North·NWT Votes 2019

The candidates: Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Steve Norn, Lila Erasmus, Richard Edjericon, Paul Betsina, and Nadine Delorme are seeking your vote in Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Compare and contrast their platforms in their own words.

Five candidates contest riding formerly held by Tom Beaulieau

Five candidates are contesting the riding of Tu Nedhe-Willideh, which includes the communities of Detah, N'Dilo, Fort Resolution, and Lutsel K'e. (CBC)

Election day in the Northwest Territories is Oct. 1, and CBC North is working to bring you all the information you need to cast your ballot. As candidates were announced, CBC provided each an opportunity to answer a questionnaire tackling a wide range of subjects, from their own qualifications to themes impacting their riding and the territory as a whole.

Read their responses below, presented in the order they were received by CBC.

Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.


Steve Norn

(Submitted)

Why did you decide to run for office?

I've also always had a great passion to serve the public (e.g. police, firefighter, coaching). I firmly believe that I can bring my many experiences and skills to the table and make a difference in the Legislative Assembly if elected.  

I feel there has been a lot work put into employment, addictions, and housing, but with no great and foreseeable changes. I cannot and will not stand back and watch our territory go in this direction. If elected, I can work to align and build a better future within these three main areas and more. 

With these types of roles, timing is so important, and I know I am ready now.

What previous experience would you bring to the role of MLA? 

I have arguably the most eclectic resume of all the candidates running in this election. I do have a great deal of experience in the private and public sector where I learned to speak with the public, business leaders, and political leaders. I'm happy to say that I've formed many solid relationships over the years that I feel will be very beneficial to a position such as MLA.

In addition to my experience, I previously served as a constituency assistant, which has given me the ability to navigate the ins and outs of the Legislative Assembly.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?  

I am the father of three beautiful, smart, and driven young ladies (Delila, 16, Cicely, 14, Siné, 8). Watching them bloom everyday gives me a very good reason to get up out of bed and do my very best. I am so very proud of them.

Also, making a TV appearance on CBC's Canada's Smartest Person was a very exciting experience as well. I had to jump through many mental hoops just to make it to the studio alone. It was so much fun and I will never forget the fact that I got to rock out my moccasins on national television. I got to show the country that a guy from a small town like Deninu K'ue can get out and do these types of things and inspire the younger generation.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the territory? 

The economy. Assisting business and seeking new employment opportunities are one of my main platform items. We must be innovative in keeping our economy afloat with our mining industry entering an ebb cycle. The tourism industry will be our new go-to business that we will need to support wholeheartedly. I believe that the N.W.T. is a tourist destination and we need to look at ways in keeping as much revenue as possible in the North.

The two new infrastructure developments in the Taltson and the Slave Geological Corridor are projects will also need to be discussed. I am willing to work with all stakeholders involved to make sure we benefit from such projects and that they are done in a environmentally and socially responsible manner.

What is the biggest issue in your riding?  

Land Claims. These need to be ratified, so stakeholders such as the GNWT (Government of the Northwest Territories), Akaitcho and Métis can have certainty in terms of how we will share our land, resources, and figure out our self-government agreements. The people in our riding have waited a long time to see these get finalized, and I feel we are ready to take those next steps.    

If elected, I am willing to work with all the stakeholders to get this work done and maximize the benefits for everyone involved.

Low employment rates are also concerning for me. All four of our communities have very low employment rates. I would like to explore some of the roots causes of this and start looking at ways to find employment for my potential constituents.

If you could accomplish only one thing while in office, what would that be?  

To see a proper, fully staffed addictions facility reintroduced in the N.W.T. According to the experts, we have regressed enough as it is. People suffering with addictions are still being sent south at a great cost to the taxpayer.  

We are also seeing our emergency services across the North being strained (fire, police, medical staff, legal services). I firmly believe you will see results for the better if we implement a solid, realistic plan in terms getting a treatment facility back in the N.W.T.  

I also want to emphasize that we won't see results immediately, but we will in the long term. What we are doing now is not cost effective and not working. This needs to be one of our front and centre issues we need to address for the next Legislative Assembly. Enough is enough.

Aftercare is also something that is a crucial part of this puzzle. You cannot talk about healing without aftercare and follow up after one has been sent to a treatment facility. We need to ensure the people we treat do not go back into their communities and relapse.   

What would you like to see the territory do to address the impacts of climate change?

There are many imbalances we are currently experiencing (i.e. low water levels, increasing wildfires, changing animal migration). The government has a responsibility in mitigating these problems.

Our ancestors taught us to respect the land and wildlife. Many of us in the North still carry on these practices. Ni Hadi Xa programs are great examples of our people utilizing traditional knowledge and western science to protect and care for our land and environment. Our water and land protectors are out monitoring and testing in all seasons.

We've always been taught to respect the land and water and now it's of the utmost importance. We need to take charge and supplement our people to do this. 

What would you change about how the government currently operates?  

There are too many to list. Most importantly, I feel that we need to revamp our Affirmative Action Policy, BIP (Business Incentive Policy), and housing policies. I am constantly hearing that the GNWT creates too many obstacles that hinder our people and businesses. These policy changes are not that difficult and are realistic changes that could see immediate (and hopefully positive) results.

From the Legislative Assembly side of things, I do not like the way we choose our premier. We need to let the public decide who our leader should be and not leave it to a secret ballot vote at the Legislative Assembly. I propose we have a run-off vote (i.e. single transferrable vote) to choose our premier. This would make it a truer consensus way of doing business in my opinion.

What do you think the GNWT must do to improve and protect the territory's economy?  

See question 4.  

What would you do as MLA to improve the GNWT's relationship with Indigenous people?

I touched on this question in question 5. I should also further mention that the GNWT needs to be a little more "laissez-faire" or hands-off when our Indigenous governments are making attempts to stretch their legs in terms of self-government.

If elected, will you be seeking a cabinet position?  

My first duty, if elected, is to serve our constituents. They have voiced that I should served as a regular MLA first. I will honour their wishes.

Would you like to be premier? 

No.


Lila Erasmus

(Submitted)

Why did you decide to run for office?

I understand the people and issues and want to work toward solutions that empower the people. This means to listen and act upon community concerns based upon the foundations of community, relationships, unity and family. I have heard the elders say time and time again that the government does not understand their needs or concerns and that it does not represent them. this needs to change. 

The era of reconciliation is before us and communities need to be empowered to come up with their own solutions in partnership with a government that understands, values and respects our cultural principles.  

What previous experience would you bring to the role of MLA?

Education:

  • Bachelor of Arts degree: Native Studies/Political Science majors.
  • Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution research. Topic: How Dene resolved disputes and how to apply their knowledge in programs and services. 

Experience: 

  • GNWT Experience: Young Offenders Worker, Assistant Negotiator, Immigration Nominee Program Project Manager, Community Justice Manager, Implementation Negotiator, Indigenous Human Resource Specialist.
  • Indigenous Organizations: Akaitcho Treaty 8 Treaty Land Entitlement Negotiations Coordinator, Akaitcho Treaty 8 IBA Manager, Sacred Circle Project Manager.
  • Business Owner: (2006) Bows & Arrows Inc.: Retail; Consulting, Contracting, (2012) Naturally Dene: on the land plant medicine teachings.

Board experience: 

  • Ndilǫ District Education Authority Chair.
  • Sacred Circle Project Board Member.
  • NWT Wellness Society Board Member/Chair.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

My greatest accomplishment is completing my Master's research in Dispute Resolution and looking at how the Dene use to maintain peaceful communities in the past and how we can use these old ways to create programs and services that are relevant and effective today. It was a gruelling experience that required many eyes and many edits.

I loved researching how the Dene resolved disputes and sitting listening to the elders who were so generous with their time and stories. It was a life changing experience for me to learn all about how the Indigenous community is different from Western society: we inherently learn, interpret and understand different worlds. Once I understood that, I realized just how much most of society is unaware of these differences and how much educating will be important to making change.  

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the territory?

The economy and cost of living are the two biggest issues. I believe in the communities and I believe that if asked, they will be able to come up with solutions to these problems that make sense for them. We need to empower our communities by proving them with the resources and supports to come up with the solutions for themselves.  

What is the biggest issue in your riding?

Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh concerns are diverse and the biggest issues for them are land claims, healing and economy.

We need to complete land claims in order to finalize our jurisdictional authority over our lands and community. Healing our communities from the effects of residential schools is required, and education about why we are where we are today is highly required for both Indigenous and and non indigenous peoples to understand and overcome past harms. 

A balance is required between the traditional economy and wage earnings, so that communities can find ways to live sustainably, relying upon both for sustenance and growth. 

If you could accomplish only one thing while in office, what would that be?

Creating alliances between Indigenous governments, GNWT and federal governments, organizations and industry, so everyone is working together toward solutions that work. This needs to be done by placing value and respect upon the ways of the Dene and Métis.

What would you like to see the territory do to address the impacts of climate change?

I would like to see territory look to the Elders for those solutions. They know the land and how different activities affect the land: they also understand how to mitigate those effects.  

What would you change about how the government currently operates?

I would work on Indigenizing the GNWT.  It needs to open up space to empower Indigenous communities to make their own decisions and come up with their own solutions. 

What do you think the GNWT must do to improve and protect the territory's economy?

I think it needs to put more resources into Indigenous communities to empower them to find their own solutions, and put incentives in place for Indigenous governments to work together.  

What would you do as MLA to improve the GNWT's relationship with Indigenous people?

I would work to empower the Indigenous people and communities by supporting them to build those relationships with each other, and value and respect them as the decision makers for their lands, people and communities. 

If elected, will you be seeking a cabinet position?  

Absolutely.

Would you like to be premier?  

Yes.


Richard Edjericon

(Elections NWT)

Why did you decide to run for office?

The last time I ran, I was asked. And this time around, the last number of years, it's been there. People have been coming out and visiting me in my home saying that we really need help in our community. Whether it be housing, or old age pension, or anything like that. 

They approached me, and I gave it a lot of thought, and then finally I said, OK, I'll throw it in and see what happens.

What previous experience would you bring to the role of MLA?

I've been on band council for ten years. I've been the housing division manager for YKDFN for five years. I've been with the N.W.T. Housing Corporation doing projects and project management for about 12 years. I was the chair for the N.W.T. Apprenticeship Board. 

I chaired the Mackenzie Valley Impact Review Board for six years as well. It kind of gave me a good idea on both sides of the table, from the ground roots of our people working in the trenches and trying to find money, to the other side of the table where we were approving mines and such.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

On July 25, 1900, my great grandfather signed the Treaty 8 document. And exactly 100 years to the day in Fort Resolution, I was the chief for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and we were able to negotiate an Akaitcho Framework Agreement. That agreement was exactly 100 years to the day that my grandfather signed the treaty. I would say that's one of them.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the territory?

This new government coming in, whoever's going to come in as premier needs to have a strong vision for the North. The economy needs to be front and centre. Finalizing these land claims, land use plans done. Once we have that done, it creates certainty for industry.

But right now, as it is, we're still in a global recession, our IBAs are coming to the end of their life. Our people are going to be looking for work. They're wondering what's going to happen to their truck payments and everything else. That's something that we really need to take a look at.

Housing is front and centre as well. We need affordable housing. We need community housing. I'd suggest that we maybe do an audit, or perhaps a review of the N.W.T. Housing Corporation. Really give the power back to the people.

What is the biggest issue in your riding?

Number one, for sure, we've got to finalize the land claim. We're in the AIP stage. Thaidene Nene national park needs to be finalized as well. Land use plans, those are big ticket items.

But we've got to remember that we still need programs and services at the local level. We need alcohol and drug treatment centres. Old age security, pensions. Cost of living is going up, but pensions continue at a fixed income. I think we really need to take a look at that. Our elders guide us, but it feels like we push them in a corner. If anything, we should be working toward making sure they're comfortable.

If you could accomplish only one thing while in office, what would that be?

All the stuff I mentioned are priorities. But overall, this government needs to come down to reality and say hey, with the mining industry going down, we need to clean up our own house. We need to live within the means we have. We need to have a strong vision for the North, we need to have a strong economy. What I see right now, we don't have that. 

We have an outdated Territory Act. We've got to talk about a constitutional reform that would include the Territory Act, so when we come together, we can come up with some kind of constitution. Because at the end of the day, the territorial government gets up to $1.8 billion on our behalf, they make decisions on our behalf. But most of those money is coming from Aboriginal monies. We need to take a look at that, and decide how we're going to co-exist going forward.

What would you like to see the territory do to address the impacts of climate change?

We're already feeling the impacts of climate change. We'll do our part, but to what extent, though? They're talking about the carbon tax — here in the North, we've been taxed to death. Sooner or later, people are going to leave the North, because it's just too costly to live here. 

So we need to take a look at climate change, but the cost of living as well. We'll do our part. Being the former chairman of the impact review board, I know what to do to work with industry to make sure our environment is protected. It all goes hand in hand.

What would you change about how the government currently operates?

We need to do an audit of our whole government as a whole. We have a huge bureaucracy in the system that needs to be looked at. We've got to live within our own means, and if we've got to do an independent assessment of ourselves, then we should do that.

Here's an example. The N.W.T. Housing Corporation gets $130 million a year. By the time you fund the local housing authorities, fuel power and water, etc., you're probably pushing about $75 million and $55 million for infrastructure, overhead costs. There's no need for that. We're crying for housing in our communities, but the policies are stopping us from going forward. That's one place I would start.

What do you think the GNWT must do to improve and protect the territory's economy?

We've got to do more. We have to have a strong vision on it. We have to be creative, and look at new ways of doing business. Not only oil and gas and mining, but it could be renewable, you name it. Green energy and projects, we have to look at those things.

We also have to invest in small business. As the mining industry winds down, we have to take a look at how we're going to work with small business, so that they can pick up the shortfalls coming from the mining companies. 

What would you do as MLA to improve the GNWT's relationship with Indigenous people?

We've been around a long time, and the GNWT is the Territory Act. That act is outdated. We've now got settled claims, their own governments, section 35 rights. The Territory Act needs to come together somehow with a real constitution, so that we can co-exist and live together.

But that would have to include the overall pie, so that regional governments, Aboriginal governments could make their own decisions on what is important in their communities.

If elected, will you be seeking a cabinet position?  

I couldn't really tell you. I would go back to chief and council and the elders in each community, and ask them what they see their priorities should be.

Would you like to be premier?  

I just want to be elected and serve my people. I'm not going to say no, but we need somebody in government that has a vision.


Nadine Delorme

(Submitted)

 

Why did you decide to run for office?

I had decided to run for office probably in 1994 when I got my first rejection from Indian Affairs for my status. It wasn't specific to MLA, but specific to a leadership role, to be able to counter what happened to me and what happened to other people.

And when I came North in 2014, I had involved myself with the Métis and the Dene and even in those categories I was unable to exact any kind of sovereignty or support, so it reached the point where it's like, okay, they're under control of the colonial construct. So, alright. I know the colonial construct well. I may as well try out for that position and see how I can manoeuvre to be equalized to the Indigenous people.

I was given status at long last in November 2018. I'm a member of Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

What previous experience would you bring to the role of MLA?

My experience as a Sixties Scoop survivor who analyzed every policy in Canada to try and figure out what happened. I also sought out the capacity tools of education and volunteering while I was in Toronto in native organizations, took political science and business communications at Ryerson University, and am currently taking a bachelor of humanities at Athabasca University online.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

That I came home despite all the odds and adversity, because I never gave up, and I never backed down. I worked hard and I prayed so that I can have the right to be me, and now I have the chance to fight for the right of others to have that same opportunity.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the territory?

From which perspective are you asking? The biggest issue facing Indigenous people in the territory is fundamentally different than that of non-Indigenous issues, except for that of employment and housing. Or is it the issues of men, women, and children and seniors face that you inquire about? I'll let you know after I have asked more constituents about that question.

But to me, the biggest issue facing the territory is the use of archaic colonial mechanisms that impose and interfere with safe standards of living for all the delicate ecosystems present in the N.W.T.

What's the biggest issue in your riding?

Same concept. The archaic colonial mechanisms that impose and interfere with safe standards of living and inclusivity.

If you could accomplish only one thing while in office, what would that be?

It would be to create the first Indigenous state, through a confederacy of compassion, as Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh presently has the capacity to begin a transition transfer of authority and services with no interference from the territorial government, who would only act as a support liaison for the non-Indigenous residents and industry.

I would accomplish this by entrenching UNDRIP, entrenching Bill C-92, Bill C-93, the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, and the calls for justice in the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Report.

What would you like to see the territory do to address the impacts of climate change?

Let's try something that has worked for Indigenous across the planet since time immemorial: environmental stewardship through natural law.

It isn't about what I would do to address the impacts of climate change, it's about what we all can do to address it. We are the territory. I can only provide a safe and equalized forum for the voices of the people, land, water, air and wildlife. But we can create safe mechanisms to stop interfering with what Tu Nedhe and Wiilideh and other districts know best — environmental stewardship and who they are as Indigenous.

The planet is experiencing a climate crisis, and the inevitable shall occur if we don't start being enthusiastic about responsible citizenship.

What would you change about how the government currently operates?

First of all, I would eliminate the gender inequity. Why is it we say mister or madame speaker? Why can't it be just honourable speaker? The protocols, between Indigenous organizations, nations, groups, with government or federal governments, should be respected and adhered to. And I think there needs to be more transparency.

What do you think the GNWT must do to improve and protect the territory's economy?

I don't just think or theorize on what the GNWT must do or not do to improve or protect the territory's economy. The truth is there has always been vital capital investment into one sector of society, but they have never truly developed nor protected the growing Indigenous population, that already have had previous treaties, socioeconomic agreements and land claims.

What is the real economy in the North? Because I've seen no evidence of the resource extraction industry having a positive impact on economic growth or development in an equalized form. Protect the environment and all human capita and the rights therein, and the territory's economy shall improve and exert a defined northern identity of inclusivity and growth.

There are several revenue-generating industries — in sustainable and clean energy, agriculture, tourism and resource management — that there would be lifelong careers and not just jobs.

What would you do as MLA to improve the GNWT's relationship with Indigenous people?

As an Indigenous person who is evidence of the archaic, unbalanced policies that are imposed on Indigenous peoples that have had serious ramifications, I shall utilize the CHA Factor to build a reconciliatory relationship through an Indigenous confederacy. CHA represents collaborative, healing, and activating mechanisms.

I would unmunicipalize Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh with a full transfer transition to local Indigenous governments, debt forgiveness for all curb services as to not be a barrier to safe living conditions, terms to be mutually determined through a referendum or accord, and to equalize the forum.

Acknowledge all Indigenous languages with an arts and culture education centre; mutually agree to terms of respectful protocol for Indigenous governments and other sectors of society that have had their voices muted or ignored; enhance or accelerate land claims between federal and Indigenous and as per Indigenous protocol; [and] protect and preserve the ways of life that our Dene, Métis, Inuit, and others have created together.

If elected, will you be seeking a cabinet position?

Yes.

Would you like to be premier?

No.


Paul Betsina

(Submitted)

Why did you decide to run for office? 

Growing up I was surrounded by great leaders of the past. They guided me and taught me how to be kind, humble, speak the truth, and honour my elders and family. It was encouraged to me by close family and friends to think about running to represent our region in the legislature. I am a husband and a father of three children and they inspire me to do the absolute best for our people.  

What previous experience would you bring to the role of MLA? 

I have had success in being elected twice in my home community as a councillor. Before that, I held various supervisory roles throughout my career, and trained apprentices. 

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? 

Next to being a good husband and father to my children, I've got to say it's making it this far with no real formal post-secondary schooling and relying solely on my hard work and dedication to my people, knowing that I have to work that much harder and learn on my own to do the best work I can.

But during my time on council I was a part of a negotiation team that consisted of Tlicho, Lutsel k'e, and YKDFN, and collectively our team negotiated a never-before seen attempt to work together in getting a fair equal deal that works very well for all of our people and knowing that our children will be looked after even when the mine shuts down.

Also I was a part of our trust fund committee (Gosoomba dehshe, which means "our money grows"). This will ensure our First Nation keeps its current programs and operations running, and leaves much room for improvement. 

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the territory? 

Having access to affordable housing. I've been throughout the N.W.T. as I have family in many regions, and the same issue is in every region.

We also need to revisit the permitting and licensing for industry to be more attracted to the North. Our economy is slowing down due to diamond mines nearing the end of their lives. We have other resources that companies and industry have walked away from because our processes from exploration to production is way too long for any junior prospector or even a major industry leader to take on. 

What is the biggest issue in your riding? 

Employment and housing. 

If you could accomplish only one thing while in office, what would that be?

I would like to see our economy pick up again, but that would take a major push by all MLA's and Cabinet as four years is a small window. It takes industry — with our current permitting and licensing process — 10 years to get any major project from beginning stages of exploration to production.

Without a good economy, there is not much incentive for people to live and play in the North. Cost of goods and services don't match with what is in the south. Next to the government, our resource sector is our biggest contributor to jobs.

What would you like to see the territory do to address the impacts of climate change?

In the N.W.T. we have 23 communities that rely on diesel power generation plants. We need more resources put toward finding solutions to reduce our emissions. There is solar and wind, and pellet heated homes and boilers are being more used in the North. This also needs to be heavily subsidized by the territorial and federal government.

In my door to door, I gave some advice to a young high school student. I said he should learn everything there is to know about alternate energy solutions, as that is the next big thing in the North and he could design and engineer homes and buildings to be more efficient. 

What would you change about how the government currently operates?

As with any government, there is always room for improvement. In my experience and from what our people have told me, they would like to see their GNWT representative more often, and give updates and hear their concerns in their community. 

What do you think the GNWT must do to improve and protect the territory's economy?

Refer to question 4.

In addition to that, we need to ratify and complete the land claims. Our people have will have the resources, and most importantly, their own solutions, to their needs and concerns once land claims are settled.

We also need to work with all stakeholders of the next major projects in the regions of the Taltson hydro expansion, Slave Geological Province and the Mackenzie road extension project. 

What would you do as MLA to improve the GNWT's relationship with Indigenous people?

Well I would have to say with my experience in serving as an elected councillor for YKDFN for two terms is that we need to be more involved and available when needed to push for their needs.

If elected, will you be seeking a cabinet position? 

All my heart and energy is going into being elected first. If elected, then we will talk. 

Would you like to be premier? 

Not at this time.