Jimmy Kalinek wants to become the next MLA for Inuvik Boot Lake.
A wilderness guide and lifelong Inuvik resident, Kalinek's top priority is helping the people of Inuvik to live a more comfortable life. To achieve this, he said territorial politicians must chip away at the cost of living by, for example, offering incentives for residents to install solar to heat their homes.
Developing the economy and bringing opportunities to locals is also a focus for Kalinek. Seeing the Mackenzie Valley Highway as a potential driver, Kalinek said this project could provide jobs and, by shaving off a day of travel south, could also lower the cost of living. Kalinek wants to see locals trained to install solar or take on other projects southern contractors currently handle.
Kalinek said the community is lacking services to tackle addictions and help get those struggling back on their feet. "We need to come up with ways to get them back up on their feet again, independent and working," he said. "Because it doesn't only hurt them or affect them, it affects the whole community. So we've got to help everybody."
Climate change and its impact on the people – both in communities as well as those who enjoy or make a life on the land – as well as on buildings and coastal communities isn't getting the recognition it needs, Kalinek said. He called for more resources to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Below, find a transcript of the full interview.
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio's Lunchtime News podcast. Kalinek's interview air date is September 27.
More information: Jimmy Kalinek's campaign Facebook group
More interviews: Browse our 2019 NWT election coverage so far
This interview was recorded on September 9, 2019. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Emelie Peacock: Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and why you decided to put your name forward for MLA.
Jimmy Kalinek: My name's Jimmy Kalinek, I was born and raised in Inuvik. Born in a traditional lifestyle here in Inuvik, out on the land. I spent a lot of time with my Elders, and a lot of people with a lot of knowledge of the land, and the people, and the animals. I have 18 years of co-management with the Inuvialuit people and the animals. So, I mean, I've always been working for the people.
And there's a lot of issues and concerns that are coming from my town, and I know of them and we're part of them, because I've lived here my whole life. I'm 38 years old, I'm outspoken and I like to work for my people. And I like to see the change that they want. And so I put my name forward in working towards the betterment of our people in Inuvik.
You put your name forward before in the 2015 election. What did you learn from that? What's different this time?
I mean, there's four years of more co-management with the Inuvialuit and also, working with government and some boards, different boards and going to these big meetings in Ottawa. Big gatherings and big presentations in a room of a couple thousand people. All that was good exposure for me and I felt comfortable doing it. I just enjoy that for helping our people and trying to see something good come to our town, and the people happy and prospering.
Next, I'd like to ask you about the challenges in your district. So if you could point out, let's say, three major challenges that you think your district faces and how you would want to work on those if you're elected...
I think every district in every community faces the same issue, cost of living in the North. But here in Inuvik, most of my constituents in Boot Lake are homeowners. To run a home here, it's quite expensive. People that stay on top of their bills, they're very lucky and it's good to have two incomes in a home. But also, some families are struggling.
And people that live here their whole lives and work here their whole lives, they have a hard time to retire here. You know, because of the cost of their retirement. There's just not enough in the budget for a retirement fund, to take care of the home and all the bills. That's why some people leave. I was talking to a few families and they're fearful that one year they might have to move away, sell their house and move somewhere where it might be cheaper to retire. And they really don't want to, but they fear that one day they might have to. Which is unfortunate, so my goal is to try to lower the cost of living in the North.
Make make people want to stay, I mean they enjoy this place, it's a beautiful place. It's a place they call home, the community is great. But just the cost of living, it just keeps going up. We've been told that we'll work on the cost of living to make it more affordable, it just seems to keep going up. And so one of my goals is to try to chip away at that and see why is it so much and to knock down some of that cost of living and try to help out the people of Inuvik to live a more comfortable life.
What are some ways that, at a territorial level, you can work on the cost of living?
Well, the gas is quite expensive, trying to reduce the cost of gas for homeowners and incentive for homeowners to have solar or look into wind. There is a program there, but it's designed to help the lower-income homeowners where if you have two incomes in the household and you make over a certain amount of money together, you don't qualify for those programs, which I think shouldn't be an issue. You want to reward people for buying a home in a community and trying to help them with the cost of living by reducing their spending and bills. So every little bit helps, and I'm sure they'd appreciate the effort that myself, if elected, and the government pushing for measures like that.
What are some other challenges that you see in your district?
I don't know if it's in my district, or Inuvik as a whole. There's some people and communities that that suffer from a lack of the economy, it's slow. We need to come up with new ideas to create more jobs, and also more programs to help the people fight some of the addictions that they may have. Trying to get them to a place where they feel comfortable. Because a lot of people are educated and they just have addictions and addiction has taken over their lives and they have nowhere to turn. There's no resources in Inuvik. There's a homeless shelter and there's places where they can sleep and stuff like that, but nothing to tackle the issue, the real issues that they're having to try to get them back on their feet back in the workforce and living on their own and living independently again. A hard life, it's sad to see because those are people and we need to help them. We need to come up with ways to get them back up on their feet again, independent and working. Because it doesn't only hurt them or affect them, it affects the whole community. So we've got to help everybody.
You mentioned the economy being important, what are some ways that you can see in your district and your region, the economy being stimulated?
We look into the big gas fields in Inuvik and Tuk, see if there's opportunities there.
There's a lot of solar coming up here on houses and it's been proven that over time, people that do have them for a few years they see the results of it. They never have to pay another power bill again, which sometimes can be fairly high, $400, 500 a month. That's quite a bit. With the solar power you save money throughout the whole year, throughout 10 years or the lifetime of your house. So a lot of that might come up more and training the people to do that work here in Inuvik instead of having contractors come up and do it.
You try to pick up all the opportunities that you can to bring to your people to have an opportunity to have some work in Inuvik. You see it all over town, all these contractors are coming in from outside of the territory. And, you know, our people can do that. We just need the trade and the opportunity to put them through training and get ready for that work. Because I think that could be something good for the community and the workforce.
The GNWT is now looking at how a future polytechnic university could look. And I'm wondering how you think Inuvik could benefit or how you think it should be created to benefit your district?
You know, there's some university courses, there was at Arctic College. Like I said before, with new ideas and new ways to bring opportunities to Inuvik and what we see in the forecast coming for Inuvik. There's training opportunities and there's trades and there's different training opportunities, I think, that need to be looked at, in order to prepare people for what might be coming to Inuvik.
As we know, the oil and gas is pretty slow right now. We've got a lot of equipment operators. Could try to find projects for them to keep busy with. The Mackenzie highway would be a great workforce. Not only that, it would in the future, later on, it would lower the cost of living in the North as it would cut off a day, or a day and a half in travel and that much less fuel for people or companies to transport stuff up here. So the cost of transporting would lower so you think that the cost of products would go down as well.
There's a lot of new things that need to be on the table, to be looked at because I mean, we've been sitting at idle for a long time. We just finished the Inuvik-Tuk highway, there's been a few buildings built here, the airport road. What are we going to do after that? We need a lot more projects and more training opportunities here in Inuvik and that's what I'll be pushing for.
In Inuvik, you mentioned, there are many homeowners in your district. There's also people on housing waitlists and I'm wondering how you think the territory is doing in terms of providing public housing and what more you would like to see?
Public housing is always a tough one. It's a long waitlist, there's a lot of people that are waiting for houses.
When you leave home and you go try to make another living somewhere else, you come back into the community. The long waitlist on its own, but then you have to wait six months before you go on to the waitlist. I don't know if there should be, maybe a lower wait, three months? Knock the time down a little bit. And they're such a long waitlist anyways.
There needs to be a closer look at how houses are built here. Also, the contract work and some of the work that doesn't get done because of the cost of the work that needs to be done. And the value of the house is not worth the fix I guess. I don't know, like, there's been projects, houses have been demolished that can be fixed up and used but it just costs too much money to fix. We've got to look at the cost of contractors, how much they're charging, and everybody needs to make a living too but we also have houses to maintain to house the people of Inuvik that are in housing.
I see a lot of money wastage in demolishing houses. I heard somewhere around 60 units a year in the Northwest Territories and they're around $25,000 to $50,000 to do a demolition on a house. So that's a lot of money. So putting ideas out there, like, we're always wanting to push people to have homeownership and trying to help people get into their own places. The houses that can be fixed and reused we could look into selling to people that want to buy it for $1. The liability is not ours anymore, you have to move it off the property. It becomes their responsibility for them to fix it up and make a home out of it.
Because a house here, you're looking at $300,000 to half a million dollars to build the house. If you could buy a house for a dollar and move it and put it on a lot and spend a hundred thousand on fixing it up or whatever it might be. That's a lot of money, that's savings for somebody that wants to own a home.
Just ideas like that, instead of spending, half a million dollars or whatever it might be to demolition these houses. Even though some of them might not be reusable, some of them still can be. Ideas like that, we have to change the way some things are going because there's a lot of money being thrown away that doesn't have to be.
Your district is one of our northernmost districts and climate change impacts your district more than others. I'm wondering how you see the effects in your district and what you think at a territorial level, what type of work should be done?
Climate change is a huge topic. I don't think it gets its recognition enough. People don't recognize it as a threat. It is a threat, it's huge. It affects a lot of people, not only in communities, but harvesters and people that enjoy the land. And also buildings in the communities and the coastal areas, climate changes is huge around here. There needs to be a lot more resources put towards helping with the effects of climate change.
Because, I went to a public conference in Yellowknife there and all the communities throughout the Northwest Territories are being hit hard from climate change. It's in every single community throughout the Northwest Territories. The north, up here, it's hitting home really hard and there's just not enough resources to help with the effects of climate change. So I think that needs to be looked at throughout the next few years.
We're coming up on 20 minutes, I want to give you the opportunity to make your pitch to your voters. Why should they vote for you on October 1?
On October 1, I want everybody to go out and vote and put their vote in for who they want. I'm still on my campaign trail and I'm halfway through our district and I'm trying to hit every house, like I did four years ago. I just tell them I'm your ears, I'm your voice, I've been working for the people for 18 years. I love it, I have a passion for it.
I told them that I will be having quarterly meetings with them throughout the year. So everything that I'm bringing to the legislature is fresh and it's nothing that I'm pushing for as an individual but I'm the community's voice. I hope everybody comes out and votes and we'll see how how it goes in the next few weeks.