WHEN THE HEART SAYS NO: Secret vote for premier is necessary by MLAs

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A recent News/North editorial (“Secret vote makes charade of ‘consensus’ government,” Oct. 7) says, “the only logical explanation as to why MLAs decline to openly declare their selections for premier and cabinet is because they don’t want to be held accountable for them by voters.” Eschia!

As a former MLA, I couldn’t disagree more.

Secret ballot voting is a fundamental part of democracy. And declaring who you’re voting for is like voting by a show of hands.

I agree it’s easier for Yellowknife MLAs to announce who they will vote for because they have a party of seven MLAs working for Yellowknife issues. And they will most likely vote for other Yellowknife MLAs.

Meanwhile, MLAs from small communities work alone for their constituents. Being a one-man show is a very lonely act indeed, especially when you’re working for several communities. Sniff, sniff.

Declaring who you’re voting for can be dangerous for the MLA from a small community. If someone that the MLA didn’t vote for becomes premier or a minister, the leader could withhold or delay funding for projects in that MLA’s district. Not cool, man.

The editorial tries to make a comparison to party politics by saying MLAs and MPs are not afraid to support their leaders while in opposition, so why should our MLAs be afraid to declare who they’re voting for as premier and ministers.

But there’s no comparison whatsoever. No way, Jose.

People in party politics supporting their leader is very different from a personal vote that could deny giving someone power and a very substantial raise in salary.

Let’s look at what’s at stake here. MLAs make $108,000 a year. But being elected premier not only provides overwhelming power, it also provides a raise in salary of $82,000 a year.

Whew. Over four years, that’s $328,000. Wahway. You could say that’s 328,000 reasons why a person might want to get even with you if he sees you voting against him. Crazy man.

Let’s go a little further. That $82,000 is a 77 per cent increase in pay. Don’t forget that the premier’s pension will also increase by 77 per cent, and the pension lasts until a person dies. That’s another huge reason for them to be peeved at you.

To top it off, none of Canada’s major parties select their leader by a show of hands. They are done by secret ballot as well. The only difference is that the membership votes for the leader, not only the MPs.

And the MPs and MLAs don’t all declare who they’re voting for. That’s the true comparison.
An editorial in the Yellowknifer, “the Premier is not the Pope,” (Oct. 11) also bashed the selection process for premier.

The editorial said by being a two-term premier, Bob McLeod went against an unwritten rule that premiers rotate between MLAs in the North, south, and Yellowknife. You think that’s true? I don’t.

Certainly, when we voted for premier when I was an MLA in 1995, we were never told we should elect a premier from a certain area.

And I doubt if it has ever been in place, because George Braden was the first premier from Yellowknife and that was in 1983. We did not have another premier from Yellowknife until Joe Handley was elected in 2003; that is eight premiers later. Whoa!

Yet, according to the Yellowknifer editorial, every third premier should have been from Yellowknife.

There is also a clear process, with a clearly marked ballot, to select two ministers from the North, two from the south, and two from Yellowknife. There is no such process, or ballot, for selecting the premier from a certain area.

Any MLA can put their name forward for premier, and MLAs vote for who they want.
At any rate, I’m glad the process has been improved but not changed to make MLAs declare who they’re voting for as premier and cabinet.

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