Four of the NWT’s five federal candidates held a debate at Northern United Place on Wednesday.
The event was hosted by the NWT Chamber of Commerce and NWT and NU Chamber of Mines.
NDP candidate Mary Beckett, Green Party candidate Paul Falvo, Tory candidate Yanik D’Aigle and Luke Quinlan of the People’s Party of Canada all answered five questions and gave their two cents as to why residents should vote for them.
Liberal candidate Michael McLeod was absent from the debate.
According to his Facebook page, the NWT MP was campaigning in Hay River, Fort Smith and Fort Resolution on Oct. 2 and 3.
The moderator informed the crowd McLeod gave “his regrets” that he was unable to attend.
Candidates expressed their disappointment that they would not address the Liberal MP directly.
“It’s difficult to challenge the status quo without Michael here,” said D’Aigle.
Growing the economy
With economists forecasting an economic slump for the territory as its diamond mines are set to stop producing, the candidates were asked how they would act to boost the economy and all four offered varying answers.
D’Aigle recognized the importance of mining in the NWT and said more funds should be spent on exploration. He also promoted economic diversification.
He and the Conservatives would support other sectors of the economy such as tourism, green energy and academia but said sectors like “tourism will not replace our resource economy.”
Beckett, who has a small business background, noted the importance of reducing taxes for small businesses and noted how the promise of free pharma-care, which the NDP is making, would alleviate pressure on businesses to provide benefits to employees.
She also proposed interest free loans for residents to get energy efficient retrofits for their homes.
“It will provide us with a huge amount of work … and it will add a whole lot of new money into our economy,” she said.
Falvo and Quinlan took polar opposite positions on the energy sector.
Falvo suggested that in order to leave fossil fuels in the ground we must innovate by cutting all subsidies to oil and gas companies and repurpose the money to subsidize cleaner industries.
Quinlan, on the other hand, made it clear than he and his young party would be pro-resource development.
“We are pro-industry, pro-mining, pro-drilling and pro-energy, whatever that energy may be,” said Quinlan.
Quinlan also highlighted other PPC platform points including keeping GST in the territory and reducing business tax among other things to boost economic activity.
Connecting the North
Candidates were also asked how they would work to ensure reliable and inexpensive high-speed internet across the territory, after Yellowknife experienced two major telecommunication outages this year.
D’Aigle said the costs and consistency of telecom services in communities is very poor. He said the Conservatives would prioritize rural internet connectivity.
Beckett suggested that using the internet has become so important to every day life and business that it should be considered a necessity that the government should work to provide in every community.
“I think internet and cellphone use has to be considered a part of the public utility network, things that are treated as a necessity of life,” she said.
She said the NDP would work to connect Northern communities ahead of the Liberal 2030 schedule.
Falvo said the green economy is a digital economy and his party would amend CRTC regulations to increase competition.
“The NWT paid for a (fiber optic) line and signed it over to a monopoly that now stifles its competition,” said Falvo.
He, like D’Aigle, would want to piggyback fibre optic lines with electrical conduits and expand the territory’s power grid.
Quinlan on the other hand suggested the PPC would eliminate the CRTC entirely.
“It’s preventing competition in the telecommunications sector,” he said.
Candidates also discussed devolving the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to the GNWT and how to keep a greater share of resource royalties in the territory.
Another federal leader debate took place on Oct. 3, which was hosted by Ecology North as a part of the 100 Debates on the Environment series.