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Race to solve deafening problem of MLAs who can’t hit mute

Steve Norn
Steve Norn during a live-streamed meeting on April 29, 2020.

“Oof,” sighed Steve Norn, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, as a video conference call with other MLAs and ministers ended on Wednesday afternoon.

The call, 90 minutes long, had been beleaguered by audio difficulties that seemed as simple as some participants forgetting to place themselves on mute.

That meant people trying to speak in the meeting had to fight a constant echo. Distortion on the line left a whole half-hour or more of the conversation barely intelligible, including comments from Premier Caroline Cochrane and her ministers, Caroline Wawzonek and Katrina Nokleby.

The meeting was supposed to be a public unveiling of the NWT’s broad-brushstrokes economic and social recovery plan, with a chance for regular MLAs to ask questions and hold ministers to account.



Norn was the meeting’s chair and his exasperation, as the live stream eventually ended, was clear. He had spent more than an hour issuing the usual pleas for people to mute their microphones. Those pleas, sometimes themselves garbled, went unheeded.

Territorial politicians’ committee meetings are hosted by the Legislative Assembly.

Danielle Mager, the legislature’s manager of public affairs and communications, said some kind of solution was being pursued.

“We are looking at other platforms for the next technical briefing – one with a mute-all option,” Mager said by email on Wednesday.



“The current platform that we are using prevents us from muting everyone but the person speaking, so we are truly hoping this will work.”

With MLAs set to take weekly briefings on important Covid 19-related topics until the pandemic ends, that solution can’t come too soon for some viewers.

“Please adjourn this meeting and reconvene when these issues are sorted,” urged Cat McGurk, constituency assistant to Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson, in the comments accompanying Wednesday’s live stream on Facebook.

“We are losing a lot of important information on the public side,” she added.

“Apparently we haven’t all grasped the concept of the mute button,” remarked Keith Dohey, the Hay River town councillor, in another comment.