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Federal candidates ready messaging for debates

The Northwest Territories’ federal election candidates were refining their campaign messages in anticipation of the first online election forum on Sept. 2.
Karen Hamre and Bob Bromley converse with NWT Green Party candidate Roland Laufer during a meet and greet event held at the Wildcat Cafe, Aug. 31. Photo credit Elizabeth Monroe

The Northwest Territories’ federal election candidates were refining their campaign messages in anticipation of the first online election forum on Sept. 2.

Earlier in the day, Elections Canada formally announced the final list of candidates across the country, including the five in the Northwest Territories.

The first debate for the NWT’s five candidates on the evening of Sept. 2 transpired after Yellowknifer’s print edition deadline.

The NWT Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with NNSL Media, will hold an online debate on Sept. 9 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

NNSL media reached out to the various campaigns to get an overview of their election efforts prior to the Sept 2 virtual faceoff.

Kelvin Kotchilea, New Democratic Party

The NDP candidate held an online town hall on Sept. 1, which involved about 15 people.

The 30-year-old hopeful from Behchoko introduced himself and answered about 10 questions and comments from online participants.

Some of the main takeaways from the event included Kotchilea’s position that more Northerners need to be working in small communities and that more investments are needed to benefit NWT residents. One example of such investments is providing affordable and universal child care in the NWT, despite regional challenges, according to Kotchilea.

“When you look at statistics of people with a post-secondary education but who are not in the workforce, the majority of the time it is because they are young mothers,” he said.

Expanding employment in small communities and increasing housing affordability to give purpose to people living in remote areas of the NWT, the positive impacts of Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq to the party and the North, addressing systemic racism and improving the NDP’s visibility in the the three territories were other themes that arose.

Kotchilea also discussed the need for greater investments in high-speed internet so that employees can work remotely in small communities.

“During COVID, another thing that was an eye-opener was people were able to work remotely from home,” he said. “And that’s (why) I believe that some more employment opportunities can go to other communities.

“A lot of communities lack high-speed internet, and that’s one of the biggest issues that we are going to face when we talk about giving communities higher senior management positions.”

Roland Laufer, Green Party

The Green Party candidate from Yellowknife held a meet and greet at the Wildcat Cafe on Aug. 31.

He hosted five people throughout the evening as he discussed some of his ideas around addressing climate change in the NWT.

“I told them mostly that we need to use alternative energy instead of fossil fuels and diesels and replace them with things like bio-diesel,” he said.

Laufer said there were people who attended who were concerned about the treatment of Indigenous people across the country and in the North, which is important to him and his party.

“The Canadian government has to change their ways of how they communicate and treat our Indigenous people all over Canada,” he said. “Indigenous people should have more ability to make their own decision on how their land is used.”

Laufer also spoke about economic development and the need for Aurora College and post-secondary institutions to take on greater responsibility in developing training for alternative sources of energy, such as building solar panels or battery technology used for generators.

“Aurora College should have courses for environmental engineers and specialists and those specialists should be trained here for Northern conditions,” he said.

Michael McLeod, Liberal Party

McLeod is planning an online town hall on Sunday, Sept. 5 at 2 p.m. through his campaign Facebook page.

The campaign has made a point of being cautious about meeting in-person with the public during the pandemic.

“We are being mindful of the (chief public health officer’s) recommendations on travel and gatherings in person,” David Monroe, McLeod’s campaign manager said in an email, Sept. 2. “We will update you on all public events we are hosting so you can cover them.”

Lea Mollison, Conservative Party

Leading into the debates, Mollison, who resides in Thunder Bay, Ont., said she and her team have begun to reach out to various NWT communities to hear their needs and concerns.

“And then we (want to) have a dialogue about how the Conservative Recovery Platform will help address those issues,” she said.

As of Thursday evening, the Tories had no online town halls scheduled.

Jane Groenewegen, independent

Groenewegen, a Hay River resident, said in an email on Sept. 2 that she had spent much of the week doing a handful of media interviews and preparing for the candidates debates.

As of Sept. 2, she had no town hall events planned similar to the other candidates.

“Nothing like that nailed down yet,” she stated in a text message.