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Open season on Range Lake

Freshly vacated riding features four candidates
Northern News Services
Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Yellowknife business leader and philanthropist Daryl Dolynny appears to be the early frontrunner to replace longtime Range Lake MLA Sandy Lee, who stepped down earlier this year to run in the federal election.

He clearly has the edge in campaign signs planted in people's yards in this southwestern corner of the city, but contrasted with his highly visible on-the-ground campaign is his silence in the media.

He did not respond to a request for an interview for this story - one that might have revealed his position on key issues in the Northwest Territories.

He also hasn't spoken publicly on the NWT Business Investment Development Corporation's lawsuit against him and three partners for $100,000 for their involvement in a failed aurora tourism company. According to an earlier written e-mail from Dolynny, he turned around the fortunes of bankrupt Aurora World Corporation, but corporate records show that the company failed again while he was a director, and he has refused to explain the apparent contradiction.

Debts to the territorial government do not disqualify residents from seeking a seat in the legislature, and Dolynny has campaigned with door-knocking, social media and massive billboards that urge voters in Range Lake to "ensure their future."

Range Lake voting profile'
  • 1,491 voters, 52.11 per cent turnout in 2007'
  • Sandy Lee, 564 (72.59 per cent)'
  • Ashley Geraghty, 210 (27 per cent)'
  • The seat is currently open; Sandy Lee was the last MLA to hold this seat (1999-2011)

Dolynny made his mark in Yellowknife after purchasing the Shoppers Drug Mart franchise in 1992 and building a pan-northern business that supplies prescription drugs to customers in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Arguably the best known of the four candidates running to fill the seat left vacant after Lee retired to run for the Conservative Party in the last federal election, Dolynny has led the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation and the Yellowknife Community Foundation, as chair and president.

Only perennial campaigner Beaton MacKenzie can claim to be as well known. A teacher who works with autistic and bi-polar students, he's taken a leave of absence from his position at Sir John Franklin.

He's running because, "since junior high school, I've been sticking up for students and what I think is right."

MacKenzie was born in Nova Scotia but has lived most of his life in Yellowknife and has travelled extensively in the North. He taught at Akaitcho Hall and many former students have sent messages wishing him success.

Asked about the issues, MacKenzie said "people want someone who is accountable and take it to the (legislative assembly) and explain it to the people."

His platform talks about resource management, and calls for "effective and efficient management of land and water resources."

Red tape discourages resource companies from mineral exploration, he explained.

"We have to make things more efficient for them."

His views on consensus governance are that "mostly, it's working. We are so diverse and vast that we have to make the people in small communities feel that their voice is being heard."

Norman Smith, an unemployed union organizer, says he's running because "we need a change, someone who will stand up and listen," and promises to give constituents "a strong voice" in the legislature.

The issues for Smith "are health care, devolution and the need for more accountability from the territorial government, and more transparency.

"I can make a difference," said Smith, who is making his first run for elected office.

David Wasylciw's internet page shows a smiling man in casual dress, encouraging voters with a one-line message "let's do better."

An information technology consultant, Wasylciw moved north two years ago to work as a policy adviser to the GNWT Department of Transportation department.

Wasylciw says the territory "needs a government that shows strong leadership and gets things done."

The government has to broaden its approach to economic development, he said.

"The focus has been on a single project, but we need a longer approach to create sustainable, long-term jobs," he said.

"We haven't tapped our resources deeply. There is lots of opportunity to build out industry."

Wasylciw said people are telling him that they are concerned about the cost of living, "but there are no over-arching issues that you hear at every second door."

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