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Kicked out of NWT assembly, Steve Norn running in Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh by-election

Steve Norn, the expelled MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, says he wants his seat back.
Steve Norn, former MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh said Jan. 7 he intends to run for his seat again. YouTube screengrab

Steve Norn, the expelled MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, says he wants his seat back.

Norn said in an interview with News/North on Jan. 7 that he will be seeking reelection in the Feb. 8 byelection.

“I was really taken aback by all the developments that happened over the last couple months, but it was funny because I had a lot of outpouring of support,” he said. “If it was just one or two people, I would have taken the idea of running again with a grain of salt. But there’s a lot of support both from within the riding and throughout the North supporting me or wishing me the best.

“I couldn’t ignore that. I still have lots to offer and that’s why I want to run again.”

Elections NWT announced last month that a byelection would be held for the electoral district and that it will be held by mail-in ballot due to Covid-19 concerns.

Norn was elected to the district for the first time in the 2019 election after a five way race against Richard Edjericon, Lila Erasmus, Paul Betsina, and Nadine Delorme-Simon.

Delorme-Simon is the only other confirmed candidate who said on Jan. 4 that she will be running again in hopes of raising awareness about housing challenges and the need for an apology to Sixties Scoop survivors.

Edjericon said on Jan. 7 he would make an announcement next week.

Norn attracted much public attention throughout 2021 after raising allegations against the clerk of the Legislature of the Northwest Territories, Tim Mercer in February. Those complaints helped lead to an eight-month long workplace review and investigation into Mercer and his office.

Norn became the subject of a code of conduct public inquiry in October. He was deemed “unfit” to hold office by the retired judge who oversaw the hearing, which was triggered after the NWT integrity commissioner deemed the complaint raised by MLAs, namely that Norn broke his self-isolation protocol in April and misled the House and public health investigators about it, held water.

He was expelled from the assembly in a 17-0 vote by his fellow MLAs on Nov. 23. The vote was held on a point of privilege raised by caucus chair and Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos who was among a number of MLAs who said they felt threatened after Norn sent a message to a Facebook group chat Oct. 3, the evening before the inquiry into a complaint over his conduct was to begin.

Norn said in the legislature he would “resign” to allow the MLAs to avoid having to vote him out, but the language he used did not satisfy the relevant legislation, so the MLAs proceeded with the vote which resulted in his unseating.

Asked about potentially returning to work with an assembly of MLAs who to expel him, Norn said it is important for him to remain focused on residents.

“I think the biggest thing and the message that I want to get out there, is that this is about constituents,” he said. “It’s not about outside forces. Every MLA works for his or her constituents in their own way. We live in a democracy and it is the people who choose who their leaders are and who should be in office. That’s the biggest thing I want to get across to this government.”

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh encompasses a vast region to the northeast and southeast of Great Slave Lake and includes the communities of Dettah, Ndilo, Lutsel K’e, and Fort Resolution.

Summing up his concerns as a candidate, Norn said much comes down to the territory’s finances, economic development and the cost of living as people are being forced to move away from the North.

“The biggest thing I think people need to know is that our government is going broke,” he said. “They’re pretty close to hitting the debt wall and the way they’re going about is not sustainable.

“My take is that we need more solutions, we need to create business opportunities, and that will translate to more jobs. As a territory, I think we’re moving away from that and it is a dangerous road to go down.”

Norn said he remains concerned about a shortfall in financial help that Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh has received in recent GNWT budgets, including for items like health care and housing. However he also sees a lot of potential in the region that northerners should be aware.

“Our riding is one of the geographically largest electoral districts in the country and it’s arguably one with the most resources anywhere on on the continent,” he said. “We’ve got the diamond mines as well as a lot of rare earth development and other projects being pondered near Fort Resolution right now. Despite our honey-pot of resources, we are still getting very little in return for our people.”

Nomination papers for the electoral district are to be filed by Jan. 14.