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NWT regulatory boards running on empty
Eleven of the territory's 13 regulatory boards have vacancies to fill, MP says

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 1, 2011

Nearly every regulatory board in the NWT has vacancies to fill, leaving them without the expertise and power to function properly, according to Dennis Bevington, MP for the Western Arctic.

Of the territory's 13 regulatory boards, only two are functioning with full membership.

Bevington said the blame for this can be placed squarely on the shoulders of John Duncan, minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Duncan has to appoint members following nominations from the GNWT, Gwich'in Tribal Council, Tlicho or any other governing group with a stake in the board.

"The government is playing it as a bit of a waiting game," Bevington said.

"Minister (John Duncan) can say yes or no to them, or he can keep them waiting to give up and put somebody else in, and that's kind of going against the spirit and intent of the thing."

The Gwich'in Renewable Resource Board is an extreme example of a board in dire need of more warm bodies.

Since 2010 it has only had half its voting positions filled, and no chair.

"It's not ideal. We are only making operational-type decisions. We're holding off on other decisions that can wait until we have full membership," said Amy Thompson, executive director of the board.

In order to have quorum, a board needs at least five members.

Bevington sat on the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board from 1999 to 2001 and said the minister's slow appointment process is scaring good candidates away.

"The minister should recognize that most of the people being nominated are trusted and respected. They've put forward their best people," he said.

"The ministers role should mostly be to make sure the nominee is in order and then get them appointed."

Madalina Carlea, a spokesperson for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, said it's important to carefully consider candidates and follow the appointment process laid out in legislation.

"Ensuring boards have quorum is a shared responsibility between the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and Aboriginal organizations," she wrote in an emailed statement.

Two federal reports, one released in 2008 and another released in 2010, have made recommendations to speed up board appointments.

The 2010 report of the standing committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said that to do so, the government should stagger appointments, extend board members' terms and streamline the nomination and appointment process.

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