Richard C Lafferty says he will focus his time on promoting education and encouraging Dehcho youth if elected to represent the district.
Lafferty says the education system needs improving to support local youth. He says he’d like to see traditional knowledge brought into the education system.
“I hope I can encourage the youth to become more involved and more active, and own their culture,” Lafferty said.
He wants to focus on industries that he says are being overlooked – natural gas, mining, and logging – while promoting sustainable activities, giving the example of year-round greenhouses in Fort Providence.
Ronald Bonnetrouge, Steven Vandell and Sheryl Yakeleya are also vying for the seat.
This interview was recorded on October 23, 2023. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Simona Rosenfield: Why did you decide to run?
Richard Lafferty: My background, I have a bit of an education, and I just would like to encourage the education system and the youth of the day to become more involved and more active, follow through with college and university or the trades. There’s so many options out there today.
So that’s the main focus of what I’ll be trying to get across.
What are some of your ideas to support youth, if elected?
I was very fortunate in having high marks and qualifying for numerous scholarships.
I think our education levels in the North are really lagging behind. I graduated high school with a 94 average and I still had to take almost two years of upgrading just to qualify for college-level courses. So there’s a huge problem with NWT education. And I think it’s about time that we have some legislative focus on it. Bring us up to par with the rest of the country.
You mentioned upgrading. What other changes do you hope to see in the education system at the next assembly?
Well, there’s a whole wealth of traditional knowledge that unfortunately our Indigenous youth are missing out on. I think even a non-Indigenous youth should participate and learn more of the culture and heritage of the North, and all our various peoples up here.
What else do you hope to see addressed at the next assembly?
There’s always new opportunities in the mining industry. There’s the potential for some fine-wood-grain logging to go on.
There’s various things that are kind-of just being overlooked. And I hope to draw attention to the many opportunities that we have here, that we’re not taking advantage of to the full extent.
How will these expanding industries benefit residents of your district?
We don’t have a large population. So if we can keep industry at a scale that fits our own population, and our students are educated in the fields that we can take advantage of, I think there’s a whole lot of opportunity to change the way that too many young people are going – just letting formal education and traditional knowledge slip away with no interest, no motivation to get out there.
I hope I can encourage the youth to become more involved and more active and own their culture, the beautiful lifestyle that we live.
You mentioned traditional knowledge. How would you, if elected, as well as the territorial government bring that into the education system?
I think the education system has to move in a direction where it’s easier to pass on traditional knowledge.
This stuff, you don’t learn in the classroom. You’ve got to be out on the land, you’ve got to live it, to a certain extent, and really appreciate where we come from, what our roots and heritage really is.
In your district, the Hamlet of Enterprise was one of the hardest-hit communities by the summer’s wildfires. As well, the Kátł’odeeche First Nation lost homes in the fire. What would you do to support the rebuilding efforts in these communities, if elected?
I would do everything I could. I have friends and family, I grew up in these places. So if there’s anything that I can do, I would make the effort to assist.
It’s just very unfortunate that these natural things happen. We’ll do all that we can to encourage rehabilitation, revival of all the damage that’s been caused and assets that have been lost.
I’m not saying that government should go out and just give handouts, but they certainly could make it easy for the people affected to regain stability and regenerate the lifestyle that they had, that they love.
What relationship do you see between the territorial government and leaders of these communities when working toward a recovery?
I don’t profess to be a know-it-all on any of these particular instances, whether it’s fire, flood, or anything like that.
But I think it’s important for the politicians and the government to listen to the wants and needs of the jurisdictions and the constituents that have experienced these unfortunate incidences, and be there to support them, and help them rejuvenate and maybe even rebuild better than it was before.
When you say that it brings to mind the movement toward Firesmarting. What are your thoughts on climate change?
We really have to look at our attempt at Firesmarting, because when you look at the fire guards that are around most of our communities, if not all of them, they’re very narrow little swaths of forest that had been removed. It just doesn’t make sense to me, because when you look at the highway and how wide that is, and the fire can jump the highway… what’s a little narrow fire guard supposed to do?
So we’ve got to rethink this and work with the people in the various communities to make things a lot more fire-smart and sustainable under our warmer climate conditions.
What kind of investment do you believe is merited from the territorial government for things like Firesmarting materials and employees to expand fire guards?
I think we’ve got to relook at the whole picture, because it’s just inadequate at this time.
There’s very little people could do. We’re forced to evacuate when maybe that’s not the best thing to do. Maybe some more direct action in and around communities would help save a lot of assets in the future.
The transmission line that connects Fort Providence and Kakisa to the South Slave’s hydro system was delayed recently till 2026. What progress do you hope to see on this front at the next assembly?
There’s so many options. We have natural gas, endless amounts of natural gas. It’s estimated that Canada has about half of the world’s natural gas. And apparently 50 percent of Canada’s natural gas is in the NWT, and we’re not using it?
There’s so many products that are made from natural gas, so many industries that could be built around it on various scales. So, I would hope that in addition to small-diameter pipelines, which brings fibre-optics with it, improves our energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and creates better communication networks… that can all be done with small-diameter pipelines and creative industries in our small towns and villages.
You mentioned the potential for natural gas and also mining and logging. Can you describe your ideas for economic development in communities?
If you look across the country and around the globe, in places where you have low-cost, year-round supply of energy – meaning gas and natural gas – you could produce electricity with natural gas-fired power plants, which could be cogent systems and even develop other products that can be used on a year-round basis.
There have been greenhouses here in Providence that operated year-round. They’re trying experiments with it up in the higher Arctic, and I think it’s time to get some sustainable systems established.
A last question. Why are you the best candidate for the position?
I don’t look at it like that. I see a whole bunch of opportunity and I want to offer my background and knowledge and my ability to work and help people. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as the best candidate, but certainly I’m going to do all that I can to be the best candidate I can be.
Asked to declare any outstanding lawsuits, debts or other issues that might form a conflict if elected, the candidate said there were none.