N.W.T. premier, cabinet survive no-confidence motion

A historic bid to topple Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland and his cabinet failed Friday, with MLAs voting against it by a narrow margin.

'We're prepared to re-commit ourselves ... to making it work,' premier pledges

N.W.T. Premier Floyd Roland in the legislature Friday. ((CBC))
A historic bid to topple Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland and his cabinet failed Friday, with MLAs voting against it by a narrow margin.

MLAs in the assembly voted 10-8 against the motion put forward by Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen, who had said she and other backbench MLAs had lost confidence in Roland's government.

MLAs who voted in favour of the motion were:

  • Groenewegen
  • David Krutko (Mackenzie Delta)
  • Glen Abernethy (Great Slave)
  • Bob Bromley (Weledeh)
  • Wendy Bisaro (Frame Lake)
  • Norman Yakeleya (Sahtu)
  • David Ramsay (Kam Lake)
  • Kevin Menicoche (Nahendeh)

Three backbench MLAs voted against the no-confidence motion: Tu Nedhe MLA Tom Beaulieu, Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins, and Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson.

Roland and the entire six-member cabinet also voted against it. There were no abstentions.

Historic motion

Friday's motion marked the first time in N.W.T. government history that regular members tried to oust the premier and his entire cabinet.

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen advised the legislature Wednesday that she would present a no-confidence motion against the premier and cabinet. (CBC)
Under the territory's consensus-based government, MLAs in the assembly select a premier and cabinet members among themselves. They also have the power to remove individuals from cabinet, which is more commonly the case.

Groenewegen and other regular members of the legislative assembly had accused Roland and the cabinet of not communicating with them on some controversial policy and spending decisions.

Those decisions include planned changes to the territory's extended health benefits policy, the awarding of a $34-million loan to northern aviation company Discovery Air, approval of the $165-million Deh Cho bridge over the Mackenzie River, and the government's plans to amalgamate school and public services boards into large regional authorities.

Appealing to members, Roland acknowledged the legislative assembly could work better and pledged to make changes.

"I'm prepared to re-commit, we're prepared to re-commit ourselves to a process of making it work as a legislative assembly," Roland told the assembly Friday afternoon.

'Breach of confidence'

Some MLAs who supported the no-confidence motion also brought up a romantic affair, revealed late last year, between Roland and a legislative assembly clerk who had sat in on MLAs' confidential standing committee meetings.

"The conduct of the premier in regards to the incident that we are all aware of is a fundamental breach of confidence when it comes to the workings of this legislature," Krutko said.

"It is very sad to have to state here today that we are now having most of our meetings in camera, without the clerks in our meetings, because [of] the incident that had occurred."

In a first, Roland publicly acknowledged the affair in the assembly, assuring members that no conflict of interest took place.

"The decision that, when it became public, it was ourselves — myself and the person I'm involved with — we went to the appropriate people and notified [them] of what was happening," Roland told the assembly.

"It is never good when a family man or woman has to sit their family down and tell them of what has happened. That's the message I had to deliver. I took it very seriously, and I took that approach. From that point on, I said nothing about what's happened, how it's happened, and tried to refute what was being said."

'Wake-up call'

Among the three regular MLAs who voted against the no-confidence motion, Beaulieu said cabinet has much work to do to restore the confidence of other members.

"This should be a wake-up call [to cabinet]," Beaulieu told the assembly.

"If this motion was not such a broad-brushed motion … I would be here supporting the motion."

After the vote, house Speaker Paul Delorey urged MLAs to work together to make the N.W.T.'s unique consensus government — one that has no political parties — work properly.

"We cannot do that through backroom deals, token communication and personal agendas," Delorey told the assembly.

"We can only do it through open and honest communication, and an understanding of and respect for our respective roles and accountabilities."