New MLA faces: incumbent advantage evaporates in Monday’s election

It’s clear where territorial voters sit on this one.

Whatever “change” has been wafting through the air during the recent triathlon of elections, the NWT clearly caught a specific territorial strain of it last night.

Pick your well-worn metaphor. A landslide? A groundswell? Whatever we saw, it was dramatic. Certainly enough to dent, if not demolish, the long-held wisdom that incumbents have a serious advantage over political newcomers in consensus government. Only seven of 15 incumbents were re-elected, and that means 11 fresh faces will be walking the halls of the legislative assembly in the coming weeks.

The biggest shift happened amongst regular members, with seven former MLAs defeated. But cabinet also saw two significant upsets: Michael Miltenberger, a five-term MLA, the finance and ENR minister — and arguably the brains behind much of the last few government’s overall vision for the territory — who lost Thebacha to Louis Sebert by around 40 votes; and perhaps even more surprisingly, ITI and Justice Minister Dave Ramsay was ousted by Kieron Testart in Kam Lake, losing by around 80 votes.

There were enough experienced MLAs re-elected — five who held cabinet positions last term — to pass on some of the assembly’s institutional knowledge. But writ large, we’re looking at quite the blank slate, for better or worse. Clearly NWT voters were tired of what they’d seen over the past four years and opted for the unknown over the status quo.

Here’s your new legislative assembly, with an asterisk beside incumbents:

Deh Cho: Michael Nadli*

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Frame Lake: Kevin O’Reilly

Great Slave: Glen Abernethy*

Hay River North: R.J. Simpson

Hay River South: Wally Schumann

Inuvik Boot Lake: Alfred Moses*

Inuvik Twin Lakes: Robert C. McLeod*

Kam Lake: Kieron Testart

Mackenzie Delta: Frederick Blake Jr.*

Monfwi: Jackson Lafferty* (acclaimed)

Nahendeh: Shane Thompson

Nunakput: Herbert Nakimayak

Range Lake: Caroline Cochrane

Sahtu: Daniel McNeely

Thebacha: Louis Sebert

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh: Tom Beaulieu*

Yellowknife Centre: Julie Green

Yellowknife North: Cory Vanthuyne

Yellowknife South: Bob McLeod*

Yellowknife saw a huge shake up. Following a number of closely fought races, separated by tens of votes, a whopping five new MLAs will be taking the city’s concerns to the GNWT over the next four years. Ramsay’s upset was echoed in both YK Centre and Range Lake with losses for Robert Hawkins and Daryl Dolynny, beaten by Julie Green and Caroline Cochrane, respectively.

Green and Cochrane, it should be noted, were the only two women to be elected this time around. No worse than last election, but still a far cry from the gender parity we need to see in our elected bodies.

The new government won’t be formed until around mid-December, but tonight’s shake-up should make Bob McLeod’s rumoured bid for a second premiership reasonably unlikely. He may have been re-elected with a solid individual mandate, but with change the order of the day, it’s tough to imagine this new flock of MLAs keen for another McLeod-led government. Whatever cabinet emerges from our consensus government’s secret selection process, it will have a distinct mandate from the previous government’s.

You can find more political coverage in today’s EDGE Express and check out EDGE Online later today and this week for more analysis on what this groundbreaking election means for the NWT’s future.

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