NWT Election 2019: Patrick Scott’s Great Slave interview
Patrick Scott hopes to become the next MLA for Great Slave.
Scott, a longtime Yellowknifer with eight children, said his campaign would focus on themes of “renew, refocus, and revive,” adding: “I am willing to think outside the box to find new ways to make our communities and our ecosystems healthier.”
Spending time discussing his vision for the NWT’s new university, Scott said the “dead image of bricks and mortar” must be replaced by a vision of buildings and programs “where students can come and be inspired to learn by the space they are in.” For him, the university’s complete independence from government is essential.
Scott also keenly advocates for a greater focus on seniors, particularly in the areas of programming and housing. “Let’s not leave our seniors out in the cold, literally,” he warned. Saying little has changed to help the homeless in the past decade, Scott urged: “We’ve got to get on with it and get it done.”
Lastly, Scott calls for a re-examination of the North’s political structures, saying he doesn’t have the answers but it’s clear some parts aren’t working and residents must have their say.
Below, find a transcript of the full interview.
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News podcast. Scott’s interview air date is September 13.
More information: Patrick Scott’s campaign website
More interviews: Browse our 2019 NWT election coverage so far
This interview was recorded on September 12, 2019. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: Tell me why you decided to run.
Patrick Scott: My background is somewhat diverse. I raised eight children here in Yellowknife, I now have 12 grandchildren, so fairly privileged in that respect. We’ve lived in the riding for 26 years in Great Slave, down on School Draw Avenue. I’ve also lived in Fort Simpson and Behchokǫ̀, I spent eight years in Fort Simpson actually.
My career in the North started in 1975. I was a cameraman-slash-producer for CBC on the Berger Inquiry. I followed that right through. After that, I went into radio working was a news reporter for a while. And then I went into work on constitutional development in 1998-99, when division was occurring. And then I went into land claims, self-government negotiations, as the chief negotiator for the GNWT. I did three years in community development running a national program for World Vision Canada, came back into negotiations, and spent 11 years with the Dehcho First Nations.
I left Dehcho at the beginning of January 2016 because my daughter, Jawah, and I had decided to start Birchwood coffee. So for the last few years, that’s been my gig. It’s been a great opportunity, especially working with my daughter.
So in reflection, as I was looking over the years… I ran in 2011, didn’t even try to run in 2015 because of the coffee shop development, and I decided it’s time to give it one more shot. And the reason why I think it’s important to do this, for me and for the community, is because my diverse background, my knowledge of raising a family are tools and information, experience, that I think will play well in the Legislative Assembly.
And a good part of it too, for me, is really wanting to give back to the community. Yellowknife has been incredibly supportive of our family. Our kids have had a great education here. Our business has been well accepted by the community. And that’s really invigorating. When we’ve had tragedy in our family, the community came behind us in an incredible way, and so I’m the kind of person who likes to reach out and give back. And so that’s my motivator.
In brief, set out the the key elements of your platform and what you’re advocating for.
A number of different things. So let me start with the polytechnic university. That’s a main point of discussion in everybody’s campaign right now and in a lot of the interest groups. I really support an inspiring campus, not a brick-and-mortar campus per se but an inspiring campus. Let’s not call it brick and mortar because that’s kind-of a dead image that you get in your head. We need to develop an inspiring campus where students can come and be inspired to learn by the space they are in.
The polytechnic university must be independent from the GNWT, and that’s one of the things I’ll advocate for very strongly. I believe in academic freedom and I believe that an institution, even at arm’s length, when the employees are GNWT employees – which they would be – they don’t have academic freedom. And that’s a pillar of post-secondary education. So principally, ethically, it needs to be independent.
Then to resolve the issue of funding, if the GNWT is prepared to fund an institution as its arm, then take those same dollars and put them into an independent institution, which would also then allow… as an independent institution, it could attract corporate dollars, foundational dollars, for research, for special facilities. I just keep thinking of the Chan Theatre at UBC, millions of dollars donated by the Chan family to leave a legacy of their family. You’re not going to get very many families, foundations, corporations excited about donating to the Government of the Northwest Territories. And so by giving independence to the institution, which it should ethically have, you’re also opening up tremendous opportunity for the institution to find other resources.
The other issue that then happens is the people responsible for running the institution make the critical decisions about faculties, about program development, and visioning its long-term development, without the political interference that we see continually happening when it’s an arm of government, because of political interests depending on who’s in cabinet. All those kinds of dynamics that go on? Let’s get rid of that. Let’s let education be education at the post-secondary level.
What else are you advocating for?
So that’s one thing. Another important thing, and it’s been coming up in my door-to-door visits with people: there are a lot of young families in Great Slave riding. We actually have, demographically, a lot of young families and a good number of senior families. And then the third demographic is probably a fairly large part of the immigration population in the apartment buildings in the riding. So one of the things I think is really critical is daycare and afterschool care. So many people are having a challenge both affording it and finding that.
I’m advocating for universal daycare and I really believe that we need to support our young families, and get more people trained to run day homes. I think it’s really important that we better support our families. They’re our future, and we need to make sure that they have a good future.
Another issue that is really important is seniors’ housing. Seniors is the largest, fastest-growing demographic in the Northwest Territories. There’s already a lack of housing. There are many good support services. But one of the things that is happening very slowly is the Avens new development because they’re not getting commitment from the GNWT for funding. I think that’s got to change real quickly, as this new legislature take shape. Let’s not leave our seniors out in the cold, literally.
The other thing I think we have to do is develop more programs for seniors so that they become more integrated into the community and break down the isolation. I visited an Elder yesterday, in a home, and she said, “Yeah, I’m all alone.” And she uses a walker. And she said, “But I’m lucky, some friends come and visit me.” Well, she is lucky because there are a lot of Elders who don’t get that interchange. We’ve got to work and figure that out.
Just to throw out a simple idea: as Avens develops its new complex, let’s integrate some community services like an outdoor skating rink, where kids could come play and Elders could watch and interact with them, have hot chocolate, you know, simple things like that that aren’t costly.
I want to talk about the economy. Your platform makes relatively little mention, certainly compared to a lot of other candidates, of mining and exploration. You do talk about diversification of the economy. How do you foresee the territory’s economy developing over the four-year life of the next government?
Mining has been and will always be an important part of the economy in the Northwest Territories. And we’re facing the beginning of the closure of diamond mines. So we need to work on making sure that more resource development continues. But it really needs to be done with the North in mind, not just creating jobs where 80 percent of the staff or 50 percent of the staff fly in and fly out. Workers in the mines need to be encouraged to live here because they would provide tax dollars, they would provide a ripple effect of spending dollars, really help the growth of our economy. When you have so many people flying in and out, we lose a lot of resources.
So what do we do to get those people coming? Well, we work on the cost of living. We work on promoting the quality of life that we see here. And we improve our infrastructure. You know, you drive down the highway – and I’ve been driving the highways since 1975 – and I still am baffled why they don’t know how to build a highway. The engineers still haven’t figured out how to build a highway on permafrost because there’s dips and valleys – here in town, it’s the same thing. So we need to work on things like that. Diversification is really important. That’s one of the reasons why I support a university, because it will bring in a whole new type of economy.
I talk in my brochure about e-commerce. If we get the redundancy – and Northwestel is working on moving forward with redundancy on fibre optics – then we could encourage and help develop a niche e-commerce part of the economy, again, bringing new dollars into the Northwest Territories. So there are a number of initiatives that we could plan for, take real steps, and resolve.
The other big issue, and it does affect the economy, is our homelessness and the violence that we see around addictions and street people. And it’s probably, no, it is the most talked-about issue when I go door to door. People are really, really concerned about the homeless issue. When I ran in 2011, homelessness was at the top of the issue. It’s still at the top of the issue list. And I haven’t seen one home constructed specifically to address homelessness. We’ve got to get on with it and get it done.
In a corner of your platform you write that political reform is necessary. What do you mean by that?
Well, I mentioned I worked on constitutional government in 1998. When division was being planned and taking shape, there were a number of forums prior to division that were all structured to look at: what would the Northwest Territories be in the future? We operate as an arm of the federal government, legally. We still operate under the NWT Act.
It’s time to revise that. We have debates about consensus government. It’s time to engage the North again in that discussion and decide what our political structures should be for the future. We have self-governments and we have public government. We have regional self-governments, community self-governments. How can we better work together in collaboration or in coalition so that governance is more efficient, there’s less conflict that slows things down?
That’s what I’m saying, we need to have that discussion. I don’t have the solution. What I want to see is the solution being sought and redefine what our political structure is, if we need to. Or figure out how to improve it. Because we know it wasn’t working well in the last assembly.
And you also in your platform, appearing to quite carefully choose your words, say you will be “compassionate” as an elected official. Now, why did you choose the word compassion?
Great question. Thank you, Ollie. I actually didn’t choose that. My volunteer team came together and we were talking about how to describe me, how to work on a platform. The word compassionate came forward because people see me as a compassionate person, a person who cares. So we came up with the acronym CARE and it’s really about who I am.
I am a compassionate person, and I’m proud to be a compassionate person. I was raised to care for others. And that’s how we build community, is how well we care for others. I like being accessible. I don’t like isolating myself and saying, “Well, I’ve got a job to do.” But my job is to be accessible. And I’m committed to remaining accessible as an MLA. Reliable – I want people to know they can count on me to keep my word, to work on their behalf when they bring issues forward, and to listen to them. And experienced? The last letter of CARE. I have a lot of experience. I’ve been here since ’75. I’ve been to every community, I’ve lived and worked in communities other than Yellowknife. I have acquaintances and friends right across the territory, and over Nunavut, and a diverse work experience.
So I have a lot of experience to bring to the table. So that’s where that “care” word comes from.