MLAs bid farewell to four MLAs as 18th Assembly sits for final time

There were tears, laughter, glad-handing, backslapping and chest thumping as the members of the 18th Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly sat for the final time on Friday.

It was pointed out that when the 18th Assembly convened four years ago, a 230 item mandate was declared.

Of that, 202 were completed, 10 are in progress and 18 went unfulfilled.

Premier Bob McLeod noted that this was the first full term assembly after the Devolution Agreement was finalized with the federal government in 2014.

It gave the territorial government control over the NWT’s land, water and resources.

McLeod went on to tout some of the accomplishments his government achieved or helped achieve over the last four years.

They include: the completition of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway, the opening of the new Stanton Territorial Hosptal in Yellowknife, the creation of the Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, the approval of the Tlicho all-season road, the plan to turn Aurora College into a polytechnic university, the soon-to-open new women’s correctional facility in Fort Smith, and the opening of a new day shelter/sobering centre in downtown Yellowknife.

McLeod also noted the passing of the NWT 9-1-1 Act, although residents are still waiting for the emergency phone service that most of the rest of Canada takes for granted to be implemented.

It is supposed to be operational across the territory by November.

The day wasn’t without controversy as two Yellowknife MLAs, Kieron Testart and Kevin O’Reilly, voted against the passage of the $160 million capital budget.

Testart said it was formulated without proper consultation with the public while O’Reilly said the budget didn’t help with a much needed new water line in Yellowknife and came with no funding for visitor services in Whati, Tuktoyaktuk and Yellowknife.

Despite their opposition, the budget easily passed.

The most poignant moment of the session came when Education Minister and Range Lake MLA Caroline Cochrane thanked her elderly mother Shirley Cochrane who was sitting in the public gallery.

The minister said she owed everything she has ever accomplished to her mother, who she said she hadn’t seen in two full years.

Shirley Cochrane, who has now retired to B.C. , spent most of her life in the NWT but had never set foot in the legislative assembly until Friday.

Minister Cochrane and Testart were the only MLAs to thank CKLB for its coverage and the daily re-broadcast of Legislative Assembly proceedings.

Paper rains down on MLAs on the final sitting of the 18th Legislative Assembly Friday
(John McFadden/CKLB photo)

Members also thanked their staff and bid farewell to four MLAs who are not running in the fall election.

They are: cabinet ministers Robert C. McLeod, and Alfred Moses, both MLAs from Inuvik, Glen Abernethy and regular member Tom Beaulieu, a former cabinet minister.

McLeod served three and a half terms having been elected in a byelection, Abernethy and Beaulieu three terms and Moses two terms.

In all, they account for 46 years of service in the Legislative Assembly.

McLeod described the day as “bittersweet.”

The day ended with reams of paper being dumped onto the Assembly floor from the public gallery and MLAs along with NWT Commissioner Margaret Thom joining in a drum dance in the Great Hall to the beat of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation drummers.

MLAs dance to the beat of the Yellowknives Dene Drummers on the final day of the 18th Legislative Assembly
(John McFadden/CKLB photo)

The 18th Assembly dissolves officially on August 31.

The territorial election happens on October 1 and the 19th Assembly is to sit for the first time on Oct. 24.




About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.