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Legislative assembly clerk denies quarrel with minister got physical

Tim Mercer Clerk of the Assembly of the NWT Election 2007 October 01 2007 NNSL photo / George Lessard

Longtime legislative assembly clerk Tim Mercer is confirming he did indeed get into a heated exchange with Lands Minister Shane Thompson in the legislative assembly back in March but says it did not get physical.

Two anonymous witnesses told NNSL Media that an irate Mercer angrily approached Thompson and slapped his hand and pushed him just before MLAs were to gather for a caucus meeting, March 13.

Tim Mercer Clerk of the legislative assembly of the NWT
Tim Mercer,
clerk of the legislative assembly of the NWT

“I stuck my head out of my office and looked down the hallway. And I saw Tim getting into Shane’s face, getting closer and closer and Shane said ‘stop that, don’t ever talk to me like that!” and stuck his finger out and Tim slapped down his hand,” said one source.

“And then Tim gave him a little shove. At that point (Nunakput MLA) Jackie Jacobson ran out of his office and said, ‘Let’s take this inside’ and dragged them both into his office and closed the door and blinds.

“I think Tim probably got told by someone that Shane was talking shit to screw with him and Tim let it get to him. At that point I didn’t see anything further and I couldn’t hear anything concrete but it was a loud argument. That carried on for a while.”

As the clerk, Mercer is responsible for managing the territory's consensus system of government in the legislative assembly and advises the speaker and the MLAs on its rules and procedures.

The exchange with Thompson took place three days before the winter budget session of the legislative assembly shut down early due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The witness quoted in this story submitted a written complaint to supervisors the next day, along with a complaint to the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission.

NNSL Media has been unable to confirm through official channels that an investigation is taking place, nor have the allegations been tested in court.

The safety commission was contacted Wednesday about the complaint but 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).”

NNSL Media obtained a copy of the written complaint and a confirmation of receipt with a reference number.

Shane Thompson, minister of lands.

Mercer told NNSL Media on Friday that he has not seen the written complaint but insists 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.”

The clerk, who has been on the job since 2003, added Thompson also disagrees with the sources' characterization of events, as first reported in the May 15 Yellowknifer.

NNSL Media briefly spoke with Thompson on Wednesday but he declined to comment, and referred questions to the GNWT press secretary instead. A comment was also sought from legislative assembly speaker Frederick Blake Jr. who oversees operations and staff in the assembly but he has yet to respond to NNSL Media's questions.

Mercer said “it's clear that this person has an axe to grind but prefers to do it through rumour spreading and innuendo,” referring to sources who spoke to NNSL Media.