It’s been very interesting to hear a couple of our elected officials explain in recent days why the last NWT legislative assembly didn’t accomplish more of its goals over the past four years.
It’s easy to see the overly eager self-inflicted mandate of 230 items would be hard to handle. So it’s actually surprising to see the 18th Assembly met 212 of their priorities.
In a consensus government, without a political party with a platform of policies, the elected 19-member body develops its action plan after being elected. It makes for an unwieldy list of disparate wishes.
In a recent interview with Cabin Radio, retiring premier Bob McLeod admitted he gave up on some of the territory’s 19 MLAs as he tried to get things done over the past four years.
In a rather shocking revelation, McLeod questioned whether some regular MLAs had wanted his government to fail.
“If you have candidates that get elected, that have one or two priority items and that’s all they focus on, and you know you’re not going to get them on-side on any matter… the reality is, in consensus government, you can operate with a cabinet and three friends,” McLeod said in the interview. “And so it’s a lot easier to talk to members that have a more flexible agenda.”
He didn’t name the MLAs, however, regular observers of the daily thrust and parry of the assembly would be able to offer a couple of names. And some of them are seeking re-election on Oct. 1.
Then in the Hay River Hub, cabinet minister Wally Schumann suggested it was the bureaucracy that could be a problem when it came to advancing land claims and self-government – a popular topic at an all-candidates’ forum in Hay River.
The minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Infrastructure who is seeking re-election stated: “I think the real hard choices have got to be made with the executive council. Do we change up some of our staff within Indigenous Affairs? And that’s a pretty bold statement to make publicly, but I think there needs to be some movement and some people to bring some creative ideas to the table.”
The people of the NWT have elections in 16 of 19 constituencies and can choose from 58 candidates. Three electoral districts have been settled by acclamation: R.J. Simpson (Hay River North); Frederick Blake Jr. (Mackenzie Delta), and Jackson Lafferty (Monfwi).
There are people from all walks of life, all political stripes and many cultural backgrounds. There are women on 12 of the 16 ballots, equating to 40 per cent of those on the ballot across the NWT.
So the electors of the NWT – that’s the term for someone who is eligible to vote, but who hasn’t cast a ballot – have the chance to configure the 19th Assembly in a vastly different way than the 18th version, what with its two female MLAs and its indecisive action on some major files.
Big infrastructure projects such as furthering development of the Mackenzie Valley all-season highway and a road through the Slave Geological Province got started and the Mineral Resources Act was updated. The territory has a brand-spanking new hospital and Aurora College is beginning its transformation into a polytechnic university. Introduction of 9-1-1 service across the territory is coming soon and some progress – not enough – was made to mental health and addictions programs.
The Aurora College strategic plan hasn’t been done yet. Taxes weren’t cut for small businesses and the GNWT implemented its own answer to the federal carbon tax that will saddle everyone living here with even higher costs of living.
The economy has a bleak outlook and not enough is being done to find ways to diversify it. Tourism is much ballyhooed, but most of it goes to Yellowknife.
So we hope everyone who can will take some time and vote. If you don’t know who to choose, do some reading at old.nnsl.com’s election page.
Make your mark. And let’s hope the elected officials will work together for the good of the territory.
Even if that means upsetting a few bureaucrats along the way.