Donald Hendrick hopes to become the new MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes.
A highway transport officer with the GNWT and lifelong Inuvik resident, Hendrick said advancing the Mackenzie Valley Highway project is a top priority if elected in October.
In an interview with Cabin Radio, Hendrick said construction of the road would open up potential for Arctic offshore oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea.
On education, Hendrick said he wants to see the main campus of a future polytechnic stay in Fort Smith, while Inuvik should see more trades and other programs to allow local students to get educated at home.
“I’m dependable, honest, hard-working, and I care about the people of Inuvik,” Hendrick said, making his pitch in a three-way race which pits him against Sallie Ross and Lesa Semmler.
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News podcast. Hendrick’s interview air date is September 23.
More interviews: Browse our 2019 NWT election coverage so far
This interview was recorded on September 10, 2019. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Emelie Peacock: Tell us about yourself and why you decided to run for MLA of Inuvik Twin Lakes this year.
Donald Hendrick: I’m born and raised here in Inuvik. I have four daughters and three grandchildren and I’ve been married to my wife for 21 years.
I’ve worked with the Government of the Northwest Territories for the last 16 years as a highway transport officer and that job took me all over the Northwest Territories. And I got to meet a lot of different people with my job – getting out there, knowing everybody.
I think our last leader was pretty good, Robert McLeod was very good for the last 14-15 years he was in office. And I just want to continue with the good solid voice here in Inuvik, so I put my name forward. I was born and raised on the west side of Inuvik and the feedback I’m getting, it’s coming back pretty good.
Could you tell me a bit about your campaign platform? Some of the things that, if elected, you would like to see done over the next four years?
What I’m looking forward to is working with the Mackenzie Valley Highway completion because the cost of living with the Dempster Highway closing in the fall, freeze up time and the springtime, it costs us money to ship our groceries and stuff up. With the completion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, we don’t have to close the road. The Mackenzie Valley Highway will [also] bring a lot of money from tourism.
Addictions. We have to work on supporting the healthcare system with more funding for addictions and mental health.
The education system needs some work done to it. I know it’s just not the teachers’ problem but the parents too have to get their kids out, make sure they’re doing their homework and getting them to school in the mornings.
Housing. That’s why I’m getting on the campaign trail, is the housing. We need more affordable housing in the Northwest Territories and Inuvik.
Employment, we’ve got to create employment.
This Mackenzie Valley Highway will create a lot of jobs, open up to the oil and gas reserves throughout the Mackenzie Delta, Mackenzie Valley, the Beaufort Sea. Right now the propane and liquefied natural gas coming up the highway, it’s costing us a lot of money to truck that stuff up to heat our homes right now. So we got trillions of litres of natural gas in our reserves out here in the Beaufort Sea. So I just want to lower the cost of living for us, for the people of Inuvik and the Northwest Territories.
So if we look at the Mackenzie Valley Highway, that’s a pretty big infrastructure project. If you’re elected as MLA, how would you work to bring that to completion?
Well, there’s no reason why we can’t start from the Inuvik side and go towards Fort Good Hope. I know they’re waiting on a few more bridges and stuff in the Tulita area, I don’t see why we can start laying the ground road from the Inuvik side down to Fort Good Hope. That will create jobs.
I followed Cece McCauley lots in the paper. She was a big advocate for that Mackenzie Valley Highway and it’s too bad she couldn’t see it before she passed away. That’s one of my dreams, to get to make sure that the Mackenzie Valley Highway is open before I pass away. I’d like to drive from here to Yellowknife and check out other parts of the Northwest Territories.
And you said it would make a big difference for cost of living for residents of Inuvik.
Yeah, cost of living and tourism, it will bring a lot of tourism up the Mackenzie Valley Highway. And the cost of living for all parts of the NWT. The Dempster Highway, the way it’s going now with all these trucks [flipping over], we’ll have to work with the Yukon to get their side of the highway and to maintain it a lot better.
You mentioned, as well, addictions being a focus for your platform this election. I’m wondering if you would like to see a permanent treatment centre in the North?
I know from experience, relatives and stuff, they go out south for treatment for 60 days, or whatever it is, and they come back and as soon as they’re off the plane, there’s no support for them. Off the plane and where do they go? Right to the liquor store. We need more people, more organizations, to help these people once they come back from treatment.
It’s a shame the government’s spending all this money on them to go to treatment for six weeks, and they come back home and there’s no support once they get back. And I know there’s a few of them that go right back to the bottle. That’s just wasting the government’s money to send them out for six weeks and they come back and they just start right back where they left off. So they need more support once they get off that plane and come home, so they could stay away from the bottle.
You also mentioned healthcare and the need for more funding within the healthcare system. Would you care to elaborate on where you would like to see that funding go?
I’d like to see the doctors and nurses, a little bit more interaction with clients and more understanding of the Aboriginal people and what they go through and the support they need if they’ve got cancer, whatever it might be with their health. They can’t be just sending them home with Tylenol, they’ve got to look more into their symptoms. Just a little bit more homework with doctors and nurses.
Another part of your platform is housing and wanting to have more affordable housing, especially in Inuvik. Many Inuvik residents are on a public housing waitlist, or are in public housing. How do you think the NWT Housing Corporation has done on this file in your district over the last four years?
The last four years in Inuvik, I know they’ve been building new residential housing here. So I think there’s two projects that should be done pretty quick for the housing corporation, local housing authority. If they just continue to get funding and build more affordable housing for the people Inuvik then the waitlist will go down. We’ve just got to get more funding for them to build more houses.
So the solution, in your mind, is to build more new public housing?
I know there’s a lot of them just sitting empty, at the local housing authority, they’re just so old and it’ll cost them too much to renovate them. So we’ll have to replace the aging infrastructure.
We have an Aurora College campus in Inuvik. And the GNWT has now committed to creating a polytechnic university in the Northwest Territories, but no official word has come out as to where the polytechnic would be headquartered. How would you like to see Inuvik and your district take part in this future university?
I would support that university the way they’re going but the headquarters, I would like to see it stay in Fort Smith. Their economy wouldn’t be too good if it was moved over there, that’s what they’re saying, losing all those jobs and people going in there for school and stuff. So they could spread the programs around like they have been in the past and it will all work out.
And for Inuvik residents and Inuvik students, would you like to see certain structures or certain programs put in place in Inuvik to support local students?
Yes, I would. The programs I see that they need here are probably more into the trades and business administration and stuff that is currently on. But more trade work and more programs for the people of Inuvik so they don’t have to be traveling south for school.
The North and your region is disproportionately affected by climate change. How do you think the GNWT is doing on this particular issue?
Well, I know they have the Aurora Research Centre and there’s a lot of scientists coming up or have been up here in the past, with universities and stuff going out onto our land and doing studies and we’re learning a lot from them. And climate change, yeah, that’s a big one here for us in our region. We’ve just got to fund them more and let them do their studies and learn from all the changes with climate change.
A big focus of the territorial government has been growing the economy, of course, given the cost of living. I’m wondering how you can see that being balanced with trying to work on climate change?
Like I said, fund all projects related to climate change and get more studies out there and invest in the communities on climate change. And it could help both the residents with funding and stuff if they need some help with their foundation and stuff, with the melting permafrost.
You also mentioned opening up oil and gas reserves in the Beaufort Sea. Could you speak a little bit more about what you would like to see?
Right now we’re paying $36 a gigajoule for our propane they’re trucking up here, over the winter and summer to heat our homes. And we’ve got trillions of natural gas reserves, just in our backyard there. The government should be helping out the Inuvialuit and the Gwich’in, all over the territory, to get us on this natural gas.
Right now, to heat my home in the coldest months of the winter is $800 with this propane that they’re trucking up. And before Ikhil ran out, we were paying like $300 a month on natural gas to heat our homes in the winter. The government would have to lobby the Canadian government to help us with this cost of living and get us back on to natural gas reserves that we have out there. It will create employment and lower cost of living, for sure, for our region.
One of the things Premier Bob McLeod is best-known for is to have been very vocal and supportive of Arctic offshore drilling, the oil industry, and Arctic Ocean shipping as well. He went as far as issuing a “red alert” when the federal government imposed this five-year moratorium on Arctic offshore oil and gas development. What do you think of his actions? And what else do you think could be done to put pressure on the federal government?
I think his action was good at the time when he did send that red alert to the federal government towards the ban on oil and gas in the Beaufort Delta, Beaufort Sea. So we’ve just got to lobby, get the Government of Canada on board. That’s going to save us, lower the cost of living and create employment.
How do you balance something like an Arctic offshore oil industry with trying to make sure that climate change doesn’t proceed at the same rate that it is right now?
We’ve just got to be cautious and how we are doing things out there. Make sure that we’re doing it by the regulations and making sure that nothing is getting into the oceans and read more studies.
I’d like to give you a chance to speak a bit about your personal traits, and how who you are as a person makes you a good choice as MLA for the Inuvik Twin Lakes district.
Like I said before, I was born and raised here in Inuvik and Inuvik is my home, and I think I’d be a great voice for 19th Legislative Assembly, this term, for Inuvik. I’ve been out talking with voters and they’re giving me a lot of feedback about what should be brought up for our region and for the NWT as a whole.
Like I said, I’ve worked 16 years with the Government of the Northwest Territories. I’m dependable, honest, hard-working, and I care about the people of Inuvik. Born and raised here, so I think I’ll be a good voice for Inuvik.