Going into their second to last sitting before the fall election, members of the Legislative Assembly were facing 18 bills with another four soon on the way.
Two of them were handled quickly on Thursday afternoon.
In a news release, MLA Cory Vanthuyne, chair of the Standing Committee on Economic Development and the Environment, along with environment and natural resources minister Robert C. McLeod announced the expedited review of Bill 38: the Protected Areas Act and the delay of Bill 44: the Forest Act.
The Protected Areas Act was one of the final pieces to the establishment of Thaidene Nene, a protected area around the east arm of Great Slave Lake. The release mentions the “broad support” behind the Act from many Indigenous governments and organizations.
The same cannot be said for Bill 44: the Forest Act, which has been met with constant criticism across Denendeh.
The release said the bill “requires substantial changes”. Much of the criticism was in the drafting process of Bill 44 where many Dene leaders said they weren’t given adequate time or opportunity to fully participate in the drafting of the bill.
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya supported the decision to delay.
“It’s bringing back the integrity of the government and accountability,” he said.
The pushback signified how “times have changed,” said Yakeleya. “The government is certainly getting a taste of the new reality of co-governments and co-drafting legislation, no more of the style of government that has happened in the past.”
In a follow-up interview Vanthuyne said the narrow passage of the bill’s second reading, vocal opposition during public hearings and timing all contributed to the bill being dropped for the time being.
With one fewer bill, he said this allows for the house to pass the Protected Areas Act during the current sitting, following a clause-by-clause review likely to take place next week.
As for the Forest Act, CKLB asked Vanthuyne if the plan was to start from scratch in the next government.
While he said that decision is ultimately up to the 19th Legislative Assembly, “I certainly wouldn’t scrap it and start all over… A lot of legwork has already been done.”
If the next government was to take this approach, Vanthuyne said there’d be a possibility of passing the legislation within its first year.