N.W.T. Legislative Assembly reconvenes with progress on legislation and land claims as priorities
Territorial MLAs will review Lottery Act, discuss cannabis legalization in spring sitting
With two years down and two to go, MLAs will head into the latest session of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly with passing legislation — and making progress on land claims — top of mind.
The assembly will reconvene its third session Wednesday afternoon. It's expected to sit until March 15.
Scheduled is the presentation of the 2018/2019 budget, a public hearing on the Western Canada Lottery Act, and reviews of annual reports by the territory's languages commissioner and human rights commission.
However, Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne is looking forward to getting down to business passing legislation — and the lack of it passed by the assembly thus far.
"It's those legislative pieces we feel are a little bit behind," he said. "There's any number of them. There's the Parks Act ... in this assembly you will see us working on the Lottery Act. Of course, there is cannabis."
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"There is a number of different pieces that we feel, by this stage of the term, it would be nice to see them at more advanced stages, or ... even passed."
The government has also committed to settle three outstanding land claims during its term, something Vanthuyne says he would also like to see progress on.
"Those are commitments that we said we would see through in this assembly," he said. "And so it would be becoming of us to really continue to pressure along those lines to see those negotiations come forward."
The assembly's mandate includes a list of 230 commitments — including working to settle land claims — and has posted the progress on each pledge to its website.
So far, it's fulfilled 55 commitments. There are 175 remaining, with nine in the planning stages and 166 in progress.
Aurora College review extended
During this session, work will continue on a foundational review of Aurora College. However, its deadline for completion was extended to March 31 — the assembly only sits until March 15.
Proposed cuts to both the college's social work and teacher education programs for 2017/2018 were put on hold while the review is taking place. The programs are not currently accepting new students.
Daniel McNeely, the MLA for the Sahtu, says that he's hoping for an update on federal dollars being negotiated for a highway in the region — another commitment by the assembly.
"Those negotiations are still under way," he said. "And I feel the conclusion should be this year, with distribution and implementation of construction in the upcoming election year."
With files from Mitch Wiles