Media Statement: Speaker Corrects Misinformation Regarding Legislative Assembly Processes

Media Statement: Speaker Corrects Misinformation Regarding Legislative Assembly Processes

YELLOWKNIFE (May 27, 2021) – The Speaker of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly issued the following statement regarding recent media coverage of Legislative Assembly processes:

“The removal of Mr. Steve Norn as Chair of the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight has understandably prompted scrutiny by media and the public. As Speaker of the Assembly, I want to clarify the processes of the Assembly to avoid further confusion.

“Our parliamentary system has three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. The executive branch proposes laws, the legislative branch approves laws, and the judiciary applies them through the courts. When we speak of the government, we usually mean the Executive Council, which is known as Cabinet. Cabinet is the executive branch, but because it is made up of some members of the Assembly, the executive and legislative branches overlap. The Executive Council is the senior decision-making body of the Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT) and is made up of a Premier and six Ministers. They are elected by all Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). Only a motion passed by a majority of MLAs in the Assembly can remove a Premier or Member of the Executive Council.

“The Code of Conduct provides a set of rules to which Members must adhere pursuant to section 75 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. The Code of Conduct is binding on all MLAs, not just members of Cabinet.

“Each Committee Chair is selected by Members of that Committee. They serve at the pleasure of the Committee and can be removed by a motion carried by a majority of Members of that Committee. Membership of committees is set by a motion voted on by all Members of the Assembly. 

“The decision to hold all or a portion of a briefing in camera rests with the Standing Committee. If confidential matters as outlined in the guiding principles are to be discussed, any committee member, or a Minister meeting with or presenting to Committee, may request to move in camera.

“Further, in response to recent articles and public discourse, it should be noted that an MLA cannot be removed by the Premier. Rather, there are three ways an MLA could be removed from office:

If Members wanted to remove an MLA from office, they would be required to give notice of a motion to expel the Member from the Assembly. The motion would then be debated and voted on. If the motion was passed by a majority of Members, the Member would be expelled, and their seat declared vacant. This is an exceptional and rarely used power.

A Member could be removed from office through a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner. If after investigating the complaint, the Integrity Commissioner refers the matter to a Sole Adjudicator, the range of penalties spans from a fine to removal from office. The Sole Adjudicator would need to recommend to the Assembly that the Member’s seat be declared vacant and the Members of the Assembly would vote to either accept or reject the recommendation. This process is set out in Part 3 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act.

A Member could also be removed from office or be prevented from taking office if they were or become ineligible to be a candidate, either at the time of the election or after the election. This would include a Member being convicted of an offence referred to in s. 350 of the Elections and Plebiscites Act, or being imprisoned in a correctional institution.  This process is set out in section 6 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act.

“Thank you.”