Friday’s apology by Monfwi’s Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), was for suggesting that the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, (ENR), shuffle himself from his position the day before.
The comments resulted from a heated exchange between Jane Weyallon Armstrong (MLA) and Shane Thompson (Minister of ENR), during a meeting of the Committee of the Whole. Weyallon-Armstrong was objecting to the Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou conservation area, a mobile zone in which hunting of caribou has been banned. This area is designed to protect the Bathurst herd.
When I became Minister of ENR for the first time, the first thing that I said to the department was “I am the Minister of ENR!” [was]Thompson said that Thompson did not want me to be the minister responsible if there are no caribou in Northwest Territories.
He stated that the Bathurst caribou herd faces a population crisis and is at an all-time low of 6,240 caribou, according to an estimate from last Junie. This is down from 470,000 in 1985.
He said that reducing the mobile zone at this time would put at risk the collaborative conservation efforts.
Weyallon Armstrong responded by saying that if the minister does not want to be known as the minister who got rid of all the Bathurst, and/or for getting rid of certain species then he should change his mind or do a cabinet shake-up. It is not the answer that we wanted.
She continued to state that ENR officials weren’t telling the truth about the reason the zone was so large.
R.J. Simpson, the Government House Leader, raised many points of order as a response to the comments at the opening of the next day’s Committee of the Whole Meeting. He said that the Monfwi Member used language in the Assembly that was contrary to the rules of debate and decorum.
He stated that Weyallon had criticised an unnamed ENR staffer during the exchange but was not present to defend himself.
He also stated that she had undermined the principles and consensus government by suggesting Thompson should be shuffled out of his position.
He asked Ronald Bonnetrouge as chairman of the committee to direct Weyallon Armstrong to retract her comments, and apologize to the assembly.
Weyallon Armstrong defended her comments, which were the basis for the first two points. She said, “I am a passionate advocate of my constituents, so I am here to speak for them.”
I was trying to convey what my constituents had been saying to me.
She did apologize for her comments about the minister being removed from his position and she retracted them.
Both Katrina Nokleby and Kevin OReilly, MLAs, defended Weyallon-Armstrong’s comments. Nokleby said that while the member may have become passionate, it was done with true intention for her people.
Bonnetrouge ruled in Bonnetrouge’s favor for the first two points of order and accepted her apology for third.