North

'It was embarrassing, to say the least': MLAs react to premier's move to boot cabinet minister

Two days after cabinet minister Katrina Nokleby was stripped of her portfolios, MLAs took to social media to express their shock at the premier's sudden move. The premier, too, posted a video on Facebook with comments.

After staying tight-lipped, Premier Caroline Cochrane also posted to social media late Friday afternoon

MLA Rylund Johnson said he was shocked by the premier's seemingly sudden move to strip Katrina Nokleby of her portfolios on Wednesday. In a Facebook post on Friday, he called for more transparency in of the territorial government (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Two days after cabinet minister Katrina Nokleby was stripped of her portfolios, two MLAs and the premier are finally breaking their silence, taking to social media to provide some details into their side of the story on the sudden change in government.

On Wednesday, Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane announced that Minister Nokleby would no longer be heading the territory's Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, nor the Department of Infrastructure.

In a Facebook post on Friday afternoon, Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, said he was shocked the premier had taken the "extreme" accountability measure when she stripped Nokleby's portfolios. That includes the way Cochrane had "bypassed the accountability mechanism of regular members to remove a minister."

"This came as a surprise to me," he said, saying he was given notice one hour before it was announced publicly.

Back in May, Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn attempted to oust Nokleby from cabinet by calling a vote of non-confidence but it was later dropped. At the time, Cochrane said she had "complete confidence" in Nokleby.

"It was embarrassing, to say the least," Johnson said of the seemingly sudden news. "And I thought we had put the issue to bed for awhile."

Unfortunately, there was little to no progress on these commitments, and as such, I lost confidence in the minister.- Premier Caroline Cochrane in a Facebook video

Johnson said he had regarded his relationship with Nokleby as "tenable" despite some disagreements. He admonished the premier's unwillingness to comment further as of early Friday afternoon.

"She needs to own it and take full accountability for her decision to strip a minister of their portfolios," he said.

Johnson added he felt there was not enough transparency in the decision made, nor of this government.

"We face a decision that in many ways has been forced upon us, as a minister with no portfolios is not a sustainable situation," Johnson said.

'I am very disappointed': MLA

Caitlin Cleveland, MLA Kam Lake, said in a Facebook post that she too was surprised to hear that the premier had revoked Nokleby's portfolios.

She said the only information given to her — also an hour before it went public — was the same information found in the government news release from Wednesday.

Caitlin Cleveland, MLA Kam Lake, said in a Facebook post that she too was surprised to hear that the premier had revoked Nokleby's portfolios. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

"I am very disappointed that we are now at this place. I always had a positive working relationship with Minister Nokleby," Cleveland said, adding there was no "time to waste."

Johnson said he won't be running for cabinet.

Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, shared Johnson's Facebook post, saying it described the situation "well."

The Legislative Assembly is set to meet on Monday, for an emergency sitting at 1:30 p.m.

Cochrane posts a video response on Facebook

Despite declining multiple requests for interviews and staying tight-lipped since Wednesday, Cochrane uploaded a five-minute video to the government's Facebook page just before 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

In the video, Cochrane says she was "reluctant" to share too much information relating to concerns of the minister's performance, raised by regular MLAs and other ministers.

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic in May. Cochrane posted a video on social media late Friday afternoon, providing few details into why she stripped Nokleby of cabinet portfolios. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Those concerns, she said, related to professionalism, responsiveness to requests from MLAs, willingness to work with standing committees and more.

She said many of those "concerning behaviours" happened in confidential meetings and that specifics couldn't be disclosed.

According to Cochrane, Nokleby had apparently made promises to address the concerns prior to being stripped of her portfolio.

"Unfortunately, there was little to no progress on these commitments, and as such, I lost confidence in the minister," Cochrane said.

The move won't affect Nokleby's role as an MLA, Cochrane added.

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