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MLAs discuss vision for a new year in legislature

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 23/02) - Pledging to do as much in their fourth year of service as in the previous three, the 19 members of the legislative assembly have settled on a game plan for the coming session which includes passing a number of long-awaited bills.

NNSL photo

Bill Braden: "We don't get into fistfights."

The full caucus sat for about 12 hours of intensive meetings at the Tl'oondih Healing Camp at the beginning of this week. The camp is about an hour away from Fort McPherson on the Peel River.

"The emphasis that we want to highlight in our fourth year will be assisting small communities in their infrastructure and wellness," said Bill Braden, caucus chair.

Braden said members outlined several key goals for the coming year, including:

Caucus also urged the premier and cabinet to continue lobbying the federal government on infrastructure money, pipeline preparedness and issues related to devolution of government powers -- including the ability to assess royalties on extraction activities in the territory.

Braden emphasized that the main functions of caucus meetings are "planning and priority setting," not working on budgets or specific issues relating to legislation.

As general advice, they also do not include any indication of timelines for completion.

Caucus recommended the next territorial election be held Nov. 24, 2003. And with thoughts of an end of mandate in the air, Braden said members also discussed transition issues.

One of the questions asked was, "What are the things that we're not going to be able to complete and will have to package and prepare for the next assembly," he said.

Some of those include a number of land claims agreements and modernizing the Liquor Act.

"Some things may go just like clockwork, some may be sidelined, some may be accelerated," Braden said. "We have to give ourselves some room for things to change and adjust."

The meeting was part of the government's effort to meet in different parts of the territory. In previous years, caucus meetings have taken place in Fort Providence, Yellowknife and Hay River. Members participated in a community feast with residents of Fort McPherson on Aug. 20.

Braden said the tone of the caucus meeting was "pretty respectful."

"We don't get into fistfights," he said.