Move to fast-track N.W.T. minister's exit stymied by her single 'nay' vote

MLAs will vote Wednesday on whether to remove former industry and infrastructure minister Katrina Nokleby from cabinet after the premier denounced her performance and reassigned her portfolios last week.

Minister Katrina Nokleby was removed from roles without warning last Wednesday

The Legislative Assembly in the N.W.T. The assembly reconvened for an emergency session Monday after the premier stripped a cabinet minister of her portfolios with little warning last Wednesday. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

N.W.T. MLAs sat Monday in an emergency session of the legislature after a cabinet minister was stripped of her portfolios in a surprise shuffle last week.

Katrina Nokleby, formerly minister of infrastructure and of industry, tourism, and investment, will face a vote Wednesday on whether she should remain in cabinet.

Premier Caroline Cochrane sought the unanimous consent of the assembly to fast-track discussion of a motion to remove Nokleby from cabinet, but was stymied by Nokleby's single vote against.

MLAs will sit again on Tuesday, beginning at 1:30 p.m. But because two-days notice must be given for motions, a vote on Nokleby's future will not be held until Wednesday afternoon.

In the consensus system of government, all 19 MLAs select the members of cabinet, who are then assigned their portfolios by the premier.

Nokleby currently sits with cabinet as a minister without a portfolio, after Cochrane issued a surprise statement Wednesday saying she no longer had "confidence in the minister and her ability to fulfil her responsibilities."

Cochrane last publicly expressed "complete confidence" in Nokleby on May 29.

Few regular MLAs have offered any public statements about the shuffle, and none have granted interviews with media.

The premier has also repeatedly denied CBC's requests for interviews.

Instead, on Friday, Cochrane posted a five-minute video to a Facebook page with 600 followers in which she said she was "reluctant" to offer her reasoning out of "respect for conversations held in confidence."

Nokleby's departments have been the subject of intense criticism from Indigenous governments who say the territory's procurement process is broken, and from tourism operators who accuse her department of unreasonable delays.

She has also been accused of taking a combative tone in discussions with fellow MLAs, according to NNSL.

But in the wake of Wednesday's statement, industry leaders have lined up to voice their surprise at the premier's move, telling Cabin Radio they had few issues with Nokleby's performance.

Another MLA breaks silence over Facebook

Late Saturday, Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly joined the list of MLAs breaking silence over Facebook about the decision.

In a lengthy post, O'Reilly called the revocation of a minister's appointment an "awkward and uncomfortable process," and said MLAs "collectively have not done a very good job in explaining how the Legislative Assembly actually works."

His post struck a different tone from Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson and Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland, who criticized the premier for providing little notice of her decision.

The decision "was conveyed in a timely manner ... and there was a meeting to discuss this move," O'Reilly's post reads. "The Premier explained the decision ... and there was an opportunity to ask questions."

"I thank the premier for taking my concerns seriously and taking decisive action," it concludes.

O'Reilly could not be reached for comment.

If convention holds, four Yellowknife MLAs would be eligible to replace Katrina Nokleby: clockwise from top left, Frame Lake's Kevin O'Reilly, Kam Lake's Caitlin Cleveland, Yellowknife Centre's Julie Green, and Yellowknife North's Rylund Johnson. (CBC)

O'Reilly is one of four Yellowknife MLAs well-positioned to replace Nokleby in cabinet.

Historical convention holds that two cabinet members are drawn from northern ridings, two from southern ridings, and two from Yellowknife.

If convention held, O'Reilly, Cleveland, and Johnson would all be eligible, as well as Yellowknife Centre's Julie Green.

Of those four, only Johnson has ruled out a bid for a cabinet seat.

Session could run to Sept. 1

Selecting Nokleby's replacement, should she be voted out, will require more sittings, during which candidates for her seat in cabinet will present their case to MLAs and a winner will be decided in a secret ballot.

According to a release from the assembly, the emergency session is expected to conclude by Sept. 1.


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