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NNSL Photo/graphic

The three-member NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission (left to right); Eddie Erasmus, chairperson Justice John Vertes and Rod O'Brien visited Inuvik Monday evening to get community input. - Jason Unrau/NNSL photo

More or less government?

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Mar 03/06) - Apart from a Gwich'in translator and the press, only one Inuvik resident turned up at the NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission public input session at Ingamo Hall Monday evening.

"There's so much happening and this somewhat explains the lack of response," said commission chair Justice John Vertes of low turnouts in many communities.

According to the commission members, nobody turned up for similar meetings in Fort Smith and Hay River, and just six people attended the first session in Yellowknife.

The commission's mandate is to write a recommendation to the legislative assembly about electoral districts' size, boundaries, names and whether or not the NWT could use more or fewer MLAs.

The lone community member in attendance, Paul Komaromi, thought that adding more MLAs was the last thing the territory needed.

"A lot of the MLAs aren't effective right now, not showing up, so we don't really need more," he said.

"Less would be better because we're over-governed already."

When the commission was asked what kinds of things people from other communities were saying, Vertes had this to say.

"What we've been confronted with in the NWT is the expression from people in larger communities would like to leave things the same, and from smaller communities we're hearing that they don't have enough say," he said.

Vertes also noted what he felt was an overall lack of knowledge many NWT residents had about what functions municipal, aboriginal and territorial governments served.

"We've encountered a great deal of confusion as to what respective roles of the legislature, band councils and municipal governments are," he said. "Also many people weren't sure the difference between land claim, regional and electoral boundaries."

The commission says it will table its report to the legislative assembly April 24. People unable to attend the remaining meetings can make written submissions.

According to the NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, these consultations are supposed to happen once every eight to 10 years.

The last one was done in 1998, prior to the creation of Nunavut, which saw Yellowknife's 26-seat legislative assembly reduced to 14. Following the 1998 NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission report, the legislative assembly decided to add five seats - one in Hay River, one in Inuvik, one in Yellowknife and one in the newly-created Weledeh riding.

When the Drum asked Gwich'in translator Liz Hansen if the meeting was useful, she chuckled.

"I don't think so. Nobody's interested in boundaries," she said. "We need more services rather than more government."