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Ethel says goodbye

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 25/06) - Bill Braden laughs as he recalls the federal election campaign when he put a pair of boxing gloves on the hands of MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew.

"She's a fighter. She works so damn hard," Braden said. "She's able to cut to the chase and she knows how to cut a deal."

NNSL Photo/graphic

Ethel Blondin-Andrew of the Liberals, who lost to New Democratic Party candidate Dennis Bevington, and her husband Leon. - Dorothy Westerman/NNSL photo

But after five consecutive wins in the parliamentary ring, Blondin-Andrew took off the gloves and graciously conceded defeat Monday night to NDP candidate-elect Dennis Bevington.

"In 1988, you elected the first Dene woman ever to serve on Parliament Hill," Blondin-Andrew told about 200 supporters gathered at the White Fox lounge.

"I will be forever grateful. But tonight you made a different choice," she said to a wider audience, the voters of the NWT. "The decision is the voice of the people and I respect and honour your decision."

Bevington defeated Blondin-Andrew by 1,158 votes within the 89 polls across the Territories.

Blondin-Andrew said she will not run again. "Once the people speak, I will respect their wishes."

Party supporter Bill Enge was bitter.

"Once again, Yellowknifers have rejected Ethel," he said, cautioning New Democratic Party voters that they may have got less than they think out of the election.

"The NDP are not in the position to be a king-maker in the sense that legislation gets passed by them," Enge said.

"The kingmaker in this parliament is the Bloc Quebecois and I think we all know that what's good for the Bloc is not good for Canada."

Enge said he does not fear the Harper government will stop the progression of the pipeline.

"Rumour has it that the pipeline will be hijacked as a means to produce oilsands oil and used to make Alberta a richer place and that's where Harper and his buddies are from," Enge said.

Steve Meister, president of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce was intently watching the results throughout the tight race.

"The federal government will have to recognize the wealth that is coming out of the NWT," he said.

"The Conservative government is right wing, so it is conscious of the business community, but it is also conscious of the dollars, so they sometimes cut programs," Meister said.

"That could be a concern for the NWT."

Supporter and businessman Manuel Jorge thought support for Ethel would be much higher.

"But the Liberals are in a good position in the new government."

Braden said people should expect a lull during the transition of power.

"Issues such as devolution or resource sharing will slow, but because they are strong with momentum and validity, they will resurface in a year."

Now that Liberal leader - and now-former prime minister - Paul Martin has announced he is stepping down, Braden is looking forward to the next big policy and leadership convention.

"That's the next piece of work for us," the NWT MLA said.

"I welcome change. This doesn't scare me. Let's get on with Canada."