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Cabinet ministers under microscope
Mid-term review, confidence votes on agenda as leaders return for fall legislative assembly session

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, September 15, 2017

Territorial cabinet ministers are less than a month away from a mid-term review that could lead to their ouster.

According to at least two MLAs, a mid-term review with confidence votes will be held for the first time ever in early October.

MLAs return to the legislative assembly on Tuesday and will sit until Oct. 20.

On Oct. 5, Premier Bob McLeod and his ministers will make speeches in the house defending their records. Regular MLAs will then be allowed to ask cabinet ministers and the premier questions.

After that, all regular members and cabinet will secretly vote on whether they have confidence in a given minister.

The vote is non-binding, meaning even if a minister does not survive a confidence vote, he or she would not automatically be booted from his or her position in cabinet.

"The expectation though is that they would then resign," said Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart, adding a formal motion would be brought to the floor if that didn't happen.

"I find it hard to believe that in a consensus government anyone would be so bold and disrespectful to the people of the NWT by holding onto power when it's not appropriate for them to do so."

Testart said the premier doesn't have a formal role in the non-confidence process, but he could remove all the portfolios from a cabinet minister who had lost the confidence of the majority of members and assign them to other people.

"We'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it," Testart told Yellowknifer.

He said he does have confidence in the government as a whole, but pointed to Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses and the education file as an area that needs improvement.

"Several controversial decisions have been made around Aurora College and around junior kindergarten," said Testart.

"The minister's performance on that has been called into question previously, short of calling for a resignation. He has some work to do to demonstrate he can maintain the confidence of the house."

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly played his cards closer to his chest when asked if he had confidence in the cabinet and premier.

"I think it's important to go through the steps and the process," he said. "We'll see how the fall sitting shapes up."

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne also would not say at this point whether the cabinet and the premier have his confidence.

"We have to be mindful that we have a lot of new MLAs including cabinet ministers," he said. "Getting a portfolio or two put on your shoulders ... it takes lot of time to become good at that role."

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green also declined to comment, saying a public discussion on the issue will take place Oct. 5.

Nunavut has had a similar mid-term process in place for at least the past two governments.

A review of the progress of the standing committees, made up of regular MLAs, will also be part of the review process.

The standing committee review will be held in the assembly but will resemble committee of the whole, which is a bit less formal. Heckling and thumping on desks will not be allowed during the review.

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