North

MLA-elect says he won't be asking for $2M debt to be forgiven

A newly-elected Hay River MLA says he will not be asking for any forgiveness of a business debt of almost $2 million he owes a territorial government Crown corporation. 'I’m dealing with it,' said Hay River North MLA-elect Rocky Simpson.

'I'm dealing with it,' says Hay River MLA-elect Rocky Simpson of debt to BDIC

Hay River South MLA-elect Rocky Simpson says he intends to pay back almost $2 million he owes the N.W.T. Business Development and Investment Corporation. (Submitted)

A newly-elected Hay River MLA says he will not be asking for any forgiveness of a business debt of almost $2 million he owes a territorial government Crown corporation.

"I'm dealing with it," said Hay River South MLA-elect Rocky Simpson. "It won't have any effect on me representing the people of Hay River."

On Friday, Northern News Services Limited revealed that Simpson has defaulted on a loan from the NWT Business Development and Investment Corporation. According to court documents, on Sept. 9, the BDIC got a writ to collect $1,886,110.03 from Simpson, his company Concept Energy Services, and his partner, who also served as a guarantor for the loan.

On Oct. 1, Simpson won the Hay River South seat by 28 votes in an upset victory over cabinet minister Wally Schumann. His son, R.J. Simpson, was acclaimed to a second term as the representative for Hay River North. It's the first time a father and son have served in the same Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly.

Rocky Simpson told CBC his debt to the BDIC was likely not widely known during the election campaign. Schumann said that as the minister responsible for BDIC, the code of conduct he signed as an MLA prohibited him from raising it as an issue.

But, Schumann said, he would not have talked about it even if he had been allowed to.

"If you look at the last two campaigns that I've run, I've never said one bad word about any opponent I was running against," said Schumann.

"I always campaigned on what I was going to do and how I was going to represent Hay River. I have a set of standards that I live by and I've got to continue to live in this community."

According to the court documents, Rocky Simpson and his company have not made any payments on the outstanding debt for more than two years. Simpson said he is working on a plan to pay down the debt.

"I'm not asking for any forgiveness or anything ... I'm optimistic we'll settle this, hopefully to everyone's satisfaction," he said.

Simpson put up numerous properties he owns in Hay River, as well as properties in Fort Liard and Hythe, Alta., as security for the loan. Simpson said the value of the properties has dropped by about 75 per cent due to the downturn in the oil and gas business.

According to a valuation done in 2010, the Hay River properties had a total assessed value of $861,900. The assessed value of the Fort Liard property is $26,800, and the property in Hythe has been seized by the village for taxes owed.

There can be a significant difference between the assessed value of a property, which is used for the purpose of calculating property tax, and the market value of a property — how much a buyer will pay for it.

Rocky Simpson's son, R.J. Simpson is one of four MLAs who have said they want to be premier, joining Frieda Martselos, Jackson Lafferty, and Caroline Cochrane. MLAs will vote in a new premier on Oct. 24.

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