It's not just Yellowknifers who have turned out at the great hall in the legislative assembly to watch the election results come in. Cathy Sanguez from Jean Marie River brought her 85-year-old mother Mary Louise Sanguez to the assembly to check out who the next MLAs will be. They are obviously particularly concerned about the riding they live in - Nahendeh. No less than seven candidates are running to represent the territory's most south-west riding, including incumbent Kevin Menicoche.
"We need a female. We need a change. We need more females to get things done," said Cathy. She wants to see Rosemary Gill, the only female candidate in Nahendeh, take victory. The Sanguez's did not get to vote themselves as they are away from home tonight for medical travel and Sanguez said that was the case earlier in the month when the advance poll was held in Jean Marie River.
Early poll results are now coming in.
Incumbent Tom Beaulieu jumped into the lead with 163 votes in the Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh electoral district after five of 14 polls had reported, according to the Elections NWT website.
Beaulieu was ahead against Richard Edjericon who had 89 votes.
The district was the first to report results Monday evening. The large riding includes Ndilo, Dettah, Fort Resolution and Lutsel K'e.
Beaulieu was a cabinet minister in the 17th legislative assembly.
Chris Clark is spending election night at the home of his friend, Nadira Begg, who has helped him out throughout the campaign.
"I've been knocking on doors and trying to lend a hand however I can."
The two have been friends since high school here in Yellowknife, 24 years ago.
"I'm not surprised he decided to run," she said. "He's been talking about it for a while."
For three visitors to Yellowknife who self-describe as "political nuts," there was no better place to be Monday night than the legislative assembly to watch election results.
Nancy McClure, Ken Fowler and Wendy Fowler said instead of watching coverage from their hotel room, they decided to come to the legislative assembly.
"Where else would you want to be?" McClure said. The three were among nine members of the public and several assembly staff members taking in election results in the Great Hall.
The three said they are in town on business from Rocky Mountain House, Alta.
As they watched live coverage on two large televisions set up in the room, they said they're curious to learn more about the concensus style of government.
The polls are now closed across the NWT and at the Legislative Assembly the crowd remains thin. There are several assembly staff milling about inside the Great Hall as well as a few members of the media, including Northern News Services. About 40 chairs are set up for the public in front of two large screens, which will presumably be showing real time results as they come into the Elections NWT website. Fifty-nine candidates are seeking 18 seats across the NWT - 10 of them are women. There are three seats up for grabs where the incumbent is not running. Bob Bromley and Wendy Bisaro have both retired in Yellowknife as has Norman Yakeleya in the Sahtu. It is expected to become busier here at the Leg as the results start to come in - residents will be anxious to find out who their next MLAs will be in this vote for the 18th Legislative Assembly.
Candidates in the two electoral districts in Hay River will be watching election results with supporters at various locations around town. For Hay River South, Jane Groenewegen will be at the Driftwood Diner, Wally Schumann at the Caribou Centre and Brian Willows at 76 Miron Drive. For Hay River North, Robert Bouchard will be in the basement of the Ptarmigan Inn and Rocky (R.J.) Simpson at Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre. Karen Felker could not be contacted.
Data released by Elections NWT shows the Nahendeh region had an advance voter turnout of 25.29 per cent.
420 voters out of a total 1,661 cast their territorial election ballots in advance polls, which opened Nov. 16 in all communities except Nahanni Butte. Nahanni Butte held advance polls on Nov. 19 due to weather delays.
Advance voter turnout in the Nahendeh was topped only by Hay River South, which had 31.35 per cent of voters turn out.
Comparatively, the Deh Cho region saw a 7.6 per cent voter turnout, with 59 of 776 eligible voters casting their ballot in advance polls.
Average turnout across the NWT sat at an even 11 per cent.
Advance turnout statistics were posted on Nov. 23 to Elections NWT social media.
When reached for comment, communications and research officer Adrienne Cartwright confirmed the numbers were official, despite the fact they do not appear on the Elections NWT website.
Despite being in the middle of an election, cabinet ministers approved up to $4.5 million last week to acquire the mineral rights to a tungsten-rich property known as Mactung, located on the Yukon side of the NWT-Yukon border.
Both this property and the Cantung mine inside the NWT were owned by the North American Tungsten (NATCL) corporation, which the B.C. Supreme Court granted creditor protection on June 9. Documents show the company owed $79.5 million to more than 200 creditors, including $5.5 million to the GNWT.
The GNWT stated in a news release Nov. 19 that the "decision to make the offer to purchase (Mactung) during the election period was required by the pace of proceedings in the B.C. Supreme Court," calling it "beyond the GNWT's ability to control."
Normally, GNWT cabinet ministers wouldn't be allowed to approve bids like this during an election period but Mark Warren, deputy minister of Lands, said the situation dictated otherwise.
"It made more sense for us to buy it out and look to the future to hopefully see circumstances change," he said.
In this case, the territorial government "was authorized to commit funding for the offer through a special warrant that will be reported to the 18th legislative assembly."
News/North asked to speak with Lands Minister Robert C. McLeod but was told the minister couldn't comment due to the election. All six MLAs who served on cabinet during the 17th legislative assembly, along with Premier Bob McLeod, were seeking re-election ahead of the Nov. 23 vote.
The Cantung mine is located in the NWT's Deh Cho region on the Flat River close to the Nahanni National Park Reserve. The Mactung property is located about 16 km northwest of the Cantung mine across the border into the Yukon.
North American Tungsten had been in debt for months and had already laid off dozens of staff at its Cantung mine earlier this year.
Warren said the acquisition of Mactung involved several government departments working together through a resource management committee comprised of deputy ministers, which he chaired.
"It has a multitude of responsibilities so it was thought best to do it under our committee system," he said, adding that as the chair, the overall responsibility for the project was his.
NATCL's Cantung mine was abandoned by the company under proceedings that followed the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
Warren said the Yukon government did not consider making a bid for the purchase of the mineral rights at Mactung and North American Tungsten already owes GNWT money and is first in line to be repaid.
"When the Cantung mine was being developed under the auspice of our (Mackenzie Valley) Land and Water board, the security that was posted against the reclamations was the Mactung property," he said.
What this means is that Mactung was posted as collateral for Cantung. Reclamation securities are usually assets set aside for the clean-up process following the closure of a mine in case it requires extra work. The GNWT asked NATCL for a reclamation security of $30 million for the Cantung mine.
Cleanup of Cantung a federal responsibility
Warren said the Cantung mine, which has been in operation for decades, eventually fell under the Government of Canada's responsibility under Chapter 6 of the Devolution Agreement which states the territory has a five-year grace period during which it does not have to assume responsibility for remediation of mines that have been abandoned in the territory.
"In this case (Cantung) went into an insolvency and was declared abandoned just by the courts a couple of days ago," he said. "There was then the opportunity to go back to the Government of Canada and say, 'Hey this was a mine that happened on your watch and therefore you should be taking over.'"
Cabinet spokesperson Andrew Livingstone said part of the reason why it's important the GNWT purchases Mactung now is, according to the devolution agreement, "The GNWT was required to diligently pursue all reasonable means to recover debts or realize any proceeds available to it” before the federal government would agree to take over cleanup of the Cantung Mine.
"Environmental securities for Cantung were backed by assets at Mactung that met the requirements of the devolution agreement," said Livingstone.
Warren said during the sales and investor solicitation process, the Cantung mine did not receive any bids.
According to Warren and the GNWT's news release, Mactung has "significant potential value as the world's largest tungsten deposit outside of China."
While the GNWT offered to purchase the Mactung property for a maximum of $4.5 million, Warren said the final cost to the territorial government is expected to be lower than that.
Warren said once the committee of deputy ministers knew the Cantung mine was abandoned and there were no bids during a process that ended in September, his department could go through all the bidding information about Mactung, the details of which they had to keep confidential.
"I can tell you they were disappointing to both levels of government," he said of the Mactung bids.
Warren actually expected to get worthwhile bids for Mactung and figured that would resolve the situation. The GNWT stepped in when that didn't happen.
Acquisition wasn't planned: GNWT
Warren said the GNWT wanted to protect the environment by ensuring an orderly shutdown of the Cantung mine and to have a say in the next owners of the property to protect the interests of NWT taxpayers. If the court-appointed monitor put in place after NATCL sought creditor protection had chosen to accept inferior bids for the Mactung property, taxpayers would have a much lower return on the outstanding loan the GNWT had given to NATCL.
Warren said his department knew a number of different things could have caused this to happen while the company was under creditor protection, such as running out of money, equipment failure, suppliers backing out or a further collapse in commodity prices.
"We were always planning and had a contingency plan in case (if) we had to step in and do care and maintenance," he said.
Future remains uncertain
As to how it will play out, Livingstone acknowledged the price is tungsten is currently at a five-year low.
Livingstone said due to ongoing court proceedings all questions regarding the details of the $5.5 million owed to the government need to be directed to the assigned monitor, Alvarez and Marsal.
A backgrounder issued by the GNWT said "the Mactung property will be sold when the price of tungsten rebounds" so the territory can make its money back.
Mike Bradshaw, executive director of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, said it's not unusual for a government to step in when an industry struggles. He cited the example of the Ontario government intervening on the financial future of several car manufacturers over the last decade.
"That financial intervention allowed them to continue operating," he said. "Of course, the Government of Ontario received shares of those companies and then sold them back when the companies recovered."
While the Mactung situation is different, Bradshaw said it's clear the GNWT considered the mineral rights to be valuable.
Both Bradshaw and Warren described the situation as far from ideal but said it was the best alternative to letting the leases lapse or accepting the other bids.
As for Mactung's former owner, according to the GNWT backgrounder, NATCL's directors and officers have resigned and most of the employees have been laid off, effective Nov. 18.
There was no update posted to NATCL's own website.
Kieron Testart David Ramsay
Kieron Testart says if elected Monday he'll only support people for cabinet posts if they agree to implement specific campaign promises he's made.
Testart, running in Kam Lake against incumbent David Ramsay, has attached dollar figures to many of his commitments, something others, including Ramsay, have avoided.
If elected, Testart would be one of 19 MLAs. Outside cabinet, MLAs can make suggestions, but the government doesn't necessarily have to act on the ideas.
“My plan is clear, I will have a clear mandate to bring to the legislative assembly and I will only support people for cabinet positions if they pledge to support my plan, that way I can ensure my voters and my constituents that this plan will be on the agenda of the next government,” Testart told Yellowknifer, when asked how he intends to meet his promises if elected.
Ramsay said what Testart is putting forward about cabinet is not realistic.
“It's really easy to say that if you haven't lived it,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay said consensus government means compromising to carry out the collective priorities of the legislative assembly.
He's critical of Testart's decision to attach dollar figures to promises.
“Just to throw numbers around like that – you've got to know the process,” Ramsay said, adding he's careful to not attach numbers to his promises.
“These are my priorities, and these are specific things I would fight for in the budget,” Testart said in response, adding members can make recommendations about funding.
“All I'm doing is providing details and a clear picture of what my promises will look like if elected," Testart said.
It's up to voters to then decide if that's a plan they support.
“That's a concern to me, because it doesn't give certainty,” Testart said about the lack of financial figures attached to other candidates' platforms.
Over the past two weeks, Testart has sent out news releases with specific dollar amounts for various things relating to the tourism industry and municipal infrastructure.
His news release states he'd work to implement the ideas “immediately,” which he told Yellowknifer means within his four-year mandate.
Testart came up with promises in consultation with experts – who he said he couldn't reveal the names of to Yellowknifer – with a price tag that would account for three per cent growth in territorial government spending. Despite projections showing government revenue declining over the coming years, he said that's achievable.
“That's well within the means of government to support with our current resources and we of course we have a new government in Ottawa that has committed to working in partnership with all provinces and territories,” he said.
He touted his close connections with Liberal MP Michael McLeod and other members of the party.
“I will be a strong voice that can influence those partnerships that can make sure the North gets what it needs,” he said.
Testart had served as campaign manager for McLeod during the federal election that ended Oct. 19.
Ramsay chuckled at that, saying he's known McLeod for years since they were both MLAs in the legislative assembly together.
The race to the legislative assembly is heating up with elections scheduled to take place on Nov. 23.
Four candidates are running in the Deh Cho: Ron Bonnetrouge, Lyle Fabian, Michael Nadli and Greg Nyuli. In the Nahendeh, incumbent Kevin Menicoche is being challenged by six candidates: Shane Thompson, Rosemary Gill, Dennis Nelner, Arnold Hope, Randy Sibbeston and Deneze Nakehk'o.
Deh Cho Drum reached out to all candidates by e-mail with questions on the Dehcho Process and infrastructure dollars.
Candidates who responded for the Nov. 19 edition of the paper are Nakehk'o, Thompson and Menicoche.
Over the last year, the Dehcho Process has been stalled due to the inability of the government and the Dehcho First Nations to agree on the amount of land Dehcho First Nations should receive. Do you think one or both sides needs to compromise and, if so, how can such a compromise be struck?
Shane Thompson: “In my conversations with the Grand Chief, they are willing to negotiate -- now the GNWT must be willing to do the same in good faith. Both sides should look at the Tlicho process as a template. The amount of land and compensation funds was based on what was agreed in the Dene/Metis Land Claims Agreement. However, the Tlicho got more subsurface land in exchange for reduced compensation funds. Self-government means control, and owning surface and subsurface lands means more control and management. If elected, I would work behind the scenes to ensure all parties get to the table.”
Menicoche: “I will work and support the Dehcho First Nations for a just settlement. With devolution, the GNWT now plays a bigger role in negotiations. I will lobby hard with the newly elected MLAs to ensure settling our claims becomes a priority for the 18th assembly. The GNWT has to be more flexible and creative to ensure more lands are available to the Dehcho. Finalizing the agreement-in-principle will give our region certainty. I am hopeful the new Liberal government and MP will follow through on their commitment that land claims do not have a cookie cutter approach.”
Deneze Nakehk'o: “Communication is key to working together, and working together is how things get done. This is important in all endeavours and more so for our modern Treaty processes in Nahendeh. I would work to bring everyone -- indigenous and non-indigenous alike -- up to date with the current negotiations. We all have to feel good about the Dehcho Process and the Fort Liard Land Claim and community self-government, because both processes will set the foundation for certainty. Strong leadership is needed to facilitate these processes. We need a Nahendeh MLA on cabinet to make effective change in our region.”
What would your strategy be to ensure your riding receives the infrastructure money it needs?
Thompson: “I believe it is all about working together with the communities to ensure that we come to the legislative assembly as a united front. This will remove one of the barriers that government can use against us -- 'You folks are not working together so how can we bring the necessary infrastructure into the region?' The other step is to work with the other 18 MLAs so they understand our needs. The third step is to work hard in committees and during the budget process.”
Menicoche: “It has been my experience that the best way for an MLA to ensure their riding infrastructure needs are met is to continually raise the issue in legislature and work with the oversight committees to ensure their support. Large infrastructure projects, such as the $30-million health centre, will have to have the support of cabinet and all MLAs. I will work hard with my colleagues so the project is advanced to begin construction in the 2017-18 capital budget. I will also ensure MLAs lobbying to get on cabinet will have my support if they support Nahendeh's capital infrastructure needs.”
Nakehk'o: “Being the Nahendeh MLA is not a normal job. This is a leadership position that requires a strong voice and the ability to work well with others. Nahendeh is one MLA out of 19. Support is needed from the other MLAs to get movement on campaign promises. Understanding territorial politics and procedures will help, but what will really make things happen is working with other MLAs. This is why a cabinet position is important for Nahendeh, because that is where all the decisions are made and we need to be at that table to ensure we have our say.”
When it comes to issues facing the Deh Cho, MLA candidate Greg Nyuli says he wants to correct a government track record of failing to listen to residents.
A Gargan by blood, Nyuli was born in Fort Providence and returned to the community in 1983 after being raised by his adoptive family in Daysland, Alta. After serving as a regional negotiator, Deh Gah Got'ie chief, councillor and finally in senior management for more than a decade, Nyuli has most recently taken on the task of executive assistant to Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Herb Norwegian.
“My primary reason for running stems from watching how the government conducts itself on major issues such as the health superboard, land and water management and education,” Nyuli said.
“There are a lot of good ideas coming from the people and communities, and (the government) isn't necessarily taking those into account when they're out there doing their planning and consultation with the public. In fact, sometimes they are not even listening at all.”
Nyuli cites the Dehcho Process and youth programming as two of his major priorities.
“Land and environment is a concern in terms of devolution and how it's affecting existing claimant groups and potential future claimant groups,” he said.
“I want to ensure the government is listening to the people on the ground and try to accommodate them on the many issues and concerns they have. The government isn't always doing that.”
Many of the issues in the Deh Cho are tied to one another, Nyuli said. This includes youth, health and well-being, family and elders.
Having been raised in a community where students had access to shop classes, home economics and a science lab, Nyuli said he plans to push for similar infrastructure in the Deh Cho.
“It is important to get programming the kids are interested in and will want to participate in,” he said.
“We're having issues (with youth) not only in Fort Providence but also the other communities. We need to work more closely with those communities to get some home-grown solutions so we can create a better environment for the kids.”
If elected, Nyuli plans to consider aiming for a cabinet position, depending on what he hears from the constituents.
Some of Nyuli's campaign promises include addressing housing pressures, decentralizing government services and bringing in more on-the-land treatment options.
“I'm not going anywhere. I'm committed to working with the people in this community and region,” he said.
More than 100 people turned out to see legislative assembly hopefuls lock horns Nov. 12, peppering candidates with questions ranging from help for fire departments in smaller communities to whether or not marijuana should be legalized.
Candidates from both Inuvik districts -- Boot Lake and Twin Lakes -- participated in the forum organized by the Inuvik Chamber of Commerce. Incumbents Alfred Moses and Robert C. McLeod sat down alongside challengers Dez Loreen and Jimmy Kalinek to take questions from moderators and the public in the community lounge at the Midnight Sun Complex.
Overwhelmingly, however, citizens were concerned with the cost of living. From questions about what the territorial government could do about the rising price of gas to the need for more and better jobs, people implored their candidates to make things easier for them and their families.
“I’m not sure the GNWT can regulate private industry,” said Moses, adding that there is precedent for subsidies in the case of natural gas.
“I thought it went very well,” McLeod said at the end of the evening. “I thought the candidates needed more time to make final comments… in the assembly we have two-and-a-half minutes to make member statements.”
Mostly, though, he complimented the people who had come out to the forum to better know their candidates and ask their own questions.
“We had good participation from the audience," McLeod said. “If we had gone on longer, we would have had even more questions.”
The Inuvik-Tuk Highway was touted as not only a current job stimulator, but one that will pay dividends in the future in terms of connecting communities. Former Green Party candidate John Moore asked candidates to justify the cost of such infrastructure projects, citing a 335-year period to pay off a proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway and noting that the Tuk Highway will never pay for itself in purely economic terms. Candidates replied that the price tag is not the only thing to consider.
“It’s about connecting people,” said Loreen.
McLeod and Moses agreed, adding that sometimes governments have to bite the bullet and spend that kind of money to make things easier for people. In a separate conversation, he also noted that the highway to Tuk could allow for greater access to more gas wells that could help alleviate the cost of heating in Inuvik.
The questions, however, that divided candidates the most was that of the legalization of marijuana. Kalinek said he isn't sure but thought there may be money to be made.
While Moses said the drug is a menace to society and that it leads to all kinds of social ills, including rape and assault.
Loreen said he is entirely in favour of legalization.
“I 100 per cent agree that we should legalize marijuana,” he said, adding that it will create revenue and help curb crime, but that it should be regulated like alcohol. “People are always going to want to get high, so we need to make it safe for them.”
Other questions concerned education reform, challenges NWT residents face competing for government jobs, and homelessness. The question on homelessness drew a swell of applause from the audience and passionate answers from the candidates.
“It’s a big concern for Inuvik, they have nowhere to turn,” said Kalinek. “It shouldn't be just a place to sleep, there should be an opportunity for programs during the day, looking at healing, counselling... helping them move forward and find work.”
He also spoke highly of the now-defunct Inuvik Works that used to help people transition from homelessness to meaningful employment before the funding ran out.
Loreen and Moses agreed with McLeod in his appreciation for the turnout. Loreen said he thought the forum would be in the community hall downstairs but was pleased to see a packed house and hoped people would stay involved in the process of government. Moses said that the forum was also a good opportunity for people to get caught up on what the government has been up to. He also commended Kalinek and Loreen for putting their names forward.
“It's great to see two new candidates stepping forward. It's not easy to sit up here and address a roomful of people like this,” he said. “I encourage all residents to get out and vote. Those turnouts show that people care what's going on, and the higher percentage we have, the more leverage we have in Yellowknife.”
Inuvik Boot Lake candidates Dez Loreen and Alfred Moses along with Inuvik Twin Lakes candidates Jimmy Kalinek and Robert C. McLeod were each asked four questions by Inuvik Drum as the Nov. 23 territorial election approaches. Here are the questions followed by their responses:
How would you tackle the gas crisis?
JIMMY KALINEK: With the Inuvik-Tuk Highway going right past Parsons Lake I would try and look at ways to tap into the large amount of gas there. Wind and solar is another opportunity.
Promoting both wood and pellet stove burning and a program to help start people with the equipment for wood and pellet burning. Subsidizing the gas until programs are started.
DEZ LOREEN: We need an affordable source to heat our houses. That could mean getting more gas from the Delta, we need to look at all the options. The territorial government should be at the front line getting the best for the people here. Are we all supposed to supplement our homes with wood and fuel burning stoves?
If we had gas plants active again that could bring local workers back on the job. I don't want to risk trucking up fuel. We should have local options.
ROBERT C. MCLEOD: Work with the Town of Inuvik, industry and the GNWT to find options for the supply of gas so consumers are not hit so hard on utility costs.
Alfred MOSES: To tackle the gas situation, I would first start to look at other investments to offset the cost and reliance for a longer term such as biomass and wind initiatives and policies that would encourage residents and business to invest with subsidies. Also, with the completion of the Inuvik-Tuk Highway, there have to be discussions starting on investing into an access road to Parsons well to see if we can start using the gas from there and truck it to Inuvik. A shorter distance and create a less cost than LNG.
Would you bring back a program like Inuvik Works? Why or why not?
KALINEK: Most definitely.
The town and people really need a program like this again, they help with so many needed projects and programs in this town. Employment is needed to help people get on their feet to see that their help and job they do is very important and they will see it in the faces of all single parents, elders and the residents of Inuvik.
LOREEN: I think we all saw the incredible benefits the Inuvik Works program brought to the community. Roy employed a great number of people to keep the community clean and on the tracks. It gave opportunity for people to join the workforce and learn responsibilities. They were very active in town and would definitely be a priority in a new government.
MCLEOD: I would support the town if they wanted to bring back the program. It was a great program when it operated. If there is a way for the government to be more involved, I would support the effort.
MOSES: Yes, I would work on creating a fund or put into the operations budget to address this initiative. It was a strong program in the community that created jobs but also work experience for students.
How would you go about stimulating the economy outside of tourism and oil and gas?
KALINEK: Looking at the economy now it is very slow and a lot of people are looking for work. I think infrastructure in the town of Inuvik is a big potential with lots of new projects up and coming. Also the Mackenzie Valley Highway is another that will create a lot of jobs and bring in more income to the community.
LOREEN: People will always live here, regardless of housing costs, fuel costs and food cost. Kids are being born here and going to school. Their parents work here and have to buy things here as well. If the cost of transportation was cheaper, local businesses could be competitive with southern companies. More families could spend their money in town. Investing in local business would benefit Inuvik’s economy.
MCLEOD: We would have to promote more local economy initiatives and support community business efforts. We have many good local seamstresses here that we could continue to promote, there are plans for a pellet mill in the southern part of the NWT, we should explore the possibility of having one in the Beaufort-Delta, it would create some employment. Many residents are now going biomass so there will be a demand, we will need to seize what opportunities that could exist with the satellite facility. We need to be optimistic about our future and grow the local economy until larger projects come along
MOSES: There are many opportunities to stimulate the economy. We can begin with creating and maintaining jobs by completing the Inuvik-Tuk Highway and start working on getting the Mackenzie Valley Highway started. There are also plans to build a new airport terminal and also studies to lengthen the runway. If these are done, we can start to land bigger jets which could possibly see Inuvik become an international airport, which would create more jobs and possibly bring more business to the community. We also have the demolition of the Blueberry Patch which the community and government will have to come up with a plan for what to build in its replacement. Investing into universal child daycare, it would provide for more families to become double income families and fill some of the vacant positions in government.
If commodity prices go up and fracking in the NWT becomes viable economically, should it be done?
KALINEK: We have to look at all possibilities and work with aboriginal government groups together and see the best safe possible way to work with this. This is a big decision and will effect a lot of people so coming up with an answer together would be best for all parties.
LOREEN: I don't want to disturb nature unnecessarily but if studies show that the effects of fracking can be minimized and the gains are worth the risk, then I would be open to discuss fracking in unprotected areas.
MCLEOD: It needs to be balanced. Protecting the environment is critical and if there is a way for it to be done in a balanced manner then it can be considered.
MOSES: Fracking is definitely a complex issue. The government needs more thorough consultations and to create strong regulations that would reflect on whether or not the practice would be used in the North. Aboriginal governments also need to be heard and then collectively we can make the decisions that would reflect the best interest of the residents and business.
As with the candidates in Hay River South and Hay River North, The Hay River Hub sent a questionnaire to candidates in the Deh Cho electoral district.
As of the set deadline for response, only Lyle Fabian had replied, and his answers are below.
The other candidates are Ronald Bonnetrouge, Michael Nadli and Gregory Nyuli.
The Deh Cho electoral district includes the communities of the Hay River Reserve, Enterprise, Fort Providence and Kakisa.
Name: Lyle Fabian
Occupation: Telecommunication specialist
Time in Hay River: Born and raised in both communities of Hay River Dene community and the Town of Hay River. Each of these communities had a great impact on my views, which have been positive. I was raised to see all sides, from each community from its leaders, business owners, family and friends.
Took leadership roles in economic development, and First Nation self-government
Former K'atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) council member
KFN senior IT broadband project manager
KFN oil & gas project manager
KFN land claims manager
Chair of the board of the Deh Cho Regional Corporation
Why do you want to represent Deh Cho?
I was born and grew up in the Deh Cho. My family comes from there and my communities had a great impact on my views and who I became. My roots are in that region and follow me wherever I go. I want my region to have a strong voice and a strong future (because) I believe the people from the Deh Cho have a lot to offer. We just need to be more involved and to speak up.
What are the top three issues affecting Deh Cho and how would you address them?
I believe a comprehensive review of each settled and unsettled claims Treaty 8 and 11 needs to be respected and taken into consideration. We need to respect aboriginal and treaty rights and settlement agreements in the NWT. I believe there are workable solutions available that will enhance both First Nations, territorial and federal land issues, regarding (governance), and policies that would benefit all Northerners in the NWT.
Access to broadband has become essential for social and economic benefits and is provided to other Canadian residents, businesses and governments. The GNWT had invested in the Mackenzie Fibre Link project to bring an essential fibre optic link down the Mackenzie Valley from Inuvik, and we need to expand. I have worked on community-owned fibre optic and wireless networks, can strengthen economic development and job creation, and increase education, and I want our communities to benefit from it, too.
I also believe that we need to promote our culture and start exporting our cultural products/knowledge. Our people have a lot to offer and we need to focus and believe in ourselves.
Domestic violence and substance abuse:
People from our communities have been dealing with drugs and alcohol issues for years and to this day are still dealing with these issues. Almost 80 per cent of domestic violence crimes have a connection to substance abuse. There is clearly a lack of funded programs in order for our people to get the help they need. I believe grassroots community-based social programs need to be in place with the help of the GNWT.
How would you balance the competing demands of more funding for social programs with declining revenue and a near stagnate territorial population?
I believe that the GNWT needs to put in place community-based programs and make sure that the communities are involved in this process and in the management of those programs. This would not only mean that the cultural aspect of the programs is taken into consideration and preserved but also that communities have to make sure that they are economically responsible in running successful programs.
About 250 potential voters heard last week from the six candidates in the community – three in Hay River South and three in Hay River North – vying for a seat in the legislative assembly.
The all-candidates' forum at Princess Alexandra School on Nov. 10 – presented by the Hay River Chamber of Commerce – was overwhelmingly a polite affair with candidates generally agreeing on the issues facing the community.
For Hay River South, the candidates are longtime incumbent MLA Jane Groenewegen, and challengers Wally Schumann and Brian Willows.
For Hay River North, the candidates are incumbent Robert Bouchard and challengers Rocky (R.J.) Simpson and Karen Felker.
All gave similar pitches for votes, arguing that Hay River is facing tough economic times and that they would be the best person to deal with it.
"Our economy has flatlined in the Northwest Territories," said Bouchard. "We need to work hard to get that accelerated."
Among his various concerns is the closing of the addictions treatment centre on the Hay River Reserve a couple of years ago.
"Obviously, the treatment centre (closing) was a shock to all of us," he said. "It's unbelievable that we won't have a treatment centre in the Northwest Territories."
The MLA said he has had a steep learning curve in his four years in the legislative assembly but that he has learned the government system and is ready to try to represent Hay River in the territorial cabinet.
Simpson said everyone is concerned about the state of Hay River.
"And we're not necessarily satisfied with what's been done at the territorial level for us," he said.
Simpson added there is a feeling that Hay River is stagnating and there's uncertainty about the future.
In particular, he stressed the need for improved education.
"All the talk of economic growth is meaningless if you don't have the workforce to fill those positions," he said. "Nothing offers a better return on investment than education."
Simpson also offered probably the funniest line of the night when discussing the lack of population growth in Hay River.
"Six months ago, I finally convinced my girlfriend of six years, Sarah, to join me here," he said. "So believe me I know the challenges of attracting residents to Hay River."
Felker said she has never seen Hay River in such shape economically, saying she would support a number of initiatives, such as reopening the treatment centre, dredging the harbour and aiding the fishing industry.
"I don't profess to have all the answers, but I do have a desire and passion to find the answers for a place I love and I call home," said the former chief of West Point First Nation.
As for the candidates in Hay River South, Groenewegen said, even though some people say there is a lack of confidence in the economy, she sees many businesses investing in the community.
"There is no silver bullet. There is no magic wand," she said. "At the end of the day, government's role in stimulating the economy has to do with the things that are within the government's control."
That includes grants and loans, and adjusting tax rates, she explained.
Schumann said Hay River is ready for a change with the community suffering the effects of economic decline, in such things as shipping and fishing, and facing a rising cost of living.
"It's been harder than ever to get ahead," said the owner of Poison Painting. "When our businesses are hurting, so are our families."
Schumann said he is proposing a new direction.
"I want to re-energize the Hub of the North and get Hay River back on the road to prosperity," he stated.
Willows, the retired former chief operating officer of Northwest Territories Power Corporations, said Hay River is in need of a change of leadership, and, if elected, he would seek a cabinet position because he is "job ready."
At the end of the forum, he focused directly on Groenewegen.
"For the incumbent, it's job appraisal time," he said, referring back to the 16th assembly when Groenewegen stated in the legislature that she would not run again as her heart was no longer in it.
"If the 17th assembly has shown us anything, it was that she was right," said Willows.
The challenger said, in his view, Groenewegen has simply not earned the privilege over the last four years to serve another term.
Because of the structure of the forum, Groenewegen did not have the opportunity to respond to Willows.
Speaking later with The Hub, she said her comment in the 16th assembly about not wanting to seek re-election was made during an "unusual and emotionally-charged day" in the legislature.
She said she later decided to seek re-election to the 17th assembly and she feels she has served Hay River South well in the last four years.
In general, all candidates agreed there was a need for improved education, dredging the harbour, assisting the fishing industry, a lower student-teacher ratio, more focus on tourism, a lower cost of living and more support for seniors. The latter issue dominated the half-dozen questions that were asked by voters.
However, one woman asked, "Are you for or against hydraulic fracking anywhere in the Northwest Territories?"
The responses ranged from Schumann's call for more consultations to Groenewegen's suggestion of consultations by an impartial group to Willows' idea of a plebiscite on the issue.
The election is set for Nov. 23.
People who want to gather in a neutral public setting to view results of the territorial election on Nov. 23 appear to have been left out in the cold. The legislative assembly stopped holding an election night event in the great hall after the 2007 election and the Chief Elector Officer (CEO) for the NWT said that she has no intention of throwing the doors to her office for the evening.
CEO Nicole Latour said that staff will be busy putting results on their website and they do not have the time and space to deal with people dropping in.
Her office has had an expression of interest from people to be in their office on election night but she said that she has had to decline, Latour said.
“The most real time results will be via the Elections NWT website,” Latour said. “As an agency we just release the results through the website. It's like any other place – it'll be the radio or television or a candidate's place or some people have parties at home and watch the results roll in. You can go to the candidate of your choice's office There are a lot of different avenues to get the results.”
Latour said that people have implied that the media should be present on election night at the Elections NWT office. She said it is not done that way here and it is not in other jurisdictions she has visited such as B.C. and Alberta.
“We're busy that evening and we don't have the media in here. We have business to do and that's what we concentrate on that evening is to make sure the results get reported as quickly as possible and that they are accurate and get them up to the easiest place which is the Internet. Technology has advanced and so have the reporting practices. Past events at the great hall had nothing to do with us.”
Latour said she is comfortable that Elections NWT is doing everything it can to make sure people who want to know the results can access them on the website as soon as they come in.
“We have a lot of polls to report that night...if there are delays there all delays. I'm not going to release anything until we know that it is correct, as correct as possible. Sometimes it take time.”
Latour said that by releasing the results from a single source then one media outlet doesn't find out the results from another media source. So it's a level playing field for all media outlets.
Tim Mercer, clerk of the legislative assembly, said that trying to coordinate with Elections NWT in order to post results at the legislative assembly is no longer an efficient way of doing things.
Mercer said that technology is such that the website is the quickest, most accurate way to be updated and he also pointed to an incident on election night in 2007 that made it appear a candidate had won before the advance polls were counted.
“We had reported all four polls from Hay River South but not the advance poll and that led to some confusion and premature celebrations. Because of that incident we all said let's let Elections NWT take responsibility for posting the results,” Mercer said.
“We used to post the election results in the (legislative) building. There were some mix ups in the reporting that happened and quite frankly we didn't want to be responsible for relaying results from Elections NWT. That is certainly not something that we want to be involved with at the legislative assembly. The way it used to work was that the returning officers from all across the NWT would phone in the results to the Chief Electoral officer...who would then fax them over here to the legislative assembly and the clerk's staff would then go out on chalkboards update the numbers. That is no longer necessary. That's a way for errors to happen. The Elections NWT website is the most immediate, effective way to transmit the numbers. We don't need that step in between.
Recently retired MLA Bob Bromley has often stood in the assembly and talked about how consensus government should be a shared experience of cooperation. He thinks that it is a shame that an election night event is no longer held at the great hall and added that this is another opportunity missed.
“It was just a real opportunity to get together and commiserate or celebrate and start building on relationships by sharing that significant event with families and the community. I think it would be great to have something like that again,” Bromley said. “When we were at our campaign offices it was way behind on the TV – we knew a couple of hours before. The great hall event was a bit of a completion, an opportunity to share the ups and down of the campaign together.
by Evan Kiyoshi French
Great Slave incumbent Glen Abernethy told a crowd gathered for an education-themed debate, school boards need to find cost-savings within before they come to the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) for more funding.
Educators, parents and students filled seats in the gymnasium at St. Patrick High School on Nov. 12 to grill territorial candidates on how they will help the cause of education if elected, when the sitting Health Minister made his statement.
“We must look within, and that includes the individual school boards as well as the GNWT, to make sure the programs and services that are running are getting maximum benefit,” said Abernethy. “Once we have a better sense of the programs and that we are in fact maximizing dollars, I think it's going to be important to look at some more funding.”
Abernethy was defending the decisions of the 17th assembly, when asked if the school boards are due for more funding from ECE, given the goals of inclusive schooling initiatives and the junior kindergarten conundrum.
When schooling for four-year-olds was put on hold for review by the GNWT, Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) and Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1) rolled out their own versions of the program under the name tag, “pre-kindergarten.” The boards paid for the launch out of pocket with funding operations covered by a user-pay system so the grade, which city boards agreed is beneficial to students and instrumental in improving territorial graduation rates, could be offered as soon as possible.
Later in the evening, questioners also underlined that when city boards reported a surplus during the last term, ECE cut their funding in that amount, burdening them further as they struggled to deliver 14 grades of schooling on funding for 13.
Twenty candidates squeezed into chairs behind tables in the partitioned gymnasium for the two-hour forum – a combined effort of Yk1, YCS and the Commission scolaire francophone NWT. Children bounced around on mats at one end of the gym while parents sat fixated on responses from the candidates to questions aimed at revealing how the reportedly cash-strapped GNWT will support the districts during the next term.
Questions generated by Yk1 and YCS administration and pitched by audience members during an open mic session asked if candidates would support the publicly-funded implementation of junior kindergarten, how they would create inclusive classrooms for students with special needs and work with the French district to carry out the NWT supreme court-ordered expansion at Allain St. Cyr School.
Candidates agreed education is a priority and some new faces competed to demonstrate they were the most education-minded option. Skills Canada's executive director Jan Fullerton, Montessori Schools' Yellowknife president Dave Wasylciw and Alternatives North executive director Kevin O'Reilly vied for the favour of the crowd, citing past experience as educational administrators -- or in O'Reilly's case his connection to the French school board through his wife, the Commission's former president, Suzette Montreuil.
Wasylciw stole the show with some of the debate's most ambitious rhetoric. He said the territory should have a department – and a minister – dedicated solely to education, rather than splitting the attention between education, culture and employment. Asked what he'd say if he had the opportunity to address outgoing education Minister Jackson Lafferty, Wasylciw's response was short.
“When was the last time you were in a school?” he said.
An awkward moment occurred after a response from Fullerton. She was explaining her ideas on how the schools could access more funding, since, according to her, the schools need more cash. She also underlined the importance of health in helping students achieve better grades.
“What they're being asked to do with the funding available is limiting to students,” she said. “Health is the foundation to learning and learning is the foundation to success in life.”
After Fullerton's remarks, moderator Kathy Brown – who has a grandchild attending Range Lake North School – piped up.
“I have allotted 20 seconds for applause,” she said, for the first and only time during the night.
The crowd applauded for about 10 seconds.
Brown did not respond to requests for comment before press time.
John Stephenson, Yk1 chair, said Brown and the other women running the forum were volunteers and time for applause was included after each speaker spoke. Brown did not intend to appear to be choosing favourites, he said.
Kam Lake candidate Kieron Testart said cutting funding to the districts after they reported a surplus was not fair.
“Cutting funding when they were being fiscally prudent isn't fair,” he said, adding that the new government in Ottawa has promised to fund education in the North. The Western Arctic Liberal Association's president said he has the connections to get the money flowing.
“We can look toward the federal government who has promised $3.2 billion in new education funding over four years. I know I have the right connections and the right relationships to get that money flowing to the NWT.”
Only one sixth of the candidates vying for seats in the Nov. 23 territorial election are female.
However, in the Sahtu half of the candidates are female. Both Judy Tutcho and Yvonne Doolittle are running for the seat vacated by the now-retired Norman Yakeleya.
Tutcho said she firmly believes more women should be represented in the legislative assembly. She believes females have a strong ability to realize the repercussions of their decisions before actually making them.
“It's very difficult in the Sahtu because it is traditionally a men's territory. Women are caregivers automatically. We are born with it. Women seem to be logical about making decisions, thinking things through thoroughly. Women have an innate intuition and know how to plan, they think things out,” Tutcho said. “I did speak to one of the former female MLAs just to get the feeling. I didn't want to put gender on the forefront but I thought about it and it would be great to have more women in the legislative assembly.”
Tutcho said her experience in government, including social work and corrections as well as her time languages commissioner for the NWT, gives her the kind of background that would make her an effective MLA.
She does not like the idea of candidates “parachuting” into the riding, candidates who do not currently live in the Sahtu. That includes her cousin and fellow candidate Yvonne Doolittle, Tutcho said.
Doolittle, who lists her address as Yellowknife on the Elections NWT candidates list, said she disagrees with that notion that she has parachuted into the riding.
“I am a beneficiary of the land claim. Leonard Kenny from Deline is my chief. That's my hometown. I am committed to living in Norman Wells,” Doolittle said. “I do still have a home in Yellowknife. But if I am successful in becoming the Sahtu MLA, then I will be there. Even if I don't win I'm pretty sure I am relocating there.”
Doolittle has taken a leave from her job as a regional director for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs to run in the election. She agrees with Tutcho that women are are underrepresented in the assembly, adding it can be difficult for females because they have so many responsibilities.
“We have women in different positions who are strong leaders and who would like to be leaders in the communities. I hope that we are inspiring women,” Doolittle said. “I am hopeful that we will continue to motivate women to make positive choices for themselves … and come join us.”
Sahtu candidate Paul Andrew said he agrees there should be more female MLAs but added the voters should elect their members on merit, not gender.
“Women's voices need to be heard. The men have to do a good job at representing everyone. Obviously women do not feel well represented enough that they have raised concerns about issues like daycare, domestic abuse and equal pay. The message is clear to the men that they have not done a very good job,” Andrew said. “When I was a chief, the elders said no matter how people voted, whether they voted for you or not, it is your responsibility to represent them. That's what I intend to do. If they (women) don't feel I don't know the issues well enough then I am willing to listen and willing to learn so that I can do a better job representing them.”
Andrew said his experience, including time as a chief, a broadcaster and a union rep makes him the best choice to become the MLA for the Sahtu.
Sahtu candidate Daniel McNeely agrees women are underrepresented in the assembly but added he doesn't think men have an advantage when running for territorial politics.
“We live in a democratic world and if females want to put their name forward then the invitation is there,” McNeely said. “I'll be honest and say that I don't quite know everything. I don't know every program that exists but I am certainly willing to hear people's suggestions on how to develop and deliver those programs that do exist. Everybody's input is valued.”
McNeely said that his business experience makes him the best choice for Sahtu MLA.
“I've seen a real need for change and I've seen a lot of young people really not aware of what could be available to them. It's quite different in our area being a remote, isolated part of the NWT. We are not accessible to year-round opportunities like some all-weather road connected regions.”
The winning Sahtu candidate will replace the now-retired Norman Yakeleya, who represented the region for three consecutive terms.
After a term in the legislative assembly, Alfred Moses’ optimism is mixed with realism.
“We have to be innovative in finding solutions for the community,” he told the Drum last week. “Ask me four years ago, it would have been a different answer.”
Moses has served as MLA for Inuvik Boot Lake for the last term, one he said was both a humbling and exhilarating experience. While he acknowledges there are many challenges facing Inuvik and the NWT as a whole, he said he is ready to tackle those problems.
“I was very optimistic when I was first elected, and we got a lot done,” he said. “Now that optimism is mixed with realism. There are going to be some tough decisions that need to be made, and that's where the realism comes into play.”
Moses said the financial challenges facing the 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories will be massive and that it filters down to the communities themselves. Issues like the rampant economic downturn, homelessness, mental health, and education are at the top of his list of priorities, as well as questions that remain despite there not being much pressure for answers from industry, like fracking.
“My platform is a lot,” he admitted, describing the brochure he has produced as a fairly exhaustive list. “But I’m pretty confident we can get it all addressed.”
As for his campaign, Moses is going old school, knocking on doors and talking to people. He said people have been asking him if he will create a Facebook page to support his re-election, but he said he prefers a more direct approach.
“You need that face-to-face,” he said, noting that social media can look more like cheerleading and self-promotion than substantive discussion. “You have to make sure you're accessible, approachable. At our office, we had a lot of people stopping in, not afraid to tell us what was on their minds.”
While going door-to-door, Moses is also taking down names and e-mail addresses of people interested in keeping in touch. He gave the example of last year, when the assembly voted to extend its term. The decision was made over a weekend with very little time to canvass constituents for their reaction. While getting on the phone and calling everyone in Boot Lake to get their comments isn’t possible, sending out a mass e-mail and reading as many responses as he can is another story. In the event that his opponent, Dez Loreen, is victorious, Moses would hand over that list of e-mails to be put to good use.
“It’s all about communication,” Moses said, adding that the strong voices from the community made his job that much easier. “Accountability when decisions are being made.”
Even so, he said the first two years were a major learning curve. The amount of work involved in being an MLA, Moses said, was something of a shock.
“To learn the process and everything, is a lot, you have to read all your documents, do your homework, be there in those meetings, and then balance time between Yellowknife and your community,” he said. “I think I did that.”
At the heart of it, Moses said it all has to start with passion.
“Hopefully we’ll see things get done,” he said. “It's all about passion, action and impact. You have to have that passion first, and that understanding, to put effort into learning about people and making connections.”
Jimmy Kalinek is not your typical candidate for MLA.
More comfortable in camo gear than formal wear, Kalinek is running against incumbent Robert C. McLeod for the Inuvik Twin Lakes seat.
“I like to help people,” he said at his first campaign event at Twin Lakes itself, where children skated on the newly shovelled ice and warmed up by the fire. “Myself, I think there could be some changes, some new ideas.”
Kalinek said he sees low income families in town struggling to make ends meet and saw an opportunity to step forward to do his part to make things better for them. He works seasonally for the government and said he usually works in the winter, but that things have been slow.
“Running for MLA isn’t something I thought I’d ever do," he told the Drum. “I think I can contribute. It wasn't an easy decision to make.”
Kalinek said he enjoys helping with on the land programming for students and just being out on the land himself. He thinks steady employment is the key to making things better for many Inuvik residents.
“I think we should be trying to create more opportunities for work, trying to find more ideas for employment,” he said. “Steady employment will solve a lot of problems.”
Those problems stretch to younger generations as well, with students from low-income homes more likely to struggle in school. Also, he said that with more employment, there will come more programs, which will benefit everyone.
“I see that I can help people in my community,” Kalinek said. “We're like a big family. When one suffers, we all do.”
One of the things Kalinek said he would like to change is what he termed the “breakdown” in communication between government and residents. When people ask questions, he thinks they should be answered in a timely matter, which he says isn't always happening.
“It’s a problem in every town, in every city,” he said. “A lot more people need to work together. It takes the community as a whole to deal with issues.”
Martha Blake, Kalinek’s official agent, said she is pleased with how many people turned out Nov. 7 to support Kalinek, adding that the Twin Lakes location for the event was a good choice for the MLA contender.
“He's outgoing, helpful, respectful, he listens to others," she said. “The list goes on.”
If Twin Lakes voters agree, Kalinek said he looks forward to heading to the capital.
“I want to work with other MLAs, show people that something is being done,” he said. “I just want to make people smile. Everybody deserves to be happy.”
For Robert C. McLeod, the business of government is not a popularity contest.
“At the end of the day, people will make a decision about who they think will represent them best and who will be able to commit that representation,” he told the Drum. “You don’t spend 11 years in government without being committed.”
The incumbent MLA was first elected more than decade ago and was most recently acclaimed in the Inuvik Twin Lakes electoral district. This time, however, he won’t be running unopposed.
Jimmy Kalinek stepped up to put his name forward just before the deadline on Oct. 30.
“It doesn’t change my approach at all,” said McLeod. “I'm out there talking to people, but I’m always out there talking to people. We're just now in campaign mode.”
Despite having represented Twin Lakes for more three terms, McLeod said there is still much work to be done. He said it’s still early days for devolution and that the new funding formula for communities means the next government will have to find other places to cut to free up some money.
“The government is challenged fiscally right now," he said. “I’ve positioned myself fairly well, I think, to use the forum I have to bring the needs of Inuvik forward.”
McLeod is the minister of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, as well as the minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corp. While there are no MLAs during the election, ministers still have to do their jobs, which McLeod said is something of a balancing act. He called what he is currently doing “housekeeping” and said they try to refrain from making serious decisions during the election hiatus.
As to those fiscal challenges, he said Inuvik is facing its own troubles.
“Thank God for that highway,” he said, adding his wish for cold weather soon so construction can get underway for the season. “I'm excited about the fact that tech companies are thinking of Inuvik for their satellites. I’ve been told we’re geographically gifted."
McLeod hopes to see tech jobs created in Inuvik with the growth of the satellite farm outside of town, like data processing.
“Kids now are all technologically literate and we can train them for these jobs,” he said. “I hope we can tap into that potential.”
But overall, McLeod said he isn't too concerned over the hard economic times facing the town.
“I was raised here. Inuvik is a resilient community, we’ve proved that time and time again,” he said, using the oil boom and subsequent bust, along with the military leaving to illustrate that sentiment. “Inuvik has always been able to weather the storm and come back.”
He said there is also a depth of experience in the community that makes it a good resource for any current leader. There are three former premiers in town, on top of many other politicians who have represented Inuvik and its people in many levels of government.
“I think voters in Twin Lakes have determined that I am the best candidate for the last three elections,” McLeod said. “I trust that they will again. We don’t win all the time, but our voice is always heard.”
Balancing the need for business with care for the environment will be a top issue for the next Legislative Assembly to tackle, according to Deh Cho MLA candidate Michael Nadli.
Nadli is the incumbent for his seat and faces challenges from three other candidates: Lyle Fabian, Greg Nyuli and Ron Bonnetrouge.
“The heart of the balance is, how do you compromise the need for economic development, business, prosperity and employment and at the same time the environment?” Nadli asked, citing fracking concerns as one example of the NWT trying to strike that balance.
“There are concerns about climate change and its effect on the environment,” he said, referring to communities in southern Canada and the U.S. where fracking has taken place.
“We're seeing record-low water levels ... and of course fracking does use water. There have been incidences, unfortunately, with contamination of water (from fracking) and that's what people are scared to witness up here in the NWT.”
With a 50-per-cent unemployment rate in the Deh Cho and pressing social issues, including alcohol and drug abuse, Nadli said the next government will need to work hard to find a solution.
One such solution in Fort Providence, he said, could be found in the biomass initiative and wood pellet mill, which he describes as a more sustainable source of economic development.
“The biomass initiative could replace fossil fuel, since the effluence of fuel goes into the sky, affects the ozone and contributes to climate change. I think there are ways of trying to change,” he said.
Nadli declined to speak on infrastructure priorities for the Deh Cho riding, but said he sees a need for more engagement with the communities.
“You can't always get what you want. There needs to be planning and co-ordination with local leaders. An effective capital planning process could take three years, from the time you identify the need for a new facility or infrastructure. From there, work actually begins and there has to be a lot of intensive discussions locally,” he said. “Here in the Deh Cho riding, we've been fortunate to have a few (infrastructure projects). Those initiatives at the local level help to bring employment to residents and at the same time spur and invigorate the local community.”
He points to the example of cellular services being extended to smaller Deh Cho communities during his term as MLA. Those services were put in place after a community petition with 100s of signatures was delivered to the government.
“I could have taken the long road (in the legislative assembly), but we wanted to bring to light the power of democracy,” Nadli said.
“We wanted to give that sense (of democracy) to the people involved by creating a petition that the people were in a dark spot between Yellowknife and Hay River and this was for public safety purposes.”
Election day is set for Nov. 23.
Growing up in Fort Providence, Hay River and the Hay River Reserve, MLA candidate Lyle Fabian says he got a front-row seat to the decades-long Dehcho Process.
He recalls listening at the yearly Dehcho Assembly when he was young. Later, he became involved with the comprehensive claims process at K'atlodeeche First Nation as a negotiator.
Those experiences, he said, are what eventually led him to put his name in for the race to represent the Deh Cho region in the legislative assembly.
“Since devolution, and even prior to that, the territorial government has been making land claims negotiations difficult,” he said.
“Our people who have been elected in MLA positions need to beg the question, now the territorial government has provincial-like powers, do they have the right to exercise those powers and hinder settled and unsettled land claims in the territories?”
The priority of the new government needs to be calling a halt to the infighting between the government and its people and being proactive on land claim settlements, according to Fabian.
“We need to take a look at the policies and procedures we are currently using and if they're going to hinder settled and unsettled land claims,” he said. “In my experience, we signed a treaty with the Crown, not with the territorial government. The territorial government is part of our land claim; everybody who lives in Canada (should) realize they are treaty members, too.”
If negotiations do not move forward in a proactive way, Fabian said, the Deh Cho will continue to be held in limbo and communities will be unable to move forward economically.
“We're looking to negotiate. We need to move our communities and these land claims forward in a positive way, and we need to have the territorial government on our side,” he said.
Fabian sat on K'atlodeeche's council from 2009 to 2012 and more recently has been working in the private sector as a project manager for CasCom.
He said he also wants to see the government look at broadband Internet as a possible economic driver for communities in the North.
“Why are we in this situation we're in? Our government is flatlining in regard to income and (strength),” he said. “We need to look at other ways of building a strong, viable economic plan to move the whole NWT forward.”
Fabian is up against three other candidates for the Deh Cho, including incumbent Michael Nadli, Greg Nyuli and Ron Bonnetrouge.
The election is set to take place Nov. 23.
The race for the legislative assembly is heating up with the territorial election scheduled to take place on Nov. 23.
Four candidates are running in the Deh Cho: Ron Bonnetrouge, Lyle Fabian, Michael Nadli and Greg Nyuli. In Nahendeh, incumbent Kevin Menicoche is being challenged by six candidates: Shane Thompson, Rosemary Gill, Dennis Nelner, Arnold Hope, Randy Sibbeston and Deneze Nakehk'o.
Deh Cho Drum reached out to all candidates by e-mail with questions on the Dehcho Process and infrastructure dollars.
Candidates who responded for the Nov. 12 edition of the paper are Hope, Nelner and Nadli.
Candidates who responded after press time will have their answers featured in the Nov. 19 edition of the paper.
Over the last year, the Dehcho Process has been stalled due to the inability of the government and the Dehcho First Nations to agree on the amount of land Dehcho First Nations should receive. Do you think one or both sides needs to compromise and, if so, how can such a compromise be struck?
Dennis Nelner: “I think there's room for compromise with a win-win for both parties. The government needs to move the Devolution file (royalty revenue) forward, and the Dehcho Process needs a final agreement (governance) for people in the region to feel their lives are not on hold. These are the two compelling arguments that are motivating both parties. Build the case for both and the parties will have what they want.”
Arnold Hope: “As a beneficiary and participant of the Dehcho Process over many years, I fail to understand why the territorial government is even involved with these negotiations. The original treaties were between the Crown and the indigenous peoples of this area, Treaty 11. It is very important to understand how and why the federal government has relinquished its fiduciary responsibility to a lower level of government. The territorial government has only existed since 1967. This has not been done here in the North with any other claimant group and in this regard I feel the courts will be the only recourse in this matter.”
Michael Nadli: “All parties have to compromise and I think that's the art of negotiations. I support the current negotiation process. I would like for it to come to a successful conclusion. I voted no to devolution; as a matter of principle, I disagreed with the whole issue of devolution. The government has got to do more to reach agreements with (the First Nations). I think the climate is there for things to move forward. Now is the time for us to really put in effort in terms of how we can move forward.”
What would your strategy be to ensure your riding receives the infrastructure money it needs?
Nelner: “It's not enough to gripe with ministers and/or other envoys about the lack of capital projects in the riding. We need to be more innovative to secure the deals to bring more capital projects in. Creating alliances with other MLAs such as Deh Cho; alliances within the community to facilitate the process and alliances with the business community will give this riding the added lobby effort to win over ministerial approval for large capital projects. The key is to be organized and form committees of people to move the agenda forward.”
Hope: “The very nature of the territorial government's consensus government allows for this problem. It stands to reason that if you have a strong group of MLAs from Yellowknife and the other areas of the NWT, and a perception of a weak MLA from the Nahendeh riding, we will continue on this roller coaster ride of wishing and wanting, without any receipt of many major capital projects. My strategy is is to simply be the strongest MLA that the Nahendeh can provide. A change in the character and quality of our new MLA will be important in this regard.”
Nadli: “There has to be more effective community input into the capital planning process. My commitment is to bring a stronger working relationship with local leadership on what they deem as priorities and needs at the local level. Over the next four years, I'd like to be able to be not only an effective voice but bring a stronger relationship with leaders so we can work together and try to bring some projects to the community.”
All but seven Yellowknife candidates have flunked the Union of Northern Workers’ online NWT Election Report Card survey, according to results published on the union’s website yesterday afternoon.
Hopeful MLAs were asked five yes-or-no questions about their positions on issues the union said are important to its members and to users of public services. The survey included an A to F grading scale, with a perfect score for respondents who answered "yes" to all questions and lower scores depending on how many questions were answered "no" or unanswered.
The questionnaire also stipulated respondents who answered "no" to its first question – "Will you oppose any cuts of GNWT staff, including boards and agencies?" – would automatically be given a failing grade.
“I’m disappointed by the amount of response that we received for the survey,” said UNW president Todd Parsons.
Of the 20 candidates running in Yellowknife ridings, only 10 answered all the union’s questions; seven candidates failed to comply with the yes-or-no format; And the remaining three did not participate at all, according to the report card.
“They just set you up with questions like that,” said Kam Lake incumbent Dave Ramsay. “Not knowing the complexities or context in which decisions are going to be made, it’s ridiculous to ask people to put a one-word answer to those questions.”
Ramsay described the survey as “divisive politics.”
He was not the only one who ultimately chose not to respond strictly yes or no answers.
When Yellowknife North candidate Cory Vanthuyne first saw the survey, he wrote to the UNW to express his concerns.
“The way in which some of the questions were asked, they lacked context,” he said. “They assumed a lot in the sense that you’re assuming that all the MLA candidates understand what the Public Alliance Service Act is all about. You’re assuming we know what P3s are all about.”
Vanthuyne said more information should have been provided clarifying why UNW was asking those questions.
“I don’t think it’s very informative to your membership to only allow us (to give) a yes/no answer,” he added.
"We have to build a strong economy and we have to have jobs and create jobs but they avoided all that," said Frame Lake candidate David Wasylciw. "They didn't explore any of the approaches that MLAs or candidates would take when actually dealing with the UNW and dealing with negotiation."
However, Parsons said his organization is mandated to produce an election report and the questionnaire was not designed for the candidates’ convenience.
“Part of the reason we chose the yes and no (format) is it’s very, very hard for the UNW to present to our members and the public the input that we would receive from 60 candidates,” he said. “It wasn’t fair for us. It was very hard. If we’d said let’s just limit each response to five lines or 10 lines, that’s still a massive undertaking that would have looked more like a book or a novel than say a two-page layout.”
Some candidates chose to fill out the questionnaire despite misgivings about its structure.
Edwin Castillo, also a candidate for Yellowknife North, said the question format put him “in a bit of a compromising position” but ultimately his answers would provide voters some insight into his stance on the issues. Castillo, a GNWT employee, is also a member of the UNW.
Frame Lake candidate Kevin O’Reilly said he was not going to provide comment on whether or not UNW could or should have phrased their survey questions differently.
“UNW can set up a survey or questionnaire whatever way they like and that’s their right and candidates don’t have to answer,” he said. “I responded in a way I felt was appropriate.”
O’Reilly answered all of the questions except the first one (which would amount to an automatic failing grade), choosing instead to e-mail UNW president Todd Parsons directly.
“I felt that there were some boards and agencies in particular that I would not oppose doing away with, and I gave the example of the Mineral Industry Advisory board where there is no representation from labour, the public or indeed environmental interests,” he said.
Yellowknifer requested comment from all local candidates prior to the grades being released, and heard from Glen Abernethy, Jan Fullerton, Kieron Testart, Robert McLeod, Chris Clarke, Robert Hawkins and Dan Wong. All candidates expressed some concern about its format.
“We were very transparent insomuch as we gave them the rules of the survey up front, in advance. They knew what our expectations were,” said Parsons.
He said that his members are concerned about potential job cuts and layoffs, and they wanted clear answers from the very people who were seeking positions as their employers.
“The yes or no format – the concept itself is to help prevent savvy politicians from avoiding these very important issues,” he said.
UNW Report Card Results for Yellowknife Candidates
Ben Nind - A
Nigit’stil Norbert - A
Daryl Dolynny - B
Roy Erasmus - B
Samuel Rolan - B
Edwin Castillo - C
Robert Hawkins - C
Sean Erasmus - F
Julie Green - F
Kevin O’Reilly - F
Glen Abernethy - F
Caroline Cochrane-Johnson - F
Jan Fullerton - F
Bob McLeod - F
David Ramsay - F
Kieron Testart - F
Cory Vanthuyne - F
Chris Clarke - F
David Wasylciw - F
Dan Wong - F
Candidates vying for the Yellowknife North district MLA seat in the territorial election took on some of the toughest issues facing the NWT as about 40 people met for a forum at the library Saturday.
Edwin Castillo, Ben Nind, Dan Wong, Cory Vanthuyne and Sean Erasmus took posed by the audience and online during the two-hour meeting.
Based on an online poll led by forum organizer Eli Purchase about 10 to 12 people felt that reducing homelessness was the most important question candidates should address.
Ben Nind said he would organize teams of former homeless people to provide “listening and counselling” in the streets.
“We need to kill this thing with a positive wave of experience, caring, hope and promise,” he said.
Wong said he wants to see homeless people given homes, adding the Housing First model should be a higher priority for the government.
“I have always believed that the way you build a strong economy is actually investing in a healthy community where there are workers that are well housed and that are not fighting mental health and addictions,” he said, adding a similar mental-health facility to those in Whitehorse or Iqaluit would benefit.
Erasmus, who is campaigning to “stop barriers to business,” said people need more jobs and the government should be more supportive of entrepreneurs who could provide those jobs to deal with poverty and homelessness.
Vanthuyne said he wanted to ensure the GNWT's Anti-Poverty Action Plan was carried out.
“I like the plan because it was derived by those who were close to the problem,” he said.
“We all want a poverty-free territory so as your MLA I will be fully committed to holding your government to account.”
Castillo admitted he wasn't an expert on homelessness but said he believes it's important to recognize the services that help alleviate it, including Lynn's Place, Bailey House, the Salvation Army, YWCA, Alison McAteer House and the Centre for Northern Families.
“We need to be partnering with these organizations a lot more and supporting them for all the work that they do,” he said. “They provide the wrap-around services that need to be addressed when we are dealing with homelessness.”
Fracking elicits strong reactions
Nancy Vail, an environmental advocate, asked for “a definitive statement on where (candidates) stand on the fracking issue and why.”
Candidates supported a moratorium until further information was gathered for the public to review – a motion that failed in the legislative assembly this year. Nind called for a ban on the practice.
“It is like the goose that could potentially lay a golden egg and unfortunately that egg is poison,” Nind said. “For me it is a ban. A total, absolute ban for the rest of eternity on non-conventional oil extraction fracking. There is no question about it. The science is there.”
Vanthuyne said he endorses a moratorium on the practice, adding more consultation with communities and industry input are needed.
“I am not prepared in any way, shape or form to conduct any activities that are going to put the health and welfare of our human beings and residents at risk,” he said. “Until we know a whole lot more about what it takes and what it consists of to endeavour in the fracking process I will most certainly support the moratorium and not moving forward.”
Castillo said he didn't know a lot about the issue and wanted to get more information about it but said in the meantime he supports a moratorium and ultimately a referendum.
“We need to have a comprehensive consultation and review of all the risks,” he said. “Until that is completed, then maybe we can look at going forward with that in a referendum.”
Wong said it is important “to be fair” and supported a full public review before a decision on fracking is made. He proposed a motion to include “a moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing for at least two years or until the completion of a comprehensive, transparent and public review of the cumulative environmental, social and economic risks and benefits of the process.”
Erasmus said he would ban fracking for at least 50 years. He said he believes drought in the U.S. in the past 60 years resulted from aggressive resource extraction in the south.
“They used to have a lot of lakes. What the hell happened to their lakes? Think about it – they've been fracking for 60 years. So I would ban it.”
Other issues touched on
Wendy Lahey pushed the candidates for support on advocating for the GNWT's expansion of the GNWT midwifery program.
“I am happy I asked the question because the impression I got was that many weren't aware of the territory wanting to expand the midwifery program,” she said. “I felt it was an educational question in some ways and they were honest about whether they were familiar with the program or not.”
Other issues raised throughout the meeting included incarceration in the NWT, the economic outlook after existing mines close, the percentage of GNWT revenue that should be put into a heritage fund, how the territory can become more open for businesses, how energy costs can be cut and how the GNWT can help Syrian refugees.
Yellowknife North is a new district, derived in part from the former Weledeh district that is now split between Tu Nedhe and Yellowknife North.