EDITORIAL: McLeod alone on battlefield

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With a federal election coming and the Trudeau government desperately wrestling with a scandal that won’t go away, now would seem the time for the opposition to start shopping some alternatives to anxious voters in the North.

Be it a peculiarity or a blessing, political aspirants in Canada are typically pretty slow at getting the word out about their desires to seek public office. It’s the opposite of the U.S. where politicians seem to spend more time running than governing.

The Northwest Territories is no different, where six months from Election Day, only the faintest whispers have been heard as to who might try to contest NWT MP Michael McLeod’s re-election chances.

From what we can tell, McLeod appears to have done an adequate job in getting recognition for the NWT by the federal government and, as shown in last month’s budget, he has delivered on numerous Northern demands.

One only has to look at the special section for the North in the budget and investments made to get work started on the Taltson hydroelectricity mega-project, a number of beneficial changes to the tax regime, investments to to the road to Whati, a green light for Thaidene Nene National Park and new money over five years for Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning to see that he has been bending ears in Ottawa.

The current problem, and it’s a problem for most Liberal MPs, is the spider web known as SNC Lavalin that has so entangled the party’s leader, Justin Trudeau.

McLeod has been forced into an uncomfortable position, on one hand calling the pressure Trudeau and his minions had put on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould as “improper,” while insisting he still supports him.

The Liberal government has proven itself to be ethically challenged after serious allegations arose earlier this year that Wilson-Raybould felt pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in the prosecution of the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC Lavalin, which is facing bribery and fraud charges. To add further salt the wounds, Wilson-Raybould was thrown out of caucus, with Trudeau condemning her secretly recorded conversation with Privy Clerk Michael Wernick as “unconscionable.”

Her shabby treatment has rankled Canada’s Indigenous community, who have witnessed two prominent Indigenous cabinet ministers, first Hunter Tootoo of Nunavut, and now Wilson-Raybould, pushed out of cabinet in less than four years.

This is not going to look any better in the Northwest Territories where more than half the population is Indigenous.

That said, as of yet, McLeod’s path forward for re-election remains wide open. The Conservatives announced April 12 that Leona Aglukkaq will attempt a comeback in Nunavut this fall, but in the NWT neither the Conservatives, the New Democratic Party, which used to hold the seat, or the Greens have had anything to say about McLeod’s performance or how they would be a better choice.

The Conservatives did adopt a policy last year at its party convention to give back all resource royalties to the territories but that was so, what’s the word? 2018.

Presumably the opposition parties will all come alive before the end of summer but until then, the field belongs to McLeod.