Yellowknife city councillor Rommel Silverio is running for MLA for what he calls a sense of emergency.
Silverio broke the news to CKLB Radio, adding his name to an electoral district at Kam Lake that includes five other candidates.
Re-elected to municipal office less than a year ago, Silverio said there is a “crisis” in staffing shortages at Stanton Territorial Hospital. He said while it is positive a new hospital opened this year, the territorial government hasn’t matched that with supports for additional working bodies.
“In terms of my job, we are having a crisis in this new hospital,” said Silverio, who works as a nurse and is president of the Registered Nurses Association of the NWT and Nunavut.
“They brought up a new hospital, but the project (should) include people who work in the hospital and there is less investment for those people. They gave us bigger space, but not so much help for the people who look after the patients.”
Silverio said he is campaigning to ensure a new “recruitment and retention plan” for health care workers is created as soon as the next legislative assembly sits -to address the overuse of temporary and casual employees.
He also wants to address what he sees as under-funding of community governments so that municipalities have the proper amount of money to deliver basic local services, such as garbage pickup and road construction.
The third prong to his campaign includes building on the momentum toward solving “social issues,” such as addictions, homelessness and mental health service and ensuring northerners have the services they need. He would like to see a medical detox clinic.
“We all need those things to keep the momentum going,” he said.
“I know there are issues with the sobering centre but there are good things happening there, too. We are getting less and less admissions (in the hospital) for intoxicated people, for example.”
Silverio is well-known in the medical community in the North. He started work as a cleaner with Stanton Territorial Hospital in the late 1990s. Today, he is a a registered nurse.
“I always consider myself a front-line worker and I feel what the staff feels,” he said.
“Most of the people who decide (on health care decisions) I don’t know if they actually work on the front line, so I think with a front-line worker in the (legislative assembly) they can be reminded.”
As city councillor
Asked if he feels he is fulfilling the mandate he was given when elected to city council last year for a four-year term, Silverio said at the end of the day, he wants to do what is best for Yellowknifers.
“To be honest, with my mandate I have been doing my job as mandated for both terms by the people,” he said, noting it was not something he had planned ahead of time.
“With the GNWT elections coming, I talked to the clerk, mayor and senior administrative officer and I talked of my decision and went over the policies as a territorial candidate and as a local one. There is nothing that says I need to step out with my current seat right now.”
Silverio said if he is elected, he would have to vacate his council seat, however, over the next month, he will be attending council meetings as usual.
Alison Harrower, communications and economic development officer with the city, stated in an email that based on territorial legislation, a councillor cannot simultaneously serve as an MLA.
“The Local Authorities Elections Act (LAEA) states that a person cannot be a councillor if they are an MLA,” Harrower stated. “The LAEA and Cities, Towns and Villages Act (CTVA) have no limits on councillors running for other office. This means that a council member can continue to fulfill their role as a city councillor during the GNWT election period.”
Harrower noted that both the CTVA and Council Procedures Bylaw include options for council to fill vacant seats in the event a council member resigns partway through their term. According to the bylaw, this includes holding a by-election.
The Kam Lake electoral district, as of Thursday afternoon, also included incumbent Kieron Testart, Robert Hawkins, Abdullah Al-Mahamud, Caitlin Cleveland, and Cherish Winsor.
Silverio, as the latest to declare, said it is the best district for him to run, based on a several characteristics.
“As a councillor, I served the whole city including Kam lake, but one thing that touches me about this riding is that it is a mixed community,” he said. “You have businesses, residential and industrial. You have long-term Northerners, immigrants coming there and growing the community. I have co-workers who live there as well.”