News April 4, 2008

Standing Committee Members Clarify Role in Proposed Public Service Cuts

(Yellowknife) April 4, 2008 – The Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning, comprised of all Regular Members, is responding to implications that Members had detailed information before the potential cuts to the public service were announced. The Committee feels strongly that Members of Cabinet have not been forthcoming with information, contrary to the spirit of consensus government. 

Committee Chair Jane Groenewegen says, “To be clear, when the Premier approached Regular Members seeking agreement to focus on government affordability and sustainability, Regular Members bought in on the premise they’d be participants in the ensuing decisions. That did not happen. That’s a serious affront to the spirit of consensus government and one which Committee Members are not prepared to tolerate.” 

Cabinet assured Committee Members during the February sitting of the Assembly that their input would be included in decisions surrounding position or spending reductions. One week after the sitting ended, Members were notified that letters had already been sent to potentially affected employees. Days later, Members learned which communities would be affected and weeks passed before Members learned which positions the numbers represent. Mrs. Groenewegen says, “Committee Members received more information from our constituents and from the media than we did from our Cabinet colleagues. Constituents can’t believe their elected Members had no opportunity to comment or debate the proposed reductions.” 

Cabinet rationalizes its actions by saying the Budget Session will provide opportunity for dialogue and defends the early notification letters as “proactive communications’. But, the Committee feels the information sent to employees is too focused on reductions. Mrs. Groenewegen states, “This unfolded in a particularly offensive manner. We refute the insinuations Cabinet Ministers have made in the media that Committee Members were briefed in advance and are the architects of the reductions.” 

The Standing Committees are analyzing the 2008-09 draft main estimates and examining where the government proposes to reduce spending. Committee Members are vigilant about identifying priority areas with significant potential for savings, less impact to the public service, and potential for increased revenue. Mrs. Groenewegen says, “The Committee expects its input to be taken very seriously and to be included in the budget announcement on May 22nd.” 

For more information contact your Member of the Legislative Assembly or: 

Mrs. Jane Groenewegen, Chair 
Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning 
Legislative Assembly of the NWT 
P: 867-669-2292 or 867-874-6141 
F: 867-873-0276 or 874-6143 

Mr. Doug Schauerte, Deputy Clerk 
Legislative Assembly of the NWT 
P: 867-669-2287 or 1-800-661-0784 
F: 867-873-0276