Voters decisively demanded change as incumbents were thrown from office and new voices sent to power in Tuesday’s NWT election.
Shane Thompson’s re-election as MLA for Nahendeh, the last result to come through, capped an evening of turmoil. Thompson was one of few incumbents to politically survive the night.
Results remain unofficial until confirmed by Elections NWT. Two districts must proceed to a mandatory recount.
One of those is Yellowknife North, where Rylund Johnson was elected by a razor-thin five-vote margin over incumbent Cory Vanthuyne. Recounts are overseen by a judge and must take place in the next several days.
Kevin O’Reilly’s 11-vote victory over Dave Ramsay in Frame Lake, a closely fought and ideologically driven contest, will also proceed to a recount. In a Facebook post, Ramsay said he believed votes were missing and was “not convinced the results tonight are accurate.”
However, the focus for most voters was the wave of women elected to the NWT legislature, transforming the territory overnight into Canada’s leader for female political representation.
Five of the seven Yellowknife districts are to be represented by women after wins for Caitlin Cleveland in Kam Lake, Caroline Wawzonek in Yellowknife South, and Katrina Nokleby in Great Slave. They join re-elected incumbents Julie Green in Yellowknife Centre and Caroline Cochrane in Range Lake.
Cochrane’s 18-vote victory over Hughie Graham appeared to see the education minister narrowly avoid a mandatory recount. Her margin of victory was just over two percent of the total number of votes cast – anything lower than two percent triggers a recount.
Wawzonek defeated Gaeleen MacPherson by almost 400 votes in an all-female Yellowknife South contest.
“I’m overwhelmed and super supported,” Wawzonek told Cabin Radio. “Being in Yellowknife South for the last month has been incredible.
“People want to see someone actually taking action on the possible solutions.”
In Great Slave, Patrick Scott told Cabin Radio he was “disappointed and surprised” to have lost to Nokleby by 65 votes, but said he wished her well.
“I really believe the social issues and the climate are the big issues,” said Scott. “I will go on arguing with her over those issues, but the voters have spoken.”
Nokleby, describing her “buzzing” phone, said: “We need to get our economy going.”
Inuvik will be entirely represented by women after Lesa Semmler and Diane Thom won in Inuvik Twin Lakes and Inuvik Boot Lake respectively.
Female candidates also won the ridings of Thebacha and Sahtu. Paulie Chinna takes over from incumbent Danny McNeely in the Sahtu, while Frieda Martselos – who stepped down as Chief of the Salt River First Nation to contest this election – took the Thebacha riding, unseating minister Louis Sebert.
Sebert was not the only minister to face defeat on Tuesday.
Wally Schumann, the industry and infrastructure minister, lost Hay River South by 28 votes to challenger Rocky Simpson – the father of RJ Simpson, himself acclaimed to a second term in Hay River North.
In the Deh Cho, Ronald Bonnetrouge defeated incumbent Michael Nadli by 30 votes. Steve Norn won in Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh while Jackie Jacobson won back his Nunakput seat, four years after losing to Herb Nakimayak.
Sixteen MLAs were elected on Tuesday. Another three were acclaimed as nobody ran against them: Jackson Lafferty in Monfwi, Frederick Blake Jr in Mackenzie Delta, and RJ Simpson in Hay River North.
Lafferty and Simpson have each made clear their intent to seek the premiership in the days to come, as has Cochrane.
Newly elected politicians receive a three-week orientation beginning on October 8.
A schedule posted to the Legislative Assembly’s website suggests those MLAs will meet to choose a new premier and cabinet on October 24, when the TLC – territorial leadership committee (no, they don’t want no scrubs) – is convened.
Once MLAs are voted in, the electorate has no say in who gets to be premier or in cabinet. MLAs themselves decided that in what is traditionally a series of behind-closed-doors votes, though several candidates have pledged to reveal their choices to the public if elected.
Andrew Goodwin, Holly Jones, Scott Letkeman, Emelie Peacock, Sarah Pruys, Samantha Stuart, Jesse Wheeler, and Ollie Williams contributed reporting.