Structural and Political Accountability
• Individual MLAs are accountable to the electorate every four years.
• The Premier, Cabinet Ministers and Speaker are accountable to the Assembly as a whole, which elects them in a meeting of the Territorial Leadership Committee.
Traditionally, candidates describe their goals and principles publicly in the House, for which they may be held accountable.
For the first time, the 18th Assembly developed and adopted a four-year Mandate for the government, which was tabled, debated, amended, and voted on in the House. The Mandate is much like a detailed party platform.
- The Assembly may revoke Cabinet and the Speaker’s appointments at any time by a majority vote.
- The 18th Assembly opted to do a mid-term review of the Mandate and Ministers’ performance in the Fall of 2017.
The process included a review of progress on Mandate commitments by the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning, and a progress report from Cabinet. Both were tabled: http://www.assembly.gov.nt.ca/sites/default/files/cr_12-182.pdf http://www.assembly.gov.nt.ca/sites/default/files/td_389-182.pdf
The process also included questions and answers during a Mid-Term Review Committee meeting in the House, finishing with a vote of confidence or nonconfidence in the leadership of Cabinet, and in each Minister.
- The Assembly may “censure” the Premier or a Minister for particular actions or conduct, and determine the form it may take.
- Ministers are partially accountable to the Premier, who may shuffle portfolios or remove responsibilities from a Minister. However, the Premier cannot remove a Minister from cabinet; that may only be done by a vote of the Assembly.
- Functionally, Ministers are partially accountable to Cabinet and the Financial Management Board.
• Chairs of standing committees are elected by committee members, who may vote to replace the chair.
• Currently, standing committees are mandated to review departmental/ministerial activity and performance, and provide advice. This includes in-depth reviews of annual departmental Business Plans, Main Estimates, and Capital Estimates.
• Main Estimates and appropriation acts deliver funding to do the work described in more detail in the annual departmental Business Plans. This funding must be approved by a vote in the House. Budget items may be deleted by motion and vote. Supplementary appropriations are reviewed and voted on in similar fashion.
• Legislation: priorities are set by the government, often with feedback from standing committees. Legislative Proposals are reviewed by standing committees, which provide non-binding advice. Bills are reviewed by standing committees, which may recommend amendments for ministerial acceptance, or propose amendments for debate and vote in the House.
OTHER STRUCTURAL FACTORS
• Size of legislature and Cabinet: currently, Cabinet requires the votes of three regular members to achieve a majority, and two votes for items considered in Committee of the Whole. Changing the number of regular members to Cabinet members affects the balance of power, ease of governing, and degree of accountability. More regular members, fewer Cabinet members, or both, would force broader consensus and greater accountability, but reduce the ease of governing.