The Northwest Territories’ Conservative candidate for the forthcoming federal election believes fracking isn’t necessary to secure the territory’s economic future.
Hydraulic fracturing has been the subject of fierce debate in recent months as the territorial government attempts to establish a regulatory framework for fracking in the NWT.
Some residents oppose the government’s plans, arguing instead for a broader debate on whether the oil and gas extraction technique should be pursued at all.
Inuvik mayor Floyd Roland, who is standing for the Conservatives in the Northwest Territories riding, told Moose FM: “I would say we have enough conventional oil and natural gas that there wouldn’t be a need to frack in the Northwest Territories.
“Right now, I’m working for my community to try to get a gas-to-liquids project to develop a process in the NWT, a cleaner product that’s more affordable to the people. We don’t have to go through the process you see in the United States and other places.”
Roland – Premier of the NWT from 2007 to 2011 – is ramping up his campaigning, having watched incumbent MP Dennis Bevington recently declare his intention to stand for re-election.
Bevington’s New Democrats are riding a high having won control in the province of Alberta, but Roland dismissed that development as “not a threat at all” to the federal Conservatives or to his campaign. He also said he had not read NDP proposals to transform the federal Nutrition North program – which have formed the core of Bevington’s latest term in Ottawa.
“I haven’t looked at his proposals,” said Roland. “It’s easy to talk when you’re on the outside. [Food] is always a challenge in our most remote communities and we’re going to have to continue to look at it.”
Roland says economic strength will form a central plank of his 2015 election campaign.
“A stronger economy spreads to more revenues to spend on teachers in classrooms and healthcare workers – it all flows from having a stable, strong base to work from,” he said.
“When the government has to squeeze itself, it’s the employees that get affected. When you look at the current situation, the facts are there: we’ve got to turn this around.”
Roland portrayed a vote for him as a vote for “the winning team”, implying confidence in the federal government’s ability to gain re-election.
Yet when Roland initially announced his plan to run for election, in late June, some NWT residents appeared dismayed by his choice of party.
On Facebook: Your reaction to Floyd Roland’s decision to stand
“Floyd’s a good man, but no to Conservatives,” wrote Lawrence Nayally in response.
“He is a good, honest man and a great leader,” added Sally Hammer, “it’s just too bad he picked the Conservatives. I won’t be voting for him.”
Roland told Moose FM he was confident northerners would vote for him as an individual despite party differences, though he maintained the Conservatives offered a decades-long track record of investment “in favour of the people of the North”.
Asked if he felt voters would remember the extramarital affair which emerged during his leadership of the NWT, Roland expressed regret that the “turmoil [of his] personal life choices” had become public knowledge.
Bevington has yet to be rubber-stamped as Roland’s NDP opponent in the forthcoming election. Gail Cyr and Kieron Testart are the two declared contenders for the Liberal nomination.