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Environment
Politics

Riding legislative logjam, non-profits wade in with website


What do you think about the Forest Act? Or the Mineral Resources Act? How about the Protected Areas Act? Or the Act to Bring New York Fries To Yellowknife Act?

OK, that last one isn't real (although it might be happening).

The rest, however, are all being shoved through the NWT's legislative system in a bid to make them law – and meet government commitments – before this fall's territorial election.

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They are among more than a dozen pieces of legislation on the conveyor belt, many of which are now being toured across the territory by MLAs, on committees, for public feedback.

However, several of the NWT's non-profits are concerned that residents simply won't know much about, or have time to digest, this many pieces of legislation at once – particularly those affecting industry and the environment.

Six of those groups have combined to launch a website designed, in their words, to help people understand "the unprecedented volume of environmental legislation that is scheduled to become law in the NWT this summer."

The site itself is maintained, and much of its wording provided by, Ecology North – a non-profit whose stated aim is "bringing people and knowledge together for a healthy northern environment."

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Other partners include Alternatives North, CPAWS, the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, and Mining Watch Canada.

The website breaks down nine bills so residents can:

  • access the bill's full text;
  • see when public hearings are taking place;
  • read MLAs' comments on the draft legislation;
  • read associated GNWT documents;
  • read submissions about the bill from other groups; and
  • access "expert review" of each bill.

The website is not yet complete: the groups themselves appear to be struggling with the volume of legislation, as many areas say text and documents are "coming soon."

Furthermore, the submissions and expert review sections appear to rely on the groups themselves and their own experts.

For example, it's difficult to find any contribution from the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines, or any industry groups, on the pages dedicated to the Mineral Resources Act. (The chamber did provide a submission when the act was in its proposed stage, and that submission is here.)

The groups stated in a news release they hope the website "leads to informed comments to improve these bills before they become law."

The title of the website – Responsible Legislation NWT – makes clear the groups' collective dissatisfaction with the amount of legislation being produced at a relatively late stage in the game, six months before the forthcoming election.

That issue has been raised previously by regular MLAs, too.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly, who is closely associated with several of the six non-profits, said in October he feared a backlog of legislation would lead the government to try to "ram things through" before the fall of 2019.

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