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R.J. Simpson chosen as next Northwest Territories premier

Premier of the Northwest Territories Caroline Cochrane, speaks on the wildfire situation after visiting evacuees in Edmonton on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

YELLOWKNIFE — Newly elected members of the Northwest Territories legislature have chosen their next premier. 

R.J. Simpson, the legislature member for Hay River North, won on the second round of voting Thursday. 

Simpson was first elected to the legislature in 2015, and previously worked with the federal government, Northern Transportation Co. Ltd., Métis Nation Local 51 and Maskwa Engineering. 

He previously held the education, culture, employment and justice portfolios. 

The territory doesn't have political parties. Under its consensus-style government, members run as independents and choose a premier and members of cabinet from among themselves. 

The premier then assigns the ministers their portfolios, and the remaining members function as the Opposition.

The territory's general election, originally set for October, was delayed to Nov. 14 because of wildfires.

During the wildfire season, about 70 per cent of the territory's population was under an evacuation order, including the 20,000 residents of the capital Yellowknife.

Outgoing Premier Caroline Cochrane announced in September that she wasn't running for re-election.

The other members vying for the job of premier were Caroline Wawzonek, Shane Thompson and Kieron Testart. Testart was the runner-up on the second ballot. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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