N.W.T. candidate Dennis Bevington says cost of living is top Northern issue

NDP candidate Dennis Bevington is optimistic about change in the upcoming federal election and says the cost of living is the biggest election issue in the North.

NDP candidate touts his Parliamentary experience, party's plan for $15/day childcare

Dennis Bevington, NDP MP candidate, says the cost of living is the biggest election issue in the North. He says the economy here is too reliant on imports. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

When Floyd Roland and Stephen Harper visited Hay River on a recent campaign trip, Dennis Bevington happened to be just down the road and got in on the political action.

"I had the opportunity to come over to Hay River, talk to supporters and generally start electioneering which, in a 79-day campaign, means that I have an opportunity to go to many communities more than once."

The NDP candidate ran twice for MP before getting his seat in Parliament in 2006 — the same year Stephen Harper was elected prime minister. 

Bevington has sat in opposition ever since, but he's optimistic that's going to change this year.

"This is the first time I've been able to say to people, 'Look, I have a really good opportunity to be part of the government after this election's over.'

"So I think that's really one of the questions people will be asking more and more as the election campaign goes on in the North: 'Who's going to be the government in Canada?'"

Bevington won by a comfortable margin in the last election, with 45 per cent of the vote. His closest contender was Conservative candidate Sandy Lee, with 32 per cent. But Bevington isn't counting his eggs before they hatch in this election. 

"Every election is different, every election is exciting and nobody ever wants to say that they're winning or losing in an election campaign. You want your supporters to work hard for you because the result can never be taken for granted."

Biggest northern campaign issue: cost of living

​Bevington says the cost of living is the biggest election issue in the North. He says the economy is too reliant on imports and he points to a budding bio-mass industry and revitalizing the local fishery as good directions to move in.

He says northerners need to provide more for themselves, pointing to the Northern Farm Training Institute near Hay River.

Dennis Bevington was elected to Parliament in 2006. 'I have a really good opportunity to be part of the government after this election's over,' he says. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"It's what we used to do here," he says about growing food. "All the vegetables used to be produced here and we're kind of going back in that direction. We need to do it in a modern, efficient fashion that can produce the results that we want."

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair recently told a crowd in Nunavut that his government would provide $32 million to fix and expand Nutrition North. Bevington has been pushing to have more communities added to the program.

"The criteria that's used now is whether it's a fly-in community. There's plenty of communities in the Northwest Territories on the road system where the cost of food is very high." 

NDP government would make childcare a priority

Bevington has some ideas on how he could help the North, especially if the NDP form the next government. He says reorganizing the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada would be a start. 

"I think that there's an opportunity, too, with the new government, to look at ways to enhance Northern development and Arctic issues by actually working to create a more distinct and separate entity in Ottawa that deals with Northern development and the Arctic. That's a concept that I think needs really to be looked at."

Bevington also highlights a national priority the NDP has put forward: universal $15/day childcare, which Bevington says would be a good fit for the North.

"The First Nations governments, the Inuvialuit, the Tlicho — provide universal daycare to their citizens. But in those cases some of the daycares have very long waiting lists, so I would see this federal program, there would be a natural partnership with many of those programs," he says.

"In Yellowknife, where you pay up to $1,300 a month for childcare, that's an enormous impediment to single mothers or to other single parents that would otherwise be able to go in the workforce."

Bevington says his time in office has given him a competitive advantage over his competition.

"If you put someone in without experience in Parliament, without the knowledge and understanding of the other players, without the relationships you build, like I have over nine years, ... That's going to take time for them to accomplish that," he says. 

"I have that already. I'm offering that, the experience. The understanding of what's required in a minority government to get your points forward and that's what I'll be able to do, right away."

In the Northwest Territories, four candidates are running in the federal election Oct. 19. CBC will profile all four candidates.