Candidates grilled in debate
Cost of living and economy big topics of discussion
Northern News Services
Thursday, October 15, 2015
In the interest of full disclosure, we would like to inform readers that Drum editor Sarah Ladik co-moderated the debate on behalf of the Inuvik Chamber of Commerce.
Steven Baryluk, right, Darrell Christie, Tony Devlin, Natasha Kulikowski, Bright Lubansa, Alana Mero and Clarence Wood prepare for Tuesday night's debate at the community hall. - Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Municipal candidates for both council and the mayor turned out in force Oct. 13 for the all-candidates forum.
With more than 70 people in attendance, eight council candidates and two vying for the mayoral seat battled it out on stage for votes in the Oct. 19 election. Kurt Wainman, Joe Lavoie, Abdallah El Bakai and Vince Sharpe were not able to make the debate, but Michael Fabijan, Darrell Christie, Steven Baryluk, Tony Devlin, Natasha Kulikowski, Bright Lubansa, Alana Mero, Clarence Wood, Jim McDonald and Derek Lindsay all participated. There are 12 candidates for council with only eight seats to be filled. While questions ranged from proposed infrastructure projects to social woes, the main issues brought up were economic - primarily, what's next for Inuvik.
"We need to prepare ourselves for the tourist boom," said Natasha Kulikowski in the councillors' debate. "The road may go to Tuk but the hotels are still here."
Most candidates agreed that tourism would be the next big economic driver when the highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk opens but the growing satellite farm on the outskirts of town was also a top answer.
"The satellite station and the coming fibre-optic line are a couple of things that will be big for us," said Steven Baryluk. "They will give the opportunity to set itself as a tech hub."
But not everyone was convinced the satellite farm is the path to prosperity. Tony Devlin said that so far, they have not created any permanent jobs in the community and that banking on them for the future is a risky prospect.
Contrary to how things were done in past years, council candidates were given their own debate separate from that of the mayoral candidates, though the questions for both covered the same broad topics. While the format was one of a modified debate, mayoral candidate Jim McDonald said the atmosphere remained one of politeness and respect.
"It was a good debate," he said. "Generally it's not down and dirty politics here ... and that's a good thing in a place like this."
For those running for the top job at the town, the concerns were largely economic, though they did touch on social well-being subjects as well.
"The first priority I would like to see is that council works on a new source for heat," said mayoral candidate Derek Lindsay after the debate concluded. "We can't keep paying these atrocious prices for synthetic fuel."
He said that if elected, he would work to bring back the IUC (Inuvik Utility Committee), made up of both councillors and community members, to discuss the high cost of heating fuel.
"It has a spiderweb effect across the community," he said. "All the businesses, our groceries, even at the town, we spend a lot of money on heating our buildings. The money we spend on heating has forced us to cut in other places."
For his part, McDonald said the first thing he would do if elected would be to sit down with the new team and hammer out a blueprint for moving forward.
"There's still a lot of opportunity out there. We need to take advantage of all the smaller opportunities, because there really isn't anything big coming up next after the highway," he said. "There's lots of opportunity to provide services in the region and in the community where people could do really well."
More than anything though, he echoed what all the candidates expressed in one way or another.
"Inuvik is a great place," he said. "One of the real positive comments that I've heard is that we're so friendly, people get here and they want to stay. We really need to sell our community as that kind of place."