Beaton Mackenzie is running for Yellowknife city council in the fall 2022 municipal election. Here’s a full transcript of our interview.
We asked every candidate roughly the same questions, to allow residents the chance to compare and contrast answers before placing their votes in the city’s mail-in ballot.
Questions include a little candidate background information and their thoughts on municipal taxes, housing and homelessness, climate change, reconciliation and the city’s economy.
We also ask each candidate how they would have handled three big issues that faced councillors during the past four years: a new swimming pool for Yellowknife, a proposed university campus on Tin Can Hill, and the question of requiring proof of vaccination at city facilities during the pandemic.
This interview was recorded on September 27, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: What’s your Yellowknife background?
Beaton Mackenzie: I came to Yellowknife in 1980. I started working at Sir John Franklin. I stayed for four decades teaching. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work. I’ve been recognized by the City of Yellowknife, I was recognized by the Prime Minister of Canada for my contribution to the community, I have five biological children, two stepchildren. Some own homes here, some have gone to, they think, greener pastures – the South was more adventurous for them. And I still volunteer in the community for programs of my choice. I’m going on 69 years of age and I’m still putting in a full day’s work.
What kind of councillor would you be? What would your philosophy be like?
As in the school, being an older member, you lead by role models. Some people have young children. My children are grown up. So I would put in the extra work. I’d say, “How can I help you? Because you’ve got family, I can help out where you’re at.” My staff and students always recognized that I was always busy. As a city councillor, you have to listen to what the people were saying and you have to have a team.
Where do you think the economic future of this city lies? And what should city council be doing to support that?
Look at the world economics right now. There are some people in this community that say, “Beaton, you have history.” Yes, I have lived through the ’72 recession, where interest rates were only at 13 percent. The federal government still dumped more money in, they didn’t learn the lessons. Interest rates went to almost 20 percent. We were paying 18 percent on our mortgage at that time. And you know what, everybody was very careful with their finances and so forth. Better times came along. We came out of that. I mean, St Joseph’s school was the farthest thing out on the south end. Nothing was on Old Airport Road. We didn’t have the multiplex. Fraser Tower had a swimming pool and the shallow end was about five feet. When we had swimming lessons for students, we had tables in the pool. But we all made it through.
However, I have experience with mines shutting down. We talk about the diamond mines. I have seen people walk into the bank and give their keys and leave town because of the recession, jobs and the cost of living. I have seen that part. And when the mines have shut down, we were very careful, the city was very careful. And everybody was helping each other. And that’s how the soccer started. We had families who were watching their finances. Every student had a pair of sneakers. The pinnies that we had in our schools, we put on the students – we didn’t have uniforms and that stuff. It took a while. We had a goal, a vision. Chris Bergman became head of Sports North and I said, “Chris, we need help.” He said, “What can we do?” It takes a while. I’ve been there. I stand back and I see how people continue and what it does for the city. A situation like that? On city council, you build a team, you look at the background. What can these people take to the table? And you work and say, “What can we afford right now?”
This recession – this is a recession right now. It’s not the people’s fault. You know, in ’72, the Middle East, put the first recession in against the United States when they supported Israel. Oil went to $100 a barrel. Today, the federal reserve will blame the war and everything. But it was happening before this happened. They were pumping money, pumping money, pumping money out. You keep giving away enough money, somebody’s got to pay for it. It has come back. At that time they were looking at five percent, trying to get it down to five percent interest. That’s when we were paying 18 percent. Today, the federal government say, “Well, we’re looking at two percent.” The federal reserve will get to their four percent but at the cost of what it’s going to cost us for our goods. Look at the price of food and gas right now. Thirty-five percent of the income in a family, an average family, is going towards the food and just for the necessities for that family.
Where do you think the future of reconciliation lies for the City of Yellowknife?
They have given us their classes to evaluate and you have to take it step by step at a time and say, not us, but the people – what are they looking for? I mean, do you see things happening? Some if it’s been addressed: history, the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope came to apologize to people. I mean, that was a very big thing. You know what? People that I worked with, when I was working during the summer with Aboriginal people, they knew I was a teacher. They started to tell me the stories in 1980. I knew about stories in 1980. Those people I got to see, they said, “We didn’t think it would ever happen.” That was a big step. That’s a part of the healing. It’s not over. But we still have to work together on it.
Let’s look at housing, housing and homelessness. Often, these are federal and territorial initiatives but there’s a municipal role to play as well. What should that role be for the City of Yellowknife?
An institute just released that 42 percent of people at 30 years of age are hoping to buy a house. At the moment, with the interest rates and that, and people coming out and paying for their post-secondary and so forth, they can’t afford it. I mean, we look at some of the people arguing with the city about building apartments. That’s an entry point for those people. We should be working with people. We have a gentleman that built half of this town who passed away. And he invested his money. The city tried to do that in the past because people didn’t have the money. Now we have another individual that they’re looking at, we have some people that want to. Every country is doing that. They’re building the urban high rises and everything, because that’s all people can afford at the moment.
Should climate change be a factor in every council decision these days?
In school, we had 12 ice ages. It wasn’t just the one. And we go through it and we can look at what has been done in the past that did not work. For example, with the myth of how much the plastic and everything else, how the corporations have told the public that they’re doing everything and they only achieved 10 percent of their goal. If you say something often enough, and long enough, people will start believing it.
What should happen to municipal taxes next year?
They’re staying at nine percent. We’ve got a swimming pool coming in the future. We have to meet some of that. But what’s the necessity? What do we need the most? And what can we add on a little bit at a time? Like I said, the super soccer, it took us seven years to build it. And the Yellowknife community is getting $3 to $4 million out of those two weeks, that come in. That’s something, when I look back, I just enjoy it now. But there’s history to it, and that’s what we have to do. We’ve had some good councils. They tried to do the thermal heating, big sessions on that, it didn’t come through. We see the improvements on solar lights and panels that’s coming through. The power corporation has come forward and said if everybody goes to the solar, we still have to pay for infrastructure. The people left over, they have to make up the difference. So there has to be a balance that everybody can live by.
Let’s look at decisions the outgoing council made. Would you have voted for a new swimming pool?
The building’s getting older. I have a little bit of an advantage over some of the candidates, my wife worked in the finance department for the city. The operation and maintenance for the building was costing more than the cost of the building. Did we need such a big building? There were enough people that said yes. But now, with the recession and everything, people look at: did we really need all the bells and whistles? Could we have gotten by with something less?
Would you have supported a new university campus on Tin Can Hill?
The first quarry would have been Tin Can Hill back in history. When Sir John Franklin was looking at building a new school or renovations, property was set aside on Tin Can Hill. The cost to put in the infrastructure – to get to that, just for the building – and to renovate it? The government said we’ll renovate. That’s the past, and the history. How things would have come about.
… Would you have voted to support the university campus on Tin Can Hill?
That’s going to happen. It’s going to come through. The biggest thing, though, in 42 years of teaching high school students – we’ll look at the cost. What’s it going to cost for me to stay and live in the residence? Or can I go down south, where it’s cheaper? That’s the thing that the new school will need. There are some programs that we could present here that are basically specifically for the North.
This time last year, would you have voted to require proof of vaccination at city facilities?
I think we should have. Because I was being very protective. I caught Covid. It’s not a nice thing. I had pneumonia twice. I was really thinking the worst could happen, and I had all my vaccinations. So I weighed on science.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I like economics. I’m looking at what the federal reserve is doing. The money you pass out and the interest rates. At one point it has to come, and when that meets, then the federal reserve will ease up on interest rates to bring the economy back. History repeats itself. It did it in ’37, it did in ’52, it did in ’72 and ’78. Fortunately, we’re not looking at five percent for the federal reserve to get it down, which cost us 20 percent on our interest and our food and gas and our costs in the house. Right now, the Canadian stats are saying that people are bringing home, after all their bills, only between one to five percent of their paycheque into the house that they have left over. That’s what I look at for this community. There will be more people at the food bank and children going to school for 40 hours and also working 40 hours to help support their family. That’s a pretty high price.
We’re not aware of a campaign Facebook page or website for Beaton Mackenzie. If you find one, let us know.