Mayoral candidates make their pitches to the business community

by Sidney Cohen - October 2, 2018

Mayoral candidates answered business-related questions at a forum on Tuesday hosted by the  Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce.

The mayoral candidates fielded questions from the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce at Northern United Place on Tuesday. From left, Bob Stewart, Rebecca Alty, Jerald Sibbeston and Adrian Bell. Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo

The chamber asked the candidates how they would support  tourism, lower the cost of doing business and court new investments in the city, before turning the mic over to the audience for more questions.

Adrian Bell, a real estate broker, appeared to be in his element speaking to the business-minded crowd.

“I’m a small business owner, and have been from a very young age… when you’re responsible for cutting your costs and it means eating and not eating, you develop an eye for it,” said Bell.

He said he would work to promote tourism by supporting full-time work for festival organizers, and by creating cultural and creative partnerships with artists in Behchoko, Ndilo and Dettah.

The two-term city councillor said he pitches Yellowknife as an attractive place to live every day and that he would use his sales acumen to woo new residents, skilled workers and businesses.

“It would be very helpful if you put a salesperson in the mayor’s chair,” he said.

Rebecca Ally said she would push for an expansion of the Taltson hydroelectric dam to increase the power available and reduce rates for city residents and to future mines.

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Alty pointed out that Yellowknife does not have a francophone community centre (as Whitehorse does, for example) and that such a facility could attract new French-speaking residents and business owners to the city.

She also said the would like to see an enhanced visitors centre that collects data on the kinds of tourists that are visiting the city.

Jerald Sibbeston said the city should write letters to the major hotel chains encouraging them to build developments in Yellowknife.

The city should also support the construction of tiny homes on existing lots, said Sibbeston.

He said this additional housing option could attract new residents and improve competition in the real estate market.

Sibbeston also championed the construction of a state-of-the-art aquatic centre.

He said that is the kind of facility that would “encourage people to want to stay until they’re old and grey and get shot out of a cannon as ashes, as I do.”

The owner of a downtown business, Bob Stewart said before the city can attract tourists and new businesses, it must deal with homelessness.

Stewart touted his plan for a community centre near Bristol Pit for people experiencing homelessness. The centre would include office space for service providers, transitional housing and a liquor store.

“We have to focus on making Yellowknife more attractive … You have to take care of the darker issues,” said Stewart.

“People come to this town and we have to consider what they’re seeing every day when they leave their hotel.”