Victorious in NWT, McLeod eyes seat in Trudeau’s cabinet

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The Liberals turned an early lead in Atlantic Canada to victory Oct. 21.

They never let go, but lost majority status in the House of Commons, winning fewer than the required 170 seats. At press time, they were elected or leading in 157 seats to the Tories’ 121, the Bloc Quebecois’ 32, the NDP’s 24 and the Greens’ three. Former Liberal attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was the only independent elected to the House.

Liberal NWT MP Michael McLeod, left, celebrates defending his seat Oct. 21 alongside campaign manager David Monroe. Brendan Burke/NNSL photo

In the Northwest Territories Liberal MP Michael McLeod also jumped out to an early lead and just kept building over New Democrat Mary Beckett, Green Paul Falvo and Conservative Yanik D’Aigle.

NWT New Democrat candidate Mary Beckett watched the election night results roll in from the Yellowknife Elks Lodge. Brett McGarry/NNSL photo

Shortly thereafter, CBC News projected a win for the Liberals, although short of an overall majority.

Supporters of McLeod spilled into an election results party at Yellowknife’s Chateau Nova Hotel.

There, the MP thanked his family for “standing firmly” behind him.

“You can’t run a campaign without the support of your family. All my cousins in the many, many different communities. Aklavik, Fort Liard, Fort Resolution,” he said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd.

He said he has made 70-something visits to communities. He said the North is back on the radar, thanks to his work and the work of all levels of government.

“(This was) one of the first times in my time as a politician that I’ve seen such cooperation between the federal government, Indigenous governments and municipalities,” he said after he was declared the winner. “The trick was to keep everybody (happy) – not always the easiest thing when your brother’s the premier. So I have to say thank you to all of you. The mayors, the chiefs, the Metis and Inuvialuit leaders.

Now, the re-election “Leaves us now with lots to do,” he said, explaining he’s heard lots of things from the communities. “I want to say in closing thank you to the other candidates.”
After his formal address, McLeod told NNSL Media the win “feels so good.
“It feels very rewarding to know the work I’ve done over the last four years is something that communities of the North see as very important. And they want me to continue, that’s the message I take from it.”

He said there’s probably several options parties could work out in order to work together in the House of Commons.

“Of course that’s going to be the prime minister’s call and I’ll probably be supporting him, so I’ll be very keen to see what the initial discussions hold and once I know what the options are and what everybody’s considering I’ll make sure I provide my input for the North.”
Asked about the possibility of a position in Trudeau’s cabinet, McLeod pointed out he served 12 years as an NWT MLA, including time in cabinet here.
“I’ve worked with Indigenous governments and I’ve been an Indigenous leader, I’ve worked with municipal governments, was the mayor, sat on council there for five terms,” he said. “So I have a lot of experience. I’ve worked in business; so I think I’ve been exposed to almost all fronts that you can imagine.
“I’ve put my name out there, again it’s the Prime Minister’s call. He knows I’m interested. I’ll live with whatever decision he makes.
“I think I would be privileged to get a portfolio.”

McLeod unseated long serving NDP MP Dennis Bevington in 2015.

When the first polls in the country began to roll in from the 32 ridings in Atlantic Canada, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took the lead in 25 ridings, compared to Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, who led in just seven, and Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats, who were on the board with one.

Conservative Yanik D’Aigle finished safely in third in the Northwest Territories Oct. 21. Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

As results started to roll in across Quebec and Ontario, the plight of the NDP appeared bleak as the support they hoped to sap from the embattled Liberals didn’t materialize.

With a small group of base supporters at Yellowknife’s Elks Lodge, Beckett watched reports from the election come in from around the country.

As the polls closed, Beckett and the NDP clawed back and forth between D’Aigle for a distant second place as she conceded the race.

“I am really proud of the campaign we ran and had a great time doing it,” said Beckett.

“This isn’t the end of me just yet.”

Beckett said the NDP need to pick themselves up after this election in the North and that she would do just that.

‘We’ve got to keep working,” said Beckett. “If the Liberals don’t have a majority, and it looks like they don’t, we’re going to be back here in a few years trying again. Don’t count me out yet. I’m willing to run again and improve on my results this time.”

Beckett is a long-time New Democrat and spent some time working as a constituency assistant for Bevington.

Yellowknife Conservative supporters gathered in the Museum Café, cheering on early Tory gains as D’Aigle made the rounds between tables.

He suggested that a Conservative government would make more room for the NWT to self-govern, drawing attention to federal policies like the carbon tax that drew local resistance.

At press time, D’Aigle hadn’t yet conceded the race.

“We got a lot of great supporters. It’s great to see that momentum. It’s only growing. We look forward to it continuing,” he said.

D’Aigle ran an exhaustive campaign through the territory, swinging between the Beaufort Delta the South Slave as he made his pitch to voters.

“I think it’s just like a marathon,” he said. “It’s not about how fast. Sometimes it’s just finishing, making sure you’ve grabbed every water bottle along the way, running that big race. And cheering on right until the end.”

He said a key achievement of his campaign was his ability to listen. “If we’re really looking to change, we have to stop telling people, (from Ottawa), ‘this is how you do it.’

“I think that’s the whole part of my campaign, it was to listen to that Northern voice and bring it back to Ottawa. Let’s change the status quo. And I hope to continue that, if I have the opportunity to do that.”

However, he said the territory is facing an economic challenge that will see GDP sink by 40 per cent. “The reality is we have to make decisions right now about what we’re going to do about it,” he said.

“If we don’t do what we need to today and invest in the people in the North, we’re going to be left and high dry … but we’ve got to have someone that’s ready to steward that and bring us those opportunities.”

– with files from Nick Pearce, Brett McGarry and Brendan Burke

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