At the Legislature
Ministers' forum on health and social services announced

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 30/99) - Health and Social Services Minister Floyd Roland has continued the recent trend of territorial ministers to produce a detailed accounting of their portfolios -- full of facts, statistics and priorities.

But in announcing the establishment of a ministers' forum on health and social services Wednesday, Roland assured it would be a realistic accounting -- evidently responding to charges that many of the recommendations in the recently released ministers' forum on education report won't be realized because they lack funding.

"I want to emphasize that this ministers' forum is not a fishing expedition to generate a wish-list of new programs and services," Roland said.

In proposing a review, Roland also appeared to be following the government's trend toward openness and clarity -- a popular practice since last year's conflict of interest inquiry.

"The public has the right to expect accountability at all levels of the system," he said.

But Yellowknife Centre MLA Jake Ootes questioned the need for a forum on health and social services when so many of the problems affecting the NWT -- including shortages of nurses and health-care workers -- are already known.

Roland defended his position.

"My idea is that the information the department has received and the concerns we've heard is enough to make me say we have to go out there because we need to know what other concerns there are," he said.

Housing security questioned

If Education Minister Michael Miltenberger has been the target of numerous questions since the territorial budget was released, then it was Roland, in charge of health and social services and the NWT Housing Corporation, who attracted attention Wednesday.

Both Hay River MLA Jane Groenewegen and Tu Nedhe MLA Don Morin had questions for the minister concerning the down-payment assistance program.

Groenewegen questioned whether the corporation investigated the condition of the prospective sale homes. Roland replied that the department didn't but that he would see what other assistance was available.

"The majority of the due diligence is left up to the homeowner or buyer," he said.

Giant concerns

Asked by Roy Erasmus about the state of the government's position on the state of Giant Mine, Minister Stephen Kakfwi assured the Yellowknife North MLA on Wednesday that the government has no intention of putting money into the mine.

But Kakfwi also told Erasmus that the mine may continue to operate while the issue of pollutants -- including stored arsenic trioxide and sulphur dioxide emissions -- are examined.

"It is still our view that it is a viable business operation and should be allowed to continue," he said. "The environmental concerns are being looked at by both governments and what role the private sector can play."

Morin targets Kakfwi

The day after Morin and Kakfwi held a sharp exchange over whether Kakfwi was "basically pork-barrelling his riding as minister," the former premier had more questions for the minister of resources, wildlife and economic development.

But Morin's questions Wednesday had more to do with his own riding, and he spoke of the necessity of determining the fate of the lumber industry in Fort Resolution.

And Morin continued on the subject later in Wednesday's session, inviting, among others, Premier Jim Antoine and "my good friend Stephen Kakfwi" down to Fort Resolution next week for talks.