After three terms as the MLA for Mackenzie Delta, Frederick Blake Jr has lost his seat to George Nerysoo by the smallest margin of 2023’s election: 13 votes.
The incumbent, known as Sonny, received 220 votes to Nerysoo’s 233 according to Elections NWT’s unofficial results. A third candidate, Richard Ross Jr, received 176 votes.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in yet but you know, I am happy,” Nerysoo told Cabin Radio on election night.
“At the same time, I have to keep the community of Fort McPherson in my mind,” he added, referring to five unexpected deaths in the community since the end of October. “We’re going through so much at this present time.”
Blake was first elected to the NWT’s legislature in 2011, then re-elected in 2015 and acclaimed in 2019. He spent the past four years as speaker, having served his first two terms as a regular MLA.
While Blake comfortably won in his home community of Tsiigehtchic – he received 57 votes there to Nerysoo’s 16 – Ross won in Aklavik and Nerysoo handily won in Fort McPherson, the largest poll by number of registered voters, taking 150 votes to Blake’s 77.
The ultimate winning margin was fractionally outside the two-percent threshold beneath which a judicial recount would have been needed.
Nerysoo feels his last few weeks of campaigning paid off. He told Cabin Radio his main goals for the next four years are to foster unity between different districts and introduce more dialogue with constituents.
“I would like to thank all the voters, even those that voted for other candidates. I will be there for you. I will take on your concerns. I will be available any time,” he said, addressing constituents.
He believes his background resonated with voters and the work he did within his community set him apart as a candidate.
“I believe the constituents in the region saw that. The region heard that. They were pretty vocal in regional meetings,” he said. “I can get things done and I will continue with what I have been doing.”
Before the election, Nerysoo said community safety would be a priority if he were elected.
“Drugs is a big issue in some of the communities. If we resolve this issue of alcohol and drug abuse, then we have healthier communities and some of the other concerns that are facing our members and residents will work itself out,” he said at the time.
He also wants the territory’s education system to be revamped.
“Forcefully promoting our students is not helping anybody. It is not helping our families, it’s not helping the individual self-esteem,” he said.
“It is just creating more chaos for the government once they socially promote an individual to go to a college or university. The self-esteem goes down. More times than not, he or she is stuck in that system.
“We have to come up with a creative idea to get this social promoting idea out of the governance. Then, we’ll get our students educated properly.”