NWT politicians will wait an extra week before holding their fall sitting online after Speaker of the House Frederick Blake Jr determined the public interest required changes.
A spokesperson for the territory’s legislature said the current outbreak of Covid-19 in the Yellowknife area had led Blake to determine “it was not in the best interests of members or the public to require travel to Yellowknife to participate in the fall sitting.”
MLAs will now reconvene virtually on October 21 instead of October 14 as planned.
Moving to a virtual sitting using video conferencing technology is an outcome long contemplated by the NWT’s politicians, who passed legislation three months into the pandemic allowing them to do so. The announcement of a virtual sitting comes a year after that legislation was approved, four months after the last sitting ended, and a month after Yellowknife became the centre of the ongoing outbreak.
The move to a virtual sitting “requires additional staff time to prepare, resulting in a delay to the start of session,” said legislature spokesperson Nicole Bonnell.
The sitting will be available to view online, as is ordinarily the case.
One consequence of the delay is the provision of additional time for a public inquiry into the conduct of MLA Steve Norn to conclude.
Norn’s lawyer, Steven Cooper, argued this week that the inquiry was being held at what he perceived to be a rushed pace in order to wrap up before MLAs resumed sitting.
Norn is accused by fellow MLAs of breaking self-isolation rules in April and subsequently misleading the public about his actions. The inquiry continues.