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'Reverse' Ramsay on the defensive
Yellowknife area MLAs charge 'cannibalization' and 'sleight of hand' over Ingraham Trail Realignment project

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 25, 2012

Robert Hawkins, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, said his constituents have coined a new nickname for Transportation Minister David Ramsay.

The convening of the third session of the 17th legislative assembly got off to a quick start Wednesday as Hawkins traded barbs with Ramsay from across the room.

Hawkins said his constituents have taken to calling the minister "Reverse Ramsay," after seeing his dealings with the Negotiated Contracts Policy, specifically regarding the Ingraham Trail Realignment project.

"As we all know, Minister Ramsay has been consistently critical of sole-sourced contracts as a member in this assembly," said Hawkins on the first day of the third session. "But now that he's in cabinet, he's reversed his position."

Hawkins alleged the Negotiated Contracts Policy is just "sleight-of-hand" for sole-sourced contracts.

The $16-million contract for the Ingraham Trail project was awarded to the Det'on Cho Corporation and, while the details have not been finalized, Ramsay expects the contract to be signed by the end of the month.

Ramsay challenged Hawkins to find one example where he had stood up and criticized the Negotiated Contracts Policy, chiding Hawkins for confusing a sole-sourced contract with a negotiated contract.

"I challenge (Hawkins) to go in Hansard and find one example where I stood up as a member of this house and said one thing negative about a negotiated contract with an aboriginal company in the territory," said Ramsay.

Hawkins said his major concern was with the negotiated contract process and not specifically who was awarded the contract, and continued to press Ramsay on the matter.

"Clearly we can see how thin-skinned the minister is," said Hawkins.

Speaker Jackie Jacobson admonished the MLAs, demanding they remain civil during question period.

Ramsay said he found it difficult to maintain order while fielding questions with phrases such as "sleight of hand, little respect for taxpayers, embarrassment, insult, shameful, back door, dismal and cannibal."

"I take very seriously the allegations that we're insulting the public's intelligence and that we're doing things nefariously," said Ramsay.

Hawkins responded by calling a point of order prompted by Ramsay's use of the word "nefariously."

Earlier in the session, Range Lake MLA Darryl Dolynny questioned Ramsay about the perception that negotiated contracts will create overcapacity in the Northern construction industry.

"How (is the government) going to deal with the cannibalization of businesses competing desperately to stay alive and what is this government going to do when businesses start to close down when there's a lack of work," he asked.

Ramsay replied that future highway construction projects in the Yellowknife area will be tendered, but defended the present contract being negotiated with Det'on Cho Corp. as justified.

"This money is coming from the Giant Mine Remediation Fund," Ramsay said. "This is at the very doorstep of Chief Drygeese territory and nobody asked the Yellowknives Dene for 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide to be stored at the very foot of the Chief Drygeese territory."

Bob Bromley, Weledeh MLA, said if MLAs disagree with the Negotiated Contract Policy, they should have a discussion about it before it's applied to a project in their riding.

"This policy has regularly been applied appropriately across the territory with major benefits.

"A couple of my colleagues have questioned the application of this policy to the realignment of the road through Chief Drygeese territory. Rather than attacking the policy they have attacked the application," said Bromley.

He called the realignment project long overdue.

"With Giant Mine being on the doorstep of Chief Drygeese territory, having the Giant Mine liability fund the work for the realignment of Highway 4, it's the very least this government can do to help the Yellowknives Dene," said Bromley.

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