This is one of a series of profiles of the five NWT federal election candidates. Another will be published each day.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Michael McLeod was elected MP for the Northwest Territories in 2015 and re-elected in 2019.
McLeod is the former mayor of Fort Providence and was a Member of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly for three terms, from 1999 to 2011. During his third term as a Member of Parliament, from 2007 to 2011, he was Minister of Transport and Minister of Public Works and Services.
He lives in Fort Providence.
What are you campaigning on?
Our plan is to continue to support families, businesses and organizations during the pandemic. We want to make sure we develop a healthy economy by creating good jobs and jobs supported by training.
COVID[-19] highlighted many areas, especially here in the North, where it shows how vulnerable some of our communities are and the issues we need to keep working on. And it’s housing and health care, drug addiction, climate change.
I am running for re-election because I am proud of the work we have accomplished, proud of our government’s record and I want to build on that record to help improve the lives of Northerners.
Do you support the call to hold elections now?
You know, things were delayed. … [The budget] passed in June, the penultimate day before adjournment, the House rose. And we presented it in April. So it took months and months to get it adopted. And those investments should have flowed in in June, and they didn’t start to flow until the summer.
So that caused a lot of challenges. And that made us very worried that in the future we might reach a point where we could not provide the support if we could not get the support of all parties. You would think all parties would work much better together during the pandemic, but that was not the case. [to be]. There were still a lot of games going on and it wasn’t going to stop.
I think [the] an election was due to be called at some point, and it would have been this fall. If he hadn’t been called in August, he would be in September or October, otherwise the government would certainly have stopped and they would have forced us into an election. Everyone said they didn’t want an election, but I think most of us could see the writing on the wall.
How do you defend your party leader, Justin Trudeau?
Well, I think a lot of people in the North have seen the accomplishments that we have made over the past six years and are very happy that the North is finally on the radar and wants to continue. I have heard people say now is not the right time for an election. There are people who say, “I’m not totally happy with your boss. But for the most part, I think people are happy that the Liberal Party understands the Northwest Territories well.
What kind of commitments are you able to make on this election campaign around these relationships [between the federal and Indigenous governments] and the way forward around this idea of reconciliation?
Over the past six years, our Liberal government has developed very strong relationships with the Aboriginal governments of the Northwest Territories and has been a true partner in meeting their priorities. We established a self-government framework with the Métis Nation of the Northwest Territories, which we worked on for some time. We have signed agreements with the [Yellowknives Dene] First Nation, the Délınę Got’ınę [Government] on the remediation of [Giant Mine and the abandoned mines] near the Great Bear Lake. And I want to continue with these types of arrangements between governments, including land claims and self-government agreements.
Right now, a lot of aboriginal governments are really focused on rebuilding nations. The issue of just talking about land tenure, compensation and self-government is too narrow … We need to broaden the discussion to include the languages, culture and traditions and supports that will help us. It is [about] develop a nation that will be there to protect all aspects of their membership.
And we continue to make real progress in implementing the UNDRIP [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] and accelerate the work of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls [commission] through their action plan and the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] calls to action. So a lot is happening, but there is still a lot to do.
What do you think are the important steps for your government but for Northerners in particular around the recovery from the pandemic?
The issue of dealing with some of the challenges that Aboriginal governments face in settling land claims and self-government and nation-building is far-reaching. I think we need to focus on investing in infrastructure … something that has been discussed a lot. Our cost of living is still very high here. We have a huge infrastructure deficit, especially when it comes to transportation.
Investing in accelerating action on climate change is something we want to do. We want to offer this child care service at $ 10 a day. We want to end the fight against COVID, but then continue to keep Canadians and Northerners healthy by improving our health care system.