Meet the N.W.T. candidates: Independent Jane Groenewegen wants collaborative governance

Former Northwest Territories MLA Jane Groenewegen, who is running as an independent in the N.W.T. riding in the federal election, says she wanted to run for those who feel "disillusioned with party politics."

'In a minority government, those votes and the support of independent candidates could become very crucial'

Jane Groenewegen, who is running as an independent candidate in this federal election, will try to unseat Liberal incumbent Michael McLeod. (Submitted by Jane Groenewegen)

This is part of a series of profiles of N.W.T.'s five federal election candidates. Another will be published each day.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

Former Northwest Territories MLA Jane Groenewegen is running as an independent in the N.W.T. riding in the federal election. She served as an MLA for five terms, more than 20 years, before losing her seat in 2015. She's also a business owner and operator in Hay River, N.W.T.

She was first elected in the 1995 territorial election and then again in 1999 when she served in a variety of cabinet posts, including deputy premier, under Premier Stephen Kakfwi. 

She was elected to a third term in 2003 and served as deputy speaker, and was reelected as MLA two more times before losing her seat to Wally Schumann by 98 votes.

Why did you decide to run?

I was listening to some people saying that they were feeling a little bit disillusioned with party politics and some of the options that we had for this federal election. And I thought, well, I'm a problem solver. I'm a facilitator.

What do I have that I could bring to that despair about the democratic choices in the process? Well, I have a lot of experience, and could I offer that back again to the people in the North to represent them in Ottawa? And I thought I can do that.

Why did you choose to run as an independent?

Having spent my entire adult life in the Northwest Territories, and serving in the territorial legislature, I think it's safe to say that we do things differently here in the North than if you, for example, watch today in the House of Commons. I have a vision — and maybe it's a naive vision — that our government of Canada would serve the interests of Canadians better if they were a little bit more inclined to consensus building and working together, recognizing good ideas, whether they came from one party or another.

For example, I'm not an NDP, but I heard Jagmeet Singh yesterday talking about first-time home buyers rebates as opposed to tax credits. And I thought, well, that's a great idea. Wouldn't it be nice if tonight at the candidates leaders forum in the French language, if you saw our leaders of national parties come out on the stage and not be just completely combative, but actually recognize that there's more than one way to get things done? We could really benefit by listening to each other a little more. So I really couldn't endorse or run under the banner of any of those partisan political parties.

What will your priorities be if elected?

I'm hearing a lot about the COVID[-19] mandates, from people here in the North. I think that as a government and federal government, and as leaders, we're called upon to facilitate and create an environment for progress on things like land claims. I think that reconciliation is a big topic in Canada. And I think that again, here in the North, we are an example — we can be an example to the rest of the country. We have a lot to be proud about in terms of the way we do things, how we manage wildlife, how we manage our lands, how we incorporate Indigenous people into the decision-making process here in the North.

If elected, how do you plan to be effective in Ottawa within a party system?

I think the polls would indicate that we may be heading towards another minority government. And wouldn't it be interesting if the NDP gained a few and the Conservatives gained a few and the Liberals lost a few? I would say, welcome to consensus government. And maybe we could have an ambassador there from the North that could talk to them and speak out about some of the antics of party politics that is counterproductive to the interests of Canadians.

There are backbenchers in parties as well, that really don't get to say too much on the floor of the House of Commons. But that's not the only place where you can get your message out.

There's lots of avenues and means to get your message out and in a minority government, those votes and the support of independent candidates could become very crucial to passing legislation bills and initiatives that the minority governing party is trying to promote.

Is there a political leader you look up to?

I can't say an individual name.

You could see the job of leadership in a very bureaucratic kind of way, but I have a lot of respect for people who have a vision and pursue that vision with passion.

And also if I may, I offer my track record and on the things that I think a leader should be. And listen, one person is not going to go there and change the world. But as we communicate with our constituents and hear what they're saying, be a good communicator, but also be a good listener. I think that I have something to offer.