Both challenger Hughie Graham and incumbent Caroline Cochrane describe Range Lake as an electoral district that has a strong community, neighbourly feel.
“I think it is unique in that we have a lot of single-family dwellings and a sprinkle of apartment buildings,” he said. “There is also a good mixture of blue-collar and white-collar workers and a mixture of government employees and mine and public service sector workers.
Cochrane paints a picturesque district that is “family-focused,” which is important to her as a mother and grandmother.
“I always say we’re the most famous riding in the NWT because everyone knows Wal-Mart,” she said laughing.
“It is special because it has a diverse population with high and low-income families, modular homes and large houses and a lot government workers, a lot of nurses, teachers, and middle-income families.”
Hughie Graham, a first-time candidate against incumbent Caroline Cochrane, said his door-knocking campaign got started last Wednesday evening and he has been pleased with the response he has received from residents.
“The first week has been very positive,” he said.
“We knocked on some doors and the door-knocking I would say 80 per cent has been a positive response of Go Hughie Go.”
Graham said on Monday night that he had reached close to 200 doors of the 860 he hopes to reach by the end of the campaign.
He has a volunteer base of about 20 people, four who help out with everything from door knocking to running communications, with social media and his website YKHughie.com. He also has a Facebook page at Hughie Graham – Candidate for Range Lake MLA. Graham said of the doors he has knocked, issues people bring up haven’t surprised him, because he has lived in the electoral district for more than two decades.
“We have lived in Range Lake for 22 years and we know a lot of neighbours with the same concerns and that is the reason I put my name forward,” he said.
“I’m hearing from people who are concerned about the economy. There are a lot of single-family homeowners here in Yk who are worried about the value of their homes and where jobs are going to come from when mines start to wind down and where we are in the next five to 10 years. I’m also hearing about the cost of living and how we address the cost of utilities, the carbon tax and the land transfer tax that the government has increased in the last little while.”
Mental health and homelessness in the city are also subjects he has heard about.
Graham said he does not currently have meet-your-candidate events scheduled, however he has been using his days to attend events and meet with prominent leaders in the community like the mayor of Yellowknife, president of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and the executive director of the NWT Chamber of Commerce and the president of the Commission scolaire francophone.
Graham said much of this week will be spent on filling questionnaires and preparing for candidate forums he will be attending.
Caroline Cochrane, incumbent MLA for Range Lake and cabinet minister for the last term, said the beginning of her second campaign has gone well as she started as soon as the writ was dropped last Monday.
“It is a lot different (from) the first time I campaigned because I was so nervous and almost everyday I was asking myself, ‘What are you doing’?” she said laughing. In 2015, she defeated incumbent Daryl Dolynny by five votes in one of the tightest races in the NWT.
“This time I come forward I have a lot more knowledge and certainly a lot more confidence in myself and confidence in people and being able to address the issues.”
Cochrane estimated on Monday night that she has knocked on close to 300 doors. She has a team of about 20 volunteers, some of whom walk with her door-to-door to keep conversation and keep track of the places she visits. She has a large family and friend network from living in the city for many years and a number of colleagues from various sectors including health care, non-profit organizations and education.
“I don’t know how people do it without a team, it really is so important,” she said, noting that she gets help organizing and double-checking and reviewing elections communications material. She also seeks help with technological aspects of the campaign like with social media accounts.
Cochrane said there haven’t been any meet-the-candidate events scheduled to date. She is planning to have a coffee date, eventually, but her priority is meeting people at their doors.
“Some of the issues I’m hearing are similar to issues four years ago when I first ran, but also in the summers since I have been going out as an MLA and cabinet minister and knocking on doors,” she said. “The cost of living is always an issue and the economy. Every MLA will tell you about that and every person is talking about it. We have to look at that seriously. Education, of course, as education minister and health care with the hospital in my riding are important because of the nurses in the riding.”
She said concerns over child-care and supporting families – specifically ensuring families have two incomes- are other things that resonate with her campaign platform.
Cochrane said she has limited the amount of signage to five billboard signs and is using social media platforms like her Re-elect Caroline Cochrane for MLA Range Lake Facebook page and Twitter page @CochraneYK, as well as her website – https://www.cochraneyk.ca/.