Committees have become an essential part of modern legislatures. They make the NWT Legislative Assembly more effective by allowing Members to look at issues in a detailed way. Committees occasionally travel to various parts of the Northwest Territories thereby taking the Legislature to the people. Committees can meet during Sessions or between Sessions. The Legislative Assembly has three types of committees - Committee of the Whole, Standing Committees and Special Committees.
Committee of the Whole
This committee consists of all the Members of the Assembly. It is the Assembly itself - but the proceedings are not as formal and have more flexible rules. The Deputy Speaker chairs Committee of the Whole in place of the Speaker. There are also two Deputy Chairpersons who assist the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
The Legislative Assembly refers many matters to the Committee of the Whole. For instance, all Bills are brought to the Committee after Second Reading where they are looked at very carefully and possibly changed.
All business discussed in Committee of the Whole is reported to the Assembly by the Chairman. The Assembly then decides whether to accept the Committee’s report and whether to adopt the decisions made in Committee of the Whole.
Standing Committees carry out much of the work of the Assembly, saving Members a considerable amount of time during sessions. They also help to ensure that all Members have the opportunity to voice their opinions on each issue.
The Board of Management, chaired by the Speaker, administers the Assembly support services and advises the Legislature on matters such as Members’ indemnities, benefits and allowances, and provide for the management and operation of the Office of the Legislative Assembly.
Special committees are created as needed by the Assembly. The Legislative Assembly determines the specific responsibilities of each special committee and identifies a specific time frame for the completion of their mandate.
For example, the 11th Assembly established three special committees to deal with each of the following matters: the northern economy; constitutional reform; and aboriginal languages. The Special Committee on Health and Social Services, Special Committee on Housing and the Special Committee on Division were set up during the 12th Assembly.
The 13th Assembly established a Special Committee on National Unity to co-ordinate consultations with Northerners on national constitutional matters. As well, the Special Committee on Western Identity was established to consider official symbols, heraldry, and other matters of identity as a result of the creation of the new Northwest Territories after division.
The 14th Assembly established Special Committees on the review of the Official Languages Act; the Implementation of Self-government and the Sunset Clause; non tax-based Community Affairs; and the Conflict Process.
The 15th and 16th Assemblies did not establish any Special Committees.
The 17th Assembly established the Special Committee on Transition Matters, which completed a report consisting of four parts: State of the NWT Economy and its Implications for GNWT Revenues, The Decision-Making Environment, Recommendations on Transition Processes and Consensus Government, and Recommendations on Priorities for the 18th Legislative Assembly.
The 18th Assembly established two special committees: The Special Committee to Increase the Representation of Women and the Special Committee on Transition Matters.