What good came out of the historic mid-term review the 18th Legislative Assembly imposed on themselves, their staff, and the public?
Countless hours of time on the taxpayers’ dollar was lost preparing for, and during, an extremely obnoxious day Oct. 5 that featured a repugnant display of ministerial arrogance, and over-the-top grandstanding from the regular MLAs.
In the end, after a secret ballot vote, Justice Minister Louis Sebert received a ‘no’ vote in what amounted to a lame – and non-binding — recasting of the TV reality series Survivor.
As you’ll read elsewhere in this edition, the majority of MLAs do not have confidence in Sebert as a cabinet minister. A man whose very aloofness defines his public persona and his approach to some very important files. In addition to justice – tasked with handling the super high-profile marijuana legalization process – Sebert is responsible for Lands, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and public engagement and transparency.
His ham-fisted handling of the A New Day Program based in Yellowknife did nothing than fill the pages of this paper with the intriguing but unnecessary backroom skulduggery.
Power corp. is, we concede, a file very few previous ministers have made much headway on. However, power rates continue to skyrocket under his watch while ideas to slow them remain elusive, and it remains to be seen whether the government’s messy battle with Northland Utilities will result in smaller power bills. Stalled progress on expanding hydroelectric power, meanwhile, continues to dog this government as it faces pressure from Ottawa to tax carbon emissions – many of which come from diesel generators to power remote communities.
As for the GNWT being more transparent? We have a team of reporters across the territory who consistently face unanswered questions and unobtainable information in our quest for the facts and truth. So we can only imagine how lobby groups, regular MLAs and the average person feels trying to figure out what’s happening in those tony ministerial offices at the legislative assembly in Yellowknife.
So what will Sebert do now? How long will the MLA for Thebacha wear the goat horns of of the only cabinet minister who hasn’t – or simply couldn’t – do his work or make enough friends on the job? Will he give up his portfolios voluntarily as he should? Or, since the review’s results are non-binding, will he force MLAs to go the next step and put a separate motion of revocation on the floor to remove him from cabinet when the session reconvenes Oct. 17?
That would waste even more time that should be spent helping to improve the lives of their constituents.
In any event, should MLAs decide to force Sebert out, tradition calls for a public confidence vote with individual MLAs affirming or rejecting his ministerial status for all to see.
Note at the start of the leadership review how quick cabinet ministers were to insist they would not step down if they lost the secret ballot vote following the leadership review. Any confidence vote must be held openly, so, as Housing Minister Caroline Cochrane noted, she “could see who actually believes that I need to step down.”
These bully tactics are suitable to them when their jobs are on the line but not when MLAs are selecting the premier and cabinet, which is all done by secret ballot.
This is the height of hypocrisy and exposes the undemocratic nature of consensus government – one that tells the voters to buzz off once MLAs are safely elected so they can secretly decide among themselves who will hold the levers of power. If they lose support among regular MLAs, however, cabinet ministers have the right to face down dissenters in public.
That show of tone-deaf bravado was triggered by Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson – a lawyer, by the way – who cross-examined cabinet on their respect for the vote.
But the pols can’t have it both ways. To call for an open vote to select them while preferring a secret ballot to choose them is inherently unfair and one more reason for voters to lose confidence in the legislative assembly.