George Braden

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When I was beginning to compile the list of premiers of the Northwest Territories, I thought about starting with the first, which was Frederick Haultain.

He was also the last for eight decades.

So, instead of starting with him and then jumping to the 1980s, I decided to start with the second premier of the Northwest Territories, George Braden.

George Braden was born on Nov. 4, 1949 in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. In 1964, his family moved to Yellowknife.

He attended Sir John Franklin Territorial High School, before moving on to study political science at the University of Alberta and then at Dalhousie University.  

Braden began to work for Bud Drury, a former federal cabinet minister, who was asked to look at bringing further constitutional developments to the Northwest Territories.

Braden was appointed as the Deputy Minister for the Northwest Territories and worked from Ottawa with Walter Slipchenko on these constitutional developments.

On Oct. 1, 1979, Braden was elected to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly. At the time, the entire legislature was in transition.

As soon as he was elected, in his first interview, he stated he wanted to work towards an immediate move to responsible government for the territory. He also stated he wanted the Northwest Territories to have more control over itself. He said,

“The federal government would have a hard time convincing developers to come in here if the territorial council was added to the list of people who are saying hold it.”

Prior to 1980, the Government of Canada appointed the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. This person was the head of the government for the territory.

Members were elected, but the federally-appointed Commissioner had a direct role to play in the day-to-day administration of the government. For the new assembly, seven members were appointed for the first time.

In 1980, for the first time in decades, the Legislative Assembly elected the Government Leader.

On June 16, 1980, Braden became that Government Leader. He was the second person to hold that title, effectively premier, since Frederick Haultain.

At the same time as serving as premier, he also held various portfolios including Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister of Justice and Public Service, Minister of Priorities and Planning and Minister for the Status of Women.

As premier, Braden brought in additional representation in the Legislative Council, the removal of the appointed commissioner and deputy commissioner from the executive council, and an allowance of control over territorial affairs to elected members.

Braden also worked to develop a stronger relationship with the Yukon so that the two could compliment each other’s objectives in the tourist sector.

He also continued to campaign for the territory to gain more from development in its borders. On July 10, 1980, he said,

“When development takes place we are at least trying to turn the situation around so it doesn’t end up costing us money.”

He campaigned to have the Northwest Territories gain a seat at the First Ministers Conference. He also originated Northwest Territories Days, which emerged during his fight to have recognition of Indigenous rights brought forward during the repatriation of the constitution.

Braden’s last day as premier was Jan. 12, 1984, just over a year after the last election.

Despite leaving his position as premier, he served for several years as the Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and was the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories Expo 86 Pavilion. That pavilion hosted 1.5 million visitors over six months.

In 1994, Braden founded his own company in Ottawa, where he worked for most of the rest of his life.

In 2009, Braden became a Policy Analyst for Dennis Patterson, who was appointed to the Canadian Senate. In that same year, he moved to Barrhaven, Ontario with his wife Lise.

On March 7, 2015, Braden was diagnosed with gastric cancer. He died two months later on May 25, 2015.

Upon his death, Braden was called a giant in the political development of the Northwest Territories.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins said,

“He was essentially the first modern day premier of the Northwest Territories.”

Information from Government of Northwest Territories, CBC, Wikipedia, Yellowknifer, NNSL Media, Windsor Star,

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