Katrina Nokleby’s predecessor says the roles revoked from her on Wednesday gave her the most work, and pressure, of any minister in Canada.
Wally Schumann served as infrastructure and industry minister for the four years prior to Nokleby’s appointment, losing his seat at the 2019 election.
Premier Caroline Cochrane subsequently stripped Nokleby of her industry and infrastructure portfolios on Wednesday.
Cochrane said Nokleby had not done enough to mend relations with regular MLAs, adding she had lost confidence.
Nokleby remains in cabinet as only the group of 19 MLAs can collectively remove her from the executive council. That is expected to happen in the coming months.
“People have to remember she has the biggest portfolio not just in the Northwest Territories … but in Canada. You’re extremely busy and under a lot of pressure day to day,” Schumann told Cabin Radio.
“There’s a lot of pressure on those two portfolios, way more than the average person even contemplates.
“I can’t stress that enough. It’s the biggest portfolio in Canada. Just think about that for a second. She’s in charge of a lot of stuff: agriculture, fish, mining, oil and gas, transportation, public works, it just goes on and on.
“Your plate is full every day. Every day.”
Caucus meeting upcoming
Schumann faced a vote to remove him from cabinet after the 2018 barge season dissolved into a debacle, with barges unable to reach some communities before freeze-up.
Speaking on Wednesday, he fired back at the suggestion – voiced by some regular MLAs in May – that Nokleby was proving hard to work with and communication was lacking.
“There is a lot of opportunity for regular members to engage with the minister. You can walk into their office and they’re in front of committee on a continuous basis,” Schumann said.
“When they tried to revoke me, we communicated with regular members on a regular basis and fully updated them on what was going on. Committees have ample opportunity that the public don’t really realize, on all kinds of matters, all the time.
“They have a caucus meeting coming up in a week or so and that will be interesting to follow. The regular members are going to have to decide what they think of their government going forward, come the October session.”
That caucus meeting, where all 19 MLAs meet, is set to take place in Fort Smith.
MLAs are not due to reconvene at the legislature until October, which is likely to be the earliest point at which Nokleby can be formally removed from cabinet unless a decision is taken for the House to sit earlier.
‘Not easy’ for Cochrane
Former NWT premier Floyd Roland, also reached on Wednesday, said stripping a minister of their portfolios is “no easy decision.”
Roland took the same action as Cochrane in 2008 when he removed then-Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya from his portfolios, which included municipal and community affairs.
Roland did so days before Yakeleya was charged with sexual assault. Yakeleya was later found not guilty.
“It’s not an easy decision to make,” Roland – premier of the NWT from 2007 to 2011 – told Cabin Radio. “It goes to what happens with regular members, what messages she’s been getting as premier from regular members.”
Roland said how exactly those relationships work varies.
“I’m not sure how this assembly operates. It goes different from assembly to assembly.”
No regular MLAs were immediately available for comment. Reached by phone, Nokleby said she had no comment.
The NWT government said it would not comment further beyond a brief statement issued on Wednesday.
Emily Blake and Sarah Pruys contributed reporting.