'Not my time': NDP's Kelvin Kotchilea keeps chin up after close loss against Michael McLeod

·3 min read
Kelvin Kotchilea was the NDP's candidate in the Northwest Territories during the 2021 federal election. He was up against Lea Mollison for the Conservatives, incumbent Michael McLeod with the Liberals, Roland Laufer with the Greens and Jane Groenewegen, who ran as an independent.  (Submitted by Kelvin Kotchilea - image credit)
Kelvin Kotchilea was the NDP's candidate in the Northwest Territories during the 2021 federal election. He was up against Lea Mollison for the Conservatives, incumbent Michael McLeod with the Liberals, Roland Laufer with the Greens and Jane Groenewegen, who ran as an independent. (Submitted by Kelvin Kotchilea - image credit)

Despite a close loss against the incumbent Liberal candidate Michael McLeod, the NDP's Kelvin Kotchilea, who was a near second place, isn't too beat up about it.

"I'm actually feeling very happy and positive about the results that I got," Kotchilea told CBC's Loren McGinnis, host of The Trailbreaker Tuesday morning.

"As … a newcomer to politics, it shows you that if you have passion and people get to know you as a person, along with having an education, that people are willing to put that 'X' next to your name."

McLeod led in the polls throughout Monday's election night, but hesitated to declare a win without a late-night concession from Kotchilea. The CBC called the election for McLeod shortly after 1 a.m.. By then, McLeod had 38 per cent of the vote followed by Kotchilea with 33 per cent, though official results won't be confirmed until mail-in ballots are added to the tally.

Kotchilea said that, along the campaign trail, he learned more about the needs of northerners, and that in the next go around for a federal election, he feels he could make more headway.

"If given another opportunity, I'll definitely take another run in the next election," he said.

"I have a lot of gratitude and I feel very connected to a lot of individuals that I have met … there's a lot of passionate and caring people in the N.W.T. that want to help the social issues we're facing."

Kotchilea said COVID-19 was a setback for an election, especially with the increase in COVID-19 cases circulating in the territory.

"Our efforts could have been more to ease that and to reassure communities, and our healthcare system that, you know, they're more important than any election," he said.

"I think people, what they want is help now," he added. "With the [Canada Emergency Response Benefit], it affected a lot of people with housing, it increased rent, there's a lot of people feeling vulnerable."

With the late night — the seat wasn't called until well after midnight — Kotchilea said he hasn't yet had a chance to speak with McLeod.

"I'd like to thank everyone that voted, all the people that volunteered [and] supported me along the way, the people that I got to meet and to my amazing team for working hard during a pandemic," Kotchilea said.

"There's definitely a future in it for me. It's just not my time."

Michael McLeod/Twitter
Michael McLeod/Twitter

Voter apathy a challenge: McLeod

Meanwhile, McLeod told CBC on Tuesday morning that while he is "feeling good" about the results, he acknowledges it was a tight win.

"It certainly wasn't a landslide and the margins were probably a little bit closer than we expected. But we had early indications that we were going to be challenged by voter apathy," he said.

He said several factors collided, including some people's discontent for the Prime Minister, and some who may have been "overconfident that the Liberals were going to win."

He also said the N.W.T.'s COVID-19 outbreak was a "real challenge" in the communities, along with issues with advanced polls, which he said were not readily available.

"Most small communities didn't have easy access," he said. "For example, Norman Wells usually has the advanced polls for the Sahtu. And this time, the advance polls for the Sahtu was in Yellowknife."

At this time of the year, Yellowknife can only be reached by air from the Sahtu communities.

"I think the advance polls only produced one vote for Sahtu," McLeod said.

He said the results showed there was a low turn out overall.

"My supporters come mostly from the communities. And a lot of the communities were being hit by COVID-19. A lot of the communities were busy doing other things," he said.

"The turnout wasn't wasn't great in my favour, but it was enough to produce a win."

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