July 17th, 2024

New N.W.T. premier to focus on emergency readiness, working with Indigenous leaders

By The Canadian Press on December 11, 2023.

R.J. Simpson speaks on his phone at the legislature in Yellowknife, N.W.T., in this Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, handout photo provided by the Government of the Northwest Territories. He was elected premier by fellow MLAs on Friday under the territory's consensus government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Government of the Northwest Territories, Bill Braden *MANDATORY CREDIT*

YELLOWKNIFE – Few understand better the need for communities to be prepared for weather emergencies and disasters than the new premier of the Northwest Territories.

R.J. Simpson, elected premier by fellow MLAs on Friday under the territory’s consensus government, barely made it out of his community of Hay River this summer ahead of a wildfire that evacuated the town and kept him out of his home for two months.

He says one of the top priorities of his government will be improving the territory’s emergency response and finding ways to minimize the threats.

Simpson, a member of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, says he’ll also work with Indigenous governments to present a united front in Ottawa to lobby for more money for housing and transportation networks.

He says the territory is moving toward a mixed form of governance where the MLAs in Yellowknife work with Indigenous governments to share responsibility.

Simpson says all 19 MLAs elected in this fall’s balloting will meet early in the new year to set the government’s priorities for the four years.

In the Northwest Territories, politicians run as independents and then choose the premier and cabinet from among themselves.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2023.

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