ELECTION NOTEBOOK: WEEK 1- Four hopefuls seeking city’s downtown district

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Yellowknife Centre, which contains the downtown portion of the city, is one of the most contentious in the North.

Candidates see it as geographically small, but containing a lot of different types of people and a lot of important social issues that are a challenge for the GNWT.

“It is very densely populated and from side to side, you could walk it in 20 minutes,” said incumbent Julie Green. “It makes it different from other ridings where it is so accessible. I would also say that the income spread in this riding is diverse, with people who are low income to people who are well off. With that, there is also quite a bit of diversity in people — Indigenous residents to Filipinos to other immigrants. So it is a very diverse and dense riding.”

Thom Jarvis said the district is almost like an inner city riding in the south.

“I would say, after having lived in Yellowknife Centre for a decade and a half, it is definitely the most diverse riding in the NWT,” he said. “That is ethnically, but it also has a diverse socio-economical range and different forms of housing.”

Niels Konge, as a town builder, said the area has a variety of housing types for almost all people and that makes it unique.

“It is very diverse with single family homes, new builds, new and old apartment buildings, social housing units, and we have the day shelter,” he said. “There is also Avens for seniors and student housing in Northern United Place. So it’s very diverse. 

Arlene Hache said it would be a mistake to consider it a monolithic district because it is so diverse and is often made up of working poor struggling with the cost of living.

“There is a huge amount of the working poor,” he said. “I have heard some stories of people working three jobs just to make it. I would say downtown is a real mix.”

Arlene Hache

Arlene Hache called her first week of door-knocking “excellent” as she made the rounds in Yellowknife Centre.

She has run for MLA numerous times before, with her last unsuccessful campaign against Robert Hawkins in 2011, but she is hoping to make a difference this time with her 30 years experience dealing with homelessness, including as director of the Centre for Northern Families.

“I think the first week was excellent in terms of responses at the door,” she said. “I sensed a higher level of interest and a real concern about the downtown in terms of the sobering centre and activities happening there.

“People were very interested in concrete solutions to real challenges.”

Hache said she has about 15 solid volunteers, but two close female helpers are supporting her at her 5018 47 Street campaign office daily. They help with cooking food, provide media monitoring services and door knocking assistance as needed, she said.

Julie Green

Yellowknife Centre incumbent Julie Green said she was pleased with the first week of campaigning as she completed a healthy round of door-knocking.

“The first week went really good and we got door hangers on the first day and I started canvassing on the first day in my neighbourhood,” she said. “I have been getting a good reception, excellent conversation, requests for signs and more information.”

Green estimates there are about 1,200 doors in the electoral district to reach and in the first seven days she hit about 351.

She has a volunteer team of about 10 people, all with specific roles, with some doing signs, and others with questionnaires and overall strategy.

““I don’t know how you could do it all on your own and I don’t think that would be very smart, either,” she said of the usefulness of having a campaign team. “There is quite a lot to do and a lot of which to stay one top. It is a good idea to have people help you, but it is also good to have supporters who will keep you motivated and feeling good about what is going on. ”

Green said she is still planning to host events for residents, but has no dates yet to report.

As far as issues, she is hearing three main topics.

“They are concerned about the downtown because we live and work downtown,” she said. “They are saying that they recognize there are challenges and that downtown can be a rough place to walk around.”

Another is the cost of living.

“Specifically the cost of fuel and the cost of power,” she said.

“The third thing is the future of the NWT economy and they are some negative indicators about the NWT. They want a smooth transition out of the diamond mines to whatever comes next, whether that is tourism, or fisheries or a combination of different things or more mining. People are interested.”

As a one-term incumbent, Green has found having the initial campaign under her belt has helped her with campaign time management and knowing what to expect during door-to-door visits.

“The big difference might be being incumbent this time where sometimes I’m the focus of the other candidates whereas last time I was the challenger,” she said. “So I didn’t have the same focus of a record to defend and questions about the last assembly.”

Green has various communications tools including billboard and lawn signs, a website JulieGreenfor4MLA.ca with a blog of regular updates, a ‘Re-elect Julie Green MLA Yellowknife Centre’ Facebook page and a brochure. She also has door hangers and other materials still coming, she said.

Niels Konge

Niels Konge, is one of two city councillors in the city who made a late announcement last week to seek an MLA seat.

“Well, today is Thursday and so it hasn’t even been a whole week since I submitted my papers ,” Konge said in an interview on Sept. 12. “A week ago I didn’t have any material printed or pictures taken, so we have come a long way in a week.”

Konge said he was able to get a platform together with printed material over the weekend and get a Facebook page up and going on Sunday. He also has a website that he had going as of Wednesday night.

Konge said his volunteer base has largely been centred around his family, starting with his wife Renee. His daughter Tegan has been and continues to be his “number one” supporter as a councillor and now as an MLA candidate.

He said he is also grateful for other supporters like campaign manager Perry Smith and official agent Sheila Arychuk, and numerous other helpers who have made the last-minute transition to campaign mode a bit easier.

Konge spent two days knocking on doors starting Sept. 10 — a first time experience  despite his seven years as councillor.

“It comes as no surprise as I have engaged with people through work or delivering pellets (through my business) or attending school events or sports events or the grocery store and council a lot of issues that concern people,” he said.

He added that there are similar issues related to education and health care that residents have raised, but concerns often differ from family to family, he said. For instance he was able to talk to one family about the need for child disabilities supports and another about the history of the Taltson River area – in the context of the hydroelectricity expansion project – as a living community and the historical social impacts government removal has put on northern residents.

Konge said at the moment he doesn’t have events scheduled, however “street coffee” meetings where he meets with constituents at a location on Franklin Avenue have worked for him as a councillor in the past. He is still considering doing something similar.

 

Thom Jarvis

Thom Jarvis is entering his first MLA campaign after making an unsuccessful run for city council in 2015.

Jarvis and his wife Cindy have been door-knocking since Sept. 6 after filing his papers the previous Tuesday.

“The first week was actually pretty good,” he said. “Unlike some of the incumbents and other candidates, it is still a matter of gelling our team and getting everyone comfortable and pulling resources together and having it happen on the fly and as we launched.

It wasn’t just a matter of picking up the phone and putting the band back together.

Jarvis said he has a core team of about five people that includes his wife, who helps because she is able to help collect information at the doors and help with overall scheduling. He also has a campaign manager and a communications person who is helping with IT and website challenges.

At the door, he has been hearing two main issues of concern.

“They slightly vary in emphasis depending on the section of Yk Centre you are,” he said.  “In general, the economy and how we move forward comes up a lot. And that is very fortunate because that is one of the things I focused on and one of the reasons I became involved in the first place. 

Almost equal to that is when I started looking locally, the state, condition and deterioration of the downtown comes up again and again and again. People are not satisfied with the way it is.

Jarvis said as a resident of Northern Heights downtown, he sympathizes because he walks to work often or sees from his balcony various situations involving downtown social issues, including violence or public intoxication.

Everyone agrees it has gotten worse over the last five years,” he said, adding that people are “nervous” about shopping downtown and tend to go elsewhere in the city.

Jarvis is still aiming to schedule a meet-your-candidate type of event, but details are still in the works and are yet to be made, he said.

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