Negotiated contract feud heats up
Changes contradict land claim, says Nerysoo

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 16/99) - The GNWT is changing its policy on negotiated contracts to run counter to land claim agreements, according to one aboriginal leader.

According to Gwich'in Tribal Council president Richard Nerysoo, not only should relatively new aboriginal firms receive preferential treatment when the GNWT awards contracts, but the principle is set out in the Gwich'in comprehensive land claim agreement.

The agreement reads that the government of the NWT "shall consult with the Gwich'in Tribal Council" when developing modifications to its preferential contracting policies, procedures and approaches.

"There was never any consultation on this issue with us," said Nerysoo.

He continued by citing two main points in the land claim agreement. First, that the GNWT help the Gwich'in maintain and strengthen their traditional economy and second, that the Gwich'in should be economically self-sufficient.

"We've spent between $13 and $20 million in trying to establish these corporate entities. That's a huge amount of money," Nerysoo said.

"How do we get back our investment in these areas? If it's not possible, then it makes it very difficult for us to appreciate how governments are proceeding without consideration of it."

Recently in the legislature, Minister of Public Works and Services Vince Steen said the government adopted new negotiated policy guidelines in May.

"It outlines specifically that we have to identify benefits as far as economic benefits overall for the community, but also benefits in regards to employment opportunities within the community," Steen told the legislature.

Steen said communities have indicated they are capable of competing in a normal tender process and "based on that, we have been turning some of them down."

The negotiated contracts issue has been on-going for at least the past two years.

In May 1997, the legislative assembly passed a motion calling on the premier to clarify the government's position on government-wide non-competitive contracts by providing a draft policy on non-competitive contracts to standing committees.A