Northern Canada: Northwest Territories elections see many incumbents unseated

Frieda Martselos, former chief of the Salt River First Nation, is the new MLA-elect for Thebacha. Martselos, left, hugging a supporter at her party office. She is unseating cabinet minister Louis Sebert. (Emily Blake/CBC)
In the Northwest Territories communities outside of the capital, only one incumbent fighting for their seat managed re-election in the 19th Legislative Assembly.

There were 34 candidates in the communities that contended for nine MLA seats in the 19th Legislative Assembly in the N.W.T. election on Tuesday. Eight of those seats went to new MLA elects.

Three ridings were acclaimed, all with incumbent candidates: Mackenzie Delta, Monfwi and Hay River North.

Lesa Semmler took a landslide win in the Inuvik Twin Lakes riding with a significant margin over candidates Sallie Ross and Donald Hendrick.

“I don’t have one [main priority], I have a few,” Semmler told CBC after winning. She listed childrens’ education, the economy, jobs, and housing as important issues.

“I can fight for all of those.”

Lesa Semmler took a landslide win in the Inuvik Twin Lakes riding with a significant margin over candidates Sallie Ross and Donald Hendrick. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Semmler, a nurse also known as an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, took the seat with 470 votes — leaving a gap of hundreds of votes between her and Ross, who had 106. Hendrick trailed behind with 41 votes.

The riding was left vacant by outgoing cabinet minister Robert C. McLeod.

Yellowknife saw tight races in many ridings, with three heading to a judicial recount. Caroline Cochrane, Kevin O’Reilly and Julie Green were re-elected in their ridings, with newcomers in Yellowknife North, Yellowknife South, Kam Lake, and Great Slave.

Meanwhile, Diane Thom won the seat in Inuvik Boot Lake, adding another woman to the roster of women MLAs already elected to the 19th Legislative Assembly.

“What an exciting night this has been,” said Thom, a self-government negotiator who served two terms on the Inuvik Community Corporation.

Thom won with 239 votes; Eugene Rees, an economic development officer for the government of the Northwest Territories, followed behind with 179 votes. Dez Loreen and Jimmy Kalinek trailed behind.

Thom, a self-government negotiator, served two terms on the Inuvik Community Corporation, won with 239 votes. (Submitted)

“I feel like the partnership between all the different departments, the different Indigenous groups is really key,” Thom said.

Inuvik Boot Lake was left vacant by outgoing MLA and minister Alfred Moses.

Incumbents Schumann, McNeely, Sebert unseated

After a tight race, Rocky Simpson has been elected as the MLA of Hay River South, taking the seat from incumbent MLA and cabinet minister Wally Schumann.

Results from Elections NWT said Simpson took the win with 350 votes, over Schumann’s 322.

Simpson is a business owner who also served as president of the Hay River Métis Local 51 and as a councillor and deputy mayor in Hay River.

Schumann hoped to get re-elected in the riding. He was first elected in 2015.

Results from Elections NWT say Simpson, left, took the win with 350 votes, over Schumann’s 322. (Submitted)

Paulie Chinna unseated incumbent Danny McNeely in the electoral district of Sahtu, which includes five communities: Colville Lake, Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulita and Deline.

Chinna, a Norman Wells council candidate in 2018, won with 309 votes — just 22 votes ahead of McNeely.

Also running was Wilfred McNeely Jr., a former Sahtu grand chief who also worked on the Sahtu land claim agreement, and Caroline Yukon, a former child protection worker in Deline.

In Thebacha, former Salt River First Nation Frieda Martselos won, with 50 votes ahead of Denise Yuhas. The riding encompasses Fort Smith, the Salt River First Nation and Smith’s Landing First Nation.

Others running were incumbent Louis Sebert, who was first elected in 2015, and Don Jaque, a former journalist and publisher.

Nakimayak, Nadli also unseated

Herb Nakimayak, the incumbent from Paulatuk, has been unseated in Nunakput by former MLA Jackie Jacobson. Jacobson had about a third of the votes with 231.

Nunakput’s MLA elect is Jackie Jacobson. (Elections NWT)

Nunakput is made up of Tuktoyaktuk, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk and had six candidates.

It was a close race between Nakimayak, Annie Steen, Sheila Nasogaluak and Holly Campbell, who had votes in the low hundreds.  Alisa Blake finished sixth, with 48 votes.

In the Deh Cho riding, Ronald Bonnetrouge unseated incumbent Michael Nadli, who was first elected in 2011.

Bonnetrouge is a project manager for the territorial government and former chief of Deh Gáh Got’îê First Nation. Bonnetrouge was also a candidate in 2015.

Steve Norn wins Tu Nedhé-Willideh

Steve Norn has won with about a third of the votes, over four other candidates in the riding of Tu Nedhe-Willideh, formerly held by Tom Beaulieau. It includes the communities of Detah, Ndilo, Fort Resolution and Lutsel K’e.

Steve Norn has won with about a third of the votes, over four other candidates in the riding of Tu Nedhe-Willideh. (Submitted)

Norn is a federal government employee and former RCMP officer. Nadine Delorme is an advocate, student and Sixties Scoop survivor. Paul Betsina is a Ndilo councillor. Lila Erasmus has worked for the territorial government and several Indigenous organizations. Richard Edjericon is a former Yellowknives Dene chief who has worked for the NWT Housing Corporation and the Mackenzie Valley Impact Review Board.

Nahendeh last to poll results

Shane Thompson is the only incumbent who faced an election in the communities outside of the capital to keep his seat in Nahendeh, which represents Fort Simpson, Fort Liard, Jean Marie River, Wrigley, Sambaa K’e and Nahanni Butte.

Thompson won with more than 60 per cent of the votes, with Mike Drake coming in second.

Incumbent Shane Thompson kept is seat in Nahendeh. (Submitted)

Also running in the riding was Randy Sibbeston, an artist and Canadian Ranger, and Eric Menicoche, a Liidlii Kue First Nation councillor and president of Xah Ndah Resources.

Lafferty intends to run for premier

Frederick Blake Jr. was acclaimed in Mackenzie Delta. He was first elected in 2011.

Incumbent Jackson Lafferty, who was first elected in 2005, was acclaimed in Monfwi.

“Feels great to be acclaimed,” said Lafferty, at the CBC North headquarters Tuesday night. Lafferty confirmed that he intends to run for premier.

“Yes I’m putting my name forward,” he said.

In Hay River North, Rocky “R.J.” Simpson, was acclaimed. He’s the incumbent, having first been elected in 2015.

With files from Emily Blake and Mackenzie Scott

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Record number of women elected in Northwest Territories, Northern Canada, CBC News

Finland: Sámi Parliament of Finland torn on local rights, urban influence, Yle News

Norway: Political earthquake shakes up Northern Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Career diplomat to represent Murmansk region in Russian senate, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: What the budget says about Sweden’s minority government, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska governor accepts reduced dividends, upholds most vetoes, Alaska Public Media

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