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With the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada due to be selected in August, NNSL Media reached out to the four candidates to hear their views and proposed solutions to issues facing the NWT and Nunavut.

On Thursday, Leslyn Lewis shared her perspective on Northern issues. Lewis is a lawyer in Toronto who ran as a replacement candidate in the 2015 federal election in the riding of Markham–Stouffville, north of Toronto.

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

We recognize and respect the hard work of police officers, but there is a small minority of police officers that do things that they have to held fully accountable for. We’re moving towards a more compassionate society. We won’t tolerate police brutality and mistreatment. But we also have to recognize the role that police serve in society. While the force isn’t perfect, I would like to see investments made in certain protocols and treatment.

Leslyn Lewis, a lawyer in Toronto, is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.
photo courtesy of the Leslyn Lewis Campaign

I think police officers need to have more sensitivity training with respect to dealing with certain communities and sitting down and talking to those community leaders about some of the things that are eroding trust between First Nations communities and the police. I don’t share the opinion that we have to disband the police. I think we can improve our weaknesses.

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

One way to deal with (food security) is to cut the carbon tax. That would have an impact on lowering the cost of food. We’ve seen that the agriculture sector has had difficulties because of the tax and having to pass on some of those costs to consumers. Cutting that tax would have direct impacts on food security issues, and especially with healthy foods and vegetables and fruits that are even more expensive in that area.

Could cutting that tax deter environmentalist voters?

The carbon tax is not something that I feel has a directly beneficial impact on the environment. When you use tax as a means to control behaviour it has to be set at a level that would influence that behaviour. In order for it to have an impact on behaviour it would have to be 40 times higher.

(The tax) is having a very detrimental impact on lower income families and it’s also affecting our food supply chain because it’s making food less affordable.

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

Canada as a G8 country still has areas that lack access to services and it’s the northern areas that lack access to these services while southerners view them as basic necessities. It’s difficult to conduct business when you don’t have these basic services.

The pandemic has highlighted that the government needs to ensure we have the right infrastructure to support the growth of the nation.

It’s time Canadians decide to make that investment in the infrastructure we need to grow our country. We’ve done it in other countries through aid and development. And I’ve travelled to some of those countries whom we’ve given aid and development and they sometimes have better connectivity with internet and electricity than some parts of this country.

Because it’s so expensive to get those resources out there, I think we (could introduce) tax credit options for businesses to offset some of those costs that would ordinarily eat away at their profits.

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

Most of the plants up there are past their useful lifespan. It’s time we re-invest in new plants and expand the grid. We also have to look at proper water treatment because many areas of the North have water that isn’t drinkable. We need to do that in conjunction with expanding electricity in the North.

We would have to do an assessment to see the viability of (new plants). I believe the best way is to incentivize private corporations to take on that initiative (through) tax credits.

We have 338 seats (in the House of Commons) and only three are allocated to the territories. (But) the Arctic represents 40 per cent of our landmass, and residents pay some of the highest hydro rates, five times higher telecom rates than anywhere else in the country and 40-50 per cent higher costs in heating. We have to find some solutions to ensure that life is more affordable for Northerners.

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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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