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Final sitting of 19th Assembly delayed, questions over election

The chamber of the Legislative Assembly of The Northwest Territories. Jaahnlieb/Dreamstime
The chamber of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. Jaahnlieb/Dreamstime

The final sitting of the 19th Legislative Assembly is being pushed back by several days as the territory grapples with a wildfire crisis.

MLAs in the territory had been set to reconvene at the legislature in Yellowknife on Wednesday and sit until August 24. It is due to be the final sitting before the current assembly dissolves ahead of the October territorial election.

Premier Caroline Cochrane, meanwhile, said MLAs had discussed whether the election due to take place in October should now be postponed.

“I do think that it does need consideration,” Cochrane said, adding that she needed “to focus on the realities of people right now.”

However, Elections NWT said only a legislative amendment – hard to achieve in the minimal time remaining – could delay an election.



“Elections NWT is proceeding to plan for the October 3, 2023, election. Any change to the date would require legislative amendments, meaning that the Legislative Assembly would need to meet, introduce a bill to amend, debate and pass that legislation,” said chief electoral officer Stephen Dunbar.

In an update on Monday, Speaker Frederick Blake Jr said due to the “wildfire situation unfolding” in the territory, the session has now been delayed until August 21.

Residents in five communities in the southern part of the territory were told to leave their homes over the weekend as wildfires threatened their communities and road access. Residents of Boundary Creek, as well as cabin and home owners on River Lake and the north shores of Prosperous Lake and Prelude Lake were also ordered to evacuate.

A total of 265 wildfires have burned more than 2.1 million hectares across the territory so far this year and 233 of those fires are still actively burning.

Ollie Williams contributed reporting.