There will be a race in Hay River South in the upcoming territorial election.
Rocky Simpson, a businessman and father of Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson, is going to challenge incumbent Wally Schumann.
“My big thing is I’m from here and Hay River to me is number one,” said Simpson of his decision to run.
The new candidate is owner of Concept Energy Services Ltd., which builds modular buildings.
The 63-year-old has a list of concerns, including housing, medical care, education, support for seniors, the fishing industry, improving highways, small business, affordable power and many more.
However, he said his mandate, if elected, will really depend on what the people of Hay River tell him it should be.
Plus, he said he would focus on community concerns as expressed by town council.
“Because they’ve got the pulse of Hay River,” he said. “So if they want more land, we’ve got to bang open doors for them.”
This is his first time running to become an MLA.
Simpson did serve on town council about 30 years ago, and was once president of Hay River Metis Local 51.
However, he noted he is actually a Status Indian and a member of Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., the home of his father.
Simpson said his decision to run is not related to his experience with the NWT Housing Corporation in 2017, when a contract was cancelled after Concept Energy Services Ltd. fell behind on work to build 19 modular homes for communities around the territory.
The candidate said he is occasionally asked about that contract.
“You could look at it as being negative, or you could look at it as being positive,” he said. “I look at it as something positive because now it forced the government to start looking at building things in the communities again.”
Simpson also pointed to several factors in the loss of the contract, including the decline of oil exploration impacting his business and not getting enough up-front money to finish the work.
Even though the contract was lost, he said it created employment and work for other local firms supplying building materials and products.
Simpson is also sometimes asked about the possibility that, if he is elected in Hay River South and his son is re-elected in Hay River North, the town would be represented in the Legislative Assembly by a father and son.
“I think that, between him and I, we could do a lot for Hay River,” said the elder Simpson. “We talk to each other, and that’s very important.”
As for the family relationship in politics, he points to brothers Premier Bob McLeod and NWT MP Michael McLeod.
“Do they say anything about them?” asked Simpson.
The would-be MLA has lived in Hay River all his life, except for time away at school during which he earned a law degree.
While he is now in business, he still practises law pro bono – for free – to help people with things like wills and land transfers.
Simpson believes his legal experience would “definitely” help if he is elected to represent Hay River South.
Asked about facing Wally Schumann, who became a prominent cabinet minister during his first term in the legislative assembly, Simpson said, “Can I do a better job? Yes.”
The new candidate expects a close race in Hay River South.
Simpson’s given names are Pierre Michael, but he intends to campaign under the nickname Rocky.
“I’ve been known as Rocky since Day One,” he noted.
Simpson also pointed out that the NWT Elections Act states a person should use the name he or she is commonly known by in a community.