Yellowknife city councillor Niels Konge has filed his nomination papers with Elections NWT and is officially running for MLA in Yellowknife Centre.
Construction company owner Konge suggested he may run earlier in the week, when he excused himself from a territorial election briefing at City Hall on the grounds of potential conflict.
Speaking to Cabin Radio on Thursday, Konge said he had initially not planned on running but been persuaded to change his mind.
“Last Tuesday I had a conversation with a person I really respect, and they said something to me that resonated. They told me to think about it,” said Konge.
“I talked to some more people about whether or not they thought this would be a good idea, and I kept getting a lot of the same answers: ‘Yes, we think you can do this, and we think you are an effective politician. We would like you to run.'”
Konge said “the needle has not moved” for years on key issues affecting Yellowknife like access to land and the city’s downtown problems. He also accused the territorial government of “dumping” the issue of cannabis on the City of Yellowknife.
Claiming city councillors face insurmountable barriers to get things done, Konge said: “The walls have been put there through GNWT policy or procedures and they’re not coming down. It has an effect on our economy, on our downtown, and on the NWT as a whole.
“Somebody needs to try to change some things and I’ve done that – when I ran for council the first time it was because I was frustrated. Now I’m going to go there to try.”
Konge will go up against Arlene Hache, incumbent Julie Green, and Thom Jarvis in Yellowknife Centre – plus anyone else who files in the remaining time. The window closes at 2pm on Friday.
Asked why he chose Yellowknife Centre, Konge replied: “We own a building in the downtown, a commercial building, and I feel that a lot of the policies and procedures the GNWT try affect the downtown the hardest if they’re not done properly.”
When Konge earlier announced he was considering running, some residents expressed reservations about a city councillor attempting to vacate their seat for territorial office one year into a four-year term. Rommel Silverio may do the same if elected in Kam Lake.
“I like to be the guy who finishes what he starts. I struggled a lot with that question,” said Konge. He will remain a city councillor while running, but must step down from municipal office if elected.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “the reason why [he became a councillor] is that I wanted to try to make things better for our community. Right now, the City is running up against issues that are GNWT issues.
“Nobody is moving that needle. I’m going to try to move the needle.”