Lenora McLeod says she brings experience of both the private and public sectors to her campaign to become the next MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes.
McLeod says she wants to look at ways of reducing the cost of living, creating more housing for families, and making more resources available to healthcare professionals – including more incentives for workers in the North.
“That was a big concern a few years ago, where our local health professionals didn’t feel appreciated, so we need to make it better for everybody and build relationships with them so we can have a strong health sector for everybody,” she said.
This interview was recorded on October 30, 2023. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Aastha Sethi: Can you tell us about yourself and some of the work you’ve done in the past?
Lenora McLeod: My name is Lenora McLeod. I was born and raised in Inuvik. I have lived here my whole life with the exception of a few years when I went down to Alberta for post-secondary school.
I moved back to Inuvik in 2013. My husband and I started our family and we have three children. In that time, throughout my whole working life, I’ve worked in both the public and private sectors. I’ve gained valuable experience and knowledge in various areas. For example, financial management, accounting, environmental assessment, oil and gas, economic development and strategic planning.
My education background: I have a bachelor’s degree in business admin with an accounting major from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. I have a diploma in Indigenous community development and governance from the University of Victoria. I have a certificate in petroleum land administration from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. I have sat on a number of boards: I have sat on the Children’s First Society board of directors as a director and then as a co-chair, the Gwich’in Development Corporation as a director, the Inuvik District Education Authority as a director, and then the Nihtat Gwich’in Council as a director.
What got you into running for office this time?
I decided to run for office just because I felt that it was the right thing to do. I would really like to have the opportunity to represent our community at the territorial level by listening to the concerns and ideas of the constituents of Twin Lakes, and keeping them informed on matters. I really like to advocate for our community. You know, my commitment is to our community. So, I’d like to represent them in the best way that I can.
If elected, what are some of the issues you will be advocating for?
One of the biggest issues I have heard while walking door to door is the cost of living. We need to look at ways to reduce the cost of living for our communities and for the territory, or people and families will continue to leave.
Another concern is housing. We need to work at building our relationships within the community, looking at ways to get more housing, to increase housing, that is a very big demand right now. That is also another reason why we have individuals and families leaving, because they can’t find adequate and affordable housing here.
The next is medical care. With that, we need to have increased resources for our medical facilities and for our staff, so that they are able to do the best job that they can. The staff and the physicians are doing great, but lack of resources, they definitely feel the impact of that – and then it falls on to clients and patients, which is very unfortunate.
Definitely housing, and then with that strengthening relationships within the community. We need to definitely work [on building] our relationships with our Indigenous governments and organizations and our community stakeholders.
Lesa Semmler is seeking re-election. In the past, her focus has been improving healthcare. What are your thoughts on what can be done differently in that area?
One of the priorities in the 19th Assembly was to increase the number of resident healthcare professionals by at least 20 percent. I have spoken to several people in the health sector and they have said that this was just not achieved. It has in fact gone down.
My goal would be working with our health professionals, seeing where the gaps are, and how we can better fill those gaps. Make our territory more appealing to those outside the Territories that want to move here. What are some incentives [with which] we can bring health professionals back to the North so they want to stay here? How do we incentivize healthcare professionals that are already living in the North? We have individuals that are born and raised in the North, have gone away for school and come back. That was a big concern a few years ago, where our local health professionals didn’t feel appreciated, so we need to make it better for everybody and build relationships with them so we can have a strong health sector for everybody.
What does your overall economic vision look like for the NWT?
We have to look at ways to build up the economy. Whether that is looking at how we can increase maintenance for the Dempster Highway – that is our lifeline, that is how we get our supplies. Last year, the highway was actually closed more than it was open. That definitely impacted our community and our coasts, the surrounding communities in the North. You just have to find ways to get economic opportunities back here. The last minister of infrastructure did a really great job with it, the Inuvik Airport runway, the new big wind turbine. Projects like those are important to help the economy here [in Inuvik] and in the North. I know there are discussions around the Mackenzie Valley Highway, that’s another great way to create economic opportunities here for our residents, for our businesses, just to get things going. We need things like that to bring the economy back here.
What steps do you think need to be taken to accelerate the construction of the highway?
That would definitely require more discussions with people that are more experienced in road construction. Talking to the right people, building those relationships, and advocating where advocating is needed to help move projects along.
If you’re elected, what are the initial three things you would do as an MLA?
I would definitely look at the cost of living, early learning and childcare, housing and homelessness, and medical care and travel.
Asked to declare any outstanding lawsuits, debts or other issues that might form a conflict if elected, the candidate said there were none.