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Paper flies as the assembly closes

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 31, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - In parliaments around the world, there's only one way to celebrate the end of a legislative assembly's term: take every piece of paper you can find and toss it into the air.

NWT's 15th legislative assembly was no different, as 19 regular and cabinet MLAs went out in a shower of documents, reports, notes and shredded paper.

"It's kind of like the end of school," said outgoing Great Slave MLA Bill Braden before the mayhem ensued, marking the end four years at the helm of the NWT.

However, MLAs weren't the only ones letting the paper fly. A small army of staff at the assembly - the "ones who do the real work," as many MLAs have identified them - gathered in the gallery with grocery bags bursting with shredded paper.

"Members were not aware of our plans," said Patricia Russell, public affairs and communications adviser to the legislative assembly.

"Though it's certainly hard to be quiet in the gallery when (holding) a rustling bag of shredded paper."

Before the close of the assembly's last sitting, NWT Commissioner Tony Whitford entered the assembly to assent to proposed bills.

"You have achieved your goal and demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the people of the Northwest Territories," he said during his speech to close the proceedings.

"There was some tight co-ordination required," Russell said, to ensure that the paper-tossing took place just after the commissioner and the territorial mace left the room.

As the door into the Great Hall closed, the paper flew.

While meant as a "celebratory gesture," a lot of members seemed to end up with shredded paper on their heads, including NWT premier Joe Handley.

"That would have been me," Russell said of her marksmanship.

While it was all fun and games, at the end of session, someone still had to clean up the aftermath.

"They took it in stride," Russell said of the cleaning staff who scraped up the leftover paper, but they were informed ahead of time this would be happening.

"One of the considerations was, 'do we use confetti or do we use paper?'" Russell said.

"Confetti would have made a mess."