Gail Cyr didn’t stay long after the votes were counted Saturday and Michael McLeod was declared winner of the NWT Liberal party’s nomination for the October 19 federal election.
“What’s the point in staying? I’m going to enjoy a fish dinner,” Cyr said and drove away, leaving McLeod, who got 83 votes to her 23, to mark the victory with a half-dozen supporters in a small meeting room on the top floor of Days Inn.
Polling stations were open in other communities, but most of the votes were cast in Yellowknife, said Cyr, who faced McLeod alone after Kieron Testart withdrew from the contest and threw his support to the eventual winner.
A faint echo
McLeod’s small entourage was a faint echo of the party’s glory days a decade ago, when dozens of supporters shared Ethel Blondin Andrew’s success, and the territory’s access to Jean Chretien’s Liberal regime.
The face of the party has changed. Art and Linda Sorenson retired to the coast. Sandy Lee jumped to the Conservatives, and Marion Lavigne was nowhere to be seen on Saturday. In their place are Kieron Testart and Christina Monroe.
On Facebook, Testart and Monroe dedicated their effort to return a Liberal MP from the Northwest Territories to the late Lana Roeland, a passionate Liberal who is fondly remembered as an adviser to the Tlicho on their land claim negotiations.
McLeod made a point of visiting Behchoko while the Tlicho community marked the 10th anniversary of the land claim agreement, but even strong support from Dene communities won’t bring success.
Yellowknife is key for all parties in the race, and Dennis Bevington has won the city in every election since 2006, while the Liberal party has faded to a distant third.
Trudeau is aware
McLeod isn’t counting on help in Yellowknife from his brother, Premier Bob McLeod – “he has his own work to do” – but Bevington has been the territory’s MP for almost a decade, “and I’m sure he’s getting tired.”
A former MLA and cabinet minister, McLeod sat in the territorial assembly for 12 years but was defeated in the last election.
McLeod listed the slumping economy and climate change as key concerns, but said he wants to talk to the federal party “to make sure we’re all on the same agenda.”
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau “is aware of the issues,” McLeod said. “He’s been in the North on several occasions; he’s talked to many people and assured me that a focus on the North will be there, in issues like education and health.”
McLeod said he’s open to debates and forums with other candidates in any venue.