Rural N.W.T. voters say less talk, more action needed from politicians

Voters in the N.W.T. are disillusioned and tired of political partisanship. They want to see action on climate change, housing and other issues affecting the North.

Many think parties should put partisan politics aside

Felix Lockhart is a Yellowknife-based elder and former chief of Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation. He says urgent action is needed on climate change. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

Some voters in remote communities across the Northwest Territories say they're disillusioned and burnt out on federal politics. Others say it's time for some urgent and meaningful change.

Many residents across the territory say they're tired of hearing politicians talk, and not getting anything done. They're worried about the pandemic, climate change and the level of discord between political parties.

Some have stopped paying attention to the federal election altogether – they're more focused on the health and well-being of their community.

Election shouldn't have happened

Robert Sayine, an elder in Fort Resolution, said the election shouldn't have happened at all.

"Nobody is interested in an election because of this pandemic and everything else that's happening around us," he said.

Sayine said he's concerned about young people who are watching party leaders snipe at each other. It sets a bad example, he said, and it turns voters off of engaging during elections.

"I have always wanted to use my vote as a Canadian citizen, but if this sort of thing keeps on, I get turned off – why vote? It's silly. That's what a lot of people think," he said.

"This election coming up, it's not a very good one for young people to watch."

Sayine said he's still going to go out on Monday and cast his vote, but he'd like to see parties take the North more seriously as well.

Many Indigenous issues not addressed

Felix Lockhart, a former chief of Łútselk'e Dene First Nation, said he thinks candidates are focused on the wrong issues. He wants to see urgent action on climate change from whichever party gets elected, and says there are a lot of Indigenous issues that have yet to be addressed.

"In a lot of ways, we're still back in square one in regard to all type of issues – housing, education, or even economic development," he said.

"I believe that there has to be a lot more commitment in relation to people talking about truth and reconciliation."

He described the Indigenous worldview through which he sees the impacts of climate change. The loss of Indigenous languages is also a loss of connection to the water, air and animals, he said – he wants those connections to remain strong, the way his elders taught him.

"That type of viewpoint is very important ... we believe everything has a spirit and we live like that day to day. But I think that all that is being jeopardized now," he said.

"I'm thankful for the people that are raising the alarm about that. And so perhaps this alarm will be heard at this election ... We got to move this very second, this very minute."

He suggested political parties should take lessons from how COVID-19 has divided people.

"There has to be a stronger working relationship," he said. "A lot of people have different priorities, but we've got these major issues that just haven't really been taken seriously, or the government hasn't really taken steps toward addressing them."