John J Gon, a former radio broadcaster, is one of four candidates running to fill the Monfwi MLA seat vacated by Jackson Lafferty.
Gon said his experience travelling to Tłı̨chǫ communities and talking to citizens has given him a solid understanding of the issues in the region.
If elected, he plans to advocate for more housing, increasing regional decision-making authority, and supporting infrastructure projects that will create more jobs in the territory.
He also wants to see a treatment centre built in the NWT, work on solving food insecurity, and get cell service in place along Highway 3 between Yellowknife and Fort Providence.
Cabin Radio has approached all four candidates in this month’s by-election for interviews. Polling day is July 27.
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News podcast.
This interview was recorded on July 15, 2021. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Sarah Pruys: Why did you decide to run in this election?
John J Gon: Well, when Jackson Lafferty resigned, I decided to put my name forward in hopes of improving the lives of our Tłı̨chǫ people.
What makes you confident you’re the best person for this job?
I have absolutely no experience in politics. What I do have is a rapport with the public. I used to be a former broadcast reporter on the front lines, reporting on the issues that matter to the people in the Tłı̨chǫ region. I was also a radio host broadcaster on the Tłı̨chǫ radio show, which is called Tide Godi, on CBC North radio, as well as CKLB radio.
As well, I’ve been travelling with the Tłı̨chǫ Government into Tłı̨chǫ communities like Whatì, Gamètì, and Wekweètì, as well as Behchokǫ̀ on an annual basis. I go with them all the time to provide them with audio service and I’ve been doing that for a number of years.
I know the issues from left to right, top to the bottom. I feel I was qualified enough knowing the issues and besides, I talk to a lot of people and people express their concerns. And one of the things that seems to come up every time when I talk to people is that it’s the same rhetoric all the time, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it, even the Tłı̨chǫ leaders, as well as the territorial government.
In the Tłı̨chǫ region, housing and homelessness are the number-one priority. I will address this problem head-on as soon as I get elected.
What would you do to address it?
Well, the plan is to first of all look at the budget. I know the NWT Housing Corporation has been sitting on $60 million for the last two years, which was slated for housing development in the Northwest Territories. Currently, there are about 40 to 50 houses that are boarded up in Behchokǫ̀, either abandoned or they’re not being used, they’re not being renovated. There are about 100 to 150 people homeless in the community of Behchokǫ̀. I just want to express this is very sad because when I was growing up, we didn’t see anything like this in the community. So my plan is to fight for the Tłı̨chǫ community and try to get their share of that $60 million and to start building houses and multiple family units to meet the the core needs of the family.
We have people moving out, moving to Yellowknife, and they don’t want to leave town. You know, it’s a lack of housing that’s forcing people to leave.
What are some other key issues that you would like to address if elected?
Increase regional decision-making authority, which is a transfer of power to the communities, like health and social services, stuff like that.
I know that territory-wide there still are a lot of outstanding land claims and treaty rights that go unfulfilled. So we need to speed those up into the communities and give them power to run their own lives.
Increase employment in small communities. First of all I know it’s the lack of housing in the territories, in the Tłı̨chǫ region. It’s not just in the one region, it’s a territory-wide problem. So I propose that we throw more money at it. Start building houses where people would need them, thereby creating employment in the communities, by building roads as well.
Infrastructure: I believe the territorial government has an idea of expanding the Mackenzie Valley Highway, and the Slave geological corridor and Taltson hydro project. So there’s employment opportunities there. It’s going to be creating a lot of jobs, and I’m all for that. So I’m all for those the creation of employment and increasing wealth in the communities.
Is there anything else in your platform that we haven’t touched on?
Homelessness is a big problem in communities. So like I said, it was some 20 years ago, I didn’t see any homelessness in the community of Behchokǫ̀. So it’s a major problem. Housing is at a critical point right now and we need to step up and do something about it. And I don’t see anybody doing anything about it. I know there’s going to be some tin houses being built in Behchokǫ̀ the summer. That’s just the tip of the iceberg right now. And it’s not enough, we need more. And, you know, I sure hate to see people suffer because people are not given assistance to own their own homes or get the government to provide what’s needed in the community.
The treatment centres are also a big concern. An alcohol and drug centre, we don’t have that in the territories. So I propose to reestablish a treatment centre here in the territories, maybe here in Yellowknife or in Hay River. So we do have facilities sitting out there and we’re not utilizing it.
And Nutrition North is also a big concern. I know they do subsidies by pounds and one of the concerns I received from the community is that the price of basic food is still too high. So we’re going to address that, so we can see if we can solve the problem as well.
And Highway 3 cell service. There is no cell service in between Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀, and also to Fort Providence. In the event of an emergency, there’s nobody to call. I see a number of accidents. I hear about accidents. Highway 3 has an increase of accidents and people do perish because of this. And when the emergency medical workers don’t get there on time, people do die because, you know, they wasted a couple of hours, precious hours, that are needed to bring the patient into the hospital. Having access to emergency services on the highway is vital, I believe. I’m going to propose that we look into providing cell service on Highway 3.