Crawford's report accepted by MLAs
Morin receives official reprimand

Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 09/98) - Late Monday evening, two territorial MLAs, former premier Don Morin and Hay River MLA Jane Groenewegen, stood in the legislature and declared a conflict of interest as their colleagues prepared to vote on the recommendations contained in Conflict of Interest Commissioner's Anne Crawford's report.

With only one MLA then abstaining, the legislature voted to adopt all Crawford's recommendations; direct the assembly's Management Services Board to pay Groenwegen's legal costs and set up a three-member conflict review panel, to be chaired by an eminent person independent of government, to report by April 15 on GNWT conflict of interest guidelines.

Nunakput MLA Vince Steen abstained from voting, arguing Morin's legal case that alleges Crawford was biased against him should be completed before MLAs cast their votes.

Morin's lawyers will be in court Thursday to pursue the case.

The vote came after the legislature's hours were extended to allow MLAs to complete their second day of debate on the report.

A tough-talking Groenewegen led off Monday's debate.

"My questions were met with resistance, arrogance and, ultimately, a personal challenge from our former premier to lay a conflict of interest complaint against him," she said. "...I watched as cabinet ministers closed ranks against me, as the Management Services Board ignored the recommendations of the conflict commissioner and then a Supreme Court judge. However, I was spurred on by the people who despaired over the obvious lack of integrity in the dealings of this government."

She also said she has now heard of so many questionable dealings by the GNWT, she believes it is time a full-time ombudsman is appointed to serve as a watchdog over government operations and politicians.

"There are dynasties and groups of long-established relationships which appear to the public to influence the decisions of this government," she said. "If this report means anything, these agendas must be examined."

Groenewegen also criticized Morin for not apologizing for his actions.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Jake Ootes was obviously angry when he spoke.

"Mr. Morin's presentation was very emotional but, for me, what he presented Friday doesn't stand up," he said. "Mr. Morin has, all along, blamed others for his predicament. Mr. Morin should look at himself -- not others to put the blame on."

Kivallivik MLA Kevin O'Brien was also harsh in his assessment.

"I am aware that some people from this side of the house may even have been threatened...with reference to how they speak and what they speak of regarding the outcome of this conflict report...It would make one think that we are living in Third World conditions here."

Health Minister Kelvin Ng said Morin had received enough punishment.

"I can tell you he (Morin) is opinionated, aggressive, stubborn and he is even arrogant...(But) I would say to you he is not dishonest, deceitful and I know nobody would intentionally get into a conflict situation just for the sake of it," he said. "He has been publicly humiliated."

Ng, like cabinet colleagues Goo Arlootoo and John Todd, said he regretted any problems caused by signing a controversial letter concerning Morin's actions at a 1996 cabinet meeting where the sale of Morin-owned lands was on the agenda.

The three ministers agreed it was time to accept the report and move on towards division and work to improving the public's perception of government in the North.