NWT Election Expose #1
So the numbers are in and the NWT is headed into a very interesting political season.
The 20 women in the field of 58 nominated candidates is twice the number who ran in 2015.
As I look at the races in various constituencies, I conclude it would not be a stretch to believe there could be a half-dozen or more female MLAs elected next month.
Which is a good thing, as there were only two MLAs out of the 19 in the 18th NWT Legislative Assembly.
Our elected bodies should reflect the communities they serve. After the 2018 municipal elections, for example, Yellowknife City Council ended up with Rebecca Alty as mayor and three women out of the eight councillor seats. The panel also has a decent cultural mix, with Indigenous and visible minority communities represented.
But I digress. Back to the territorial tilt.
There are some very interesting races, with some incumbents facing stiff competition and some open districts enjoying a good variety of candidates.
I chuckled when I heard Caroline Cochrane recently already positioning herself as a possible candidate for premier in our consensus government. She is that same mediocre-at-best minister of education who stood in the assembly in August and declared the territory’s school system was “failing” the children of the NWT with its low graduation rates.
The woman who had the job of fixing this longstanding problem had just basically admitted defeat, stating that it was the next assembly’s responsibility to fix it.
So she should be our next premier? I don’t think so.
Cochrane also faces a solid challenger for her Range Lake seat in the form of current public servant and former NWT Chamber of Commerce president, Hughie Graham.
As I see the next cabinet choosing a premier from outside Yellowknife — sure, a woman would be history making, but not likely given that all non-capital female candidates will be assembly rookies — I say the speaker of the last assembly, Jackson Lafferty, has a good shot at being our first minister.
Lafferty — bilingual and Indigenous — was acclaimed in his constituency of Monfwi and has the proper comportment to represent the NWT. While he isn’t the best with the media — I don’t think he likes us very much — he is someone I think could represent the North to the rest of Canada.
Another possible premierial contender could be cabinet minister Wally Schumann, who is running in Hay River South. He also has that certain air of leadership about him and is somewhat media savvy.
The other acclamation made official Friday, Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. was Frederic Blake Jr. in Mackenzie Delta. Blake has an unimpressive record as MLA, with early assembly meeting attendance issues still dogging him.
This is my first territorial election where I’m not officially attached to a media outlet. Being semi-retired and a freelancer, I am not ethically restrained in the opinions I can offer in this blog leading up to the Oct. 1 election. So I’m going to have some fun — yup, this is fun for a political junkie with a blog.
While it’s no secret I’m what is called a Red Tory — a right-winger who is fiscally conservative, but more relaxed and compassionate on social issues — I can offer some perspectives from my decades in the media across western Canada. I have also worked inside politics as a political appointee to the Gary Filmon cabinet way back in the late-‘90s in Manitoba.
In future blogs, I will offer some predictions on who I think will win in certain constituencies — and point out deficiencies in some candidates, especially if they are an incumbent. But I will not be personally endorsing anyone.
I will also look at a few more quirky things that will undoubtedly pop up in the coming days and weeks.
Such as campaign signage.
The design of a candidate’s large boulevard signs can offer some insight into the people in the pictures.
First off, it’s obvious that top local photographer Angela Gzowki’s environmental portrait style has really become the overriding theme for campaign art in the city, adopted by other shutterbugs (yeah, they hate that term).
Finding the right time of day, when the sun will light the background perfectly (and even offer a nice fill light on a candidate’s shoulders) this photo approach then uses a large umbrella as a key light. This controlled scene prevents squinting and the soft main light is extremely flattering.
But to the structural supports themselves. I chose a grouping in my constituency of Yellowknife South — an open district after the resignation of cabinet minister Glen Abernethy. The crowded corner of 52 Avenue and 49 Street included Yk South candidates Patrick Scott and Katrina Nokleby and Yellowknife Centre incumbent Julie Green.
These structures are not cheap. And they are not easy to install.
The sheets of plywood — Green opted for some form of pressed chipboard — are supported by a stand usually made of two by fours. Each candidate — or their sign team — seems to have selected a slightly different design, with Scott’s double truss support winning the O’Connor City Blog Design Award on this corner. His choice of large rocks as stabilizers also harkens back to the city’s mining heritage.
Or maybe I’m just overthinking these things …
Basically, all these signs are eyesores that only become interesting when vandals add their creative touches, such as happened in the 2018 municipal campaign. Of course, without any racist slurs as happened to Adrian Bell’s small billboard.
And of course during that campaign, motorists along Franklin Avenue near the old Winks enjoyed watching Jerald Sibbeston’s large sign slowly fall over due to shoddy construction.
It was symbolic of how his campaign was going…
Then there are election blogs by candidates.
Until late last week, I was concerned the election choice would be between two social justice warrior types — incumbent regular MLA Julie Green and longtime political wallflower Arlene Hache (who is an Order of Canada recipient for her social welfare work).
A fellow by the name of Thom Jarvis was also on the ticket, but I know little of the man, except his statement on CKLB: “It’s going to take some creative thinking to make Yellowknife’s downtown more liveable for all its residents, including those struggling with mental health and addiction issues, as well as its business people and tourists.” It’s not about creative thinking. The solution is pretty clear.
The Day Shelter/Sobering centre is a disastrously failing social experiment that has to be addressed immediately. The Day Shelter (soup kitchen) needs to be apart from the Sobering Centre (drunk tank). Otherwise, the place becomes a full-time residence for people, which it has. The Day Shelter would be a perfect addition to the affordable housing project now in the works in the Arnica Inn, just down the hill on Franklin Avenue and on the fringe of downtown.
But back to the fight for Yellowknife Centre.
Incumbent Green has had her shot at fixing things. She is largely responsible for the Day Shelter/Sobering Centre and still backs it fully.
She also defended the place after a violent homicide took place right outside its doors in broad daylight last week.
On her election blog, here’s what she said, in part:
“… while the assault took place in front of the shelter it didn’t have anything to do with the shelter. It could have occurred across the street or a block over.
“I am and remain an adamant supporter of the day shelter and sobering centre.
“I don’t have a ready solution but I do recognize that we should all feel safe everywhere in the city.”
The assault was directly linked to the shelter. The victim was in and out of the front doors before he was punched. The two men wouldn’t have been in the vicinity if not being drawn there by the shelter, which functions as a dysfunctional community centre. There was no sign of a security guard before or after the tragic incident.
As for admitting she doesn’t have a solution for the public drinking, drug use, violence and panhandling that is driving people away from downtown more than ever before, then she doesn’t deserve to be re-elected.
Enter maverick city Coun. Niels Konge, who surprised everyone by filing his papers to run in Yellowknife Centre a day before deadline last week.
While as I said, I’m not going to endorse anyone in this race — like it would help then anyhow, I’m not that vain — I will comment on contenders.
And Konge’s successful business background and straightforward, straight-talking style is something that could really help downtown. I have heard him express some pretty common-sense ideas for the area, many that align with mine.
One more fun fact I came across. This from Yellowknife North candidate Jan Vallillee, who’s running against Rylund Johnson and incumbent Cory Vanthuyne. In the first image, screen grabbed from her Facebook page, Vallillee had a rough start to her campaign.
Then, for some odd reason, over the weekend, she decided that telling people she can beat the tar out of someone would be good for her campaign. I’ll just let her post speak for itself, and I’ll talk to y’all again in a few days with my next Election Expose.
UPDATE: A kind reader pointed out that Wally Schumann is Métis. I had mentioned he was a white guy. I guess his last name threw me. I appreciate any feedback on factual mistakes. As for anyone not agreeing with my commentary, email me and I’ll look at including comments in an upcoming blog.