On the back burner
Division taking priority over other legislation

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 13/98) - MLAs hoping to debate a few bills in the legislature this week got nowhere. The government claims there's little time for new debate with division on the horizon.

Yellowknife South MLA Seamus Henry was first to ask questions about the legislative agenda and a bill he said is in dire need of amendment.

He wanted an update on the progress the government has had in making changes to the Labor Standards Act, legislation Henry called "archaic."

"There is a consensus out there out there that the Labor Standards Act is in need of changes and overhaul," responded deputy premier Goo Arlooktoo.

"I am told, unfortunately, in the next years, because the legislative agenda is very full, we have to prioritize legislation we can deal with in the coming year," he said.

Henry was not satisfied with Arlooktoo's remark and had further questions.

"My question to the minister is, is he making any start on preparing legislative changes to the act? Is nothing going to happen until a year from now? Does the world stop because we are looking at division?" asked a clearly frustrated Henry.

Arlooktoo said he is willing to outline a legislative agenda for the coming months to show Henry what the government has on its plate.

It was similar story for Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco, who wants the Condominium Act placed on the agenda. He, too, was reminded of the pinch for time.

"Last year we had some minor changes to the Condominium Act. We still have problems in Nunavut because of leased land. We cannot, without a lot of red tape and logistic and legal problems, construct condo units," said Picco.

Picco said the act limits where contractors can build condo units because many sites are on leased land, which is untouchable.

This time the response came from Finance Minister John Todd. "Our legislative agenda is full. We have 14 short months left," said Todd, adding that his constituency of Rankin Inlet, too, has had to deal with the outdated legislation.

Todd, however, said he will do what he can to get to the Condominium Act, but cautioned Picco of the legislative priorities.

"It is not a priority, I have to be perfectly frank right now," said Todd. "We will take a look at it and see if there is some way we could speed it up. It would be unfair to make any promises."