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The Future of the 19th Assembly

Constituents of Yellowknife North,

Many of you have reached out for some clarity on the Premier’s announcement Wednesday, wherein she stripped Minister Nokleby of both her portfolios. I was given notice of this decision one hour before the press release and then had to travel to Hay River for Committee Work. I’ve taken a day to gather information and ruminate on this issue before making any public statements. Thank you for your patience.

The 19th Assembly is conducting an emergency sitting at 1:30pm, Monday, August 24th. The morning of the 24th all members will sit down and meet as Caucus. We face a decision that in many ways has been forced upon us. As a minister with no portfolios is not a sustainable situation.

The Premier bypassed the accountability mechanism of regular members to remove a minister, the stripping of minister’s portfolios is the most extreme accountability measure available to the Premier. This came as a surprise to me. As most of you know, in May, a non-confidence vote in the house was moved but it never made it to the floor. I wish that the regular MLAs had an opportunity to publicly voice why this motion was brought to the floor, but the decision was conducted during in-camera meetings. It was embarrassing, to say the least, and I thought we had put the issue to bed for awhile, the Premier even stating she had the “utmost confidence” in Minister Nokleby.

The public is owed an explanation of the full context of the Premier’s decision and why this option was chosen. It is not my responsibility to explain my colleagues actions or their reasons. Nor do I suspect I will ever fully know what occurred behind the closed doors of the Cabinet side. My constituents have largely expressed support for Minister Nokelby, we’ve had our disagreements but I never felt the relationship was untenable. This is clearly not the view held by the Premier and a number of my colleagues. The Premier has decided not to comment on this further, but this was her judgement. She needs to own it and take full accountability for her decision to strip a minister of their portfolios.

We can’t continue to operate in layers of confidential meetings, the public deserves to stay informed on our decisions. I am bound by the confidentiality of meetings when they are held in camera. But more than any other arm of government, political officials need to be accountable- the whole assembly needs to be more public facing. My views are rather simple on this, there has not been enough transparency in this government or throughout this process.

When we all sit down to meet on Monday morning before session, clearly everyone needs a reminder that we went into this assembly with every intention of doing things differently and working together. Despite recent events I do believe the overwhelming majority of members retain that intention and want to move forward to govern this territory through what is probably the largest event of our lifetime.

Next week all 19 MLAs will be travelling to Fort Smith for our Caucus retreat. This is an annual occurrence where we leave our titles at the door and come together as individuals and colleagues. I hope we can use this time to renew our commitment to each other and the people of the NWT. I want to see us make meaningful changes to conducting much more of our business transparently. We still have time and plenty of capacity to practice a better kind of politics.

Also, for some reason I feel the need to repeat the fact that I’m still not running for cabinet. I believe I can best serve my constituents as a regular MLA. Please feel free to reach out anytime.

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