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Motion withdrawn to remove industry minister

2211women67 Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby says part of the change has to be men standing up to inappropriate conduct. Nick Pearce / NNSL Photo

The motion seeking the removal of Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby was withdrawn Friday morning, spurring varied responses from some MLAs and a prominent NWT business consultant.

Steve Norn, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, who tabled the motion Wednesday, stated in the Friday session of the Legislative Assembly his intention to withdraw the motion.

RELATED REPORTING: MLA Norn tables motion to remove Nokleby from cabinet

Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South, who seconded the motion on Wednesday also gave his consent to withdraw the motion against Nokleby, who is also minister of Infrastructure and of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).

Reaction from Assembly members

In a statement issued by the assembly, Norn said "after an honest and open conversation, I am convinced the minister understands the concerns of regular members and that the executive council will take the appropriate actions to address our concerns."

Premier Caroline Cochrane said all members of the new government were still trying to figure out how to work effectively with each other when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Nokleby has been minister for just seven months.

"Minister Nokleby and I have heard from members and I can assure you that all cabinet ministers are committed to working together with all members of the Legislative Assembly on behalf of NWT residents and will continue to find ways to improve our working relationships and collaboration," she said.

In a joint statement between Cochrane and Nokleby issued on Friday evening, they said that in the morning they met with members of the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight to discuss how various concerns could be resolved by working together.

"We cannot discuss details of that meeting, but what we can say is that all members agree we need to put the people of the NWT first and make good on the promise to work together to deliver results and do government differently.”

In her own statement, the premier expressed "complete confidence" in Nokleby and said all ministers are "committed to working together with all members on behalf of Northwest Territories residents, and will continue to find ways to improve our working relationships and collaboration.”

Nokleby said her goal has been to work on issues that matter for residents of the NWT since she was elected.

"That was my goal then, and remains true today. In my role as minister, I can, and have been a loud and strong voice for our territory. It’s a voice and strength I have carried with me all my life, and one that I look forward to continuing to use in my role as minister for the benefit of our territory and residents.”

The withdrawn motion follows two days of confusion and questions by NWT residents over the move, after little rationale was given by Norn or any other MLAs about the effort to unseat Nokleby.
Caitlin Cleveland, MLA for Kam Lake, posted a pre-recorded video statement on her Facebook page right after the motion was withdrawn, explaining why she didn't support the move to oust Nokleby.
"Everyone should be given a fair chance, and I don’t believe that Minister Nokleby – or indeed any of the ministers who have not been a minister before – has had a reasonable opportunity to become proficient at their job," Cleveland said.

While she acknowledged that "the majority of regular members feel they are not receiving the action and service from Minister Nokleby that they feel is necessary to get their jobs done, I know we can fix this without the drastic action of removing the minister from cabinet."

Cleveland added that Nokleby's removal would destabilize the GNWT during this difficult period of the pandemic.

Julie Green, Yellowknife Centre MLA, said in a statement on her Facebook page that Norn's motion was an unsuccessful "last resort" at resolving issues between Nokleby and regular MLAs.

"Maybe the motion was too big a hammer for the problem at hand, but it did focus our attention on a resolution and a constructive path forward," she said.
Green noted that after the motion was withdrawn there was no opportunity to comment on it in the assembly and that "much of the conversation has taken place behind closed doors, and that’s usually where performance management issues take place."
She acknowledged the two ministries of which Nokleby is in charge are vital to the economic recovery of the NWT during the pandemic, and added that Nokleby is aware of the expectations and scrutiny she faces.
"My colleagues and I have promised to assist her with constructive oversight and accountability to ensure we successfully rebuild our economy. I now consider this issue closed," Green said.
The only MLA to comment publicly about the motion before Friday was Rylund Johnson, member for Yellowknife North, who on Thursday evening said in a virtual discussion that he wouldn't support the motion.
Reaction from business sector
David Connelly, a Yellowknife business consultant and owner of Ile Royale Enterprises, issued his own statement Friday evening.

“Our minister of ITI and Infrastructure comes out of this stronger than when she went in. The ordinary members must have better things to do on their first days back during a serious crisis than waste time on petty politics. The minister is pushing things forward and accomplishing a lot in challenging times," he said.

"I doubt we would criticize the same behaviour from a man during simultaneous economic and pandemic crisis 'as a bull in a china shop!' We would describe it as confident, considered and strong leadership. Frankly, the type of leadership we are very lucky to have when we are facing the combined threats of a pandemic, declining mining industry and a shuttered tourism industry.

"We are fortunate that the MLA’s meeting in-camera over 'unspoken concerns' had the benefit of a reality check of over 1,500 hundred people who transparently signed a petition of support in just that 36 hours! I urge (that) our elected representatives can get to the critical matters at hand for the future of the NWT.”

NNSL Media has reached out to Nokleby and all MLAs for further comment on the withdrawn motion.