Education minister ‘not surprised’ by ex-Aurora College president dismissal

R.J. Simpson is the minister of Education, Culture and Employment. (File photo/CKLB)

Updated: February 7 to reflect Minister Simpson’s ‘Personal Explanation’ given in the house.

Minister R.J. Simpson says he wasn’t surprised to see Dr. Tom Weegar be replaced earlier this week as president of Aurora College and associate deputy minister of postsecondary education renewal.

But the minister of education, culture and employment didn’t get the chance to say why he wasn’t surprised.

Communications staff at the Legislative Assembly cut off the press conference where media were asking why the minister initially said Dr. Weegar stepped away from the position and then backtracked to say he was fired.

The line of questioning came during a press conference on the latest auditor general report, which said the government is falling short of its goals to improve student outcomes in the territory.

Prior to the conference being cut off, Minister Simpson said Dr. Weegar met with the Premier but did not know what the outcome of the meeting would be.

Soon after that meeting, Simpson said he received an email along with other Aurora College and department staff that said Dr. Weegar was stepping down.

Since then, Weegar has repeatedly said that he was terminated.

Simpson was asked if he was concerned he wasn’t part of the conversation to fire Dr. Weegar.

“To me, it didn’t matter how it ended, if it was mutual or if it was a firing,” he said. “The details of what happened behind closed doors were not of consequence to me. What I’m looking at is how we’re going forward.”

Simpson also acknowledged that the college and his department has “to do a better job at communicating.”

The GNWT has since appointed Andy Bevan to replace Dr. Weegar to lead the transition of Aurora College into a polytechnic university.

On Friday, February 7 (the day after the press conference), Simpson gave a “Personal Explanation” in the Legislative Assembly to clarify the previous day’s comments.

He said he spoke with Premier Caroline Cochrane and that “change needed to happen sooner rather than later.”

He reiterated that he was not part of the meeting to dismiss Dr. Weegar but was “certainly aware of the ultimate outcome.”

Finally, the minister said he would no longer be commenting on the matter publicly.

Prior to the explanation in the house, CKLB sent a series of questions asking for clarification of the minister’s comments during the press conference, including why Dr. Weegar was dismissed if there had been a lot of progress made in the transformation of the college.

We will update once that information becomes available.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.