Meet the independent candidate: Q+A with Jane Groenewegen

Jane Growenegen pictured whilst an MLA. (Supplied by NWT Legislative Assembly.)
- Advertisement -

Jane Groenewegen is running as an independent in the upcoming federal election.

MyTrueNorthNow.com interviewed all the candidates, asking about their plans for the economy, Covid recovery, climate change and reconciliation.

Voting happens on September 20.

- Advertisement -

Why are you running as an independent and maybe not with one of the parties, especially considering the difficulty that conservatives have had getting their candidate up here?

I was never asked by the Conservatives to be their candidate, nor did I ask them to be their candidate. I decided to run basically on my own and to run as an independent, quite late on in the process, when I realized that there seemed to be a lack of participation that was giving people some viable, credible options for who to vote for. I just thought that our democracy, to be effective, needs to offer the voters a variety of names to choose from, and I wasn’t seeing names coming forward. Obviously there’s our incumbent and then even a little bit late of the gate, I think, was the Green Party. And the NDP, of course, I think they had their candidates selected fairly, fairly well on. I heard some people actually say that they weren’t going to vote because they didn’t feel that they had an option that they could vote for. So I thought, well, I have a lot of experience, and have some skills that I could offer. And so the idea of running for a party didn’t come up, but probably even if it had come up, I would not have run under any party banner. As everybody knows, our legislature is elected and comprised of people who run as independents, and then they’ll usually form alliances of various sorts once they are elected based on their communities and various interests. So that type of government I’m familiar with, and I also have been discouraged with the conduct and the acrimony, as a part of the blatantly partisan nature of leadership in our country, to the point of if one party says it’s black, the other one says it’s white. There’s just no, there’s no consensus building. There’s no working together. And at first in this campaign, we weren’t seeing it so much. But now it’s starting to come out and worse again. So I guess you could say that in some small way, running as an independent was my protest against the abject acrimony of partisan politics in our country.

Jodie Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott ran as independents after their whole debacle with the Liberal Party and issues about toeing party lines. You’re going in as an independent and like you said, you’re used to that kind of government, but in the legislature, that’s kind of the standard. But as an independent, if you’re coming in from the north, you’d be going in on your own, I wonder how you look at that prospect of that challenge?

I do think it would be different. There’s 338 seats in the House of Commons. We have one seat for the Northwest Territories, one for Nunavut, one for the Yukon. We’re a large jurisdiction, small in population, but very miniscule representation in the House of Commons. In a minority government setting, it’s quite possible that to advance an initiative or an agenda, or a proposal of some kind a minority government might be looking to independent candidates for support. I’m not the only candidate running as an independent either. There could be people elected to this government that are independent. And it’s the way the polls are showing right now it’s looking like it could very well be a minority government again. So the role of an independent member could be fairly significant. And it also allows the independent member to support government laws and propose laws and so on that are beneficial to the north. There’s a certain amount of freedom right now. For example, if I if I was running under a party banner, and I felt that something should be a priority for the North, if that was not part of that party’s approved platform, and I decided to take the liberty of going there or teaching something, and that would probably be reason to be kicked off, kicked out of that party, you can’t really stray from the party. So I just thought it was good to have the freedom to be able to support things I thought was good for the North, perhaps have a little bit of leverage in a minority government. If I could have input with a northern lens, or a northern focus. Like I said, if those votes all of a sudden became key two parties that want to get things done, a minority party that wanted to get things done.

One of the biggest issues in the territory is the economy. An outlook report in December said the NWT had the worst economic outlook of the three territories. What are the things that you’d be pushing for? If you were elected to kind of get the territory’s economy kick started?

- Advertisement -

Well, the first thing I’d want to do is talk to business leaders in the Northwest Territories, business associations, people, industry sectors, NGO non-government sectors, I want to talk to them to find out what their biggest challenges are. I mean, the party to stand up there and say, ‘I’m going to do this and this and this,’ but at the end of the day, who’s talking to the leadership here in the Northwest Territories to find out what specifically is most key to their economic well being recovery, expansion and sustainability. Like who’s talking who’s talking to those leaders, when they issue these party platforms on a national basis, yes, they do reference specific things in the north, but I don’t think they’re as in touch with the north as I would like to be. And I hope to get input in to consultation and communication and listening to what industry to what the economic activities here in the north to what to what they need. I know that labor market shortages are a huge one that’s just not in the Northwest Territories, that’s right across the country. So businesses in southern Canada are having a hard time recruiting and retaining, retaining, retaining staff. I mean, how much more challenging is it for people here in the north? And every business I talked to — I mean, I’m in private sector, myself, and I talked to people that are in business, and it’s almost to the point of being crippling, just just to maintain the status quo, never mind expanding or diversifying, or any of those things, just just to maintain what their operations are right now. The lack of available workforce is pretty much crippling their businesses. And, I hear it everywhere. So one of the things that I would like to consult with business about is how would they see the federal government introducing any programs or policies that could help develop labor force, attract the labor force and identify pockets of potential sources and employees? How do we make those connections? That’s one of the things that I think that the federal government at that level could work on, that could benefit not just business in the north, but this is right across Canada, and I don’t see a lot of that going on. We have immigration. There’s been federal programs for economic immigration, based on people that can bring the economy to the north, but it is more difficult to attract people up here. So I think that’s huge. If we’re going to have economic growth and economic recovery in the north, it’s huge that we find people that want to work.

During the debates, you said that this was a long running problem and it’s not just a Covid problem. So what do you think a solution could be to the labor market shortages?

Well, I was just talking to a business person who is struggling with staffing his business that he’s involved in, and the topic of building trades, a facility — and he’s talking about Hay River because he’s a business person in the Hay River area. But Hay River has a really good program through our high school here to get people interested in trades. And I know that Fort Smith has had trades, schooling and programming over there. And I know there is talk about training people through polytechnics like the university style training here in the north. But you know, Hay River is a community where there is a requirement for a lot of trades people. And we’re talking about the shortages, we’re talking about building here in the north. Rather than bringing people in from outside, maybe we should be again, turning our focus to young people graduating from high school and see an industry and business can work together to really promote things like building trades as an example.

We spoke about the economy, obviously the Covid recovery is the biggest issue — during the debate you criticized the Liberals spending during the pandemic. What should the federal government be doing to help the recovery?

- Advertisement -

First of all the expenditure of over 600 million dollars to hold an election in the first place was an inappropriate expenditure of taxpayers money. 

In their haste to support Canadians affected by the pandemic the CERB was disbursed in a shotgun as opposed to directed approach, resulting in it causing issues for many recipients. 

The NWT is seeing the impacts of climate change in a number of communities. What policies would you push for and how would you set carbon pricing in the future?

The cost of living is already proportionately much higher in the north. I wouldn’t support carbon pricing increases that would affect home heating oil and gasoline prices in the north. I support Canada doing our  part to reach climate change mitigation targets, but if we are to attract and retain northern residents, and see economic renewal, where possible the north should be treated differently when it comes to carbon pricing. 

The Liberal government has said Indigenous government should lead efforts for recovering bodies from old residential school sites, and has provided some funding? What involvement do you think the federal government should have?

Any assistance requested, financial or otherwise, by Indigenous governments for efforts to locate and recover the bodies of residential schools students should be provided without question.  It’s the least the government can do. 

How would you work with local Indigenous governments to further things like an apology for Giant Mine?

I would look forward to working with indigenous governments to hear from them about how to continue to address outstanding issues with the government of Canada, including the legacy and impacts of development such as Giant Mines.  

Is there anything you want to add?

I wanted to participate and I felt that because of my 20 years already in elected office, that people would already have an idea of what I could potentially bring to the job. So I thought I could also draw supports across party lines.

- Advertisement -