Wally Schumann, former MLA for Hay River South and minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, is considering a run for the next Conservative candidate of the NWT as he contemplates his next steps as a politician.
After Erin O’Toole won the leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada this week, local party members may have to soon prepare for the next federal election. A confidence vote will follow the Throne Speech on Sept. 23, and if defeated, could trigger and election and bring down the minority Liberal government.
Schumann said this week that he has been considering putting his name forward as a candidate for the Conservatives in the Northwest Territories given his experience with Northern political issues.
“It is a possibility,” he said when asked this week, noting that he has never joined a political party up until recently.
“People have asked me to run and have also asked me to run for the NWT legislative assembly again.
“I’ve yet to decide. A lot of people have considered me to make a run but that is as far as it has gone.”
Schumann said he has been involved with the Conservative leadership campaign as he has participated in Zoom calls at least once with all of the candidates except for Derek Sloan. Those calls were largely to explain political issues in the North to candidates, particularly around challenges of the Northern economy.
In the 2019 NWT election, Schumann as an incumbent lost to Rocky Simpson in the Hay River South electoral district. Simpson took 350 votes to Schumann’s 322.
Up until that time, he considered a potential run for premier.
Tim Syer, president of the the Northwest Territories Conservative Association said that O’Toole’s victory is a positive development and will hopefully lead to more attention to Northern needs that weren’t as closely paid attention to with predecessor Andrew Scheer.
Still, O’Toole’s victory doesn’t put the association in a position where it must rush to get a candidate – at least not yet.
“The general reaction (of O’Toole’s win) within the board and executive is positive,” he said. “We are happy Erin has won and we are looking forward to his leadership and look forward to next election whenever that may be.”
Syer said that if an election were called, he would expect the national party leadership to provide a “time gate” when a candidate would have to be selected.
“If we had (36 days for an advanced election) then I’m pretty sure we would have to find a candidate and have a person installed in short,” he said.
“If the timing were based on a natural legal term, the party will push out a date to give more time to find people that run leadership contests within the riding associations.”
Northern party members have similar interests as had been expressed to Scheer during the last term, particularly around local self-determination.
“We have asks that are similar in the last election in that decisions for the North are being made in the North and mineral and oil and gas royalties are kept in the North,” Syer said.
In the 2019 federal election, the Conservative Party NWT riding association placed second with candidate Yanik D’Aigle. Incumbent Michael McLeod won the seat for the Liberal Party of Canada.
Syer said that despite D’Aigle coming in second last time, he saw it as a strong showing compared to other electoral races.
“I was pleased,” he said. “We haven’t had (an MP) since 1984 and I thought he did better than anyone since Brendan Bell (in 2008) and he was fighting strong headwinds. Michael McLeod is fairly entrenched and with our leader at the time we had not seen much of a northern platform.”
D’Aigle, who had waited until the leadership race was over before announcing his intent, told NNSL Media that he is interested in being the candidate again.
“My intention is to run again,” he said. “I’m the candidate of record until nomination is held and so if we had the opportunity to have a nomination leading up to an election, then at that point there is a competition.”
While he was a Peter MacKay supporter, D’Aigle said there are a lot of positive items in O’Toole’s platform that are “specific to the North and empowering of economic reconciliation.”
“Keeping resources in the North and investing in infrastructure and developing partnerships with Indigenous as equal partners and equal benefactors has always been a conservative motto and you can see it in his platform,” D’Aigle said.
He added that he is also pleased to see O’Toole’s commitment to create an RCMP aboriginal liaison position – a special officer position and pilot program that would entail building education and community service between the national police organization and Indigenous people.