Whitehorse Daily Star

Legislature resurrects dormant committee

After years of it not meeting, the territory's government and opposition parties have reached an agreement to move forward with the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges (SCREP).

By Whitehorse Star on November 28, 2006

After years of it not meeting, the territory's government and opposition parties have reached an agreement to move forward with the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges (SCREP).

'We have taken the first step in our legislative renewal that we committed to,' Government House Leader Brad Cathers said Monday following a motion being tabled in the legislature announcing the appointments to the committee.

On the government side, Klondike MLA Steve Nordick, Whitehorse West MLA Elaine Taylor and Cathers, the Lake Laberge MLA, will sit on the committee. One of them will be elected to serve as the chair, but will continue to participate in all votes.

Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias, Kluane MLA Gary McRobb and Mount Lorne MLA Steve Cardiff will sit on the committee for the opposition.

A key point of contention for years has been the opposition's insistence that the government's representation be equalized with their own.

'The opposition parties didn't want to enter into a meeting where they can be outvoted on new rules that affect the legislature,' said Opposition House Leader McRobb.

SCREP is tasked with reviewing changes to the standing orders that regulate the conduct of the legislative assembly.

'In the future, neither government nor opposition will have the majority on that committee and will be working collaboratively on changes to the rules regarding the assembly,' said Cathers.

'We have agreed to this and certainly it's something that opposition has been concerned about for quite a number of years.'

In the end, agreeing to the structure of the committee proved to be a fairly easy process at the meetings of the house leaders, said Cardiff, the NDP's representative.

'This is something we've talked about for a long time. We couldn't get an agreement from the last session,' said Cardiff. 'There seemed to be more of a willingness to talk about that.'

All parties have been putting forth an effort during the first sitting of the 32nd legislature, which began last Thursday afternoon, to demonstrate a greater degree of co-operation.

'All parties recognize there's something happening right now and it's like a mood of co-operation,' said McRobb. 'The atmosphere has been politically discharged to a large extent.'

McRobb tabled a motion last Thursday asking the house to work to make the legislature a more productive place and allow all parties to work in greater co-operation for the betterment of the public.

'It doesn't hurt to try being more co-operative and hopefully it will lead to more co-operation and more sharing of information so that we can all do our jobs,' said Cardiff. 'I think there are a number of issues around how we do our jobs that the standing committee can address.'

McRobb said the agreement of the government to equalize the committee is a good gesture.

The motion on the appointments to the committee is still expected to go through a brief debate in the legislative assembly, but SCREP is expected to meet prior to the end of the fall sitting on Dec. 13.

The committee wants to give some direction to the clerk's office to do some research in relation to legislative reform initiatives, said McRobb.

They could range from discussion regarding the use of lap tops in the assembly to changing the system of debate on bills to using committees.

Working together in the house and the reinstatement of SCREP should permit MLAs to do their jobs better, said Cardiff, and hopefully provide more information-sharing and better use of time.

'We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard,' he said. 'It's not to say you don't ask tough questions or the government doesn't get embarrassed.

'It's so we don't all look like a bunch of kids fighting. When you get past some of that, there's an opportunity to be more efficient in the way we do the public's business.'

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