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NDP candidate focuses on communities

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 23/05) - The Christmas campaign arrived in Inuvik last weekend as Dennis Bevington, NDP candidate for the Western Arctic, came to press the flesh and garner support.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Western Arctic NDP candidate Dennis Bevington talks with Inuvik resident Laura Williams. Bevington was in the region this past weekend on the campaign trail. - Jason Unrau/NNSL photo

"While I'd like to achieve my support from everywhere, where I want to appeal to people is in the communities," said the man who lost to incumbent Liberal candidate Ethel Blondin-Andrew by 53 votes in the June 2004 federal election. Though Bevington had strong showings in Yellowknife, Fort Smith and Inuvik, it was in the outlying communities where he lost much of what turned out to be a crucial vote.

As for the issues this time around, for all the candidates the pipeline, environment, health care and a resource revenue sharing deal with Ottawa are top of the heap.

"Northerners are understanding better and better the strain of development on the environment and it's the issue that brought me into the business I'm in," said Bevington who is president of Stand Alone Energy Systems, which among other products offers solar and wind power alternatives for homes and businesses. Bevington also served as special advisor on energy to the NWT premier from 2001-2002.

His concern for the environment does not put him at odds with the pipeline, a project he supports, providing there is a "measured approach" to the development and that the Territories' residents see a fair share of the royalty revenue, he said.

"Our royalty system is not ensuring that Northerners are getting a fair return that will allow us to deal with the impact of development," he said.

Conservative candidate Richard Edjericon comes at the topic of development from a different angle.

"The social agenda is a concern to me. We all want jobs, business opportunities and training," he said from Hay River. "But first we need to resolve land claims."

Edjericon also pushed the national Conservative Party line that the country is ready for new leadership.

"I think the biggest thing a lot of people have been saying is that it's time for change," he said. "The Liberal party line was to maintain and Northerner's voices were not heard."

Edjericon pointed to the federal appointment of outsider Todd Burlingame to the chair of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board as an example.

"For the last 12 years we've listened to the Liberals and they haven't delivered."

Bevington also questioned the Liberal commitment to the North with respect to what he feels are sweet deals given to industry that favour business over people. "Big business has its own voice and what people need is their own voice and I think there can be a balance,' he said.

"Keeping royalty rates as low as they are in the North is another way the Liberals are putting corporations ahead of Canadians."

Bevington said he plans to return to Inuvik for the Jan. 16 all-candidates debate scheduled at Aurora College campus. While Edjericon said he will be in the region early in the new year, he has not yet formally committed to attending the debate.

Calls to Blondin-Andrew's office for comment were not returned. Blondin-Andrew visited Fort McPherson this past weekend.