It sometimes seems like we live in an increasingly polarized world.
“The left” and “the right” can never see eye to eye anymore.
The pro-vaccine crowd and the anti-vaxxers — throw in pro and anti-masks as well — argue tooth and nail.
Now we can add the summary report on workplace conditions at the Office of the Clerk of the NWT Legislative Assembly as another issue where viewpoints are wildly conflicting.
In early March, the GNWT announced that it hired Ottawa firm Quintet Consulting to look into allegations of a “toxic” workplace at the clerk’s office. This was the territorial government flexing some muscle and paying what must be a substantial price for the same company that delved into then-governor general Julie Payette’s controversial mistreatment of staff. The GNWT could have chosen to go with Mom and Pop’s Investigations Inc., but reached much higher, therefore expectations were accordingly elevated.
Four individuals had stepped forward to accuse clerk Tim Mercer of inappropriate conduct, mostly bullying and harassment: Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, chief electoral officer NWT Nicole Latour, committee adviser April Taylor and an anonymous person. Mercer, hired in this role in 2003, has the “duties and functions of a deputy minister managing and administering the legislative assembly,” according to his online job description.
The Quintet report’s conclusions were released on Aug. 26. Its investigators determined that the clerk’s office was not a toxic workplace. The complaints lodged by Norn, Latour and Taylor were deemed not credible or unfounded. The unnamed person, however, was said to have a legitimate grievance related to a breach of confidentiality
“Mr. Mercer’s conduct was found to be inconsistent with the applicable code of conduct and with the letter and spirit of the confidentiality requirements of the harassment-free and respectful workplace policy,” the 25-page summary report states. Furthermore, investigators ascertained that the workplace is “divided” and has “a lack of unity.” So there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Mercer released a statement afterward indicating that he is pleased with the report’s findings and he accepts them fully.
Not lawyer Steven Cooper. Not at all.
Cooper, who represents Norn and Latour in this matter, came out swinging on Aug. 27, calling Quintet’s report the “byproduct of a dysfunctional and corrupt system.”
He argued that the conclusions are “largely irrelevant” due to limited terms of reference and an “artificial short time-frame.”
Norn and Latour also affirmed that they were not satisfied with the report’s findings.
Cooper took aim not so much at Mercer, but at civil servants in general, who he says have gained too much influence. He asserted that the “civil service that intimidates, manipulates and terrorizes those elected or appointed to represent.”
One can find plenty of NWT residents who have been singing a similar tune for many years.
So now we wait. We want to see the full report and the action plan that will be applicable to the Office of the Clerk, both of which deputy clerk Glen Rutland committed would be made public.
But, Cooper is right, it’s also time for a long overdue public conversation on the role of the GNWT’s senior civil servants, the unelected people who many perceive as really running the government. Some of them are knowledgeable, well-intentioned and incredibly valuable. Even so, the time is ripe to examine the scope of their duties and the checks on their powers.
Then we can say that this investigation and report led to some truly meaningful transformation.