The 18th legislative assembly is quickly coming to an end and it’s hard not to notice as its days grow shorter the more unabashedly conservative our premier has become.
Undoubtedly much to the annoyance of his brother, Liberal MP Michael McLeod, Premier Bob McLeod has been rubbing elbows with Canada’s five right-leaning premiers all summer long.
He signed a letter to the prime minister with them last month, warning national unity was at stake with the Liberal government’s insistence on ramming through bills C-69 and C-48, which they argued would curtail future resource development while alienating western Canada.
More recently, the premier was flipping pancakes and wearing a cowboy hat with the “Gang of 5” at the Calgary Stampede where they pledged co-operation with each other, followed by a statement a week later with the premiers opining that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should just butt out with his dreaded carbon tax and leave climate policy up to them.
OK, fine then. But now that it’s obvious what direction the premier is pushing, when exactly does McLeod intend to involve the voters of the Northwest Territories? And come to think of it, what are the premier’s plans for his political future? If there is one. It’s 10 weeks until voting day and McLeod has not uttered a peep on whether he holds any desire for an unprecedented third term as NWT premier, or even to seek re-election as MLA.
Maybe his latest bout of throat-clearing is just a summer swan song or McLeod is just warming up for a stab at legislative assembly no. 19. In any event, the premier has kept his cards awfully close to his chest.
To be fair, McLeod has always been pro-resource development and for good reason. The industry represents one third of the NWT’s economy.
Last week, the Conference Board of Canada warned yet again that the NWT will experience the slowest growth among the three territories over the next decade. Declining diamond production, sputtering economic activity in areas like construction, working people forecasted to leave in greater numbers and additional financial pressure put on the backs of taxpayers choosing to stay on behalf of an aging population are all adding up to a grim future.
But it’s hard to avoid drawing a conclusion that Premier McLeod’s target audience for his economic message resides mainly outside of the Northwest Territories, and less so the people who are expected to participate in it.
Northerners expect their premier to be a champion for the North but there are a lot of people in the Northwest Territories who are not at all keen about mining and oil and gas, and likely even less so watching the premier pall around with the likes of Jason Kenney and Doug Ford.
McLeod has not done a whole lot to bring this message to Northerners. Where are the town hall meetings? Taking people’s questions and answering them?
It’s important educating southerners about the NWT’s economic woes, but so is getting Northerners on board with the government’s agenda.
And tell us about your personal political plans while you’re at it.