Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson on Friday said the garnishment of his wages – over debts owed to the territorial government he now helps to run – is symptomatic of severe economic difficulties outside Yellowknife.
Simpson's company, Concept Energy Services, owes nearly $2 million to the territorial government's Business Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC).
Simpson, newly elected in October, says his company suffered when the Alberta oil economy slumped. According to Simpson, 80 percent of his business at the time – renting industrial equipment and manufacturing modular homes – was based in the province.
The BDIC has since begun the process of having Simpson's wages as an MLA garnished, the CBC first reported on Friday. The territorial agency is also taking steps to seize some of Concept's assets – like trailers in Hay River – and sell them to help recover the debt.
Approached by Cabin Radio as he entered the NWT legislature on Friday, Simpson said he took no issue with wage garnishment and was happy to "go through the process" related to seizure of assets by BDIC.
Simpson said he felt news reports related to his debt on entering office had been unfair. He told Cabin Radio his company's struggle was emblematic of far greater economic difficulties facing the territory's smaller communities, not grasped by many in Yellowknife.
"This is bigger than me," he said. "There is no economy in the communities outside Yellowknife. None. The government is the only economy."
Simpson said he believed dozens of companies farther south had suffered "exactly the same" consequences of the Alberta oil economy's implosion. "They lost everything too," he said.
Asked if he believed the new territorial government – he is one of 19 MLAs leading it – would effectively tackle the NWT's wider economic problems, Simpson replied: "I think we can do something. We've got a good group. It's not the old boys' club."
Concept owes around $4 million in total to a range of lenders, Simpson has previously said.
On Friday, court proceedings involving BDIC, Simpson, and his companies were adjourned for two weeks. Meanwhile, the legislature will return to session for three days beginning on December 10.