Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, says he will not support a motion to remove Katrina Nokleby, minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Infrastructure during a constituency meeting he held Thursday evening.
More than 80 people participated in a Zoom teleconference that allowed constituents to send questions to Johnson and offer comments about the vote.
Steve Norn, MLA for Tu Nedhé – Wiilideh and chair of the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight brought forward a motion on Wednesday to remove Nokleby from her position as minister. That motion was seconded by Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South.
This makes Johnson the third regular member who has gone on the record ahead of the vote to indicate their position on Nokleby’s removal.
No other MLA offered their position as of Thursday night.
Johnson told constituents during his meeting that he would not support the motion if it comes to the floor as is expected Friday. He noted that it is Norn’s motion and while there is a “Notice of Motion” for Friday, Norn does not have to bring it forward and it can “just completely disappear on the floor of the house.”
If it does come forward, every member will speak to it publicly and it will be debated, he added.
“I am not in support of this motion, for a lot of reasons, I guess,” he said. “Removing a minister in the middle of a pandemic is not the best time to do it.
“I think if you were going to remove a minister, you should probably ask a lot of questions and give them some clear goals. If they don’t meet the goals, you build a narrative. And there has to be a pretty clear reason.
“That being said, what happened is I don’t think that the concerns regarding Katrina are completely unfounded.”
Johnson said Nokley, as a newly elected politician from last fall’s territorial election, went straight “into a very big portfolio” and also had hard personal times since being appointed. With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting in March, many of the challenges she has faced have been overwhelming.
However, he said he has some criticisms of the department she leads.
“I have a long list of issues with ITI and in infrastructure. We’ve not got our procurement season out at all. We have not. I think we have lacked helping small businesses.”
Johnson was critical of how there were no media statements, either from Norn for his position or from Nokleby in her own defence.
“I’m happy I’m doing this meeting to at least get something out there and I wish other people would and then it wouldn’t just be nice speaking and then I don’t kind of feel isolated by my colleagues,” he said.
Johnson also referenced what he said was the last time a minister was removed from cabinet -Henry Zoe in 2004 (it was actually Michael Miltenberger in 2006). He said it is the job of regular MLAs to hold ministers to account.
“I don’t want people to think that part of our job is to not remove ministers. So that should happen at times and it should probably happen a little bit more often than (since) 2004,” he said. “But I don’t think now is the time or place.”
Several well-known public figures gave their opinions on the matter, among them Gary Vivian, former president NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines.
“I would like to say that non-confidence insinuates many negative things,” he wrote in. “Speaking on behalf of the minister, she is educated, aggressive and understands the workings of the industry. She has the full support of the mineral industry, the largest private sector employer.”
He added that she is still learning politics and has been “very open and communicative.”
He said it was too early in the 19th assembly and that a replacement minister would take additional time to get caught up to speed.