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Sunset clause stirs debate

Committee receives mixed messages

Malcolm Gorrill
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 08/02) - The fate of the sunset clause was discussed at a public hearing in Inuvik Jan. 29.

A small group of people turned out for the hearing, held at the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex by the special committee on the implementation of self government and the sunset clause.

NNSL Photo

The special committee on the implementation of self government and the sunset clause held a public hearing Jan. 29 in Inuvik. Shown speaking is committee member, and Great Slave MLA, Bill Braden. - Malcolm Gorrill/NNSL photo

Four members of the committee were on hand, including co-chair, and Range Lake MLA, Sandy Lee. Others present were Great Slave MLA Bill Braden, Hay River North MLA Paul Delorey and MLA North Slave MLA Leon Lafferty.

Committee co-chair, and Nehendeh MLA, Jim Antoine was not present.

Lee explained that for now the special committee is focusing just on the sunset clause.

The clause was put in place by the previous assembly, as changes were made to the number of seats in the legislature. The number was 24 before the creation of Nunavut in 1999. This number went down to 14 after division, but after much debate, five more seats were added.

Of these new seats, three were based in Yellowknife. Inuvik and Hay River picked up an additional seat each.

Lee explained the sunset clause was put in place to force the current assembly to reexamine the issue, in part because of the impact that land claim and self-government agreements will have upon the role of the GNWT. She said it was felt the sunset clause would encourage the territorial and federal governments to resolve outstanding land claims and self government negotiations.

For discussion purposes, Lee's committee suggested two options for dealing with the sunset clause -- repeal or cancel it, and thus maintain the status quo, or extend the timeline on the clause. That would mean the next assembly would have to reexamine the issue of the number of electoral districts.

Mixed advice

The first presenter, Inuvik Mayor Peter Clarkson, informed the committee of what council had agreed to the day before.

"The current structure and the current numbers that exist in the territorial government, it's functional and it's operational," Clarkson said.

"We felt that the sunset clause should be repealed or cancelled, and the government could (then) get on with governing the territories and not delay it and have to spend a bunch more money coming back in three or four years and asking again."

Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Floyd Roland raised concerns about the possibility of creating a boundary commission perhaps as often as every four years, and said this could lead to a lot more seats being added.

"A formula almost kicks in place and just keeps adding more seats," Roland said.

He said the system works with 19 members, and noted that the current structure has not been in place very long.

"We should let it play out a little longer."

Fred Carmichael, president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, said the sunset clause should be extended, though he pointed out he was speaking on this matter as a private citizen, and not on behalf of the GTC.

After the meeting Carmichael explained that by removing the sunset clause, there's no incentive for governments to hurry things along regarding land claim and self government negotiations.

"We're still a long ways from self government," Carmichael said. "If we throw out the sunset clause, I'm afraid it may take forever."

Informal sessions

After the meeting Lee said the evening had been a good session, and that all their meetings had been pretty informal.

"I don't know what it's going to come down to by the time it's done," Lee said.

The special committee is to submit recommendations on the sunset clause during the next session of the legislature, which starts later this month.

The special committee visited Aklavik Jan. 30 and thus had visited all communities north of Deline. The committee was to hold a hearing in Fort Providence Feb. 5.