Email this articleE-mail this story  Letter to the EDITORWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

Premier clarifies controversial statement

Kakfwi worried small communities will be left in economic development dust

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 12/02) - Premier Stephen Kakfwi says he was misunderstood in comments published about his desire to keep people out of the territory.

NNSL Photo

Premier Stephen Kakfwi says he was misunderstood in comments about curbing immigration into the territory. - Jorge Barrera/NNSL photo

In a press conference meant to clear the air, Kakfwi said he was only predicting "there won't be a city the size of Calgary in the next 10 years."

Last week News/North published comments Kakfwi made last month that the only new people he wanted to see come to the territory were tourists.

"I want to ... clarify any misunderstanding which the News/North report may have created," said Kakfwi in a prepared statement.

Kakfwi said he was "ad-libbing" during his speech to Dene leaders.

"My intention was to challenge the Dene Nation and all NWT residents to think about their future," said Kakfwi.

Kakfwi said he is worried small communities will be left in the dust of economic development.

"We need to think of what Yellowknife and the NWT will be if we do not control the impact of development," said Kakfwi.

He did not elaborate on how that could be done but suggested establishing a Northern think-tank to deal with those types of issues.

Yellowknife South MLA Brendan Bell said the premier should take more care in choosing his words next time.

"He has to be careful and well thought out before he speaks," said Bell.

The Dene Nation meeting is not the first time the premier has aired his thoughts on Southern immigration.

Bell said he heard the premier say similar things during the Living History event earlier this summer.

People didn't take the comments seriously at the time.

"Maybe they will (now)," said Bell. "It's a recent thing."

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen heard the comments at the Dene meeting and during the Living History event but wasn't alarmed.

"When you take one statement and isolate it, it comes across differently," said Groenewegen. "His comments are more about a responsible plan and paced development."

Range Lake MLA Sandy Lee said the premier's comments did not upset her but Finance Minister Joe Handley's comments on what Kakfwi said did.

"I have a concern when a cabinet minister reacts to what the premier says," said Lee. "I'd like to see cabinet working together."

Handley said he believed the original comments were the premier's own personal beliefs.

Handley could not be reached for comment by press time.