North

N.W.T. MLA steps back from move toward party politics

'Unfortunately, there was a concerted campaign of disinformation and intimidation launched by supporters of the way things are,' said Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart, who did not name names.

Kieron Testart says ‘concerted’ campaign of misinformation scared people off idea

Kieron Testart, who represents the riding of Kam Lake, said he did find a group of people interested in the idea of party politics. But he said people pushing the status quo worked against him. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

A Yellowknife MLA has stepped back from a plan he forged to assemble candidates to run under a Liberal Democratic banner in the Oct. 1 territorial election.

Kieron Testart, who represents the riding of Kam Lake, said he did find a group of people interested in the idea, and they had some great discussions. But he said people pushing the status quo worked against him.

"Unfortunately, there was a concerted campaign of disinformation and intimidation launched by supporters of the way things are," said Testart, who did not name names.

"Ultimately, a lot of people didn't feel comfortable taking this to a live position where they would compete in the next election."

The Liberal Democratic banner does not have any party affiliation.

Testart said the message going around was that people who supported his idea could see business or contractual relationships they had with the government suffer.

"Involvement with [my] initiative might be viewed unfavourably by people making those decisions," he said. "It was an underhanded approach to take democracy away from the northerners and it was completely false."

Testart added he's heard from his own constituents that they want more time to consider his proposal, and that he respects those wishes.

"Ultimately if it's going to work it needs to be more than Kieron Testart," he said. "It needs to be shared by an awful lot of people who are willing to stand up and run for office."

Against consensus gov't

The Northwest Territories is currently a consensus government, which means territorial leaders are not affiliated with political parties. After every election, the new leaders cast secret ballots to choose their Speaker, six cabinet ministers and premier. It's at this point that the new cohort comes to an agreement on what their priorities will be.

Testart has long been a strong supporter of introducing party politics to the Northwest Territories, and attempted to garner support for changes to the Northwest Territories Elections Act in 2018 to allow ballots to show a candidate's party affiliation. That move ultimately failed.

Testart says democratic reform is still a priority, but party politics are not the only thing he cares about.

He pointed to aspects of his platform that include a territorially funded northern residents benefit, and a campaign reform proposal to level the playing field between incumbents and new candidates in future elections.

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