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Northland's troubles prominent at candidates debate
Carbon tax, social issues also on the table for candidates at Chamber of Commerce forum

Sara Wilson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 30, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
Nearly 100 residents came out to the Yellowknife legislature last night to have their voices heard for the final time at a public forum prior to Monday's election.

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Audience member Doug Ritchie addresses a potential carbon tax at last night's candidates forum at the legislature. - Sara Wilson/NNSL photo

They raised issues surrounding the economy, social ills and the troubled Northland trailer park.

One person picketed outside, drawing attention for her cause by holding a bright yellow placard reading "S.O.S Save our Sewers."

"I'm here on behalf of (Northland) residents," Lorraine Hewlett said. "I want these candidates to provide funding to fix the problem."

Referring to the turmoil surrounding Northland, Hewlett expressed concerns about the infrastructure in the trailer park, saying it needed to be a top priority for residents in Yellowknife.

On the agenda at Thursday's forum, sponsored by the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, were the economic concerns facing Yellowknife and the wider Northwest Territories. Everything from mining

development to a carbon tax were on the table for the 16 candidates that took part in the debate.

In reference to sparking the economy and recovering funds to help the debt-ridden territory, the carbon tax was debated with very few candidates in favour of the controversial levy.

"I don't support the carbon tax, the cost of living is already too high," Norman Smith, candidate for Range Lake said. "I don't support any tax increase to be honest, I think we're all paying enough tax. I think there are other ways that we can go about it."

Those candidates hoping to be re-elected saw themselves defending parts of the government's existing policies and economic stability, while admitting more could be done to help rectify the situation.

"The budgets basically are balanced," said Wendy Bisaro, incumbent for Frame Lake. "The fact that we are reaching our debt limit, absolutely I agree, part of that is a result of the debt we took on because of the bridge, but we also count in our debt limit, corporations debt limits, such as the housing corporation."

Bisaro agrees things do have to change in order for the current economic environment to improve.

"I think that one of things that we need to do as a government is too look for other sources of revenue," she said. "There are a number of things that we could do, the carbon tax has been discussed, the minister of Finance for the last two years running has held a revenue round table and there were some pretty goods recommendations that came out of that."

While the dialogue started off with the current economic climate, the talk quickly turned to social issues within the downtown core, retaining skilled labour and increasing jobs.

In reference to the social issues plaguing the downtown core, Robert Hawkins, incumbent for Yk Centre, explained his role in helping to minimize businesses leaving the area.

"This is the problem I've been working on for eight years, and in the last four years I've been able to get some headway out on this particular problem," Hawkins said. "Bringing investment back into the downtown area to show that it is a good place to work and it is a good place to live and those are just the beginning."

Cheryl Fountain stepped up the microphone and asked what the candidates intend to do about the crumbling water and sewer pipes under Northland trailer park. A resident of Yellowknife for eight years, Fountain said "people are teetering on the edge of homelessness," in Northland, and she asked what candidates are going to do about it.

All candidates that were asked the question agreed that the current situation needs immediate attention.

"I lived here for 33 years and I was living in Northland when I first got to Yellowknife ... I know you have lots of problems and this government certainly should be supporting what (it) can to get that fixed," Smith said. "Sewage is not a good thing to have to deal with, the cost to clean it up would probably be more than to fix the situation at this point."

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