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Premier offers tearful apology
'I made a decision for myself first' Roland

Andrew Livingstone
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 4, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Premier Floyd Roland apologized in the legislative assembly for his handling of his secret relationship with the principal clerk of committees, nearly a year after the affair became public.

It was an emotional day in the legislature as regular members and cabinet ministers discussed adjudicator Ted Hughes' report on the inquiry into Roland's intimate relationship with Patricia Russell. The relationship was kept secret for almost three months before Roland came clean in mid-November last year, sparking a chain of events, including a non-confidence motion against the entire cabinet that bitterly divided the legislative assembly.

The report concluded that Roland breached government rules by not disclosing the relationship promptly. However, the complaint was dismissed because Hughes found the error in judgment was made in good faith.

In a moment of humility, Roland said he hoped no person would go down the path he went down and make the decisions he made, adding his choice led the legislative assembly on a difficult path.

"I am hoping ... we will be able to move on for the interest of the people of the Northwest Territories," Roland said, fighting back tears at several points during his speech. "That we will be able to put them first and not ourselves first. And, to the people of the Northwest Territories, I apologize because I made a decision for myself first.

"I am sincerely sorry that a decision I made has left a mark on my family, on this institution and my relationship with the members of this legislative assembly."

Great Slave MLA Glen Abernethy said he wanted to make it clear Roland was found in conflict and everything outside of his relationship took a back seat during the time the affair was kept secret.

"His primary responsibility to his colleagues in the house, the democratic institution they serve and the maintenance of the public and trust of those who he was elected to lead took second place during that period of time," Abernethy said. "What's more scathing, in my opinion, is that the public trust of those who he was elected to lead also took second place."

Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay, who moved a motion Monday to accept the findings of Hughes' report, said he was happy to hear the premier apologize for his bad judgment in handling his personal affairs, but said it's now up to Roland to determine the way forward.

"Only he can determine what needs to be done to ensure that the people we represent in this institution we serve no longer take second place to anything," Ramsay said, before the motion to accept the report was unanimously passed by the 17 members present.

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson was absent for the vote.

Robert Hawkins, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, said he was happy to close the book on the issue and look ahead to serving the people of the territory, but showed concern the findings of the report could have a negative impact.

"This issue has undoubtedly divided us," he said. "My only fear is it will continue to divide us. I just hope that those who accept the report are doing it for the right reasons."

In a tearful response to the report Jane Groenewegen, MLA for Hay River South, said she has no plans of seeking reelection when her term ends in two years and regrets ever voting for Roland to be premier.

"My heart has gone out of this job to some extent." She said. "I cannot come in here anymore with that same enthusiasm because of what we have allowed to happen. I'm sorry. I only have two years left to go and I will not run again. I am sad to say that my heart is not here anymore because of this."

The cost of the inquiry is still unknown, but is expected to be made public soon.

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