The NWT’s MLAs have hastily convened a formal meeting to discuss Katrina Nokleby’s potential removal from cabinet after she was stripped of her portfolios.
That meeting will take place from 1:30pm on Monday. A four-day sitting at the legislature has been hurriedly scheduled with the intention of providing sufficient time to navigate the technicalities of the removal process.
Premier Caroline Cochrane relieved Nokleby of her industry and infrastructure portfolios on Wednesday, alluding to communication issues with regular MLAs.
No specific details have been shared. Exactly what motivated the premier to sack Nokleby from the portfolios remains unclear. Business leaders have said they do not understand the decision.
Nokleby remains a cabinet member even though she no longer runs any departments. The premier cannot remove someone from cabinet – only the group of 19 MLAs can do so, by vote.
Next week’s emergency sitting, in the middle of MLAs’ summer recess, is almost certain to include a motion to revoke Nokleby’s appointment and a subsequent vote.
Ordinarily, a motion must be introduced two days before it is debated. MLAs, in a rush to address the matter, are likely to seek unanimous consent among themselves for those two days to be scrapped and the motion dealt with immediately.
Technically, Nokleby or any other MLA could derail that by refusing to grant unanimous consent. More likely is that consent will be granted and the House will move directly to dealing with Nokleby’s removal.
There may or may not be a discussion of the motion. If no discussion happens, Nokleby could be removed from cabinet without anyone explaining in any detail the reasons for that action – echoing a failed attempt to remove her in May, where MLAs similarly gave no rationale of substance.
A majority vote is required to remove Nokleby from cabinet.
Whether the six other cabinet members will vote en-bloc to remove Nokleby is unclear. In the past, such as when Henry Zoe was removed from cabinet in 2004, cabinet members have split – with some issuing statements for the motion and some against.
Removal of Nokleby from cabinet is not a foregone conclusion. If she can acquire the backing of eight fellow MLAs, her position will be safe. That outcome would cause a considerable crisis for the premier, who would in effect be forced to work with Nokleby despite trying to fire her. (A tied vote is ordinarily split by the Speaker of the House, who is bound by convention to vote in favour of the status quo – keeping Nokleby in post.)
Under a tradition whereby two cabinet members other than the premier are appointed from Yellowknife, the candidates to replace Nokleby would be Rylund Johnson, Julie Green, Kevin O’Reilly, or Caitlin Cleveland.
If Nokleby is removed from cabinet, a meeting of the territorial leadership committee – all 19 MLAs – is likely to follow the next day.
MLAs will elect her successor by secret ballot. Nokleby herself would also be permitted to stand in that election if she chooses. (She has so far declined to comment.)
Whoever replaces Nokleby in that scenario would not necessarily be assigned the same portfolios she formerly possessed.
Cochrane, as premier, decides which of her cabinet members does which job, and another reshuffle could be triggered.
None of the NWT’s 11 regular MLAs, nor the Speaker of the House, responded to repeated requests for comment from Cabin Radio over the past 48 hours. The premier has refused interviews on the matter, despite MLAs considering it of sufficient importance to recall the House early.
Around half of the territory’s regular MLAs are currently away on a committee retreat in Hay River.