McLeod enters the race
Mayor of Fort Providence making a bid for the legislature

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 22/99) - It will be at least a two-horse race in the Deh Cho.

Michael McLeod, mayor of Fort Providence, announced his candidacy this week for Deh Cho MLA. He said he's basing his campaign on "the grassroots issues," employment and housing.

"My theme is that I want to be able to revitalize the economy of this area," McLeod said from his home Sunday. "We need jobs and we need housing."

Incumbent Sam Gargan had already made it clear that he intends to run again, seeking his fifth consecutive term. In the last territorial election, Gargan defeated Rick Lafferty and Joachim Bonnetrouge to remain the Deh Cho's MLA.

McLeod said he's running on his own merits and isn't interested in criticizing Gargan's performance.

"I believe Sam has been there a long time and has done the best he can," he said.

McLeod, who had been working as the economic development officer in Fort Providence until taking leave of that job last week, was elected mayor of the community in December. His political experience began when he was elected chairman of the settlement council at 22 years of age. He also served two terms as Metis Local No. 57 president. His previous employment includes five years as band manager and 10 years as a contractor.

He said he considers a number of capital projects as highlights of his nine-and-a-half month tenure as mayor, such as the million-dollar addition to the arena. That addition started out as a "small contribution" for a curling rink and went on to include a lounge area, a cafeteria, a heated viewing area and more washrooms.

"We've done quite a bit and that's because we've done our homework by finding out what the community actually wanted by going out and doing a recreation study," he said.

Among other accomplishments, McLeod referred to the initiation of discussions of a new governance system among the Combined Council Alliance, which has representation from the Deh Gah Gotie Dene Band and Metis Local No. 57. He also cited the community's efforts to prepare for oil and gas exploration and development.

"That's an issue, I think, that's going to be of great importance to this region," he said.

McLeod does not have to vacate his mayoral seat until the outcome of the election. He may do so prior to that if hamlet council decides it would be prudent, he said. The next council meeting is scheduled for next week.

"The way it stands right now, I have a lot of projects on the go and a lot of things I have initiated and I'd like to follow through with them," he said. "I'm hoping that if I do get elected, I'll still be able to be around and work with whoever gets elected (as mayor) and probably be able to do a lot more from the other side of the fence, sitting as an MLA."