News March 6, 2014

Legislative Assembly to Debate Term Extension

(YELLOWKNIFE)  Thursday, March 6, 2014 – The Legislative Assembly is planning to debate a request to Canada to extend the maximum term of the current Assembly to five years.

A motion was introduced today in the Legislative Assembly by the Member for Hay River South and seconded by the Government House Leader to request that Canada amend the Northwest Territories Act to increase the maximum term of the current Legislative Assembly from 4 to 5 years. Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, extends the maximum term of future Legislative Assemblies to 5 years, but does not apply to the current Assembly.

The reason for the request is concern about overlap of federal, territorial and municipal elections in October 2015. It is anticipated that the overlap could lead to communication and administrative problems, as well as reducing voter participation in all 3 elections.

The motion also calls for the Legislative Assembly’s Board of Management to introduce a Bill to defer the next election to October 2016. This Bill cannot proceed unless Parliament first makes the requested amendment to the Northwest Territories Act.

The motion will be debated on Monday, March 10th.

For more information, please contact:

Jane Groenewegen, MLA for Hay River South
Legislative Assembly of the NWT
Phone: 867-669-2292

J. Michael Miltenberger, Government House Leader
Legislative Assembly of the NWT
Phone: 867-669-2355


Background Information on Motion to Request the Government of Canada to Extend the Maximum Term of the 17th Assembly

What changes are in Bill C-15?

Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, is federal legislation that includes a new Northwest Territories Act. One of its provisions makes the maximum term of the Legislative Assembly 5 years instead of 4, beginning with the 18th Legislative Assembly.

What is the motion requesting?

The motion is requesting that Canada make a further amendment so that the maximum 5-year term will apply to the current NWT Legislative Assembly as well as future Assemblies. This would give the NWT the same flexibility with respect to its election dates as the other two territories. The Nunavut Legislative Assembly has had a maximum 5 year term since 1999. The Yukon Legislative Assembly has had a maximum 5 year term since 2003.

Does this mean the 17th Assembly will continue for another year?

No, not automatically. To make the 17th Assembly continue past October 2015, changes to the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act would have to be made. The means the NWT Legislative Assembly would have to publicly debate and pass a Bill to change the election date.

Why should the 17th Assembly continue longer than 4 years?

There is concern that a number of NWT municipal elections, the territorial election and the next federal election are all scheduled within a few weeks of each other in October 2015. This could lead to confusion and frustration for candidates and voters as each election has different rules, and campaign messages and other communications regarding the three elections could become mixed. It might also reduce voter turnout in all the elections.

The overlap also raises administrative problems, such as finding suitable office space and recruiting election workers, since in many communities the same people often work federal, territorial and/or municipal elections.

For these same reasons, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which were scheduled to have elections in the fall of 2015, have already passed legislation to defer their elections to the spring of 2016 unless the federal election date changes. The Premier of Prince Edward Island has publicly announced that they plan to do the same.

Why not just extend the 17th Assembly to the spring of 2016?

The Assembly had a lot of discussion about the best time to hold elections when the fixed election date was set in 2006. It was agreed that October was the best time to hold elections when the timing of school holidays, traditional harvesting activities, the budget cycle, and the coldest weather were taken into account.

Are there any other reasons the 17th Assembly should continue longer than 4 years?

The 17th Assembly is unusual in that devolution of lands and resources responsibilities to the GNWT is taking place during our term. This is a major undertaking and the implementation process is very complex. A potential benefit of continuing the Assembly for another year is that it would provide stability during the critical period for devolution implementation.