When the next federal election rolls around in 2015, Floyd Roland will have a choice to make: stay on as mayor of Inuvik, seek the chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. - or jump into federal politics.
“The next election will be an important one and I will look to it with interest, and am considering what is best for our territory,” Roland said in reply to an email after he joined the chorus of praise for the federal government’s decision to add $50 million to its stake in the estimated $300 million road to Tuktoyaktuk.
“This is a great day for the entire NWT,” Roland said in a press release as president of the Western Arctic Conservative Association (WACA).
The press release was distributed by Sandy Lee, failed Conservative candidate in the last election, and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s special assistant in the Western Arctic, who said she was acting as a party volunteer.
The road will reduce the cost of shipping goods into Tuktoyaktuk, which relies heavily on airplanes and is pegged at about $3 per pound. Once the highway is complete, trucked deliveries are expected to cost just 15 cents per pound, Roland said.
“The highway will also mean work. We can expect more than 1,000 jobs will be created during the four-year construction period and an additional 42 permanent careers will be available for those maintaining the road after it is built.”
Although the party’s website has yet to reflect the change, Roland was elected WACA president in mid-December, he said, and was a member of the Conservative party while serving as premier, a term dogged by controversy over a sexual encounter with a clerk of the legislature and a non-confidence vote.
“I guess you can say (it is) a first purely political post. Of course in life most things involve some politics, right?” he said. “As I have grown with experience, I am seeing that my values align with the party I have selected to be a part of.”
Roland has been a popular politician. He first won election in 1995 and was re-elected in 1999 with 83 per cent of the vote. He was acclaimed in 2003 and again in 2007 when members of the legislature chose him as the territory’s 11th premier.
When Roland retired from territorial politics last year, it was widely speculated he would challenge Nellie Cournoyea for the leadership of the IRC, but he opted to continue in his new post as mayor of Inuvik.
Taking a run at Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington would be no less challenging. Bevington has held the seat for the NDP since 2006 when he unseated Liberal incumbent Ethel Blondin Andrew and has held it against a series of formidable candidates – including former premier Joe Handley.
Past Conservative candidates made strong showings in the traditional party strongholds of Hay River and Beaufort-Delta, but none have been able to break the NDP grip on Yellowknife.