Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Candidates speak in Fort Providence NWT

Candidates speak in Fort Providence
Andrew Livingstone
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 29, 2008

DEH GAH GOT'IE KOE/FORT PROVIDENCE - Candidates vying the Western Arctic's lone seat in Parliament got a chance Wednesday to show their colours at a federal candidates forum in Fort Providence.

All five candidates to appear on the ballot Oct. 14, including First Peoples Party of Canada candidate Noeline Villebrun were in attendance to answer questions from the Fort Providence community.

About 50 members of the community were in attendance, including a large group of youth from the Deh Gah secondary school who helped organize the candidates' forum.

Candidates faced questions from a community panel first and then from those in attendance. They gave their thoughts and possible solutions to various issues - from misconceptions about their party -- to environmental concerns and halting the rising cost of living.

Student panelist Audrey Landry posed the first question to candidates, asking about possible territorial tax increases, how they might affect the cost of living and what the candidates planned to do to limit living increases.

NDP candidate Dennis Bevington said rather than raising taxes to increase revenue we need to look to federal resource profits for more money. "The federal government is going to make almost $100 million from the Norman Wells oilfield, money that is not factored into the budget," Bevington said. "We, as Northerners, deserve to see some of that money."

Conservative candidate Brendan Bell said voters are feeling strained by increasingly costly utility bills and said this wasn't the time to be thinking about tax increases.

"People are getting buried by the cost of living up here," Bell said. "We are under serious pressure to make ends meet in the North. Our party will look to lower taxes where we can."

Gradually and credibly, he added, Conservatives would find a way to lower taxes over time.

Liberal candidate Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott said devolution is going to be the best option to put a stop to the rising cost of living in the North.

Green Party candidate Sam Gamble said reliance on diesel fuel is something the territory needs to break away from.

"We need to start taxing what we don't like," Gamble said. "You can't punish Northerners for being reliant on diesel fuel, but taking the money we make from carbon taxes would in the medium to long term decrease the cost of living."

First Peoples' Party candidate Noeline Villebrun spoke more for the aboriginal community and said the system needs to be unlearned and more focus needs to be put on resources in the North.

Candidates also addressed pollution from the Alberta oilsands infiltrating into Northern waters.

Alberta operations upstream are passing the costs of pollution down to the territory, Gamble said. "It's mind-boggling that the process is going on and accelerating as fast as it is. We're the ones who will be paying the costs down the road."

Bell said halting the oilsands operation would be economically crippling, while Bevington said further expansion to the oilsands should be stopped until environmental impacts are known and dealt with.

The forum was organized by students in the Deh Gah school as part of teacher Christopher Carson's efforts to teach about the importance of the political process.

"I wanted my students to think of questions that would require more than a yes or no answer," Carson said. "I wanted them to ask questions that will make the candidate think about how they're responding."

Carson had his senior high students research the five major political parties and have them sum up each party in three words.

"The social studies curriculum wants multiple perspectives, how other people might think from their standpoint," he said. "I hope the kids take from this the idea of being involved. To be active in the process. That's the whole point of these forums."


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