Should a minister endorse an election candidate?
A candidate in Yellowknife’s Great Slave is unhappy after outgoing MLA Glen Abernethy, the health and social services minister, publicly endorsed a rival.
Abernethy, using his public “MLA Great Slave” Facebook page, published a detailed endorsement of Katrina Nokleby late on Monday evening.
“Day by day I become more convinced that Katrina is the best choice for Great Slave,” Abernethy wrote. “I’m voting for Katrina and look forward to seeing her in action as the representative of the Great Slave riding.”
Patrick Scott, Nokleby’s rival in Great Slave, took exception to Abernethy’s public intervention while still a minister in the NWT government. (Ministers keep their portfolios until a new cabinet is chosen to succeed them, after the election.)
Scott approached Cabin Radio on Tuesday night to ask if Abernethy was guilty of breaching the NWT government’s code of conduct. However, while the code of conduct expressly instructs many government employees not to endorse candidates, the code appears not to apply to ministers. A draft code of conduct for MLAs, tabled in the legislature last month, is silent on the matter of election campaigns (during which, technically, MLAs cease to be MLAs).
Earlier in the day, a territorial government employee who asked not to be named had also written to Cabin Radio, expressing concern that Abernethy’s endorsement was “not ethical.” There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of Nokleby.
Scott shot back late on Tuesday with a public endorsement from Bill Braden, who held the post of Great Slave MLA from 1999 until 2007, the eight years immediately prior to Abernethy’s tenure.
“Pat offers a genuine, seasoned and compassionate voice for Great Slave,” Braden wrote. “Above all, it’s Pat’s heart and care for what matters to people that wins my admiration and support as my MLA for the next four years.”
Asked why he had chosen to make a public endorsement, Abernethy told Cabin Radio: “I’ve seen former members be supportive of other candidates. By way of example I had a former member of the riding support and endorse other candidates in Great Slave twice. I still respect the former member and his decision but I chose to move on, work hard, and I won three elections by increasing margins each time.”
Abernethy continued: “In my message I did say that the riding is lucky to have good, credible candidates, and both should be applauded. As I indicated, my choice is Katrina.
“Consensus is about relationships and working together. It does not mean that members will always agree, but it is important to respect other people’s opinions.
“I told Patrick that I was going to be supporting Katrina and he knows my reasons. He may disagree but, in the spirit of consensus, I would expect that he would respect my decision and who I chose to support.”
In other NWT election news, Yellowknife Centre candidate Julie Green reportedly apologized after a member of her campaign team was found to have interfered with another candidate’s signs.
The CBC reported a member of Green’s team had removed an Arlene Hache sign from a door at Northern United Place, replacing it with one of Green’s signs.
“A member of my campaign team had acted on their own and inappropriately by tampering with another candidate’s information. I neither directed nor condone this action,” the broadcaster reported Green had said.
Green’s team did not acknowledge a request for comment from Cabin Radio.