Antoine looks ahead
Premier discusses new territory's future

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 02/99) - Premier Jim Antoine kicked off the birth of the new Northwest Territories this week with the presentation of his new cabinet and plans for life after Nunavut.

Flanked by newly- elected ministers Vince Steen and Michael Miltenberger, Antoine met the press at the legislative assembly Tuesday morning.

Speaking of the biggest challenges facing the new government, Antoine referred to the Western Agenda he first introduced in the state of the territory address earlier this year. He talked of "getting government right," building a fiscal framework, working on aboriginal self-government, and taking stock of resources and determining priorities.

"We're also talking to the federal government to see how we're going to pay our own way in future," he said. "We have to look at ways of controlling our own resources."

Ministers Floyd Roland and Charles Dent were also on hand to field questions. Dent, who has taken over as finance minister, also assumes responsibility for the women's directorate with the departure of Manitok Thompson to Nunavut.

"I'm prepared to work with the Status of Women's Council and take on the responsibility," he said. "I've got a lot to learn but am prepared to do as much work as necessary."

Thompson's departure also means that Hay River MLA Jane Groenewegen is the only remaining female member of the Western Assembly. And as one of the six members who ran for the two cabinet positions, Groenewegen had touched on the issue briefly in her candidacy speech Monday.

"I believe that women do bring a unique aspect to the decision-making process," she said.

Speaking later that day, after the results were known, Groenewegen stressed that her reference to gender was only a glancing reference, "point 9 of 10 points" in the speech.

"I had hoped the cabinet would be fairly representative of the population, and that being the case, if there was an opportunity for a woman to be represented, it would make sense," she said.

However, at the afternoon session Groenewegen joined the other MLAs in offering congratulations to Miltenberger and Steen, and did so in her own way.

"I had them both over for supper last night and they were joking with me about whether or not the turkey was cooked and whether I was taking this opportunity to feed them so that I could poison them," she said. "They kidded me about what time the Leadership Committee started today, attempting to lead me to believe that it started later than it did."

"Seriously, everything turns out the way that it was meant to be...Congratulations."