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All-candidates forum tests MLA-hopefuls
Public's concerns include education, devolution, Wildlife Act and relationships with other governments

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 29, 2011

MLA hopefuls for Inuvik Boot Lake had their say on a range of topics at the all-candidates forum at Aurora College less than a week before the election.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Inuvik Boot Lake candidates had their chance to convince constituents they are worth a vote at an all-candidates forum on Sept. 27 at Aurora College. From left are, Chris Larocque, Paul Voudrach, Grant Gowans, Alfred Moses. - Samantha Stokell/NNSL photo

Chris Larocque, Paul Voudrach, Grant Gowans and Alfred Moses each had a fair chance to answer 11 questions posed by constituents at the forum on Sept. 27. Topics ranged from business and early childhood education to trades training and Grade 12 graduates.

Town councillor Alana Mero moderated and allowed the candidates equal time to share their views and opinions and give the audience a bit more understanding about what they stood for.

Education questions focused on how to change the trades training program at Aurora College, how to ensure Grade 12 graduates are prepared for post-secondary education and what idea they have for early childhood education.

Larocque said the solution to improving trades training in the territory by limiting sole-source contracts.

"It's a government oversight. Trades needs the stewardship of the government," he said. "Local employees and apprenticeships should be priorities before sole-source. More time on the job training for the apprenticeship would mean better training."

Despite increased graduation rates, Mary Beckett wanted to know how those grads could be better prepared for entering southern universities and colleges without having to upgrade for a year or two after completing high school.

Moses said education should start in early childhood education.

"Early child development services all students to have early child education preparedness so that they can eventually go into post secondary and have the skills so there's no social passing," Moses said. "We should also educate local people to be teachers in the schools."

As for solid ideas on how to improve those early child education services, the obvious answer was the Children's First Society, which should be completed by 2013 and provide a dedicated facility for those programs.

Moses said it's not just infrastructure that's needed.

"We have to start building infrastructure with quality staff who are culturally aware," Moses said. "I'm not talking about hunting and trapping, but what's happening in the community and homes so they know what the youth are going through."

With criticism of former MLAs, Mary Ann Ross asked how the potential MLAs would work with the aboriginal governments and other MLAs in the Beaufort and Mackenzie Delta region.

"The last few MLAs did not have a real connection here," Ross said. "There's a real opportunity for relationship-building with aboriginal government in the region. There's an opportunity to work with the other leaders in the region."

Voudrach said putting aside differences would be key to improve working relationships.

"We have to establish a connection with people and find out what we can do together to improve," Voudrach said. "We just have to open the door and have to get together."

The recently-funded Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway drew a few questions and also first dissent among candidates. While Larocque, Voudrach and Gowans supported the highway, Moses hesitated to give it his full support.

"There are job opportunities and lower costs of living and it could provide services and increase tourism, but we also have to look at the negative impacts," Moses said. "We have to look at the feasibility study and remember the negative impacts such as drugs coming up the road."

Steve Baryluk, resource management co-ordinator for the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, wanted to know if the candidates would keep the recently updated Wildlife Act on the table for discussion. While the GNWT had tabled the latest document, local groups disapproved of the newest draft, which gave equal rights to settled and unsettled land claim groups.

Gowans wants to pick up where the discussions left off.

"I don't want it to stagnate. There are valid issues that we should take the time to discuss with the settled land claim groups," Gowans said. "For the unsettled groups to usurp through future land claims We need to support the settled land claims."

Devolution, as always, was a topic that kept popping up in answers as a way to create more revenue through resources for the territory. All candidates supported devolution and the potential to keep money generated from the territory's many resources in the NWT.

Advanced voting continues at the returning officer's office on Mackenzie Road, while election day will be on Oct. 3.

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