Caroline Cochrane and Jackson Lafferty each restated their interest in becoming the next NWT premier as the territorial election concluded, both urging politicians to work together.
Returning to the legislature with eight female colleagues, Cochrane told Cabin Radio she was more certain than ever that now was the time for her to put her name forward.
Lafferty said he had “seen how members operate” as the Speaker of the House for the past four years, and knew where changes must be made.
Hay River North’s RJ Simpson, who was acclaimed, has also voiced a desire to become the next premier. Simpson could not be reached by phone on Wednesday.
There remains a three-week period for other contenders to come forward before the next leader is chosen.
The NWT’s new set of MLAs formally begins work next week, then meets on October 24 to vote in a premier and six other cabinet members. The premier then assigns portfolios to ministers.
Both Lafferty and Cochrane emphasized a common theme: getting cabinet and MLAs to work together far more meaningfully than the fractured relationship of the past four years.
Cochrane and Lafferty each have ministerial experience. Lafferty spent eight years as the NWT’s education minister, while Cochrane spent the past 18 months in charge of education, having previously led the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.
“Residents of the NWT, right across, were not happy with the last assembly. We need to work better together,” Cochrane told Cabin Radio on Wednesday.
“Somehow, we need to build that relationship so the MLAs and cabinet are not on opposite sides. Let’s sit together, all of us, and figure out how we’re going to work this better so we are a true consensus government.”
In 2015, Cochrane said, “We kind-of let the bureaucracy guide us, set on many years of a patriarchal, top-down system. The biggest thing was that cabinet was not available enough, and cabinet needs to be available. We are all in this together.”
Lafferty agreed, saying: “We need to do things differently – having the premier and ministers walking down the hallway not only when there are issues or challenges, but constantly having meetings. Talk about day-to-day activities.
“As a speaker, I walked down the hallway but I rarely saw the executive coming around.”
Premier Bob McLeod last month said people calling for “true consensus” government were being naive about what it takes to get legislation passed and lead the NWT.
Defending the way he ran his government, McLeod told Cabin Radio: “If you had to work to get everybody on-side, you wouldn’t get a lot accomplished.
“We’re here to achieve results. If we can only operate by having a 19-member cabinet, then you’re not going to get very much done.”
Lafferty, who was acclaimed in Monfwi for the second time in a row, dismissed that approach.
He said: “I want to listen to all 18 [other MLAs], hearing what should be the priorities: climate change, housing, all these challenges that we’re faced with. At the same time, we have to create more opportunities for the whole NWT and think differently than before.
“Clearly, there is a division, and that should not be the case. We all need to be working together, but it’s us and them. I’ve been hearing that for quite some time, now.”
With the NWT celebrating the election of nine women, Cochrane – who defeated Hughie Graham by just 18 votes in Range Lake – renewed her call for the next premier to be female.
“It would be phenomenal to have a woman as premier and a cabinet made up of women,” she said, confirming she would put her name forward.
“I wasn’t so sure before but, at this time, I am,” she said.
“We’ve lost a lot of experience. I’m the only cabinet minister that made it through this election. I think it’s time women take a seat at that table, as well.”