Deh Cho | Ronald Bonnetrouge, Lyle Fabian, Michael Nadli, Greg Nyuli
Land claim issues dominate concerns in Deh Cho
Land claim issues dominate concerns among the four candidates running in the riding of Deh Cho, but the big question is whether voters will forgive incumbent MLA Michael Nadli for his recent assault conviction.
The largest community in Deh Cho is Fort Providence (pop. 814), which remains an important way point for travellers, even after the construction of the Deh Cho bridge. Transportation and tourism are mainstays of the economy, while traditional activities like hunting, fishing, trapping and arts and crafts also remain economically vital.
South of the Mackenzie River is the tiny, log-cabin community of Kakisa (pop. 45), and the Hay River Reserve (pop. 321), situated on the outskirts of the town of Hay River. Enterprise (pop. 122), a highway-service centre, is the only non-aboriginal community in the district.
Deh Cho was represented from 1999 until 2011 by Michael McLeod — brother of current Premier Bob McLeod.
In 2011, Michael Nadli won the seat from McLeod by nearly 170 votes (McLeod narrowly defeated Nadli in 2003 and was acclaimed in 2007). McLeod is now the federal Liberal MP for Northwest Territories.
In 2013, Nadli was the only MLA to vote against the territory's devolution final agreement with the federal government, citing a lack of progress with negotiations for a land claim settlement between Ottawa and the Dehcho First Nations.
Earlier this year, Nadli pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm stemming from an incident that left his wife with a broken wrist. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail, but released after eight, paving the way for him to run again.
Bonnetrouge says there's a wide range of issues facing the four communities of the Deh Cho riding. He wants to establish a healing centre that would combine an indigenous perspective with southern medicine to treat addictions, mental health issues and family violence. He says he wants to be a representative for youth issues in the Legislative Assembly. "They face more tough times than any other age group."
Land claim issues are top of mind for Fabian in this campaign. He says there needs to be a comprehensive review of all land claims in Treaty 8 and Treaty 11 lands. He feels this would be good for both the First Nations in question and the territorial government. He's also promising a full review of fracking rules, and wants to find ways to provide addictions treatment and offer Dene language immersion programs.
Nadli says his first priority is more infrastructure for the communities, followed closely by the need to finish the Deh Cho land claim process. Doing so, Nadli says, would provide greater certainty for business and allow more economic development, which would benefit the entire N.W.T. economy. He also wants to see new health and wellness facilities in his riding, better cellphone service and a forest fire tower in Enterprise.
He says his top priority is greater accountability and transparency on the part of the territorial government. The GNWT, he says, is taking on bigger and bigger issues, like fracking, jurisdiction over land and water, and changes to regional health authorities, but those decisions are coming from the top down. He wants more infrastructure and services but is concerned about the GNWT's fiscal situation and says communities will have to prioritize.