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NNSL Photo/Graphic

Dennis Bevington, NDP candidate for the Western Arctic, speaks to Albert Moses about what a Mackenzie Valley pipeline and a possible highway extension would mean for Wrigley. - Derek Neary/NNSL photo

Winds of change?

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (June 18/04) - Dennis Bevington says he's certain the people of the NWT are looking for a new Member of Parliament.

That's the message he says he's been hearing in every community he's visited on the campaign trail.

"People want a change. Now they're just deciding who they're going to support to make a change," said Bevington, who finished second to Liberal Ethel Blondin-Andrew in the 2000 federal election.

He was canvassing in Fort Simpson late Sunday and Monday before heading to Fort Providence.

Scrapping the Liberal's gun registry is a bigger priority for Northerners in this election than it was last time, he contended. He said he would lobby to make only an FAC necessary to possess firearms in remote and rural areas.

Sustainable communities is another major plank in his platform. He and his party are promoting renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, solar collectors and small hydro projects. The NDP is proposing to fund a national program to retrofit commercial buildings for energy efficiency, he said. "This is not a pipe dream. This is something that can really happen. We just need to focus on it," said Bevington, who oversaw the NWT's Energy Secretariat from 2001-2003.

As for natural gas from the NWT, Bevington said the aboriginal and territorial governments deserve the same resource royalties deal as Alberta -- all of the royalties.

When asked how one NWT MP could help broker such a deal, he replied, "I'd be the one voice from the one part of the country where the industrial engine is just starting up."

Bevington said the NWT must act now to ensure that money is provided for road extensions and improvements in advance of a Mackenzie Valley pipeline. That investment in infrastructure will improve everyone's returns from future development projects, he said.

Although the NDP has been criticized for its potential to overspend, Bevington maintained that money poured into health care and education will pay off in the future. He also noted that he and party leader Jack Layton were both municipal politicians -- Layton as a Toronto councillor and Bevington as mayor of Fort Smith for nine years. They have experience balancing budgets and finding money for projects, he said.

He added that he wants to make sure Northern communities get more federal funding.

There will also be savings from eliminating "mindless bureaucracy" such as the gun registry and other federal programs that swallow up too much money in administration, he argued.

Bevington was complimentary of the Deh Cho Process, stating that aboriginal people who have stood up for their land and customs have given, "a lot of backbone to the NWT over the past few years."

"As a whole, these are traditional lands and protection of the land has to be guaranteed for people here," he said.