Kelvin Ng to quit territorial politics
For Cambridge Bay’s MLA, family comes first
After 24 years of service as a territorial legislator and municipal leader, Kelvin Ng is calling it quits, saying he wants to spend more time at home in Yellowknife with his wife, Suzie, and their four children.
Ng, 45, announced late last week that he will not contest the Cambridge Bay seat in Nunavut’s next general election, which is set for Feb. 16, 2004.
In the end, it was an easy decision, Ng said. Although it was hard to pull himself away from the numerous political issues with which he is enmeshed as one of Nunavut’s leading cabinet ministers, the needs of his family came first.
“It’s been really strenuous on our relationship and on my family situation, if you appreciate what it was like commuting every week. It was tough, in that there is still a lot to be done on the political side of things, but at the same time recognizing my family needs, it wasn’t tough that way,” Ng said.
When Ng leaves public life early next year, Nunavut will lose a powerful, widely respected and experienced politician.
Within cabinet, Ng is responsible for the department of finance, the Nunavut Housing Corp. and the Workers’ Compensation Board, and also serves as deputy premier and government house leader.
He has worked within Nunavut’s cabinet since day one — April 1, 1999.
“I think the best memories are probably the spirit that everybody moved forward on in wanting to make progress, to make sure there was change and positive events that happened, and for us meeting some of the needs out there. Granted, we’ve never had enough to do everything – like any other government, the reality is that you never have enough resources,” Ng said.
Ng, who grew up in Vancouver and received a diploma in accounting from Vancouver City College, moved to Cambridge Bay in 1978 to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
It didn’t take him long to get involved in elected politics. In 1979, he was elected to the Cambridge Bay settlement council, and served on the community’s settlement and hamlet councils until 1987.
In 1988, he was elected mayor of Cambridge Bay and became president of the Northwest Territories Association of Municipalities. In 1992, he was elected deputy speaker of the Kitikmeot Regional Council.
He entered territorial politics in 1993, winning a by-election held to fill a vacancy created in the old Kitikmeot constituency by the mid-term resignation of Ernie Bernhardt. Soon after, he became minister of municipal and community affairs for the Government of the Northwest Territories.
In those days, Ng’s constituency, to which he was re-elected in 1995, took in Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, Umingmaktok and Bathurst Inlet. In the last pre-division NWT government, Ng played a major role serving as minister of health and social services.
In Nunavut’s Feb. 15, 1999, general election Ng easily defeated Mike O’Gorman, Wilf Wilcox and Beatrice Bernhardt to win the new Cambridge Bay seat.
Because of his experience, Ng was a shoo-in for cabinet, and is best known now for his work over the past four and a half years as Nunavut’s first finance minister.
One of the toughest parts of that job has been saying no to people who want things the government can’t afford to pay for.
“I think you have to tell them that we, as a government, have to be fiscally responsible and spend within our own means, and at the same time, recognizing the deficiencies that are out there, you have to continue to try to raise the revenue bar for us to meet some of those needs.”
Ng says he’s happy though that former federal finance minister Paul Martin, who will soon become prime minister, seems to be recognizing that Nunavut needs more.
“I think having the opportunity to have Mr. Martin recognize some of our deficiencies, agreeing to the fiscal review between the federal government and the Government of Nunavut that’s just been finalized right now, that’s really setting the framework for the future government, the future finance minister, to hopefully bring in some significant dollars to address our deficiencies.”
A low point, and a high point, was his work negotiating a new collective agreement with the Nunavut Employees Union in 2001.
“I was kind of targeted as a the ‘bad guy’ in the Government of Nunavut. On a professional level it was okay, but it was hard on a personal level, because a lot of the people demonstrating and picketing, I knew personally, particularly in the Cambridge Bay constituency.”