So, we’ve gone through the territorial election and now the jockeying begins to see who will be the next premier and cabinet ministers. Let’s get ready to rumblllllle. Eschia, take it easy, eh!
MLAs will vote for the premier first then the ministers. After that, the premier will decide which departments each minister will be in charge of. Dec. 7 is when the premier and ministers will be selected.
Two ministers will be chosen from the south, two from Yellowknife and two from the north to ensure that the three areas are represented on cabinet.
Yellowknife has it all
The next premier should be from outside of Yellowknife because of increasing tensions between Yellowknife and the small communities. Let’s look at three major reasons for tensions.
First, there has been a premier from Yellowknife for the past 12 years.
Second, people in the smaller communities see their economies going down, causing competent people to leave. This slows growth as social conditions worsen.
Third, Covid and the wildfires have changed things. It was already difficult to hire professional people because of a lack of housing. Now, it’s even harder to attract people like nurses and teachers. There is a “brain drain” from the regions as people move to Yellowknife or elsewhere for better jobs, housing or schooling for children. This causes things like less family support and workers for community governments.
Construction projects seem to move at a snail’s pace and people with families wait for years on a housing list, while living with their parents or relatives. Other centres also seem to have less investment and business activities.
Meanwhile, Yellowknife appears to continue to thrive and grow even though the population remains the same.
All of this tells me that we need a premier that is not from Yellowknife. Now, let’s have a quick look at who might get in as premier and as ministers.
Having served as an MLA before, I know that jumping from regular MLA to premier is too big of a jump. In fact, I think a person should serve a term as MLA before becoming a minister, and they should serve as term as minister before running for premier.
Otherwise, it’s like a person playing in the Yellowknife Recreational Hockey League and expecting to play for the Edmonton Oilers.
R.J. Simpson, Shane Thompson and Caroline Wawzonek are the only MLAs with experience as a minister, so they are the only credible candidates for premier in my eyes.
Simpson is heading into his third term and he did a competent job with two very difficult ministerial portfolios last term: Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) as well as Justice. He also initiated an MOU to have the Council of Leaders work with ECE to renew the Education Act.
Simpson is an Aboriginal lawyer who was born, raised and lives in Hay River. All of this plus the current resentment towards Yellowknife should give him the inside track for premier.
Shane Thompson is a former minister going into his third term. Thompson is from Fort Simpson, but has a large hill to climb, as people feel he did a poor job of handling the wildfires and the evacuations last summer. And don’t forget the Lutsel K’e fiasco. I’m also told that the Dehcho Aboriginal leadership does not support his leadership bid.
Caroline Wawzonek is a lawyer and just finished four years as a minister with major portfolios. However, she is from Yellowknife, and I would be very surprised if she became premier. She should return as a cabinet minister without difficulty.
Kieron Testart is also a former MLA. Unfortunately, his being from Yellowknife, his inexperience and promotion of NWT party politics should make MLAs leery of him for premier and even for minister.
Rick Edjericon’s experience includes two years as an MLA, chief and band councillor with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and six years as chairman of Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.
Rick has lived in Yellowknife for over 20 years, but he was also born and raised in Fort Resolution so he knows what it’s like to live in a small community. Rick should be successful in his bid to become a minister.
Shane Thompson: as I said above, it may be harder for him to get in; however, he has the experience so if Simpson becomes premier, it would not surprise me if Thompson is selected as minister.
It’s difficult for me to comment on the three new MLAs in the south as I don’t really know much about them and didn’t have time to research them.
Lisa Semmler spent the last four years as an MLA and other MLAs seem to respect her, so she should have a great chance to become minister.
Jane Weyallon Armstrong looks ready. She served an abbreviated term as MLA, but she sat in the Tlicho Government Assembly for four years after being elected for three terms as a community government councillor. She also has a bachelor of arts degree with a major in political science. She should also have an excellent chance as a minister.
Danny McNeely has past experience as an MLA and as a business person. However, it’s not likely he will be successful in getting a cabinet post because Semmler and Weyallon Armstrong have more recent experience and seem better qualified.
Caroline Wawzonek: as I said above, I would be very surprised if she did not return as a minister.
Robert Hawkins has three terms of experience and he has worked with the John Howard Society for the last seven years. He lived in Fort Simpson for 10 years and lived at Akaitcho Hall while going to high school. All of this may help him into a cabinet position.
Caitlyn Cleveland was the chair of the Social Programs Committee as an MLA. I’m told she got along quite well with community MLAs, so she should have a very good chance also.
Kieron Testart: as I mentioned above, he will likely be held back by his push for party politics and lack of recent experience.
I enjoyed researching the candidates for the top GNWT political positions and I used my previous experience as an MLA and as a senior manager in the government to make my predictions.