From: Don Jaque,
Fort Smith

Dear editor,

Your editorial in the July 25 edition (‘Summer of McLeod’) expressed concern about Premier Bob McLeod hanging out with Conservative premiers at different events this summer, purposely showing solidarity with them against policies of the Trudeau Liberals, particularly the federal government’s approach to putting a price on carbon.

As you point out in the editorial, that public political act by McLeod was executed without any consultation or communication with the people of the NWT.

I have heard such concerns echoed in conversations in Fort Smith – that Premier McLeod has no mandate to pick political sides and align with partisan positions, in particular when it comes to critical action on climate change.

Where is the NWT’s strategy on what to do about climate change? Actually, there is none.
What your editorial points out is essentially an abuse of our consensus government system. Premier McLeod does not have the authority to present the NWT on the national stage in support of a development-at-any-cost philosophy.

By definition, consensus government requires leaders to seek support and convince at least a majority of citizens that the path they are promoting is the right one. McLeod has failed to do any of that.

In our NWT system of consensus government the premier has traditionally served only one term and her/his government has been guided in large part by the “mandate” created at the beginning of each assembly.

That mandate, which incorporates priorities brought forward from the previous assembly, is a sort of roadmap for the 19 NWT MLAs going forward. The premier is selected by the assembly and he/she (and their chosen cabinet) are supposed to utilize that mandate.

When Bob McLeod became premier for a second term, the first NWT premier ever to serve more than one term, he skewed all that.

What happens in our current so-called consensus system of governance is that the practice of “cabinet solidarity” gets in the way of true consensus. Cabinet, which is technically a minority, recruits sufficient ordinary MLAs as allies (promising rewards to their communities) to dominate the legislature and determine whatever path they chose.

Premier McLeod, empowered by that, has simply continued on his own path, ignoring key components of the mandate.

Each assembly’s mandate is the closest thing we have in our consensus government system to a “platform” in party politics where, during an election, citizens get to assess competing promises and plans for how to govern, using that to choose who they want to vote for.

The elected party becomes the government and is held to account over how they execute that platform.

We have none of that in consensus government – only the mandate which is debated publicly for a few days and finally agreed on by all MLAs, a poor second option.

Our NWT system is undemocratic and inadequate. Each person who presents themselves as a prospective premier should be elected in a process where they publicly offer their plans and priorities.

Then each premier candidate’s competing platform can be considered and debated over a period of time, a process that properly elects our premier.

I would take it one step further. It takes at minimum nine of the 19 MLAs to vote in a premier (plus their own vote). That is hardly an example of “democracy.” The choice of premier should be determined in a process where the people of the NWT can select their preferred candidate and vote for them. That would make our system truly democratic.
Our consensus government system must be improved – assessed, analysed and refined.

That must be done in a discerning process involving all NWT citizens, not the current ad hoc approach.

I have one request in any such exercise: Please do not bring in southern “experts” to tell us how to evolve our system of governance.

We have many wise citizens in the NWT who are knowledgeable and experienced in politics and leadership who can do that, and do it well.