MLAs-elect Kate Reid (front row, red) and Julian Morse (second row, checked shirt) listen to a presentation from Diavik diamond mine's Angela Bigg at the 2023 Yellowknife Geoscience Forum. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The NWT capital’s newly elected MLAs – or almost all of them, at any rate – made a group outing to the Yellowknife Geoscience Forum on Thursday, 36 hours after being elected.
Returning MLAs Caroline Wawzonek and Caitlin Cleveland were joined by rookies Julian Morse, Shauna Morgan and Kate Reid, as well as Kieron Testart, who was restored to territorial politics this week after four years away.
Robert Hawkins, similarly triumphant after eight years out of office, wasn’t present. He said earlier he would be in Behchokǫ̀ for the day.
The geoscience forum is ordinarily an early stop for newly elected MLAs, falling as it does about a month after what would normally be election day. This time around, after wildfires delayed the election, it meant almost immediately thrusting MLAs-elect into the spotlight.
“To be here? Obviously, it’s still our key industry, it’s important,” said Julian Morse, who’ll be the next Frame Lake MLA, as he toured the geoscience forum’s trade show.
Morse says he is familiar with his six Yellowknife counterparts in the legislature having met them in his previous life as a two-term city councillor.
Of his 18 new colleagues overall, he said: “I haven’t had a chance to meet everybody yet, but it seems like a very mature group in terms of experience.
“There’s lots of people who have previous political experience – there are more people in this legislative assembly than the previous one with legislative assembly experience, and I think that matters.
“I’m hoping this can be a group that provides stability, that provides good governance, and that can come together and really get some things done.”
Caroline Wawzonek, the industry and finance minister for most of the past four years, is now an old hand at events like the geoscience forum.
Visiting booths with Morse, she said: “I think it’s important for the MLAs-elect to be at this trade show. It’s a big deal for the resource industry here in the Northwest Territories. It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the players in the industry, to meet some of the providers of the services.”
Acknowledging that MLAs would likely have come anyway, even without the postponed election squashing polling day and the geoscience forum into the same week, Wawzonek said – asked if she felt the clock ticking, given the delay – she has “a sense that I would like to get back to things.”
“That’s probably a function of having been in [office] the last four years,” she said. (Wawzonek has also had to wait almost a month since being acclaimed when nobody ran against her.)
“There are things I want to pick up, things I want to see advanced. But as far as the timing, right now there is a proposed schedule for the timing of the different elections that take place and and leadership convention. Whether that changes or not will be up to the assembly that starts to get together on Tuesday.”
At the moment, the territorial leadership committee – at which the 19 new MLAs decide on a premier and cabinet – is due to meet on November 30 and again on December 7.
November 30 is expected to focus on the question of who becomes the premier, which could be announced that day although it doesn’t have to be. December 7 is likely to be given over to cabinet picks. MLAs do have the freedom to alter those dates if they collectively so choose.