Election '97
Blondin-Andrew faces little opposition
Federal election doesn't look to exciting in the West

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 14/97) - Speculation of a June federal election may have Ottawa buzzing, but the North has heard only whispers of interest.

Two-term MP and Secretary of State for Training and Youth Ethel Blondin-Andrew (left) remains the Liberal candidate, having won the party's nomination earlier this month by unanimous consent.

Though she had a rocky few months last year, coming under attack for defending her government's gun-control bill and her own credit-card habits, little in the way of an electoral threat has surfaced.

Wally Firth (right), the New Democrat MP for the NWT in the 1970s and a well-known Metis leader from Fort McPherson, is running, but not for any of the parties. Instead, he'll stand as an independent.

Only one potential candidate from the established parties, Mary Beth Levan of the New Democrats, has come forward. Levan, according to a party spokesman, is the partner of Bill Schram, a union activist and the 1993 NDP candidate.

The NDP have scheduled a nomination meeting for April 26 in Yellowknife.

The Reform Party, meanwhile, is in perhaps the worst shape of the major national parties. Its national headquarters was unable to supply any information about a candidate for the Western Arctic.

The Progressive Conservatives, aren't in much better shape. They may be holding a nomination meeting this coming weekend in Yellowknife, but they have no declared candidates and, by the end of last week, even the date wasn't firm, according to party organizer Dave Ramsay.

Asked if there would be a battle for the nomination, Ramsay said there probably wouldn't be, even though three or four people might express interest.

A couple will stand aside and then "one will give way to another because we are all after one thing, a strong candidate," said Ramsay, refusing to supply any names.

Financial backing for the party, meanwhile, needs some shoring up. "We have to get some more. We didn't have a lot of success in the last election and everybody likes to back a winner. We are hoping the candidate will bring in more dollars.

"I know the Liberals have a big war chest but it's not how much money you have, it's whose running that's important," Ramsay said.

"We've been pretty busy on other things, but we've got some new members now. We're just waiting until the writ is dropped, that's when everybody comes out of the woodwork.

"We just want to get a candidate ready and get on with the election," Ramsay said.

"It depends upon who the candidate is, the dynamics of it. It is up to the candidate to decide where he or she wants to go, whatever they feel comfortable with."

One rumor that Ramsay said is making its way about Yellowknife is that George Erasmus is going to run for the NDP.

"That would change the dynamics of the whole election as well."

(Next week: a look at the coming race in Nunavut.)