Sunday, February 8, 2009

Floyd and the boys live to see another day

Floyd and his cabinet live to see another day.

Here in the NWT the government almost fell. 10-8 with the speaker speaking to the motion but not voting it. That means that  44% of the elected MLA's were against the government (8/18) It was a good thing that all of the cabinet was there to vote. 

Premier Roland just served a three game suspension in the Yellowknife Hockey League and the Sargent-at-Arms was ready to break up any brawls. You'll see that there are boards and glass set up and the wrestling mat is the bear skin rug.  

I've heard the Legislature called the NWT Spaceship before and here is a blog which explains the bulding and it's history.

Next up if the vote on the budget. We'll see how that goes.

N.W.T. Premier Floyd Roland survives non-confidence motion in legislature

YELLOWKNIFE — A humbled premier of the Northwest Territories promised a more conciliatory government after surviving a non-confidence vote Friday that could have seen him and his entire cabinet booted from office.

The motion, which was defeated 10-8, had been tabled by disgruntled politicians who said they had been treated badly.

Floyd Roland and his cabinet can now get back to the business of passing the budget, which was introduced Thursday.

"I think the message is before us," said the premier as he addressed the legislature before the vote. "We have to change the way we do business and I'm prepared to make the change."

The upheaval in the territorial legislature came two months after the Canadian government nearly fell to a coalition of opposition parties.

Under the rules of the N.W.T.'s consensus-style government, the premier and cabinet are chosen by all the members of the legislature after every general election. They may be dismissed at any time in a similar vote.

The motion was originally tabled Wednesday by Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen, the day before the government introduced its budget. Groenewegen, who leads the caucus of MLAs who aren't in cabinet, said those members felt the executive was withholding information from them and not including them in policy formation.

Groenewegen refused to back down despite sensing the vote wasn't going her way.

"I think the solution for this problem is for the premier to resign and let someone else take over the job," she told the house.

The vote came after impassioned and soul-searching speeches from all 19 members of the legislature about how to deal with the divisions that have plagued this assembly. The Speaker also spoke to the motion, but did not vote.

"We simply can't afford to continue to operate in this fashion," said Justice Minister Jackson Lafferty. "We simply cannot be changing leadership every time we get pissed off at one or two ministers."

Transportation Minister Michael McLeod told the house that the future of consensus government could be at stake.

"When it works, it works well," he said. "But when people don't respect it, it won't work at all. We're starting to see our consensus-style of government brought to a standstill."

But a long string of perceived slights were tough for some of the legislature members to forgive.

Groenewegen has accused the cabinet of misleading the house over contracts for a $155-million bridge across the Mackenzie River.

Roland, elected as premier in October 2007, initially told Groenewegen that the government's only financial exposure was a $9-million loan guarantee. It later emerged that the territory could be on the hook for much more if toll revenues for the bridge don't meet projections. That prospect is becoming more likely as cooling commodity markets slow northern industrial traffic.

Members also said the government didn't consult with them over plans to cut the civil service, restructure health and education boards and reduce health benefits to seniors. Members learned about the plans from their constituents, Groenewegen said.

Members also have concerns about a $34-million bailout to N.W.T.-based Discovery Air.

Many northerners expressed strong concerns about creating more turmoil and uncertainty at a time when the floundering economy seems to be creating plenty of both. The N.W.T. Chamber of Commerce urged members to vote to support the government.

Jacobson was one of several members who described the number of calls, including some at 2 a.m., he received from constituents urging him to stand up for Roland and his cabinet. He may have summed up the mood of the house when he said he'd vote against the motion, despite his disregard for the premier and cabinet.

"Notice has been given. You guys better start doing your jobs and serving the people. I'm giving you guys one more chance."

Last December, the federal Liberals and New Democrats banded together and threatened to bring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government over measures contained in the fall fiscal update. Harper avoided a non-confidence vote when he persuaded the Governor General to prorogue Parliament. The coalition dissolved when the Conservatives came back after the session resumed last week and brought in a spending-rich budget.

Former N.W.T. premier Stephen Kakfwi also faced non-confidence motions in 2001 and 2002. Roland was the only member to vote in favour of removing Kakfwi in the 2001 vote, saying he he had grown too arrogant.

No comments: