Three of the NWT’s four federal election candidates met in their first public forum of the campaign on Wednesday.
Green representative John Moore, New Democrat Dennis Bevington and Liberal candidate Michael McLeod took questions from local organizations and audience members over two hours.
Conservative candidate Floyd Roland missed the forum in favour of campaigning door-to-door.
Here are some of the questions posed to the three candidates, and summaries of their answers:
Q: Does your party support entrenching all treaty and Aboriginal rights in existing agreements?
Moore said: The Green Party’s policy deserves more attention. The party is committed to dialogue. Moore wants to build on the 2005 Kelowna Accord regarding Aboriginal peoples, would look to adopt all 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, and embrace the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Bevington said: An NDP government would introduce a committee to ensure the rights of indigenous people are represented throughout legislation. The UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples must be recognized. Canada must be a leading example.
McLeod said: A Liberal government would work with Aboriginal governments as full partners. There must be equal opportunities in Canada for Aboriginal people. Wants to see a reconciliation framework built on the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Q: How will you decrease the income and equality gap between genders?
Bevington said: The NDP offers universal childcare with daycare at a maximum of $15 a day. That starts the ball rolling. A level playing field is important, with opportunities for all citizens to find employment.
McLeod said: The Liberals have a national action plan on women’s issues and violence. Murdered and missing indigenous women affect all communities in the NWT. Better maintenance enforcement is needed. Canada cannot wait eight years for the NDP’s daycare plans to kick in.
Moore said: When he moved to Inuvik, it was clear there was some battering going on in the next-door apartment. That was the first time he had encountered violence of that nature. It’s important, first, to understand the issues and study them. Canada needs and inquest into missing and murdered indigenous women.
Q: What is your economic vision for the Northwest Territories?
McLeod said: The Liberals have a three-point plan: investing in infrastructure (which creates jobs and training opportunities), a tax break for the middle class, and affordable homes with improved facilities for seniors. He wants the fishing and biomass industries to grow.
Moore said: The Green Party, unlike its federal rivals, has no whipped voting. Others are constrained and only he can truly represent the Northwest Territories as MP. The Greens promote a $0.02 kWh subsidy for green energy and the Housing First principles.
Bevington said: The NWT imports $500 million in fuel yet renewable energy is here. The NDP would invest $100 million in northern renewable energy. He has spent his life dedicated to pursuing renewable energy. The New Democrats also have a strong housing retrofit program.
Q: How will you decrease poverty and increase job growth?
Moore said: The Greens would introduce 20,000 new green housing units per year across Canada, and a further 8,000 retrofits annually. He has been speaking with scientists regarding indoor agriculture, which he believes is ready for the NWT but needs support.
Bevington said: Nutrition North under the Conservatives has not worked. The NDP will make the program fair for all and invest more in it. Renewable energy will create many jobs. We have the know-how for renewable energy in the North, but federal stimulus is required.
McLeod said: He began with a brief jibe at Dennis Bevington for not having done a lot to change things. Nutrition North, as a program, is a good thing but needs to be fixed. He wants to see investment in infrastructure, improvements to transportation and longer runways in the North. Facilities for the homeless and treatment facilities are needed.
Q: What is your take on the new TPP trade agreement?
Bevington said: TPP is a corporate rights deal above the rights of citizens. We must be careful.
Moore said: It’s hard to comment if neither he nor anyone else can see it. TPP has been negotiated in secret, which is unconstitutional. He will stand against it.
McLeod said: Economic success depends on strong trade relationships. The Liberals would focus on rebuilding those relationships with North American partners.
Q: What’s your party’s position on Canada’s role in humanitarian aid to other countries?
Moore said: Canada’s international reputation has fallen to a record low. The Greens could reinstitute the Canadian International Development Agency. Are we people who drop bombs, or are we people who bring peacekeepers?
Bevington said: Canada’s aid budget has fallen to 0.24 percent of GDP – the New Democrats would restore that to 0.7 percent. In the last eight months, Canada has invested $500 million in defence when it should be investing in aid.
McLeod said: He wants Canada to be recognized as a generous country. The Liberals would establish a human rights panel to provide the right of appeal regarding refugee decisions.
Q: What are your plans regarding mental health and disability supports for the territory’s young people?
McLeod said: Youth face severe challenges in the NWT, with problems related to drugs and alcohol escalating. He wants to see investment in front-line mental health services and more federal collaboration with the GNWT.
Bevington said: A national implementation plan based on the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities is needed. There could be a Canadian Disabilities Act. In terms of education, the NDP would double funding for Aboriginal education in reserves across the country.
Moore said: Mental health concerns hit close to home for him. Twelve times in the past year, while a student, he was directly engaged with someone trying to end their own life. He believes in the need for a Canada-wide strategy.
Candidates were then allowed a final two-minute summary. These are reproduced below:
Dennis Bevington: “During my nine years as your MP I’ve learned to work in Parliament, to work on issues important to you. I’ve worked on the northern policy for our party. The NDP will grow the Nutrition North food subsidy to include the 50 communities not there now, and do a complete review involving northerners as full partners.
“We need better housing: we’ve committed $2.7 billion over four years to restore investments in affordable and social housing, with a fair share for the NWT.
“Both the Liberals and Conservatives miss on climate change: our proposed cap-and-trade system puts a price on carbon. At the same time, we’re putting money into the North to provide renewable energy opportunities. That’s how we can save northerners money and help us move forward on climate change mitigation.
“Our Elders should age in dignity, not in poverty – but healthcare, as well. The Conservatives will cut the continued 6 percent growth in healthcare costs. We’re saying no, we’re going to put it back in. We know the ageing population will require more healthcare dollars and we’re committed to doing that.
“We’re going to build the Canada-wide early childhood program in partnership with the territory. The goal is to get everybody $15-a-day childcare programs.
“We need to repair our relations with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people across the country – that’s so important. If you want an MP with experience and integrity who has worked for you, vote for me.”
Michael McLeod: “Northerners have a very important choice to make between jobs and growth with our Liberal plan, or cuts to programs and services under the NDP and Conservatives.
“After 10 years under Harper’s government, Canada is not the same country it used to be. Harper has led seven straight deficits. He has failed to keep our economy out of recession. He has failed to support Aboriginal peoples and he continues to avoid action on supporting the needs of Aboriginal communities and calling an inquiry into the missing and murdered women.
“The Conservatives haven’t delivered on some of their own promises for the North: they promised armed icebreakers and we haven’t seen that. They promised more funding for the Rangers and we haven’t seen that. They promised deep-water ports. All he has given us is to come here and use the North as a photo opportunity, and he continues to ignore the serious needs of our communities and people here in the NWT.
“I’m very proud to be part of Justin Trudeau’s team and have an opportunity to share in a plan for real change in the North and across Canada. Our plan is what Canada and the NWT needs.
“We will increase infrastructure spending to the tune of $126 billion. We will cut taxes to the middle class. We will ask the wealthiest Canadians to pay more. We will invest in families through the Child Tax Benefit and will increase the Northern Residents Deduction by $50 million of additional tax relief.”
John Moore: “I don’t have a final comment prepared so I’ll just speak to you guys as you guys here. To have my voice heard is an incredible blessing. I don’t think there are many people in the building tonight intending to vote Conservative and, if I have anything to say about it tomorrow on CBC, I’ll try to make sure there aren’t many people in the NWT planning to vote Conservative.
“What I would like to touch on is something that hasn’t come up tonight and frequently doesn’t come up in elections of any kind. Mr McLeod touched on how Mr Bevington hasn’t really been able to do that much since he’s been in government due to the fact the NDP hasn’t formed a government.
“We talked about Behchoko, and Ms Hache having her friend’s house stolen, and how neither of the gentlemen on either side of me were very aware of what was going on, nor could do much about it. If the NDP and Liberals don’t form a government, there is very little they will actually be able to do for the NWT.
“I want to set myself apart here by actually making commitments. The Greens aren’t going to form a government but, if I am elected as your MP, I will nonetheless make promises to you as northerners.
“First, I want to commit to a community forum where we have all 33 NWT communities represented and directly integrated with my own office. This is not something I want to put on the taxpayer dime; this is a monthly meeting I want to hold on my own dime.
“I have already committed to Kelowna: on day one, I will reintroduce it to the House. And quarterly I will visit the legislature and continue to work with my partners in the territory, as I have been conversing with them over the past number of days.”