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It’s been an interesting couple of years for me since getting elected in 2019, and then my unceremonious exit from the Legislative Assembly two years later during an unprecedented pandemic.   No doubt many of you are thinking I’ll be sulking in a corner somewhere acting like a bitter Quasi Modo  but I won’t. Not even!  I am still committed to finding ways to make life better for all of us, even if I am no longer an MLA.  I will start by writing and getting my thoughts and ideas out on paper. 

I want to talk a little bit about the state of politics in our beloved territory and pose a question to you right off the bat:   Do you know what the difference is in how we choose our premier and how they choose the Pope in the Vatican?   Absolutely nothing.   In the case of the latter, a conclave  of high-ranking clergy called cardinals cast secret ballots amongst themselves to choose the nest pope.

Switch to our esteemed Legislative Assembly.  When MLAs choose our Premier, it is the EXACT same thing.  When a new election is called in the NWT, the 19 new elected MLAs have to choose amongst themselves who is the worthiest of holding the title of “Premier of the Northwest Territories” shortly after being elected into office.  From there a public session  is held and the votes are scurried off and secretly counted by black robed public servants.  Once the votes are tallied, the NWT has a new Premier and executive council.   In my opinion this is the wrong way for a democracy to choose its leaders.  I firmly believe there is a better way to select our Premier and cabinet and it ought to be letting the people decide rather than 19 members of an exclusive club called the Legislative Assembly.   I did broach this subject while in office but that idea died quickly.  I won’t say who quashed those plans but you can understand that a great many of my colleagues and the staff behind the scenes don’t want the system to change.

My suggestion?  We need to seriously revisit party politics in the NWT.    This would allow for a more representative view of how the people feel about who our leaders should be at the Territorial level and give much needed accountability to our public officials.  We are losing a significant amount of money in the North due to poor management and cronyism.  The government is up to the gills in debt.   We even have a lot of GNWT workers that are allowed to work outside the NWT, without contributing anything to our communities.  A party system will let us have a healthier push and pull relationship within our legislature and let non-cabinet MLA’s have more resources to properly do their jobs.  This isn’t happening at the moment. 

I have heard both sides for and against a party politics system.  A lot of that has to do with the false notion that parties are colonial institutions that will hurt Indigenous peoples and their communities. As an Indigenous person who has experience in the consensus system and indigenous governance, I can say firmly that this is a deep misconception and its usually supported by longstanding leaders who have entrenched themselves in the way the GNWT does business and don’t want the gravy train to stop rolling. Indigenous People in the NWT are constantly let down by the GNWT and it’s Leaders. Look to the state of land claims and the complete failure of the GNWT to make any real progress you if need evidence of that. Furthermore, how many of the NWT’s Indigenous self-governments use the consensus system? The answer is a big fat zero. We need to open our eyes to the fact that our system is broken and that needs to change.

I know there will be many who see my arguments as little more than sour grapes. Look, I am the first to acknowledge that I made mistakes during my time as an MLA. Mistakes that cost me my job and the respect of many Northerners. I am deeply regretful for how things played out but please believe me when I say that my heart was always in the right place and continues to be as I try to educate people on how our secretive system of public government works in the NWT. – SN

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