Three of the longest serving politicians in the territory - and the same contenders from the last election race - have thrown their hats in for MLA of Thebacha again.
Miltenberger tries for fifth term
It is widely speculated that the long term Fort Smith politician, who was appointed Deputy Premier in the last assembly, will be a prime contender for the premier’s seat if he is elected this year. He spent the last term as minister for three major portfolios: environment, health and finance.
“In 16 years, we’ve literally helped thousands of people that have walked through our door,” Miltenberger told The Journal. “Everybody and anybody. The door is open, we are there, we represent everybody, we make no distinctions. And we have provided 16 years of political stability in public government.”
Miltenberger said those 16 years have included a steady flow of funding into Fort Smith, as well.
“There has been 16 years of consistent capital projects in this community, from way back to the repaving of the airport, student housing, seniors’ housing, schools renovated, the health centre,” he said. “So on the capital side, the job numbers in Fort Smith are strong.”
In his years in legislature, Miltenberger passed significant pieces of legislation, including the Species at Risk Act, tobacco legislation, Midwifery Program and legislation, the Heritage Fund and Water Strategy.
But he said some of the biggest work has been made on negotiations of important issues and the new consultation processes that he introduced, which he said will be crucial in moving forward on a devolution agreement and trans-boundary water agreement.
“Even though it didn’t pass, I think the Wildlife Act is a very significant piece of work combined with the Water Strategy and the Species at Risk Act and helped create that new process that is going to lead us down the trail of negotiating a successful devolution agreement done in partnership with the Aboriginal governments,” he said.
Miltenberger’s time in legislature was not without its own drama, however. In 2006, he was removed from cabinet for gestures made to Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay, believed to be a threat of firing Ramsay’s wife and brother. Miltenberger was reappointed to cabinet in the next assembly.
He has also been criticized for the lack of completion of paving on Highway 5, which began being chip sealed in 2003 and has 64 km still to be done. Miltenberger, however, said those who complain should understand that sacrifices have to be made to secure financial stability in a recession.
“There are far more demands than we have resources in the North and on the transportation side we have good chunks of the NWT that don’t even have roads,” he said. “So for those who would complain, I would say this: we have made choices in this community. Would we rather chip seal than have seniors’ housing? Would we rather not have renovated our schools, repaired our health centre – are those not things we should do first? What’s most important?”
Marie-Jewell wants back in office
“I want to help people,” she told The Journal. “I was born and raised in Fort Smith and feel very compassionate about the community. Fort Smith is my home.”
Marie-Jewell served as MLA for the district from 1987 to 1995, during which she held a number of cabinet posts, including minister of social services, personnel, youth and the minister responsible for the women’s secretariat.
She was elected as the first woman speaker for the NWT in 1993.
“I’ve got the experience, the energy, the compassion and the understanding,” she said. “I feel like I’m courageous, yet compassionate. I’m friendly, yet firm. I’m humble, yet understanding. I’m certainly not a boastful person, but I’m very direct and outspoken.”
Marie-Jewell said she would work towards improving the quality of life of all Fort Smith residents by completing a trans-boundary water agreement and opposing “Site C” dam expansion, as well as finishing the Highway 5 paving project and creating funding to help struggling small businesses and students.
But a major area of concern for Jewell is quality of life for seniors. She is proposing doing away with the means test for fuel subsidies to get them across the board for seniors.
“I want to ensure seniors can retire comfortably in Fort Smith and that they’re not feeling threatened that their benefits will be taken away,” she said. “We as the younger generation should do everything we can to let them retire in a comfortable setting.”
As MLA for eight years, Jewell said she finished her terms with a “record of accomplishments,” including the creation of the River Ridge correctional facility, relocating the women’s correctional facility from Yellowknife to Fort Smith, expanding Aurora College, getting a “state of the art” water treatment facility for the Town, and creating the Northern Lights personal care home.
A series of controversies coloured her second term both in the legislature – where she was forced to take anger management coaching – and at the riding level where there were divisions in the community. Her support eroded and Jewell’s territorial political career ended after two terms when she was beaten by Michael Miltenberger in 1995.
But Marie-Jewell is ready for another round.
“Because I’m older and wiser, I have the ability to listen, understand and compromise. I think it’s important to note that I’m also a forgiving person. It’s a matter of having to hear what the concerns are and be able to look at matters in a fair manner.”
Martselos runs again for MLA
“It is an honour and privilege when citizens of Fort Smith come and ask me to run for MLA for Thebacha,” he told The Journal. “I’m running because I want to represent all the citizens of Fort Smith to the best of my ability. I love people and I love the community.”
Martselos served as mayor for 12 years, ending in 2009. He served as councillor and deputy mayor over the dozen years before that, as well. He said his municipal experience would be of benefit to him during his first term in the legislature.
“I’m so confident working in the legislature because I know the majority of the people who are there…and my working relationship was excellent with every one of them, from premiers, ministers and MLAs,” he said.
Marstelos said his greatest accomplishment as mayor was that no taxes were raised in the time he was at the helm.
“There is no other municipality or any other government able to run for 12 years without increased taxes,” he said.
His time in office, however, was not without controversy. In his last years as mayor, it was discovered that large bonus payments were being made by the town to then-SAO Roy Scott. Scott was dismissed shortly after in the spring of 2009 after 16 years working as senior bureaucrat for the town and a short legal review was done.
But the review’s detailed findings were never publicly released due to an agreement struck between the lawyer for Scott and those hired by the past mayor and council. No kind of accusation toward anyone, nor any explicit exoneration of any parties, including Martselos, members of council, Scott or anybody who did business with the Town, has ever been made.
Martselos said the report does not indicate anything was amiss and said it would not be a factor in the upcoming election.
Outside of municipal politics, Martselos was primarily a small business owner in the 42 years he has lived in Smith. He said his business perspective will be beneficial in creating economic growth within town.
“I’m pro business,” he said. “I’ve done business myself all these years and I always support small business and I want to see more because the small business is the back bone of the community.”
“We have to have jobs here, especially for the youth,” he continued. “We have a college, a very good institution, our youth finish high school and are going to the college or going to university, but there’s no jobs here for them to return to the community.”
Apart from his stance on business, Martselos’ campaign promises include finishing paving Highway 5, trying to secure more doctors in the community, bringing a Territorial Fire Centre to Fort Smith, securing more benefits from the Taltson Hydro Facility and setting up a Community Consultation Group for addressing local needs, among others.
Originally from Greece, Martselos is the husband of outgoing Salt River First Nation Chief Frieda Martselos, who resigned last week.