Campaign rally breaks out at grand opening in Hay River

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Everyone knows that politicians want to take credit for government funding that comes to their communities.

In the process, if that claim wins a few votes, so much the better.

However, perhaps there has never been a more impassioned plea for credit than what was witnessed on June 15 at the grand opening of the new Rec Centre – over 14 months past when the facility actually opened its doors.

To hear Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod tell it, he was the saviour of the Arctic Winter Games and getting the new Rec Centre built in time for that international event in March of last year.

We’re not saying he wasn’t the saviour, but it was just strikingly weird to hear him outline his heroic role in such detail and at such length.

McLeod was the first guest speaker at the grand opening – held in front of the Rec Centre on a sunny and hot afternoon – and he made the most of the opportunity to tout his money-obtaining credentials.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held June 15 during the grand opening of the Rec Centre. On hand for the ceremony were, left to right, Hay River MLA Wally Schumann, former mayor Brad Mapes, Sub-Chief Doug Lamalice of K’atlodeeche First Nation, Mayor Kandis Jameson, Lee Cawson of Aurora Ford, Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod and Judy Goucher, the senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The MP spoke largely about the Arctic Winter Games, even more so than the funding for the Rec Centre, which received $4.2 million in federal money.

Based on McLeod’s speech, the real purpose of the event appears to have become quite obvious to Hay River South MLA and territorial cabinet minister Wally Schumann, who spoke just after the Liberal MP.

“Wasn’t that one heck of a campaign speech,” joked Schumann. “Come on, let’s hear it for Michael McLeod.”

Sometimes there’s a lot of truth in a joke.

Schumann also described the GNWT’s funding involvement, but it was McLeod that seemed by far the most determined to tell everybody about his apparently critical role in getting federal support.

The June 15 event was not really a grand opening. For all intents and purposes, it was a campaign rally for the Liberal candidate in the upcoming federal election.

It was so blatant that McLeod’s speech drifted into a kind of political farce.

When the first hints arose a few weeks ago about a possible grand opening for the Rec Centre, The Hub questioned why it took so long, but agreed it was a good idea even if it was not the town’s idea, but senior government wanting to have its support recognized.

After seeing the grand opening, we were obviously mistaken to support such an event.

What we witnessed on June 15 from McLeod was unseemly.

The town had to expend time and money to organize an event so an MP and the governing Liberals could get appropriate credit, even 14 months after the fact.

We know that was an agreed part of a funding arrangement, but shouldn’t there be some sort of statute of limitations on such an event, especially when there are both territorial and federal elections set for this fall?

To be fair, Schumann was low-key and modest when describing the GNWT’s contribution to the project.

However, the same cannot be said of McLeod. We wouldn’t go as far as to say that his performance was bizarre, but it was definitely very close.

It seems elections make politicians say the darnedest things.

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