1. Do you support the concept of excluding 40 per cent of the territory from development permanently?
I don’t support this concept. Firstly, Canada’s commitment internationally is for 17% of the national land mass to be designated as conservation areas. Why would we lock down 40 per cent? How will less use of the land benefit traditional economies and our peoples? Secondly, we are a resource-based economy and struggling to attract investment and grow jobs. Access to the land is vital to exploration companies. The NWT continuously ranks high in its geological potential and loses out on investment because of such factors as unsettled land claims and uncertainty over land access. We need to take a more balanced approach. Excluding land outright deprives our NWT residents of the opportunity to make these decisions about their future.
2. Do you support a territory-wide referendum on whether to allow fracking in the NWT?
Not right now. We need to consult with communities, advance public education initiatives and create a shared understanding of hydraulic fracturing (HF). Most people that I speak with say they don’t know enough about HF to make an informed decision. But these decisions will be critical to our future. We need to fill those gaps. There are many conflicting opinions right now. The oil and gas industry has packed up and left the NWT. We don’t expect to see any exploration, let alone projects, for the foreseeable future; probably 10 years. We have time. So let’s take the time to get it right through consultation and education. Then ask the question.
3. Do we need a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in the territory? Why or why not?
I would support a rehabilitation facility if we could be sure of its success. We’ve had to close facilities in the NWT primarily because of lack of use. If we go down this path we need to consult with the medical community and community-based (outpatient) counsellors to learn what we must do to achieve success. In the meantime, given our geography and small population, we refer patients to residential treatment centres, like AADAC in Alberta, to ensure our patients receive the specialized services they need. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a solution that works for those who need and are willing to accept help.
4. Which of the following steps would you take to decrease the cost of living in the NWT, and why? Tax break, subsidies, government spending on infrastructure, or none of the above?
The first step is to convince our new Federal government to follow through on the election promise to increase the Federal Northern Resident Income Tax Deduction and index it to inflation. I can’t see adding more subsidies. We already pay out $200 million per in year is subsidies for such things as blue cross for seniors, transitional rent supplements and income security. Next, we need to grow the population to ensure growth in funding transfers. And last, but not least, we need to tackle the high cost of energy. There are new technologies out there that I believe can help and I am committed to rigorously exploring them.