House adjourned until December 2 when a special sitting, to discuss National Unity was scheduled.
Numerous bills also received assent in the final days of the Fourth Session. In addition to the three Family Law Bills, other legislation that received passage included:
* An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act which increases the Yearly Maximum Insurable Remuneration paid to injured workers to $52,000 from $49,000.
* An Act to Amend the Elections Act which makes a number of amendments to the legislation to meet the election requirements of the new Nunavut territory and the new Western Territory. …