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An electoral first in Liard

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 18/06) - An NWT voting first - or should that be a non-voting first - is believed to have happened Dec. 11.

No candidates were nominated for the five seats available on Fort Liard hamlet council.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Merven Gruben is one of five councillors to be elected in Tuktoyakytuk. - Philippe Morin/NNSL photo

Gail Cyr, the chief municipal electoral officer with the GNWT, believes that never before in the NWT has there been no candidates in a municipal election.

Fort Liard still has a functioning council until its term is up Jan. 2.

"They're not without a council," Cyr said.

The outgoing council could appoint other people to fill the soon-to-be-empty seats.

If there are no appointments, the council would be left with a mayor and one councillor.

Cyr said Fort Liard often has a difficult time finding candidates because many of the 600 residents work outside the community. "It's difficult for them to commit."

Previously, the closest the NWT came to having no candidates was also in Fort Liard. In 2000, only one person ran for mayor and no one for council.

For the Dec. 11 vote, the number of mayoral and council candidates was at the lowest point in 10 years.

There were 67 candidates for councils.

"That's low," Cyr said.

The previous low was 74 in 2002, while the high was 139 last year.

This year, there were only four people running for three positions as mayor.

Two mayors were acclaimed - Robert Eldridge in Sachs Harbour and Peter Malgokak in Ulukhaktok.

The only person to win a mayor's seat at the ballot box was Fort Providence's Tina Gargan, who won over incumbent mayor Maggie Levavasseur.

Gargan said it is good to have an election, rather than being acclaimed mayor.

"That means we have to challenge ourselves individually," she said. "A challenge is good. A challenge keeps us on our toes."

Cyr noted voter turnout was generally low, in the 30 per cent range in a few communities.

She attributes that to the fact there weren't many races for mayor, which usually attracts the most interest from voters.

"It makes a difference," she said.

However, Enterprise bucked the trend with an impressive 87 per cent voter turnout. Out of 61 eligible voters, only eight failed to cast a ballot.

"It's nice to see the interest in the community," said Mayor Winnie Cadieux, noting it's not uncommon to have turnout rates in the 75 to 80 per cent range in Enterprise.

Cadieux needed every one of the votes cast for her as she tied for the last council seat available with Alan Kimble. The tie was broken when Cadieux's name was drawn at random.

"I've never experienced that before," she said.

Of the communities which held elections on Dec. 11, only Enterprise and Fort Resolution do not hold separate elections for mayor. Instead, those councils choose mayors.

Cadieux said she is happy to be back on council. As for remaining mayor after the new council takes over in January, she said. "It may be time for a change."

Also of note in Enterprise, Coun. Karl Mueller was not re-elected. Mueller was suspended from council for eight meetings prior to the election for leaking information to the public from an in-camera meeting.

There was also another tie in Tuktoyaktuk between Maureen Gruben and Georgina Jacobson-Masazumi. It was also broken with a draw, with Gruben emerging victorious.

NNSL Photo/graphic