Here’s who will be in Caroline Cochrane’s NWT cabinet

Caroline Wawzonek, pictured at the NWT's legislature in October 2019, is a newly selected member of Caroline Cochrane's cabinet
Caroline Wawzonek, pictured at the NWT's legislature in October 2019, is a newly selected member of Caroline Cochrane's cabinet. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Having chosen their new premier, MLAs selected Caroline Cochrane’s cabinet in a series of secret ballots on Thursday afternoon.

Two rounds of voting were required in the Legislative Assembly, after MLAs – including Cochrane – had pitched questions to the candidates, before a final line-up was reached. The six cabinet members chosen are:

  • Paulie Chinna, Sahtu
  • Katrina Nokleby, Great Slave
  • RJ Simpson, Hay River North
  • Diane Thom, Inuvik Boot Lake
  • Shane Thompson, Nahendeh
  • Caroline Wawzonek, Yellowknife South

Cabinet will boast five female members for the next four years, including Cochrane. By default, it is the largest number of women in an NWT cabinet – never before had the territory even elected five women in the first place.

Cochrane, herself selected by colleagues earlier on Thursday, will now have the task of assigning each a portfolio. The seven members must between them run 11 departments and nine agencies.



The election of Cochrane and her cabinet completes the final task in a frantic month of territorial and federal campaigning across the Northwest Territories.

All votes in the legislature on Thursday were secret ballots. Final tallies of votes for each individual are not published, though MLAs are free to reveal who they supported if they wish.

Eleven contenders

Eleven of the 19 MLAs sought positions on cabinet. The group of MLAs had already agreed to abide by a convention that two cabinet members come from northern NWT districts, two from the Yellowknife area, and two from the South Slave and Dehcho – though Cochrane’s selection as premier broke an unofficial convention of rotating the leadership between Yellowknife and other communities. Both Cochrane and predecessor Bob McLeod represented Yellowknife districts in Range Lake and Yellowknife South respectively.

MLAs from northern districts seeking cabinet positions were Chinna (Sahtu), Jackie Jacobson (Nunakput), and Thom (Inuvik Boot Lake). In a surprise, Inuvik Twin Lakes’ Lesa Semmler did not put her name forward.



Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty, defeated in his bid to lead the territory earlier on Thursday, chose not to stand for a cabinet position and will be a regular MLA for the next four years – a position he last occupied during his first two years as an MLA, having won a by-election in 2005. He was a minister from 2007 to 2015 and the speaker for the past four years.

Standing for cabinet from the Yellowknife area were Julie Green (Yellowknife Centre), Nokleby (Great Slave), Kevin O’Reilly (Frame Lake), and Wawzonek (Yellowknife South).

In the South Slave and Dehcho, Ron Bonnetrouge (Deh Cho), Frieda Martselos (Thebacha), Simpson (Hay River North), and Thompson (Nahendeh) made bids for cabinet – Martselos and Simpson having been the first two knocked out of the leadership battle earlier in the day.

The premier, cabinet members, and the newly elected speaker – Mackenzie Delta’s Frederick Blake Jr – will be sworn in on Friday at the legislature.