'We tried ... to no avail:' N.W.T. premier says she gave ousted minister 2nd chance

In her first live interview since stripping Katrina Nokleby of her ministerial portfolios, N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane says the decision to remove her from cabinet demonstrates just how difficult it is to serve as a minister.

Caroline Cochrane spoke with CBC about former minister Katrina Nokleby

N.W.T. premier speaks about minister's removal from cabinet

3 years ago
Duration 8:04
In her first formal interview with CBC Northbeat since stripping Katrina Nokleby of her cabinet portfolios last week, N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane speaks about why the former minister was ousted, and how her government plans to move forward.

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane says the decision to remove Katrina Nokleby from cabinet demonstrates just how difficult it is to serve as a minister.

"It's certainly not an easy job, and this reinforced it," Cochrane told Northbeat's Juanita Taylor on Thursday. 

It was the premier's first live interview since she announced last week that she was stripping Nokleby of her portfolios — infrastructure and industry, tourism and investment — because she had lost confidence in her abilities as a minister.

Cochrane's decision came as a shock to some people last week. But the premier said the issue was "fairly sensitive," and that she wanted all members of the legislature — including Nokleby — to be able to speak on the matter first. 

"It has to be a fair process," she said, adding that while it is her responsibility to give or revoke ministerial portfolios, it is the responsibility of all members to decide whether a minister keeps their cabinet position.

In an emergency sitting of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, MLAs stood one after another and spoke harshly about Nokleby's performance — from her damaged relations with the Tłı̨chǫ government to "explosive and shocking anger."

Ultimately, 16 MLAs voted to remove the former minister from cabinet; one abstained, and Nokleby herself voted against the motion.

'All people make mistakes'

MLAs put forward a non-confidence motion against Nokleby, the MLA for Great Slave, in the spring, but dropped it before it could go to a vote. At the time, the premier expressed "complete confidence" in the minister, and asked Nokleby to work on the issues her colleagues raised.

When asked why she thought things could change, Cochrane said she believes in giving people second chances.

"All people make mistakes," the premier said, adding that a proper leader tries to learn from them and move forward.

"We tried. We spent many months working on it, but to no avail."

In the emergency session Wednesday, Nokleby alluded to corruption and 'backroom dealings' in the government. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

As for how to heal relationships that some say have been damaged in the wake of the events, Cochrane said "we have work to do."

But she added that she takes her commitment to Indigenous governments seriously, and thinks her government has made progress in its talks with Indigenous leaders.

"Hopefully we'll be able to mend some relationships and move forward," she said.

And with the COVID-19 pandemic still going on, she said she believes it's important for everyone to work together.

"It's time to put aside the bad feelings," she said. "We're here to serve the people of the Northwest Territories."

Nokleby says claims based on 'gossip'

When given the chance to address her fellow MLAs on Wednesday, Nokleby said she has been "unfairly admonished ... based on nothing more than gossip, hearsay, rumours, and bruised feelings."

She alluded to corruption and "backroom dealings" and said a "toxic culture of secrecy" has not allowed her to defend herself.

While Cochrane had refused previous media requests to talk about her decision, in the legislature on Wednesday she didn't mince words. She alleged Nokleby yelled at staff, expressed "degrading" opinions of public servants to their faces, and threw "continual tantrums" in meetings.

The CBC has requested an interview with Nokleby. 

Written by Kirsten Fenn, with files from Juanita Taylor


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