And then there were two. Western Arctic Liberal Association president Kieron Testart dropped out of the race for the federal Liberal nomination in the NWT last week, throwing his support behind recent joiner Michael McLeod.
McLeod, a former MLA and brother to the NWT premier who announced his candidacy only two weeks ago, now faces just one challenger for the shot at MP, Gail Cyr of Yellowknife.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but we are literally days away from a federal election call, and now is the time for unity and the time to put all the goals behind a strong candidate who can defeat Stephen Harper and bring about that real change that Northerners are looking for,” Testart told the Journal on Thursday.
Testart said it was clear McLeod came into the race with a great deal of support behind him, making him a major contender.
“I support Michael in that role. I think he’s the best positioned based on his connections with indigenous people in government, and the non-indigenous people as well, his deep understanding of territorial issues and his track record as someone who’s effective at delivering on those issues and making a real difference in people’s lives.”
McLeod said he only recently met Testart, but was impressed by his personable nature and knowledge of the issues. He said the two share the same vision for the North.
“I’m very honoured that someone would step down to support me,” McLeod said. “It’s something I’m sure wasn’t easy, so I’m very thankful to him.”
Going forward, Testart said he would continue to be involved in politics and the public service, though in what capacity is yet to be determined.
“It is a year of three elections, and there are many opportunities to give back to public life in the Northwest Territories, which is of course my objective,” he said. “I’ve heard loud and clear what the issues Northerners are most passionate about, the challenges that Northerners are struggling with, and I want to take action and make a difference – a positive difference. I’m looking at opportunities to find a way to do that.”
McLeod said he would welcome Testart to his team, especially in the area of media relations.
“He has good contacts here and in Ottawa, and good ideas,” McLeod said. “He’s a smart guy, young, and I can tell he’s going to have a bright future down the road.”
Testart is the second candidate to drop out of the open nominations race for the Liberal MP candidate slot. Earlier this year, Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins also withdrew from the federal race and has since announced he will be running for MLA again this fall.