Nominations have closed for the 2019 territorial election, with 58 people officially in the running for 19 seats across the NWT.
The deadline passed without Premier Bob McLeod filing papers, having earlier told news outlets he did not intend to seek re-election. A new premier will therefore be named in the weeks following the October 1 election.
Three incumbents are set to be acclaimed: RJ Simpson in Hay River North, Frederick Blake Jr returning for a third term in the Mackenzie Delta district, and Jackson Lafferty unopposed for the second time in Monfwi.
There are 22 women among the 58 candidates, more than in the 2011 and 2015 elections combined. Women represent 38 percent of those running for office, easily the highest that share has ever been for a territorial election.
“It’s amazing. We now have more female candidates [in this election] than we’ve had women elected to the legislature in history,” said Megan Holsapple, who helped to provide workshops mentoring and coaching women to run for office in the NWT. Nine women from what is presently the NWT have in total been elected or acclaimed to the legislature 21 times since 1970.
“We are on the right track but we need to do more. We need to start investing in the things that worked,” said Holsapple.
“There are more qualified, competent female candidates than there are seats in the Legislative Assembly, but there are many ways to be a leader. I’m going to encourage those women [not elected] to be leaders in their region and good representatives for their region in whatever way they can.
“There’s so much possibility now.”
Even so, seven of the 19 districts saw only male candidates come forward. Yellowknife South is the only district to feature entirely female representation on the ballot, where Caroline Wawzonek and Gaeleen MacPherson are running. (This is only the second time in history that an NWT district has been contested entirely by women.)
In 2015, 10 female candidates ran and just two were elected: Caroline Cochrane in Range Lake and Julie Green in Yellowknife Centre, both of whom are seeking re-election.
Much change among ministers
Cochrane is among only three of seven cabinet ministers seeking re-election, the others being Louis Sebert in Thebacha and Wally Schumann in Hay River South.
Ministers Glen Abernethy, Alfred Moses, and Robert C McLeod had all earlier announced they would step down, while Premier McLeod exited courtesy of a one-line email to NNSL and CBC late on Thursday, declaring: “I will not be running, thanks.”
This is the first time since the division of the NWT and Nunavut that four of the territory’s cabinet members at the dawn of an election have decided not to run. McLeod’s decision brings to an end eight years as premier, at least double the length of time anyone else has held the position in the modern era.
Simpson and Cochrane, should she be re-elected, have both acknowledged an interest in the premiership during interviews with Cabin Radio, while Schumann is also considered a contender if returned to office. He faces Simpson’s father, Rocky, in a two-way battle.
Premiers are decided by a vote among MLAs after an election. Cabinet members are voted into office the same way, and the premier then decides which portfolios each minister will have.
Nunakput and Yellowknife’s Kam Lake have the busiest ballots with six names on each. Sahtu and Inuvik Boot Lake, which each had only one name declared by Friday morning, ended up with four contenders apiece by the 2pm deadline.
Cabin Radio is now conducting in-depth interviews with as many candidates as we are able to reach, across the NWT. You can find those interviews as we get them on our list of candidates by district.
Correction: September 7, 2019 – 14:27. This article previously stated women have been elected to the legislature 21 times. That total is actually 24. More accurately, women representing districts within what is now the Northwest Territories have been elected to the legislature 21 times. The remaining three were in districts that now form part of Nunavut: Lena Pedersen, originally from Greenland and elected in Central Arctic; Rebecca Mike, from Pangnirtung; and Manitok Thompson, from Coral Harbour.