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Frame Lake a race to watch
After dismal voter turnout in 2007, this district is not short on issues or candidates
Jack Danylchuk
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Motivating voters has been a challenge in the neighbourhoods on the south shore of Frame Lake.

NNSL photo/graphic

Vote-rich Northland Trailer Park could play a factor in the territorial election contest for Frame Lake. Residents in this neighbourhood are growing desperate for a solution to their aging water and sewer line woes. - NNSL file photo

In the last election, with three candidates jostling in the vacuum created when MLA Charles Dent retired, the Frame Lake district achieved the dubious distinction as the constituency with the lowest turnout in the territory.

Just 45 per cent of the eligible voters marked ballots.

That could change this time out.

Incumbent Wendy Bisaro is being challenged by Duff Spence, whose family has deep roots in the city's public life, and Bernard LeBlanc, a Diavik employee, who opened his campaign with an attack on the territorial government's hiring policies.

"The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Labour Standards Act were created well before the discriminatory policies," LeBlanc stated in a newspaper advertisement that announced his candidacy.

"These institutions are obviously well beyond the understanding of the present government," he said, and issued a call for like-minded voters to support his bid for election.

Single-issue candidates rarely fare well, but LeBlanc could attract enough votes to make a close three-way race.

Spence took a leave of absence from his territorial public service post last week and entered the contest swinging. He doesn't think Bisaro did much in her four years in the legislature.

"I can do a better job," Spence said. "Frankly, I think my approach would be more proactive and engaged."

Housing is an issue that resonates across the territory, and nowhere more than in Frame Lake, where residents of Northland Trailer Park need a fix for the neighbourhood's shaky water and sewer system.

"Northland is the most pressing single issue in this constituency," said Bisaro.

"More than 200 people could be forced to find new homes. If they are forced to relocate out of the territory, the consequences for the city and the territory are potentially devastating."

In 2007, Northland voters threw most of their support to Chris Johnston and Jeff Groenewegen. Bisaro got a sympathetic hearing in the legislature. Premier Floyd Roland blamed the federal government for the delay in aid to Northland and promised to raise the issue with former health minister Sandy Lee and the city.

Spence also sees Northland as a priority issue and says that all levels of government need to contribute to a lasting solution.

"The process is stalled now; we need a lasting solution for the 258 people who live in Northlands," he said.

Devolution will be an issue in the election, as will homelessness and poverty, said Bisaro, who has the advantage of campaigning as the incumbent.

"It's about time we were able to look after our own resources and appoint people to our own boards," said Bisaro, who was disappointed that the last legislature was unable to draft an anti-poverty strategy.

"We need to co-ordinate social programs and an anti-poverty strategy for the territory would do that," she said.

Spence said resource development in the territory needs a regulatory system that is "predictable and decisive."

Growth should balance the service and resource sectors to take the "boom and bust" cycle out of the territorial economy and government revenues that now has "more asks than money," Spence said.

Bisaro was one of two Yellowknife MLAs knuckle-wrapped by Speaker Paul Delorey for using legislature phone numbers in advertisements during the pre-election period. Bisaro stopped immediately after receiving a verbal warning.

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