The second session of the 18th Legislative Assembly reconvened Sept. 19 in the capital and will run until Oct. 4. But, this isn’t just another short work shift for our elected officials. On Oct. 5, Premier Bob McLeod and his ministers will make speeches in the House defending their records.This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of our consensus form of government – the mid-term review. It’s a chance for the regular MLAs to air their grievances – sure, something akin to the Festivus ritual on Seinfeld – and then have a secret vote that could lead to the ousting of any under-performing, or simply unfavoured cabinet minister — including the NWT’s first minister, Premier McLeod.
Following what surely can be some fine feather puffery during the ministerial monologues, the regular MLAs will then be allowed to ask questions. Many, many questions. Some 10 days of them.
There is then the vote by secret ballot. While the results are non-binding, it would most surely mean ouster from cabinet.
Sounds great – kick the bums out, right? But perhaps we should be careful of what we wish for.
It must be admitted that consensus government is not the best democratic model to govern anything higher than the municipality level. It doesn’t really provide the opportunity to form strong policies or to govern in a direct, open and clear manner.
It also allows weak ministers to slide under the radar, protected by their departments, only seen in the capital during session and even with some rarely seen in their home constituencies.
So what ministers are under the microscope?
Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses. Both the Junior Kindergarten and Aurora College files were bobbled, bungled and botched.
Justice Minister Louis Sebert, minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, and also minister for public engagement and transparency. His role is far more opaque than transparent and crime statistics remain abysmal. And the power corp. file continues to weigh him down.
Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy, also responsible for the Public Utilities Board. Not much good to say on the health file, except there is a shiny new hospital being built in Yellowknife that we’re told is on budget. Abernethy needs to back up his words with actions.
Some ministers that have caught News/North’s eye for performing well, or at least not walking into too many walls: Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs Caroline Cochrane, who is also tasked with status of women and homelessness; Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod; and Premier Bob McLeod, who while at times looks more like a committee chair than a premier, does run the place with a steady hand.
So is it time for a change? Should the existing cabinet be given a mandate to move forward? While there are certainly some very skilled and outspoken regular MLAs, others are not.
And those whose names you regularly see and hear in the media are dragging some special interest and political affiliation baggage with them that might not be a good fit in cabinet.
So before you strive for change, please consider the alternatives.