MS & Q: Open Gov’t Mtg in HR

closer-look

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the members of this Legislative Assembly have committed to improving government transparency and accountability as one of our top priorities. This commitment came about, in part, because of an historic election in which 11 first time members were elected. Residents of the Northwest Territories were clear that they wanted a change in the way business was done.

In response, Premier McLeod created a Minister Responsible for Public Engagement and Transparency and bestowed that title upon the Honourable Member from Thebacha. The Minister is developing an Open Government Policy and strategy to set consistent direction that will apply to all government departments.

To help develop the Policy, he is holding public meetings around the Territory. This Monday, February the 13th, the Minister will be in Hay River to hold a public meeting to gather input on what this strategy should look like. This gives residents a chance to have a hand in changing the way the government does business without having to wait until the next election to do it.

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Some people may be asking, “What is an Open Government Policy, and why should I care?” To me, open government is a way to allow citizens to hold government accountable by making government data and information accessible and easy to understand.

As an MLA, I can attest to the importance of access to data and the need for this policy. I have to make decisions based on the best information I have, and finding that information is a constant struggle.

Just imagine if you wanted to know how much infrastructure money flows to Inuvik, or to Fort Smith – an effective open government policy could allow you to go onto a website and pull up that information. Then, you could send that information to your MLA to hold up on the floor of the House so he could question the Ministers about why funding between regional centres seems so unbalanced. That’s just one example.

I encourage all residents of Hay River who want to change how the GNWT does business to attend the public meeting this Monday at 7:00 pm at the Ptarmigan Inn.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Questions

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, earlier I spoke about open government and the public consultation meeting that the Minister of Public Engagement and Transparency will be holding in Hay River this Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Ptarmigan Inn. I’ve been advertising this on Facebook, on my website, and my CA has printed posters, put them up around town. I’m working hard to get the word out so we 30 can get some people there because I think this is an important issue. Now I’ll give the Minister a chance to put in some work and sell this to the residents of Hay River. So my first question is: why should anyone care about open government? Thank you, Mr. Speaker. MR.

SPEAKER: Masi. Minister responsible for Public Engagement and Transparency.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: Well, I think that anyone and everyone should be concerned about open government. When we discussed the mandate early on in the — about a year and a half ago now almost, it was one of the essential items that we did discuss. In my mandate letter it was made clear that this is an important project for this government and for all of the Members of this House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SIMPSON: I was hoping for a bit more razzle-dazzle to really sell this.

—Laughter

Maybe if the Minister could be a little bit more descriptive. What can the public expect to discuss at this meeting?

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: This will be the second public meeting we’ve had. We had a meeting in December in Fort Smith and people raised a wide variety of matters, including engagement with the government, access to data, so I expect that those types of issues will be brought up in Hay River. I can advise that we will be visiting many of the other communities in the next month or two, so I expect a wide variety of matters to be discussed, open government, engagement, access to information being only three.

MR. SIMPSON: I know that the policy is still in development, hence the public engagement, but how does the Minister envision this policy rolling out? How will it look when it’s on the ground and it is being used by the departments?

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: I am sure it will look great. I don’t think we went into this with any preconceptions as to what the ultimate policy would look like. We looked at policies from other jurisdictions, but we really are engaging with the public, seeking their input, which will make the policy as good as possible. MR. SPEAKER: Oral questions. Member for Hay River North.

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has sold me. I will be there at the meeting on Monday night. My question is: when can we expect the policy to be completed, but, more importantly, when can we expect this to be implemented? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: It is in due course. Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that the Member opposite will be there on Monday. This may not be an item that engages the general public, so I am looking forward to informed information both from the Member opposite and for the people of Hay River. We have heard from some. We are expecting perhaps a dozen at least. As I said, we are going on quite a road show for this project. We are visiting a large number of communities. I would hope that we would have the policy completed by mid-year and shortly after were it implemented. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.