YELLOWKNIFE – Premier Bob McLeod has recaptured his seat in the Northwest Territories general election, easily defeating his two opponents to claim a third term in Yellowknife South.
Whether he will stay on as premier has yet to be determined; under the territory’s consensus form of government, candidates run individually instead of under a party banner, and the 19 successful candidates meet shortly after the election to choose a premier and cabinet.
Several sitting cabinet ministers won re-election Monday night, including Tom Beaulieu in Tu Nedhe-Wiilideah; Robert C. McLeod in Inuvik Twin Lakes; and Glen Abernethy in Great Slave.
However, cabinet ministers went down to defeat in a couple of ridings, including Kam Lake where Dave Ramsay lost to Kieron Testart; and Thebaca, where Louis Sebert defeated former finance minister J. Michael Miltenberger.
Cabinet minister Jackson Lafferty had been acclaimed in Monfwi.
In the riding of Deh Cho, Michael Nadli weathered some controversy to win re-election; he was sentenced earlier this fall to 45 days in jail for assault but applied for and got early release in time to file his nomination papers.
In Nunakput, Herbert Nakimayak edged out Jackie Jacobson by just four votes, while in Range Lake, Caroline Cochrane won with a 10-vote lead.
Other winners included Rocky Simpson in Hay River North; Wally Schumann in Hay River South; Alfred Moses in Inuvik Boot Lake; Shane Thompson in Nahendeh; Cory Vanthuyne in Yellowknife North; Julie Green in Yellowknife Centre; Daniel McNeely in Sahtu; Kevin O’Reilly in Frame Lake; and Frederick Blake Jr. in Mackenzie Delta.
McLeod had allowed there were serious challenges to be addressed during the election campaign, including unresolved land claims.
The territory’s resource-driven economy is stagnant, becalmed by low commodity prices and uncertainty over land rights. Its population growth is just as sluggish. Demands for social spending and infrastructure such as roads are rising.
Until now, the N.W.T. has managed a string of balanced budgets but those days may be ending.
The N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines have also expressed serious concerns about access to land, saying that 30 per cent of the territory is already closed to exploration.
An all-weather road up the Mackenzie Valley would dramatically reduce costs to develop the region’s known reserves of oil, gas and minerals, as well as for those living along its route. Cost is a factor _ the previous government has asked Ottawa to double the territory’s legal borrowing limit to a total of $1.8 billion.
But without it, resource investment may well remain stuck at the same level it’s been since 2010. That $100 million a year is the lowest of the three territories.
Still, a telephone poll conducted by Ekos Research for Ducks Unlimited last week found that 20 per cent of respondents listed the environment as a top-of-mind issue, outpolling economic development at 14 per cent.