Richard Edjericon elected MLA in Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh byelection
439 ballots were cast in the riding, with Edjericon taking 186 votes
Richard Edjericon says he's tired after campaigning for a byelection that made him the new MLA for the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh riding, but he's "only got a short period of time" and he'll "do the best he can."
According to unofficial results from Elections NWT, Edjericon beat out Ernest Betsina, Mary Rose Sundberg, Nadine Delorme, Clinton Unka and previous MLA Steve Norn, for the seat Norn left vacant when he was expelled from the Legislative Assembly last November.
The assembly ousted him over threats he made to his colleagues on social media, and after a public inquiry determined he violated the assembly's code of conduct when he broke mandatory COVID-19 isolation rules and misled health officials and the public about it.
Edjericon said Norn called him shortly after all the ballots were counted.
"He wished me all the best," he said.
"There's a lot of good people that ran, put their names forward, it takes a lot to put your name forward out in front in the public ... in the end, people spoke."
There were 439 ballots cast in the byelection, with Edjericon taking 186 votes.
Sundberg was second with 99 votes, while Norn had 70 votes, Betsina had 62 votes, Delorme had 12 votes and Unka had 10.
As the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, Edjericon will represent people living in Dettah, Ndilǫ, Fort Resolution and Łutselkʼe until the next territorial election on Oct. 3, 2023. Under typical circumstances, an MLA would have four years in the role instead of 20 months.
First steps as MLA
Edjericon has lived in Ndilo since 1993, is a former chief of Yellowknives Dene First Nation and was a band councillor for 10 years. He is also the former chairperson for the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.
"I have a good understanding of how things are done here in the North," he said.
Edjericon said the first thing he's going to do is review the current MLA mandate, the budget, and the five-year capital plan.
"At this point I just ... want to understand how the process works and get direction from our constituents, Indigenous governments and start working with the premier, ministers and cabinet to look at how we can make the lives in our communities much better."
He said the economy, jobs, housing and the high cost of living are among his priorities.
Complicated voting process
Polls closed at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and votes were counted in Yellowknife on Wednesday. The results were announced around 5:15 p.m.
There was no in-person voting in the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh byelection because of COVID-19-related public health concerns. Instead, all ballots had to be mailed in or placed in a designated drop box. Elections NWT said mobile polling options would be available for people in isolation.
Ballots received by Elections NWT after polls closed on Tuesday were not counted.
The mail-in voting system appeared to cause confusion for some.
According to Elections NWT at the end of January, about 10 percent of ballot packages received weren't signed, meaning they wouldn't be counted. This forced election workers to try and track down voters to get their signatures. They also extended the deadline to apply for a ballot from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4.
Robert Sayine, a former MLA and past chief of the Deninu Kųę́ First Nation, told CBC the mail-in ballots could be troublesome for elders, especially.
Edjericon said there are 821 eligible voters in the riding. He hadn't seen the exact results of the count at the time of an interview, but said he knew of ballots that had been spoiled and said he assumed turnout would be down.
"The way it's always been in our communities, people want to go vote they go to the polls, show their ID, put their mark on the ballot … with this one here, this time, it created a lot of confusion, there was no translators, people couldn't really understand the written English."
Edjericon said if another election needs to take place under pandemic conditions, there will have to be a "better way" of carrying it out.
Chief Electoral Officer Stephen Dunbar defended the choice to hold a mail-in ballots byelection, citing uncertainty around the impact of Omicron on the Northwest Territories.
With files from Sidney Cohen