Politics

'It's time." Cochrane says next NWT premier should be female


Caroline Cochrane says she would consider bidding to become the next NWT premier should the opportunity arise.

Seeking re-election in Range Lake after serving as minister of public works, municipal affairs, and education, Cochrane said the territory was overdue a second female premier.

Nellie Cournoyea, the only woman to hold the job, led the NWT from 1991 to 1995.

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Asked if the job of premier interested her, Cochrane told Cabin Radio: "People have approached me with that ... I have been asked."

She said: "I will see who gets elected, myself included. And at that point ... I'll make a decision on that."

Cochrane appeared to confirm Premier Bob McLeod will step down at next month's election, saying: "I'm a bit concerned because we're losing a huge amount of our experience and cabinet in this current election. There are only three of us going to be running: Lou Sebert from Fort Smith, myself, and Wally Schumann from Hay River."

She continued: "I do think that I've worked hard. I think that we've only had one woman premier in 50 years – it's time."

With two days remaining for candidates to submit their paperwork to Elections NWT, there are 20 women and 22 men officially running for office across the NWT – more female candidates than the 2011 and 2015 NWT elections put together.

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When Cournoyea was acclaimed in Nunakput 28 years ago, she took part in the only NWT election to date in which more than a quarter of candidates (27.5 percent that year) were female.

As of Wednesday night, eight of the 19 races across the NWT this year lacked a female candidate. Six of them lacked a male candidate.

I'd have to sit down, have a look at who all 19 members are ... and see if I could consider leading them.

WALLY SCHUMANN

Wally Schumann, seeking re-election in Hay River South, is among the likely front-runners for the premier's job should McLeod not stand again in Yellowknife South. McLeod's name has yet to appear among Elections NWT's list of candidates; he has made no public declaration of intent.

McLeod's two terms as premier are already unprecedented for the territory in the modern era.

Schumann, minister of industry and infrastructure for most of the past four years, told Cabin Radio on Wednesday: "I'll cross that bridge when that time comes.

"If I was re-elected, to be honest with you, I'd have to sit down, have a look at who all 19 members are, see what their priorities are, and see if I could consider leading them."

Cochrane is presently opposed by Hughie Graham in Range Lake. Schumann is the lone confirmed candidate in Hay River South, though Rocky Simpson – father of RJ, Hay River North MLA for the past term – has been posited as a potential challenger.

In the absence of a party system, the Northwest Territories chooses a premier through a vote among MLAs shortly after each election. In the past this has been conducted by secret ballot, despite occasional calls for the votes cast by MLAs to be made public.

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