NWT Election Expose #2: Writ large, it has been an intense campaign
The NWT Territorial General Election is just a couple of days away. It’s been a relatively sane and sober affair, with a few candidates making notable comments, most making similar pledges and none really doing anything super crazy. However, the intensity of campaigning by many candidates has been impressive, both with in-person contact, campaign advertising and social media utilization.
The local and regional media has done well to provide information and analysis for electors (eligible voters who haven’t yet cast a ballot), with OpenNWT, CBC North and Cabin Radio having the most complete election pages and full plans for election night coverage. Cabin is to be commended for having video interviews with most candidates. Northern News Services (NNSL) has offered the most informative commentary and analysis during the campaign — even scoring an exclusive column series from Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty. (Full disclosure, as a freelancer, my byline has been associated with Cabin and NNSL.)
There have been several clickable headlines from many news outlets, such as: Should a minister endorse an election candidate?; Great Slave candidate apologizes for ‘insulting’ Facebook comment; ‘A culture of lawlessness’: Yellowknife candidates sound off about issues downtown; Ad placed by union violated election rules, Elections NWT says; Two female candidates say they’ve faced harassment on campaign trail; Great Slave candidate’s rent control proposal stirs response; N.W.T. deputy minister resigns after disparaging Facebook comments; and, of course, ‘I’m confident and I’ll fight’: Yk North’s lone female candidate recounts beat down of would-be male attacker.
Several special interest groups lobbied for their causes since the writ was dropped Sept. 2, including NWT Chamber of Commerce, the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, Dene Nahjo and an education consortium of Yellowknife Catholic Schools, YK1 and Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest. Some sent out questionnaires, others held forums, with some turning into real debates.
The Union of Northern Workers stepped into some poop when it ran large ads in News North and the Yellowknifer endorsing/slapping down incumbents for their positions during the bitter contract negotiations last winter. Chief Electoral Officer Nicole Latour determined the union violated rules for election advertising by third parties, as it failed to register with Elections NWT as a third party advertiser. The union was told to stop advertising until it registered.
Another group provided some valuable information and held excellent forums in school gyms for candidates in city constituencies. OpenNWT founder David Wasylciw and his associates are to be commended for his non-partisan work helping electors choose who they will vote for.
I took advantage of this and found it to be very easy and convenient. I voted a couple of weeks ago, as I knew early on who I wanted to represent me in the Great Slave constituency. It was before all the forums were over and prior to all the stories being written about candidates.
Speaking of ballots, the NWT was making some national news this election by being the first provincial/territorial votes to allow online balloting.
While early online voting doesn’t appear to have really caught on this time around, in the future, I would suggest candidates and special interest groups take this into account and plan to get their info out as soon as possible after the writ drops. This to capture the fancy of as many potential electors as possible.
Who did I vote for? Well, as the Great Slave constituency was left wide open with the retirement of cabinet minister Glen Abernethy, I had the choice of a the left-leaning coffee-shop owner Patrick Scott (who even chose the NDP’s traditional colours for his campaign signage) and Katrina Nokleby, an engineer who considers the territory’s economy as her number-one priority. I have nothing against Scott, but for me, Nokleby’s positions closely align with my own views.
Speaking of my personal quirks, a couple of linguistic anomalies kept catching my editor’s eye.
One is about the transformation of Aurora College into a university. This is a major project that could help stabilize the NWT’s economy as the lustre of diamond mines will be fading in the coming years.
Candidates — and some journalists — seemed to have a problem getting the term polytechnic university straight. I saw it written as a polytechnique, polytechnical institution and polytech institute. Good grief.
Then there was the improper definition of the electoral districts. Across Canada, the correct word for provincial/territorial electoral districts is constituency. A riding is a federal electoral district. The worst offender for this error is the CBC, who appears to have banned the term ‘constituency,’ as it consistently refers to the NWT’s 19 constituencies as ridings. The NWT has one riding. Grrr.
While I live in the Great Slave constituency, I mostly work in the neighbouring Yellowknife Centre district. And it’s also the place that needs the strongest representation as the well-being of the city depends on mending its rotting core.
The largest downtown problem now hurting businesses, residents and tourism is the failing social experiment of the Day Shelter/Sobering Centre. Nobody in their right mind would think providing a daytime drop-in centre and an overnight drunk tank is a good idea. It just creates a hangout; a magnet for people who are homeless or those who just want some free food and somewhere to meet and carouse with their friends.
It’s created a festering wound of a city block, with open liquor, aggressive panhandling, screaming, vandalism, fights and a homicide right at the front door of the shelter. My solution of to find another place for the day shelter that is fairly distant from the drunk tank. In fact, I hope the next legislative assembly will work with the city and third-parties to find smarter housing solutions so a drop-in centre won’t even be needed.
Such as supporting the brilliant plan by the Yellowknife Women’s Society to turn the Arnica Inn on Franklin Avenue into transitional housing units which is stalled, as funding plans with the territorial government couldn’t be set before the election. The initiative will convert the inn into 42 transitional housing units. This will really make a difference with the city’s homeless issues. Which will help reduce the need for a daytime drop-in centre.
During an Open NWT Yellowknife Centre debate, Green oddly stated her fellow MLAs are supportive of the day shelter and sobering centre.
“They know their cousins are there, it’s not an issue, so there is support there,” CBC North reported her saying. Umm, yeah.
Green said the government plans to build another shelter downtown in the next three to five years. That will likely be at the location of the former RCMP barracks, which is just two blocks away from the current combined facility. That won’t help anything.
Green’s rivals for Yk Centre had some better ideas and also stated the facts in unvarnished terms.
Thom Jarvis, who lives right in the downtown core, said the public at risk.
“I’ve seen some vicious fights some vicious beatings. It’s been more than a few times actually (that) I myself have been imperilled,” CBC North reported him as saying. “My wife won’t go to the store or anything by herself in the evening. She just won’t even do it.”
Niels Konge agrees with my position that having the day shelter and sobering centre in the same building isn’t appropriate.
Drinking and violence are “spilling onto the streets,” the city councillor is reported as saying, adding the territorial government needs to take another look at the arrangement.
Arlene Hache, a veteran worker with the homeless and addicted is reported by CBC North as saying public intoxication and violence downtown have risen in recent years.
She blames the RCMP for not paying enough attention to city’s centre.
Here’s a good quote from CBC North from Hache: “(The RCMP) paints the whole challenge downtown as an addiction problem and a social problem, and while that is true, there is a difference between addictions and violence. The RCMP is responsible to step in to deal with violence, and they, I think, gaslight the public into believing that they don’t have a role downtown.”
If I lived in Yk Centre, I would be giving a good look at either Konge or Jarvis, the latter as being someone who really impressed me during a debate I watched him in. I’m concerned the vote will split between the popular city councillor Konge and the emerging Jarvis, allowing Green to come up the middle and win. However, Hache will steal some of Green’s centre-left and left support. This is a very interesting race.
In the end, we will have a 19th Legislative Assembly that will have a lot of work to do. And hopefully, the guts to push through bureaucracy I blame for binding everything in bright red tape.
And with 58 candidates running in 16 of 19 constituencies (there were three districts where incumbents were acclaimed as they were unchallenged), there will be 42 disappointed also-rans as of late Tuesday night.
I once ran unsuccessfully for city council in Brandon, Man. It is a gut-punch to realize all your work wasn’t appreciated by voters. It hurts. You feel embarrassed and somewhat-less-than worthy. However, I suggest those who come in second, third, or wherever, just take a day or two to decompress and realize politics at any level is a tough and rumble game.
Just get out and pick up your lawn signs and dismantle your boulevard installations. And consider other ways to serve your community. What I did after losing was to put my name forward for a committee of council. I ended up being named to the Brandon City Council’s Heritage Advisory Committee and actually worked alongside people who I had run against in the election.
There are many ways to help the community. And in some ways, being an elected official isn’t the most effective way. However, on Oct. 1, winners will be celebrated by supporters and rewarded with well-paying positions in the GNWT.
As I wrote in an editorial in the Sept. 30 edition of News/North (I just finished working in the NNSL newsroom on a five-week contract to help ease a staff shortage), there are candidates 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.
The electors of the NWT 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.
So good luck to everyone involved in this democratic exercise. The people have the final say in who will lead us into the future. Let’s hope we make the right choices.