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MLA wanting an Arms length Board of Governers for Aurora College

Updated: Feb 17

HANSARD

UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES


MEMBER'S STATEMENT ON AURORA COLLEGE BOARD OF GOVERNORS MR. LAFFERTY:

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] I want to make a statement on the Aurora College Act. It is stated that the Aurora Board of Governors make a decision. It is written that we say, the Aurora College Act, it's a big act for us. If we were to take a look at that act, we need to all work together in order to go forward. [Translation ends.]


The Aurora College Act gives the governance of Aurora College to our board of governors to guide the college's overall direction and supervise the college president in the exercise of his or her duties. Mr. Speaker, that act is based on a very important philosophy. The college should be run by an arm's-length representative body of qualified citizens, separate from the government bureaucracy. Mr. Speaker, under such esteemed board members such as Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Kathy T'setso, Yacoub Adam, Ted Blondin, and Paul Andrews, and many, many others, the college prospered for many years under the arm's-length philosophy.


Then suddenly, on June 5, 2017, with little explanation, the Minister of the day, Minister of education, dissolved the Board of Governors of Aurora College. That was some 32 months ago, almost three years without operating from a board of governors or committee representatives.


The Minister at the time described the board's suspension as a temporary measure. Now, we find out from the Premier, just a few days ago, that this temporary measure may last for another 18 months or so. That makes for a total of four years or more, four years of government-by-bureaucracy at Aurora College. Mr. Speaker, this is hardly y a "temporary measure." I will have questions for the appropriate Minister at the appropriate time. Masi, Mr. Speaker.


Question 58-19(2): Aurora College Board of Governors


MR. LAFFERTY: Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] I made a statement on the Aurora College. I think it's a very important issue. We have a College Act with board members. It's been three years since they've been without a board. [End of translation.] Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, with the recent internal senior appointment within Aurora College, why does this government deny an arm's-length philosophy that this Assembly, through the Aurora College Act, wisely believes that is the best way to run Aurora College? Masi, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.


HON. R.J. SIMPSON:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The transformation of Aurora College into a polytechnic university has been identified as a priority of this Assembly, and we are in the midst of that process. That process calls for the board to be re-established at a point in the near future, a couple of years from now; 2022, right now, is the plan. Before that is going to happen, we'd like to make some changes to the Aurora College Act because, you know, the act isn't quite as arm's-length as one would think. It states that the Minister may give direction to the board respecting the exercise of its powers and performance of its duties; the Minister shall determine the policy respecting the operations, programs, and practices of the college; the Minister may remove board members at any point during their term; board members need approval on many things to create policies. We have an act, but it does not create a board that is free and clear of government interference. In fact, the power essentially lies with the Minister; the act makes that pretty clear. I want to make some changes to that act so that we do have an act that requires an independent board because, if we want to become a university, we have to meet national standards, and right now, we're not there. Over the coming years, we're making the decisions that are going to put us in that position so that we can reinstate a board, and that board is going to take control and carry us the rest of the way to the creation of a polytechnic university. I will just apologize right up front, Mr. Speaker. When I was a Regular Member, before I was the Minister, I was frustrated by not knowing what was going on with the college. Nothing was clear to me, what was happening. I felt that one day, ECE was going to say, "Now, we have a university." That's not what is happening. You know, there is a lot that's been going on, but we haven't been getting that information out there, so I've told the department, I've told the college, "We need to expedite that. We need to get information out there so that people can see." There is a plan. There has been work going on, and there are things to be excited about, and so I've expedited that. Tomorrow, I hope to make a Minister's statement -- I've basically just committed myself to making a Minister's statement tomorrow on this -- to get some of that information out there, because the public deserves to know what we're up to and they deserve to be as excited as I am about this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. LAFFERTY: Obviously, we're looking forward to the statement. As the government has stated, we need to be open and transparent, and, if we have nothing to hide, let's lay it on the table. It's going to be almost five years, in 2022, without a board of governors. During the polytechnic university transition period, we need that expertise, which we don't have today; until 2022, 2024, 2025, whatever the case is. Why does the Minister believe a duly appointed, arm's-length board, as envisioned by the Aurora College Act, is incapable of transitioning the college to a polytechnic university? This is a very important question that I would like to have answers to.


HON. R.J. SIMPSON: The type of board that the Member is describing is exactly what will complete this transformation. Right now, based on the foundational review and the government's response to the foundational review, we have moved to a public administrator instead of a board, and that is to ensure that this process is streamlined, so that everyone is on the same page and that we're moving in the same direction while we strengthen the foundation, because that's what's going on right now, is we're strengthening the foundation. We're identifying the issues that occurred in the past, that I spoke about in the last Assembly as a Regular Member, that everyone is concerned about, and we're fixing 10 those so that we can institute a board and we can move toward having this world-class university that we're all waiting for.


MR. LAFFERTY: My third question is: how does the government justify turning a temporary measure into an ongoing four-year suspension? Now, I'm hearing it's going to be five, or potentially six years. Is this going to be an ongoing discussion that we're going to be having? Define the term "temporary measures." We heard 2022, the last time. Is that the final date that the board members are going to be appointed?


HON. R.J. SIMPSON: This is why I'm excited to get the information out there, because, right now, that's the plan. I don't like to say we're going to get something done regardless of whether we're ready or not. I've seen, when government tries to do that, things don't work out well. There are also legislative changes that need to happen, and that means the Assembly is involved. Right now, that's the plan, 2022. That's temporary, that's during the life of this Assembly, and that is going to lead us toward the creation of the university.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister. Member for Monfwi.


MR. LAFFERTY: Masi, Mr. Speaker. I certainly hope that is the plan, 2022, not 2023 or 2024, when our term is up, here. My final question is regarding the polytechnic transition period. I'm just curious to know, because I haven't seen any of these areas, if we have any Aboriginal or Indigenous persons or resource people who are involved as part of the management team during this transition period. Masi, Mr. Speaker.


HON. R.J. SIMPSON: I am involved. All of the Members of this House are going to be involved. I've offered a technical briefing to the Standing Committee on Social Development, but we have crazy schedules right now, so we haven't been able to get in front of the committee to show them what we're up to and hear what the feedback is. Further to the expertise that was mentioned earlier, there are people at the college also assisting with this. It's not just some people in Lahm Ridge Tower in downtown Yellowknife. You know, we have people with a lot of experience working on this. One of the first things that I did during the very first briefing I had with the department about this is I said, "We need a much stronger Indigenous government engagement strategy," or approach. I don't even want to say "strategy"; approach. So I actually pushed some of the timelines back because I wanted to make sure that we're developing a university that is going to meet the needs of the people it's serving. I don't want to create a university and hope people buy into it; I want to build that from the ground up. So the Member can rest assured, we're going to have that input. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh



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