On Wednesday — within a hair’s breadth of an election — the NDP will be the last party in the riding to nominate a candidate.
Inuvik’s Mary Beckett is one of over 80 candidates the party promised to nominate before the end of the week. It’s close call for the NWT, a previous NDP stronghold held by MP Dennis Bevington for almost a decade.
Beckett, who owns Beckett Business Centre and Blue Ice Essentials, is nonplussed. She plans to “campaign hard between now and election day. Because I’m going to win,” she told Inuvik Drum.
She said she’s been working toward the nomination since July when party members encouraged her to run. She attributes the party’s long vetting process to the delay, saying that’s “the reason things have been quiet.”
On top of the wait, the NDP has also drawn fire for its federal-level fundraising. Election Canada’s recently posted filings show the NDP ended 2018 in a deficit of $4.5 million – a 17-year low. The party also ended the year with a deficit of $3.1 million, which at the time was its worst in at least 17 years, when Elections Canada first posted filings on its website.
Despite the party’s finances, Beckett said she wasn’t worried about her supporting campaign. Unlike the Liberals or Conservatives, the NDP has always lacked donors with pocketbooks and tends to run “lean,” she said.
“To a certain extent, that speaks to the reason the Liberals and Conservatives need to be replaced. The people that support them are super wealthy,” she said. “(They’re) not in need of support or assistance from the government, yet they’re the ones that get all the favours and get all the attention.”
Bevington was asked if he was worried about the party since its change of fortune in 2015, when the Liberals swept aside the NDP’s 2011 Orange Wave that saw it become the official opposition. He said he wasn’t concerned.
“I think that means the people who live in the Northwest Territories are still quite supportive of New Democratic Party principles and policies,” he said, arguing that earlier polling in 2015 was in the NDP’s favour, though the party currently polls as a distant third, not far from the Greens in fourth.
In the four years since, he said “discontent” around Inuvik and the North has grown with the governing Liberals following the government’s moratorium on off-shore development.
Bevington, who will be campaigning with Beckett through the South Slave this month, said Beckett’s background in Inuvik will be an asset.
“There’s no doubt about it. That’s going to help her a lot,” he said. As the largest community north of the Arctic circle, “internationally and nationally that region is very important to Canada. (There are) things going on in the region and the Arctic of Canada. Her familiarity with that region is very important.”
He added that Beckett was “one woman among three men. I think she represents a lot there as well.”
“A mile wide and an inch deep”
This October, Beckett will be facing off with an incumbent Liberal government and a resurgent Green Party. Despite its gains, Bevington downplayed the Greens, saying party leader Elizabeth May’s recent visit to Yellowknife left the impression that its platform was “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
Nevertheless, as the Green Party jockeys to peel off progressive voters from the NDP, Beckett said the party standards of government support and services will win residents over.
“I don’t see the Greens as a progressive vote,” she said about efforts to create a green economy. “They’re progressive on climate change, but on everything else, they’re basically conservative.”
She promised to develop job supports, employment and save money on utility bills. “Which is a lot better deal than a simple carbon tax, which may or not reach greenhouse gas targets they’re aiming for in the next 200 years, let alone in the timeframe that’s required,” Beckett said.
Of the current government and MP Michael McLeod, Beckett said there was a larger pattern of Ottawa foisting unasked-for polices on the North. She pointed to the moratorium on offshore natural resource development.
It’s “colonial” and “paternalistic”, she said. “Natural resource development is the lifeblood of the Northwest Territories. Beckett added that while tourism is an option, there’s little manufacturing, and hunting and trapping is no longer a viable export.
As MP, she said decisions around exploration, export and development of natural resources should be at least a collaborative decision with respective Indigenous governments. Moving forward, she hopes to act as a critic pushing decisionmakers toward accountability.
“I want to stand there and hold people accountable for the promises they’re making,” Beckett said.