Most NWT premier hopefuls keep quiet on intentions

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Of the four MLA-elects vying for the premier’s chair, all but one are keeping their cards close to their chest.

As the only returning minister to the legislative assembly, Range Lake MLA-elect Caroline Cochrane said she’s been thinking about what the North’s priorities should be for some time.

“Everyone’s worried about the economy,” said the former CEO of the Centre for Northern Families, touting her two decades of experience in social work. “I believe in our mineral resources industry. It brings in almost 40 per cent of our GDP. There’s a lot of untapped potential, so we need to bump up exploration. There’s no sense talking about a 15-year life if we aren’t doing more exploration.”

Caroline Cochrane shares an embrace with a supporter after defeating Hughie Graham in the territorial election Oct. 1.
She’s one of four MLAs who have expressed interest in becoming the territory’s MLA in the 19th assembly.
Brendan Burke/NNSL photo

Calling for more balanced approach to government, Cochrane said she wanted to ensure the government’s current portfolios are sufficiently funded before extra money is put into new projects.

She also wants to reduce the government’s priorities from roughly 240 to a much more manageable number.

“At the end of the 18th assembly we started looking at a draft budget. That’s going to come fast and furious for this assembly. At the same time we have 12 new members who are still learning what the rules are. Everyone’s going to be overwhelmed, so what I’m recommending is we slow down, look at the budget and our priorities and work from that.

“If we’re going to have 240 priorities, we’re not going to get anything done properly. I would rather have five or six major focuses for four years. If we do the same process as before, I’m throwing World Peace out as a priority because I want to show how ridiculous it is.”

Beyond that, she said the top priorities should be improving both education and pre-educational development in the territory as well as strengthening health care.

“Almost 40 per cent of our children are not ready for school when they get there. That’s not even in-school, that’s when they get there they are not developmentally ready for it,” she said. “That tells me we need more parenting and family support and more support once kids get into school. Our inclusive schooling funding is not appropriate, so we need to have more funding available.

“Also, our health care system and our children in care. I’m a mother, a grandmother and a social worker. We need to make sure our children in care are provided the same standard of care we expect for our own children. There has to be more oversight. We are their guardians, so we are responsible for them.”

She added she felt the issues facing the health and child care systems were organization and emphasized she was not criticizing front-line workers.

Cochrane said she wants to push the government towards a more evidence based policy instead of ideologically driven, noting that she felt the previous cabinet’s approach was too conservative.

“I do think a lot differently than the previous cabinet. I bring lots of life experience and years of working with people,” she said. “I’m putting my name forward in hopes we have a more progressive government that looks at the long-term goals over the short-term gains.

“I see progressive as looking at the root causes of things. For example, with homelessness we can build shelters, which would be a short-term gain. But the reality is those shelters will fill up, because we haven’t dealt with the real issues.”

Cochrane added she wanted to focus on solving the problems at hand instead of focusing on a personal legacy.

“All I want is to get the ship on track. I don’t need a huge legacy, I just want to know that I was part of the solution. We need more prevention, not intervention.”

Statement being prepared for Friday

None of the other candidates offered their vision when asked by News/North Monday, though Monfwi MLA-elect Jackson Lafferty said a statement on his intentions will be coming Friday.

“We’re doing a statement next Friday and that’s when everything is going to come out,” he said. “We don’t think we want to preempt what’s going to be talked about in the news.”

R.J. Simpson, who expressed interest in a run at premier after being acclaimed to a second term as MLA for Hay River North, did not return phone calls requesting an interview.

A man who identified himself as Thebacha MLA-elect Frieda Martselos’ official agent said he had passed on a request for an interview to her but she did not respond by press time.

 

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