Tootoo lashes out at Ng’s conflict allegation

“I won’t be intimidated into silence”


Saying that no MLA “should be smeared and bullied when they do their job,” Hunter Tootoo, the MLA for Iqaluit Centre, rose Nov. 14 on a point of privilege to refute a conflict of interest allegation made against him last summer by Kelvin Ng, the ex-finance minister.

This past June, Ng alleged in a letter to Robert Stanbury, the Nunavut Integrity Commissioner, that Tootoo put himself into a “potential conflict of interest” when he asked questions in the fall of 2003 about a GN contract award for construction of the Rankin Inlet health centre.

In that letter, Ng alleged that Tootoo’s insurance company did business with Ninety North Construction, which submitted the lowest bid on the Rankin health centre job but did not win the contract.

To counter that allegation, Tootoo tabled a letter in the assembly from G. J. Mones, whose company owns Arctic Insurance Brokers, stating that neither Arctic Insurance nor Mones Insurance have ever represented Ninety North or any of its associated companies.

Ng’s conflict of interest complaint fizzled out in July, soon after the integrity commissioner received that letter.

Robert Stanbury also asked Ng to re-submit his complaint in the manner required by the Integrity Act. Section 36 of the act requires two things: a letter containing a “request for review,” and a sworn affidavit setting out the facts on which the complaint is based.

Ng could not produce a sworn affidavit to support his complaint. In an interview with Nunatsiaq News last July, Ng said that’s because his “information” came from a “highly placed government official” who he did not want to identify.

But although he says this proves Ng’s allegations are “without merit,” Tootoo is outraged at what he believes was an attempt to punish him for asking tough questions about GN construction contracts and commercial property leases involving politically influential companies.

“I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I won’t be intimidated into silence. I will continue to ask the tough questions that need to be answered,” Tootoo said in his statement.

Tootoo also managed to get the boot into Ng by reminding MLAs of the role that the former Nunavut and NWT cabinet minister played in the nearly forgotten Don Morin scandal.

He tabled a section of the 1998 report produced by Anne Crawford’s public inquiry into Morin, who was then the premier of the NWT. It refers to a letter signed by Ng and three other cabinet ministers that was produced in an attempt to defend Morin against one of the 1998 allegations.

Crawford said the letter, signed by Ng and three others, was either a “deliberate attempt to deceive,” or was “cobbled together” after the fact.

Meanwhile, Tootoo continued to ask questions about the controversial Rankin Inlet health centre contract, which was won by the second-highest bidder: a joint venture between Clark Builders, a big construction company from Alberta, and Sanajiit, a small Rankin company owned by the Evaz Group of Companies in Grimsby, Ont.

Levinia Brown, the minister of Community and Government Services, confirmed that the Clark-Sanajiit joint venture did not meet the Inuit hiring target that was a condition of their getting the contract, and will now pay a penalty.

She said Clark-Sanajiit was supposed to achieve a 32 per cent Inuit labour target. But they only reached 25.71 per cent.

Brown told the house that she doesn’t know exactly how much of a penalty Clark-Sanajiit will be required to pay. But she said the formula is calculated as follows: two percent of the total billable content of the contract for each one percent of the amount by which employment does not meet the mandatory requirement.

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