Speaker tells MLA to apologize to Premier for comments about Aurora College President firing

Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty lost the premier position to Caroline Cochrane following the October election last year. He's pictured here (centre) with Speaker Frederick Blake Jr. (left) and Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson (right). (Francis Tessier-Burns/CKLB).

Legislative Assembly Speaker Frederick Blake Jr. called on Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty to apologize to Premier Caroline Cochrane.

Lafferty has repeatedly criticized the premier’s firing of former Aurora College President Tom Weegar.

Late in February, he accused Cochrane of breaking the law when dismissing Weegar. He also tabled a legal opinion from law firm Lawson Lundell, which stated only the Minister of Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE) may terminate the president of the college.

The day after tabling the letter, Lafferty asked Blake to issue “sanctions” against the premier “to restore the integrity of the rule of law, and to ensure that we continue to live up to the highest standards, probity, integrity, accountability of our actions as elected officials.”

However, Weegar held a double role as both the college president and associate deputy minister of post-secondary renewal.

The premier has maintained that she was well within her rights to fire Weegar since he held this second position.

Lafferty and Cochrane have effectively been talking past one another as each focuses on only one of Weegar’s roles and conveniently omits the other.

Soon after Lafferty’s accusations, Government House Leader R.J. Simpson (who also happens to be minister of ECE) called out the Monfwi representative, saying he was trying to “create doubt about the integrity of the premier.” He then asked the Speaker to reprimand Lafferty.

On Tuesday, Blake dismissed Lafferty’s request to sanction the premier; the Speaker sided with Simpson and ruled that Lafferty “did cross a line” with his comments about the premier.

He then called on Lafferty to apologize in the House.

However, Lafferty raised a question of privilege to delay the apology.

Lafferty regularly delivers statements and questions in his traditional Tłı̨chǫ language, but there were no Tłı̨chǫ interpreters on Tuesday. Lafferty said it was his right to deliver his response to Blake’s decision in Tłı̨chǫ and asked to postpone that portion of Tuesday’s sitting until interpretation services were available.

Blake accepted to take the request under advisement and postponed the apology.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis has been a general news reporter with CKLB since January 2019. Originally from rural Ontario, he first came to the NWT in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine and fell in love with the North. In his time with CKLB, he's had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures. Otherwise, you can find him hanging around the Legislative Assembly. If you have a story or want to chat, reach out to francis@cklbradio.com