Meet the N.W.T. candidates: Liberal Michael McLeod running on gov't's record
'Our plan is to continue [COVID-19] supports during the pandemic'
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.
Michael McLeod was elected MP of the Northwest Territories in 2015, and re-elected in 2019.
McLeod is the former mayor of Fort Providence and was an MLA in the Northwest Territories Legislature for three terms, from 1999 until 2011. In his third term as MLA, from 2007 to 2011, he served as minister of transportation and minister of public works and services.
He lives in Fort Providence.
What are you campaigning on?
Our plan is to continue supports during the pandemic for families and for businesses and organizations. We want to ensure that we develop a healthy economy by creating good jobs, and jobs that are supported by training.
COVID[-19] has put a light on many areas, especially here in the North, where it shows how vulnerable some of our communities are and issues that we have to continue to work on tackling. And that's housing and health care, addictions, climate change.
I'm running for reelection because I'm proud of the work that we've done, proud of our government's record and I want to build on that record to help improve the lives of Northerners.
Do you support the call to have an election now?
You know, things were being delayed. … [The budget] was passed in June, the second last day before we rose, the House rose. And we introduced it in April. So it took months and months to get it passed. And those investments should have been flowing by June, and they didn't start flowing until the summer.
So it caused a lot of challenges. And it made us very concerned that going forward, we may hit a point where we couldn't provide the support if we couldn't get all the parties onside. You would think that all parties would work a lot better together during the pandemic, but it wasn't [to be]. There were still a lot of games being played and it wasn't going to stop.
I think [the] election had to be called at some point, and it would have been this fall. If it wasn't called in August, it would be called in September or October, or else the government would have come to a standstill for sure, and they would have forced us into an election. Everybody was saying they didn't want an election but I think most of us could see the writing on the wall.
How are you making the case for your party leader, Justin Trudeau?
Well, I think a lot of people in the North have seen the accomplishments that we've made in the last six years and are quite happy that the North is finally on the radar and they want to continue. There are people that I've heard from that are saying this wasn't a good time for an election. There are people that are saying, 'I'm not totally happy with your leader.' But for the most part, I think people are happy that the Liberal Party has a good understanding of the Northwest Territories.
What kind of commitments are you able to make on this campaign trail around those relationships [between the federal and Indigenous governments] and the path forward around this idea of reconciliation?
Over the past six years, our Liberal government has developed very strong relationships with Indigenous governments across the Northwest Territories and has been a real partner in addressing their priorities. We've established a self-government framework with the NWT Métis Nation, which we had worked on for some time. We signed agreements with the [Yellowknives Dene] First Nation, the Délınę Got'ınę [Government] on the remediation of [Giant Mine and the abandoned mines] near Great Bear Lake. And I want to continue on with these types of arrangements between governments and that includes the land claims and self-government agreements.
A lot of the Indigenous governments right now are really focusing on reconstituting nations. The issue of only talking about land tenure and compensation and self-government is too narrow... We need to broaden the discussion to include languages and culture and traditions and supports that will help us. It's [about] developing a nation that will be there to protect all aspects of their membership.
And we continue to make real good progress on implementing UNDRIP [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] and accelerating the work of the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls [commission] through their action plan and the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] calls to action. So there's a lot going on, but there's a lot more that has to happen.
What do you see as the important steps for your government but for northerners in particular around the recovery from the pandemic?
The issue of dealing with some of the challenges Indigenous governments are facing for settling land claims and self-government and nation building are big ones. I think that there has to be a focus on infrastructure investment... something that's been discussed quite a bit. Our cost of living is still very high here. We have a huge infrastructure deficit, especially when it comes to transportation.
Investing in accelerating climate change action is something we want to do. We want to deliver on that $10 a day childcare. We want to finish the fight on COVID but then continue to keep Canadians and northerners healthy by improving our health system.
With files from Loren McGinnis, Joanne Stassen