Get on with it
On Feb. 16, the day that Hay River MLA Jane Groenewegen filed a conflict of interest complaint against him, Premier Don Morin issued a press release that said the following:
“Premier Morin added he looks forward to a fair and prompt resolution of this matter, and said he will cooperate fully in the process to ensure that the matter is resolved quickly, and in the best interest.” (The italics are ours.)
Two days later Morin wrote a private letter to Anne Crawford, the NWT’s conflict of interest of commissioner, alleging that Crawford may be biased against him. In that letter, Morin cited a conversation he claims took place between Crawford and his sister in 1995.
About a month later, Morin’s lawyers wrote to Crawford, listing that supposed conversation as one of three reasons in support of a request that Crawford step aside from Groenewegen’s complaint.
Crawford dismissed that argument, along with two others, saying Morin has supplied no evidence to prove that the conversation even took place. And she informed everybody that she now plans to move forward “with the substance of the Groenewegen complaint.”
Morin has an absolute right to use whatever tools the law provides him with to defend his interests.
But as the elected leader of the government of the Northwest Territories, he would do well to remember that in the public’s mind, this matter is all about the territorial government’s credibility and honesty – including his own.
The public who Morin is sworn to serve is better informed, better educated and more sophisticated than ever before. They judge elected leaders not only by what they say, but what they do.
If Morin says that he wants the matter to be resolved quickly, then he should instruct his lawyers to act that way. The public wants to know whether or not the premier of the Northwest Territories is, or was, in a conflict of interest. The public wants the conflict of interest commissioner – who hasn’t even had a chance to look at the full substance of Groenewegen’s complaint – to get on with her job.
She can do that job more quickly if her time isn’t tied up with preliminary issues created by parties to the complaint.
It would be in the best interests of the public for Crawford to have her work done by May, when the legislative assembly is scheduled to sit again. MLAs would then be able to look at her report on the matter, and any recommendations she might deem necessary. JB