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Legislature briefs

Mike Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 22/04) - Former premier candidate and Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Roger Allen says it's time the NWT looks at becoming a province.

Allen questioned Premier Joe Handley on the difficulties of obtaining provincial status Tuesday and demanded to know whether Handley would be willing to send a bill of intent to Ottawa.

He said his constituents have lost faith in the current devolution process, and becoming a province may be the only way to ensure the NWT gets its fair share of resource revenue.

"This has been an exhausting exercise and could be classified as futile in effort," Allen said in his member's statement.

Handley said, however, that the government has no plans other than to follow the devolution process between aboriginal governments, the GNWT and Ottawa.

"I really believe we have to take it step by step," Handley said. "I fully intend to do everything we can to bring this to a conclusion during the life of this government."

Where the buffalo roam

MLA for Tu Nedhe, Bobby Villeneuve, wondered aloud last Wednesday whether the day will ever come when golfers find themselves competing with bison out on the back nine.

"The issue has probably been roaming in the minds of Northern drivers," said Villeneuve.

"It will soon be roaming on the minds of many NWT golfers and probably residents of Yellowknife, if not addressed soon."

Villeneuve said the increasing bison population is making Northern driving more treacherous every year. He asked the minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, Brendan Bell, whether the government intends to develop a management plan to keep NWT motorists safe.

Bell said his department is working closely with the Department of Transportation to find a way to keep bison off the roads.

"Unfortunately, it's nice travelling on the highways and probably relatively bug-free," Bell said.

Divided resources

It will likely be some time before a plan to divide the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development comes to fruition.

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen raised the matter in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.

She wanted to know what benefits the NWT would receive from splitting the economic development and environmental branches of the department.

"We've been so focused on economic development, the need to train people," Bell said.

"But we can't lose sight of the need to also protect the environment."

Bell said splitting the department is still under consideration, adding that the legislative assembly will be notified once the government makes a final decision.