At least one N.W.T. MLA is voicing frustration with the secret ballot system used to select the Northwest Territories' executive council, amid speeches promising increased transparency in the new government.

MLAs selected Bob McLeod as premier Wednesday over challenger Glen Abernethy, and elected a mix of new and familiar faces to the six cabinet seats. 

Two previous cabinet ministers are back: Abernethy and Robert C. McLeod. Alfred Moses, who is starting his second term as an MLA, was also selected for cabinet as well as three brand new MLAs: Caroline Cochrane-Johnson, Wally Schumann and Louis Sebert.

As is the custom, all votes were by secret ballot, and not even the total number of votes for each candidate was revealed.

The vote for cabinet went to three ballots. After the first ballot, Speaker Jackson Lafferty announced two candidates for cabinet from the south region did not have the minimum required number of votes (10), but as they were tied for the fewest number of votes, neither was dropped from the ballot.

Kieron Testart

Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart calls N.W.T.'s method of selecting Speaker, premier and cabinet 'a super-secret ballot system' that is unique in the Commonwealth, with the possible exception of Nunavut. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

After a second round of voting, Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson was dropped from the ballot. On the third ballot, Schumann and Sebert were selected to cabinet. 

Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart expressed frustration with the secret ballot system.

"As we saw today, it's more than a secret ballot system: it's a super-secret ballot system, not even releasing the vote totals," he said. 

"We don't know how close people are coming; we don't know the margins of support people have. There's no leadership [process] in a commonwealth country like this — perhaps Nunavut might be similar — apart from the Territories."

Testart had pledged to reveal how he voted in the leadership ballots and did so in a Facebook post. He wrote he voted for Abernethy for premier; Abernethy and Cochrane-Johnson for the Yellowknife region cabinet ballot; McLeod and Danny McNeely for the northern region cabinet ballot; Schumann and Thompson on the first ballot for southern region and Louis Sebert on the second ballot.

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne also revealed he voted for Abernethy for premier.

In his nomination speech last week, McLeod pledged to designate a minister Responsible for Transparency and Democratic Engagement.

Tough times ahead

The new premier and cabinet will be facing some tough decisions about money in the 18th assembly as they stare down what former Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger called "the edge of a fiscal cliff."

"This isn't going to be an easy assembly," said Abernethy.

"Anybody who thinks we're going to have an easy time is out of their minds. We have stagnant revenue growth. We have hard economic times in front of us."

Sebert said the government shouldn't just clamp down on spending.

"I don't think this is the time for excessive financial restraint," he said.

"While we cannot spend ourselves back to prosperity, we should not abandon the programs that assist the most needy among us."

It's up to McLeod to assign cabinet ministers their portfolios. It's likely he'll do that before Christmas.