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Legislative Assembly briefs
MLA says GNWT losing millions in tobacco taxes

Galit Rodan
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Territorial government could be losing between $12 million and $15 million in tobacco tax revenues each year, according to Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny.

During Friday's meeting of the legislative assembly, Dolynny said a loophole in the system - "specifically, the manual self-reporting remains portion of the GNWT tax" - was leading to lost revenue from unreported tobacco sales. Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger said his department had spent more than 600 hours investigating the allegations and had determined there was a "reasonable assurance that the GNWT was collecting the required tobacco tax revenue."

Dolynny was unconvinced, however, and suggested that by having a single distributor for all tobacco coming into the NWT, the GNWT could ensure all cigarettes were accounted for and all taxes were collected.

Miltenberger said he would continue to discuss ways of improving the system but "I don't believe there's a silver bullet that will provide the type of certainty that the member asks for," he said.

Policy doesn't address 'working poor' - Bisaro

Administrative changes to the GNWT's Supplementary Health Benefits Policy have failed to address the plight of the working poor, said Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro Wednesday.

Bisaro said these residents still lack coverage because they have fallen through the cracks. They are not covered through their jobs, are not over 60 years old, are not Metis or status Indian, and are not on the health department's justified conditions list.

Bisaro asked Health Minister Tom Beaulieu for an update on the gap in coverage, saying MLAs hadn't received any new information since March 2011.

"We have to provide for all of our residents equally," she said. "We're not doing that now and it's time for action."

Beaulieu said his department was "bringing information together to try to fill that gap" but had yet to analyze the costs involved in providing the working poor with coverage.

"It's not going to be in this business plan so I will commit to the member that we can do the costing for the next business plan," said Beaulieu.

The previous legislative assembly attempted to include the working poor in a new supplementary health benefits policy, but changes were scrapped after seniors protested over plans to implement a user pay system.

Bromley wants squatters out of Prelude

Concerns over what Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley called a declining quality of experience at the Prelude Lake campground prompted him to ask Tourism Minister David Ramsay Feb. 13 about his forthcoming management plan for the park.

Bromley said parking and dock use were maxed out, in part because of squatters using the facilities.

Ramsay said his department had begun drafting a comprehensive management plan for the park but that he would have to consult with his staff for more information on how far the work had progressed.

Ramsay admitted that parks are often low on the list of priorities for capital dollars and said the GNWT should "try to identify capital dollars in a meaningful way going forward that are going to have an impact on our parks."

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