All four of the NWT’s federal election candidates met for the second public forum of the campaign on Thursday night.
The event, which was hosted by the CBC, took place a day after a similar forum was held – also at the Northern United Place.
But this time around, Conservative candidate Floyd Roland also got in on the act after missing Wednesday’s forum.
He was joined by Green representative John Moore, New Democrat Dennis Bevington and Liberal candidate Michael McLeod on Thursday night.
All four candidates answered questions for an hour and a half. Here are some of them, and summaries of their answers:
Q: What specifically will you do to support clean energy?
Moore said: The Greens are an environmental party. We have to work together to put a national price on carbon. The Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan is the smartest, most efficient, and most effective way to shift away from burning fossil fuels.
Bevington said: The NDP has committed $100-million over four years for renewable energy in all three territories. Leadership has been lacking from the federal government for years. We need to move communities towards cleaner energy like biomass and solar energy.
Roland said: The federal government has invested in ways to help with alternative energy such as biomass and other alternatives. We also need to develop our own resources and put our people to work. Gas to liquids opportunities could be explored in the Beaufort Delta.
McLeod said: We need leadership on this issue. The Liberals will establish national emission targets and provide funding for alternative energy. The Liberals will work with the provinces and territories to set reasonable emission targets.
Q: What does a sustainable local economy in more remote communities look like?
Bevington said: That depends on the region. Wrigley is surrounded by forests, so biomass projects could be successful there. We also need to improve food stock in more isolated communities by encouraging local food production.
Roland said: We need to right-size projects for communities to displace products brought from south. Biomass projects could displace wood pellets. It’s important that we work with people to build an economy that is the right size for the region.
McLeod said: We need to invest in infrastructure needs. We need a road that goes to Wrigley and longer runways. We can lower the cost of living by having a proper road system that goes through the Mackenzie Valley. Then we can invest in agriculture and tourism.
Moore said: It’s important that we start keeping dollars in our communities. I’ve spoken extensively with some of the top agricultural scientists in the world about things like indoor agricultural projects. Local food production should be a priority.
Q: What will you do to eliminate child poverty?
Roland said: A Conservative government will make funding available. Thanks to devolution, royalty resources are now staying in the NWT, allowing the territorial government and other agencies to invest in priority areas.
McLeod said: We are committed to a child benefit program, something the middle class needs the most. We’ll also cancel income splitting and tax breaks for the wealthy and increase the Northern Residents Tax Deduction by 33%.
Moore said: One in six Canadians live in poverty and one in five face food insecurity which is disgusting and unacceptable. Canada also has no national housing strategy, which the Greens are committed to.
Bevington said: The Liberals and Conservatives have done very little in 25 years of successive governments. We are proposing a universal childcare plan that will allow parents to work with affordable childcare. We also need a Nutrition North program that works and the Conservatives haven’t done that.
Q: How can you represent your constituents if their needs are in contrast your party?
McLeod said: Liberals are free to vote on issues, they’re not tied down by whipped votes. I’m in a good position to represent the territory in Ottawa. I know a lot of people here in very different places.
Moore said: The Greens are strongly against whipped votes. The man to my left, Dennis Bevington, only did it once in Parliament. In fact, the Conservatives have the highest percentage of members who voted against party policy at around 2%.
Bevington said: I’ve had a direct hand in a lot of northern policy so that’s why I haven’t felt the need to vote against a lot of items. You have to put yourself in a position that your party understands your point of view.
Roland said: Right, is that why Mr. Mulcair thinks we’re in the North Pole? Whether it’s good news or bad news, you’ll be forced to make tough decisions in Parliament. Mr. Bevington hasn’t made enough on behalf of the North during his time in Ottawa.
Q: What will you do to eliminate the overrepresentation of aboriginals in Canadian jails?
Moore said: This is but one of many issues in the Canadian corrections system. We believe the focus should be on rehabilitation and reintegration instead of punishment. We also need to give people the tools to reintegrate into society following an incarceration. We also want to see marijuana legalized since it is massively overrepresented in the corrections system.
Bevington said: Crime issues are being pushed hard by Conservatives. In fact, the rate we provide citizens with criminal records is one of the highest in world and even higher amongst aboriginals. There needs to be more of an emphasis on education, which is why we’re committing $4.8-billion over eight years for aboriginal education.
Roland said: Things do need to change. I come from a background of tough love where you follow the rules before you and have respect for your elders. Education is a good start but we need to start the work at home and provide provinces and territories with the tools they need.
McLeod said: We need to sit down with aboriginal governments to mend our relationship with them. We also need to look at some of the underlying root causes for crime, including PTSD and addictions. We need to bring back the Kelowna Accord and invest in aboriginal health, housing and education.
Q: What is your plan for reducing the cost of housing in Yellowknife and other communities?
Roland said: Different communities present different challenges. We’re committing to design and deliver access to housing to improve lives. We want to put dollars back in the pockets of individuals.
McLeod said: One in four Canadians are paying more than they can afford for housing while one in eight can’t find safe housing. Through our 10-year investment plan (to the tune of $125-billion), we’ll be able to provide housing for seniors, social housing and housing first initiatives.
Moore said: Cuts by the Conservatives to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation have been bad and the Greens are strongly against it. Canada is one of few developed countries without a national housing strategy and this has to change.
Bevington said: During the last Parliament, we put forward a national housing initiative to bring affordable housing but it was shot down by the Conservatives. Retrofit programs should also be considered to help lower utility costs.
Q: What will you do to put the cost of food on the agenda?
McLeod said: The cost of food is usually priced with the freight factor. That’s why we need good highway systems and runways because we still have a lot of isolated communities. We’re also committing $10-million a year to Nutrition North, even though this is a subsidy program and not a long term solution. We need infrastructure.
Moore said: That’s a hilariously poor plan given that it costs roughly $1-million per kilometer to build highways in the North. We need to consult with independent communities and the legislature to increase local food production.
Bevington said: We did that in the last Parliament and even had a full-day debate on Nutrition North after I brought up some deficiencies with it. I’ve also worked to conduct a conference on localizing economies so that we can ask, “How are we working towards food security?”
Roland said: The Conservatives introduced Nutrition North, formerly known as food mail. We’ve re-visited it before and changes still need to happen. We also need to support northern farming initiatives like the one in Hay River.
Q: The federal government’s relationship with aboriginals has been fractured. How are you prepared to do to rebuild that relationship?
McLeod said: We have a strong aboriginal agenda. We need to work as full partners and return to the principles and objectives of the Kelowna Accord. A Liberal government will also implement all recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and order an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Moore said: I’d like to form a council of northern communities not on taxpayer dollars, and have representatives from every community meet for monthly forums. We also need to re-establish Kelowna, implement all recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and unlike Mr. Harper, missing and murdered indigenous women is high on my radar.
Bevington said: The Conservatives have invested heavily in legal action against aboriginal groups since assuming office. We need to have more respect, which is why Mr. Mulcair has committed to chairing a committee that will consult with aboriginal groups when important decisions are made.
Roland said: We need to sit down with our aboriginal partners and try to come to an understanding. But even recently, the Conservatives have signed off on self-government deals and implemented devolution in the territory, which indicates our ability to work with them.
Q: What are you going to do to help the territory’s homeless population?
Moore said: Housing is but one piece of this problem, several other struggles need to be addressed simultaneously. We need a comprehensive mental health strategy across the country and affordable medicine. The Greens are committed to that.
Bevington said: The problem of homelessness appears to be escalating, especially in larger centres like Yellowknife. We can establish a permanent inter-agency office in a space like Centre Square Mall to find answers to some of our problems and address them.
Roland said: We need to build strong families, strong communities and a strong territory. To fix the problem, we have to start at home and government programs need to be ready for people and accessible when they need them.
McLeod said: a lack of housing, jobs and opportunities is causing an outmigration to the territory’s larger centres. We need to invest more in transitional housing where people can be safe, deal with mental health, trauma from residential homes and abusive homes. We also need treatment centres given the high rates of substance abuse in the North.
Bevington said: I’ve been your MP for nine years and have the experience and dedication to represent the territory in Ottawa, even if it’s in a minority situation.
Roland said: Nine years of experience is good but do we need more years of someone looking from the outside? Or someone like me who’s made the tough decisions here already? I can bring that to Ottawa.
McLeod said: Canada isn’t the same under Harper, the NDP plan will take too long and they also haven’t disclosed how much the Northern Residents Tax Deduction is going up by.
Moore said: If you care about aboriginal rights and not living in poverty, vote me in as MP and definitely don’t vote Conservative. I’ll commit to the North regardless of who forms government.
The federal election will take place on October 19. Edge YK is set to host another candidates’ forum next Tuesday.