Layton to visit Yellowknife next week

NDP Leader Jack Layton will visit the Northwest Territories next week to support Western Arctic incumbent Dennis Bevington, campaign officials have confirmed to CBC News.

NDP Leader Jack Layton will visit the Northwest Territories next week to support Western Arctic incumbent Dennis Bevington before voters to the polls on May 2.

NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks to supporters at a rally Saturday in St. John's. Layton will come north to Yellowknife sometime next week, campaign officials confirmed to CBC News. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

Mark Heyck, Bevington's campaign manager, confirmed to CBC News that Layton will be coming to Yellowknife sometime next week, although a date has not yet been set.

"Details of his visit have yet to be finalized," Heyck wrote in an email early Wednesday morning.

The N.W.T.'s lone federal riding, Western Arctic, has been NDP territory since Bevington defeated longtime Liberal member Ethel Blondin-Andrew in 2006.

But Bevington is facing competition this time around from two former territorial politicians — former premier Joe Handley, a Liberal, and former health minister Sandy Lee, who is running for the Conservatives.

Northern strategy unveiled

Also running in the Western Arctic riding are Eli Purchase of the Green Party and Bonnie Dawson of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada.

Meanwhile, Bevington unveiled the NDP's northern strategy on Wednesday afternoon, emphasizing that his party wants to give families a break from the North's high costs of living.

Among other things, Bevington said the NDP would remove the GST from the costs of home heating fuel, revamp the federal government's northern food subsidy program, and increase tax deductions for northern residents.

As well, Bevington said the NDP would create a northern highways investment fund to help extend the Dempster Highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T, then eventually build a year-round highway down the Mackenzie Valley.

The highways fund would be a $400-million commitment over a four-year period, he said.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff already visited Yellowknife on Monday to support their candidates.

On the heels of the visits by Ignatieff and Harper, some northern political watchers said Bevington's campaign could suffer if Layton does not visit the territory before voters go to the polls on May 2.

Dene chiefs back Liberals

But some Dene chiefs in the N.W.T. say they have already decided to throw their support behind Handley, the Liberal candidate.

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus told CBC News that chiefs from five regions have decided to "block vote" for Handley, after they got to meet Ignatieff face-to-face on Monday.

"They were impressed with the way Michael Ignatieff approached with an open mind and was able to communicate with them, listen to them, and promise to come back to follow up on the issues that are outstanding in the North," Erasmus said.

Erasmus said the chiefs who have decided to vote Liberal will encourage their citizens to vote Liberal as well.

Erasmus added that aboriginal people form half of the N.W.T.'s population and their votes could make a difference on election day.