Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green has been acclaimed as the NWT government’s new cabinet member, replacing Katrina Nokleby.
Green was the only candidate after the Speaker of the House ruled Steve Norn, the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA, was not eligible as he did not qualify as a Yellowknife MLA.
A longstanding convention dictates that an outgoing Yellowknife MLA – like Nokleby, who represents Great Slave – must be replaced by another from the city.
Norn said MLAs’ refusal to allow him to stand meant he had been “stifled by the system.” He said that, with constituents in Dettah and Ndilǫ, he should have been entitled to stand.
Green was ultimately the only candidate and duly acclaimed after Yellowknife North’s Rylund Johnson, Frame Lake’s Kevin O’Reilly, and Kam Lake’s Caitlin Cleveland decided not to seek the cabinet vacancy.
“We need to stop with that path, with that direction, and we need to start working together,” said Green as she accepted the position, referring to divisions both within the government and across the territory.
The portfolios she will assume are not yet clear. A cabinet reshuffle is expected.
Norn’s bid rejected
Before Green’s acclamation, MLAs debated whether Norn should be allowed to run against her for the position.
Until now, cabinet has consisted of two northern MLAs, two from Yellowknife, and two from the NWT’s south.
Johnson, addressing Norn’s request to open up the field beyond Yellowknife, said breaking that convention demanded more thorough consideration at a later date.
“That protocol has been in place for many years,” he said.
“It is a semi-constitutional principle of consensus government. It simply cannot be changed without a much more thorough discussion.”
Several other MLAs joined Johnson in expressing a similar view. Hay River South’s Rocky Simpson said: “We’ve got lots of issues out there. Those issues are probably bigger than what we’re talking about at this 11th hour.”
Speaker Frederick Blake Jr ruled that the majority of MLAs were not in favour of Norn’s amendment, meaning the convention stayed in place.
Nokleby was removed from cabinet by a 16 to one vote on Wednesday.
Who is Julie Green?
Green joins cabinet after first being elected to the legislature in 2015. She ran unsuccessfully for cabinet late last year following re-election to the Yellowknife Centre seat.
According to a biography provided by the legislature, Green has lived in Yellowknife since 2000 and worked for the CBC for 16 years.
She subsequently performed advocacy work on behalf of the NWT’s women, families, and children, and is known for her focus on the territory’s social programs.
She has volunteered on the boards of United Way NWT, the Yellowknife Housing Authority, and the City of Yellowknife’s social issues committee.
Green has in the past been critical of what she sees as the territory’s over-reliance on large infrastructure projects in its mandate.
“I, personally, did not agree with every priority that we put into the mandate, but what I have learned is that you give a little and take a little,” she said in March.
“Consensus government means being heard. It doesn’t mean that everybody agrees with a single point.”