Wally Schumann – the MLA for Hay River South and the town’s first territorial cabinet minister in years – decided to cancel his first constituency meeting on May 18 when not enough people showed up.
“I honestly thought we’d get 10 to 20 people,” said Schumann, the minister of Transportation, as well as Environment and Natural Resources.
Instead, a half dozen or so people turned out for the meeting, and almost all of them were people that Schumann talks to often – Mayor Brad Mapes; an official of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment; the president of the NWT Fishermen’s Federation; a town councillor; and others.
“Well, it’s got to make you wonder a little bit,” Schumann said when asked why he thought members of the general public did not come to the meeting.
The MLA said it raises questions about how much people want to participate in the political process, whether they are too busy, if they think their representative is doing a good job, and if there are no issues that concern them.
Among other things, Schumann had planned to update constituents on what has happened since he was elected last fall, including being elected to cabinet and what he has been doing in his two portfolios.
“We haven’t had a minister for a long time and being there now I guess for four or so months as a minister, I think it’s important that Hay River has a person at that table, be it me or someone else,” he said, adding the community needs a voice at the cabinet table to raise concerns and ideas, and offer opinions on matters relevant to the whole NWT.
Schumann also said that, since the legislative assembly is heading into its budget session, he expected to field some questions about that.
The Hub asked the MLA if he believes people should be taking advantage of opportunities to speak to elected officials.
“I can say yes to that but we’re such an open and transparent government and we’re so accessible compared to provinces across Canada,” he said, adding that, for example, it might take up to a year to get an appointment to see a minister in Alberta. “That’s one thing about the territories. We’re pretty open and accessible to almost everybody, even on a daily basis.”
Coun. Steve Anderson, one of the people at the cancelled meeting, was surprised by how few people showed up.
“I was hoping to see more people come out to tonight’s meeting,” he said. “It would have been great to see that happen so that we can talk about subjects that are relevant to Hay River.”
Anderson said it’s commendable to see Schumann have a constituency meeting considering his busy schedule as a minister.
Schumann hopes to have another constituency meeting in mid-summer.