business pages

NNSL Photo/Graphic


Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

No action taken on pre-election ads
Hawkins says policy needs review in next legislative assembly

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 2, 2011

While the legislative assembly's board of management frowns upon a Yellowknife MLA's use of assembly-owned phone numbers and e-mail addresses in private ads placed during the pre-election season, June 3 to Sept. 1 it is unlikely any action will be taken.

The election period starts today with the dissolution of the legislative assembly and the board of management.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins received a letter on Aug. 10 from Speaker Paul Delorey, chair of the board of management, asking him to cease newspaper advertisements containing legislative assembly contact information to avoid creating a public perception of him campaigning using public resources.

The last advertisement appeared in the Aug. 26 edition of Yellowknifer, and Hawkins had asked his legislative assembly phone number be removed from the ad. Due to a production error at Yellowknifer, it remained in the advertisement.

The advertisements were not intended to be campaign related, but updates on Hawkins' activities for his constituency, he said, as he was still their MLA. It was paid for out of Hawkins' pocket.

"They've always been drawn up as information ads to the constituents of Yellowknife, so they know what I'm doing on their behalf," he said.

However, Delorey said these advertisements appeared in the pre-election period, which began in June, and the ads could cause concern to the public, especially to those thinking of running against Hawkins in Yellowknife Centre. However, the board will not take any action.

"We're kind of behind the eight-ball on what we can do," said Delorey, adding the board would have looked at options such as writing Hawkins another letter and also sending it to media, or going as far as cutting his constituency budget - but he acknowledged Hawkins is only accused of violating guidelines, not legislation.

"The guidelines are not a hard set of rules with predetermined penalties," said Delorey. "It was more to protect the integrity of the legislative assembly."

Hawkins maintains there are different ways to interpret the guidelines.

"Ultimately this is clearly a difference in a policy perspective and the Speaker himself has pointed out that this needs to be reviewed going forward," he said.

In a subsequent letter to Hawkins dated Aug. 18, Delorey wrote that the advertising policy during the election period would be examined by the next board of management, in the next legislative assembly.

Hawkins also forwarded a letter to Yellowknifer he received from David Brock, the chief electoral officer for Elections NWT.

"In my view," wrote Brock, "the advertisements that you have continued to publish since June 5th (and before) communicate your duties of representation as an MLA and thus do not constitute election advertising."

Hawkins also said he'd checked with the assembly's law clerk, who gave him the go-ahead to use the legislative assembly contact information in his advertisements. That decision, which Delorey deemed a "compromise" between Hawkins and the clerk, was overturned by the board of management, which led to the Aug. 10 letter.

Delorey said there was some artwork that was property of the legislative assembly in Hawkins' ads.

"The law clerk said if he removed all the other stuff and the (legislative assembly) number was on there, that would be OK," said Delorey.

He said the board of management overruled the understanding Hawkins had reached with the legislative assembly's law clerk.

He added there was a similar issue with a pre-election period advertisement that Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro had placed, but as soon as they contacted her she agreed to follow the board's guidelines. As well, a Department of Education, Culture and Employment advertisement prominently displaying Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty, the department's minister, was discussed by the board, but it turned out it was printed at the discretion of bureaucrats, not Lafferty, and was meant to advertise the department, so the board took no issue with it.

Delorey said no other MLAs have taken issue with this guideline.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.