N.W.T. MLAs outline selection process for new premier, cabinet

On Wednesday, Northwest Territories MLAs set the rules they will follow to select the next premier and cabinet.

Though they were free to look at the way previous N.W.T. assemblies have done it, there are virtually no limits to how MLAs of the 19th Legislative Assembly could have decided to choose their leaders, or even how many leaders they could have chosen. This time around, they largely went with the status quo from past assemblies.

A press release Wednesday from the Legislative Assembly outlined the process to be followed this time around.

On Friday, any MLA interested in running for premier will put their names forward and will be given up to 20 minutes to support their own candidacy in a speech. All MLAs will then have an opportunity to ask two questions, once the speeches end.

MLAs will have almost a week to consider their selection. On Oct. 24, they will have one more opportunity to ask a question of each prospective premier candidate before casting ballots that day.

It will be a busy day. Before the selection of premier, assembly members will also select a Speaker among the group by secret ballot. 

The new premier will be selected after the new Speaker is determined.

Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada

Following the selection of the new premier, the six-member executive council, or cabinet, will be selected with two representatives from each of the northern, Yellowknife, and southern electoral districts.

MLAs standing for cabinet positions will be given 10 minutes to state their cases, followed by a question period. Cabinet will then be selected by secret ballot.

Danielle Merger, manager of public affairs and communications for the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly, stated in an email that the principal difference this time around are the opportunities for MLAs to question candidates for premier and cabinet on their platforms before casting ballots.

Proposed departures from past practice

A special committee of MLAs from the last legislature recommended that "several options for a revised cabinet selection process" be presented to the 19th Assembly. It also recommended that MLAs be given a week to consult with constituents after hearing pitches from those who put their names forward for premier.

One of those options would have marked a significant departure from the system that MLAs have used since the N.W.T.'s division with Nunavut, whereby the premier is voted in by secret ballot, then six cabinet ministers are also chosen by secret ballot — two from south of Great Slave Lake, two from north of the lake and two from Yellowknife.

The committee considered the option of voting in seven members of cabinet first, then selecting the premier.

Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada

Under that option, the MLAs would have voted in six members using the regional quota system or a system that guarantees representation from MLAs representing small communities. Then MLAs would have voted in a seventh member to address any forms of under-representation — whether it's regional, or small communities, or gender — left following the election of the first six.

Once the seven ministers were elected, the premier would have been nominated from their ranks.

The special committee recommended that regardless of what option MLAs choose, they should give MLAs a week to consult their constituents before voting from among those who put their name forward for premier.

Wednesday's discussion about the rules was closed to the public.

Friday's proceedings at the Legislative Assembly are open to the public.