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BLOG | Yellowknife Centre race grows contentious

There's no love lost between the two people hoping to win the most urban riding in the N.W.T. election, as Robert Hawkins and Julie Green each face accusations of not playing fair.

Robert Hawkins, Julie Green each face accusations of not playing fair

Yellowknife Centre candidates Robert Hawkins and Julie Green participate in an all-candidates forum last week. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

There's no love lost between the two people hoping to win the most urban riding in the Northwest Territories election.

Incumbent Robert Hawkins, who has held the seat for three terms, is being challenged by former Yellowknife YWCA women, family and children's advocate and former CBC reporter Julie Green.

CBC News got a glimpse into the rivalry this week, when it called both candidates to check on a tip that Hawkins had misrepresented someone who gave a glowing recommendation of him in a newspaper campaign ad.

In the ad, Zoe Angelica Pacunayen described Hawkins as "an incredible advocate" and "the hardest working MLA I know." Pacunayen was listed as a downtown resident and student. The ad failed to identify that Hawkins had hired her as his paid constituency assistant the last two summers. Pacunayen is not on the voters' list, which does not necessarily mean she is ineligible to vote.

When CBC News left a message on Hawkins' phone to request an interview about the ad and the testimonial in it, Hawkins responded by text.

"I'm just trying to understand the issue here," he wrote. "You have a concern when a former summer student gives a supportive comment?"

After discussing concerns he had about the story with CBC, Hawkins issued an apology on his election Facebook page, calling the omission a "typo" that was missed when proofreading the ad.

Green says she was aware that Pacunayen had worked as Hawkins constituency assistant. The tip on Pacunayen did not come from Green or anyone associated with her campaign.

Though Hawkins would not do an interview about the ad, he was willing to talk about other aspects of the campaign.

"I would love to talk about a couple of things," texted Hawkins.

"Why didn't CBC run a story about Ms. Green refusing to move her election sign off Yk1 property? Why is Ms. Green and the United Church minister knocking on doors (of Northern United Place) telling them their rent will go up if Aurora College looks at other options? Isn't there a perception of strong-arming the tenants?"

Northern United Place houses the United Church, Aurora College and low income apartments. Hawkins has lobbied for a stand-alone building for Aurora College. On her Facebook page, Green says moving the college out of the building without finding a replacement tenant could cause a rise in low income tenants' rents.

Hawkins also questioned why an Aurora College instructor who had endorsed Green's candidacy invited Green into her classroom to speak to students, suggesting that was bias and saying he was never invited to speak.

CBC checked into Hawkins' allegations. The Aurora College instructor, Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, admitted she has endorsed Green as a candidate. She said Green spoke to her class on Friday about running for public office as a candidate and a woman. Irlbacher-Fox said Green also spoke about her platform.

After the talk, students were required to identify what riding they were in and look over the platforms of each of the candidates running in their riding. Irlbacher-Fox said two of her 12 students live in Yellowknife Centre.

Irlbacher-Fox said Hawkins called the college to lodge a complaint and she was reprimanded. Irbacher-Fox says the college ordered her to invite Hawkins to speak to her class and she has invited him to do so.

Hawkins' suggestion that Green refused to move a sign from Yk1 school board property is false, according to the board's superintendent. Metro Huculak said Green, as well as federal candidate Michael McLeod, did place a sign on board property.

"We called her and they removed it," said Huculak.

Green says the sign was too large to be moved using a pick-up truck so she needed time to arrange some other way of moving it. She says the board gave her until Oct. 30 to move it and she moved it by then.

Peter Chynoweth, who is the United Church minister, says Hawkins' claim about what he and Green told tenants at Northern United Place is also false. In an email, Chynoweth says he is working as a volunteer on Green's campaign and did accompany her when she was door-knocking at Northern United Place.

"At no time in any of the interactions with the residents was there any mention of the rent at Northern United Place," he wrote.

Chynoweth says that while it's difficult to separate the two, he is acting as an individual and not the United Church minister. He says his involvement with Green's campaign was cleared by a committee with the Yellowknife United Church.

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