Morin gunning for Kakfwi
MLA goes after RWED minister

Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 16/98) - Stephen Kakfwi and his executive assistant say Don Morin's questions about a media contract awarded last spring are off target.

The $1,500 contract with Resources, Wildlife, and Economic Development of which Kakfwi is minister was awarded to former cabinet press secretary Art Sorensen. Sorensen is married to Kakfwi's assistant Lynda Sorensen.

Kakfwi said the contract, issued last spring, was in fact approved and asked for by former premier Morin himself. And, Kakfwi and his staff alerted the then principal secretary to Morin to the fact the person being awarded the contract was the husband of Lynda Sorensen.

The issue arose in the legislative assembly last Wednesday when Morin filed a series of written questions to then acting premier Goo Arlooktoo. Among them was one concerning Web Rider Productions, Sorensen's company.

During question period, Morin asked Kakfwi to name his executive assistant.

"I would treat the question as somewhat frivolous, unless there is some other motive behind it," Kakfwi answered. "I will not answer it."

Speaker Sam Gargan ruled the question trivial and gave Kakfwi the choice of whether or not to answer it.

Kakfwi declined and explained his side of the situation in an interview that night.

"Last spring, the premier, Donny Morin, asked me to develop a media strategy on very short notice -- his words," Kakfwi said, adding his office then told Morin's office of the potential conflict. "The premier sent a message (through his principal secretary) back saying it was fine, to go ahead. I think the former premier has forgotten a few things."

At that time, the GNWT was without a press secretary who would normally undertake such work. Sorensen was more than qualified to do the contract, Kakfwi said.

Morin's request was contained in an April 14, 1998 letter to Kakfwi from Morin as premier. Yellowknifer has seen a copy of the letter.

Morin could not be reached for comment.

Sahtu handicrafts

Among the written questions, Morin also asked Arlooktoo whether Kakfwi's department ever purchased handicrafts from the Sahtu and then tried to sell them back to the assembly.

Documents obtained by the Yellowknifer show, in fact, the sale went the other way. A piece of beaded artwork, made in Deline, was shown to Kakfwi last June. He then wrote to legislative assembly Speaker Sam Gargan about the piece being purchased by the assembly for display there.

When this didn't occur, Kakfwi's department bought it through the NWT Development Corporation. Corporation president Glenn Soloy called the piece "unique" and said there was nothing out of the ordinary in purchasing it.

Card conflict?

Morin also wanted to find out if meetings with Yellowknife Centre MLA Jake Ootes resulted in cut-rate sales of NWT Development Corporation cards to MLAs being stopped.

Ootes' partner had been involved in a retail business which sold cards.

Kakfwi's office said Ootes had nothing to do with it. As RWED minister, Kakfwi felt it was wrong for MLAs to receive a cut-rate deal for NWT Development Corporation Christmas cards when such products were already being produced by private Northern retailers.

Retailers had in fact written to Kakfwi about their concerns about the card sales as early as May of 1996.

"As the Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development I have instructed the development corporation to refrain from competing with Northern private retailers," Kakfwi said in a letter to all MLAs, dated oct. 24, 1997.

"In keeping with this direction, I would ask that members who purchase Christmas cards to so from retailers established to provide this service."

Yellowknife South MLA Seamus Henry could not be reached for comment Monday about Morin's written question asking whether any GNWT deputy minister met with him over the past three years concerning government leases in buildings controlled by Henry.