Speaker rules vacation of Norn’s seat trumps resignation
Steve Norn’s attempt to resign before MLAs voted to vacate his Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh seat won’t count, the Speaker of the House ruled on Wednesday.
In a unanimous 17-0 vote, MLAs on Tuesday voted to declare Norn’s seat vacant after most of them criticized what they called his “pattern of toxic behaviour” and his breaches of their code of conduct.
Norn, however, attempted to resign during the debate about vacating his seat.
“I will say that I will resign. I will prevent you from making this vote. I will save you that,” Norn said at the time.
“I will do that and do you that honour. I could feel the will of the people in this room, and I will respect that.”
However, on Wednesday, Speaker Frederick Blake Jr said the vote to vacate Norn’s seat would be considered the final verdict on his tenure as an MLA, not the attempted resignation.
Blake acknowledged that making a speech from the floor of the Assembly is an accepted method of resignation – then-Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty used it earlier this year as he began an ultimately successful bid to become Tłı̨chǫ grand chief.
But Blake said Norn’s wording was “ambiguous and lacked the clarity needed to give that resignation full effect.”
Even if Norn had used other wording, Blake said, the motion to declare his seat vacant – about which debate had already begun – would have had to finish, a vote would have been required, and the verdict would have taken effect.
“Mr Norn did not resign his seat in the Legislative Assembly yesterday. The Legislative Assembly ordered the seat declared vacant in accordance with the recommendation of the sole adjudicator,” Blake stated.
An exact comparison of the impacts of considering Norn’s seat vacant versus Norn resigning was not immediately clear.
However, a spokesperson for the legislature set out what declaring the seat vacant meant for the outgoing MLA.
The legislature spokesperson said Norn’s pay ceased on Tuesday, as did “access to indemnities, allowances, and constituency budget.”
Norn will not receive a pension and his contributions to the MLAs’ pension program will be returned, as the right to receive benefits is only activated after four years of service or one full term in office as a territorial politician.
MLAs who leave office after at least one full term – either through retirement or defeat in an election – can receive a benefit that helps them retrain for another job. Norn cannot receive that, nor the “transition allowance” that acts as a form of parachute payment to help outgoing MLAs.
There appears to be nothing in the legislation governing territorial elections that would prevent Norn running in the by-election for the vacated Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh seat, if he wished.