NWT Election 2019: Jackie Jacobson’s Nunakput interview
Jackie Jacobson hopes to become the MLA for Nunakput.
A former MLA and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Jacobson told Cabin Radio he is running again to work on the recurring issues of housing, health, and education in Nunakput.
Getting federal funding for housing is a focus, Jacobson said, to provide for the needs of young families and new graduates as well as deal with overcrowding.
Supporting Elders before, during, and after their medical travel is another priority. Jacobson is also concerned about the pressure put on nurses in stations who are short-staffed. “It’s a small thing for either Yellowknife or for the people in the south, but it’s a big thing for up here,” he said.
A lifelong resident of Tuktoyaktuk, Jacobson said the community is “studied to death” in relation to climate change and the shoreline, which is eroding at a rate of five to 10 feet per year. Instead, he wants to see federal and territorial dollars go to communities to deal with climate change.
Developing wind turbines in communities and lifting the moratorium on Arctic offshore oil and gas development are energy priorities, to stabilize energy costs which are seeing cost increases several times a year.
Supporting students and “not setting them up for failure” means eliminating social passing and increasing access to post-secondary for in-demand jobs, Jacobson said. Of 24 graduates in Tuktoyaktuk, he said half had to return to school for upgrading.
“If I get elected, I just want to do the best for the people,” Jacobson said, ruling out the position of premier or speaker. If elected, he said he would instead focus either on a cabinet position or across the floor as a regular MLA.
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News podcast. Jacobson’s interview air date is September 27.
More interviews: Browse our 2019 NWT election coverage so far
This interview was recorded on September 20, 2019. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Emelie Peacock: Okay, Jackie. So I wanted to start by having you tell our audience a bit more about yourself and why you decided to put your name forward this time around.
Jackie Jacobson: I decided to run again for MLA because my passion for the people and helping people of Nunakput and the Northwest Territories as a whole. My leadership and experience that I had prior to this eight years of service in the assembly, in short, my 25 years of government community service, dedication previously I served as MLA and the achievements that we did, working together as a community government and all other MLAs working together. So just a passion to help people.
And this year, was it a particular thing that made you come forward this year to put your name forward for MLA?
Yeah, well, I stay current and I sit on the hamlet of Tuk and I sit on the Tuk district education authority and you see the same things coming over and over. I know I’m able to help, to get the issues dealt with in Yellowknife and making things work, I guess, to get it done.
So from where you sit, and with your experience in politics, what would you see as the most important, pressing issues for the Nunakput region?
The housing issues that we have here in the communities is a big one because we need I guess increases from the federal government, the CMHC, to get increased to give more houses per community. So getting that through to the federal government working it through the territorial government to get that because we have a lot of young families now, a lot of students graduating. Overcrowding in houses, again it’s the same thing, we have to work our way through that.
Be an advocate again for the health system in regards to our nursing stations are short-staffed, so much pressure is put on them. Elders when they’re traveling without an escort. Like, there are so many problems. If we work together with the department I know we could fix a lot of these small…It’s a small thing for either Yellowknife or for the people in the south, but it’s a big thing for up here.
Then the education, our Elders, our youth programming, Elders programming, there’s so much small issues got to be fixed at the ground level in the communities. And working with our local community governments, I know that we can fix a lot of the issues.
Jackie, have you put forward a platform this year or have certain projects or campaign promises that you’ve made?
My platform, I’m identifying the housing issues and solutions for tenants, advocate health and social impacts, families and youth and Elders programs.
Education and post-secondary education needs and adequate funding for the communities.
Ensure and monitor responsible resource development, monitor and secure viable work plans for a climate change shoreline erosion programs.
Safe and responsible transportation, for the communities for the shipping. The wildlife and traditional land management.
Cultural and traditional resources working with and then working together to support and maintain local community governments with proper funding, and just making sure that the government’s not downloaded on them.
If we look at transportation, the MTS barge cancellation was a big issue for Nunakput in the last legislative assembly. And now this year it looks like the deliveries are going well. I’m wondering what you think of the handling of that cancellation and how confident you are that this barging issue has been resolved?
I think that really making sure that there’s enough planning time to get all the shipping requirements, the timing done. Just making sure that like August, like the first of August, we should be having all our shipping things to the communities through barging. For fuel, for all the people’s snowmobiles, trucks, everything. Just making sure its happening because that’s a lifeline in regards to what’s happening with food prices.
It all rolls into food pricing, everything. So just making sure you’re on top of the department on getting regular updates, updating the constituents on what’s happening and go forward and just making everybody aware of your timeline that you’re working with.
In terms of the broad issue of climate change, you’ve brought up coastal erosion, which you see, I’m sure on a daily basis in your community. How do you think at a territorial level, politicians can deal with climate change and help your region which is most impacted?
The shoreline erosion that we’ve been having, for instance in Tuk it’s affecting the four units that we have in our community. We’re losing about probably five to 10 feet a year on that side of the shoreline, on the west side. So I think what we’ve got to be doing is, we’re studied to death in regards to all the studies and the people coming in. And this is what’s happening. We hear the same thing over and over and studies, I think we have to put actual money towards working with the federal government and the territorial government. It’s all band-aid solutions, we have to come up with a plan to work with the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, or any other community in the riding that’s having this problem. But working together with the community and making a plan and trying to see if we can get funding from federal and territorial levels.
You have also mentioned alternative energy, what would you like to see in your district for alternative energies?
In communities, we’ve been working, in the past, with wind turbines and stuff like that. Something that, for the power corporation to utilize in the community in regards to wind generation, to stabilize our power bill. Because the communities are paying so high power bills right now that we have to have something able to stabilize.
Then you’ll know, instead of big increases every about six, seven times a year, per month. You have to have it stable, so you’re paying the same bill just like you do in Yellowknife. Our power bills in the communities are way over. Any possible way to try to get gasification into any of these communities for putting on generation for fossil fuels and stuff like that, it’ll save us as a territory and save us as a community too, on pricing for power.
Your community now has road access. So the only community in the district that has road access. It was a major project, almost $300-million project that was completed in the last assembly. I’m wondering, looking at infrastructure, I’d like to hear from you what effect that road has had on your community and what other infrastructure projects you would want to work on if you’re elected
Having the road for the fuel, cheaper fuel. Well, it’s not cheaper fuel, but it’s still increasing. The cost of living has gone down a bit.
The biggest problem, I think that we’re having in the community right now is the tourists that are coming in, we need something for them to do. So they’re in and out. So we had like almost 8,000 tourists into Tuk this year. So there’s nothing, we need to help our local economy grow that way. For long term out, you’re looking at a deep sea port. The community is looking at it, they’ve been working towards it. But bigger projects like that will take care of themselves.
But the small stuff, that’s what we have to deal with right now on a go forward. Like for small business to try to capitalize and try to get some market because we have nothing going on in the communities. The oil and gas was shut down after the moratorium was put into place. We’ve got to work towards on getting that sorted out to the federal government and territorial government to bring our gas to market.
But they always get the reports done and there’s nothing followed up because they can’t find the money to do it. One of the biggest issues that we’ve been having, the downfall I guess, the road to Tuk, it’s been the harder drugs that are coming into the community like crack cocaine and cocaine. The police have been working with that and the hamlet council’s been working with that. And then just letting the people know that we’re here for them and giving notice to the kids. We’re trying to let them know what the drugs do to them. So we had our RCMP go into the schools and letting them know what’s happening with the harder drugs.
Tuktoyaktuk and the other communities are now quite different in the sense that you have a road access to a larger community. As an MLA, how do you represent all of these communities, the ones that are fly-in only and the one now that is accessible by road? Given that they are changing a bit in their in their character.
Basically, we’re all coastal communities, we’re all suffering from the same needs. Housing and medical, the education system, it’s all the same. We’ve got to fix the small problems that need to be addressed in regards to, and making sure that we’re holding government accountable. What’s good for Yellowknife is good for Nunakput. So that’s, that’s a big one for me in regards to just making sure that our people are served. Just like it would be in Yellowknife for medical, just like the education system. Because the education system here too, we had 24 graduates here in Tuk. But half of them have to go back for, you need that Alberta curriculum. We’ve got to stop social passing, there’s so much to do.
And you mentioned post-secondary education is a focus for you too. What what would you like to see for Nunakput for post-secondary?
Actually having Grade 12, when you’re graduating Grade 12 you graduate and get I think more emphasis on Aurora College. Because we’re small communities, running more programming, giving them more funds to do programming. And having the college, the university also is a good idea, you know, progression. Because we’re so short for nurses, we’re short for social workers, we’re short for all these positions in our community and we’ve got to try to focus on getting our own people in those positions and supporting them and not setting them up for failure.
I’d like to touch on health as well. You mentioned short staffing in nursing. What are some other solutions that you would like to see or work that you would like to see done on health for Nunakput?
One of the biggest problems is the aftercare when you’re going out for appointments. The people that are going like for cancer patients, for our Elders going on appointments, when they’re taking the escort with them to help them to get around. I think that’s got to be more streamlined in regards to this approval from the doctor and then letting the doctor decide instead of having staff decide. That’s got to be looked at. Also when you’re traveling, making sure your doctors, the follow-up, the aftercare on your appointments. The notifications. Not a day before, like a week in advance of when you’re traveling and stuff like that. Relieve the pressure on the people that are traveling because a lot of people they’re worried about personally their health and then the travel. Because the flying part, we’ve got a lot of problems with that up here.
How about in mental health and addictions?
Mental health is so big. As a government as a whole and as community government, we have to have more programming for men, for women, for our youth. For bringing people in, setting up treatment places, on-the-land treatment. It’s got to be looked at again. So we’re really in a place that we could do so much good. It’s just a matter of sitting down together and getting a plan done to go forward with it for Nunakput and the territory.
So you were in office eight years, part of that time as speaker and part of that time as a regular MLA. What were some things that you learned? Some of the successes, some of the challenges, if you’d like to speak about that.
Success is when you’re on a call with constituents and you’re getting things done for them and the thank you’s you get. And the job-specific, I mean for myself my passion to help people is just I really want to do good. And I don’t take no for an answer, that’s the thing. The hardship I guess is being away, when you’re away from home. When I was an MLA when I worked, I lived at home in Tuk. Soon as I was done the next day I’d be on the plane coming home to the riding. And I lived here, born and raised in Tuk and that will never change. But the biggest one is just helping people, my passion to help people, and getting the job done. I enjoyed it because I got the chance to help a lot of people and I helped the Northwest Territories too, as a whole. So I liked that.
Do you have any idea about, if you’re elected, what type of position you would be looking for?
Well, I’m not gonna go for premier. I’ll see, I gotta get elected first that’s the thing. But I won’t be running for speaker, I know that. I want to be able to voice my…for the people of the Northwest Territories. So that’s out of the question for me. If I get elected, I just want to do the best for the people and I think the best for the people is either becoming a cabinet minister or sitting on the other side of the floor and keeping government working together and going forward.
We’ve got just a few more minutes here. I want to give you a chance to speak directly to the voters. So if if you want to tell them, why they should vote for you on October 1.
It’s an honour and privilege to be running again for MLA for Nunakput. I’m a lifelong resident of Tuktoyaktuk and I love and cherish the heritage of my mom and dad Bella and Jimmy Jacobson who raised me. My loving wife Jenny and I lead a healthy, sober lifestyle and we’ve been married together for 25 years and we have six children, one grandson and four foster children who I dearly love. And I’m just pleased to put my name forward and let it stand. I’ll be there as before, 24-seven and just worked on the benefit of Nunakput and all the constituents. Thank you. On October 1, please support me.