The speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories promises a plan to address workplace concerns in the clerk’s office before Christmas.
Frederick Blake Jr. sent a “letter” to NWT residents to media outlets Dec. 10.
It said he has been working with MLAs on the Board of Management, caucus as a whole and clerk Tim Mercer to address the concerns raised in the report issued by Quintet Consulting. Implementing those changes will be what the action plan is all about, according to Blake’s letter.
“Consultations with staff were delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak at the legislature and the delayed sitting of the House,” Blake wrote. “They will continue this week and next, and it is my intention to release the Action Plan before Christmas. Its implementation is a priority for me, the Board of Management and the Clerk.”
Among those issues include how the legislature will implement findings from this year’s Quintet Consluting Corporation workplace review and investigation into Mercer’s office.
Blake addressed the four complainants who were investigated in noting that three of them – former Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, former chief electoral officer Nicole Latour, and former assembly employee April Taylor – were dismissed.
However a fourth, unnamed complainant was found to have had substantiated complaints against the office.
“The Board, the leadership of the Assembly and I have accepted (Quintet’s) findings,” Blake said. “While the report said positive things about the leadership and work environment at the Legislative Assembly, it also identified issues and made recommendations to improve the workplace. Some of these recommendations were addressed to Members (of the Legislative Assembly) themselves.
Fourth Quintet complainant
Blake apologized for a delay in responding to the fourth Quintet report’s complainant’s issues of a breach of confidentiality.
“The Board of Management regrets the time it has taken to respond to the fourth complainant, and I sincerely apologize for this delay,” he said.
“We accept the investigation’s finding that there was a breach of confidentiality and have apologized to the complainant. The Board has taken steps to deal with the issue internally.”
Blake also addressed an affidavit filed by Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson which was provided to the Norn inquiry and which was obtained by News/North recently.
The affidavit spells out in detail Jacobson’s account of of a physical and verbal altercation between Clerk Mercer and Minister Shane Thompson on March 13, 2020.
“With respect to the affidavits sworn by Mr. Jacobson and others, these were provided to the inquiry as part of an application for subpoenas by Mr. Steve Norn,” Blake stated.
“Mr. Norn wanted caucus’ complaint against him dismissed and said the Inquiry was tainted by conflict of interest and institutional bias due to incidents involving the Office of the Clerk that occurred before the complaint against Mr. Norn.”
Blake added that Justice Ronald Barclay, who was the sole adjudicator in Norn’s inquiry, dismissed Norn’s application and ruled that it was “appropriate for the board of management and the assembly’s legal counsel to receive those affidavits to respond to the application.”
Based on Blake’s statement, Jacobson and the legislature continue to have different accounts as to the extent to which the MLA’s complaints were at all addressed by Quintet.
Blake insisted that the member from Nunakput had a chance to file his grievances then and that all complaints were “thoroughly investigated.”
“With respect to the incident between Mr. Thompson and the Clerk on March 13, 2020, Quintet provided an opportunity for this to be investigated. Despite this opportunity, no complaint was filed,” Blake said.
Jacobson has continued to disagree, as stated in his Norn affidavit.
“I am concerned with the Quintet investigation engaged for the purpose of examining many of the allegations against the Clerk have been controlled by the Clerk, and the Clerk’s office controlled it,” Jacobson stated. “I am aware of multiple witnesses that have not been given and opportunity to be interviewed by the Quintet staff, including myself.”
Blake also addressed the Thompson incident specifically, noting that the incident has been dealt with.
“Mr. Thompson advised me shortly after the incident that he and Mr. Mercer apologized to each other and that Mr. Thompson considered the issue closed,” Blake said.
Thompson to date has not spoken publicly about the incident.