The N.W.T.’s territorial election campaign is officially underway, after 19 writs — one for each electoral district — were signed and issued Monday morning.
The writs kicked off a 29-day campaign that will culminate in a vote on Oct. 1.
“I’m feeling so excited I can’t even stand it,” said Jan Vallillee, the first candidate to officially hand in her nomination papers. “I’ve been excited the past 48 hours, to be honest with you … I’m pretty geared up.”
In Yellowknife, candidates struggled with locked doors at Centre Square Mall, where a joint office has been set up for the city’s seven returning officers. But a number still managed to gather with an air of nervous excitement before the office opened at 10 a.m.
“It’s kind of like going for a big job interview,” said Kevin O’Reilly, running for re-election in Frame Lake. “Elections can be very stressful.”
“I’m a bit nervous, of course,” said Katrina Nokleby, a candidate in Yellowknife’s Great Slave district. “It’s a first time for me, so everything is new … I actually feel more relief today, now that I can say I’m a candidate.”
Most of the candidates registering Monday morning planned to spend the rest of a dreary Labour Day door-knocking or planting signs around the city.
Signing the writs is the last thing Elections NWT does before handing over the reins for local campaigns to 19 regional elections officers.
“Most of our hard work is done,” said Nicole Latour, the territory’s chief electoral officer. “Now it’s oversight [and] dealing with complaints.”
For the next five days, wannabe MLAs can still submit their nomination papers to local elections officers across the territory and join the race.
Nominees must name an official agent who will accept donations and collect at least 15 signatures of support. They also pay a $200 deposit they forfeit if they fail to submit their financial reports within 60 days of election day.
Once candidates’ nominations are accepted, they receive access to Elections NWT’s “candidate portal,” which contains information on every eligible voter in their district.
The nomination period runs until Friday, Sept. 6 at 2 p.m., but already, the field in some races is getting crowded.
In Kam Lake, one of Yellowknife’s seven seats, incumbent Kieron Testart is expected to face off against four challengers, including former MLA Robert Hawkins.
Thebacha, Nunakput, and Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh are all expected to see at least four-way races.
No races are final just yet — candidates can still withdraw their name anytime until Friday, Sept. 6 at 5 p.m.
Several races could be acclaimed
After the initial flurry of activity Monday morning, several incumbent MLAs were still facing no competition in their bid for re-election.
If no other candidate declares Sept. 6 these candidates will be acclaimed, or declared victorious without a vote.
In Monfwi, which includes the Tlicho communities of Behchoko, Whatì, Gamètì, and Wekweètì, no one has yet declared they will oppose incumbent speaker Jackson Lafferty.
If he was to be acclaimed, it would be the second time in a row Lafferty, first elected in 2005, has faced no opposition.
“Some people come out and declare very early, that’s part of their strategy,” said Latour. “Others hold it close to their chest.”
“So until two o’clock on September 6 … you just absolutely never know.”
Once the nomination period ends, voters can cast their ballot. For the first time, advance voting begins September 6 and continues until election day on Oct. 1.
Voters who want to vote before then need to apply for an advance ballot on the Elections NWT website or at the office of their local returning officer.
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