N.W.T. legislature looks at extending term by one year

Some MLAs say they're concerned about the territorial, federal and municipal elections all happening in October 2015 so they're proposing to delay the territory's election until 2016.

Territorial, federal and municipal elections scheduled for October 2015

Jane Groenewegen and Michael Miltenberger say having three elections in one month could result in voter fatigue. (CBC )

Members of the Northwest Territories legislature will be voting on whether to extend the government's term by a year this Monday.

Some MLAs want to postpone the next territorial election until October 2016. 

The current fixed election date, Oct. 5, 2015, falls two weeks before the next federal election. Municipal elections in several communities, including Yellowknife, are also scheduled for Oct. 19 that year.

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen brought the motion forward. She says bombarding people with campaign signs and platforms for three elections could be overwhelming voters and exhausting for volunteers.

"I think that having three major elections in the same month would definitely affect the voter participation and we don't want to see that."

Proposed changes to federal legislation, Bill C-15, would allow the territory's future governments to sit for five years. That bill won't apply to the current government so this new motion calls for changes to existing federal and territory laws.

Five provinces were also supposed to hold their elections in the fall of 2015. Several have existing legislation that allows them to move the date if there's a conflict with the federal election and are planning spring elections. 

Minister Michael Miltenberger says historically, having a spring election in the territory has been considered difficult because of unpredictable weather or people's plans for spring hunts.

"We want to be consistent with the October date, rather than have it in six months and the incoming government have their time chopped up. The easiest thing, the most consistent thing is to do it in October and then the incoming 18th assembly will be right back on schedule."

Groenewegen says extending the life of this government is not that big a leap, especially with the transition work tied to devolution.

Northwest Territories MLAs will be voting on whether to extend their terms on Monday. (CBC)

"There are some issues that need to be carried to the finish line. There's work to be done. There's files with the federal government that need to be completed," she says. "For the sake of continuity, I would have no problem saying that we need to have the people in place that are dealing with those now, we need that continuity and stability to carry this into the future."

But some members say they should not be able to extend their own term in office.

Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro says she would have preferred a spring election.  

"There's good people that are going to be elected to the next assembly and there's no reason they can't be elected to carry on the work that's happening right now," she says. 

"If there's a member and the constituents have problems or there's someone better, they have to wait a year to either remove that person or B, get the better person."

Bisaro says she'd like to have more time to consult with constituents about the changes.

The vote will be held Monday afternoon. 

Yukoners began electing governments for five-year terms in 2006. 


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