The race to become the territory’s federal representative heated up last week with two forum discussions hosted in the capital.
On Oct. 7 candidates gathered at the Northern United Place (NUP), where a full house watched NDP candidate Dennis Bevington, Liberal Michael McLeod and Green John Moore present their platforms on social issues.
Notably absent from the forum was Conservative Floyd Roland, who tweeted that he was out “knocking on doors” during the event. A representative from host Alternatives North said that Roland had been invited to participate in the forum, but never responded.
The following evening, Oct. 8, residents from across the territory sent in their questions to all four candidates at a forum hosted by CBC North.
Both evenings, Moore said he was not beholden to any party whip, and would be able to vote freely on issues important to the NWT without having to toe a party line. He announced his commitment to nation-to-nation dialogue between the government and Indigenous groups of the territory and said he would work to re-establish the 2005 Kelowna accord, while respecting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Moore said the Greens would adapt a two-cent-per-kWh subsidy for green energy. In terms of food security, Moore said he was talking to people a ready to invest in northern agriculture about bringing food production “closer to the table.”
His real standout moment came when it was time to give closing statements at the CBC forum and he let an audience member read out a question regarding the National Energy Board and fracking regulations in the NWT, forcing a final round of answers from each candidate.
His closing statements were memorable as well.
“If you care about aboriginal rights and not living in poverty, vote me in as MP and definitely don’t vote Conservative. I’ll commit to the North regardless of who forms government.”
Bevington built his arguments off of the party’s Northern platform, unveiled earlier in the week on Oct. 6. The main points included adding an additional 50 communities to the Nutrition North food program, ensuring that the Northern residents tax deduction rises to keep pace with needs by indexing it to the rate of inflation, investing an additional $200 million in northern transportation infrastructure, working to settle land claims with Indigenous groups and developing projects to protect the environment while improving the territory’s economy.
An NDP government, he said, would ensure the rights of Indigenous people are represented in all legislation, and would also adhere to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He promised a universal childcare program, so that any person can find the day care services at a maximum of $15 a day.
A strong advocate for green energy, Bevington also said an NDP government would push for the development of renewable energy sources, built to match the needs and resources available in each part of the territory.
McLeod said the Liberal party would work with Aboriginal governments as full partners to develop a reconciliation framework and build on UN declaration and re-introduce the Kelowna accord. He called for a national action plan that really focuses on women’s issues including intimate partner violence.
McLeod’s answers reflected his party’s three-point plan to develop and invest in infrastructure, social programs and tax breaks for the middle class.
“I’m very proud to be part of Justin Trudeau’s team and have an opportunity to share in a plan for real change in the North and across Canada,” he said. “We will increase infrastructure spending to the tune of $126 billion. We will cut taxes to the middle class. We will ask the wealthiest Canadians to pay more. We will invest in families through the Child Tax Benefit and will increase the Northern Residents Deduction by $50 million of additional tax relief.”
At the CBC debate the former NWT premier stated the Conservative government has been working with Aboriginal partners to come to agreements regarding land claims issues, while simultaneously promoting the success of the territory’s devolution deal. When asked about developing sustainable economies in the NWT, Roland promoted developing a mix of alternative and gas resources, as a means of building investment opportunities and lowering energy costs.
Roland promoted the Conservative’s plan to use the Nutrition North food subsidy program paired with investments in northern agriculture and infrastructure development to alleviate high costs of living.
“Nine years of experience is good but do we need more years of someone looking from the outside? Or someone like me who’s made the tough decisions here already? I can bring that to Ottawa.”