The latest session of the 18th legislative assembly got underway yesterday in Yellowknife with blistering attacks on NWT Premier Bob McLeod and the way he is running the territorial government.
Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly called for the premier to hold an emergency debate on his so called Red Alert, issued late last year.
The Red Alert was called after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau imposed a moratorium on exploring and drilling for oil and natural gas in the Beaufort Sea without consulting with the GNWT.
The alert called for more consultation between the feds and the territory when decisions made in Ottawa have effects on people in the North.
Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart says consultation is a two-way street and if McLeod wants it from Ottawa then he too needs to do a better job of consulting the Indigenous Governments before the GNWT makes decisions that will affect their future.
“There is a concern that Indigenous self-government and if they are funded (by Ottawa) to provide programs and services – that funding will take away from the GNWT’s ability to provide funding and services. The premier seems to be opposed to that. My line of questioning was to ensure that we both maintain services while ensuring organizations and nations are given full access to resources from Ottawa or from Yellowknife. The premier’s answers were cryptic and bureaucratic and I don’t think they got to the root of the issue which many Indigenous nations have brought forward in the wake of the Red Alert. We’re going to keep pressing this as regular members until we get clear answers from the premier and what his position towards reconciliation is in the NWT.”
As he usually does, McLeod stood his ground and defended the government’s record on Indigenous self-government saying that the terriitorial government is on the leading edge of government-Indigenous relationships when it comes to land claims and other issues.
He made no committment to an emergency debate in the Leg.
Other issues raised yesterday included the new, still under construction Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife and whether the project is in any danger of being over-budget or not completed on time after a major partner in the project declared bankruptcy last month.
The government says it is still on target to open next year.
MLAs also asked about the existing hospital and whether plans for it after the new hospital opens had changed.
Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy re-affirmed that the facility will house 72, much needed long term care beds and other medical facilities.
He says there are no mplans to turn the old Stanton into a college or a unversity to help train people wanting to get into the health care profession in the North.
Other issues raised yesterday included the state of the commercial fishing industry in the NWT as well as the physical state of schools across the territory.
Meanwhile today is budget day in the NWT.
Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod will table the government’s 2018-2019 operations budget in the legislative assembly this afternoon.