Government says no to Morin motion
Cabinet will not appeal ruling but will seek extension

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 26/99) - The government is standing firm on its decision not to appeal Supreme Court Justice Mark de Weerdt's recent ruling on electoral boundaries.

Deputy Premier Goo Arlooktoo announced in the legislature Thursday that though the house passed a motion the day before recommending the government appeal, "we have reviewed legal advice and we have come to the conclusion that the government does not have grounds to appeal the decision."

But Arlooktoo confirmed the government would pursue a five-month extension Monday on the March 31 deadline to comply with the ruling -- a move announced by Premier Jim Antoine on Wednesday.

"If the application is not successful, we will immediately go to the court of appeal to ask it to grant the extension," Arlooktoo said.

Arlooktoo also stressed the government would support the appeal of any other party to the March 5 ruling, particularly the Intervenor group represented by the Aboriginal Summit.

But Arlooktoo also implied that the summit may have overstepped an invisible line in arguing its case.

"Some people may ask why the government doesn't appeal on behalf of the Aboriginal Summit," he said. "Mr. Speaker, part of the summit's argument to the court was that the territorial government is illegitimate -- As the government that represents the interests of all NWT residents, how could we agree with that?"

And while the legislature has contended with the question whether to appeal, Bill 15 is simultaneously making its way through the house, in order to comply with the ruling that the present system of electoral boundaries is unconstitutional. Bill 15 proposes redrawing riding boundaries and adding five seats to the legislature -- three to Yellowknife and one each for Hay River and Inuvik.

The proposal had attracted opposition from regional and aboriginal leaders, and it was Tu Nedhe MLA Morin who sponsored Wednesday's appeal motion.

In a sometimes blunt, sometimes emotional speech, Morin set out his arguments for an appeal and stay in the proceedings, mainly relying on the issues of time and trust.

"In 26 years, the issues of land-claims and self-government have not been settled," said the MLA for Tu Nedhe. "But the judge has given us 26 days to change the boundaries."