It seems the territorial cabinet is becoming the Toronto Raptors of the political world in that the stars don’t want to play there anymore.

Three current cabinet ministers have announced they won’t seek re-election in the fall.

Maybe it’s just us, but it always seems more surprising when a cabinet minister decides not to run again, as opposed to a regular member of the Legislative Assembly. After all, cabinet ministers are in positions of real power.

So we are taken aback when Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod, Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy, and Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Alfred Moses decide not to run.

Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson

We understand, of course, that just because they are cabinet ministers now doesn’t mean they would be cabinet ministers after the election, especially in the NWT’s consensus government.

But still, you would think their chances of staying in cabinet would be better with experience.

Of course, the analogy with the Toronto Raptors only works if you accept that the seven current members of cabinet are the real stars of the Legislative Assembly. That’s somewhat debatable considering the tradition of distributing the non-Yellowknife cabinet seats on a regional basis – two cabinet ministers from north of Yellowknife and two from south of the capital.

And that leads us to the two MLAs from Hay River – Wally Schumann from Hay River South and R.J. Simpson from Hay River North, both of whom plan to run again.

Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann plans to run again in the upcoming territorial election. NNSL file photo

Needless to say, there is a big proviso in what follows, and that is if they’re re-elected. But we’ll proceed, anyway.

Schumann is already in cabinet with the significant portfolios of Infrastructure, and Industry, Tourism and Investment. You would think the departure of three cabinet ministers increases the odds that Schumann and all re-elected ministers will return to cabinet, because they have experience. Plus, ambitious MLAs currently not in cabinet will have at least three vacant positions to fill.

Schumann has also not ruled out a run for the premiership.

As for Simpson, we think he is cabinet material. If you read Hansard, he has shown a skill at understanding the issues and putting ministers on the spot, which should not be too surprising since he entered politics just after earning a law degree.

We can’t see any good reason that should prevent both Schumann and Simpson being in cabinet.

You might notice we said ‘good’ reason, which we don’t consider the regional representation tradition to be. It is an understandable tradition, but somewhat annoying in that it sometimes keeps the NWT from getting the best possible cabinet.

The real division in the NWT is between Yellowknife and everybody else. If there is a reasonable balance in cabinet so that Yellowknife doesn’t dominate, that would be fair.

Therefore, we think Schumann and Simpson, if re-elected, should be in the next cabinet. And if Thebacha MLA Louis Sebert returns to cabinet, that would mean three ministers from the South Slave.

If the northern NWT loses one of its two cabinet ministers as a result, that’s not the end of the world. After all, Hay River had no cabinet minister for 14 years up to 2015.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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