Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson, who seconded the motion to remove cabinet minister Katrina Nokelby, owes the Business Development Corporation (BDIC), a GNWT agency, almost $2 million after defaulting on a loan. Nokelby, as minister of Industry Tourism and Investment, is responsible for the BDIC.
Nokleby’s cabinet seat is on the line after Tu-Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, supported by Simpson, tabled a motion Wednesday calling for her removal. Norn, who said he tabled the motion after deliberating with the other members of the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight, declined to comment on why he wanted Nokleby removed.
When asked following his election victory how he would effectively represent the interests of his constituents while owing nearly $2 million in debt to the territorial government – a fact admittedly missed by all media during the election – Simpson said his business problems had nothing to do with his job as MLA.
Simpson didn’t publicly acknowledge his debts until three days after the election.
The rookie MLA won his seat in the October 1 election by defeating then-Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann.
Simpson and his Hay River-based companies were ordered to cough up $1,885,955 in outstanding debts to NWT Business Development and Investment Corporation by NWT Supreme Court judge Karan Shaner last June. Concept Energy failed to make payments to the corporation for over two years, defaulting on the loan in 2017.
Court documents also showed Simpson’s Concept Energy also owed just over $1.1 million to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
The BDIC and CRA subsequently filed writs of seizure against Simpson and his companies in an attempt to recoup the money. Two of the properties were sold last December to his son RJ Simpson for $41,500. RJ Simpson is the MLA for Hay River North and minister of Education, Culture and Employment.
Norn insisted there are a “variety of reasons” why Nokleby has to go after only six months on the job but said more won’t be said until MLAs debate the motion Friday.
Until then, one obvious question to ask is how many MLAs agree with Norn and Simpson?
Another is whether it’s a conflict of interest for an MLA (Simpson) owing money to a government agency to be part of a process to remove a minister who is responsible for that agency.
These are questions we’ll be asking so stay tuned.