Unsigned note rocks government
High Arctic MLA admits he wrote mystery note, expert prefers deputy premier

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 18/98) - A startling confession yesterday in the legislative assembly brought a whirlwind of controversy to a sudden standstill.

The confession came from High Arctic MLA Levi Barnabas, who said he wrote an unsigned note passed to Hay River MLA Jane Groenewegen three weeks ago.

Until then, Groenewegen's chief suspect was deputy premier Goo Arlooktoo, whose handwriting closely matches that of the author of the note, according to a veteran handwriting expert.

"At the time I considered it a confidential message, and I did it more in the spirit of fun and as a joke," Barnabas told the assembly.

Barnabas refused all media requests for interviews following his statement. His assistant, when asked for a sample of the MLA's handwriting, said she could not supply one without his permission.

Groenewegen has spearheaded questioning on the controversial Lahm Ridge Tower lease. The note, which asked how she got a large government loan, was widely perceived as an intimidation tactic.

On Monday, while Barnabas was in his riding, it appeared the note might bring down the government.

Responding to questions from Yellowknife MLA Jake Ootes, who asked the premier if he was prepared to stake "his reputation and position" on his claim no cabinet member wrote the note, Morin was unequivocal.

"If this member or any other member can prove one of my cabinet ministers wrote that note, you guys have my resignation, same day," said Morin.

Two hours later, Groenewegen tabled the report of the handwriting expert, who indicated it was "highly probable" the note was written by Arlooktoo.

The expert, forensic document analyst William Thorpe, of Delta, B.C, worked in the Vancouver police document laboratory for 28 years and has spent 11 years in private practice.

"Highly probable" means chances are 95 per cent or better the anonymous note and one signed by Arlooktoo a day later were written by the same person, said Groenewegen.

The Hay River MLA withdrew the report from the record of the assembly after Barnabas's confession. She also apologized to Arlooktoo, saying it was not her intention to question his integrity, but to pursue the truth.

"(Barnabas) stood up and took ownership of the note and I have to accept that at face value," said Groenewegen when asked if she would pursue the matter further.

Ootes, chairman of the ordinary members caucus, used almost exactly the same phrase. "I can't help but, on the face value of it, accept what transpired in the house today," he said.

Groenewegen announced Monday she had filed a complaint with the conflict of interest commissioner, Anne Crawford.

In her complaint, the Hay River MLA says Morin may have violated a section of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act that deals with maintaining public confidence, impartiality and the acceptance of benefits which could erode public confidence.

Morin issued a news release later the same day, indicating it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the Lahm Ridge Tower lease until the conflict of interest commissioner makes a decision on the issue.