Conservative candidate Yanik D'Aigle hopes to become the Northwest Territories' next MP on federal election day, October 21.
D'Aigle, styling himself the "bowtie banker," says a Conservative government will find a better way to address northern climate change than Liberal carbon pricing – and will do a better job of reining in large emitters.
However, despite a platform which focuses spending on northern social issues at the expense of corporations, D'Aigle denied his party's approach to the north is liberal in essence. Ridiculing the proposed Liberal grant for camping, he said his party will do much more to develop the economy and reduce the cost of living.
Maintaining the Conservative line that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples cannot be fully implemented as-is without damaging the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, D'Aigle nonetheless said Conservatives were the "first to the table" in the 1980s to advance federal reconciliation, and would continue to do so if elected to govern.
Contrasting himself with Michael McLeod, D'Aigle said he is "not a career politician" and insisted not being born in the NWT is actually "an asset because I don't come in with preconceived notions."
"I think the first step is to listen – listen with both ears, grab the feedback, grab the information, ask them how they would like to see the solutions brought forward," D'Aigle told Cabin Radio.
"How would they implement some of these changes? What would they like to see? Take all of these ideas together and consult – we have a duty to consult, we need to make sure we grab that feedback – but then bring that noise back to the party, back to Ottawa, and make sure that we start investing in the North again."
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio's Lunchtime News podcast. D'Aigle's interview air date is October 18, 2019.
More information: Yanik D'Aigle's Facebook campaign page
This interview was recorded on October 11, 2019. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: Why should NWT residents elect you?
Yanik D'Aigle: It's a very good question, Ollie, and I think there are a lot of good choices that are out there. It's an important decision as we look to some of the issues and concerns that I keep hearing in the NWT around the economy and cost of living. We look at the opportunities that were once there and are slowly but surely disappearing. We talk about red tape. I am a candidate that is looking to tackle these things. We're looking to be able to reduce that cost of living. You know, some of the things that we're looking to do right off the bat are remove the GST from from heating, remove the carbon tax. It was very apparent, for example, in the previous Legislative Assembly: the MLAs, in its current form, did not want the carbon tax. It was not something that was going to be conducive to the North and it's only going to increase our cost of living even more so than where we're at right now. So it is something we want to make sure we remove and, again, tackle climate change, tackle carbon emissions directly, where we can have an impact – and not at the day-to-day taxpayers' bottom line.
We'll come back to climate change and carbon tax in a moment. Forgetting party politics and policies for now, what do you think that you personally offer as an MP that's different from the incumbent?
I'm not a career politician. I've heard time and time again that people are not content with the status quo. I am some somebody that comes from the private sector, who has worked in government before – I've been a consultant for the Attorney General, Correctional Services, and Solicitor General in my past, at a provincial level – and in my interactions with the government you sort-of see those those red tapes are sometimes the roadblocks that you want to be able to overcome and make sure that we actually implement some of the things that we're wanting to do as a community, as a territory. And I also come in with a significant background in finance as area manager for a financial institution. I look to be able to empower and look at helping people on the day-to-day whether it's their day-to-day jobs or even startup businesses. And that's something that I want to continue to do, and enable, at the territorial-slash-federal level. When we look at the Conservative platform, it really is about empowering and getting people the opportunity that everyone should have right across the territory, and not just certain pockets or certain job careers.
Michael McLeod prides himself on having been born and raised in the NWT. You were not. How will you be able to truly understand the lives of NWT residents, particularly those in smaller and more remote communities?
I think it's an actual asset because I don't come in with preconceived notions. I'm there to listen. And I think it's important that politicians remember that we're there to, you know, listen to the people from all around the territory, and come up with their ideas, come up with what's important to them and bring those back to Ottawa. I'm not there to make decisions on behalf of any single entity or person, or, you know, because my cousin Bob is looking to be able to want to do this particular activity or business, I'm looking to be able to help everyone across the territory.
To be able to do that, I think the first step is to listen – listen with both ears, grab the feedback, grab the information, ask them how they would like to see the solutions brought forward. How would they implement some of these changes? What would they like to see? Take all of these ideas together and consult – we have a duty to consult, we need to make sure we grab that feedback – but then bring that noise back to the party, back to Ottawa, and make sure that we start investing in the North again.
So from your perspective and from the listening that you have done, what is the single biggest thing that you think your party could do, if elected, to make a difference as soon as it can in the North?
Cost of living. It was very, very apparent that cost of living and also the economy – I'll tack that in there – we need to be able to provide those opportunities to everybody, but also reduce costs. When we have people who, you know, have a hard time paying their bills, paying their heating, paying their electricity, making ends meet, we need to come up with strategies to lower that cost of living. It was also, again, very apparent through the territorial election that this was top-of-mind for most of our residents. Things like removing the carbon tax, removing the GST from heating costs, reducing the taxation that people are taxed upon, are things that will directly impact their day-to-day lives and their day-to-day monthly bills, to be able to help afford – not only in Canada but also in the North.
On the economy, we know the Conservatives want the NWT to keep 100 percent of all resource royalties. That won't be much use if there's no industry generating royalties. What will the Conservatives do to make sure that industry continues and thrives?
It's a very great question, Ollie, and I think it is important to consider what is happening with the royalties. Part of it is looking to remove the red tape, we have to be able to get from point A to point B and attract investment. We see it in the Yukon, we see it in Nunavut – more and more investment is looking at those territories and around the world. So part of that is taking care of the land claims. The Conservative government has been the first to put to the table, back in the 80s, the original tabling of the importance of land claims being part of economic reconciliation, and we continue to do that. Devolution at the territorial level was, again, under a Conservative government. We want to continue for this to happen.
It is about providing economic benefit to our communities, our Indigenous people, and everybody within the territory. The other key part of that is, for example, the moratorium on the Beaufort. That was arbitrarily done with very little duty to consult with our premier of the territory. Providing one to two hours' notification about something that's as major is that – to remove the opportunity for these communities to be able to make that decision, with the intent of being able to have that opportunity removed – is something that really should not have been done. So we do look to remove that moratorium and provide the stewards of the land – that was very apparent in my visits to the Beaufort, that they are experts at stewarding the land. They want to keep doing that and having that opportunity to seek out investment and make that choice themselves. It doesn't make sense right now to be trucking gas from lower mainland BC, right up on a road of 3,500 km, for them to be able to heat their homes at more than 10 times the price in Edmonton, when it's right next-door to them. Now, I'm not saying that we should go ahead and turn the tap on right then and there – we need to make sure that we're doing it the right way. But I trust the stewards of the land to be able to do that and make sure that we are guiding us to provide the economic benefits and the opportunity to that region.
Then we also talk about resource extraction in the other parts of the territory: we still have our diamond mines for the cycles that they are currently in. And, again, we want to be able to provide additional prospecting and opportunities for them to continue researching and looking at where there's other areas that this resource could be extracted. But we also know that there's opportunities for rare earths when we talk about cobalt and lithium. These are things that we need for green technology implementation when it comes to the batteries we have in our cellphones or even the batteries that are utilized with solar panels to provide a more continuous stream of electricity and power. These are resources that right now are currently, on the larger part, being imported from China. Why are we bringing them from China if we have them right next door? These are resources that can be extracted, again, in a proper way, with as little environmental impact as possible, so that then we actually are investing in the North and investing in green technology that we can leverage for years and years to come.
Earlier in that answer, you touched on Indigenous relations with a Conservative government. What message will you convey to your party leader when it comes to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? What will you ask your party leader to do?
We are supportive of the UN declaration. It's just that, in its current framework right now, it contravenes the way that the Canadian Charter of Rights is currently written. So we need to make sure that we know the impacts… and trying to implement it at full face value without considering how it impacts other parts of our own Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That needs to be consulted. So we need to make sure, again, that we don't make the same mistakes of the past.
It is also important, and the Conservative Party is very much making sure, at the forefront, that due diligence and upfront consultation is being done with our Indigenous communities right from day one. It is the Conservative government that actually implemented truth and reconciliation back in 2008, we took those first steps in making sure that we started doing things the right way. There was an apology by the previous prime minister in regards to what happened with residential schools. So we need to make sure, again, that we do more in the future than just writing a cheque. We need to start healing, we need to start fostering partnerships and bettering our relationships so that everybody wins: our Indigenous communities, our people from the North, and Canadians as a whole.
Let's take a look at some social issues in the Northwest Territories. First of all, what's the Conservative proposition to solve our northern housing problem?
Again, it's a very good question. We need to make sure that we are investing in housing. In its current platform right now, what we oftentimes do is, when we do build a new home, whether it's social or public housing – and I say public housing in a sense of providing to federal employees – we oftentimes decommission one. So we need to make sure that instead of decommissioning, we are renovating the existing inventory and also still building new, so that there's an actual net increase of housing. This is one of the key things that we want to make sure that we do differently. The other part is that there is some federal housing that's not being utilized in any way, shape, or form. And part of our platform is to make sure that these now do get repurposed and recommissioned so that they can then be available for social housing purposes.
Similarly, on education and healthcare, these are both topics where there is a considerable amount of territorial jurisdiction, but what would you be advocating for a Conservative government to do to provide the NWT with assistance there?
Part of what we just talked about was making sure that the royalties do, at 100 percent, remain in the NWT. So that provides additional funding for the GNWT, whether it goes to healthcare funding, education funding, this is for them to decide. Again, we're about making sure that we continue the devolution cycle so that the powers from the feds go to the territories with the full intention of them being devolved to the communities. We also want to make sure that there is already a commitment to, at least on an annual basis, continue funding an increase of three-percent for healthcare support. We also have some funding, for example, in place that we are advocating for around mental health issues as well. We want to make sure that continues.
And also, part of our strategy is to create regional healing centres right across Canada – and that includes the territories – to make sure that we are supporting mental health at a regional basis, so that then the regional influences to what are actually required are then impacting where it needs to be. It's part of what Conservatives always look to do: we have to do more than just always writing a cheque. It has to be purposeful, with strategic intent, and if it's not doing the things that we are supposed to be doing with the funds, then we need to re-evaluate. We need to ask ourselves, how is it, then, that we need to change what we're doing so that the money that is being provided is purposeful, with the intent either solving an issue or investing in medium to long-term benefits to our communities?
I must say, Yanik, it sounds like quite a lot of cheques have been written in the last 12 minutes in this interview. Is this a Conservative government that's intent on increasing spending?
Absolutely not, in the sense that overall spending is not looking to be increased. We're looking to be more strategic with it. So for example, we are decreasing spending at $1.5 billion for what is oftentimes called corporate welfare. It doesn't make sense to continue to provide investment in companies that no longer need the financial support. Why do we continue to do this? This is something that, right off the bat, we are able to save from a cost-cutting measure, because it's going to affect our bottom line but it's not going to be something that will affect the day-to-day taxpayer or the small business that's looking to start up. Again, it's about making sure that we make strategic investments in the programs and services that we know will impact our Canadian lives and our northern lives.
So more money for social issues, less money for business. You should be the Liberal candidate, shouldn't you, Yanik?
Absolutely not, because one of the things that we're not looking into invest in, for example, is a $2,000 credit for camping. You know, that's something that just does not make sense. It is not a strategic investment that applies to all Canadians, and in our eyes is an example of money being wasted. We want it to be purposeful, something that helps all Canadians, and something that provides not only medium-term but long-term benefits as well.
I did promise we would come back to climate change. Now, your party doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to science. Famously, the Harper government muzzled a lot of federal scientists so they couldn't talk openly about their work. Why trust the Conservatives on climate change now?
Because part of our plan right now is also looking at ways that the everyday Canadian can also participate, instead of being taxed to death with the carbon tax, which in its current form, again, is not something that will be purposeful in actually reducing our emissions. We need to address and put the elephant in the room that when you look at China, the US, and India – who account for more than half of all carbon emissions in the world – if they're not part of the solution, as well, the pieces that we contribute in that carbon emission plan, on a global scale, is not really affecting things the way that we want. Now, that's not to mean that we don't need to do our part. It's part of the reason why we have, for example, home renovation opportunities. And especially when we think of in conjunction with what's happening with Arctic Energy Alliance, we have opportunities of being able to refund up to 70-percent of those expenditures for diesel communities in the NWT. These are things that really help provide people in the North to be able to make their homes energy-efficient. These are things that we can do right away.
It also doesn't make sense to not be taxing larger emitters. In the current form, again, under the Liberal government, they are planning to provide up to 90 percent of the emissions by large emitters to actually not be taxed. What's the purpose of that? If we know that the larger emitters are actually the ones causing most of the issues, they shouldn't be given a free pass. They need to be part of the solution as well. And that's part of why, instead, under Conservative leadership, we're looking to tax those large emitters, but then instead of the money going to the general public purse, the fund all kinds of programs like, you know, the camping program, we're looking instead to invest it in green technology. We're looking to be able to invest it in long-lasting medium to long-term solutions that will also provide, you know, the carbon emission reduction that we're planning to have. And then not only that, then export as well and assist with our colleagues around the world so that they become part of the same plan as us.
It is a global problem. We need to realize that carbon emissions don't follow border lines. So if we're not all on board, then none of us are on board.
We're almost out of time. I did want to ask, before we finish: you've styled yourself as the "bowtie banker" in this election. Do you believe that bankers wearing bow ties are an image with which northern Indigenous people identify?
I think it's something, again, that… I'm looking for their support. I'm looking for somebody that, like myself, wants to be able to stand out. They can see this is somebody that is different. And again, if somebody is looking to have the status quo – if you want exactly the same as what you've always gotten – I would say continue voting the way that you always have in the past. Here's a clear opportunity to, just like what happened in the Legislative Assembly, create change. I am somebody that's different, with new ideas, with new perspectives, and looking to listen as best I can: grab that information, talk to as many people as I can, and bring that voice back to Ottawa. We need to make sure that the North is back on the map. When we look at what is happening, for example, in Russia, they have a commitment to invest $90 billion in the north. It's 20 percent of their GDP. Right now, when we look at the investment that's happening here in the North, it's almost non-existent. As part of a Conservative platform, we are looking to make sure again that the Arctic is important. Arctic sovereignty is important. Arctic investment is important. That kind of investment is something that benefits all northerners.