Boundaries report highlighted Yk's lack of MLAs in '83
NNSL (Sep 25/98) - Concerns about a lack of representation for Yellowknife in the NWT Legislative Assembly appear to be nothing new.
In 1983, the chair of a NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission study filed a dissenting report after the city didn't receive an additional representative after the commission recommended the legislature be increased from 22 to 24 members.
Mr. Justice Joseph Potts argued the principle of representation by population was one that shouldn't be ignored. In his view, Yellowknife was not fairly represented in the legislature even back then.
"There is no question... that it is much easier for a member of the legislative assembly from Yellowknife to serve his or her constituents," he wrote. "But the role of a member ... is not merely to serve constituents in the sense of ensuring that they receive from government everything to which they are entitled."
"The other, and probably the more important role, is to represent constituents by speaking and voting for them in the legislative assembly."
The other two commissioners were then Fort Simpson chief Jim Antoine and Arviat's David Alagalak.
The report called for the division of the Mackenzie Liard riding into two Deh Cho ridings and the division of Central Arctic riding also into two. With three seats in the assembly, no recommendations was made to increase Yellowknife's share.
Potts' also said a citizen's MLA performs a vital function when in the assembly.
"The member of the legislative assembly is the voice of his or her constituents and when he or she votes in the assembly he or she is exercising political power on their behalf," he said. "This is what democracy and representation by population is all about and why it cannot be ignored."
Yellowknife City Coun. Robert Slaven, a proponent of increased MLAs for the city, said it's unfortunate Justice Potts' views were ignored back then.
"It would have been great if we got the fourth seat then," he said. "It would have put us on the right path if we'd received the fourth seat."
An additional MLA for Yellowknife was not granted until 1991.