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N.W.T. MLA moves to oust minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment in confidence vote

Steve Norn, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh brought the motion, and Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South, seconded it.

MLA Steve Norn gave notice Wednesday that he will ask that Katrina Nokleby be removed from cabinet

N.W.T. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Katrina Nokleby will face a no confidence motion Friday. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

In the N.W.T. Legislature's first sitting since COVID-19 forced an unplanned hiatus, a cabinet minister is facing a confidence motion that could see her lose her position.

Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Katrina Nokleby is the target of the motion. She is serving her first term in cabinet and her first term as an MLA, having been elected in October of last year.

Steve Norn, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh and the chair of the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight, gave notice of the motion, and Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South, seconded it. 

"Members of Accountability and Oversight decided to bring this motion forward due to concerns about the member for Great Slave's performance as a cabinet minister," said Norn in a statement Wednesday.

Norn declined an interview request except to say of his colleagues, "we do not take this lightly." Simpson also declined an interview. 

Nokleby, as minister of Industry, Tourism, and Investment, has overseen the government's response to massive economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, that's included millions of dollars in emergency loans, which many small business owners have said fail to meet their needs.

Nokleby is also the minister of Infrastructure and the minister responsible for the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.

'Members of [the Standing Committee on] Accountability and Oversight decided to bring this motion forward due to concerns about the member for Great Slave's performance as a cabinet minister,' said Steve Norn, committee chair and MLA Steve for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Her department has seen rapid changes to programs and services to assist with the response to COVID-19.

Neither Nokleby nor Premier Caroline Cochrane made themselves available for an interview on Wednesday, but they sent CBC News a joint statement.

"There is a process for discussing and debating non-confidence motions in the House and cabinet respects that process," they said.

"It wouldn't be appropriate for the government to comment on the proposed motion until members have had the opportunity to more fully explain their reasons for bringing it forward as part of the debate on it in the Legislative Assembly.

"We'll be able to respond in the House as part of that process."

The motion will go to a vote of all members, prior to which MLAs will be given an opportunity to explain the reasoning for their vote. It's set to be debated and voted on Friday.

Historically, the cabinet has voted in solidarity against confidence motions, meaning the opposition of three or more regular MLAs is enough to sink the motion. 

Ministers rarely ousted in N.W.T.

The Legislative Assembly is no stranger to confidence motions, but they have become more common in recent years.

In 2018, Glen Abernethy, then Health minister, and Wally Schumann, as Infrastructure minister, survived motions from MLAs Kieron Testart and Shane Thompson, now minister of Environment and Natural Resources, to oust them from cabinet.

One year prior, Louis Sebert, then Justice minister, himself survived a confidence motion.

A confidence motion against then-premier Floyd Roland and his entire cabinet in 2009 also failed in a narrow vote. Two non-confidence motions in 2001, against then-premier Stephen Kakfwi and again against his entire cabinet, likewise failed to pass.

Confidence motions have succeeded only twice in recent history. A motion to remove then-Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya, now Dene National Chief, did succeed after he was stripped of his portfolios while facing charges of sexual assault. He was ultimately found not guilty and continued to serve as a regular MLA.

In 2004, then-MLA Henry Zoe also lost a non-confidence vote after being overheard making disparaging comments about Newfoundlanders while drinking at Yellowknife's local Legion.

In Nunavut, which also has a consensus government, then premier Paul Quassa was ousted after a 2018 non-confidence vote and replaced by Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq.

With files from John Last, Sidney Cohen and Mario De Ciccio

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