Denied again
Thumbs down to Hay River MLA request for public funds

Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 21/98) - Seven months ago, the Hay River MLA made a request to the legislative assembly's Management and Services Board for publicly funded counsel in the Morin inquiry.

She was denied. Last Thursday, a second request for funding was again refused.

This setback has left Jane Groenewegen asking, why?

"We've had a conflict of interest commissioner's ruling, a judge's decision and we're still at square one. This is a tremendous amount of resistance we're facing here," said Groenewegen last Friday.

Late last month, Supreme Court Justice John Vertes ruled that Crawford had the authority to recommend counsel for witnesses who might aid the inquiry process. The MSB -- made up of chairman Sam Gargan, Kelvin Ng, representative from cabinet, and three ordinary members Floyd Roland, Vince Steen and Kevin O'Brien, -- has the last say on whether or not it should cough up money.

If they deny a request, reasons should be made known to maintain public confidence, wrote Justice Vertes.

"It seems to me that the dignity and integrity of the legislature require no less than good and compelling reasons to refuse a request .... The public perception of the integrity of the legislature would be sorely tested by anything less," noted Vertes.

A frustrated Groenewegen is calling on the public now to give her direction as to how she can aid the process to make sure there's an objective hearing of all issues in the inquiry, despite the necessary public funds

"That's not to insult the conflict of interest counsel. They've got their work cut out for them, but I think there needs to be a balance and I think I can assist in that," said Groenewegen.

Gargan informed Groenewegen of their most recent decision last Thursday.

She was told that MSB public funds could set a dangerous precedent that, "exposes the assembly and its members to tremendous financial and personal liability."

Another reason it gives for denying the MLA's request and not Morin's -- the premier will receive an unlimited amount of financial backing -- is Morin has more to lose.

"The entire inquiry is about Mr. Morin's conduct. You do not face the same potential consequences in this process as does Mr. Morin," said Gargan.