Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh | Tom Beaulieu, Richard Edjericon
New riding a controversial creation neither candidate is happy about
This is a new seat for 2015, and its very creation remains hugely controversial. It includes the old riding of Tu Nedhe, a huge area that takes in most of the area around the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and the central Barren Lands, all the way to the Nunavut border. Despite its size, Tu Nedhe was the smallest riding by population in the last assembly.
Both Fort Resolution (pop. 524) and Lutselk'e (pop. 299) are Chipewyan communities on the shores of Great Slave Lake. Fort Resolution is the N.W.T.'s oldest permanent settlement, founded as a North West Co. trading post in 1786. Hunting, fishing and trapping remain vital to the economies of both settlements.
The N.W.T. Legislative Assembly voted in June to ignore the recommendations for redistribution from former Elections N.W.T. CEO David Brock and instead pluck the Tlicho communities of N'Dilo (pop. around 200) and Detah (pop. 236) out of the overpopulated riding of Weledeh and add them to the new riding of Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh.
This despite the strenuous objections of elders from Fort Resolution and Lutselk'e, as well as MLA Tom Beaulieu, that it's unfair to bunch together Yellowknife-area, Tłı̨chǫ-speaking communities with the Chipweyan hamlets of the old Tu Nedhe seat.
Despite his objections, Beaulieu, who also served in cabinet during the last assembly, will contest the new riding. How this redistribution will impact Beaulieu's re-election prospects will be one of the most interesting questions of this election.
The most important issue in this election, Beaulieu says, is employment. He says the territorial government needs to invest in infrastructure projects in small communities to create jobs. That needs to be coupled with job training and improved early childhood education, he says. As for the new riding, Beaulieu says there's not much that can be done through the legislature, and a court challenge may be the easiest way to bring the old Tu Nedhe seat back.
He says the most important issue is settling outstanding land claims. Recent progress, he says, has been frustratingly slow and with a devolution deal in place, it's time for the N.W.T. to move ahead on settling claims. And he wants to see changes to the way the premier and cabinet are selected, including direct election of the premier and input from chiefs on who should sit in cabinet. He also says people are concerned about the lack of alcohol treatment facilities in the territory.
As for the new riding, Edjericon says First Nations leaders oppose its creation and want to continue to challenge it, but for now "it is what it is."