Steve Norn running to recover lost MLA seat

Former MLA Steve Norn in February 2021. (Francis Tessier-Burns/CKLB)

After losing his seat in the Legislative Assembly last November, Steve Norn says getting re-elected was the last thing on his mind.

Since then, the former-hoping-to-return MLA says he’s gotten support from people within the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh constituency to run.

He spoke with CKLB about the decision to put his name forward for the seat he lost less than two months ago.

Norn lost his seat following a public inquiry that revealed he broke COVID-19 isolation protocols in April 2021.

The sole adjudicator ultimately said Norn “betrayed the trust and confidence of the public” for breaking isolation and lying about it.

Throughout the proceeding, Norn had multiple outbursts criticizing the process. When other MLAs voted to remove him in November following the adjudicator’s recommendation, they also shared stories of aggressive messages and behaviour from Norn.

CKLB asked how he could assure voters his personal actions would not distract from his work as MLA if re-elected.

“That’s a great question,” he said. “I apologize for my past mistakes, nobody’s perfect, you know, we all have our shortcomings… My family and I went through a lot, and if there’s any debts that need to be paid, I think we’ve long paid for this… I got to look past all that and the focus here is going to be on the constituents, period.”

If re-elected, Norn said he’d focus on housing, health care, and the cost of living.

“The riding has been shorted by this government in two consecutive budgets,” he said. He added the financial trajectory of the territory is “not sustainable.” He said he’ll work to find business solutions in the constituency, “which will translate to more jobs and try and keep those jobs in the North.”

Norn has previously said that most of his support comes from Deninu Kųę́ and Łutselk’e. Yellowknives Dene First Nation chiefs had previously called for Norn’s resignation.

CKLB asked Norn if he had any concerns around having a divided constituency.

He said the ultimate goal was to “keep the Akaitcho together” and “focusing on bringing people together rather than alienation.”

Mail-in ballot concerns

Elections NWT announced the upcoming by-election would be entirely done by mail-in ballot.

In a news release, Stephen Dunbar, elections officer, said it was the “safest manner possible” to have the election and abide by public health orders.

Norn said he had “many questions” around the process of mail-in ballots.

They ranged from concerns for older constituents preferring going to vote in person and confusing requirements for submitting a mail-in ballot, to “chain of custody” in relying on the post system and “voter suppression.”

CKLB asked who he believed would be doing the suppression. He did not give a specific answer.

“I’m just trying to word this the right way,” he said. “I want a more fair process because a mail-in ballot excludes the voters who like to have the ballots in their hands. Then actually see their votes go in the box, they know it’s safe and be counted like, pretty quick. With this ballot system, it’s a little different. People, once they mail out their votes, they don’t know. Like where does it go, like, where is it going to be counted? Is there going to be oversight? That’s my concern.”

He instead suggested the election be postponed to a later date when there are fewer COVID-19 cases and there can be in-person polls.

But that would mean the people in Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh would go longer without representation at the Legislative Assembly.

“I totally agree,” he said, “but at the same time, I would like to see as much people hit the polling station or vote as much as possible. With the mail-in ballots, I think that there’ll be lower voter turnout.”

Electors in Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh that are registered to vote as of Jan. 14 will be mailed a ballot. Eligible voters can register until Jan. 29. Voters can visit the Elections NWT website to confirm they are on the voter list.

Nadine Delorme-Simon is the only other person to declare her candidacy so far. CKLB will be speaking with her next week. The deadline for candidates is Jan. 14.

All ballots must be received by Feb. 8.

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