MLAs back to work in legislative assembly

Department merger plan is dead, Picco says



Premier Don Morin called for unity and teamwork Monday as MLAs returned to Yellowknife for what is shaping up to be a lively legislative assembly session.

Morin, hobbled by a broken knee, delivered a brief sessional address in which he stated the government’s priorities during its last 800 days in office, and then left on crutches.

Morin made reference to his accident in his speech.

“Personally, I resolve to pay attention to where I am walking … a resolution I am unfortunately and painfully reminded often of these days,” Morin said.

Finance Minister John Todd will unveil his second budget on Monday, and although he didn’t release any details, he did assure MLAs that he would outline how he plans to balance the budget in 1997.

Political backbone needed

During his opening address, Morin pledged to continue the government’s battle to reduce the deficit and to make the hard decisions that he says hurt people in the short-term but “in the long-run, will change lives for the better.”

The premier said the government must have the “political backbone” to follow through, and he called on MLAs to work together as a team.

“Fighting with other members of the team means we lose the game. But working together, to resolve our differences and reach a workable solution, we all win,” Morin said.

Shelve amalgamation plan

But when they had a chance to speak, several members of that team took turns firing questions at members of cabinet for everything from their decision to close the Delta House addictions treatment centre in Inuvik, to how the GNWT will convince Ottawa to pay for two new territories, and to what the government will do about a fungus growing in Iqaluit’s fuel supply.

One of the first things ordinary MLAs did was to present a report urging the government to shelve plans to amalgamate the departments of transportation, public works and services and the housing corporation.

Roy Erasmus, the chairman of the standing committee on government operations that was asked to review the merger plan, presented the report Tuesday.

Erasmus said Deputy Premier Goo Arlooktoo and his officials had briefed committee members about the plan in January, but failed to convince them that the restructuring is necessary now, or should be a priority of the government.

“I think it’s dead,” Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco said from Yellowknife Wednesday. “I do not think the cabinet will go ahead with it.”

Picco said he thinks there are some “noses out of joint in the cabinet,” but doubts the government will be able to get the votes they need to go ahead with the proposed merger.

In a member’s statement, Hay River MLA Jane Groenewegen said in the past twenty years, the government had already done about 60 department restructurings, and another one isn’t needed.

“At this time, in this government, at this juncture, we can not afford to devote exorbitant amounts of resources to re-inventing the framework of government,” Groenewegen said, according to the unedited version of Hansard.

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