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Appoint an NWT commissioner already, says Yellowknife MLA

A Yellowknife MLA says she doesn’t understand why the federal government is taking so long to name a new commissioner in the Northwest Territories.

George Tuccaro was the last full-time commissioner of the territory, but retired from the position last May after six years of service.

In the 10 months since his retirement, the position has been filled by deputy commissioner Gerald Kisoun.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green says she’s ‘puzzled’ as to why it’s taking so long to name a full-time replacement.

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“I find it surprising that it hasn’t been filled and I also think it’s unnecessary,” she told Moose FM.

“It’s not like we don’t have a number of very qualified candidates who are suitable for that position so I’m puzzled about why it’s taking so long.

“I think that it’s our loss that the position is vacant. We have waited … the better part of a year and so it’s time for the federal government to make this appointment.”

According to the NWT commissioner’s website, the commissioner is considered the Government of Canada’s representative in the territory as well as the NWT’s chief executive officer.

But aside from signing legislation and swearing in members of the legislative assembly, Green says commissioners are in many ways ‘the face of the territory’.

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“I think that the commissioner does have a larger role than just signing bills into legislation,” she said.

“I think that the promotion and goodwill that George Tuccaro spread as commissioner is something that a new commissioner might do as well.”

Green said Tuccaro was especially active in terms of promoting literacy in NWT communities.

‘It seems like there’s an information vacuum’

Even after the latest legislative session, Green says very little headway has been made in terms of naming a full-time commissioner.

“It seems like there’s an information vacuum,” she said. “It seems to be stalled in Ottawa and it’s really Ottawa that needs to answer that question.”

Green says that’s unfortunate given how many qualified candidates are out there and how close it is to Canada’s 150th anniversary.

She’s hopeful the federal government will appoint a female commissioner given how underrepresented women are in territorial politics.

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“I would like to see the commissioner be a woman,” she said. “Women are very underrepresented in the leadership of the NWT.”

“I think that to have … a woman appointed to this role would be very appropriate in terms of giving women more profile in the legislature and encouraging more women to think about running for office.”

As it stands, only two of the territory’s 19 MLAs are female. The territory’s last female commissioner was Glenna Hansen, who assumed the role from 2000 to 2005.

In a short statement to Moose FM, the Privy Council Office said Kisoun will continue to assume the responsibilities of commissioner until the position is filled on a full-time basis.

“The federal government is reviewing the current vice regal and territorial commissioner appointment processes,” it read. “When the review is concluded, the existing vacancies will be filled on an expedited basis.”

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