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Firm that reviewed Governor General's workplace hired for clerk investigation

Nicole Latour, chief electoral officer of the Northwest Territories, sent an email to the Speaker on Feb. 12 with the subject line: "Clerk's targeted malfeasance." Photo courtesy of the Legislative Assembly

The same consultants that investigated the atmosphere at Rideau Hall will review the workplace of the office of the clerk of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly.

Clerk Tim Mercer
Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly House Clerk Tim Mercer is currently on paid leave.
NNSL file photo

The legislative assembly's Board of Management hired Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting Corporation to conduct a review of concerns raised about the work environment in the clerk's office and "allegations of harassment and/or wrongdoing."

Mercer has been on paid leave since Feb. 16 following allegations of harassment and creating a toxic workplace at the legislative assembly, charges he has vehemently denied.

Quintet Consulting has expertise in conflict management and prevention and conducting administrative investigations. The firm performed the review of the "toxic" work environment under Governor General Julie Payette and her No. 2. Payette tendered her resignation in the wake of the report's release in January.

No word on how long it will take

The Board of Management, a committee of regular MLAs and cabinet ministers, announced the hiring in a press release Tuesday morning. They did not say when they expected the consultants to complete their work, or what it is expected to cost.

"The workplace review will consist of a review of concerns raised about the work environment in the Office of the Clerk (Office) at the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly (NTLA) and an investigation into allegations of harassment and/or misconduct," according to the release.

Last month, Mercer was accused of workplace harassment by April Taylor, a legislative assembly advisor and Nicole Latour, chief electoral officer.

Steve Norn, MLA for Tu Nedhé – Wiilideh held a news conference Feb. 15 and called for a third-party investigation into Mercer's conduct.

Mercer has "categorically" denied all of their charges and said he welcomes an investigation.

The firm is to include the perspectives of current and former staff of the office since the beginning of the term of this assembly, October of 2019 in other words. Those who volunteer to speak can do so in confidence.

The report they produce is to summarize their findings and present "analysis, findings and conclusions relating to the allegations raised in the written complaints."

Nicole Bonnell, manager of public affairs and communications said in an email on Tuesday that the final amount has to be determined.

"The final cost will depend on the number of people who choose to participate in the workplace review," she said. "The costs are estimated to range anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000. It will be paid for out of the Legislative Assembly’s budget."

Bonnell added that Speaker Frederick Black Jr. will remain in his position as chair of the Board of Management during the investigation.

"As the Speaker is responsible for the administration of the Assembly, it is not appropriate for him to recuse himself, simply on the basis that he supervises the Clerk," Bonnell stated.

"It is his responsibility, along with the Board of Management, to provide for the management and operation of the Office of the Legislative Assembly."

Terms of Reference

Bonnell said that the terms of reference for the review were prepared by staff based on direction from the Board of Management.

"The Law Clerk of the Legislative Assembly advised the Board, and they were reviewed by Quintet Consulting, before they were finalized," she said. "All comments and changes from Quintet Consulting were accepted."

Although the Board of Management is responsible for the 19th Legislative Assembly and is focused on the alleged toxic work environment in the Office of the Clerk in this term, there will be some exceptions.

"In the 18th Assembly, a number of actions were taken by the Board in respect to concerns raised at that time and those matters were resolved during the 18th Assembly." Bonnell said. "The scope of this workplace review is broader than what is normally provided in that  former employees will be asked and encouraged to participate.

"The scope of the investigation into the individual written complaints is not limited to the 19th Assembly."

Whether or not Mercer were to resign, the investigation will go forward because its focus is an assessment of the Office of the Clerk as a whole, Bonnell said.