Integrity commissioner can now recommend disciplinary action
Following a review of the costly public inquiry into former MLA Steve Norn’s conduct, changes have been made to the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act that should make inquires rarer in the future.
The integrity commissioner now has the authority to investigate complaints and recommend punishments without having to elevate complaints to an inquiry before a sole adjudicator.
The changes comes after the Legislative Assembly carried out a review of the public inquiry which cost the legislature – and therefore cost the GNWT – $805,000 it had not budgeted for.
The public inquiry was held after Norn broke the Covid-19 self-isolation order and MLA Rylund Johnson made a complaint against Norn to the integrity commissioner on behalf of the other 17 MLAs. The NWT legislature’s integrity commissioner then determined in a 137-page report that a complaint against Norn must be directed to an inquiry before a sole adjudicator (who decided on a public inquiry over a private one), who formerly was the person with the authority to recommend disciplinary action.
The changes to the way complaints against MLAs are handled are effective immediately now that the act has been updated. It will reduce the possibility of an issue escalating to another expensive inquiry since the integrity commissioner is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly as opposed to someone outside the GNWT who has been contracted to investigate.
There are also other small changes to the act that will come into effect after the next territorial election, such as changing the Deh Cho riding’s name to Dehcho.
The next legislative assembly will also have access to a training fund to help MLAs “in meeting their professional needs,” and to create educational materials for candidates and the public.
There were also changes to the voter registration processes. Moving forward, Elections NWT will be able to share its voters list with municipalities running elections and with the electoral boundaries commission. Sixteen and 17-year-olds will also be able to register to vote well before they are old enough to do so, and will be automatically added to the voters list when they turn 18.