Four candidates so far for N.W.T. premier

Michael Miltenberger, Bob McLeod, Norman Yakeleya and Kevin Menicoche have put their names forward to be the next N.W.T. premier. A secret ballot by MLAs later this month will decide who leads the territory.
Re-elected Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger says he will put his name forward for N.W.T. premier. (CBC)

There are now four members of the legislative assembly who want to become the Northwest Territories' next premier.

Kevin Menicoche, Nahendeh MLA, is the latest to put his name forward for the top job.

The other three candidates so far are Bob McLeod, Yellowknife South, Michael Miltenberger, Thebacha, and Norman Yakeleya, Sahtu.

Public debate surrounds how premier is selected

Once again, debate is stirring over how the Northwest Territories chooses its premier. Currently, MLAs vote by secret ballot for who should be premier.

Miltenberger, who also put his name forward for premier in 2007, said lobbying MLAs to vote him in is more stressful than the election itself.

"It's a very fluid situation; there are competing personal agendas, it's a closed system, a legislative bubble, where the pressure gets to be intense over that two-week period."

In coming weeks, the MLAs will gather in Yellowknife to first select a Speaker from among their ranks. Then members are nominated for premier and given 20 minutes to present a platform, followed by questions from the rest of the members. The candidate who wins a secret ballot with more than 50 per cent of the vote becomes premier. The selection of six cabinet ministers follows along the same lines, also ending with MLAs casting a secret ballot. The remaining 11 members form the unofficial opposition.

… there are competing personal agendas, it's a closed system, a legislative bubble, where the pressure gets to be intense over that two-week period.

Miltenberger said if people really want to change the way the premier is picked, a committee should be struck to explore it and make recommendation for the next election, and added it’s too late to make any changes this time around.

Bob Bromley, who was re-elected in Weledeh, said he knows a lot of people are interested in changing how the premier is elected.

"One of the things that has held us back is right now cabinet and the premier serve at the pleasure of the regular members," he said. "So maybe we can have the premier elected by the public but still serving at the pleasure of the regular members, so they can remove him or her if they are not doing their job."

Premier could come from acclaimed riding again

Another issue is that the premier could come from an acclaimed riding. That happened with Joe Handley in 2003 and Floyd Roland in 2007. It could happen again this time around, since McLeod had no challengers for the Yellowknife South riding. CBC's online discussion boards were rampant with questions about whether someone who didn't receive a single vote should be allowed to lead the government.

Daniel T'seleie is the director of lands and environment for Dene Nation, which represents all the dene groups in the Northwest Territories. He doesn't agree with the current system, but says it's up to the public to change the system. not the candidate.

"It's not their job to make sure people run against them, that's our job, that's the public's job to make sure that these people are challenged and that democracy is healthy," said T'seleie.

McLeod agrees.

"I don't see why I should be penalized because no one ran against me," McLeod said. "I put my name in, I followed all of the rules."

First-time representative for the Mackenzie Delta, Frederick Sonny Blake Jr, said having the elected members choose the premier is the only fair way to pick who will lead a consensus government.

Re-elected MLAs Wendy Bisaro, Dave Ramsey, Glen Abernethy, Tom Beaulieau and Jane Gronewegen have all said they would like to take on one of the six cabinet positions.