Former MP says 2013 merger of Tu Nedhé-Wıı̀lı̀deh communities ‘ignored’

Former MLA Tom Beaulieu says while the commission revises constituency boundaries, there are lingering issues with a 2013 constituency reshuffle. (CBC – image credit)

The Northwest Territories is in the process of reviewing its electoral boundaries and former Tu Nedhé MP Tom Beaulieu said it bears repeating that the consolidation of Ndilǫ, Dettah, Łutselk’e and Fort Resolution in a single electoral district in 2013 was a disservice to the distinct culture, language and concerns of the communities. .

Beaulieu said at the time that the voices of the four communities “were completely ignored”.

“The option of keeping them separate was not on the table at all,” Beaulieu said.

The NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission will table its report examining the number, size and boundaries of electoral districts in the territory at the May sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

As politicians share their views on consensus government, Beaulieu worries about a redrawn border that merged the four communities into a single border and influenced his decision not to run for re-election.

In 2013, NWT MLAs voted 10-7 to retain 19 seats in the Legislative Assembly and combined the Wıı̀lı̀deh constituency with Tu Nedhé.

At the time, Beaulieu and former Monfwi MP Jackson Lafferty argued for a 21-seat scenario – saying there was too much work in their areas and not enough seats to handle all of the community’s concerns.

Bob Bromley, MPP for Weledeh from 2007 to 2015, also said his constituents opposed the change.

Decide on 19 or 16 seats



The first option proposed by the latest commission is to keep 19 seats and move the boundaries to Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik, add Enterprise to Hay River South and move Sambaa K’e and Jean Marie River from Nahendeh to Deh Cho .

The second would drop to 16 seats, removing one MP each from Hay River, Yellowknife and Inuvik and leaving Nunakput, Mackenzie Delta, Sahtu, Monfwi and Tu Nedhé-Wıı̀lı̀deh unchanged.

According to a 2021 interim report produced by the electoral commission, 70% of the territory’s population lives in Hay River, Yellowknife, Inuvik and Fort Smith, represented by 12 ridings.

Electoral Boundaries Commission

Electoral Boundaries Commission

In 2013, the Electoral Boundaries Commission report argued that some districts, such as Tu Nedhé, were overrepresented, but Beaulieu said assigning deputies based solely on population size missed the point.

A constituency with an average family income well over $160,000 may have thousands of voters, but does not place the same demands on an MP serving a community of 700, with half the voters having an average family income of $60,000, he said.

Even when the Tu Nedhé constituency only represented Fort Resolution and Łutselk’e, people felt the one MP they shared was very busy, Beaulieu said.

“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people [in high income communities] chasing after the MP…the government, because they don’t have enough income, or proper housing to support their families,” he said.

One language at home, one left out

Language and culture are another point of contention. Having an MLA would likely mean either Wıı̀lı̀deh Yatıı̀ or Dëne Sųłıné Yatıé (Chipewyan) would be spoken to in the legislature, but not both, Beaulieu said.

“You couldn’t have both those cultures and those languages ​​represented in the house,” he said, because they would have to speak both regional dialects.

Opposition to the merger into a single constituency was visible at public meetings, he said.

“People opposed it. I think we had more people at the Dettah meeting than we had at the Yellowknife meeting – they had a vested interest,” Beaulieu said.

In Dettah and Ndilǫ, “the chiefs there felt it should be a constituency that included Latham Island and Ingraham Trail”, as they are part of the Akaitcho land resource negotiations.

The only option to keep Łutselk’e and Fort Resolution in one community and another for Ndilǫ and Dettah would have been to add an MP, Beaulieu said.

Beaulieu said the Northwest Territories government frowns on adding one MP, but will more easily add five positions within departments.

The territory has allocated $150,000 for commission to complete his work.

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