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Niels Konge 'may' run for MLA

Niels Konge, the three-term Yellowknife city councillor and owner of Konge Construction, is hinting he may throw his hat in the ring for the upcoming territorial election.

City councillor says old regime unfairly penalized builders.
Yellowknife city councillor Niels Konge told city council told that he is considering a run for MLA in next month's territorial election. photo courtesy of Niels Konge

Konge declared a conflict of interest during an Aug. 3 city council committee meeting when the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce presented on its territorial election priorities.

To other seemingly surprised fellow councillors, Konge said he "was thinking about it" – that is, to run as a candidate for MLA in the Oct. 1 territorial election.

A source told Yellowknifer on Monday that Konge intends to run in the Yellowknife Centre constituency. Konge declined to comment when Yellowknifer attempted to confirm that.

Konge did not confirm or deny on Tuesday that he would run in YK Centre but said that he will not be running in the Kam Lake constituency, where both his business and home are located.

"A few candidates have come to me for advice on running in the area so I wouldn't turn around and run against them," said Konge.

"It would be a dick move."

The councillor also pointed out possible issues he would want to focus on should he decide to run, including cost of living through reducing power prices, social issues involving the city's joint sobering centre and day shelter and access to land.

"A week ago I wasn't considering this," said Konge. "A lot of people over the last couple weeks have come and had conversations with me and really encouraged me to consider it. (And) now I'm considering it."

Konge said he did not have any prior aspirations to hold political office but initially ran for council because he felt passionately that some things needed to change.

"In order to get those changes I felt I needed to have a louder voice," said Konge. "I have a level of frustration right now at the GNWT level that I'm considering the same thing. If you really want to make some change, you have to see if people agree with my point of views. The difference is now I have seven years in a leadership role."

"We have some hurdles ahead of us but we also have some opportunities," he continued. "I think the GNWT holds a lot of those opportunities, we just need to start unlocking them."

Should Konge run, he says that he would be able to continue his duties on council until after the election.

If a city councillor is elected as an MLA, the GNWT has rules that forbid individuals from sitting on municipal councils.

"I feel I have been an effective councillor and I will continue my work during the election," said Konge. "No one joins city council for the money, we do it to improve the lives of people in Yellowknife."

He says he is not worried about potentially getting an election team together and making arrangements for his business as he prides himself as "a man who can get things done on short notice."

Konge has long been a champion of development in Yellowknife during his time on council and has advocated for the revitalization of the city's downtown core.

His tenure in city politics has not been without controversy. In 2017 the outspoken councillor was embroiled in an ethics conflict with former mayor Mark Heyck and unnamed city employees.

If Konge chooses to run, he would be following a well-travelled path to the legislative assembly taken by other former city councillors before him, including Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly and Yellowknife North's Cory Vanthuyne.

Former MLAs Robert Hawkins, Dave Ramsay and Wendy Bisaro also served on council before jumping into territorial politics. Ramsay and Hawkins lost their seats in the last election but are both making another attempt to get back in this year.

City councillor Rommel Silverio also declared his candidacy for Kam Lake on Tuesday.

Should Konge run in YK Centre, he will be taking on incumbent Julie Green and candidates Arlene Hache and Thom Jarvis.