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Erin O’Toole, MP for the Durham riding in southern Ontario, shared some of his solutions for the North with NNSL Media this week. O’Toole is one of the four federal candidates vying to become the new leader of the Conservative Party.

How would you address suspicions of racist behaviour towards Indigenous people by members of the RCMP?

I’ve been advocating for years for the creation of an Aboriginal liaison officer program within the RCMP. It would be a community policing resource where Indigenous Canadians within the RCMP would be assigned to this specific liaison role both within the RCMP and with large municipal and provincial forces in parts of the country where there is an on and off-reserve population to build trust and capacity with Indigenous populations.

Erin O’Toole, MP for the riding of Durham in Ontario is one of the four candidates running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. photo courtesy of Erin O’Toole

They could be able to de-escalate situations with pipeline disputes through community policing capacity where officers cultivate relationships of trust and turn around situations where a community might be somewhat hostile to police intervention.

What would you do about the high costs of food in remote communities and the difficulty to access healthy food?

Nutrition North needs to be modernized and fixed. I’m not sure that the subsidies to the providers have been as successful as first intended. Right now the subsidies largely go to the grocery stores and we haven’t seen enough of the trickle effect to the consumer. We might have to look at another way that the subsidy could be provided directly to families or on a regional basis working in partnerships.

And we have to consult because the Indigenous and Inuit communities can highlight some of the partnerships with development corporations.

How would you improve the infrastructure and availability of high-speed internet?

It is part of our Arctic sovereignty and it would be a defence expenditure. Our North isn’t respected by our allies and foes alike. Arctic sovereignty to me means enhancing all aspects of our presence there as a country. Roads, ports, airports but also critical connectivity. It could be viewed as a strategic security expenditure.

I want to eliminate (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau’s various bailouts and increases to the CBC (and use) some of that money for infrastructure, which is much more valuable. The ability for people to connect to reliable high-speed internet allows them to pursue economic success and education success. That is more important than some of the television programming.

Electricity is expensive in the North and many remote communities rely on diesel generators for power. What solutions would you introduce?

Not only is it expensive (but) there are environmental issues too. Diesel needs to be stored on site with almost two years worth (of supply) in case there are shipping disruptions. There’s potential for spill damage for a type of power generation that isn’t efficient and not good for air quality.

I’m also a fan of small modular reactor nuclear power. It’s greenhouse gas (GHG)-free and the technology is being developed now.

They can be brought up by boat or aircraft and can be installed fairly easily (and) can power small communities for several decades. That type of technology needs to be part of Canada’s GHG reduction strategy and we could become world leaders in this type of generation for remote communities, and we could export it. At its end of life it can be contained there and there is no environmental risk.

You might face resistance to that idea from environmentalists who want to to preserve pristine areas of the North.

I might. I find the left is extremely ignorant when it comes to nuclear power. People who want to develop a net zero carbon (economy) by 2050 have zero clue of how to do it. One-third of the global challenge is from coal burning electricity generation.

Only hydroelectric and nuclear power are consistent, always on and GHG-free. There are few other options in the North. In northern climes you might get some wind generation but not enough to keep peoples’ lights on and heat their homes. How would solar power work in the North with darkness in periods of the year? There are some intermittent sources with biomass and wind (but) we have to educate Canadians dramatically about this.

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Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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