Northwest Territories looking for new name - 'Bob' need not apply

The premier of the N.W.T. says he wants to draw up a list of possible new names for the territory.

The quest to find a new name for the Northwest Territories has resumed.

Premier Stephen Kakfwi announced Thursday, he'd asked the deputy premier to draw up a list of possibilities for the next session of the legislative assembly.

When the government looked at changing the name six years ago, pranksters hijacked the process, with 'Bob' becoming the second most popular choice.

The current government's biggest challenge is to keep the debate on track.

Kakfwi is framing the need for a new name in terms of culture and identity. He spoke about communities in Northwest Territories that have reverted to aboriginal language names. "Many of our communities have led the way in seeking identity by renaming themselves," he said.

Kakfwi wants the assembly to look at a list of suggestions next month.

His haste might have something to do with the way the renaming process went awry in 1996. A variety of aboriginal names were suggested, then someone came up with the idea of calling the territory 'Bob.'

"There was even a T-shirt with a list of possible names for the territory and Bob was ticked off, so it got caught up in a friendly hype rather than a serious hype," said David Hamilton, the clerk of the N.W.T. Assembly.

The debate faded, replaced by other priorities before the question came to a vote.

Steve Peterson of the N.W.T. Federation of Labour isn't convinced a new name is a priority now, in the midst of an oil and gas boom. "We're spending a lot of time and effort here to get ourselves known on the world stage, and now to come up with a name change at this point in time, I don't know what the timing is about for that."

Whatever the timing, the government's challenge will be getting people who speak the eight official languages of the territory to agree on a new name.