last of the independents

One wonders when this hare-brained notion of independent politics will die. The latest drive is spearheaded by self-described businessman Kenn…

One wonders when this hare-brained notion of independent politics will die.

The latest drive is spearheaded by self-described businessman Kenn Roberts.

He doesn’t really want to run for office, but he will if enough self-promoting politicians sign up. He’s looking for 18 of ‘em.

His movement isn’t really a party, he said, though he admits goofing when he set up its e-mail address at

He should have called it a forum, he said.

The goal is to get each person running as an independent, then, if they win, they form a consensus.

And then what? Who’s agenda gets priority? Pro mining, or environment? Pro private health care, or public? A government with a social agenda, or a business agenda?

Does someone look out for the wider territory’s interest, or is it every riding for itself?

Roberts suggests parties diminish citizen influence.

There’s little evidence to support that.

Throughout the territory, elected representatives seek to further their constituents’ interests within the party structure.

The ones who do that best get re-elected.

Roberts believes independent politics works in the NWT.

There is little evidence of that.

The NWT has a $57-million deficit, according to Statistics Canada.

Who does the voter hold accountable for that?

The people who ran up the debt can simply elect not to run again.

In the last NWT election, in 2003, five seats were uncontested. How is that democratic?

In 1999, one NWT seat was acclaimed.

When was the last time a Yukon MLA was acclaimed?

Answer: Never. There has never been an acclimation since party politics came to the territory — voters in every riding have always had a choice.

Even the assertion that independent politics bolsters public interest is mistaken.

In 2003, voter turnout in the NWT was just 68.5 per cent, but, again, five ridings didn’t cast votes at all. Subtract them and the voter turnout drops by almost one quarter.

In the Yukon, voters have a clear choice of premier. Not so in the NWT.

In the Yukon, it’s clear who makes the decision.

In independent politics, that’s not clear at all.

“Consensus decision-making is very difficult to do in public,” said Patrick Michael, the legislative assembly clerk, speaking from his experience in the Yukon in the 1970s, before party politics began.

“There would be private meetings, when a decision couldn’t be swung in the house. The members would step out and come back with an announcement.

“You wouldn’t know how a decision was made and you wouldn’t know the decisions behind it, because it wasn’t done in public.”

The NWT and Nunavut have such constituent assemblies, but it’s arguable whether they work very well considering how diffuse responsibility is.

There’s a good reason why political regions gravitate towards a party system as they mature.

Here, people have some residual memory of the independent days — conveniently forgetting the backstabbing, horse trading, secret deals and loose spending that was an integral part of the then-infant political system.

In the Yukon, people continually float the idea of independent politics as a great idea.

But, of course, a party of one isn’t really a party at all. (RM)