NDP enter race
Five Yellowknife candidates will run for MLA under NDP platform

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 29/99) - The first attempt by a national political party to run candidates for the NWT legislature is now under way.

Five Yellowknife candidates, running under the NDP banner, are Suzette Montreuil in Great Slave, Mary Beth Levan in Yellowknife South, Mark Heyck in Weledeh, Bill Schram in Frame Lake and Steve Petersen in Kam Lake.

Last week the party released its platform.

"The platform is about making government better, a strong and diversified economy for people and a very strong social safety net," said Debbie McLaughlin, who is the treasurer of the party's federal Western Arctic riding.

"Workers' rights are very important. So is sustainable development, people development, public government and government to government relationships with the aboriginal people."

McLaughlin said the party decided to field candidates this election because there was no united opposition in the legislature.

"Single MLAs may be opposed to something but they don't have a very strong voice so we felt as a party if there were candidates elected there would be a stronger opposition voice and people speaking from the same book."

Complications could arise if the NDP elects members and one of them is selected to cabinet.

McLaughlin said the members are expected to be bound by party policy, though tradition holds that the cabinet ministers support the policies of the government.

Legislature clerk David Hamilton agrees problems of allegiance could arise if one or more of the NDP candidates get elected both to the legislature and to cabinet.

"I've always said party politics will come to the NWT when events happen that will push it in that direction," Hamilton said.

"One of the big things to do would be to change the Elections Act to allow for party registration."

Unlike the federal Parliament, where all parties with 12 or more members get government funding to operate, in the NWT there is no provision for funding regardless of the number of members an unofficial party claims to have.

To help the NDP during the campaign, candidate Mary Beth Levan said southern organizers could head North to lend a hand.

In addition, well- known British Columbia MP Svend Robinson is set to visit during the last week of the campaign, and former NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin may also be showing her support.

Bob Haywood, who is the president of the federal Western Arctic NDP, said up to $5,000 could come from the national party's coffers.

"But the federal party gets to decide how to spend that money. It doesn't come up here for us to decide how to spend it," Haywood said.

The NDP platform itself calls for the GNWT to align itself with other have-not regions of Canada.

It also calls for a change in spending priorities.

"If you look at the last budget, there was more money given to development of the secondary diamond industry than there was to improving education," said candidate Suzette Montreuil.

"I still go back to the point that it's all a matter of priorities."

There are other areas where environmental and labour issues are at odds.

Take the socio-economic agreement with Diavik, for example.

"We need to take the year or so that it may take to answer those questions to make sure that we approach Diavik in a responsible way. Diavik is a big company and I don't believe they'll go away," said Montreuil.

"They're not decisions that are meant to be hasty. We've gone through a review process and if it still leaves questions to be answered then we need to answer those questions.

"We need to work with Diavik to ensure the maximum benefit to Northerners and we want (Environment) Minister (David) Anderson to make the decision based on having adequate information."