How often do your Northwest Territories politicians show up?

Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly (2015).
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Everybody needs the occasional day away from the office.

Sometimes it’s because work takes you elsewhere. Sometimes, it’s illness or something personal. Sometimes, factors beyond your control stop you making it in (the weather, transport delays and so on).

And if you’re a politician at the Northwest Territories legislature, someone keeps a note.

Last week, the legislature published its final tally of how many days and sessions each territorial politician missed during their four-year term, from October 2011 to October 2015.

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The document puts Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya top of the absentee list, with absences recorded on 66 days (including two half-days).

Chart: absences of MLAs, 2011-2015
MLA absences 2011-2015, by type. Click to view full size.

Each time an MLA misses a session, they have to give a reason. Yakeleya said 20 of his absences were down to work duty taking him elsewhere, 34 were for personal reasons, 11 were for illness, injury or bereavement, and one was down to factors outside his control.

Behind Yakeleya, Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli missed 44 days and Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche was absent for 42.5 (half-days missed are also counted).

At the other end of the scale, Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro is shown to have missed zero sessions. Not one day or half-day off is recorded for Bisaro in the past four years, for any reason.

Meanwhile, absentee data for Yellowknife city councillors also came to light on Wednesday.

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Councillor Niels Konge published data he claims refers to meetings missed by all eight councillors over their past three-year term.

Meetings missed by councillors, 2012-2015
Niels Konge published data claiming to show meetings missed by councillors, 2012-2015. Click to view full size.

The City of Yellowknife said it could not immediately verify the numbers. They appear to show Adrian Bell missed 11 meetings in three years and called in by phone for three more, while Konge missed 14 meetings, Rebecca Alty 15 and Cory Vanthuyne 16.

Dan Wong, by contrast, was not physically present for 43 meetings in the same period according to the figures posted online by Konge. However, he called in by phone for 10 of those, so was only entirely absent for 33.

No reasons for absence are included with the councillors’ data, while only some of the territorial politicians’ absences are explained in accompanying notes, which makes it hard to use these numbers as the basis of any meaningful conclusions.

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Robert Hawkins and Premier Bob McLeod were among territorial politicians who took care to note reasons next to most of their absences.

To give you an idea of the work completed by territorial politicians, one financial year of the legislative assembly will see members sitting for around 50 days. Much of the remaining time is spent working in and for communities they represent.

Taking one financial year of the 17th Assembly as an example (May 2014 to March 2015), there were 47 days or 170 hours in session, generating 127 ministers’ statements and 489 members’ statements.

In that time, 520 oral questions were asked (plus 13 written), nine committee reports were presented and 29 bills were introduced – 25 of which received royal assent.


Update, October 15, 8:48 am: One section of this article has been amended to reflect that call-ins – as quoted in Niels Konge’s data – do still mean a councillor had the ability to take part in, and vote at, a meeting. Norman Yakeleya’s total of 65 has been clarified: there were 66 days on which absences were noted, and two of those occasions were half-days.

A clarification has been added for the statistics regarding work at the legislative assembly – they pertain to one financial year, not a full session.

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