Four of the five candidates running in the NWT spoke with News/North about their platforms. What follows are edited versions of the conversations they had with us ahead of the vote. Advance polls open Sept. 10; election day is Sept. 20.
Jane Groenewegen, independent
Jane Groenewegen, a self-employed businessperson from Hay River is running as an independent. She served as an MLA in the legislative assembly between 1995 and 2015.
“NWT residents should vote for me because I have a long standing proven track record of advocating for constituents,” she said.
One of Groenewegen’s priorities is economic expansion in the NWT. In her view, one of the barriers facing that goal is access to labour.
“Labour market shortages in a wide variety of job types needs to have some creative thinking applied to find solutions,” she said.
To address affordable housing issues in the NWT, Groenewegen said the existing grant programs of the federal and territorial governments ensure housing options are available.
“There is additional funding available for Indigenous development corporations and governments who would like to be the proponent for delivering housing.”
The effects of climate change on the North are evident “every day,” Groenewegen said, and the North needs to reduce its carbon footprint and pursue alternative energy sources.
“But to a large extent we will need to prepare ourselves to respond to actions in other parts of the world that will affect us. Preparedness for natural disasters such as flood and fire need to be a part of our planning and not an after thought when we scramble to help northerners who have been affected in adverse ways.”
Michael McLeod, Liberal
Michael McLeod, from Fort Providence is the incumbent MP for the Northwest Territories. He was first elected to the House of Commons in the 2015 election.
“I’m proud of our government’s record and I want to build on that to improve the lives of Northerners,” he said.
On housing, one of the most pressing issues affecting the NWT, McLeod explained that if re-elected he will work to ensure the federal government’s national housing strategy continues to target affordable housing, homelessness and Indigenous housing.
“In the last few years we’ve seen some very good programs that have helped us move forward. In the last five years we’ve seen $500 million invested towards housing and $240 million in the last year. Part of that is $100 million earmarked for Indigenous governments for housing,” he said.
To address climate change, a problem that McLeod said Northerners know about first hand and not just from the news, he pointed to targets already set out by the federal Liberals.
“We’ve passed legislation that will set Canada on a path to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. And 30 to 40 per cent reductions by 2030 which is below the 2005 levels. We committed to getting all the communities off diesel. We’re investing heavily in alternative energy, like solar and we’ve made investments in wind energy in Inuvik. We recently announced $40 million for the Fort Providence-Kakisa transmission line. (And) we’re looking at a greener homes grant.”
Kelvin Kotchilea, NDP
Kotchilea, the NDP candidate for the NWT works as a finance officer with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.
Originally from Behchokǫ̀, he lost to Jane Weyallon-Armstrong in the Monfwi by-election in July.
The Tłı̨chǫ candidate seeks to change the funding relationship that the three territories have with the federal government so that funding is more targeted.
“The territories should have their own funding so it’s more accessible to organizations (here),” he said. “It’s not a fair system and it needs to change when the policy works against us. When funding is shared across Canada it’s a pool that organizations and governments fight for. It’s so competitive but we still need to benefit.”
To spur more economic development in NWT communities, Kotchilea said the main thing communities need is a workforce with higher skills.
“We have to encourage high school students to go into post-secondary to get more certifications and more skills so they can enter the workforce. We need more engineers and more red seal trades people. When we look at capital infrastructure we should take advantage of infrastructure that benefits communities (and) addresses the high cost of living and train people locally in the trades.”
He advocates for more education to improve access to healthcare in NWT communities.
“The NDP is pushing for pharmacare that gives more low-income families access to basic medical and health needs. A short-term solution is bringing in more healthcare staff. But a longer-term solution is expanding education so people can go back to their communities and provide more services,” he said.
One barrier he identifies that slows career progression for many young people is limited child care options.
“At Aurora College a lot of students are young parents. We need to make sure we can provide that support. So when women enter the work force there is adequate child care for them,” he said.
Roland Laufer, Green Party
Yellowknife resident Roland Laufer is running as the Green Party candidate. The German-born Laufer, who uses the pronouns ze, hir and hirs works as treasurer at the Yellowknife Artist’s Co-operative and as store manager at Old Town Glassworks.
If Laufer is sent to Ottawa after Sept. 20, one of Laufer’s top priorities would be to pressure the federal government to take seriously the impacts of climate change on the North.
One of hirs targets is replacing the fuel in widely-used diesel generators with renewable diesels or biodiesels.
“We need alternative technologies to produce electricity and heat. Some communities already use biodiesel and some vehicles can be modified to use biodiesels.”
Laufer advocates for the construction of production facilities in the NWT as a means of both producing technologies like solar panels, windmills and ready-made homes and also boosting employment.
Even more jobs could be created by hiring professors and engineers at Aurora College to teach residents how to use zero-emission technologies.
“There should be better incentives for people to build their own homes, like a group of four or five people working together. With some education and guidance people can do it themselves,” ze said.
On the issue of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, Laufer said mistakes of the past must be owned up to and some treaties should be renegotiated.
“Treaty 11 has to be completely rewritten. Better treaties would benefit the communities more and also the entire country so everyone can learn what was done wrong and how we can do things better in the future.”
Lea Mollison, the Conservative Party candidate did not respond to inquiries on her platform by press deadline.