N.W.T. MLAs to move on stripping health, infrastructure ministers of their portfolios
Notices of motion follow criticism in N.W.T. Legislative Assembly during the fall session
Two cabinet ministers in the Northwest Territories are fighting to keep their portfolios after regular MLAs stated their intentions to bring forward motions Wednesday to remove them from cabinet.
On Monday, Kieron Testart and Shane Thompson provided the Legislative Assembly notices of motion that on Wednesday they will move to strip Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy and Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann of their portfolios.
Both ministers faced blistering criticism from regular MLAs during this latest session in the legislature, though both survived a midterm performance review last October.
Abernethy has been under fire over an auditor general's report released last week. It shows children in the territory's care are worse off than four years ago, when the auditor general first issued a scathing report on children in care in the territory.
"In 2014 the audit was done, he [Abernethy] was the minister. He said he's going to move forward and make things better. Unfortunately, we saw that in the 2018 audit not much has gotten better, it's actually gotten worse," Thompson told reporters, echoing the auditor general's findings.
Thompson suggests a new health minister drawn from the ranks of the regular MLAs will improve relations between cabinet and regular MLAs, which appear to be at a low point in the life of the 18th Assembly.
Schumann, meanwhile has been criticized for a barge cancellation earlier this month that left Paulatuk, Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk without millions of pounds of much-needed cargo. Last week, those goods started to trickle into the communities via chartered flights, but some equipment, such as vehicles, will spend the winter in Inuvik.
Testart is set to introduce the motion to oust Schumann Wednesday, citing both his decisions as minister and his responses to regular MLAs in question period as reasons for why Schumann should be removed from cabinet.
"Members asked very fair questions of the minister, questions that their constituents care about, and the minister was very heavy-handed in how he responded," Testart said.
Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli will second Wednesday's motion to oust Schumann, while Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne will second the motion to remove Abernethy.
'Why shouldn't we keep our jobs?'
Neither Abernethy and Schumann had an opportunity to respond to the notices of motion in the Legislative Assembly, but defended their ministerial records to reporters during a break.
Both said they welcome the open debate on their future.
Schumann defended his department's response to the cancelled barge, maintaining that abnormal ice levels — not human error — is to blame.
"Why shouldn't we keep our jobs?" Schumann said. "We're here meeting our mandate commitments, working hard for the residents of the Northwest Territories. I cannot see any reason for this."
Abernethy — who's publicly acknowledged the department's failings a number of times since the auditor general's report — said regular MLAs are acting too quickly following the auditor general's report.
Before attempting to remove him, he said, the department should get a chance to present at a committee meeting in December, where it will discuss its response to the report in detail. Then, they can further discuss what's next for the Child and Family Services division in an open debate in the Legislative Assembly, Abernethy said.
"I'm not sure why [there's the] urgency to remove somebody without actually giving the process its due course," he said.
- This story previously stated that Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson seconded Testart's motion. In fact, it was Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli.Oct 29, 2018 4:01 PM CT