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Questions aimed at candidates

Jack Danylchuk
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 19/05) - Led by Premier Joe Handley, voters and lobby groups in the Western Arctic have loosed a quiver of questions at party leaders and candidates in the Jan. 23 federal election.

Yellowknife Mayor Gord Van Tighem, president of the NWT Association of Communities, and the Northwest Territories Status of Women's Council are looking for answers from the candidates.

Handley wants the Liberal, Conservative and NDP leaders to spell out clearly what they will do on four issues that he thinks are important to voters in the Western Arctic.

  • The Liberal government's promise of $500 million over 10 years for communities in the path of the Mackenzie Gas Project.
  • A sharing formula that makes northerners "primary beneficiaries" of resource revenues.
  • The $700 million Mackenzie Valley highway; and
  • A program funding formula that takes into account the Territories' small population and remote communities.

Prime Minister Paul Martin, Conservative leader Stephen Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton have until Jan. 9 to respond, Handley said.

"If they ignore a letter from a premier during an election, I think it sends a strong message; if they put some thought into this, that sends an equally strong message," Handley said before departing on vacation to Mexico.

"I'm going to make it available to the public without any editorial comment from me and people can judge it themselves."

In the June 2004 election, Handley sent questions to Western Arctic candidates. Liberal incumbent Ethel Blondin-Andrew didn't reply and he let voters know.

"She was quite upset, but I don't think she realized that we were sincere about what we were doing and that we were going to make it public," Handley recalled.

"The same thing will happen again if one of the parties chooses not to reply," Handley promised.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is asking the federal parties to "commit to erasing Canada's $60 billion municipal infrastructure deficit.

Van Tighem emphasized the "unique challenges Northern communities face" and made a pitch for "stable and predictable funding."

The Status of Women's Council asked for party positions on a federal pay equity law; establishing a task force on women's poverty, extending to aboriginal women the right to pass Indian status to their children; $50 million in federal funds annually for women's shelters; extending legal aid to family and civil law; and increasing the number of women in parliament.

Gerri Sharpe-Staples, president of the NWT Status of Women Council, emphasized the need for improved daycare services.

"How will your party work with territorial, community and aboriginal leaders to ensure daycare services are affordable and accessible for all people of the NWT," she asked.

The questions are published in the council's newsletter.

Sharpe-Staples has asked candidates to reply by Jan. 9.

"We also hope the public will raise these issues at public forums," Sharpe-Staples said.