2019 NWT Election – Yellowknife South MLA candidates

Yellowknife South MLA candidates Gaeleen MacPherson and Caroline Wawzonek
- Advertisement -

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 Great Slave and Yellowknife South. This article will be focused on Yellowknife South where Bob McLeod is the incumbent. He was first elected into office during the 2007 territorial election however he did not seek re-election. The two candidates riding are Gaeleen MacPherson and Caroline Wawzonek.

What made you decide to run?

- Advertisement -

MacPherson – I am running for office because my community and territory are facing challenging times and I want to help. With my background and experience, I believe I can help provide solutions to issues such as an uncertain economic situation, the need to improve our public services, to provide better education and training opportunities for our youth or to address the social issues that affect too many of our residents.

Wawzonek – I want the next generation of northerners, including my children, to have access to the kinds of opportunities in Yellowknife that my husband and I enjoy. I hear and see many exciting ideas for the NWT that could build future opportunities and I am frustrated when there does not appear to be leadership action to move those ideas forward. I see opportunities for more effective processes and more accountable leadership that is engaged with the front lines of government service. I decided it is time to put my advocacy skills to use to help build future opportunities and move ideas to action.

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

MacPherson – I was born, raised and educated in the North, my family lives here and I am raising a family here. I’ve worked for most of my career in the mining industry and have held a number of progressively senior positions. In those roles, I have worked with senior executives from multinational corporations, with territorial and federal politicians and officials, with Chiefs and communities and with working folks trying to make ends meet. I think it is my ability to work with people, build positive relationships and craft solutions to complex problems that is the most important attribute that I would bring to the role of MLA in the service of the people of Yellowknife South.

Wawzonek –

- Advertisement -
  • Skills as an advocate: my career is built on an ability to identify issues, make strategic decisions, advocate for clients and communicate.
  • Knowledge across sectors and industries: for over a decade, I have helped individuals, businesses, government bodies and non-profits navigate laws, regulations and policies in areas ranging from mental health to education to environmental regulation.
  • Understanding effectiveness: I have trained organizations on the use of fairness when developing processes and on how to make decisions that are accountable to the parties involved. I have a professional perspective on how to make decision making and rule systems more effective.

What is the platform you’re running on?

MacPherson – My platform is based on four key pillars: Growing our economy and reducing the cost of living, improving our healthcare system, educating Northerners and protecting our environment.

Wawzonek – My vision is an NWT that is prosperous, healthy and educated. I believe we can achieve this with results-driven leadership that empowers people. We will prosper when we

  1. revitalize our mineral resource sector with investment in exploration;
  2. support growth among NWT-based businesses, and
  3. make of our regulatory systems responsive and streamlined.

I think we will improve health outcomes by prioritizing the health of our frontline care providers and focusing on prevention and patient-centred care. I believe in the process of renewing our education system including support for teachers in classrooms and moving forward with a polytechnical university.

- Advertisement -

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

MacPherson – Providing greater economic certainty and reducing the cost of living for Yellowknife South and territorial residents will be an important focus for me if elected. These are the key issues that are at the core of current residents’ decisions to remain in the North or leave, and we must stem the tide of the outmigration that we are continuing to see.

Wawzonek – We need a strong, collaborative and unified vision for our economic future. Our political leadership then needs to be decisive to deliver actions that will help inspire economic growth. I believe the ideas already exist in the NWT to achieve economic prosperity but we need to act on them and see them through to results. For example, reinvigorating our mineral resource sector with stricter regulatory timelines is not a new idea but still projects struggle to move forward efficiently; similarly, we need to move past feasibility studies and make choices to invest in cleaner and less expensive sources of energy.

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

MacPherson – The one area that I would focus on immediately if elected is reducing our reliance on fossil fuels for industry and communities. We need to make additional investments in renewable energy, such as wind, solar and biomass, both in the short and long-term. More importantly, we need to work with the next federal governments to expand our hydroelectric capacity. This will help to lessen our impact on the environment and to reduce our high cost of living.

Wawzonek –

  1. Reduce our reliance on diesel fuel: 1) whether linking into the southern grid or expanding NWT-hydro and ensuring that greener energy is available for prospective mineral resource developments, and 2) encouraging community-scale renewable energy sources.
  2. Start planning for climate change impacts on infrastructure in order to be able to include these risks in current and future planning for research, personnel and budgets.
  3. Try to use these challenges as an opportunity. We should support locally-driven research in arctic climate science and support industry innovation that helps reduce our carbon footprint.

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

MacPherson – To focus on creating the right incentives for mineral exploration and development to help extend the life of our current mines and, more importantly, to develop the North’s next mines and opportunities for future generations. We also need to do far better with future mines to ensure the jobs go to Northerners and the economic benefits stay here.

Wawzonek – The NWT needs to urgently raise exploration investment and support early-stage projects towards successful development. I would start from the 2014 Mineral Development Strategy that was produced in partnership with the NWT/NU Chamber of Mines. We need to review the recommendations from that partnership, improve implementation and determine whether actions are having the intended impacts. The Mineral Resource Act regulations, among others, are an opportunity to take ownership and responsibility for our regulatory systems, ensure that processes are scaled to project sizes and provide certainty and timeliness.

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

MacPherson – Supporting the Taltson hydroelectricity expansion to create a grid interconnect between the North and South Slave regions and undertaking a review of all taxes is a good starting point for the 19th Legislative Assembly.

Wawzonek – In addition avoiding or minimizing further increases in fees for government services, I believe we can have an impact on both the cost of living and the cost of doing business by focusing on energy infrastructure, improving the availability of land access for municipal development and improving options for childcare to support the labour market and reduce household costs. Efforts that target both residents and businesses have potentially double the impact: Reducing the cost of living for residents reduces pressure for higher wages; reducing the cost of doing business should reduce pressure for higher costs of goods and services.

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

MacPherson – We need to look at making immediate changes that help to reduce the cost of living here in Yellowknife and across the North, thereby making the Northwest Territories a more attractive place to live. Likewise, we need to grow our economy, create more jobs and make the Northwest Territories a more attractive place to invest in.

Wawzonek – Make the NWT a destination of choice by acting on a vision to be prosperous, healthy and educated. That includes being a destination of choice for current residents by providing access to education that enables people to be contributing members of their communities as well as programs that help new graduates in trades or degree-based professions stay in or return to the north with apprenticeships and responsive Student Financial Aid programs.

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

MacPherson – Although many Northerners are successful in our school system, our graduation rates continue to trail those in Southern Canada. I believe we need to invest in more teachers to keep our class sizes manageable, but also in hiring more Teaching Assistants who can work with those students who require more support. I fully support the establishment of a Polytechnic university with its primary campus here in Yellowknife. There are so many ways that we can leverage the new university. It can be beneficial in retaining Northerners, attracting new people to the North, and in helping to truly build a sustainable Northern workforce. This can be a great economic diversifier for us. This item would be a priority for me as MLA.

Wawzonek – I support an NWT based university to anchor a knowledge economy, create opportunities for residents, and drive diverse partnerships between governments, industry and communities. I believe we should include programs in high-demand professions such as nursing and social work. I also think this is an opportunity to be a leader in our areas of particular strength such as rare earth minerals, technology metals, arctic climate science, permafrost studies and land-based programs. However, we also need to invest in early childhood education so that students have the tools to be ready for post-secondary. We cannot succeed in one without the other.

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

MacPherson – We need to prioritize building collaborative partnerships with Indigenous Governments. To do this we need better forums that allow for government-to-government dialogue to resolve some of the issues that exist. We need to ensure that we finalize outstanding land claims across the Northwest Territories. This will help to give greater certainty to uncertain regulatory processes and ensure Indigenous communities receive the necessary benefits from all development projects, thereby increasing the likelihood that more land in these areas are opened up to potential development.

Wawzonek –

  1. Acknowledge the nation-to-nation relationship owed to Indigenous governments. Settle land and self-government claims and respect and fulfill the existing land and self-government agreements with an acceptance of the power-sharing that will result.
  2. Work with Indigenous governments and community development corporations to support training, education and equity partnerships in economic development projects.
  3. Monitor our response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
  4. Uphold the commitment to support the Native Women’s Association NWT’s submission to the National Inquiry into MMIWG 2SLGBTQQIA peoples and responds to the Commission’s final NWT-relevant Calls to Justice.

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

MacPherson – We must improve and expand our tourism infrastructure starting with improvements to the Yellowknife airport in order to accommodate international flights, which will help to ensure more tourism dollars stay here in the North rather than other points such as Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton.

Wawzonek – We need to catch-up on infrastructure across sectors from communications to transport to energy. I would focus first on greener energy. Providing cleaner, less costly energy through Territory-wide projects in large scale hydro or connection into the southern grid and community-level hydro, wind, solar or biomass could make resource development more economically feasible, reduce operating costs for all sizes of business and reduce our carbon footprint. It will also help companies looking to assure their investors about their carbon footprint as compared to being reliant on diesel. Improving the reliability and cost of energy and heating should also reduce the residential cost of living.

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

MacPherson – With the completion of a brand-new Stanton Hospital, we have made great headway in developing our infrastructure for the future. However, a modern hospital needs a full contingent of health care professionals. My family has had numerous and very recent family interactions with the incredible team of health care professionals at Stanton. They provide great services but are stretched far too thin. And we are too dependent on locums or sending our residents to the south even for relatively simple procedures. We’ve made the expensive investment in infrastructure, so now let’s add the necessary investment in people to provide necessary and beneficial services.

Wawzonek –

  • Encourage a health care system that prioritizes prevention and patient-centred care. I believe this is already a philosophy that we are pursuing and I want to ensure that we keep moving in this direction. I am inspired by the “NUKA” model used in Alaska and community-based care in Costa Rica both of which saw significant positive impacts on remote community health.
  • Support primary care teams with time and resources to build relationships with patients.
  • Ensure that front line care providers are also cared for through adequate staffing and healthy workplaces. That means focusing on team building and minimizing further reorganizing of management or supervisory roles.

How would you confront substance abuse in the NWT?

MacPherson – Residents and visitors alike recognize the challenges we have with addictions in our City. Our strategy must be two-fold. We need to invest in a northern residential treatment centre, outpatient aftercare and supports that help those in our community struggling with addictions. At the same time, we need to ensure the safety of all residents in our community with additional RCMP resources in the City.

Wawzonek –

  • Provide post-treatment long term aftercare including relapse-prevention planning;
  • Invest in community-based support networks;
  • Renew efforts to establish mobile units of mental health professionals to circulate regularly within
    communities and shore up local networks;
  • Provide mental health-specific system navigators or patient-advocates (or perhaps both) so that patients and their families access the most appropriate and best available programs and services

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

MacPherson – While I think it is critical that we continue to support our mining industry, we also need to focus our efforts on diversifying our economy including the development of sustainable tourism that attracts tourists to stay longer and spend more money in the North. This can be done by ensuring we are incentivizing businesses to develop new tourism products and experiences, not just in Yellowknife, but in other parts of our territory as well.

Wawzonek –

  • Review GNWT procurement policies so they provide an innovative approach to support NWT- based businesses. This should include an option to incentivize NWT-businesses to take the lead with external partners where needed to fill a local capacity gap but still remain in the lead on major projects.
  • Reduce the layers of planning approvals necessary for the City to have tenure over lands within the municipal boundary.
  • Actively seek a solution for more productive use of vacant spaces, particularly in the downtown core. Support a task force drawn from regional Indigenous Governments, the City, GNWT and the local business community.

The two districts that will be featured tomorrow are Kam Lake and Yellowknife Centre.

- Advertisement -