Seeking an unprecedented second term as the territory’s leader, Bob McLeod pledged he can bring about change demanded by voters.
McLeod, Premier of the NWT since 2011, would be the first modern-day politician to assume the office for more than four years.
He faces Glen Abernethy, health minister for the past two years, in a race to be decided by a secret ballot of MLAs next Wednesday, December 16.
In full: Text of Bob McLeod’s speech to MLAs
In an opening speech to MLAs and the public, McLeod pledged to open up the government with a newly appointed “minister responsible for transparency and democratic engagement”.
As that speech concluded, he insisted another four years under his leadership would not be more of the same.
“I see myself as an agent of change,” McLeod told Moose FM. “I can deal with very difficult issues and we have some very difficult issues to deal with in this 18th Assembly.
“We need to work more as a consensus government where we all pull together, get in the same canoe and start paddling in the same direction. We need more openness and transparency while respecting the need for confidentiality and cabinet solidarity.”
McLeod appeared to imply that other MLAs had obstructed the smooth working of government in his past four years.
“We spent a lot of time on openness and transparency. We spent a lot of time on protocols, on how we can work better together,” he said, asked if the NWT should have focused on accountability earlier.
“It became difficult because of some of what was happening in the previous assembly. I think the public saw through that and they gave a clear message that they want us to work more closely together – and involve more of the public as well.”
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McLeod’s speech emphasized that while he is associated with the past, he sees this miniature leadership campaign in terms of “the present and the future”.
Looking four years ahead, McLeod told us he expects the territory to be “in a lot better shape” under his auspices.
“The 18th Assembly will be the first post-Devolution. Our economy is very fragile right now, we have a difficult fiscal situation,” he said.
“But I think – four years from now – we’ll be well-positioned to go forward, we’ll settle all of the land claims to provide more certainty, and we’ll work to develop our economy.”