Reaching voters to make their case in person is turning out to be a challenging task for the two candidates in Yellowknife’s Great Slave.
Door-knocking, seen by most candidates as a key component of reaching voters in their district, is at the best of times slightly awkward.
However, candidates in districts featuring apartment buildings must navigate the task of gaining access to those buildings before they can begin striding up to front doors.
While most apartment complexes allow candidates to enter the building and go door-to-door, the Great Slave district’s Watermark and Anderson Thomson towers apply their own election-season rules.
Ray Decorby, co-owner of Polar Developments – which runs both apartment buildings – said the towers’ front doors need to remain locked for the safety of tenants. So, for the past few elections, the company’s policy has been to allow candidates to campaign only by buzzing up to each unit individually and asking to be let in.
“If the tenant wants to let them in and talk to them, they’ll buzz them in,” said Decorby. “What we don’t allow is candidates, just like Halloween kids, running up and down the halls banging on doors.”
Decorby adds candidates are allowed to have their campaign material in the lobby of each building. “We work that fine line of basically protecting our tenants, yet we understand the importance of political information getting out there and candidates connecting with tenants,” Decorby said.
The two apartment towers between them have 212 units, including 30 hotel or long-term stay suites.
The territory’s Elections and Plebiscites Act outlines what is and is not permitted during elections.
The act states those who control access to an apartment building need to allow candidates who produce the right kind of ID to “enter the multiple dwelling site” and “have access to the door of each residential unit” between the hours of 9am and 8pm.
Nicole Latour, the NWT’s chief electoral officer, said Polar Developments’ policy doesn’t contravene the act, which is written broadly. Latour added that if candidates are having issues they should reach out to their returning officer.
So, are the candidates having issues?
Having heard that campaigning in these buildings was proving difficult, Cabin Radio reached out to Katrina Nokleby and Patrick Scott, the candidates in the district. Both are potential first-term MLAs campaigning in a district with no incumbent, as Glen Abernethy is not seeking re-election.
Scott said he had a conversation with the building owner prior to the writ being issued, in which the two went over the buzzer policy. Scott instead asked if he may stand directly outside the building to do his campaigning, and was granted permission for that to happen.
Last Wednesday, Scott was duly stationed outside the Watermark when, he said, he was told by a co-owner at Polar Developments he was “accosting tenants” and “being rude.” He was asked to leave, so he left to stand a block away on the street corner.
“I found it really offensive and frustrating,” Scott said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the right of the people who live there to become informed on the election and who’s running. Whether it’s me or my opponent, we should have the ability to communicate.”
Decorby, reached again by Cabin Radio, said Scott being shown off the property was a one-off. Decorby acknowledged he had not spoken to his partner about having given Scott permission to campaign outside.
Nokleby said the building owner’s compromise – letting candidates try residents of the building one by one, buzzing them from the entryway – was “onerous” when candidates are trying to reach almost 3,000 voters in the district. However, she added, she is abiding by the buildings’ rules.
“I’m aware that I’m legally allowed to enter the building but I also want to respect the owner of the building,” she said.
Both Scott and Nokleby stressed they had had productive conversations with the building owner about the issue.