CANDIDATE ANSWERS: Rylund Johnson, Yellowknife North

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Our editorial board has put together three questions for all MLA candidates and acclaimed members seeking public office as part of our coverage of the 2019 territorial election.

Over the remainder of the campaign, we will publish responses on our website.

The three questions are:

  1. What is your position on the carbon tax and would you repeal it if the Liberal government is defeated in the federal election? How should the NWT play a part in combating climate change?
  2. How do you as an MLA intend to improve the economy?
  3. Would you support an Indigenous-based addictions treatment centre in the Northwest Territories?

1. What is your position on the carbon tax and would you repeal it if the Liberal government is defeated in the federal election? How should the NWT play a part in combating climate change?

Rylund Johnson, MLA candidate for Yellowknife North
photo courtesy of Rylund Johnson

I do not support repealing the carbon tax but we do need to continuously evaluate how our carbon pricing is working, and re-target if our emissions aren’t coming down.

Next, we need to make big investments in clean energy. Right now, the Taltson expansion is one relatively defined way forward, but I also think we need to look outside the box for micro-grid solutions that make sense in each region. By this I mean  things like small-scale hydro, solar, or wind projects where they make the most sense. We must step back and work with indigenous governments to let them take the lead in federally funded renewable projects.

On the political front, I believe the NWT needs to be an active participant in international discussions by sending our leadership to remind the world that we are disproportionately feeling the effects of climate change.

We also need to make sure the GNWT are allies with Indigenous governments in this fight ⁠— there is an incredible amount of traditional knowledge and leadership we would be smart to tap from these organizations.

2. How do you as an MLA intend to improve the economy?

One opportunity we’re missing out on right now in the territory is building a knowledge economy. I think a big part of finding success on that front will be building a Polytechnic University in Yellowknife as its hub.

In order for the university to succeed, it can’t just be a re-branded Aurora College. We need to offer something unique that is going to attract world-class researchers here, and incentivize innovators to choose the Northwest Territories.

We already have a lot going for us. Researchers already come here in droves from the University of Alberta and other institutions to study permafrost, climate change, and our huge slice of the Canadian Shield.

This is a solid foundation for us to build a cutting-edge university around which a new economy can thrive.

I also think we need to go big on tourism.

We have a lot of catching up to do compared to our neighbours in Yukon. While their highways are dotted with immaculate, engaging tourism infrastructure, ours sometimes make the news for offering tourists very different experiences.

I want to see transformative investments in tourism infrastructure across the territory so guests from around the world have they amenities they expect from their vacations.

I also want to see an end to unnecessary red tape and an evaluation of our licensing process. I hear too often from people who have an idea for businesses which would offer amazing experiences to visitors, but gave up on their ideas when faced with the bureaucratic process. This aligns with giving municipalities control over their land so they can take the lead in economic development.

We should be encouraging entrepreneurship, not stifling it.

And I believe responsible development is going to play a role in our economic future. While it is largely rooted in market trends, I think we would be smart to bring the rest of our resource management legislation — the Mackenzie Valley Land and Resource Management Act — under territorial jurisdiction.

It’s one of the last missing pieces for our territory to truly have control over how our land and resources are managed. That kind of control is going to be important to what our economy looks like in the future.

3. Would you support an Indigenous-based addictions treatment centre in the Northwest Territories?

Yes. Absolutely. This is one of my main platform points.

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