How does a candidate owing a significant amount of money to a Crown corporation end up elected to the NWT’s legislative assembly? And is that a conflict of interest that was somehow overlooked?
Those questions, asked in relation to Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson, were drowned out amid the chatter of confusion over the attempt to unseat Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby late last month.
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Simpson seconded a motion tabled on May 27 by Steve Norn, Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh that sought the removal of Nokleby from cabinet. The motion was withdrawn two days later.
The member for Hay River South owed almost $2 million as of last October to the NWT Business Development and Investment Corporation, an agency for which Nokleby is responsible.
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NNSL Media asked the GNWT how much of Simpson’s debt had been collected to date and was told by Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment spokesperson Drew Williams that such information is confidential.
Mixed bag of election laws
Of the laws that apply to elections in the NWT, only one set has anything to say about indebtedness.
Community government and municipal elections in the NWT are governed by the Local Authorities Election Act, which can render potential candidates ineligible from running for office if they have a certain amount of debt.
Section 20 of the Act states that individuals are ineligible to run as candidates if they’re indebted by to a municipal corporation or have a controlling interest in a private or public corporation that is indebted to the municipal corporation by more than $500 for 90 days.
The Elections and Plebiscites Act and its Section 79 applies to territorial elections but it says nothing about indebtedness.
And on the federal level, of the conditions candidates must meet under the Canada Elections Act to run for office, being in the financial black isn’t one of them.
“As per the list of ineligibilities under Section 65 of the Act—there is no prohibition against people with personal or business debts (of any amount, to any type of creditor) from being a candidate. The Act doesn’t exclude people from running based on how much money they have or owe,” said Election Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier.
No conflict of interest for now
According to her report, Latour recommends the eligibility rules in the Elections and Plebiscites Act be amended to include “aspects of indebtedness included in section 20 of the Local Authorities Election Act” with the rationale that “many concerns from all election stakeholders were brought forward with the lack of alignment in legislation that exist for candidate eligibility with respect to indebtedness to the GNWT.” I support this statement. Why should someone owing the GNWT large amounts of money be even allowed to run for office and the hold MLA status and further go on to make /vote on financial decision.
The people will decide who they want to lead. He won the election. Get over it.