New MLAs get up to speed

 

The two MLAs-elect from Hay River can now drop the elect.

Rocky (R.J) Simpson and Wally Schumann were sworn in with the other members of the 18th Legislative Assembly on Dec. 8.

Schumann, who represents Hay River South, enjoyed the swearing-in ceremony.

“It was a very exciting time in my life,” he said. “I loved it.”

Schumann said he definitely had a feeling of responsibility with the swearing-in.

“You’re responsible for all your constituents and, at the same token, you’re responsible for all the citizens of the Northwest Territories,” he explained. “So it’s a big responsibility to take on but, at the same time, I felt immense pride that the community has voted myself and R.J. in to look after these matters on their behalf.”

For Simpson, the swearing-in ceremony was enjoyable.

“I had friends and family up here and so it was nice to share that occasion with everyone,” he said.

However, Simpson said he really feels like he became an MLA on Nov. 23, election night.

“I guess I feel like I started work on the 23rd and so it was a formality getting sworn in,” he said. “The election was the big night. It’s like I never stopped working between the campaign and now. It’s been steady. I guess I just eased into the role of MLA.”

Prior to the swearing-in ceremony, Schumann and Simpson and the other new MLAs spent about a week learning the ropes of the legislative assembly.

“It’s MLA school, the basics – the rules and etiquette and protocol that you’ve got to follow,” said Schumann, noting it began with an icebreaker session to get to know the other MLAs.

“The first thing you had to do in that situation was you had to get up and talk about yourself and your background and what you did in your previous life before you got there,” he explained.

However, Schumann said the most fun was when the new MLAs were divided into pairs and they had to do mock TV interviews with each other.

Along with the orientation sessions, Simpson said the new MLAs were getting briefings from all the deputy ministers about their departments.

“It was getting us up to speed on what we need to know so that we can set our priorities for the next assembly,” he explained.

Simpson said he is excited and anxious to get past the orientation and start actually doing the work of governing with the other MLAs.

“I have high hopes for this assembly,” he added. “They all came in there with the same idea that the voters wanted change. They wanted things done differently. And we’re all energized. We all have that same feeling. I think that, once we started interacting with the returning members, they saw that, too, and they sort of have that energy, as well, and they realize that we need to change. It seems like they’re onboard.”

Schumann called the new MLAs a very exciting, dynamic group.

“I think they’re going to bring a lot of real change to the NWT,” he said. “They have some hard decisions to make from some of our briefings that we got already, being the tough fiscal times that are coming with the assembly. So I’m very excited about the group of people that have been pulled together by the citizens of the Northwest Territories.”

One of the first duties for Schumann and Simpson, and all 19 MLAs, will be to elect a premier on Dec. 16.

The candidates are two Yellowknife MLAs: Bob McLeod, who was premier in the 17th assembly, and Glen Abernethy, who was the minister of Health and Social Services.

Both Simpson and Schumann consulted with their constituents on who they should support.

After that, the MLAs will vote on Dec. 17 on who they would like to see in cabinet.

Schumann and Simpson are both interested in serving in cabinet.

Shane Magee/NNSL photo NWT Commissioner George Tuccaro, left, and Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann pause for a photo during a swearing-in ceremony Dec. 8 at the legislative assembly.

Shane Magee/NNSL photo
NWT Commissioner c, left, and Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann pause for a photo during a swearing-in ceremony Dec. 8 at the legislative assembly.