Steve Norn resigns from N.W.T. Legislative Assembly moments before vote to expel him

·3 min read
Steve Norn speaking to his colleagues Tuesday. Norn tendered his resignation as colleagues were debating a motion on whether to expel him from the legislature, which ultimately passed.  (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)
Steve Norn speaking to his colleagues Tuesday. Norn tendered his resignation as colleagues were debating a motion on whether to expel him from the legislature, which ultimately passed. (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)

Steve Norn announced his resignation Tuesday as MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, just as the Northwest Territories Legislature appeared poised to expel him. But that didn't prevent MLAs from voting unanimously to have Norn expelled, and his seat declared vacant.

On Tuesday, a majority of MLAs stated they would accept the report of an independent adjudicator and its recommendation that Norn be expelled for his actions in April when he broke his isolation protocols around COVID-19, and misled the public about it.

A separate point of order was raised Monday that would have allowed MLAs to move for Norn's expulsion on a separate matter — his apparent threats to MLAs over Facebook messenger — and was granted Tuesday by Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos immediately made a motion recommending that Norn be expelled and his seat declared vacant, which was seconded by Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler. A majority of other MLAs then rose in succession to comment in support of the motion.

'Disrespectful to residents'

Caroline Wawzonek, MLA for Yellowknife South, said that Norn's disregard for the rules is disrespectful to residents.

"I am ashamed to think of all of the people in my riding who have made sacrifices in their choices, sacrifices to follow public health orders despite being tired, despite being exhausted," she said. "And then for them to have to hear an elected leader blaming others to make those same sacrifices."

She said Monday that she interpreted Norn's use of "coming for you," to mean "some form of revenge," and that his intention was to "silence" the members into inaction.

She repeated Tuesday that she believes he would "say anything, to any one of us, to target our reputations that may be without merit and without base."

'I think [constituents] deserve that right'

Caitlin Cleveland, MLA for Kam Lake, was among those expressing frustration for the time, resources and attention Norn's matter is taking away from other pressing issues.

"I am tired of the mockery being made of this institution, we don't have time for it," she said. "It is unaffordable to both the public's trust and bottom line of this government. I am frustrated by the member's refusal to look at this last year and his actions and reactions and how each has culminated in this moment."

Prior to Tuesday, both Norn and his lawyer said that not enough had been done for Norn to lose his seat.

But if "breaking the law multiple times and threatening staff and members is not the threshold, I would like to know what is," Cleveland said.

In declaring Norn's seat vacant, a byelection will have to be called for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh.

Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, said that putting the choice back into hands of constituents "is only fair."

"Should the member wish to re-run, and should constituents wish to vote him back into this house, that is possible," he said. "But we are handing the matter back to his constituents to make that decision. I think they deserve that right."

Resigns before vote

When Norn rose to speak to the motion just after 3 p.m., he announced that he would save MLAs the trouble of voting on the motion, and announced his resignation.

Norn apologized for any pain he had caused, and said he would resign to "prevent" fellow MLAs from having to vote on the matter of his expulsion.

"I will save you that," Norn said. "I will do you that honour. I can feel the will of the people in this room and I will respect that."

Despite Norn's resignation, Blake then informed the house that the motion would have to proceed to a vote.

The motion was ultimately passed, with all MLAs, except Norn, voting in favour.

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