North

N.W.T. MLAs spent public money on legal fees after missed expense deadline

Eight Northwest Territories MLAs who missed the deadline for filing campaign expense reports, or filed incomplete reports, relied on public money for the legal work they had to do as a result.

2 cabinet minsters and 6 MLAs spent $6,100 from legal allowances to clear expense report paperwork

Eight Northwest Territories MLAs who missed the deadline for filing campaign expense reports, or filed incomplete reports, relied on public money for the legal work they had to do as a result.

After failing to meet the deadline, MLAs had to file legal paperwork with the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories asking a judge for permission to continue sitting as MLAs.

In doing so, they used a legal allowance, that all MLAs are entitled to, to cover the cost. The total price tag for all eight members came to just over $6,100 in lawyers' fees, at a billing rate of $250 per hour, according to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly's office.

"That was a decision that the legislature made, through the office of the clerk," said Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart, one of the MLAs who had to file court papers.

Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart is one of eight MLAs who had to file court papers. 'That was a decision that the legislature made, through the office of the clerk,' he said. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

"That's why we chose to do that. I, of course, brought this issue to the attention of the institution and that was the outcome that they decided upon."

Some say candidates, whether they're elected or not, shouldn't rely on the public to help them meet obligations they assumed when they decided to run for office.

David Wasylciw was a candidate in the last territorial election and runs OpenNWT, a website "focused on making Northern government data more accessible and open to the people."

"That should be something that comes out of their own time," he said.

"They want to be sitting in the house and it's their responsibility to make sure they can, which involves filing papers. And if they didn't, it means filing papers with the court to make sure they can."

According to the clerk's office, each of the MLAs paid a $600 fine and $150 court filing fee out of their own pockets.

The other MLAs who filed late or incomplete reports were cabinet ministers Wally Schumann and Alfred Moses, speaker Jackson Lafferty, and MLAs Herb Nakimayak, Danny McNeely, Michael Nadli and Frederick Blake Jr.

Candidates have 60 days after an election to file a report with the chief electoral officer detailing campaign expenses and contributions.

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