R.J. Simpson, the acclaimed MLA for Hay River North and son of embattled MLA-elect for Hay River South, Rocky Simpson, denies ever having any control over his father’s financially troubled company despite once holding the title of “general manager” before he was elected in 2015.
After ousting incumbent Wally Schumann on Oct. 1, NNSL Media reported Rocky Simpson would be joining a government he owes nearly $2 million to — largely the product of a loan default and string of inconsistent or missed payments to Northwest Territories Business Development & Investment Corporation (BDIC), a GNWT Crown corporation, going back more than a decade.
“It was a fancy title,” said the younger Simpson of his role as general manager at Concept Energy Services Ltd.
R.J. Simpson, who is vying to become the territory’s next premier, told Hay River Hub the work he did at his father’s company was limited to yard work, construction, inventory and managing crews as a supervisor.
“I didn’t know the full extent of the debts and I didn’t go over the ledgers,” said Simpson, adding he never “ran” the business and never handled any money.
“So, I’m aware there were issues but I’m not privy to the financials,” continued Simpson.
In a candidate bio featured in News/North during the 2015 NWT election, Simpson is quoted as saying, “I began working for Concept Energy Ltd. in 2004 and have remained there ever since, in varying capacities. At Concept, I’ve performed labour, construction, administration, IT and management duties.”
Simpson now says he was in school for those years. “I worked there for a year before the election and I was in law school in Edmonton. I would come back in the summers and work there,” said Simpson.
Monday he said he’s still fully on board for a run at the premiership, although he told Hay River Hub last week that he was “hellbent on making change,” but not necessarily as the premier.
“I’ve been getting a lot of feedback and it’s a general consensus that they want me to run for premier,” Simpson said Monday, a comment that seemed to reaffirm his plans to pursue the premiership.
The financial woes at Concept Energy Ltd. began in 2002 and 2003, when the company received two loans totaling $1,616,596.00 from BDIC’s predecessor — the NWT Business Credit Corporation.
The company fell into arrears under the 2002 and 2003 loans, marking the beginning of years of legal wrangling.
In May 2008, BDIC filed a statement of claim in NWT Supreme Court against Rocky Simpson and his company, seeking the outstanding value of the loan, court records show.
In October 2009, BDIC approved another loan to Concept Energy for the principal amount of $2 million, after Rocky Simpson devised a restructuring plan which included obtaining a loan to consolidate existing debt owed to BDIC, while paying down outstanding debt to creditors. After he was able to meet the conditions of the 2009 offer, the parties entered into an amended loan offer in 2011.
“A portion of the loan was designated to pay off outstanding balances owed to (BDIC),” from the 2002 and 2003 loans, according to court documents.
But Concept Energy defaulted on the loan.
“Between Feb. 14, 2011 and Aug. 1, 2017, the Borrowers sporadically provided partial or complete payments to (BDIC) for amounts due under the loan. This conduct resulted in the Borrowers being in arrears regularly and in good standing rarely,” state court files from BDIC.
“Due to (Concept’s) inconsistent payments during the term of the Loan Agreement, (Concept) has effectively been in arrears since Jan. 1, 2015,” reads BDIC’s statement of claim.
The same court documents show Concept Energy also owed money to the Canada Revenue Agency: $75,989.19 in corporate taxes; $151.27 in its Goods and Services tax account; and $1,153,818.49 in payroll taxes.
NWT Supreme Court judge Karan Shaner ordered Simpson and his companies to pay a total of $1,885,955.03 to BDIC on June 28, 2019.
It’s unclear how much, if any, of the owed loans have been paid back.
Asked whether or not he’s concerned being tied to his father’s indebted business could hurt his credibility in the legislative assembly, R.J. Simpson reiterated he was never in charge of the business, and had limited knowledge of the debt before entering into office.
As for the possibility of conflict of interest issues arising in the assembly, Simpson said he “can see why people would perceive that.
“But we have a good ethics commissioner. I’m going to talk to him and hash it out and everything is going to be on the up and up. I’m not concerned that I’m going to do something shady,” said Simpson.
“I have no interest in dealing with this issue. If this becomes an issue I would step back from it, that’s pretty obvious. So I have no concerns at all and if other people do, we’ll talk it out and if they still have feelings about it there’s not much I can do about that.”
After News/North revealed Rocky Simpson’s Concept Energy owed almost $2 million to the BDIC, along with outstanding debts to the Canada Revenue Agency, a source confirmed to Hay River Hub a Cabin Radio report that the elder Simpson owes money to a handful of other agencies, including the NWT Metis-Dene Development Fund, the Community Futures Development Corporation and the Town of Hay River.
-with files from Paul Bickford