What is Consensus Government?

The Northwest Territories operates on a unique consensus government system, unlike the party politics seen in most of Canada. Here's how it works:

  • Instead of parties, all Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are elected as independents.

  • After elections, MLAs gather as a Caucus to set priorities for the Assembly, functioning as equals throughout their term.

  • MLAs not in Cabinet are called Regular Members, acting as the "unofficial opposition" by holding the government accountable through questioning and committee work.

  • Unlike party systems, Regular Members have significant input on legislation and policies, with all major initiatives passing through their committees before reaching the House.

  • Regular Members have advance notice of government announcements but can't share this information with their constituents.

  • With only six Cabinet Ministers among the 19 MLAs, Regular Members hold a significant balance of power, ensuring that the majority's direction is respected.

Despite the name, consensus government doesn't require unanimous agreement; decisions are made by a simple majority vote.

Election of the Speaker, Premier, and Ministers

After elections, Members gather for a Territorial Leadership Committee (TLC) meeting. Here's how it unfolds:

Election of the Speaker: Members vote by secret ballot for the Speaker, who oversees the Assembly and enforces rules.

Election of the Premier: Candidates vie for Premier through public presentations and Q&A sessions. Voting occurs via secret ballot, sometimes requiring multiple rounds for a candidate to secure over 50% support.

Selection of Cabinet Ministers: After public presentations, Members vote by secret ballot to elect six Cabinet ministers. The Premier then assigns them departmental responsibilities.

Regular Members vs. Cabinet: Some Members opt out of Cabinet nominations to maintain independence, enabling them to question ministers freely and represent constituents more effectively.

Accountability Measures: In extreme cases, the Premier or Cabinet ministers can be removed via motions of non-confidence or censure, reflecting the system's checks and balances.