Q+A: John Gon — candidate for MLA Monfwi

A headshot of John Gon. (Supplied by John Gon.)
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John Gon, the former CBC broadcaster who currently works for the Tlicho government is one of the candidates running to be Monfwi’s new MLA. 

The seat is vacant after former MLA Jackson Lafferty stepped back from the position he held for more than 15 years.

100.1 True North FM has reached out to all the candidates for an interview.

Voting happens on July 27.

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B: Why did you decide to run? 

JG: Well, as you know, Jackson Lafferty has vacated his position and apparently, he’s got some other plans. So the position has become open. So I thought it would be a good time for me to step up and say, He had been there for 16 years, and nobody really challenged him for the last couple of elections. I’ve been thinking about it for a number of years now. But I figured out how to step up and give it a shot. And I wanted to represent the Monfwi writing as there’s a lot of issues that I want to bring out. A lot of concerns that I’ve heard while I was in the community, and I go into communities a lot. It’s part of my job. With the teacher, government, we have a number of meetings in the communities. Of course, when you travel with governments, you hear a lot of concerns and a lot of issues in the community. So I decided that I know the issues and decided to run for MLA and see if I can tackle these issues and correct them for the people in the community.

BM: What are some of the big issues that you see or that you’ve heard from people in the communities when you go to them and ask, ‘What are the big issues you’re facing?’

JG: Some of the challenges are housing and homelessness. I think they go hand in hand. Housing is a major problem in the community of Behchokǫ̀, not just Behchokǫ̀ by itself, but in the other communities as well like Whatì, Gamètì and Wekweètì. The cost of delivering packages homes or to develop a home in the community of Whatì or Wekweètì. It’s enormous. They say it’s close to a million dollars to deliver one package of home to say what would you. So my aim is to reduce that. And my other goal is to provide adequate housing for the people in my community. I don’t know if you noticed or not, but there’s about 40 to 50 boarded up homes that are in need of repairs, or they are slated for demolition or to be just torn down because they’re no longer livable. So the need is a critical point right now. The need for housing is absolutely needed in the community. That’s the number one concern that I received while I was in the community, and because there’s a lot of a lack of housing. There’s a lot of lack of housing. The Friendship Centre did a survey about a year ago, two years ago now. They concluded that there’s about 150 people who are without a home and are desperately needing a home to go to. So you know, my number one priority there is to provide basic, basic houses for the people in need, and families in need. This is such an urgent, urgent, critical point right now. We know somebody has to do something. I know the politicians like Chiefs and the Tłı̨chǫ governments have been tackling that issue for a long time now. But nothing really is being done. I know there’s going to be about 10 homes that’s going to be either retrofitted or the new couple of new houses will be building better in Behchokǫ̀, and, you know, we’re talking about 10 new homes, and that’s not that’s not it’s just barely touching the tip of the wall. You’re talking a minute, minute dent into the problem. So, you know, something’s gotta be done. We have to do something about it, people are desperate, and I want to help. This is what I want to do. So that’s one of the critical issues that I want to tackle.

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BM: Are there other aspects to your platform that you think you’d be focusing on? Or is it mainly housing that you want to focus on?

JG: Well, I want to focus on homelessness and housing because that’s the main issue right now. But there is other stuff that I also want to focus on as well like a treatment center for the Northwest Territories. The last one closed about eight years ago and the treatment center has been hasn’t been available, not available for those needs for the last eight years and anybody that wants to go for treatment, they have to go down south and I think this is way too costly and it’s — you’re too far away from home. I’m not sure if we’ll be successful because of that. It’s too costly, and I think we should have it in the north like the one we had before, or the one we had in Yellowknife some number of years ago. I just want to add this to my background. I went to one of the treatment centers here, when it was available, it was very convenient for me to go in there. I did a 35 days treatment program back in the late 90s, I was very successful at it. Really, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, it was, you know, it was quite an experience for me and made me look at my issues. And it’s not just addiction only, we get to self discover who you are, why you think you have problems and stuff like that. But it was quite an experience for me when I went through that program. So it was convenient at that time and we should bring it back. That’s what is needed for the community and I’m sure a lot of people will go through it if it becomes available here. The other issue or issue I want to tackle is cost of food in the north — Nutrition North is the program funded by the federal government and apparently, for the Tłı̨chǫ community,the cost for a pack of food over there is absolutely ridiculous. We have to look at it again. And to perhaps propose some adjustments to subsidize more critical food like milk and meat, fresh meat and stuff like that. The other thing, the other one, too, is bringing cell service to Highway 3, Yellowknife and the Tłı̨chǫ, all the way to Fort Providence. As you know, there are no services available when it comes to emergencies. I believe that if we do have this service available and then we do have the service available, it will save a lot of lives. In terms of providing emergency services if there was an accident.

BM: You mentioned the high cost of building housing, and some of the concerns that had been raised in the Legislative Assembly about establishing a treatment center and installing cell service along Highway 3 was the cost of doing those things and how that wouldn’t be feasible in the NWT. So I was wondering what kind of solutions you see to issues around cost for providing some of these services? 

JG: The fiber optic line is already available along the highway, it’s a matter of bringing a private sector with motivation to come in, hook into the existing line and there we go. We have cell service. I don’t think Northwestel has the motivation to do it. We’ve got to invite the private sector to come in and tell them that maybe they can provide estimates and how much it will cost to introduce the new equipment. I am not really sure how much it will cost. I do need to look into that. But it’s something for the private sector or something I can look into perhaps, but why the territorial government doesn’t have any interest in doing that? I don’t know why, it’s been an issue that has been brought up a number of times before. But apparently it’s not that important for the government. But it’s important for me and the people I will represent if I get like it. So it’s something to look at.

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BM: Like you said, those issues have been brought forward a lot, and they’ll require a lot of advocacy. What experience do you have acting as an advocate, like you will have to as an MLA, if you get elected?

JG: Absolutely none. I have no experience in being an advocate. But in being persistent, being a former reporter, at CBC and I, myself, I have a lot of experience in meeting with the Tłı̨chǫ government and the GNWT. I’ve seen them in action, therefore, I will provide.

BM: You mentioned your work with the Tłı̨chǫ government. Could you go a bit more into your qualifications on why you think you’re qualified to be elected as MLA?

JG: I have a true passion for some of the issues. I believe that these issues do matter for the people. Like I said, I believe in these issues and issues will prevail, I believe that people will decide whether these issues are important to them or not. So I am advocating these issues. That’s all. I want to talk to people about what’s important to them and hopefully, because I represent these issues, and hopefully they will vote for me, if you believe that these issues are important. 

BM: If you are elected, what do you hope to have achieved by the end of your term?

JG: Just like what I mentioned here, these are the important issues that I want to work on. 

Hopefully, we will achieve — we will increase the number of housing available. I also want to build a multi housing unit like an apartment building in collaboration with the Tłı̨chǫ government and territorial government, they can contribute some funds. That will be my number one goal. and job creation, of course, is another important issue, which is I don’t know if you heard before the territorial government was overlooking the Tłı̨chǫ government and Tłı̨chǫ businesses when they proposed to build a Tłı̨chǫ all-season road. So it took a little while to do that, what I mean, the access road is what I meant. So you know, I want to make sure that all the benefits in the Tłı̨chǫ are received by the Tłı̨chǫ people. And the Highway 3 cell service. I want to do something about that. Homelessness and housing are the number one priority on my list, as well as the treatment center. 

BM: Anything you wanted to add or anything you thought I missed?

JG: Like every other candidate, I don’t have much experience in politics, but I have a lifetime experience on my own time, talking to people and being a broadcaster with CBC as well as CKLB and I did some time on television as well, making presentations and reporting on important issues with the CBC. I believe if you do vote for me, and any issues that I stand for, I can deliver. Thank you for your time and listening to me.

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