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Caroline Wawzonek looks for second term on cabinet

As the 2023 territorial election campaign slowly begins to chug along, it should be noted that not every riding this year has a race.
Commissioner Margaret Thom, left, Monfwi MLA Jane Weyallon Armstrong and Tłı̨chǫ Elder Phillip Dryneck begin dancing following Armstrong’s swearing-in ceremony in the legislative assembly on Aug. 5. Weyallon Armstrong will return to the assembly as the acclaimed candidate for Monfwi for her first full term later this year. NNSL file photo

As the 2023 territorial election campaign slowly begins to chug along, it should be noted that not every riding this year has a race.

Three constituencies — Yellowknife South, Kam Lake and Monfwi — saw its candidates acclaimed as no one else but them entered the race. That means Caroline Wawzonek, Caitlin Cleveland and Jane Weyallon Armstrong essentially won without a fight and will return as the MLA for their respective ridings.

NNSL Media had the chance to speak with Wawzonek minutes after the candidate list was finalized by Elections NWT on Oct. 20. She had just received confirmation that she was acclaimed and she will serve a second term as the MLA for Yellowknife South.

“I was making plans to run — we had our team set for a few months beforehand and we had our signs ready,” she said. “We were fully prepared and all we were doing in the last few days leading up to the deadline was wondering if we had to buy some extra materials, but turns out we didn’t have to.”

Depending on who you talk to, winning by acclamation could be taken in different ways. For Wawzonek, she’s taking it as a vote of confidence.

“Politics is never a profession you want to take for granted because things can change very quickly,” she said. “The doors that I knocked on (before acclamation), all of the conversations were positive and so there’a a bit of humility involved when you’re acclaimed.

“It sure takes a lot of stress off, that’s for sure,” she added with a laugh.

Acclaimed candidates don’t have much to do except prepare for their next term in office, but Wawzonek won’t be without work. Even though she’s not an MLA, she is still legally a member of cabinet as the Minister of Finance; Industry, Tourism and Development; and Status of Women. The new cabinet won’t be chosen until the Territorial Leadership Committee meets once the new assembly is sworn in.

She also plans to keep knocking on doors to talk to residents in her riding.

“Every day, I’m opening my laptop because the business of government never ends,” she said. “I’ll still be going around to every door and I’ll attend some of the candidate’s forums to talk and listen. I won’t take away from those who are running, but just to see where people are on the issues and help people understand what’s happening.”

Wawzonek said she wants a second term in the executive.

But will she run for the premier’s chair? The response was a bit non-committal.

“I have to see who’s looking to put their name forward for that,” she said. “I will say I would like to be on cabinet again. There were a lot of challenges and emotions in my first term, but I really valued the role of being a minister. I saw some change internally within my departments and that demonstrates trust, so I’d like to keep working on that.”