Deh Cho voters demand better housing

A former Grand Chief is facing off against a cabinet minister in the Deh Cho.

Former Grand Chief up against cabinet minister

Michael Nadli is running against cabinet minister Michael McLeod for the Deh Cho seat.

A former Grand Chief is facing off against a cabinet minister in the Deh Cho.

It’s a riding where First Nations are very vocal about the devolution agreement in principle. Some also saw it as a region where an Aboriginal government faced off against the public government.

But voters aren’t talking much about territorial issues. Terri Simba in Kakisa says there’s little interest in the election. She says people can’t be bothered to vote because it doesn’t seem to help when it comes to issues like housing.

"Here in Kakisa there are three or four houses that are vacant," says Simba. "Nobody is living in them and they have just been sitting there for three or four years. People wondering why there are houses and nobody living in them."

Social housing issue growing

Incumbent Michael McLeod says he hears those concerns loud and clear. He says the government has allocated many of the empty units to homeowners recently. But he says the program doesn’t seem to allow everyone to be on equal footing.

"Having a down-payment has been a challenge," says McLeod.  "The social housing issue is growing," he says. "The number of units we have available is not even close to what we need."

If people don’t vote, that could hurt Michael Nadli’s chances. The former Grand Chief says housing is one reason he is running. He says he wants to help those who are kicked out of their homes.

"Peoples’ self-esteem is affected," he says. "They are struggling to get a job but when they do get a job their rent goes up proportional to their income, so in that instance it’s rather sad to see people evicted," says Nadli.

But it’s not just homelessness the winner will have to manage. In Fort Providence, which is the largest community in the riding, Mayor Raymond Bonnetrouge says upgrading the water plant and the arena is on his mind.

No room in Fort Providence's landfill

Another big issue is figuring out how to deal with the community’s garbage.

"We’ve seen a ten-fold in municipal waste being added to our landfill," says Bonnetrouge. "Other than burying it, there’s no territorial program in place to recycle it."

Although it appears quiet, this riding is one which will be closely watched. These two candidates faced each other in 2003, when McLeod won by just 13 votes with close to 80 per cent voter turnout.