Yellowknife businessman and kickboxing coach John Stanley is hoping to become the next MLA for Frame Lake.
Stanley’s priorities are economic development, mental health and addictions, and helping people who are experiencing homelessness.
Stanley said he is a coach, entrepreneur and family man who is relatable and wants to connect with constituents. He said he is running for MLA because he is not happy with the direction in which the territory has been heading and is passionate about making change.
Describing his approach, he said: “I find people now get emotional over … issues and they get upset. I think we’ve lost the ability to communicate, I think we’ve lost the ability to have a conversation. And I think that having conversations, keeping a cool head and being respectful of each other, even if you don’t have the same point of view, is how we solve issues.”
This interview was recorded on October 19, 2023. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Emily Blake: To start, if elected, what will be your priorities or the most important issues you hope to tackle over the next four years?
John Stanley: Economic development is definitely my number one. Mental health and addictions. And I’m really, really, really passionate about the homeless situation. I think we owe it to these individuals to try to help get them on the right track in life.
How will you ensure those priorities are enacted?
When it comes to economic development, there’s already a ton of projects that are in the works within the territory. Without getting into too many details, I know there’s been some blockades happening that could be avoided. And I think it’s super important that these projects go through. I think they’re going to provide jobs.
A lot of the blockades are environmental. And I think that’s something that we all have to be concerned about. But at the same time, I do believe we already have very stringent environmental regulations here, and in Canada as a whole. So I think these projects can happen.
We all know we’re facing hard economic times coming up in the future. And we really need to bring some money into the territories.
Are there any specific goals or outcomes that you’re hoping to see within those priority areas?
When it comes to the homeless situation, I’ve been reviewing a lot of programs in other cities and provinces and I’ve seen them have a great deal of success.
When I’m looking at the situation here, we send someone down, say for addictions, and they go down and get treatment. When they come back, there doesn’t seem to be a second step, or a third step. And our goal is to try to give people a chance to reintegrate back into society and move forward in life, right? And if they don’t have the supports when they come back, they’re just going to fall back into the same cycles.
You mentioned things that have worked in other cities and places. Do you maybe have an example of that you’d like to share?
Fort Mac is a great example. And Sandy Bowman, who’s actually a friend of mine, is the mayor there. And they’ve, I believe, reduced it 49 percent right now, their homeless is down 49 percent. They’ve created some housing initiatives. I believe they converted an apartment building, a couple of apartment buildings in Fort Mac.
And in other areas, what they’ve been doing is tiny home initiatives. They’ve created virtually little villages, which is just fantastic. I know Halifax has done one. And New Brunswick has done one as well, where they’re giving people not just a place to call home but a little community in and of itself, where they have support. And there’s also caseworkers that get involved as well, and they have someone they can reach out to, but they also have the individual next door who’s going through the same things.
Frame Lake is turning out to be one of the more competitive districts during this election. What do you think makes you stand out as a candidate?
I’m not a regular politician. I’m not what you expect when you see a politician. I’m a regular guy, I’m a businessman, I’m a coach, I’m a dad and a family man. But I’m not someone who’s spent a tremendous amount of time involved in the political scene.
I got involved in the political scene simply because I’m not happy with the direction that the territory has been going over the last few years. I’ve been here since 2010 and I’ve seen what I feel is a downhill spiral in a lot of areas. And I’m super passionate about changing that. I want to make change at the end of the day, but I want to be someone who’s relatable. I want people to realize that I’m just an ordinary guy that they can come up and talk to any time.
Some constituents might think a gym owner and a kickboxing coach is not an obvious choice as an MLA. What would you say to them?
Over the last little while since I’ve announced, my past has been addressed a few times, but people really haven’t looked into my past as a whole. I’ve started over 10 businesses, I’ve run companies that had over 100 employees that I started from the ground up. I’ve sat on multiple boards as president and vice president. I’ve been the founding director for many boards as well. I ran a company where I supervised a staff of over 300 people. So you know, I’m not just a kickboxing coach, I’m a very experienced businessman. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 21 years old. I’ve won multiple awards as a director, as a coach, as a business owner. We’ve had business of the year with multiple associations, we’ve been in business for 13 years here. And we employ over 10 people here. I’m not just a kickboxing coach.
You talked a little bit about why you wanted to run. Can you expand on that?
I care about this community.
I have children and I want them to grow up here. I want them to grow up in a place where they have all the opportunities that they should have, where they feel safe, where they can afford to buy a house, where they can get a job that’s going to pay them and make them economically viable.
I want everything for this community that a politician should want. I’m not in this for me. I don’t need another job. I’m not seeking income, I already have a great income. My ideals here are that we make Yellowknife the best community that it can be. It’s not the place that it used to be and I would like to see it be that place again.
Kevin O’Reilly previously held this district for two terms and was known for championing environmental issues. How do you plan to fill those shoes or maybe represent the district differently?
I think environment is not something that anybody’s going to deny. But the reality of it is Canada’s responsible for 2.5 percent of the emissions worldwide. China it’s 27 percent, in the US 17 percent. We already have extremely stringent environmental regulations in Canada.
I don’t think that it’s the most important issue that faces the people of Frame Lake, quite honestly. There might be some people who disagree with me. But the reality of it is, we’re already doing everything we can when it comes to the environment. And most of it’s federally regulated anyway and then it’s not even within our control.
When it comes to what happened with the fires and whatnot, and how people try to relate that to the environment, there’s no question in my mind that it did play a factor. But anything that we do right now, it’s not going to make any impact over a short period of time. I think our bigger concern there is emergency preparedness and making sure that the city is safe and that we’re doing everything to ensure that everyone’s property and lives are safe.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about your platform and your priorities and things you’d like to see happen over the next four years?
It’s building a better community, a strong economy. Making sure that people – whether they’re someone who’s living on the street or someone who owns a beautiful home –everybody’s treated equally, that they all have the same opportunities. And that the people know they have a politician that can be reached and is there for them at any time.
There’s a quote on your campaign site talking about not being able to control societal change but controlling the way that we respond to it. Could you explain that a little bit?
We’re always going to have differences of opinion, at the end of the day, and I find people now get emotional over these issues and they get upset. I think we’ve lost the ability to communicate, I think we’ve lost the ability to have a conversation. And I think that having conversations, keeping a cool head and being respectful of each other, even if you don’t have the same point of view, is how we solve issues.
You have a podcast. Can you tell me about that?
The podcast is something where I wanted to discuss issues in the North and get interesting people on and chat about things just in a relaxed environment, and get different points of view. It’s something that I’m very passionate about. Obviously, we’ve been putting it a little bit on hold right now. But we’ve got some interesting guests coming up from the prison system and a few other things. We just want to let people know what the North is all about.
In the last few minutes here, is there anything we haven’t covered or that you’d maybe like to clarify for potential constituents?
Vote with your hearts, guys. Vote with your minds. I’m here for you, I want to make change. And that’s the key is, at the end of the day, we have to move forward, we have to do what’s right for the community. I think that there are some strong candidates out there, but at the end of the day, the people decide.
Asked to declare any outstanding lawsuits, debts or other issues that might form a conflict if elected, the candidate said there were none.