N.W.T. government response to clerk complaint found to have merit 'long overdue'

The lawyer representing the sole person whose complaint against clerk Tim Mercer was found to have merit says four months with no response from the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly's board of management 'is a long time.'

Clerk says board of management recommendations are expected next week; chair says before Christmas

Tim Mercer, standing at left, speaks during the swearing-in ceremony for the members of the 19th Legislative Assembly. He returned from an eight-month leave in October after Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting investigated allegations of bullying that had been made against him. (John Last/CBC)

The N.W.T. Legislative Assembly's board of management has yet to respond to recommendations from third party consultants on improving its workplace environment. 

Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting released its report in August after investigating four complaints made against Tim Mercer, clerk of the Legislative Assembly. 

Three of those complaints alleging Mercer created a toxic work environment by bullying and humiliating employees, were dismissed

The fourth, however, was found to have merit. 

That complaint, made by an anonymous fourth complainant, said that Mercer breached confidentiality by speaking publicly — and quoting from — a previous harassment complaint filed against Mercer in 2018. 

Lawyer Austin Marshall represents the anonymous fourth complainant. 

He said a response from the board of management, which administers the recommendations, is "long overdue."

Marshall said that "the board has everything it needs to make a response," and that the almost four months since the report has been made public "is a long time." 

Mercer returned to his post as clerk on Oct. 14 after an eight-month leave while Quintet investigated allegations made against him. 

Despite the clerk's return, Marshall said they still haven't seen action. 

Frederick Blake Jr. is the chair of the Legislative Assembly's board of management. He said implementing Quintet's recommendations is a priority for the board of management and that an action plan would be made public before Christmas. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Frederick Blake Jr., chair of the board of management and Speaker of the Assembly, said that work to address the report's recommendations has been ongoing since the report was received. 

He expects the plan will be made public before Christmas.

In an emailed statement, he said the plan "shows long-term commitment to a healthy workplace where staff feel safe and respected," and called it "a priority" for the board of management. 

The recommendations

In its final report, Quintet made seven recommendations to address "important problems" it said would be "likely to continue to negatively affect the health of the workplace." 

Quintet's seven recommendations, found on page 16 of the report, can be summarized as engaging senior leadership, making clear to employees the Assembly's commitment to action, addressing concerns through an action plan and continuing oversight once the plan is put in place. 

The recommendations are non-binding and are offered for the board of management's consideration.

Marshall classifies Quintet's recommendations as "broad," but says that seeing something would be a start.

Mercer's lawyer, Kristan McLeod, said on Mercer's behalf that since returning to the Assembly, Mercer "has led the development of a detailed action plan to respond to the seven recommendations from the Quintet workplace review."

Echoing Blake Jr., she said "the implementation of the action plan is Mr. Mercer's highest priority."

McLeod confirmed Blake Jr.'s timeline and said final consultations are expected on the action plan next week.