N.W.T. premier faces revolt over severance deals

Vote expected Monday on motion to demand NWT premier's resignation

Northwest Territories Premier Stephen Kakfwi faces a revolt for the second time in a year after a committee tabled a report calling for his resignation.

The accountability committee, which includes 11 of the legislature's 19 MLAs, filed its report after examining federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser's findings that two of Kakfwi's friends got overly generous severance packages.

Fraser concluded the packages for John Bayly and Lynda Sorensen, both close associates of Kakfwi, cost the territorial government more than $1 million, including pensions which she said is about $256,000 too much.

A vote on the committee's call for Kakfwi to resign is expected on Monday. One MLA said if the legislative assembly won't force Kakfwi out, then they should all resign and call an election.

"If the will isn't in this house to act on its own laws, then I think we have no other possible duty but to resign ... and go immediately out to the polls, " said Floyd Roland.

Members of Fraser's staff told the MLAs on the committee that Kakfwi had dictated parts of Sorensen's package while negotiations were ongoing.

Sorensen and Bayly left their jobs in November 2001 during an investigation into conflict of interest allegations involving former N.W.T. health minister and deputy premier Jane Groenewegen.

MLAs threatened Kakfwi with a non-confidence vote when he refused to fire the two after allegations arose that they were involved in secretly taping a conversation between Groenewegen and conflict commissioner Carol Roberts.

Then, Kakfwi threatened to quit and survived the vote after an outpouring of public support.

On Friday, Kakfwi denied there was any evidence he had done anything wrong.

Groenewegen said she was shocked at the premier's response. "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I am some disappointed in the premier's comments this morning," she said.