Yellowknife MLA Robert Hawkins says he “did nothing wrong” regarding allegations of campaign irregularities before he withdrew from the NWT’s Liberal nomination race.
Hawkins told Moose FM a “very complicated situation” led to his withdrawal earlier this month. He had intended to run for nomination with a view to becoming the NWT’s next MP in Ottawa.
On Friday, the website Edge YK published a lengthy report suggesting Hawkins had improperly collected membership forms from supporters – attaching cash payments with the forms, which is against the Liberal Party’s own rules, rather than cheque or card.
The website also questioned why Hawkins still possessed some supporters’ forms, weeks after pulling out of the race.
“I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m returning the memberships as I always said I would, and I should,” Hawkins told us.
Hawkins maintains he was given permission by the Liberal Party’s national headquarters to ignore the usual rules, which state cash isn’t an acceptable method of payment if a membership form is downloaded from the web.
Edge YK, while acknowledging “there’s no evidence of any fiscal malpractice”, claims officials at Liberal HQ have no recollection of allowing Hawkins that exemption.
Kieron Testart and Gail Cyr remain in the running for the NWT Liberal nomination.
Testart said: “The rules are very clear. They’ve always been clear, they have been clear from the get-go. Stapling money to forms that can’t take money? That’s not something you can do.
“Honestly, I am surprised. The rules have been posted for almost two years now. They are fairly uncomplicated and uncontroversial.
“I’m not sure why you would ask for an exemption to a very clearly defined rule.”
Testart claims his campaign has always filed membership forms with the national party as soon as they are completed.
To explain why he held on to his for so long, Hawkins argues that sending in the forms at the right time is a part of internal ‘politicking’ in the nomination race.
He rejects any suggestion of wrongdoing and says the vast majority of membership forms – and cash – have been returned to supporters. He is in the process of returning the remainder.
Friday’s allegations follow Hawkins’ surprise exit from the race to become the Liberal candidate in the forthcoming federal election.
At the time, a short statement simply said Hawkins had “withdrawn his interest” and “will continue to focus his work on the issues that matter most to the constituents of Yellowknife Centre and the everyday northern family”.
Some supporters were dismayed. Hawkins has since hinted that greater considerations were at play.
“It became a very complicated situation. Both my wife and I decided this was the best course,” he told Moose FM on Friday, while denying that the membership form issue had any bearing on, or connection to, the decision to withdraw.
“Circumstances became very complicated, that’s probably the best way to describe it.”
However, Hawkins said this did not necessarily mark the end of his ambitions to represent the NWT at the federal level.
“You know what? Nobody knows what the future will hold,” he said.