NNSL Media invites potential candidates running in the Nov. 14 territorial election to provide guest comments on what they view as the issues facing the NWT. Candidates can e-mail email@example.com if they wish to offer an opinion in writing. Please, no politicking, though — save that for your campaign signs!
MLA campaign season kicks off on Monday, and we will soon be hearing lots of familiar buzzwords pop up in platforms, slogans and debates.
Many of us are already worn down from the evacuation, a summer of smoke and fires, a Covid resurgence, financial and family challenges — the list goes on. It is tempting to either tune out all the political noise, to fall deeper into cynicism and frustration, or to join in finding scapegoats.
Having decided to attempt the leap into full-time politics, I face the challenge of explaining my hopeful vision for the territory without resorting to slogans, even the ‘hopey-changey’ ones, or taking pot-shots at the current government. So I have been trying to break down what we actually mean by the blah-blah-blah buzzwords and how we could take these conversations in more useful directions:
We all want leaders and governments that are accountable, but there is a vague sense this means making everyone happy. Too often, a fear of criticism or dissent means leaders avoid doing anything at all, and this paralysis leaves us with the status quo. For me, accountability means communicating clearly why decisions are made: how risks, trade-offs, or downsides were considered; and in the aftermath, admitting mistakes and committing to learn from them.
The health of an economy is often measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which in the NWT mostly reflects how much stuff we take out of the ground for export. It is not a good indicator of the well-being of our population, which should be what an economy is all about. About 80 per cent of the GNWT’s budget comes from federal grants and transfer payments. The public sector (nurses, teachers, conservation officers, etc.) is not a drain on the private sector, but provides a lifeline for businesses because it produces healthy workers to fill the jobs and a healthy environment to provide resources over the long-term.
Given the current worker shortage, the most urgent economic investments would be to increase the supply of affordable housing, implement better supports for children and youth, and provide more accessible health care.
Cost of living
If someone is promising to reduce the cost of living, I prefer to dive right into specifics. Are they planning to reduce the cost of groceries? Gas? Are they planning to stop inflation? How? Are we comparing our cost of living to somewhere else, such as Vancouver? Rural Saskatchewan?
To shift this conversation from a collective lament for the good-old-days into a search for solutions, I would focus on the aspects the GNWT has more influence over, such as electricity costs through the NWT Power Corp. and rental housing costs (funding more affordable public housing units that could ease market pressures). These are both complex issues that deserve our attention and focus, without lumping them in with gas and groceries.
Mental health and addictions
Too often, this boils down to a debate about whether a treatment centre should be established inside the NWT, or ‘where to put those people’ exhibiting anti-social behaviour or violence on our streets.
In many cases, people are self-medicating or managing their trauma and life instability through substance use. Solutions must integrate not only treatment but stable housing with ongoing wrap-around supports from social workers, Indigenous elders, physicians, etc.
Bringing it back to the first buzzword, I believe mutual accountability is the only way forward — people feel more responsible for their behaviour when they feel cared for and respected by the group of people they live with.
So I urge everyone: instead of tuning out, ask questions about what the buzzwords mean so we can zero in on what’s most important and move towards real solutions. Not quick and easy solutions, but real ones.