What to expect as N.W.T. MLAs head into Thursday's midterm review

A cabinet shuffle could be coming for the Northwest Territories as ministers face a midterm performance review from regular MLAs.

MLAs to begin first midterm review in 20 years at 9 a.m. MT

The midterm review and subsequent confidence vote for cabinet as a whole and for individual ministers is set for Oct. 5. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

A cabinet shuffle could be coming for the Northwest Territories as ministers face their midterm performance review from regular MLAs Thursday.

It's the first time in 20 years this type of review will be happening, according to David Wasylciw, who runs Open NWT, an online initiative that promotes transparency in government.

What is a midterm review?   

David Wasylciw runs Open NWT, an online initiative that promotes transparency in government. (Handout)
The midterm review marks the halfway point in the 18th Assembly. During the review, cabinet ministers will be questioned by regular MLAs about their performance in the two years since the election. 

"Everybody thought it was really important to bring this really old process back again," Wasylciw said. "Especially with new members, a lot of them got into the job and the building without quite knowing exactly how the four years worked and how it all played out."  

"One of the big things for everybody coming in was transparency and accountability," he said.  

The midterm review used to be a regular part of the government, but was scrapped in the 1990s, Wasylciw explained.

How does the process work?

Premier Bob McLeod will open the meeting with a speech about what the government has accomplished in the past two years. Then ministers will talk for about five minutes each about how well they've done their job.

After the presentation, regular MLAs will question individual ministers about their performance. It will work similar to question period in the Legislature.

Then MLAs will vote in a secret ballot on cabinet as a whole and on individual ministers. The results of the votes will be announced before the meeting is over.

What happens if a minister loses the confidence of the Legislature?

The results of those confidence votes are nonbinding, meaning it's not guaranteed a minister would be removed from cabinet if they lose the vote, Wasylciw said.

Even if a minister resigns, there is still a vote in the House to remove them from the executive council, then there is an additional process to find their replacement. 

"To go through all this process and then not have the vote be an open, binding vote, it's kind of odd," he said.

How will this make a difference?

Wasylciw says wrapping up the midterm review will help refocus the government.

"Hopefully with the midterm review behind them it's just 'get down to work and get stuff done and not worry about the politics of who's in cabinet and who's not,'' he said. "They have a long list of things to accomplish."  

The revised version of the government's mandate was tabled last month. MLAs added five amendments to it on Wednesday and a final version is expected to be tabled shortly.

How can this process be improved?

Wasylciw calls this midterm review a good start, but he says it shouldn't just focus on cabinet ministers. He'd like to see an expanded review for the House as a whole, including standing committees, where a lot of work gets done.

He also wants to see the votes be made available to the public and legislators, so everyone could see the level of support a minister has.  

"It's a lot of time and a lot of distraction instead of getting real issues done," he said. "That being said, it's certainly a bigger step in accountability, something we haven't done in 20 years, it's not bad to give it a try and see what it can accomplish."