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Justin Trudeau arrives tomorrow
Federal Liberal leader in Yk this weekend for series of public events including a town hall

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Published Friday, January 9, 2015

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
Yellowknifers anxious to catch a glimpse of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau this weekend won't have to do so from a behind a fence or some other barrier, say two Liberal party hopefuls in the upcoming federal election.

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Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau goes door-to-door to campaign for the by-election in Fort McMurray last May. Trudeau will be in Yellowknife on Saturday and Sunday as part of a Northern tour ahead of next fall's federal election. - photo courtesy of Cameron Ahmad

Former NWT Liberal Party president Kieron Testart and Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins both of whom are seeking the party nomination to run for the NWT party seat in this year's federal election say Yellowknifers will have plenty of opportunities to meet with Trudeau over the next few days as the Liberal Party leader makes his first official visit to the NWT since he became the leader in April 2013.

"There's no barriers to Justin during this trip," said Testart, who recently left his position as the president of the NWT Liberal Party to seek the nomination the NWT seat in the next election. "He will not be in a closed room like (Prime Minister Stephen Harper)."

"He's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get into the crowd and meet people and talk to them personally," added Hawkins.

Trudeau will be flying into Yellowknife from Inuvik on Saturday evening. After going dog-sledding and attending a roundtable discussion on economic issues with community leaders on Sunday morning, he will host a public town hall meeting at the Explorer Hotel at 3 p.m. Later that evening, he will meet with Dene leaders in a closed door meeting.

"He wants to genuinely find out more about people and find out a way to help them from their point of view," said Hawkins.

Also included on the agenda is a $600-a-plate meal at the Dancing Moose Cafe on Saturday night. Testart, who will be attending the dinner, downplayed the high cost of the intimate affair, calling the price tag "about average" for a fundraising event. The Conservative Party charged $125 a plate for a fundraiser in Yellowknife last January. Harper was in Yellowknife at the time but did not attend.

Unlike the United States, which allows candidates to raise an unlimited amount of money from private donors through super PACs (political action committees), Testart said federal legislation restricts donations to political parties and candidates to a maximum of $1,500 a year.

"It's not like the (United) States where you have super PACs, where billionaires are funneling millions of dollars to back a presidential candidate.

"In Canada, candidates are backed by local members of their community. All the money comes in from local people and it's small amounts," said Testart, adding that a large percentage of donations to political parties is tax deductible.

"Justin can only travel from coast to coast to coast powered by the generosity of Canadians."

Although he conceded that the price of the dinner was "a little steep" for the average family, Hawkins will also be attending. He said he planned to use the event as an opportunity to bring some important issues to Trudeau's attention.

"As a Yellowknife MLA and an NWT MLA, we have a perspective on some of the challenges that haven't been addressed," he said.

"There's a lot that needs to be communicated to him directly and I'm going to use that chance to talk about that."

Trudeau is no stranger to the NWT, having paddled the Nahanni River with his father, the late former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, as a young boy. He has since returned several times, including in 2003 when he flew up to take part in a week-long trip down the river in the name of protecting the boreal forest.

Trudeau declined the opportunity for an interview until he lands in Yellowknife. However, Cameron Ahmad, a spokesperson for Trudeau said he is looking forward to returning to the territory.

"He's looking to hear from directly from Northerners as to what priorities are and what their concerns are and discussing how the federal government can be a partner in finding solutions," Ahmad said.

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