NWT Chamber of Commerce and NT Chamber of Mines Questions and Answers

On September 10th, 2019 I had the opportunity to participate in the NWT Chamber of Commerce and NT Chamber of Mines election forum where they asked candidate three key questions. The following are my written responses. If you have any questions or concerns with my stance on these issues, I encourage you to contact me at any time through my contact page.

The NWT Chamber of Commerce will be hosting Opportunities North this October which highlights key ways to grow the economy. Recent reports from the Conference Bureau of Canada and most recently CMHC pointed towards an economic slump. If you had the opportunity what would be your direct and specific action to grow the economy?

When you look at the slow housing market over the summer, it may be fair to say the economic slump is upon us. Economic diversification and collaboration are two of the tools we must use to grow the economy.

Collaboration

I see it being needed at two levels.  Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) needs to collaborate more effectively when dealing with Indigenous governments to create stability, certainty and more efficiencies. The continuing cycle of ongoing negotiations with the Akaitcho and the Dehcho must come to an end with Agreements.  That requires collaboration not confrontation. The devolution intergovernmental forum could be opened up with the full participation all Indigenous governments to other matters beside devolution. Let’s expand on their achievements.

Diversification

We can begin by tackling a few immediate problems – the cost of living and promoting the quality of life. Too many mine workers live in the south. We need to specifically target knew employees with information about the quality of life in the North and have resource companies operate with employees who live in the North.  We lose too many tax dollars and local spending activity that could be recaptured by bringing mine employees into the North. In reaching out we also need to address the cost of living.  Power rates and utility costs are essential services.  Government needs to take another look at the delivery of power and the rate structures. GNWT could consider a rebate on home heating expenditures.

I fully support the development of an independent Polytechnic University with its main campus in Yellowknife.  It will bring new revenues into the community and improve the equality of life for Yellowknife and all Northerners.  Sudbury is a good example of a mining town that has benefited from becoming a University town.  I would also call for free tuition at the college for Northern students.

The extraction industry has slowed in the NWT.  There is a lack certainty because of the outstanding claims.  That cannot go on.   Mining projects need to take a strong collaborative approach with Indigenous governments, continuing to build on the partnerships and training that has been developed.  They also need to be respectful and proactive in willingly meeting the environmental requirements. We must protect the long-term interests, as well as addressing the short-term immediate ones.  This upcoming Assembly must ensure the Mining regulations that will define the implementation of the Mining Act reflect that interests of Northerners and are completed quickly.

I haven’t yet touched on the potential of the renewable resources sector to help diversify and build our economy.  New initiatives in solar and wind generation are overdue.  There is a potential for smaller community sized run of the river generators, blameless windmills and retrofitting homes. A transportation subsidy on building materials would lower the costs and also stimulate new home construction and retrofitting.

What specific actions would you take to turn this around, to rejuvenate mining investment in the NWT and keep our mining jobs, business, and tax revenues strong?

To begin with, I believe we need to recover many of the existing jobs.  We must bring back jobs by putting strong measures to have existing and future mining operations like the Fortune Mineral project require employees to live in the North. More effort must be made to train Northerners to work in that industry.  When the government hires someone they expect to live where the positions located.  We lose too many tax dollars and spending revenue to other jurisdictions.  We could be doing a better job tracking Northern students after they graduate from college and provide encouragement and opportunities for them to return. As previously stated completing the mining regulations will set the stage for developers so they have clarity on the requirements for operating.   As well the two outstanding land claims must be completed.  This should be a priority so that certainty is created for all parties.

How do you propose to noticeably reduce the cost of living in your riding?

I will call for a review of power rates.  I would like to see commercial and domestic rates equalized.  Power cost for small businesses need some breaks.  Fees like the airport improvement fee bring external revenue into the general revenues of the NWT and are common way across the country to raise revenues to maintain and develop airport infrastructure.  However, the discrepancies in charging parking fees at airports leaves Yellowknifers paying more than others.  I would seek to have parking fees discontinued at the Yellowknife airport.  I don’t like the carbon tax but I understand its value.  We should establish a 100% rebate for middle and lower income families whose finances are stretched.  A transportation subsidy, on home building materials could assist in lowering the cost of homes and stimulate the home construction market.  There is a substantial need for both affordable and accessible day care and after school care.  I support universal daycare and more accessible training for day home operators.  Finally, as previously stated a carbon tax rebate on home heating fuel would help reduce the cost of maintaining a home. 

Again, if you have any questions or concerns about these NWT Chamber of Commerce election forum questions, please contact me. I would be happy to speak with you and understand how I can best represent the riding of Great Slave.

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