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Anti-super board motion defeated
Weledeh MLA's attempt to preserve regional land and water boards after devolution voted down 11 to seven

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 24, 2014

A motion to preserve the NWT's regional land and water boards was defeated in the legislative assembly on Thursday afternoon.

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley put forward the motion in an attempt to mitigate the impact of Federal Bill C-15.

Bill C-15, which must be passed in order for devolution to come into effect on April 1 will also lead to the consolidation of the territory's regional boards into a single super board after the federal government decided to lump the two pieces of legislation into an omnibus bill last December.

While Bromley conceded that territorial legislation can not supersede a federal bill, he hoped the motion would create an opportunity negotiate the reinstatement of the regional boards in the likely event that Bill C-15 was passed.

"The issue here is not C-15," he said. "This motion has nothing to do with that. It assumes that C-15 will pass. This takes place in preparation for that."

Bromley's motion set a 120-day limit for cabinet to negotiate a new agreement that would allow the territory to retain its regional offices after devolution. Speaking in favour of the motion, Bromley said the regional boards have been fulfilling their purpose up until now and that the federal government shouldn't try to fix something that isn't broken.

He added that merging of the two bills, which occurred several months after the NWT voted in favour of signing on to the devolution agreement, ignored the voices of those who spoke out against the creation of a single super board.

"(Our) most important role is to listen to our public, to our people, and respond to their desires," he said.

"This motion is a response to the crystal clear and unanimous voices of our aboriginal partners, who between them constitute the greater part of the residents in the Northwest Territories. It's in response to the many residents who have spoken clearly through groups like Alternatives North, the Unions and Ecology North, and as individual citizens," said Bromley, adding that the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines recently spoke in favour of retaining the regional boards.

Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli, who was the only member to vote against devolution last summer, seconded Bromley's motion.

He said getting rid of regional boards would do a disservice to aboriginal groups, especially those with unsettled land claims.

"Every inch that has been gained has been a long-fought battle for land claims

groups," he said.

"This motion is at least gesture of ensuring that there's another body we stand for and that includes regional voices."

All regular MLAs, except for Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen, spoke to the motion, with five voicing their support of it.

Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake Jr. said he could not support the motion because two of the aboriginal groups in his riding have signed on to the devolution agreement.

"Those are binding agreements," he said. "Anyone knows that there are deal-breakers in any agreement and this is one of them."

Premier Bob Mcleod spoke on behalf of cabinet in denouncing the motion. He pointed out that Bromley's case against the dissolution of the regional boards contained "factual errors" and said he misunderstood how the new territorial board would work.

"There is no reason to believe that a single board would not be as efficient or effective as a series of smaller boards," he said.

He explained that even as boards are consolidated, board members will continue to be chosen from across the territory. He added that the centralized board would also continue to consult with local government's and residents regarding future resource developments.

On the other hand, he reminded the assembly that board members "are not there to protect the region or government but are tasked with assessing projects in the best interest in the public."

"This won't change," he said.

Despite Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins' plea for Minister to "remove the shackles of cabinet solidarity," all ministers joined the premier in voting against the motion.

In the end, it was defeated by an 11 to seven vote, with Bromley, Nadli, Hawkins, Wendy Bisaro, Kevin Meincoche, Norman Yakeleya, and Alfred Moses in favour.

A motion to strike the MVRMA from Bill C-15 introduced by Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington was also defeated in parliament last week.

The bill has received third reading and is currently under review in the Senate.

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