Boundary bill nears completion
Erasmus cites urban, non-urban rift

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 30/99) - Three more Yellowknife seats in the fall territorial election seem destined to become a reality as the legislative assembly goes through the final motions in hearing Bill 15.

As of press time, the clause by clause review of the bill and third reading had yet to take place, but many MLAs accept the bill as, at worst, legally necessary.

Companion resolutions passed relatively easily during the committee of the whole phase.

This week, the Standing Committee on Government Operations recommendations for the government to create a companion constitutional and electoral reform commission.

Another recommendation to put quotas on cabinet makeup passed despite more active debate than is expected for the sunset clause.

The sunset clause is a committee recommendation that will see the seats created by Bill 15 be repealed at the end of the next legislature.

"You need companion legislation," MLA Don Morin told the committee of the whole about the need to create a constitutional and electoral reform commission.

"You need something as powerful as that to show you want to work with the people of the NWT and the process involves all the people of the NWT."

Unlike previous constitutional processes, the recommended constitutional commission would have equal representation by both aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

It would also operate at arms length from the government, settle on a name for the territories and devise a way to reconcile aboriginal and public government in time for a proposed constitutional conference June 30, 2002.

The recommendation also holds for a binding referendum to follow that conference.

"We take these recommendations very seriously," said committee chair Roy Erasmus earlier this week.

"What we heard as a committee was a great animosity toward the City of Yellowknife."

Erasmus said if the committee's recommendations were not accepted, the "rift" between urban and non-urban areas was in danger of becoming a "chasm."

To question about the cost of such a commission, Morin said, "it is far more costly to do nothing."

The recommendation to put quotas for cabinet makeup in legislation would instruct a future government to have two members each from Yellowknife, southern ridings and Northern ridings.

The members of the committee, Don Morin, Roy Erasmus, David Krutko and James Rabesca, were the only ones to vote in favour of the constitutional and electoral reform commission and for the 2-2-2 formula for cabinet in legislation.

Jake Ootes and Seamus Henry were opposed while all other members abstained except for committee of the whole chair Jane Groenewegen and Speaker Sam Gargan.

Erasmus was going to move a motion today that would see an election called for Dec. 6.