2019 NWT Election – Range Lake MLA candidates

Range Lake MLA candidates Caroline Cochrane and Hughie Graham.
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Moose FM is doing a series of interviews with the MLA candidates in the 16 unacclaimed districts for the upcoming NWT election. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from September 16th-26th, two regions will be uploaded to the website to give you the reader, a better idea of what is going on in your district and who may be representing you for the next four years.

Emails were sent out with the questions to every single MLA candidate along with multiple follow up emails reminding the candidates to get back to us. We figured this would be the best way to put out the most amount of information on the candidates as well as best informing you about your districts. If a candidate does not appear in their district’s article, it means they did not get back to us with their answers, something they were notified would happen in the sent emails.

For today, the two regions that will be posted are Frame Lake and Range Lake. This article will be focused on Range Lake where Caroline Cochrane is the incumbent. She was first elected into office during the 2015 territorial election. The two candidates riding are Cochrane and Hughie Graham.

What made you decide to run?

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Cochrane – My background has provided me with a deep concern for people’s well-being and love for the north. I have worked to address resident concerns and focused on expanding opportunities, strengthening supports and ensuring measurable outcomes and concrete actions. I want to continue making a change within the 19th assembly, in the true spirit and intention of consensus government. By working together and involving all stakeholders we will best serve the needs of residents and the north.

Graham – Our economy is in trouble in the near future. We need to be thinking 5, 10, 20, 50 years out for projects that will stimulate our economy, control the cost of living and provide benefits for people of the Northwest Territories.

What qualifications do you have to lead your region as MLA?

Cochrane – The last four years provided me with first-hand knowledge of the strengths and areas to work on within our consensus-style government. Holding seven portfolios also provided me with a strong understanding of the various government departments’ programs and capacity needs. I hold a degree in Social Work and worked with non-profit agencies for 20 years. I also have many years of financial/organizational management and brought two non-profits out of substantial debt through comprehensive, strategic planning based on best practices. I believe my experience has provided me with a well-rounded perspective on the needs of residents and the abilities of our government.

Graham – I am an effective relationship builder, communicator and collaborator. As Past President of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, I had to consider the entire territory when setting agendas and advocating for business. Working in Inuvik and Yellowknife, my commercial real estate career in the private sector helped to establish forward-thinking. As a public servant working in commercial real estate, the future needs of GNWT departments are forefront in planning for departments’ real estate needs.

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What is the platform you’re running on?

Cochrane – We need to focus on boosting our economy and provide our people with the skills necessary to take advantage of the jobs that will be coming in the future. I believe that education and family support needs to be a priority in the coming assembly. Countries who put a stronger emphasis on education are shown to have less social issues related to poverty. I also believe we need a stronger focus on mental health and addiction support in the NWT.

Graham – The economy, cost of living and healthy people. We need to get our mining industry back on track, collaborating with Industry and Indigenous Governments. Legacy infrastructure projects will help control the cost of living and NWT Tax rebates will put money in residents pockets and we need mentally and physically trained people ready to take advantage of opportunities.

If there was one issue affecting your region that you would like to change during your term, what would it be and why?

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Cochrane – The biggest issue facing the territory is the economy. We need to make sure we support diversifying the economy – including opportunities for tourism, educational pursuits, mineral exploration and small businesses. To address this concern we must work closely with all stakeholders, review/restructure the current BIP process, develop the regulations for the Mineral Resources Act and settle land claims. However, we can’t talk about boosting the economy and not talk about education. It will also be critical to strengthening our educational supports if we want to ensure that northerners have the skills to take advantage of the opportunities to come.

Graham – Strengthening the economy. Residents are concerned that the property value of their biggest investment, their homes, is dropping. We need to attract and retain people in the NWT. We need population growth.

What is your strategy for tackling climate change in the North?

Cochrane – I think we need to increase investment in sustainable, alternative energy sources and work with jurisdictions internationally to keep on top of best practices and emerging solutions. I also believe a polytechnic university could support made in the north research and solutions to address climate change impacts here in the north while providing education and funding opportunities as well.

Graham – Get communities off diesel fuel. Use what is in front of us to generate power. Whether it’s natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar or a northern innovation, let’s spend our money wisely to benefit people in NWT.

What are your current and future plans for the NWT’s mining industry?

Cochrane – The mineral resources sector significantly contributes to our GDP and supports many families and businesses in my riding and across the north. I support increasing investment and promotion for exploration, responsible mining opportunities, training, and site remediation. The 18th assembly brought in The Mineral Resources Act and the 19th assembly must prioritize the development of regulations to clarify the process and requirements under the act. Settling of outstanding land claims must also continue to be a priority as it impacts the well-being of indigenous people, land planning for municipalities and investor confidence in the NWT.

Graham – We need to incentivize the mining industry to get out there and explore. We need to continue to map our Territory and provide access to land by working with our Indigenous Aboriginal partners.

The cost of living is a common issue in the NWT, how do you think the territory should approach the issue?

Cochrane – The concern of lowering our power costs is something we need to continue to focus on. The amendment to the Cities, Towns and Villages Act I brought forward while I was the Minister of MACA, now allows municipalities the ability to pass bylaws allowing property owners to finance energy efficiency or renewable energy projects. We also need to continue to pursue the expansion of the Taltson Hydro line and implement alternative energy sources in our diesel reliant communities. Promoting the growing of local produce and farming potential will also assist in addressing our high food costs.

Graham – We need to give our residents a tax break. Right away. We need to work on legacy infrastructure projects to stabilize utility costs. We need to negotiate with the Federal Government for innovative ways to put more money in residents’ pockets.

With the population of NWT continuing to shrink, what ideas do you have to combat it?

Cochrane – If residents are not happy they will not stay, and worries about the economy can be curtailed by diversifying and investing to support sectors such as tourism, the arts, mining and small businesses. Critical to the work in growing our economy is the development, and constant review, of a long term strategic economic plan.  We also need to implement a comprehensive recruitment plan across Canada to address the current shortages and future needs for people in various occupations.

Graham – Attraction and retention of staff is at a crisis. Transformation of Aurora College, capacity building in Tourism, and job opportunities need to be tackled. Giving employers the opportunity to provide housing and making it tax-free instead of a taxable benefit is a good start.

How would you improve post-secondary education in the North, and is a Polytechnic university a good start?

Cochrane – I brought forward the first Post-Secondary Education Act in the 18th assembly which now provides us with a structure for recognizing post-secondary institutions in the NWT. This was a critical start. Becoming a Polytechnic University will assist in strengthening our economy, addressing climate change and providing northerners with the skills necessary to take advantage of the many positions forecasted to be available in the next decade.  I was proud to bring the concept forward and I would be honoured to be able to continue to the work I began to see an accredited Polytechnic University actualized.

Graham – By having programs that build capacities in the north, such as health care or education, we can enable our residents to stay and work on the north. A Polytechnic is a great start.

What support systems do you want to implement to make sure Indigenous communities are not left behind?

Cochrane – Settling of the outstanding land claims must be prioritized to assist indigenous communities to have the resources necessary to prosper. This will mean ensuring we have the appropriate staffing to get the work done, prioritizing the continued progression through the stages of the process, and focusing on building respectful relationships and meaningful conversations with all stakeholders. I also support self-government and believe the GNWT has to be open to providing any support requested to assist in this.

Graham – Again, educational capacity building is a great start. Let’s take care of ourselves and not rely on the outside world. Let’s get all our communities healthy and ready to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Is there any infrastructure aspects of your region that you would like to see improved upon?

Cochrane – The expansion of the Talston Hydro project needs to continue to assist in addressing climate change and lowering the cost of power for residents. With over 100,000 tourists coming through Yellowknife on an annual basis I believe we also need a tourism centre to welcome them to the north. Our schools throughout the north are in need of upgrading and we also need to look at working with NGO’s to build childcare centres.

Graham – Internet redundancy, hydro expansion, roads to resources. And let’s work with the Federal Government to contribute to or pay for all of these nation-building pieces of infrastructure.

What are your priorities in terms of health care in the NWT?

Cochrane – My biggest priority would be to gather the opinions of all health care personnel and the general public as I constantly hear in my riding the feeling of not being heard. I also believe we have to put a stronger focus on recruiting health care professionals from across Canada to address our immediate shortage and look for ways to build on the health care post-secondary training here in the north. We also have a huge need to increase the mental health & addictions support available in the NWT.

Graham – We need healthy people to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Mentally and Physically. Attraction and retention of staff and capacity building with our residents is key.

How would you confront substance abuse in the NWT?

Cochrane – There is no simple way to confront substance abuse. We must start by focusing on building self-esteem and teaching self-regulation in children and providing them with healthy options. We must also increase our mental health supports as many people abuse substances as a coping method. As well, we must have diverse supports available in the NWT such as a treatment centre, aftercare support and on-the-land programming.

Graham – Plan to build a world-class treatment facility. Bring people from other parts of Canada and potentially the rest of the world for treatment. A Northern solution for all that earns revenue.

What ideas would you put forward to expand our region’s commercial district?

Cochrane – Promoting/supporting small business and manufacturing is important as we look to diversify and boost our economy. The GNWT does offer support but is not good at promoting what is available. An awareness campaign as to what is available would be a start as well as research, awareness campaigns, and trade fairs to promote business options that are underprovided or not in existence in the north yet.

Graham – Encourage Industry. Mining has provided great returns on investment through payment of taxes and royalties. Through capacity building, the government has been involved in building roads, ports, power, and towns to say the least. Most importantly, all come with jobs.

The two districts that will be featured tomorrow are Great Slave and Yellowknife South.

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