Nick Sibbeston resigns as NWT Senator

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After almost two decades is the upper chamber, the long-serving senator for the NWT is resigning from politics.

Senator since 1999, Sibbeston is resigning from the Senate effective Nov. 21.

Nick Sibbeston announced yesterday he has tendered his resignation to Gov. Gen. David Johnston, effective Nov. 21.

“I thought, it’s as good a day as any to pull the plug. To tell the governor general that I would be resigning on my 74th birthday,” he told Yellowknifer. “I have one year left, but in the interest of not just treading water here – just letting go – getting someone else to be the senator, it all added up to me deciding to go.”

Under current legislation, senators must retire when they reach the age of 75.

Sibbeston said he has spent much of his life in public service – 16 years as an MLA and cabinet minister, including two years as premier from 1985 to 1987. He was the fourth premier in the territories’ history.

He took a roughly 10-year hiatus from politics before then-prime minister Jean Chretien tapped him for Senate in 1999. He said he was running his bed and breakfast in Fort Simpson when he received a call from the Prime Minister’s Office telling him he had been shortlisted for the position.

“They told me to expect a call and shortly thereafter the phone rang and Prime Minister Chretien came on the line and said, ‘Hello my friend Nick – how are you?’” said Sibbeston. “He knew me … I had worked with him in the 1970s and I had told him that I didn’t like the fact that southern workers were being brought in to build the Mackenzie Valley Highway. A few weeks later, darned if there wasn’t a change. The southern workers were sent away and local people were hired. Chretien must of thought of me as a rebel.”

Sibbeston said he is not leaving the Senate early because of the changes in the way the Upper Chamber operates. He did say it became drastically different under prime minister Stephen Harper than the Senate he first joined.

“It became so partisan,” he said. “It was unhealthy. It was terrible being there. Anything good you wanted to do was being denied.

Sibbeston added the Senate atmosphere has improved to become more democratic, because the method of choosing new appointees is handled by a committee that reviews applications rather than solely appointment by the prime minister.

NWT MP Michael McLeod, a cousin of Sibbeston’s, said whoever becomes the next senator from the territory will have big shoes to fill.

“Nick has worked hard all his life,” he said. “He has broken trail for many people across the North. As a Northerner and an Indigenous person he has accomplished quite a bit. Not everybody has agreed with him on all issues including myself. But I have a real respect for him.”

Sibbeston said he will spend his new-found free time with family – his seven kids, 18 grandchildren and his wife of almost 50 years, Karen Sibbeston.

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