Do you have the right stuff to be an MLA?

Do you have the right stuff to be an MLA?

If you are thinking seriously about running for MLA in the upcoming NWT election and need help in making up your mind, check out the NWT Status of Women Council’s “Election Resource” to guide and assist you in making the right decisions. No matter what gender you are, the resource material available there is excellent in helping to decide if you do, indeed, want to ‘throw your hat in the ring.’ Obviously such a decision is not to be taken lightly.

The Council’s election guide wisely asks that you consider your personal situation first. Are you committed to other things such as your family, job or demands in your personal life that would be impeded by you becoming an MLA? How would serving in that role affect your own mental well being? It makes good points on what is needed to run a campaign: money, a campaign manager, a team and a sense that you have community support are all part of an intuitive checklist.

‘New blood’ is needed in the legislature to inject energy and ideas, and in some cases, inspire a better way of doing things.

If you are female, the website is particularly compelling. It points out that although women make up almost half of the territory’s population, only 10 per cent of the 19 MLAs were female in this last assembly. That is the pattern across the land at all levels of government, and the website speaks to what its authors think are the causes: Women are “socialized to underestimate their abilities and strengths” and ”conditioned” to defer to “the traditional male role of political activity” it says, and a whole lot more.

Wendy Bisaro of Yellowknife, one of two lonely female MLAs in the current legislature, has indicated she will not run again. Bisaro made an excellent contribution and will leave big shoes to be filled. Jane Groenewegen, the other non-male in the territorial legislature, has yet to make her decision public, but if she decides to run and the people of Hay River decide they want her back representing them, it will be her sixth term in office, an astounding 18 years in public service.

The vast majority of the current sitting male MLAs have indicated they will run again.

Their experience and dedication is greatly appreciated. MLAs have to work hard and those who live outside Yellowknife have to spend a great deal of time away from their families. In addition to those sacrifices, politicians are in the public eye, constantly scrutinized and rarely applauded. It takes a special kind of person to do it well. If you are that kind of person, no matter who you are and what your goals and aspirations are, please, look seriously at stepping up. There is much that needs doing.

First Nations governments are supposed to be partners with the GNWT, but they are not, really. On the other hand, many First Nations are struggling. Is there a way forward for the evolution and strengthening of Aboriginal languages and culture? Are you a person who can help facilitate that and maybe find a better way forward?

The NWT is rapidly evolving and many forces pull it in different directions. It has traditionally followed the ways of Alberta in economy, education, health and, in particular, economic development. Over the last 40 years, the Conservative government has worked closely with industry in the North, and often the inconveniences of environmental protection have been set aside. Constituents demand jobs and the ability to create wealth and enhance their standard of living, so NWT politicians are pressured to act similarly. Now there is ‘a new sheriff’ in Alberta and likely new approaches and different ways of thinking will quickly emerge. Will the NWT government follow suit? It might be an exciting time for change.

How much development should take place and what restrictions, monitoring and accountability will be involved? If offering better protections for the environment is your particular concern, note that Bob Bromley of Yellowknife has indicated he will not run again. An environmentalist, he has championed many causes and has often been the NWT government’s harshest critic. Perhaps you are inspired to take up where Bromley leaves off.

If you are a woman, take a look through the Status of Women website. Why do communities need to have ‘shelters’ for women and children who sometimes fear for their lives from their partners? Why do communities need to have ‘Take Back the Night’ marches that campaign for the safety and security of female residents? Why is there no proper daycare with well-paid and trained staff so that women with children can be freed to re-enter the workforce? There are too many things that need fixing in the lives of women.

New blood is needed in the legislature to inject energy and ideas, and in some cases, inspire a better way of doing things. If you are someone who can make that happen, who wants to make a difference, we encourage you to run for MLA.

The Status of Women Council website can be found at: www.statusofwomen.nt.ca. Look under “Publications” and then “Election Campaign School Starter Kit”.

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