Premier apologizes
Miltenberger, Dent say they will not push for sanctions

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 05/00) - The damage control continues.

In a faxed message to all MLAs, Premier Stephen Kakfwi offered a qualified apology for public criticism he levelled at three MLAs at the conclusion of an April 14-16 visit to Fort Smith.

"I expressed my concerns in a way that was critical of the members from Thebacha, Boot Lake and Frame Lake, whose right to speak freely and critically in the assembly I do not dispute or question," Kakfwi said in the fax, transmitted Monday.

"I wish to apologize to the members for those remarks."

The apology comes almost three weeks after Kakfwi told a Slave River Journal reporter former cabinet ministers Michael Miltenberger, Charles Dent and Floyd Roland were being too negative and contributing little to the progress of the NWT.

In his comments, Kakfwi made a vague connection between Miltenberger's criticism of the government and the demise of the Western Arctic Leadership program, which is run out of Fort Smith, part of Miltenberger's riding.

In a press release issued the week after the visit, the government emphasized the premier would never penalize a community because its MLA was critical of government.

Dent, the MLA for Frame Lake, said as far as he's concerned the case is closed.

"To me, he's very clearly apologized," said Dent. "My sense is hopefully we can move on from this. I'm not pushing for anything further."

Miltenberger said he's prepared to move on, but said something more than a fax and a press release will be required to completely clear the air.

"On the interpersonal side, some physical or verbal contact is going to have to be made on this, not just through third parties and in the press, to bring closure to this and allow us to move on," said Miltenberger.

Asked if he and Kakfwi had discussed the Fort Smith incident, Miltenberger replied, "Except for questions in the house, Mr. Kakfwi probably hasn't said 15 words to me since the selection of cabinet."

Miltenberger appears to still be smarting from Kakfwi's comments, particularly the premier's assertion that the Western Arctic Leadership Program was in trouble because of the lack of support from Miltenberger.

"For the premier to even remotely try to allude that I wouldn't support that -- it's a lie. It's categorically wrong, when there are letters on file every year, including this year, supporting that program, lobbying for funding, inviting the ministers down."

Miltenberger said the program is not in trouble, that he has received assurances from government that funding will be found to keep it alive.

Miltenberger also challenged Kakfwi's assertion that the Thebacha MLA was nowhere to be seen during the Fort Smith visit. The visiting delegation included newly-appointed commissioner Glenna Hansen and Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew as well as Kakfwi.

Miltenberger said he was out of town for the first day, but accompanied the delegation to events the following two days.

"It was somewhat awkward and things were very cool and I had to basically stand in front of him to get his attention to welcome him and get him to shake hands when he left," said Miltenberger.