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Hawkins received briefing note on shelter
MLA denies leaking document on Centre for Northern Families to media

Galit Rodan
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins was the recipient of a confidential briefing note on the Centre for Northern Families, according to a document released to Yellowknifer following an access to information request.

NNSL photo/graphic

Robert Hawkins: Yellowknife Centre MLA says he did not leak the briefing note, and could not confirm the leaked document was the same document he received earlier this year. - NNSL file photo

A briefing note containing information about reporting irregularities at the government-funded family shelter was anonymously dropped off at the Yellowknifer office in mid-September, toward the beginning of the election campaign. The top of the document was trimmed to remove information about its origin and its recipient.

The briefing note contained potentially damaging information on the centre's financial records. It stated, among other things, that Education, Culture and Employment provided funding for 999 bed spaces that were never allocated and that 10 women accessed Income Assistance "throughout the time they stayed at the emergency shelter" from September 2008 to August 2010.

Arlene Hache, the long-standing executive director of the centre and incumbent Hawkins' sole opponent in the race for the Yellowknife Centre seat, claimed she had been the victim of a "sniper attack" a targeted attempt to derail her campaign.

Hawkins denied that he was responsible, saying the accusations against him were "negative campaigning." He did allow, however, that he had received a briefing note on the centre some time in the spring. The Yellowknife Centre MLA went on to win the seat for a third term Oct. 3.

The document Yellowknifer obtained through an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) request Dec. 8 reveals that Hawkins requested a briefing note from Jackson Lafferty, minister of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, on May 5, 2011, although it remains unclear whether the briefing note leaked to the media in September is the same one Hawkins received earlier in the year.

The briefing note wasn't attached to the ATIPP document Yellowknifer received last week, although it does confirm that Morven MacPherson, the executive assistant to Education, Culture and Employment Minister Jackson Lafferty sent Hawkins a briefing note about the centre on May 12.

The e-mail response to Hawkins was copied to e-mails belonging to MaryAnne Woytiuk, Dan Daniels and Lafferty, with the warning "CONFIDENTIAL NOT TO BE SHARED". Woytiuk, now retired, was Lafferty's executive administrative assistant during the 16th assembly. Daniels is the deputy minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

According to the ATIPP document, Hawkins wrote, "Some time ago your department did a review on the program spending that the Centre for Northern Families does. As I understand it, the department offered some administration assistance to audit their books and spending habits to assist the centre in being able to understand where their money is going as well as offer suggestions to aid in their success."

Hawkins then asked for a copy of the work done; a summary of the recommendations made; information on whether the centre complied with information requests; a list of the contributions Lafferty's department had provided the centre for the past two years as well as a short explanation about what the money was intended to address.

The ATIPP document reveals the information in the briefing note was incomplete. Lafferty's assistant told Hawkins that a consultant hired by the Departments of Education, Culture and Employment and Health and Social Services to carry out a financial review of the centre recommended a more detailed review, but his efforts to conduct it were thwarted. The centre did not want him to have access to its general accounting information, and requested that he instead provide specific questions that management would then answer, wrote MacPherson.

"Our consultant became frustrated and decided he didn't want to carry on the work anymore. He did not complete a report, so we don't have anything detailed to share."

When Yellowknifer attempted to deliver a copy of the briefing note circulated during the election campaign in an attempt to confirm whether it was the same one he requested in May, Hawkins refused to accept it.

"I've become the victim of the circumstance as well and I'm moving forward and that's all I'm going to say now at this point," said Hawkins on Friday.

He did, however, say that he would not necessarily recognize the briefing note even if he could see it. He also said he did not have copies of the e-mails sent to him in the spring and so would not be able to check the leaked briefing note against the one he received from Lafferty's department.

Hache could not be reached for comment.

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