The question as to how the affidavit filed by Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson regarding the validity of the public inquiry into the behaviour of then Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn was shared with the clerks’ office, and the Board of Management, is now known.
A Sept. 23 letter from Speaker Frederick Blake Jr. to Integrity Commissioner David Jones obtained by NNSL Media show that four affidavits – one from Jacobson who stated the inquiry was “a tool is the Clerk’s arsenal to silence what he perceives as dissent in ‘his’ government – were sent by inquiry lawyer Maurice Laprairie to assembly law clerk Sheila MacPherson on Aug. 24.
“Shortly after the in-camera meeting on Aug. 24, Ms. MacPherson received an email from counsel for the sole adjudicator (Laprairie) with respect to Mr. Norn’s application,” Blake wrote, noting that Norn had attempted to halt the inquiry due to what he called “’conflict and institutional bias.’
“The email contained four affidavits in support of the application, including an unsworn affidavit by Mr. Jacobson. Mr. Jacobson subsequently swore his affidavit the next day.”
On Nov. 18, NNSL Media asked Laprairie by email if his office shared Jacobson’s affidavit with the Clerk’s Office. “I will not be responding further,” was Laprairie’s only reply.
Likewise, the Office of the Clerk was asked the same question: “The Assembly will not comment further on in camera matters dealt with by the Board of Management, nor confidential matters discussed with commission counsel,” Nicole Bonnell, legislature spokesperson, stated on Dec. 2.
Jacobson told NNSL Media in October that he had been of the understanding that his affidavit was to be private and confidential and to be only seen between himself, Norn lawyer Steven Cooper and inquiry lawyer Laprairie.
He became aware that the Clerk’s Office had been privy to the affidavit when he was asked to excuse himself from an in-camera Board of Management meeting Oct. 4. That meeting had to do with Mercer’s return to the Legislative Assembly.
“(Assembly law clerk ) Sheila MacPherson said ‘I think Mr. Jacobson should declare a conflict because of the affidavit he submitted to the Norn inquiry with regards to Mr. (Tim) Mercer,’” Jacobson told NNSL Media in October. “I asked Mr. Rutland to answer me: ‘Do I need to declare a conflict?’ He said, ‘yes, you do because of what you submitted in your affidavit.’ Those were his exact words.”
Corroborating witness accounts of altercation with minister
The contents of the Jacobson affidavit, as reported by NNSL Media on Dec. 3, detailed a heated verbal and physical altercation that took place between Clerk Tim Mercer and Minister Shane Thompson on March 13, 2020.
NNSL Media spoke to two anonymous witnesses – staff members – after the incident who stated that Mercer angrily approached Thompson and slapped his hand and pushed him just before MLAs were to gather for a caucus meeting. They saw MLA Jacobson intervene, taking both men into his office.
One of those staff, because they felt the assembly was an unsafe workplace, filed a complaint with the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC). NNSL reached out to the WSCC asking about the status of the complaint but they were not able to reply before deadline. When asked at the time, spokesperson Maggie Collins said the WSCC “can’t release information about particular reports received or actions the WSCC may be taking (under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act).”
In the sworn affidavit, Jacobson, the longest MLA and a former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, further accused Mercer of manipulating and controlling members collectively and individually. He said Mercer’s altercation with Minister Thompson amounted to a “physical assault”. He quoted Mercer as shouting threat toward Thompson: “I will bury you, you fat f—k”.
When asked to comment at the time, Mercer insisted the argument did not turn violent.
“We had a heated discussion about a matter at the end of a long day,” Mercer stated in an email. “It ended as quickly as it began with mutual apologies, which were fully accepted on both sides. There was no shoving or physical contact of any kind. He and I have enjoyed a close and effective working relationship for nearly five years and it is as strong or stronger now than it ever was. I’m also pretty sure he could take me.”
Minister Thompson, to date, has declined to describe publicly what occurred between himself and Mercer that day. The alleged altercation was not included in the Terms of Reference given the recent Quintet consultant report looking into various complaints Mercer had created a “toxic” workplace in the assembly.
The Quintet report indicates the consultant interviewed 30 people deemed relevant to their work. Jacobson was not one of them.