NW Week

Consensus works, and the Northwest Territories don’t need party politics

MLA Steve Norn

Key Takeaways:

  • According to David Wasylciw, the expulsion of Steve Norn this week was a success for the consensus government.
  • The elected officials in the Northwest Territories have had a tough week.

After hitting new lows with cabinet and the clerk’s office last year this fall has been dominated by discussions about (now-former) MLA Steve Norn.

Most readers will be familiar with the events involving Mr. Norn by this point, so there’s no need to go over them again. But what happened was unique in that 17 MLAs stood up and held one of their own accountable at the end of the day.

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This level of accountability is uncommon in Canada. Not because other politicians are particularly moral or good, but because when they get into trouble, the party machine closes ranks to protect its survival, and disciplinary measures are decided internally in back rooms. Even before this week’s drama, several people told me that, based on their previous experiences, they didn’t believe MLAs would hold one of their own accountable.

When a politician misbehaves in jurisdictions with party politics, the party has a variety of punishments at its disposal. Party discipline often focuses on how a transgression affects their future election chances rather than dealing with the issue. Parties often rely on the hope that misbehaving politicians will resign rather than relying on their fellow politicians to step in. Consider the current situation in Parliament and the case of Toronto MP Kevin Vuong.

Mr. Vuong was elected in September after appearing on the ballot as a Liberal, despite the party dropping him as a candidate two days before the election. Since then, residents in the riding have been calling on him to resign. Will MPs in Parliament take any action? Unlikely. The Liberals will be happy to put this seat out of their minds until the next election, preferring not to hold a by-election in a riding they may or may not win.

Consensus government, like any other form of government, has flaws. However, while we don’t get to vote for candidates simply because they have the correct party letter beside their name, we get to vote for the MLA we believe will best represent us.

Source: CBC News

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