Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh | Tom Beaulieu, Richard Edjericon

Incumbent Tom Beaulieu and challenger Richard Edjericon are running in a new riding that remains controversial, and that neither is happy about.

New riding a controversial creation neither candidate is happy about

Richard Edjericon, left, is taking on incumbent Tom Beaulieu in the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh riding. (submitted/CBC)

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.

Tom Beaulieu

Beaulieu grew up learning how to trap with his father, and he kept up trapping on weekends even after he began his career with the GNWT. He held a series of high-level positions in the civil service: associate deputy minister of Environment and Natural Resources, president of the N.W.T. Development Corporation and the housing corporation. He was elected MLA in 2007 and selected to cabinet in 2011.

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.

Richard Edjericon

Edjericon was raised in Fort Resolution and Hay River before moving to Yellowknife to attend Akaitcho Hall. He's a red seal journeyman carpenter and spent time working as a contractor. He's owned his own consulting firm for more than a decade, was the CEO of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and chair of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board. He was head chief of YKDFN from 1999 to 2003 and a band councillor for 10 years.

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."