Integrity Commissioner David Jones has dismissed the complaint against Premier Caroline Cochrane and deputy premier Diane Thom by Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson.
In a 30-page response, Jones notes that “the allegation that Ms. Thom violated the Covid-19 public health order prohibiting indoor gatherings cannot be sustained. That order did not come into effect until April 10. It had no application to events prior to that date.
“There is no evidence that any complaint was made by anyone to a Public Health Officer responsible for enforcing Public Health Orders. Neither Mr. (Martin) Goldney nor Mr. (Bruce) Cooper received a complaint about Ms. Thom.”
The response details conversations between the commissioner and Jackie Jacobson, Diane Thom, Caroline Cochrane, deputy minister of Executive and Indigenous Affairs Martin Goldney, deputy minister of Health and Social Services Bruce Cooper, deputy clerk of the Legislative Assembly Glen Rutland, House Speaker Frederick Blake Jr., Inuvik Twin-Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler and RCMP Sgt. Grant Thom. It also highlights what public health orders were and weren’t in place at the time.
In the report, Jones points out that while complaints were sent to several individuals in the lead up to Jacobson’s complaint, none of them were the proper channels for issuing a public health complaint.
“Mr. Rutland, Ms. Semmler and Speaker Blake did not understand Mr. Thom’s emails, text messages or phone calls to them to be formal complaints about Minister Thom. None of these individuals is a Public Health Officer responsible for enforcing Public Health Orders,” reads the report. “Premier Cochrane’s statement that no complaint had been received that Minister Thom had breached a Public Health Order is accurate.”
It also dismissed allegations of intoxicated driving made in Jacobson’s letter.
“There is no evidence to substantiate the allegation that Ms. Thom was driving a skidoo (or any other vehicle) when intoxicated. The photo of her with a skidoo is just that — it does not establish anything about the level of her sobriety. There is no evidence that she was charged (let alone convicted) of any offence about driving under the influence of alcohol.
“In my view, the complaint is vexatious and was not made in good faith. Mr. Thom’s text messages and emails amply demonstrate this. Given my conclusions above, there are insufficient grounds to warrant an inquiry. Any inappropriate behaviour by Minister Thom during the early stages of the pandemic was an error of judgment made in good faith. In late March and early April, there was a rudimentary appreciation of the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the increasingly stringent measures which subsequently became necessary to prevent its spread in the Northwest Territories. One cannot use 20:20 hindsight to criticize social interactions with were not prohibited at the time.
“Even if there were some merit in the complaint, no public interest would be served for the complaint to proceed to inquiry.”
Thom had allegedly violated her own health order in March when she attended a cabin party in Inuvik attended by 10 people, some of whom were supposed to have been in self-isolation, Jacobson said in his complaint.
At least part of Jacobson’s complaint was based on text messages from Thom’s estranged husband, a fact that Jones cast a hard gaze upon. He said the public would not be served by a more thorough and formal inquiry by what is referred to as a sole adjudicator.
Jones dismissed Jacobson’s complaint as “vexatious,” writing he believes it was “not made in good faith.
“[I]t is not the purpose of the code to be used as a political weapon of choice, let alone a weapon in the course of a marital breakdown.
“All persons making complaints have an obligation to be open-minded, inform themselves of the facts, not act on hearsay, and not act for ulterior purposes.”
On her Facebook page, which she has renamed to Diane Archie, Thom wrote a statement apologizing for the entire incident.
“Although the Report makes it clear that I did nothing wrong – I would apologize to my constituents and the residents of the NWT for the distraction of the past couple of months,” she wrote. “As a politician you cannot always control what other people do or say about you.
“I want to thank family and friends that reached out to me – your support and love was appreciated more than you will ever know.
“With this baseless accusation no longer hanging over my head – I am going to take a week off and recharge my batteries and then jump back into the swing of things.”
Read the report here.