As the 18th assembly headed into a three-and-a-half-month break Friday until its next sitting, one MLA was dismayed by what she called the “glacial pace” at which the government is bringing forth legislation.
As of last week, which marked the halfway point in the assembly’s four-year term, 33 bills had been passed, said Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green.
That’s compared to 52 bills the 17th legislative assembly had passed by the same point in its term, said Green.
“In my estimation, we have dealt with only five bills with any substance that were not mandatory money bills,” she said. “It is impossible for us to complete all the legislative initiatives government is contemplating at the pace it is moving.”
But the premier said factors like the late election in 2015 and the development of the mandate contributed to the government getting off to a slow start.
“We are not a factory,” said Bob McLeod. “In year two, we are definitely picking up speed.”
Green requested the premier consider convening an additional, short session in December to introduce more bills before the budget session begins in February, but he did not commit to doing so.
“I said that I would review the legislative agenda and we would take whatever actions would be required to make sure that we fulfilled our agenda,” said McLeod. “That did not preclude meeting with caucus to review. We all know the process. The only one who can call or reconvene the legislative assembly would be the call of the speaker.”
Keep clocks springing forward, falling back, committee recommends
A committee of MLAs on Thursday recommended the NWT continue to observe Daylight Saving Time, after a petition to eliminate annual time changes was brought forward in the assembly in March.
The e-petition, started by Yellowknife city councillor Julian Morse, opened Nov. 9, 2016 and closed Jan. 30 with 533 signatures from residents of at least 18 communities.
MLA Shane Thompson, who chairs the committee, said he and his colleagues looked at everything from human health to accident and energy rates and economic impacts in coming to their conclusion.
“We also sought studies investigating (Daylight Saving Time) in other circumpolar regions and followed the work of our legislative colleagues in Alberta on a similar initiative,” he said.
Alberta is the only other province or territory to “seriously amend” their Daylight Saving Time practices, said Thompson.
He explained Alberta introduced a bill in March to eliminate time change, but a standing committee there ultimately recommended the status quo continue.
The NWT committee of MLAs speculated changes to Daylight Savings Time observance in the territory could have broad economic impacts if the NWT was not aligned with Alberta.
“The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends, should the Government of the Northwest Territories consider changes to the Daylight Saving Time Regulations in future, that it engage with its counterparts in Alberta and undertake both broad public and targeted stakeholder engagement,” said Thompson.
CEO submitted most recommendations in NWT history
MLAs responded last Tuesday to three reports from the NWT’s Chief Electoral Officer that they say included more recommendations than any other CEO in the history of the territory has submitted to the legislative assembly.
In her reports, CEO Nicole Latour made 107 recommendations around reforming elections administration in the NWT, according to the committee’s report.
They included doing away with requiring candidates to provide statements from banks in their candidate financial reports and increasing penalties against those who fail to file candidate financial reports.
She proposed increasing the penalty from $250 to $5,000 or having “the penalty accrue at $50 for each day the contravention continues, to a maximum of $10,000.”
Despite the number of recommendations the assembly received from Latour, the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures concluded it is “not an indicator that our election administration is in crisis, or even in need of substantial overhaul.”
The committee made 15 recommendations of their own, such as replacing the requirement for candidates to file financial statements with a “practical, reliable requirement that ensures accountability.”
They also recommended the CEO be given discretion “to extend elected candidates’ deadline for filing accurate and complete financial statements for up to 15 calendar days.”
Committee members agreed a $250 penalty was not “a meaningful deterrent for failure to file financial reports.”
They recommended the penalty be increased to $500, plus a daily fine of $50 to a maximum of $1,000.