Political solution is still possible
Talks with Aboriginal Summit could help, MLAs say

Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 05/99) - A political solution to the impasse generated by the legislative assembly's refusal to accept increased representation for Yellowknife is still possible.

Yellowknife MLAs say such a solution could still be achieved through ongoing talks with the Aboriginal Summit in the coming weeks and months.

The assembly's Western Caucus rejected a political solution to the impasse, put forth by Yellowknife-Frame Lake MLA Charles Dent in December, during a meeting last week.

Dent has proposed Yellowknife should receive three more MLAs while Hay River and Inuvik receive one more each.

Despite the defeat when Dent's proposal was put in front of the whole Western Caucus, city MLAs say the issue won't be going away.

"I'm not going to give up," Dent said on Monday.

His colleagues Seamus Henry and Roy Erasmus agreed.

"I'm hoping there's a little room to move yet," Henry said, pointing to ongoing discussions with the Aboriginal Summit.

Erasmus made similar comments. He pointed to the passage of a motion by the assembly last year which called for the creation of a Western Political Accord. Since talks towards this are still under way with the Aboriginal Summit, representation for Yellowknife is still on the agenda, he said.

On Tuesday, western MLAs and Aboriginal leaders re-affirmed their commitment to work together towards achieving a political accord for the west. A small working group from both sides has been set up to begin discussions on the establishment of a political accord.

"During those discussions, we'll be talking about that (electoral representation)," Erasmus said.

Aboriginal Summit co-chair, Gary Bohnet agreed.

"It may be one of the issues that is discussed," he said Wednesday. "Everything is on the table when we're talking about a political accord. We don't want changes in governance without our consent."

A court case, launched by the Yellowknife-based group, Friends of Democracy is now before the NWT Supreme Court. They argue Yellowknife residents are constitutionally guaranteed additional MLAs.