Shuffling cabinet
Western MLAs seek two interim ministers after division

Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 16/98) - Western MLAs will select two new cabinet ministers to fill a void to be left by departing Eastern ministers on March 31, 1999.

Members made the decision at a western caucus meeting in Yellowknife on Sunday and Monday.

"We don't believe that four ministers or premier and three ministers could carry on the work of being responsible for all of the departments of this government," said Charles Dent, minister responsible for western transition yesterday.

The portfolios held by the four eastern members -- Goo Arlooktoo, John Todd, Manitok Thompson and Kelvin Ng -- will be up for grabs, including Housing, Municipal and Community Affairs, Finance, Health and Social Services. The cabinet ministers will serve for the interim period of April to October 1999.

Premier Don Morin will determine how the portfolios will be shuffled on April 1, 1999.

"He may shuffle the portfolios of the existing ministers as well. It wouldn't necessarily mean the two new ones will take on the functions of the four who are departing on March 31 will give up," said Dent.

Interim ministers will be current western MLAs. A territorial leadership committee will meet with all members present. Speaker Sam Gargan will chair the committee and accept nominations for ministers. Private ballots will be cast for the two positions.

At the meeting earlier this week, members also agreed that the general election for members to the legislative assembly be held Oct. 4, 1999.

Members agreed as well that current western MLAs -- not the cabinet -- would review the business plan and budget for 1999-2000 prior to March 31, 1999. This is the first time that Western and Nunavut MLAs will look at the budget and business plans for their respective territories. Usually standing committees consisting of MLAs from across the NWT review the budget.