R.J. Simpson elected Premier of the Northwest Territories

Shane Thompson was elected Speaker of the House, while six MLAs were elected to cabinet.

Hay River North MLA and Premier-elect R.J. Simpson in December 2023. (Ian Down/CKLB photo)

R.J. Simpson is the new Premier of the Northwest Territories.

The MLA for Hay River North and former cabinet minister was elected to the top office by colleagues on Thursday.

At the start of the day, there were four nominees for Premier: Simpson, Range Lake MLA Kieron Testart, Yellowknife South MLA Caroline Wawzonek, and Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson. But, in an emotional speech Thursday morning, Thompson dropped out of the race, although he did not immediately say why. Instead, he put his name forward for speaker of the house. He was elected as the only candidate.

After a period of questions by members for the three remaining candidates, members cast their votes. Wawzonek was eliminated after the first ballot, but a second ballot was called to decide between Simpson and Testart.

Simpson will be sworn in as premier later today.

“We made a lot of progress in the last government working with Indigenous governments, and I think that really is the future of the territory: Building those relationships so we can build up the territory and the regions,” said Simpson in speaking to the press immediately after his election.

Simpson also had a message for residents of small and Indigenous communities: “We look forward to visiting you.”

Six MLAs chosen for cabinet

Also on Thursday, six MLAs were elected to cabinet by their peers.

Frame Lake MLA Julian Morse casts his vote for premier on Dec. 7, 2023. (Ian Down/CKLB photo)

As usual, two ministers were chosen from the North, two from the South, and two from Yellowknife; From the North, Nunakput MLA Lucy Kuptana and Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler; From the South, Thebacha MLA Jay MacDonald and Hay River South MLA Vince McKay; And from Yellowknife, Kam Lake MLA Caitilin Cleveland and Yellowknife South MLA Caroline Wawzonek. Only Wawzonek has experience in cabinet.

Seven others also put their names forward: Denny Rogers, Daniel McNeely, Jane Weyallon-Armstrong, Richard Edjericon, Kieron Testart, Robert Hawkins, and Shauna Morgan. This means just four MLAs did not put their names forward for either speaker, premier, or cabinet.

The new cabinet ministers will have their profiles assigned at a later date.

More to come on this story.

About the Author

Ian Down
Ian Down is a general news reporter from the West Island of Montreal. After studying journalism and computer science at Concordia University, he came to Yellowknife in 2021, joining the CKLB team in September 2022. When not behind his desk, you can find him at a local Yellowknife poetry reading, or annoying his roommates by playing his clarinet at odd hours. Feel free to reach out with any tips or story ideas at ian.down@cklb.com, or follow him on Twitter at @IanDown1996.