A week into the election, the Conservative Party of Canada has yet to announce an NWT candidate.
Matthew Lakusta, NWT Conservative Party Association president, who happens to be based in Hay River, said that there is a campaign team in place, however campaign strategy details will come at a later date when a person is declared.
“Multiple reasons are attributing to a smaller uptake in interest in Northerners considering the Conservative candidacy,” Lakusta said in an Aug. 23 email. “The short time window the (NWT Conservative riding) Board has been planning for call-outs for candidacy and the pandemic have both made the search more difficult than the previous election cycle.”
The campaign is aware of the Aug. 30 nomination deadline, Lakusta said. The association is feeling out candidates and weighing the possibility of parachuting someone in.
“The board is in talks with individuals regarding their position in taking on the candidacy,” he said. “We are also in talks with the central Conservative party for support in filling the candidacy. Until Aug. 30, our board is to appoint and provide the signatures required to Elections Canada as declaration.”
The Northwest Territories has about 270 card-carrying members, but Lakusta said that official membership numbers don’t reflect the true level of support, which he argues is higher.
“This would likely be true for all parties where a large percentage of voters in their base are not card carrying members,” he said. “At this time we won’t speculate on the actual voter base numbers.”
Lakusta said that while there are a number of policy issues where his riding association would like to see the north represented in the national leadership, he said it would be more appropriate for the declared candidate to comment.
“It would make more sense for this discussion to happen at their level and not from a board level,” he said. “It is definitely challenging for this election due to the timing of it being called,” he said. “For us in the North, specifically, the delay in getting a candidate in place makes it difficult for showing an avenue that people have to vote for.”
Ultimately the position can’t be left vacant because it would show a lack of interest from a major national party.
“Obviously (the national Conservatives) don’t prefer not having someone from the North and we don’t prefer this, but the reality is if we don’t have a candidate in place for the deadline then essentially it is saying to the nation we have no presentation up here … in the whole territory,” he said.
“I would say that by the end of this weekend (Aug. 28 to 29), if nobody comes up for us (relying on a fly-in candidate) is the situation.”
The Conservative Party hasn’t had an MP in the Northwest Territories since Dave Nickerson left office in 1988, but has had strong showings in recent elections including with Yanik D’Aigle who placed second behind incumbent Michael McLeod in 2019.