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Introducing 12 of the candidates running for election

With the 2023 territorial election campaign underway, we figured it would be a good time to introduce you to some of the candidates running for office in Yellowknife.
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Ambe Chenemu

With the 2023 territorial election campaign underway, we figured it would be a good time to introduce you to some of the candidates running for office in Yellowknife.

We’re publishing the bios in the order they’ve been received and over as much space as we can provide. If you don’t see your candidate, they either haven’t sent us one or we simply ran out of room.

Introducing the first batch:

Katrina Nokleby

Running in Great Slave

Age: 46

Time in the North: 17 years

Work experience: Professional background as a geological engineer working in environmental, earthworks, and ice engineering before the last four years during which I served as the member for Great Slave in the 19th Legislative Assembly. I spent just under a year on cabinet as the Minister of Infrastructure, Industry, Tourism and Investment, and Minister Responsible for the Workplace Safety and Compensation Commission.

Why are you running: I want to continue to be a strong voice for my constituents and residents across the territory. I bring experience and knowledge to the table as a volunteer, an MLA, and a professional engineer who has spent time living overseas as well as traveling and working in some of the smallest communities in the North.

This gives me a unique perspective rarely seen in politics, as well as the work ethic, critical thinking skills, and drive to see our territory into prosperity. I want to make the NWT better for everyone living here and I know I have the determination to get it done.

Kate Reid

Running in Great Slave

Age: 42

Time in the North: 34 years

Work experience: I have been a journalist, executive director, library clerk, archivist, legal affairs advisor, communications advisor, and most recently, a senior policy analyst with the GNWT Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Why are you running: My campaign is about building community and making government work better for residents. I grew up and live in the riding, and I have been active in this community for 14 years in several volunteer roles, most recently as president of YWCA NWT and president of UNW Local 40. Running for MLA for Great Slave is about taking my commitment to community service to a new level.

Everybody needs community — a place where they can thrive, not just survive; a place where strong connections and mutual support means nobody gets left behind; a place where people and their needs are at the centre of every decision and choice.

Great Slave should have an MLA who is focused on fostering community, on lifting people up by working to strengthen the social fabric connecting us and making sure that the government is acting and thinking in ways that genuinely puts people and communities first.

I want to help make our community a place where people feel financially secure, have a real say in the decisions that affect them, enjoy meaningful lives and social connections through arts and culture, and have access to locally produced goods and services for more of their needs.

Stuart Wray

Running in Frame Lake

Age: 41

Time in the North: Lifelong Northerner. I was born in the Eastern Arctic and have called Frame Lake home since the early 1980s.

Work experience: I have worked in the mining sector for the majority of my adult life; the last five years have been in health and safety. I am currently the health and safety superintendent for the Ekati Diamond Mine.

Why are you running: I am running because I want to represent the neighbourhood I grew up in.

During the evacuation, I was fortunate to be on an essential worker list and stayed behind to help with the fire break. A few of my neighbours stayed behind as well and that community service felt really good and made me prouder of Frame Lake than I already was. It was then I decided to run.

During the next government, I want to ensure that we collaborate and deliver over the next four years so we can make life better for Frame Lakers and all the residents of the NWT.

My main focus is to be an advocate for my neighbours and for our community. I want to help ensure affordable homes for our families; revitalize the exploration and mining sector, creating more jobs that will help more community members thrive and; develop our Northern infrastructure to connect our communities.

Aaron Reid

Running in Range Lake

Age: 41

Years in the North: 19 years

Work experience: My experience is mostly related to information and communications technology, working at Northwestel for the last 19 years. I’ve been a key player in several large projects that have advanced the North considerably, such as bringing smart-phone service to our communities and the roll out of fibre optic networks to areas that have never had it before.

I’ve seen the real change that these types of projects can bring to both people and communities and I know we need to do more things like this to help move the NWT forward.

Why are you running: I am running for office for the same reason that I ran a petition to oppose power rate increases in 2014: I want to be a strong voice and advocate for the people of Range Lake and promote some much needed change.

I believe that historically, the territorial government has tried to do too many things at once and this has led to a poor track record of actual achievement. Rather than try to fix everything, I believe we need to focus on a few key priorities first, get those taken care of and then move on to more complex problems — walk before you run.

The first thing we need to do is take action to ensure that we never have a repeat of the summer of 2023. Once we’ve secured our communities then we need to focus on the basics of a thriving society: a healthy economy and healthy people.

Stacie Arden Smith

Running in Great Slave

Age: 39

Years in the North: Born and raised in Yellowknife.

Work experience: I first began my work career with WSCC in early 2000. From there, I moved to the trucking industry before I found myself working for CIBC, where I trained to be a financial service representative.

When I became a mother, I decided to stay home to raise my children but while doing so, opened a day home as childcare was much needed in the North. It was at this time that my entrepreneurial journey began. In 2013, I closed my day home to take a job as a florist — six months later, I was the manager and one year later, I was the owner.

In 2018, I ran for city council this was the jumping off point to my political career. I have represented the city as the deputy mayor since 2022.

In 2022, I closed my flower shop and returned to my education while taking work with Dash Florals.

Why are you running: I have chosen to pursue the position of MLA because I have witnessed a profound disconnect between the Indigenous way of life and healing within our departments and the services they offer to the residents of the North.

It is my firm belief that we must engage in challenging conversations to advocate for the rights and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Yellowknife and the communities. Additionally, I cannot ignore the immense suffering endured by our residents in the beginning, during and aftermath of the wildfire season. It is my belief that we should invest in the people. The government will thrive when we thrive.

Spencer Tracy

Running in Frame Lake

Age: 49

Time in the North: Since 2007

Work experience: Environmental scientist, teacher, carpenter, project manager, and small business owner.

Why are you running: I grew up in Kapuskasing, Ont., a small town located 850 km north of Toronto. As a child I developed a love of northern communities with time spent playing sports, snowmobiling, breaking things, building things, and scheming with friends. It was also here that I became aware of the vulnerabilities of a resource-based economy. My father, Craig Tracy, after working in the local paper mill from the age of 18, was ‘downsized’ in his mid-50s with a wife and four children to support.

When asked why I want to run for MLA and more specifically what do I have to offer, I think of my six years employed in Yellowknife with the Native Women’s Association of the NWT. It was here that I learned first-hand how a lack of investment in housing, mental health, childcare, food security, addictions, and intimate partner violence has very real consequences. That behind every statistic is a person.

I am excited about ideas that will lift all residents of the NWT. Now is the time to focus government spending on reducing our cost of living, diversifying our economy, building affordable housing, and improving services and supports for those in the grips of addiction and mental illness. I am passionate about political projects that will better serve all residents of Yellowknife and the NWT.

I am energized by community-based initiatives that make Yellowknife a great place to live, whether maintaining an outdoor rink at Rat Lake, volunteering with youth, helping with community gardens, or managing the Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Bruce Valpy

Running in Yellowknife North

Age: 68

Time in the North: 42 years

Work experience: 30 years at NNSL Media

Why are you running: I have put five children through daycare and the school system. I have spent 30 years following what our government has done and not done. I was a journalist and finally publisher, dealing with the challenges of running a business in Yellowknife, with offices and staff around the territory.

Over those years, we have been simply managing the growth of the GNWT without our political leaders providing proper direction and decision-making support to the civil service, whose job is to grow the territory, its people and its economy.

We have not properly invested in the development of the human resources in the communities. This results in a stagnant economy for Yellowknife, and particularly in the communities, the homelands of the Dene, Metis and Inuvialuit.

The ensuing economic weakness is reflected in the dire benchmarks of low employment, poor education results and a crippling housing crisis, both inside and outside Yellowknife. Too much prime real estate sits empty in Yellowknife. The population of the NWT is shrinking, subtracting from GNWT budget transfers from Ottawa, creating a troubling trajectory for the future.

Yellowknife has been my home for 42 years. It has given me a good life, family and career. I have been suggesting solutions with a pen and keyboard for decades. Now it’s time for me to stand up for my beliefs that healing, housing and education is essential to ensure a growing economy for the NWT and Yellowknife, its economic heart and capital.

Ambe Chenemu

Running in Yellowknife Centre

Age: Not provided

Time in the North: I moved here more than 10 years ago as a young man finding his way and the North with all its Indigenous peoples opened their hearts and gave my life meaning. Living and schooling in Fort Smith taught me how to live on the land and treat it well.

Work experience: I have spent some time living in Indigenous communities and working with Indigenous governments, first with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation as a lands and resources coordinator, then with the Tłı̨chǫ Government in Behchokò as a community planner and now in Yellowknife as an advisor on policy and government relations.

I run my own small business right downtown and I understand from firsthand experience the challenges small businesses go through to keep their doors open and feed their families.

My time in the North has been pivotal in leading the creation of three amazing organizations such as the Global Shapers Community Yellowknife, Black Advocacy Coalition and Black CAN.

Why are you running: I was born in a country working to shake off colonial rule and empower its people and can relate to the North and its colonial legacy with Indigenous peoples.

The NWT and Yellowknife are at a crossroads. We’re facing crisis after crisis, from housing to wellness to healthcare to climate change and a slowing economy.

People are feeling lost and are struggling to get by. A lot of us are losing faith in the government’s ability to keep us safe and ensure the well-being of our families and loved ones.

I am running to bring real action in government and give hope to Northerners. I am bringing new ideas and the energy it needs to get things on the move for residents of Yellowknife Centre and for all Northerners.

These challenges won’t be solved overnight but the first step is getting the right people in government that will put the people’s priorities first, take bold action to tackle big challenges and turn lip service into meaningful action.

I believe in grassroots solutions and have the experience to organize people and get things done.

The good news is that Northerners are full of ideas, dedicated people, and opportunities to take our territory to the next level.

Kieron Testart

Running in Range Lake

Age: 38

Time in the North: 31 years and counting

Work experience: Experience as an MLA, a director of economic development, a wildfire incident commander, a deputy sheriff, and a husband and father of three.

Why are you running: I’m proud to call Range Lake home and I’ve decided to run in this election because I have a deep love for our Yellowknife community. I’ve seen how this place has shaped my children’s lives, and I want to ensure they grow up in a thriving and safe environment.

With tough times ahead, I’m worried about the future of the territory. I understand the hardships Northerners have endured, and I’m committed to making things right. These last few years have been unprecedented. It’s been tough, but together, we as Northerners have shown the resilience and determination that define our spirit.

I believe that my experience and dedication can help secure a better future for our community and for the next generation.

Matt Spence

Running in Yellowknife Centre

Age: 61

Time in the North: Lived in the North for 59 years. Moved to Yellowknife in 1964 at two years old. Grew up at Giant Mine and have lived and worked in Iqaluit, Fort Simpson, and Yellowknife.

Work experience: Journalist, city councillor in Iqaluit, public servant

Why are you running: Joining his father on summer geological exploration trips, he developed a knowledge and appreciation for mining in the North. His parents also instilled a passion for public service, which he has continued to this day. He attended Sir John Franklin High School and went on to attain a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Master’s in Business Administration.

After a career in journalism at Nunatsiaq News, Matt was elected as a city councillor of Iqaluit in 1996. As a councillor he was a strong advocate for enhancing local services, infrastructure, and community development – ensuring that the needs and concerns of Iqaluit and its residents were acted upon.

Matt returned to Yellowknife in 2001 to raise his family and began a career with the Government of Canada holding several senior positions culminating with his role as the regional director-general of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Building on his passion for public service, he became an active advocate as a board member for AVENS and the United Way.

With his commitment to lifelong learning, he also completed a degree in project management. This was key in his role implementing policies and initiatives that prioritized reconciliation and strengthen relationships between the federal government and Indigenous peoples.

With his public service and employment experience, Matt hopes to continue to be an advocate for Northerners as a member of the legislative assembly.

Shauna Morgan

Running in Yellowknife North

Age: 42

Time in the North: 15 years

Work experience: Two-term city councillor (2015-22), chair of Yellowknife’s Community Advisory Board on Homelessness, board member with the Yk Women’s Society and independent consultant/facilitator. You may also know me as a veteran Snow Castle crew member, piano teacher, on-the-land educator, and clean energy advocate with the northern office of the Pembina Institute.

For the past 14 years, I have done planning support work for indigenous communities across the NWT, so I have a broad understanding of political dynamics and challenges in the territory.

Why are you running: Before running for city council, my career and volunteer work was focused on advocating for policy change from outside government. The topics I’ve always been passionate about include: poverty, homelessness, human rights, Indigenous self-determination, climate change, and clean energy.

During my two terms on city council, I enjoyed the challenge of being in a decision-making role and understanding government better from the inside. I loved the opportunities to connect with diverse groups of people. It was ‘character-building’ for me in a good way. It has tested and strengthened my personal mantra that I do not need everyone to like me or agree with me, but I do want my decisions to be respected. I aim to respectfully consider all different perspectives, align my opinion with key values and priorities, and then be transparent in explaining my rationale.

City council is a part-time role that I was juggling alongside four other jobs, and I began to crave more time to devote to researching and following up on each particular issue. Many key issues facing the city, such as homelessness and the housing shortage, are closely intertwined with the territorial mandate, and it was frustrating to come up against GNWT roadblocks and under-funding.

I am eager to dive into a full-time leadership position and channel my energy into addressing urgent territory-wide issues such as housing, health care, education and energy systems. Every time I am tempted to get fed up and throw stones at the GNWT for one of its many failures, I remember someone I know who works in that department who is smart and dedicated and trying hard.

I want to focus on how we can better harness their talent and expertise. This territory has so much potential, if we focus on building up our people and working together.

Julian Morse

Running in Frame Lake

Age: 39

Time in the North: 37 years

Work experience: I have a wide breadth of professional experience, including technical field work, mining regulation, providing regulatory support for industry, and served two terms on Yellowknife city council.

I’m certified to operate commercial watercraft and have worked as a Zodiac driver and polar bear guard for a tourism company in the High Arctic. I have education in political science, environment and natural resources technology, and a degree in conflict analysis & management, which focused on change management in organizations.

Why are you running: I’m running for MLA because I care about the future of the NWT, and am concerned we are not adequately prepared for oncoming economic changes over the next few decades.

We need to address the housing crisis, and increase access to childcare and healthcare. We need to diversify and strengthen our economy, and need leaders with vision, experience, and understanding of how to lead change at the GNWT. We need to be better prepared to face increasingly extreme environmental events like wildfires and floods.

I think that my unique combination of professional background, education and experience have prepared me well to be effective in the assembly. Seven years of political experience teaches you a lot of important lessons you can’t necessarily learn elsewhere. It also means that people have a good idea of what my work was like as a councillor, and how I’ll conduct myself as an MLA.

My background in change management and conflict engagement has given me tools other candidates aren’t bringing to the table that I think will be valuable in this workplace.

We are entering a time of uncertainty for the NWT; it is going to be challenging, and we need stable, effective governance. I believe I have demonstrated the ability to deliver that.

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Julian Morse
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Katrina Nokleby
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Kieron Testart
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Matt Spence
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Stacie Arden Smith
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Stuart Wray
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Bruce Valpy
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Shauna Morgan
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Spencer Tracy
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Kate Reid