NWT regular MLAs on Friday chose not to go ahead with a motion calling for Katrina Nokleby’s removal, abandoning a stance that put them at odds with the mining industry.
The territory’s chamber of mines threw its support behind Nokleby, the infrastructure and industry minister, after MLAs announced a plan to seek the Great Slave MLA’s removal from cabinet.
A debate and vote scheduled for Friday never took place as the motion, which had been on the day’s agenda, was not put forward. There had been little public support for it.
Regular MLAs had not explained their rationale for trying to remove Nokleby. The identities of the regular MLAs behind the motion are still unclear.
Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, who announced on Wednesday that he planned to move the motion on Friday, said he only did so as the chair of a committee of all 11 regular MLAs, acting on the committee’s behalf.
Rocky Simpson, the MLA for Hay River South, was set to second the motion according to Norn. Simpson has not commented.
Norn and Simpson both stood on Friday to withdraw the motion, but said nothing further.
Later, a news release issued on Norn’s behalf as committee chair stated the motion had been withdrawn after a meeting with Premier Caroline Cochrane and Nokleby.
“After an honest and open conversation, I am convinced the minister understands the concerns of regular members and that the executive council will take the appropriate actions to address our concerns,” the news release quoted Norn as saying.
Premier Cochrane was quoted as saying: “This is still a new government, with many new members, and we were still in the process of figuring out how to work effectively with each other when Covid-19 occurred.
“Minister Nokleby and I have heard from members and I can assure you that all cabinet ministers are committed to working together with all Members of the Legislative Assembly on behalf of NWT residents and will continue to find ways to improve our working relationships and collaboration.”
‘Important to build relationships’
“Speechless,” former Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart – who himself sought the removal of a minister in his four-year term – wrote on Facebook.
“The six MLAs who wanted Nokleby fired have a responsibility to explain their positions after putting the public through this for no reason,” he added.
Caitlin Cleveland, the present Kam Lake MLA, subsequently shared on Facebook the statement she had planned on making during Friday’s anticipated debate. She had pre-recorded the statement as a video, suggesting she was aware the motion would be withdrawn.
In her statement, Cleveland said she would have voted against the motion but warned: “The majority of regular members feel they are not receiving the action and service from Minister Nokleby that they feel is necessary to get their jobs done.”
She continued: “I know we can fix this without the drastic action of removing the minister from cabinet. One lesson I hope all cabinet ministers can draw from this is to remember how important it is to build relationships with those of us on this side of the House.”
Cleveland’s statement did not identify which MLAs were seeking Nokleby’s removal.
Cabin Radio has contacted all 11 regular MLAs for comment.
Motion was near-certain to fail
Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson told constituents on Thursday he did not support the motion and would vote for Nokleby to remain in cabinet.
Johnson’s plan to oppose the motion meant Nokleby needed just one other regular MLA’s support for the motion to be defeated – which she would have received from Cleveland.
Cabinet almost always votes en-bloc, giving Nokleby an immediate seven votes. Johnson would have been an eighth. A nine-nine tie among the 18 voting MLAs would give the Speaker of the House the casting vote, and convention dictates he vote to preserve the status quo – defeating the motion and keeping Nokleby in post.
A debate and vote on Friday, with the motion near-certain to fail, could have lasted for hours with each MLA afforded up to 20 minutes to speak on the topic.
The decision not to go ahead with the motion means the public may never know who initially supported the motion, and why.
Cochrane on Thursday evening said through a spokesperson she had “complete confidence” in Nokleby and was prepared to rise in her support on Friday if a debate took place.
A petition entitled “save Minister Katrina Nokleby” had garnered around 1,500 signatures by 11am on Friday.