Everything members of the 17th Legislative Assembly did to learn about junior kindergarten is going to waste, according to the outgoing Frame Lake MLA.
Wendy Bisaro said MLAs were promised a look at a report detailing the findings of the junior kindergarten review – scheduled to have been completed in July – but in the final meetings of the last assembly they learned the report isn't ready yet and will ultimately be viewed by the 18th assembly. Bisaro said she's disappointed sitting MLAs who have worked hard throughout their term considering schooling for children under four years of age, will not get the chance to see the report they were promised.
On Oct. 6 Bisaro asked why she hasn't seen the report yet.
“The junior kindergarten review was to be in done in July of 2015, and at the time of the announcement, I thought it was an ambitious timeline,” Bisaro said to the assembly. “When July came and went and there was no indication to either committee or regular members that a report was coming, I wasn’t surprised. I heard rumours suggesting the report might be done by the end of August, then the end of September. Well, we’re into October now and still no sign that a Junior Kindergarten report is on the horizon.”
Junior kindergarten appeared on the Legislative Assembly's radar in 2014 with a plan to roll-out schooling for children under four-years-old. The programming rolled out in Yellowknife, but funding for it was put on hold pending the review that was scheduled to be completed in July. Some communities rejected the program altogether, while school boards like Yellowknife Education District 1(Yk1)and Yellwoknife Catholic Schools approved of the programming and began offering it as a user-pay system. Yk1 Chair John Stephenson has told Yellowknifer the school board thinks junior kindergarten is a good idea but it feels new programming proposed by the GNWT should be backed with new funding.
On Nov. 4, Bisaro said Jackson Lafferty's answer – which came after he'd spoken to a number of other issues – was the report isn't ready yet and will ultimately be the responsibility of the next government.
“Obviously, the expected report is not going to have any impact on junior kindergarten operations for this school year,” Bisaro said on Oct. 6. “Obviously, there’s not going to be an opportunity for this Assembly to see the report and comment on it before the 2015 election, and that’s too bad. The 17th assembly standing committee on social programs and several other members invested considerable time, effort, thought and advice to government on the subject of junior kindergarten. All that experience will now be lost when it comes time to review the promised Junior Kindergarten review report, if it ever comes.”
Another outgoing MLA, Weledeh's Bob Bromley, said Lafferty backed away from the July finish date during the final days of the 17th assembly.
“The minister was sort of backing off saying it wasn't supposed to be done,” he said. “They were making progress and it would be presented to the 18th assembly.”
Tami Johnson, spokesperson for the Department of Education Culture and Employment, did not respond when asked when the report might be released.
In an e-mail, she stated, “a comprehensive review of the program began in January 2015 and will be completed in July 2015 for review by the 18th Legislative Assembly.”
The NWT Chamber of Commerce has come out with a wish list of things it want to see given priority by MLAs elected to the next legislative assembly.
The document was released last week, ahead of the Nov. 23 territorial election. First on the list is a call to address the cost of electricity in the North. The chamber stated the NWT Power Corporation (NTPC) and its ratepayers are saddled with legacy infrastructure. It recommends using solid state generator technology which essentially provides a battery bank for back up power. The chamber states this investment could reduce diesel consumption by 20 to 30 per cent, reduce maintenance, virtually eliminate blackouts and eliminate the need for traditional generator redundancies. The chamber wants the territorial government to approach the new federal government for funding for this initiative under its clean energy program.
Mike Bradshaw, executive director of the chamber said that he purposely used the term “legacy infrastructure” because the current generators are not necessarily outdated.
“But we have to start thinking outside the box. We can't afford to replace it so let's figure out how to make it work better. The point of suggesting that specific technology is to encourage broader energy option thinking,” Bradshaw said.
The second priority is to improve government procurement practices so that NWT companies are given a better chance of landing territorial government contracts. It also wants the procurement process streamlined so there is less paperwork for both the government and contractors.
The third priority deals with population growth strategy which was an objective of the 17th legislative assembly. The chamber points out the 2.1 per cent population growth in the NWT between 2006 and 2015 is largely due to the fact that the NWT has one of the highest birthrates in Canada. In reality, the chamber stated more than 4,200 people, or about 10 per cent of the population, left the territory over that ten-year period. It is calling on the government to provide recent graduates with a $25,000 forgivable loan to be applied against student loans. The chamber points out even if the student loan is defaulted on, the territory is further ahead due to federal transfer payments and additional personal taxes. The chamber is also in favour of making conditional job offers at college and university job fairs which it says would be proactive and eliminate advertising and recruitment costs.
The fourth priority is to increase the Northern Residents Income Tax Deduction. The chamber recommends that the territorial government (GNWT) immediately undertake a concerted, focused initiative to convince the Trudeau Liberals to increase the Northern deduction not just once, but annually.
The fifth and final priority is for the GNWT to go after the federal government for critical infrastructure development. The chamber states projects like the Inuvik to Tuk Highway and the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line need to be pushed to the finish line, while projects like the Mackenzie Valley Highway, the Whati all-weather road and the Ingraham Trail extension all need to get off the drawing board. The chamber points out over the past several years the GNWT has invested heavily in schools, community facilities and airports which are investments in the future but over the next few years, the chamber states, the territorial government has to invest in the future of its economy. The chamber wants the GNWT to tap into the Liberal government's commitment to double federal infrastructure spending over the next decade to $125 billion.
Bradshaw explained he believes the chamber wish list has a little more structure than what other interest groups are doing during the campaign.
“We've been meeting with senior members of cabinet and government over the past two years and presenting evidence surrounding business impediments. They range from the high cost of operating including energy costs right through the government procurement processes,” Bradshaw said. “We put a document together that doesn't just demand answers, it provides context and recommendations to move things forward.”
Senior citizens, elders and anyone who has an interest in the issues affecting them will get a chance to grill potential MLAs at an seniors' issues all-candidates forum on Nov. 16.
It will be held at the Avens Centre for Seniors and is being hosted by Avens, The NWT Seniors' Society and the Yellowknife Seniors' Society. It will allow voters to hold candidates' feet to the fire when it comes to where they stand on seniors' issues heading into the Nov. 23 territorial election.
“We're inviting all the MLA candidates … we're going to organize teleconference capabilities for people outside of Yellowknife. The candidates can call in and residents who are interested can call in,” said Rebecca Alty, communications director for Avens. “We do want to offer candidates outside of Yellowknife the opportunity to weigh-in on the issues.”
The forum is expected to be moderated by Bruce Valpy, managing editor for Northern News Services, Alty said, adding the teleconference phone number will be released to the public soon through advertisements, social media and related websites.
“We really wanted to raise awareness of seniors' issues and to hear from candidates and give voters the chance to ask questions and take the answers into consideration when they go to the polls,” Alty said.
NWT Seniors' Society executive director Barb Hood said aside from hearing from candidates, the forum is also designed to make sure older adults in the territory are engaged in the election.
Hood said her organization has also sent a six-question questionnaire to all 60 candidates to find out their stance on issues that she said are critically important to older adults in the NWT.
According to Statistics Canada, as of July 1 of this year, 3,019 of the territory's 44,088 residents are 65 years of age or older. That amounts to almost seven per cent of the population.
Hood said by putting out this questionnaire, the society hopes to get senior citizens and elders across the territory engaged in this election and the political process.
“We want to get the ears, eyes and hearts of older adults wrapped around these global issues,” she said. “We want them to be aware. And we want to see what (the candidates) know about these issues. Do you know anything about these priorities at all? And if you don't, we need to be thinking about this because if you are elected, we are here. We are not going away.”
Hood would like to see the territorial government to do more to keep seniors in the NWT.
“When we look at a brighter picture for older adults we really need to see a government that is responding to needs around cost of living and we need to see different options for housing, long-term care options,” she said.
“The bed situation in Yellowknife is really bad. The independent living situation is really bad.”
Hood said senior citizens regularly have a higher voter turnout than the rest of the public, but added the forum and questionnaire will help them make a well-informed vote.
NWT Seniors' Society questions to candidates
How will you ensure the continuation of extended health care benefits for NWT seniors?
What will you do to support aging in place?
What commitment would you make to ensure seniors living in their own homes have safe housing, adequate subsidies for fuel and are provided with affordable housing options?
What measures will you take to enable equal access for all NWT seniors to territorial government programs and services?
What actions will you take to reduce living costs throughout the NWT?
Do you support a seniors’ advocate for the NWT? Why or why not?
How will you ensure the continuation of extended health care benefits for NWT Seniors?
Source: NWT Seniors' Society
Around 40 people attended a Yellowknife MLA candidates forum at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre, organized by the NWT social justice group that promotes indigenous leadership, Dene Nahjo, on Wednesday evening.
With 22 candidates running for city-based seats including Tu Nedhe – which includes Dettah and Ndilo and stretches to Saskatchewan and Nunavut – the hopefuls were split into two groups, each attending one of two three-hour debates on consecutive nights. On Wednesday the field featured Frame Lake candidates Jan Fullerton, Kevin O'Reilly, Roy Erasmus and David Wasylciw; Great Slave hopefuls including incumbent Glen Abernethy and his challenger Chris Clarke; Kam Lake's candidates were Kieron Testart and incumbent David Ramsay, while the Range Lake seat was contested by incumbent Daryl Dolynny and Carolyn Cochrane.
Candidates attending Wednesday's forum agreed more needs to be done to address substance abuse and addictions.
Erasmus said a facility dedicated to addiction treatment needs to be built in the city, but first-time political candidate Jan Fullerton said she doubts a facility in the city would produce better results than those outside of the territory, which residents already visit. She said the track record for recovering addicts in Yellowknife is“abysmal.”
"I would like us to look at programs that are more community-based and more holistic and are more inclusive of families,” she said.
Ramsay, incumbent for Kam Lake, said Stanton Territorial Hospital – which will soon be empty – could be the site of a future treatment centre.
Erasmus and Testart were in league supporting a moratorium on fracking – pending further research on its impact on ground water.
"Fracking is a huge user of freshwater – water we can't get back," said Testart.
Disagreement was rare throughout the three-hour session but the Kam Lake candidates locked horns over the possibility of bringing a university to the city.
Ramsay said he likes the idea, since it would mean more funding from Ottawa for research. But Testart said he doubts the territory can afford to get into the university game.
The second session at the friendship centre – featuring candidates for Tu Nedhe, Yellowknife North, Yellowknife South and Yellowknife Centre – was scheduled for Thursday night night.
Dez Loreen is well aware of his reputation and said he hopes people will be able to see him for who he is now and give him a shot.
He is running against incumber MLA Alfred Moses for the Inuvik Boot Lake district in the Nov. 23 territorial election and said he knows he is facing an uphill battle.
“People are asking me why I’m running, if I’m serious," he said. “I mean, I’m a comedian.”
Known primarily as a former reporter and the driving force behind Inuvik Comedy, Loreen was quick to say he believes Moses is doing a good job and that he respects the incumbent MLA for his efforts for the betterment of the community and the territory as a whole. He does, however, believe that there is a tendency towards complacency when it comes to electing representatives.
“In our ridings, we see a lot of acclamations,” Loreen said. “Is that the best thing for the community and for our democracy? It makes for career politicians.”
Loreen said he is the first to admit he hasn’t had a cookie-cutter path to a political career, but that his past in the media will be an important component of his platform.
“I’ve worked in print, in TV and in radio, telling people’s stories,” he said. “I know how to ask the right questions.”
More than anything, Loreen said he wants to make things better for young people in the North. If elected as an MLA, he would work to make sure young people in the community have a strong foundation right from the beginning.
“We see a lot of misspent youth, and I was one of them,” he said. “As a community, as a people, we have to bring our kids along and make sure no one gets left behind.”
Housing is also a top priority, Loreen said, especially for young families trying to get their feet under them and gain some stability. He credited NWT Housing Corp. programs with helping somewhat, but would like to see the programs better used and extended.
“There are people selling their houses and moving south,” he said. “At the end of the day, there are people who can’t do that. They have to live here, they have to brave the winters, and we have to make it better for them.”
Loreen admits that he benefits from a certain amount of name recognition and that he plans to make use of social media in a way he expects his opponent won’t, but that he also hopes people will see he has turned a new page.
“In a small place, when you make mistakes, people don't forget,” he said. “I’m hoping people will see how far I’ve come in the last few years. I'm at a good place in my life.”
Despite never having held public office, he said he’s prepared to learn all there is to know about being an MLA and would make it the focus of his professional life.
“I truly believe I deserve a shot. That’s why I put my name forward, and I wish more people would," he said. “I'm doing this because I want to. No one came to me and said there’s a gap here. I have nothing bad to say about Alfred; he's done a great job. But it's about, if you feel like you’re ready and can contribute, you should step forward, and that’s what I’ve done.”
Nominations have closed for the territorial election, with four candidates competing to represent the Deh Cho electoral district in the 18th Legislative Assembly.
Incumbent Michael Nadli entered the race upon his release from jail after serving eight days of a 45-day sentence for assault causing bodily harm, a crime that left a woman with a broken wrist.
Nadli was not available for an interview before press time.
In an Oct. 27 news release in which he announced his intention to run again, Nadli addressed his recent jail sentence, stating he has been taking counselling and has “honestly admitted (his) error.”
“I am deeply sorry and I truly wish the incident never happen (sic). I won't hesitate to take my actions back in an instant,” Nadli stated in the news release.
Priorities Nadli stated he would bring to office if he is re-elected include completing the Dehcho Process negotiations, addressing a lack of housing and addictions, and encouraging community input into the capital planning process.
Nadli is facing challenges from three other candidates: Ron Bonnetrouge of Fort Providence, Lyle Fabian of Hay River and Greg Nyuli of Providence.
Bonnetrouge, who spoke with Deh Cho Drum a few days before nominations closed, is a carpenter and photographer. Bonnetrouge said he wants to tackle challenges facing vulnerable populations by focusing on programs such as elder care and opportunities for youth. He said he also wants to see the government bargain in good faith with the Dehcho First Nations during negotiations on the Dehcho Process.
Nyuli did not respond to requests for an interview and Fabian was unavailable for comment at press time.
Online summaries of Nyuli's platform state that he has14 priorities he would focus on if elected. On his online posts he states he plans to consult with local governments over the next two weeks.
His priorities include land claims, decentralization of government services and creating a Green Energy division of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment within the Deh Cho riding, among others.
Fabian addressed Deh Cho constituents in a Nov. 3 letter he posted to social media in which he states he has been involved in leadership at K'atlodeeche First Nation since 2009.
In running for MLA, Fabian states in the letter, he intends to “bring fresh ideas, positive solutions and a strong voice” to the GNWT.
Priorities for Fabian include access to broadband Internet, protecting treaty and aboriginal rights and promoting Dene languages in schools.
The Deh Cho riding includes Fort Providence, Kakisa, Enterprise and Hay River Dene Reserve's old town and new town.
Candidates have until 5 p.m. on Oct. 30 to withdraw their name from the official nomination list.
General voting will occur Nov. 23.
Accounting clerk and former District Education Authority member Dennis Nelner is seeking election in the Nahendeh riding in the upcoming territorial election.
Nelner has spent the past year working as an accounting clerk for the territorial government. Prior to that, he said, he worked for Liidlii Kue First Nation, Dehcho First Nations and in the private sector in Fort Simpson.
He told Deh Cho Drum he decided to run for MLA in order to address two major problems he sees happening at the territorial level: a lack of action on overspending, and a centralized system where all decisions seem to be made in Yellowknife.
“We should have a real strong Northern perspective on some of the policies we have here and effect some change, so people will feel there is some value and benefit coming out of the Legislature,” he said.
Nelner's experience includes working for the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, during which he negotiated a deal with producers for ownership of a pipeline, as well as executive assistant for Dehcho First Nations in 1999, during which the band agreed on 21 common-ground principles between the Dehcho and the federal government.
Citing his past experience with pipeline negotiations as one benefit to him as MLA, Nelner said it is time for the federal, territorial and First Nations governments to wrap up negotiations on the Dehcho Process and start looking at implementation.
“I think I can re-invigorate the Dehcho Process. Let's take a look back at the old common-ground principles,” he said.
Aside from land claims, Nelner said the territorial government needs to get to work on its education system.
In particular, he said, the territory is lacking in programs to assist mature adults in going back to school, as well as acquiring the funds necessary for post-secondary education.
“Education is the elephant in the room. A lot of things stem from that, whether it's improving government services and program delivery, or social issues and youth,” he said.
“We should put more resources toward education for people in the North, such as funding and student loans."
If elected, Nelner wants to see the government find solutions to social problems, such as health care, which can save the territory money.
Nelner is up against six competitors in the Nahendeh riding, including incumbent Kevin Menicoche, Randy Sibbeston of Fort Simpson, Deneze Nakehk'o, Rosemary Gill, Shane Thompson and Arnold Hope. All the candidates are from Fort Simpson, but Nakehk'o is currently based in Yellowknife.
It almost looked as though Premier Bob McLeod, who represents Yellowknife South, might be acclaimed for the second time, until two challengers appear at the eleventh hour.
Thirty-year-old Nigit'stil Norbert, one of the co-founders of Fracking Action North, said she had already been considering a run for office and that the thought of a second acclamation for McLeod was the push she needed to submit her nomination papers.
"When I saw that clock running down and there wasn't anyone running against Bob McLeod I was very strategic (in keeping) my nomination papers for the last day," she said.
The other candidate to throw his hat into the ring in Yellowknife South is 21-year-old Samuel Roland, who is the general manager of Jiffy Lube and son of former premier Floyd Roland.
Like Norbert, he said he's not intimidated by the name recognition afforded to McLeod as a long-serving member of legislative assembly.
"I was going to be the underdog no matter what riding I chose," said Roland. "When I saw Bob wasn't challenged yet said, 'Let's give him a challenger.'"
McLeod told Yellowknifer he's not surprised to have people running against him this time around.
"I was fully expecting somebody or people would run against me," he said, adding that he prefers to have opposing candidates.
"The second time (running) I got acclaimed and everybody was accusing me of doing all kinds of things because I got acclaimed. I got in and nobody voted for me," he said.
11th-hour competition in Great Slave
Great Slave was another district with an incumbent who appeared to be heading toward acclamation until a last-minute candidacy was added to the list. Glen Abernethy – current minister of Health and Social Services and commencing his third run for office – said he is happy someone else put their name forward.
"I think it's important voters have a choice," he said. “I’ve seen acclamations in the past where ... I’m not sure what kind of input or feedback they had an opportunity to get from their residents or constituents."
Abernethy said that even if he had been acclaimed, he was still planning to knock on every door in the riding of Great Slave.
His challenger, Chris Clarke, an architect and facility planner with the GNWT, filed his documents less than an hour before the nomination period closed. He acknowledged it is always a challenge going up against someone who has already held the seat, but he did not want the position to go unchallenged.
"That's not very democratic to not have somebody going against an individual," he said. "That's one of the things I love about my home ... that a regular person like me can do something like this. It's not something you could do in Edmonton or Toronto."
20 candidates confirmed in seven districts
Including the candidates in Yellowknife South and Great Slave, there are 20 confirmed candidates vying for seven Yellowknife seats. Some names will be familiar to readers – whether as incumbents, repeat candidates or prominent community figures – while others are newcomers to politics or lesser-known residents.
For the benefit of all, let's take a look at the names that will be appearing on our ballots in just under three weeks time.
In Frame Lake, four candidates are competing for the seat of outgoing MLA Wendy Bisaro. Roy Erasmus served as MLA for Yellowknife North from 1995-1999, and has worked as a lawyer and a senior manager of the GNWT in the 16 years since leaving office. Jan Fullerton is the executive director of Skills Canada NWT, a charity that promotes careers in skilled trades and technology for Northern youth. Kevin O'Reilly is the executive director of the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency, a non-profit public watchdog for environmental management at the Ekati Diamond Mine. David Wasylciw is self-employed as a policy consultant on technology in business.
Less than two weeks after the federal election – during which he worked as the campaign manager for incoming Liberal MP Michael McLeod – Kieron Testart has entered a race of his own for a seat in the territory's legislative assembly representing Kam Lake. Testart is challenging incumbent MLA Dave Ramsay, who was first elected in 2003. Ramsay is currently Minister of Justice and Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
Caroline Cochrane faces off against incumbent Daryl Dolynny in Range Lake during this territorial election. Cochrane is the CEO of the Centre for Northern Families, which operates a daycare, a walk-in clinic, and an emergency shelter for women. Dolynny, who is seeking a second term in the legislative assembly, first moved to the territory in 1992 when he and his wife purchased the Yellowknife Shoppers Drug Mart franchise.
Yellowknife Centre is another district in which one political newcomer seeks to unseat an incumbent MLA. Julie Green, a former CBC journalist, has been in Yellowknife for 15 years and is self-employed providing fundraising and communications services to non-profit organizations. She is up against Robert Hawkins, who is completing his third consecutive term as an MLA for Yellowknife Centre and is currently chair of the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure.
The city's busiest electoral district is Yellowknife North with five candidates vying for the seat. Former Yellowknife city councillors Cory Vanthuyne and Dan Wong are both competing for this seat for which MLA Bob Bromley is not seeking re-election. Also vying for the position are Edwin Castillo, Ben Nind and Sean Erasmus. Castillo is the manager of financial planning at the NWT Housing Corporation; Nind is the former director of the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre and constituency assistant to Dennis Bevington, who recently lost a bid for re-election as NDP MP. Erasmus did not respond to Yellowknifer’s requests information by press time.
Signs for sore eyes
After the longest federal election in Canadian history, a simultaneous municipal vote here in Yellowknife and now the territorial election, residents may be starting to feel as though brightly coloured campaign signs are a permanent fixture on the city’s roadsides and street corners.
Former Yellowknife city councillor Dan Wong is breaking the mould when it comes to campaign signage, swapping plastic for paint with his hand-crafted adverts.
“We just wanted to do something creative and outside the box,” he said. “Elections are intense for our candidates and teams and voters so I think the point is to believe in what you’re doing but also try to have some fun while you’re doing it.”
Wong has one sign built using an old canoe that was covered in holes and would have otherwise been destined for the dump. He said he wanted to find ways to recycle materials in making his signs, which he and his team are also doing with old bicycle parts they have salvaged from the landfill and a local bike shop.
However, perhaps his most attention-grabbing sign is greeting motorists at the Niven Gate entrance where people can see a large hand-painted sign by artist Terry Pamplin.
“Terry offered to paint a hand-painted sign for me as a contribution to the campaign,” he said. “Terry says that something’s off with the left eye brow he’d like to tweak, but I don’t know if we’ll have time.”
Wong said that voters he’s talked to have had positive things to say about his approach to campaign signage, describing it as “fresh.”
Dene Nahjo, an indigenous leadership organization, will be hosting a two-day election forum at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre, tonight and tomorrow from 6-9 p.m. each night. The forum will focus on indigenous issues from across the territory. Candidates in Frame Lake, Great Slave, Kam Lake and Range Lake are set for tonight; Candidates from Yellowknife North, Yellowknife Centre, Yellowknife South and Tu Nedhe Weledeh (the riding that now encompasses both Dettah and Ndilo and reaches as far as Nunavut and Saskatchewan) are set for Thursday.
On Nov. 7, there will be a forum held at the Yellowknife Public Library for candidates in the Yellowknife North riding. Questions from the public can be submitted to Eli Purchase through Twitter or Facebook or can be asked during the event, which runs from 3-5 p.m. Loren McGinnis will act as moderator.
The Status of Women Council is also hosting a forum Nov. 17, which will ask Yellowknife candidates to “think about issues of concern to NWT women.”
The Yellowknife Seniors Society is set to host an all-candidates teleconference forum Nov. 16 at the Baker Centre at 7 p.m.
Between 6-8:30 p.m. at Northern United Place, questions will be asked by several community organizations including the YWCA, Native Women’s Association of the NWT and Alternatives North. The forum will also air live online.
Fresh out of jail, incumbent Michael Nadli is seeking re-election as MLA for the Deh Cho. Nadli was released from jail last month after serving about one-sixth of his 45-day sentence for an assault in Fort Providence last April. Nadli pleaded guilty in June and was diverted to the domestic violence treatment option court. He was suspended as MLA upon his conviction but was released from custody in time to file his nomination papers and run again.
His name was entered on the Elections NWT website just before nominations closed, Oct. 30. He declined to comment when News/North called him that morning.
Had he remained in jail for his entire sentence, Nadli would not have been eligible to seek re-election. Nadli is up against Ronald Bonnetrouge, Lyle Fabian and Gregory Nyuli.
Some districts have several candidates; only one MLA will be acclaimed
One of the more interesting races for MLA is shaping up in Nahendeh in the territory's southwest. No less than six candidates are challenging incumbent Kevin Menicoche. Meanwhile, a name from the past surfaced in the Mackenzie Delta riding. Former longtime MLA David Krutko has thrown his hat into the ring. The former cabinet minister and speaker of the legislative assembly served as MLA from 1995 to 2011 when he retired. He will be running against incumbent Frederick Blake Jr. as well as William Firth and Norman Snowshoe.
Only one candidate is running unopposed, incumbent Jackson Lafferty in Monfwi.
Advance polls to be held Nov. 16 to 19
Elections NWT has made it easier this election, particularly in small communities, for voters to cast their ballot at an advance poll. That is according to Chief Electoral Officer Nicole Latour.
“Before, it wasn't a level playing field because the outlying communities didn't get an opportunity to cast a ballot in advance, only the people in the larger centres did. It's been introduced to all the communities and it is set at the discretion of the returning officer,” said Latour. “The other benefit is you can vote by acquaintanceship at an advance poll and at the office of the returning officer. This helps address some of the issues of people voting without ID.
Latour said potential voters have until Nov. 5 to register to vote. After that the only place they can register to vote is at their poll on election day. Information on locations and times and dates for advance polls and how to register can be found on the Elections NWT website.
Sign on school board property to be removed
Yellowknife Centre candidate Julie Green was expected to take down a campaign sign elected on property belonging to Yellowknife Education District No. 1 on Oct. 30.
“We can't take it down (ourselves),” said Yk1 superintendent Metro Huculak. “Can you imagine a Yk1 truck going to set up signs? We cannot show favouritism. As a district we support everyone.
“People will think that as a district we are supporting a particular candidate. Because we are a public body we don't show favouritism to any particular candidate. All candidates should be treated the same.” The sign was erected beside Franklin Avenue, on school board property between Mildred Hall School and the board office.
Green said she thought the sign was on city property. She said there was a Michael McLeod sign on the same sport for the entire federal election campaign. Green said it was an honest mistake and expected the sign to be removed later in the day on Oct. 30. Green is running in Yellowknife Centre against incumbent Robert Hawkins.
After decades working in the field of education, Rosemary Gill has announced she will be running for MLA in the upcoming territorial election.
Gill speaks South Slavey and English and is incorporating both languages into her campaign. Having worked for aboriginal governments in the past, she says she decided it is time to “get out there and try to make a difference.”
Gill, who grew up in Fort Simpson and returned to the hamlet in 2011 after seven years of being away, currently works as the program head for Aurora College.
There, she says, she often sees students come in who are only at a Grade 5 to 6 literacy level.
“Literacy levels are just way too low. We need to improve those rates, because this is just not acceptable,” she said.
Literacy levels tie in with another issue Gill feels strongly about: graduation rates.
“Something needs to happen. We see it at the other end, after Grade 12, when high school students are not graduating with the skills they need for the future,” she said.
“We need to look elsewhere and see what's working elsewhere, and implement it here.”
Having worked in Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, Gill says she has seen the positive impacts elsewhere when a community works to get its graduation and literacy rates up.
She cites former Prime Minister Paul Martin's aboriginal education initiative as one example of a program that has seen results, and said she would like to see a similar program brought into the Northwest Territories.
“It affects everything, if we don't have a population that's literate,” she said.
“(Many) residents in the territories don't have the literacy skills to function, and here we are, we're not funding the upgrading program unless they're a year before Grade 12. (We're) doing a disservice to all those people.”
Alongside literacy, Gill wants to see Fort Simpson become more of a trades hub.
“I would advocate for a trade centre here and connect it with the school. The Dene people are very tactile and hands-on, and we really need to look at trades,” he said.
Aside from education, Gill wants the territorial government and Dehcho First Nation to work more closely on the Dehcho Process.
“Both sides have dug in their heels, but they can't just stop and say, 'That's it -- that's our position.' They need to be engaged and talking,” she said.
“We need to be more collaborative. I think the more you meet, the more you talk and interact, the easier it is to come to some kind of agreement. I think one of the things I would commit to is making sure more meetings happen.”
A new Liberal federal government could also change the negotiations, she said.
“First Nations are hoping good faith negotiations will happen and treaties will be honoured,” she said.
“That is certainly something that has been lacking in this region for some time.”
Fort Providence carpenter and photographer Ronald Bonnetrouge has announced his intention to run for Deh Cho MLA.
Bonnetrouge's decision comes on the heels of a court order remanding former Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli into custody for a period of 45 days.
Bonnetrouge is among four candidates running for the Deh Cho, including Nadli, Lyle Fabian and Gregory Nyuli.
Born and raised in Fort Providence, Bonnetrouge has worked in numerous capacities as a carpenter and builder. With the current economic downturn in the North, he says he sees an opportunity for hands-on economic activity to grow.
“This is an opportune time to concentrate and support developing our biomass industry to its full potential,” he said, citing Fort Providence's use of wood pellet motor systems in schools and the health centre as one example of how that is already happening.
“(Those buildings) are seeing a significant decrease in fuel and power consumption. If the biomass initiative can be expanded ... think of the significant savings to the GNWT overall. I see that as having potential.”
Bonnetrouge says he will advocate for a made-in-the-North solution to fundamental issues affecting the region, including health and housing. In particular, he plans to focus on vulnerable groups such as youth and elders.
“There are some youth who do very well and move on, but there are others who are left behind; the ones we tend to overlook and turn a deaf ear to their cries for help. They are part of our society and we should not ignore or give up on them too easily,” he said.
“I believe these are future leaders who will take over managing the affairs of our communities ... (and) I will work to ensure funding sources, professional, cultural and regional resources are made available to develop programs which will groom them to become those future leaders.”
Bonnetrouge called upon the territorial and federal governments to build partnerships and consult with communities about issues that arise, such as elder care and the fact elders want to live out their lives in their own homes.
“I believe solutions can be found. They prefer to live there rather than in an extended care facility or seniors home,” he said. “The elders deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion.”
'GNWT has a duty'
One of the regional issues that motivated Bonnetrouge to run for MLA is the ongoing Dehcho Process.
He said it is time for the government to bargain in good faith and make efforts to understand the position of the Dehcho First Nation when it comes to negotiations.
“I believe the GNWT has a duty to the residents of the Deh Cho in these negotiations,” he said.
“This has the potential to be economically beneficial for the GNWT and to the residents of the Northwest Territories, if they were to move on and resolve the outstanding issues they have.”
The territorial government issued election writs on Oct. 26, opening up nominations for MLA candidates. Nominations closed Oct. 30 and the territorial election is set for Nov. 23.
Long-serving Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya took a page from the late Pierre Trudeau's notebook in deciding that now is the right time for him to retire.
Trudeau famously went out for a walk in a snowstorm in 1984 and decided that after four terms in office as prime minister, it was time to step down. Last week, Yakeleya also decided that he will not seek a fourth term as the member of the legislative assembly for the Sahtu after giving it some serious thought.
“I went for a walk in the snow and my legs were aching quite a bit and I knew that … I am not going to be in the best shape to do the work that my people deserve,” he said. “I came to a point in my life where I said I need to take care of my health and my family. It was not an easy decision.”
Yakeleya had a bad fall at his home in Norman Wells which he shares with his wife Cheryl and his 13-year-old son Chase on Sept. 7 after a railing gave way. Yakeleya hurt his back and his leg so badly that he had to be flown to Yellowknife for treatment.
Yakeleya, 56, said he did not reach the decision to retire easily.
“I love what I am doing. I love to be of service to the people in my region. There are some really good people in this region who can do the job,” he said. “I came to the realization that I need to be here and I need to be well. I have a beautiful family, lots of friends. I need to be around for a while.”
Yakeleya said he is not sure exactly who is seriously considering running in the Sahtu in the Nov. 23 territorial election.
“There are rumours flying around about who might put their name in but I really don't know yet. I won't know until the writ drops on Oct. 26,” he said.
He does have a bit of advice for the person who does replace him as MLA.
“Listen to the elders. Learn how to work with people … those who agree with you and those who don't. Take care of yourself and smile when things get tough and just keep working and get results for people in the region.”
Yakeleya said that he believes it is crucial that young people in the Sahtu are given reasons to stay in the region. He would like to see the next generation engaged in the political process so that the people of the Sahtu can determine their own future rather than it being done by politicians and bureaucrats who live elsewhere.
As a residential school survivor, he said getting the territorial government to acknowledge the harm done to people by residential schools is among his proudest moments.
“Bringing a motion, making a contribution to the government officially recognizing May 26 as a national reconciliation, healing day for all the residential school survivors,” he said. “Those people were dealt a bad hand of cards and we are a small territory and we need each other. We need to be able to talk to each other.”
Yakeleya said speaking with elders in the community on a regular basis and learning from them has also been one of his biggest highlights during his time in office.
Not securing a full-time nurse or an RCMP officer for Colville Lake are among his biggest disappointments as a politician, Yakeleya said. He added it has been nothing but his privilege to work with his fellow MLAs and ministers and government staff.
Yakeleya said he is looking forward to spending more time with his four kids and their families including his four grandchildren.
Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny said he is sorry to see his friend Norman leave.
“I have a high degree of respect for that man. He was a hard working MLA. He was always well prepared. He was old school,” said Dolynny.
He served for almost 12 years having been first elected to the 13th assembly in 2003.
Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the Sept. 17 Deh Cho Drum.
A month after announcing he would run again for the Nahendeh riding, MLA incumbent Kevin Menicoche has finished a 10-day tour of the riding's communities.
Menicoche announced he would be seeking re-election in the upcoming election campaign, scheduled to kick off on Oct. 26 with votes to be held Nov. 23.
However, he told Deh Cho Drum his latest constituency tour had more to do with the upcoming fifth sitting of the 17th legislative assembly than the election.
“This is typical of my work, to tour the constituency before the sitting of the legislature, especially since we have one (sitting) left before we break for the election period,” Menicoche stated in an e-mail.
Speaking of the fall election campaign, Menicoche said he anticipates discussing the issue of resource extraction with the electorate.
He said he expects hydraulic fracturing to be one of the new and emerging issues he will be tackling if re-elected.
“I realize that over 12 years, priorities change. In particular, a big change recently has been a highlight of fracking and the NWT's use of water,” he said. “My constituents and myself are very concerned about how the government plans to regulate that.”
Before election day hits, Menicoche plans to visit Nahendeh communities again once he starts campaigning.
“I'm looking forward to going out to the communities to meet and speak with constituents about the issues affecting them,” he said. “(Many of) my constituents are looking for an opportunity to use my experience as we move into the 18th assembly.”
Menicoche said he thinks his experience would benefit the government if he was selected for a cabinet position, but said that will be something he plans to discuss with his constituents prior to election day.
The last time he was re-elected, Deh Cho residents wanted him to be accessible as a local MLA who could voice concerns in the legislature, he said — something a cabinet position could preclude him from doing.
He said when it comes to issues such as housing, Cabinet solidarity would force him to toe the line the government sets out, instead of giving him free rein to speak his mind.
During his constituency tour, Menicoche met with the chiefs of smaller communities, including Nahanni Butte.
He said some of the topics of discussion included roads, delivery of municipal services, housing needs and his ability as MLA to support future plans the communities might have.
Although he has focused on roads in his last three terms as MLA, Menicoche had previously told Deh Cho Drum he expected a shortage of public and private housing to be one of the priorities he would tackle in a fourth term.
By email, Menicoche stated his constituency tour showed him clearly that a shortage exists.
“There are older units there that need repairs. The solution, I think, is to have at least four-unit complexes built in the smaller communities to address the immediate need,” he stated.
“This is cost-effective right now due to the high cost of living in the smaller communities.”
The final sitting of legislature will begin Sept. 29.
Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the Sept. 3 Deh Cho Drum.
Musician, artist and agriculturalist Randy Sibbeston is working his land in Fort Simpson as he prepares to enter the contest to represent the riding of Nahendeh during the upcoming territorial election.
Sibbeston's announcement late last month brings potential candidates to three, including CKLB broadcaster Dëneze Nakehk'o and incumbent MLA Kevin Menicoche.
Sibbeston is the son of NWT Senator Nick Sibbeston and grew up in Fort Simpson, where he now lives with his wife, Stephanie, and his children. In 2002 he served as president of the Metis Local 52, Fort Simpson Metis Nation and has served on the executive committee for the Dehcho First Nations.
“I haven't been involved in politics for years. It was on my mind to run (for MLA) 12 years ago, but I knew the timing wasn't right. Now, it seems the timing is a lot better,” he said. “I decided to run because I was asked by people I grew up with here in town, community leaders and people I respect.”
Currently, Sibbeston is working on an extensive garden while homeschooling his children. He uses the garden as an educational tool and also as a tool to connect with his heritage. Gardening plays into his belief system as well. He maintains that nothing is stronger than a First Nations person on their own land.
“It's liberating to see nature as where all good things come from. It frees your mind,” he said.
“(Through gardening), I've found my way back to my great grandfather's secret way of life.”
That factors into Sibbeston's belief that people do not need government — government needs people. Government can enhance lives, he said, but only when it is properly run.
“Our rights come from honesty and good behaviour. That's what my traditional knowledge has taught me,” he said. “Legislation is not supposed to shape our values, but (poor legislation) passes unless there is someone in the legislature who knows from the bottom of their heart that that legislation is bad, for specific reasons.”
If elected, Sibbeston plans to push for policies that return money to the NWT and to residents, contrasting what he sees as a conservative agenda being pushed by the current government. That coincides with his desire for more accountability in government, as well as economic sustainability.
“Delusion has influenced policy in government, but (policies) are our machines. If we don't apply logic to those machines, they rule us instead of the other way around,” he said.
Writs will be issued for the territorial election on Oct. 26, at which point nominations will open. Campaigns will not begin until candidates file their nomination papers.
The deadline for nominations is Oct. 30 and election day is set for Nov. 23.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in News/North, Sept. 21.
Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya is calling for Health Minister Glen Abernethy to be replaced after his own up and close experience with the NWT medical travel system, which he described as a “nightmare.”
After listening to medical horror stories from his constituents for years, he now has one of his own to tell. Yakeleya said he has been “living a nightmare” since plummeting four metres to the ground after a railing on his deck gave way at his home in Norman Wells earlier this month. He said it happened on Sept. 7 when he and his 13-year-old son Chase were doing some work around his home.
“We were leaning against the rail on the top deck when it gave way and we fell about 12 to 15 feet,” said Yakeleya.
“We were actually both pretty lucky. I landed on my left side. I twisted my ankle ... my left knee and my back on the left side were all hurt. I am on crutches and I'm on medication to ease the pain but I'm still really sore.”
The family eventually made their way to the health centre in Norman Wells after the accident.
“They didn't take X-rays of me or my son. They didn't even give me crutches,” he said.
“We went back the next day -- I couldn't even bend over. So they said they were going to send me out (to Yellowknife) the next day. The nurse never even asked if I needed an escort. She just sternly told me – you don't need an escort.”
He got on the plane in Norman Wells with his wife who paid her own airfare for the trip. Yakeleya landed in Yellowknife where he said there was no one there to meet him so he and his wife took a taxi to Stanton Territorial Hospital and received yet another rude awakening.
“I went inside at emergency and the nurse said 'what are you doing here?' I said, “Did anybody call you from the Norman Wells health centre? I'm here because I fell and I came down here for X-rays. They said nobody from the Norman Wells health centre notified them that I was coming. They had already sent their X-ray technician home for the day, so I sat there in pain at the hospital for a good three hours.”
The technician was called back into work and X-rays were taken and Yakeleya said he eventually saw a doctor who told him there were no broken bones. That was when he was finally given crutches, he said.
“This caused a lot of stress on the family. My wife saw two of us lying on the ground, not knowing how badly we were hurt and the Norman Wells health centre did not request a non-medical escort,” said Yakeleya.
Escorts for patients denied
The MLA arrived back in Norman Wells on Sept. 11 and he's been recuperating ever since.
He said this is the second non-medical escort issue he has heard about this month alone. He received a letter from an elder in Fort Good Hope who has severe arthritis and whose choice of a non-medical escort was denied.
In both cases, Yakeleya said he was told by Health Minister Glen Abernethy that it is not up to the minister to decide whether non-medical escorts – someone other than a doctor or nurse who can help patients with limited mobility as they travel -- are warranted but Abernethy encouraged Yakeleya and the other patient to go back to the health-care provider to plead their case.
“It should be common sense that someone with a lower back injury ... cancer, a head injury or an elder should automatically have a non-medical escort,” said Yakeleya. “I'm going to heal first and then I'm going to go back to work with my colleagues to look at the medical travel policy. I want to see how fast we can make changes to the policy such as a standard policy on non-medical escorts.”
In a e-mail to News/North, Yakeleya called for the immediate replacement of the health minister and top managers at the Department of Health and Social Services. He is also calling for a training action plan for all front line workers to improve their level of service.
“If he'd been a good minister, their department wouldn't be in the mess it's in,” Yakeleya stated. “They need to be reminded that it's the people who are the focus and not the system they serve. If we can find money for a low water hydro situation or firefighting seasons, we can certainty find money to help elders and single parents with medical care.”
Yakeleya said he expects to be back in the legislative assembly when the 17th assembly begins its final sitting on Sept. 29.
Abernethy hosted a briefing at the legislative assembly on Sept. 17 to update MLAs on reforms to medical travel policies. He said despite the call for changes being made by the auditor general of Canada in 2011, it won't be before April of next year until the new policy is completed.
Abernethy said there are more than 13,000 medical travel patient cases each year in the NWT, costing the territorial government more than $30 million each year, some of which is covered by insurance. He added federal funding for the program, which has been more than $3 million a year in past years, has been slashed in half in the current fiscal year and could be gone completely next year.
News/North asked Abernethy to respond to Yakeleya's call for him to be replaced.
“There are processes for that. He hasn't said anything to me,” the minister said.
Electricity consumers in the NWT have been spared a second year of power rate increases – amounting to as much as $105 more per month -- after the territorial government decided yet again to cover the costs of extra diesel to compensate for low water levels at hydro generating stations.
Citing a nearly four-year-long drought and record low water levels on the Snare and Yellowknife River, which supply hydro power to Yellowknife, Behchoko, Ndilo and Dettah, territorial ministers announced Sept. 2 that they had no choice but to provide NWT Power Corporation with a $29.7 million subsidy. The drought has caused an increased reliance on power produced by costly diesel.
The bailout comes despite what Premier Bob McLeod called the territory's “strained” financial resources.
Both McLeod and Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger, who is also the minister responsible for power corp., insisted it's either the subsidy or a rate hike for power consumers.
“Those costs have to be paid and we really only have two options – either the GNWT makes up the difference or power rates for all NWT residents increase. While our financial resources are already strained, we do not believe that passing on those additional costs to our residents make sense,” said McLeod.
The funding comes on top of the $20 million the GNWT gave power corp. last year for exactly the same reason. Both the Snare and Bluefish hydro stations are operating well below capacity due to the low water. That leaves Yellowknife's Jackfish diesel plant to pick up the slack.
“Continuing to subsidize power costs this way is not sustainable for the long term,” said McLeod.
“While we have to take this step to shield all NWT ratepayers at this time we continue to look for longer-term solutions. Those solutions include efforts to reduce Northerners' energy consumption as well as continuing to look at options for generating power that would help mitigate future events like this.”
Miltenberger said at the time he believes power in the North as well as infrastructure funding should be important parts of the federal election campaign.
“Some of the federal parties – the Liberals and the NDP – I'm not so sure about the Conservatives at this point – have promised a considerable amount of money for green energy and alternative energy,” he said.
“We would see ourselves taking advantage of that, recognizing as everybody does across Canada that the North is on the vanguard in terms of dealing with these types of extreme weather events,” he said. “There are a number of avenues we are going to explore with the federal government.”
McLeod was adamant he does not view the financial help as a subsidy.
“I wouldn't use the terminology that we're subsidizing (power corp). We're not passing on the cost to the consumer,” McLeod said.
Miltenberger, on the other hand, had a different perspective.
“What we are doing is subsidizing the cost for the constituents, including everybody. We don't draw a return on investment from (power corp.). The return on investment is keeping the cost of living down,” he said.
Plan short-sighted: MLA
Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny was the only regular MLA who attended the news conference. He says it amounts to a bailout or a subsidy any why one slices it. By his estimates – the GNWT has bailed out power corp. to the tune of more than $100 million since 2008. He says the latest government plan is short-sighted and that it doesn't address concrete solutions or serious alternatives.
“If we were to pull out every report, every symposium, every document in the last 10 years on how to solve our energy woes – we could plaster every wall at the legislative assembly and still have paper left over,” Dolynny said.
He said the territory could connect the Northern grid to the southern grid, adding there's extra power at Taltston (hydro dam) in the territory's southeast, which could be sold to Saskatchewan for a profit, Dolynny said.
He added the decision was made without proper input from regular MLAs.
Unlike last year, this year's subsidy did not follow an application from power corp. for a rate increase.
At the end of June, power corp. had spent all but $1 million of the $20 million it received last year, according to spokesperson Pam Coulter.
“We normally generate 95 per cent of our power in the North Slave by hydro, however, this year only 70 per cent was generated with hydro and the remainder was generated with diesel,” she said.
The money will be borrowed and will include up to $22 million for the remainder of fiscal 2015 and an additional $7 million in 2016-17 to cover diesel costs until July of next year, said McLeod.
Editor's note: Randy Sibbeston had yet to file nomination papers prior to the 2 p.m., Oct. 30 deadline.
CKLB broadcaster and former CBC TV host Dëneze Nakehk'o and reality TV star Randy Sibbeston announced in August that they would be running in the Nahendeh riding against current MLA Kevin Menicoche in the upcoming territorial election.
Nakehk'o announced on Aug. 25 he will be putting his name in for the position and Sibbeston made his announcement the next day.
Sibbeston is the son of NWT Senator and former premier Nick Sibbeston. He is featured in the reality TV show Ice Lake Rebels. Last year, he filed a lawsuit against the GNWT after government officials told him he would have to move a houseboat he owns from Yellowknife Bay.
Nakehk'o was born and raised in Fort Simpson and left the Deh Cho more than 15 years ago to pursue an education and later a career in broadcasting. He currently lives in Yellowknife and has been reporting on the North for more than a decade. He is the son of fomer premier and Nahendeh MLA Jim Antoine.
“I've had my boots on the ground all over. There are only two or three places I haven't been in the entire North, so I'm very familiar with the different regions, people and issues,” Nakehk'o said. “All the work I've done, I've had my own community and the people there in mind.”
As a Dene from the Deh Cho, Nakehk'o said he has a unique perspective on resource development and politics in the North.
In particular, he said voters in the area have not gotten what they voted for in the last territorial election.
“We voted for an NDP MP but it seems our territorial government is really pushing a strong conservative agenda when it comes to resource development and regulatory regimes, and especially when it comes to land claims,” he said. “For the North, resources have been the proverbial carrot on a stick ever since the treaties were signed in 1899. Political development in the North has taken a back seat to resource development and I think we need to switch that equation around.”
If elected, he plans to push for more monetary benefits to communities where resource development is happening.
“The people in the North don't really benefit that much. There's a whole oil pipeline going through the Nahendeh and Deh Cho and millions of dollars are pumping through there but nothing is going to the communities,” he said. “I think we need to have some people (in government) to make decisions so people in the communities can benefit from resource development.”
With the Dehcho Process inching closer to resolution, Nakehk'o added he wants to see negotiations succeed within a couple of years.
“We're kind of in limbo until we can have some sort of certainty of what (our) treaty means in these modern times,” he said. “Everything is tied to outstanding treaty rights and obligations, whether you're talking about housing, education, health or resource development. All those issues are tied to that one agreement.”
Menicoche is coming to the end of his third term as MLA and has already confirmed he will seek a fourth term.
The incumbent MLA said it is important for him to seek a fourth mandate based on the priorities of the region, which have changed since he was first elected.
“In the past, in my last term I focused a lot on highway infrastructure,” Menicoche said. “Once the campaign begins, I will be speaking to the constituents about the new priorities they would like an MLA to (address).”
Menicoche said he anticipates a shortage of public and private housing to be one such issue.
“That's already impacting people who want to live and work in Fort Simpson and surrounding communities,” he said. “My whole riding is lacking.”
Writs were issued for the territorial election on Oct. 26, at which point nominations will open.
The deadline for nominations is Oct. 30.
Election day is set for Nov. 23.
Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli has been suspended from the legislature in the wake of a 45-day jail sentence for assault causing bodily harm.
Legislative Assembly clerk Tim Mercer said in an e-mail that Nadli's jail sentence automatically disqualifies him from sitting or acting in his capacity as MLA.
Nadli's seat will not be considered vacant until his opportunity for appeal runs out. However, with the 17th Legislature being dissolved on Oct. 25, Mercer said no by-election was needed for the Deh Cho.
In the meantime, he is no longer eligible to receive reimbursement as MLA.
Mercer said this means there is effectively no MLA for the Deh Cho at this time, leaving constituents without representation until the territorial election closes.
“Constituents are free to contact government departments, Ministers (and) even other MLAs if they require assistance, or work through local and regional leaders,” Mercer said.
If Nadli is still in jail when nominations for the election open, he will not be eligible to run.
Nadli's sentence comes months after he was arrested on April 5 for slapping his victim and breaking her wrist. He turned himself into the RCMP and pleaded guilty in June to assault causing bodily harm.
At the time of his plea, he agreed to participate in an alternative justice program offered by the territorial government.
His participation was listed as a mitigating factor during sentencing, along with the fact he pleaded guilt and had turned himself in.
During sentencing, Nadli told the court his actions had had a negative impact on his family and apologized for the pain he had caused.
“I regret my actions ... I have to explain to my son that what I did was wrong,” he said.
Justice Robert Bourassa highlighted the problem of domestic violence at all levels of society when handing down his sentence, noting that violence “is not limited to scoundrels and ne'er-do-wells.”
He added that if mitigating factors had not been present, Nadli's sentence could have been months long.
Nadli has previously been convicted of assault against the same victim.
Nadli was elected to the legislative assembly in 2011. Prior to that, he sat as Deh Cho First Nations Grand Chief and Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation sub-chief.
With the Deh Cho seat open, Fort Providence photographer Ronald Bonnetrouge has confirmed his intention to run for MLA.
What was called a “confusing” directive issued by the territory's chief electoral officer was clarified in September after receiving closer scrutiny by MLAs and the speaker of the legislative assembly.
Nicole Letour issued a directive Aug. 28, forbidding prospective MLAs from campaigning ahead of the four-week election period preceding the Nov. 23 territorial election. The directive forced at least one MLA hopeful, Julie Green, to shut down her Twitter account set up for her intended campaign to run in the Yellowknife Centre riding.
A few days later, legislative assembly speaker Jackie Jacobson met with Latour to voice concerns abut her decree, which contradicted the territory's Elections and Plebiscites Act. Under the act, potential candidates are free to campaign and spend up to $30,000 of their own money during the pre-election but donations are prohibited.
Jacobson subsequently issued a news release stating, “during this meeting, the chief electoral officer offered to review the ruling and publicly clarify its intention.”
Latour's updated directive was issued Sept. 8 and while it removes the prohibition on campaigning during the pre-election period, it does not explain the intention behind this or the previous directive.
The latest document does outline some of the rules set out in the elections act, as they pertain to the three-month pre-election period.
"During the pre-election and campaign periods a prospective candidate may use his or her own funds not exceeding $30,000 to promote his or her intended candidacy," Latour stated, quoting the legislation almost directly.
The new message effectively reverses the earlier instructions, which stated: "No person who may be a candidate in the November 23rd 2015 Territorial General Election shall campaign or otherwise promote his or her anticipated candidacy until their nomination papers have been filed and accepted by the returning officer of their electoral district."
Tim Mercer, clerk of the legislative assembly, said the original directive "created some confusion, largely because it represented a significant change from the way things have been done in the past."
"I think what the chief electoral officer has done with her most recent ruling is clarified and taken away that confusion," he added.
Mercer said there is nothing unusual about chief electoral officers issuing directives, although he admitted he could not recall a previous instance "where there has been such a significant interpretation of the legislation announced in the immediate run-up to an election."
Mercer did not speculate on Latour's reasons for focusing her attention on the issue of potential candidates breaking rules in the pre-election period. He said those questions would be best answered by the chief electoral officer. Latour's office declined News/North's request for an interview.
"The press release and the attachment pretty much provide any information we'd be giving you," said Elections NWT spokesperson Adrienne Cartwright. "So (we have) nothing further to add."
Candidate happy about policy reversal
Jan Fullerton is executive director of Skills Canada NWT and is running as a candidate in the Frame Lake electoral district in Yellowknife. She said she was glad to see the reversal in policy.
"There's a lot of things that really can't be left until the election period and that was all going through my head when the first directive came out," she said.
Fullerton said being unable to promote an anticipated candidacy would interfere with tasks such as preparing campaign material, lining up people to sign nomination papers and building at least some name recognition before the writ is dropped.
"It would provide a greater advantage to incumbents if people couldn't do any (self-promotion) before the actual campaign period," she said.
"I think it's a big improvement. The new directive basically just says, 'Follow the act.'"
The directive also highlights the prohibition on prospective candidates from fundraising for their campaign until the writ has dropped four weeks before election day, pointing to legislation that states, "no person, association or organization shall make a contribution to promote a person's candidacy before the campaign period begins."
Mercer said this rule is nothing new.
"Until a member's nomination papers have been properly filed and accepted and until an official agent has been appointed, there's nobody to really hold the money, to accept the money, to issue taxable receipts," he said.
Fullerton was not concerned by the act's restriction on receiving campaign donations in the pre-election period.
"That doesn't mean you can't be having conversations and getting verbal commitments, as I read the act," she said, emphasizing that this is only her interpretation and she is not a lawyer.
A declared candidate for the fall territorial electionresumed tweeting in September, saying the move to suspend her account that promoted her planned candidacy was “just a little misunderstanding.”
“I'm back,” Julie Green, who plans to run in Yellowknife Centre, tweeted Sept. 3. “Just a little misunderstanding, now clarified.”
Her return to Twitter comes a day after Yellowknifer reported chief electoral officer Nicole Latour issued a directive to potential territorial election candidates ordering them not to campaign before Oct. 26, when the election period is set to officially begin. She used an emergency-powers clause of the territorial Elections and Plebiscites Act to grant herself authority to issue the directive.
“No person who may be a candidate in the November 23rd 2015 territorial general election shall campaign or otherwise promote his or her anticipated candidacy until their nomination papers have been filed and accepted by the returning officer of their electoral district,” the directive states.
At issue with Green's earlier tweets appears to be the language she used.
“The mistake that I made on the Twitter feed was describing myself as a candidate,” Green told Yellowknifer. “And, in fact, I can't be a candidate until the writ is dropped on Oct. 26 and I've filed my nomination papers and they are found to be in good order … So I can declare my intention to run and I can do other activities that are permitted by legislation in the pre-campaign period but I cannot promote or present myself as a candidate.”
The clarification on the chief electoral officer’s directive did not come from Latour.
Adrienne Cartwright, spokeswoman for Elections NWT, said Latour has not spoken to Green since telling her not to actively campaign.
Yellowknifer requested an interview with Latour but did not hear from her by press time.
Green said Jackie Jacobson, the speaker of the legislative assembly, stepped in to clarify what potential candidates can and cannot do before the election officially begins.
Jacobson, according to Green, clarified that those planning to run cannot describe themselves as a candidate prior to being accepted as such formally.
Green declined a request to provide a copy of the directive from Jacobson.
Jacobson could not be reached for comment.
A declared candidate for this fall's territorial election has voluntarily taken down her election Twitter account after being told by the chief electoral officer (CEO) for the NWT that she is not allowed to actively campaign until Oct. 26.
Julie Greene, who has declared that she will run in the Yellowknife Centre riding, said she was informed Monday by CEO Nicole Latour that she was campaigning before the official campaign period.
“I did open an account and I sent one tweet and I realized that it wasn't appropriate to have it active until the writ is dropped, so it's been taken down. The chief electoral officer brought it to my attention.” Greene said. “I wasn't aware of the directive at the time I did it. Since I was made aware of the directive, I complied with it.”
Green said she wasn't exactly sure what her tweet stated.
“I think it said something like watch this space for NWT election 2015, something like that,” she said.
Green said it was an honest mistake and she intends to reactivate the twitter account once the writ has been dropped.
Meanwhile, the directive issued by Latour last week told potential candidates they cannot actively campaign until Oct. 26.
The written directive was also released to the media last Friday, and states: “No person who may be a candidate in the Nov. 23, 2015 territorial election shall campaign or otherwise promote his or her candidacy until their nomination papers have been filed and accepted by the returning officer of their electoral district as required under sections 1 and 83.”
But there is nothing explicit in the elections act that prohibits a candidate from campaigning prior to the writ being issued.
Section 83 refers to a returning officer accepting a nomination and section 1 defines terms used within the act.
In issuing the directive, Latour stated it was issued in accordance with sections 9 (1) (c) of the act which states the CEO may, by written directive, adapt the provisions of the act if the CEO “is of the opinion during the election or plebiscite that a mistake, miscalculation, emergency or unusual or unforeseen circumstance makes it necessary to adapt any of the provisions of this act.”
But the term “during the election,” according to the act, is defined as “the period beginning on the day the writ of election is issued,” which is expected to be Oct. 26.
When asked to clarify this, Adrienne Cartwright, communications officer for Elections NWT stated by e-mail, “our CEO has nothing further to add.”
Section 286, which the directive was also issued in accordance with, states a person who fails to comply with the act could face a $2,000 fine, six months in jail, or both.
Latour said that her department has received a number of requests for clarification on campaigning and exactly when campaigning can start.
“We have received a complaint … based on the directive that I issued last week. This just provides greater clarity for any intended candidates on what are acceptable activities in the pre-election period,” Latour said. “The act doesn't specifically say campaigning is not allowed, so I clarified what I thought was appropriate actions during the pre-election and that campaigning should occur during the writ period which is also known as the campaign period.”
Difference in interpretation
Latour issued her directive despite a report from her predecessor following complaints during the 2011 territorial election.
In that report, then-chief electoral officer David Brock stated the act does not prohibit campaigning before the issue of the writ. His statement followed complaints that were received about prospective candidates declaring their intention to seek election before the issue of the writ.
Latour was the NWTs deputy chief electoral officer when that report was released.
“I just chose perhaps a different course of action than he (Brock) did to the benefit of the intended candidates. I read the act – they read the act – if there are an overwhelming number of questions that come in of the same nature, then they need to be given guidance, Latour said.
“The act, as it is written, did not currently provide adequate direction for potential candidates. It needed to be spoken to and (the directive) was the most effective way to address it.”
Candidacy comes after
As soon as nomination papers have been accepted by an election officer you become an official candidate and then you campaign, Latour said.
“I don't think there is any problem with having discussions to solicit your support and to make your intentions known but to promote yourself actively before that, is not something that should occur during the pre-election period in my opinion.”
Yellowknifer asked Latour what, in her mind, would constitute campaigning.
“Any act of promotion with campaign materials – any act of campaigning. I think its fairly clear cut – regular campaigning activities. My directive is pretty clear. I'm going to let it speak for itself. The other bigger concern that factored into this is the perfect storm that we face in the city in particular right now … with three electoral events going on at the same time and the great likelihood of voter confusion and subsequently voter fatigue,” Latour said.
The municipal, federal and school board elections are set for Oct. 19.
“The pre-election period is not intended as a campaign period and to have everybody out there … that's a lot for the citizens,” she said.
She said her office would not being going out of its way to look for candidates who were violating her elections act directive, but would respond to specific written complaints from the public.
No problem, says hopeful
City councillor Cory Vanthuyne, who has declared that he is running for MLA in the newly-created Yellowknife North riding, said that he not only believes Latour is well within her rights to issue the directive but added that he welcomes the clarification. He also doesn't think her directive gives incumbent MLAs any specific advantage.
“The people who are wanting to run against current, sitting elected officials are still free to be interviewed by the media. If you were interviewing me and I was a newcomer to the scene I could speak freely about the issues and what I see needs to be changed or what is working well...I could also write an editorial to the paper,” Vanthuyne said.
He added that he has no problems with the campaign rules as long as they apply to all the candidates.