Reformer the underdog in the North
No fancy digs, lack of cash, but lots of spirit

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 30/97) - Mike Watt is fighting an uphill battle for recognition.

He's been in the North for 20 years -- after spending the first couple of decades of his life in Montreal -- serving as an elected board of education trustee, but he hasn't had significant public exposure until the election.

It's tough slogging for the Wrigley resident because he's hampered by lack of party funds, so Watt hasn't been able to campaign from community to community like the well-heeled Liberal incumbent.

He missed the forum in Inuvik in mid-May, but earlier this week did make it to Hay River for an all-candidates forum.

He's been camped in Yellowknife for the past couple of weeks, trying to reach as many voters as possible.

Reform election signs are conspicuous by their absence in Yellowknife. That's because the party hasn't attracted a lot of Northern supporters to fatten the kitty as it has in the western provinces.

In the last federal election Reform drew about 12 per cent of the votes in the Western Arctic, and Watt is hoping to increase that.

The father to children born of a Dene mother, he is thoroughly familiar with most aspects of society in the territory. And he says he's committed to improving the quality of life for Northerners.

He's no slouch when it comes to holding his own in all-candidate forums, offering his answers and opinions concisely and with little hesitation.

He also doesn't look for direction on several of his party's platform planks. The Liberals' gun control legislation, for example, is as close to home as it gets for Watt.

He makes no bones about the bill, calling it unworkable. He even admits breaking the law to keep a gun and ammunition ready at all times.

He offers the story of last autumn, when bears were getting fat for winter hibernation. An undernourished black bear paid a visit to the Watt home, just outside of Wrigley.

Watt's young daughter was outside and she ran into the house just in the nick of time. The bear came onto the porch and was trying to get through the window and the door.

The family made all kinds of noise to frighten the bear off, to no avail, and Watt was finally forced to shoot the beast as it tried to smash in.