During the Legislative Assembly on Friday, March 11, an inquiry was put forward to conduct a full review of the $806,000 price tag of the public inquiry of former Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh assembly member, Steve Norn.
The cost of a little over $800,000 was accumulated through various items such as legal fees, and is in relation to both Norn’s violation of Covid-19 isolation rules and issues in public legitimacy about his actions.
“There’s a couple of things that I believe we need to do as an assembly, through the speaker and the board of management,” said Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, “Firstly, cap legal costs, the vast majority of this is legal fees.”
“Secondly, I think that some sort of alternative measures, or diversion, or dispute resolution mechanism needs to be made available so there can be a bit of an ‘off ramp’ during this process,” he continued.
Johnson also felt conversations needed to occur in other jurisdictions to regarding the Integrity Commissioners’ role moving forward.
The Department of Finance, which is responsible for the vast majority of funding and spending operations, is not responsible for the spending of the Legislative Assembly.
According to Frederick Blake Jr., Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the full review will take place within the next six months.
“The Board of Management has instructed the office of the clerk to undertake review of the policies within the next six months and provide recommendation to the board for consideration,” he said. “We are doing a full review of lessons learned from this and will bring those recommendations forward.”
“In an instance like this, it is very difficult to put a cap on legal fees,” he continued. “It’s supposed to be a fair process. Like say; ‘it shouldn’t go over $100,000’, it’s very unfair for any members in this chamber to defend themselves, it depends on circumstance.”
Kevin O’Reily, member for Frame Lake, also added his comments into the mix, stating that “consensus government worked” when regarding changes that were made to the Code of Conduct, the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, among other items during former assembly’s.
“It was painful, but it worked,” said O’Reilly. “It did cost some money but that’s the price of democracy in some ways.”
“I agree with a lot of what my colleague said in terms of trying to learn some lessons from what happened,” he said. “It’s difficult to cap legal costs, particularly around a public inquiry.”
As well, Frieda Martselos, MLA for Thebacha, also stated the costliness of the public inquiry but also thought that “there was no other way.”
“I think it was done in a very fair manor and I think the decision made was the correct one,” she said. “We’re lucky we stuck to $806,000.”
On top of the review into the public inquiry, other fiance related issues, (particularly those facing Norn), include his recent fine of nearly $1,400 for violating his Covid-19 isolation period. Norn has until February, 2023, to pay.