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Legislative assembly sergeant-at-arms Brian Thagard is responsible for ensuring the chamber is kept spick-and-span.

Cleaning the house

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 16/05) - All is quiet at the legislative assembly for now, but that doesn't mean the staff there don't have any work to do.

Legislative assembly clerk Tim Mercer says now comes the time to try and corral the mountains of documents produced each time MLAs meet for another session.

And now that the latest budgetary session is over, it's time for a good spruce-up of the assembly chamber itself. The ink-stained fingers of MLAs banging on tables have heralded a need for a damp cloth to bring back the shine.

Apparently, MLAs used to make a bigger mess than they do now.

"There used to be a tradition when the budget was finished when they'd throw all their papers into the middle of the chamber," says Mercer.

"They don't do that any more, but often times we do get lots of paper left behind."

Mercer estimates that 400,000 pages of paper documents are produced during the average span of a legislative assembly session, which is usually three or four weeks.

While the MLAs are pretty good about not leaving behind anything yucky while siting in the legislative chamber, Mercer says there have been some unusual finds when the members clear out between sessions.

"We've had people leave shoes behind," says Mercer.

"Their feet get hot or whatever in the chamber, and they're just leaving their shoes underneath their desks."

Mercer says written notes that are left behind are carefully collected at the end of session - with precautions taken not to read them - and then disposed of discreetly.

Mercer says a lot of the work that goes on happens just before and after a session begins.

"There's often a lot of procedural research that we have to prepare for," says Mercer.

"You plan for 10 things happening in the hope that one will."

Sergeant-at-arms Brian Thagard, besides being protector of the chamber, is also responsible for its clean-up.

He said the one thing his office doesn't have to worry about is the wooden furniture in the room. The benches on which the MLAs rap their fists are made from good, hardy pine.

"We don't condition it with anything," says Thagard. "It comes with a coat of lacquer."