Yesterday’s round of cabinet making confirmed that the two most powerful politicians in the territory share a last name: McLeod.
That Michael and Bob, whose father used to chase politicians away when they’d come a knockin’ in Fort Providence, should become Premier and Member of Parliament has a folk-tale feel to it. (Even if there’s something slightly off-putting about any single family dominating politics.)
Will the GNWT-Federal relationship benefit from any kind of fraternal affection?
Bob seemed to suggest it would, during a press conference following his election, although he focused more on his brother’s position within the ruling party (something we haven’t had since 2004) than on their familial relationship: “It’s going to make a tremendous difference because in the previous government we relied a lot on friends, some senator friends, we had to work from the top down, so we’d have to get the prime minister to intervene when things weren’t moving the way we wanted it to.”
Bob’s brief mention of interventions by Stephen Harper, illustrate, in a sense, the importance of the new McLeod-McLeod connection. Bob was close to Harper. And although he’s been touting his relationship with the new PM – “Over the past four years, I’ve been meeting with Justin Trudeau on a regular basis. I’ve met him in other settings, such as state funerals and so on” – there’s no doubt he’s pleased, post-Harper, to have an ally as strong as his own brother in the ruling party, even if only sitting on the back benches.
“With an MP from the Northwest Territories in the ruling party, he can make sure all the issues progress and are brought to the attention of those that need to know to advance our priorities.”
It’s no secret that the territory is hugely dependent on the federal government, not only for the formula funding grant, which covers roughly 70 percent of our budget, but also for new infrastructure money, likely key to keeping our economy afloat through the coming economic turbulence. If any of the three major highways are going to be built in the territory – up the Mackenzie Valley, to Whati, and into the Slave Geological Province north of Yellowknife – it’s going to be with federal cash.
Add to that the importance of negotiating an improved Northern Residents tax deduction, overhauling Nutrition North, settling land claims, and tapping into newly promised federal funds for municipal and green infrastructure, and let’s just hope the McLeod brothers don’t have a falling out over Christmas dinner.