Who gets how many MLAs? Date set for Yellowknife versus NWT

Aerial view of Yellowknife
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The City of Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories will head to the territory’s Supreme Court in August over political representation.

In a brief court session on Friday, a date of August 12 was set for the full hearing.

The court will aim to complete the case on the day, with a view to ensuring time remains to implement any changes – if ordered – prior to November’s territorial election.

The city’s mayor, leading the action, argues Yellowknife is under-represented in the legislature as it has half of the NWT’s population yet only seven of the 19 MLAs.

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The city feels current MLAs and the minister of justice, under whose domain this falls, have taken no action to remedy the perceived imbalance.

Background: City takes territory to court over political power

An electoral boundaries commission meets every eight years to consider how the territory’s ridings are formed and whether they fairly represent the population. However, its recommendations must be approved by the legislature – in other words, by the MLAs already in place.

“There is a vested interest in preserving the status quo when that is the case,” claimed Heyck last month.

“There’s a bit of a misperception that we’re seeking more seats. That’s not necessarily the case,” he told Moose FM at the time.

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“More effective representation could be provided by a smaller legislature with a different mix of representation from the regions and from Yellowknife. That’s what we’re asking the court to consider.

“What we’re arguing for is equal representation, or as close to it as possible, for all people of the Northwest Territories. We’re not looking to take away the rights of anyone else in the Northwest Territories.”

The court could feasibly keep the status quo in its entirety; keep the same number of MLAs but change the populations they represent; increase the number of MLAs from 19 up to a maximum of 25; or reduce the number of MLAs while reorganizing the ridings.

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